Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vita a Milano

Go to Rome!

How to get there

If you find yourself in Italy, you must take a couple of days to visit Rome. I am nearing the end of my journey and I must admit that Rome has been my favorite place to visit. If you are in Italy you can get there easily by TrenItalia which costs about 75euro for second class from Milan. The journey takes about 4 hours but be prepared for delays. You could also fly to Rome by RyanAir (fly from anywhere in Europe, not just Italy) and for a cheaper price! I took the train just because it was more convenient than flying, especially from my location.

Where to stay

If you plan to stay in Rome for more than one night, I highly suggest staying at a hostel and not a hotel. Every college student needs to experience a hostel at least once while in Europe. Not only is it cheaper than a hotel, but you also have the opportunity to meet very interesting people from all over. I actually received the best traveling advice from those that I met in the hostel. I recommend booking a hostel through HostelWorld. I stayed at the Legends Hostel and was pleasantly surprised. Many of the travelers that I spoke to said that Legends was a ‘nicer’ hostel. Honestly, it just reminds me of dorm life so I didn’t mind at all.

What to see

In order to fully experience Rome I recommend having at least two full days to sight see. The first day my friend, Sarah, and I went to the Colosseum. It was absolutely incredible. Once in the area you will have many tour guides coming up to you asking if you want to go on a tour through the Colosseum and Roman Forum (and yes, in English!). Initially we were just going to explore on our own, but then decided to join a tour. The tour is well worth the 22euro because you don’t have to wait in any lines and you get the history which makes it exciting; otherwise you’ll just be peering at ancient remains. I recommend setting one day aside to solely experience the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Colosseum.

Roman Forum

Inside Colosseum


I would also suggest setting another day aside to go to Vatican City. Once again in Vatican City my friend and I joined a tour group just because there is too much to take in (and we were too impatient to wait in the long, long lines). The tour first led us to the Vatican Museum which would take 15 years to see everything, so I’m quite happy we had a guide that led us to the most important and interesting pieces. Once in the museum (8euro for students, or part of the payment to your tour which is 28euro total) you have free access to St. Peters Basilica. Of course, when traveling Europe all of the cathedrals and basilicas tend to look alike, but not St. Peters. It is absolutely breathtaking. My favorite thing in the Vatican to see is the Sistine Chapel and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo (where, of course, no photography is permitted).

Colonnade in Vatican City

Inside St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Basilica

Other than the Colosseum and Vatican City, you must also see Trevi Fountain. It is said that if you toss two coins into the fountain it will ensure your trip back to Rome, so do not forget to do so!

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Since I only have a few days left, this will be my last post. I hope this information is helpful. Arrivederci!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vita a Milano

Day Trips: Part 2

Go to Venice! While in Milan (or anywhere in Northern Italy) you must visit Venezia! Even if you only have one day, it is enough time for an enjoyable experience. To get there you can simply book train tickets online through TrenItalia or in Milan at a travel agency called Zani Viaggi located at MM1 Cairoli by Castelo Sforzesco. The train ride is about two and a half hours long and costs about 28euro one way. Yes, the train is always a little pricey but the convenience is worth it. You depart from Centrale Stazione in Milan and arrive at the central station in Venice. When you walk out of the station you are directly on the grand canal and Venice is at your fingertips. From there you can hop on the water taxi to get to another region of Venice. If you do not have a specific destination in mind, then simply take the water taxi in order to experience the canals without spending your entire budget on a gondola. My family (who was visiting) and I actually rented a gondola. The cost is about 80euro for one hour. I think it was worth it, but definitely a one time kind of experience. If you plan to go on a gondola ride you might want to walk left of the central station and down a ways… the gondola rides nearest to the central station are more expensive (the same goes for food and souvenirs). Since you won’t find many souvenirs in Milan (being that it’s not a popular destination for tourists) you can buy all of your presents here, and for cheap! I do not have any suggestions where to eat other than a little cafĂ© called Brek. It’s a small little place if you walk left from central station where you can find panini (sandwiches) for as little as 3euro. Other than taking a taxi or gondola ride (which you must do in order to see the house of the infamous lover Casanova and the adventurous Marco Polo), I recommend just walking around the tiny streets and soaking up the beautiful atmosphere of Venice.

View of the Grand Canal

Street of Venice left of central station, Brek Cafe

Gondola and Guide

One day trip to skip would be the bus trip to the Foxtown Outlet in Switzerland. It was a horrible experience. The bus costs about 20euro for round trip which isn’t bad considering it does take an hour to get there. Once there you realize that the Foxtown Outlet has been falsely advertised. It seems to be more of a run down indoor shopping center than a high class shopping center that carries designer names. The brand name outlet also does not mean a thing because a pair of Levi’s at their outlet price costs about 80-120euro which is about $120-$180 so you can forget about finding Italian brand names like Gucci and Prada at an affordable price. They also advertise that they have a casino, which I thought would’ve been fun, but it’s small and the entrance is difficult to find. If you’re looking to do some serious shopping you won’t find it here, unless you have an unlimited amount to spend. And if you are willing to spend that kind of money (as in $500-$3000 on a hand bag), then I suggest going to Via Montenapoleone (MM3 Montenapoleone) where at least the atmosphere shimmers. There are other outlets near Milan, so I would also suggest looking into them before even thinking about Foxtown. Serravalle Designer Outlet is one you can research. I would also divert from the small and hidden designer outlets in Milan. My one friend went to one and after hours of searching and being lead up to a tiny room from a sketchy stairwell with no one who spoke any English, she was quite disgusted. So save your money and do something worth while! Milan is expensive, and even though it is a fashion capital it is not a place to be shopping at unless you have an abundance of funds!

Well, I hope this information will guide you in the right direction. Until next time… Ciao!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vita a Milano

Amazing Day Trips: Part 1

I highly recommend taking day trips while studying or working abroad. If you happen to be in Milan, I suggest taking a day trip to Lake Como (lago di como). You can get there easily by train and explore yourself or you can simply book a tour. You can catch a train at the Cadorna metro stop (this train station can bring you anywhere in Lombardia). I booked a tour just because it seemed easier to me and included everything I wanted to do and see. I used the Viator Tour Company. It is well worth the money. The tour guides speak very good English and are very knowledgeable. Lake Como is absolutely gorgeous! If you are looking for a nice, relaxing day, Lake Como is the destination for you. If you’re lucky you may even see George Clooney! Our tour guide pointed out two of his villas, which was exciting to see, but unfortunately he wasn’t home. Off of Lake Como we stopped in a small quaint town called Bellagio (yes, you’re probably thinking Las Vegas right now). Bellagio is how I imagined Italy to be… that old world feeling that includes rustic, beautiful buildings, small narrow streets, and wide cobblestone staircases. Bellagio has many small family owned stores to shop. If you are interested in unique jewelry you must stop into “Laved: I vetri di Bellagio” which consists of jewelry made from glass of Murano. Como is also very well known for producing silk, which is why you will find many silk goods being sold in towns off of Lake Como. Other than window-shopping I suggest walking around and taking in the surroundings.

Stairs leading up to town of Bellagio

Lake Como

Exclusive hotel on Lake Como (can only reach by boat)

Another view of Lake Como

Villa of George Clooney (one of three)

If you like the idea of taking a tour, I also highly recommend booking the Swiss Alps tour (also from the same company). It costs a little bit more, but it was one of my favorite things to do/see so far. Don’t forget your passport/visa since you will be entering Svizerra (Switzerland). We boarded the Bernina Express (inclusive with the tour package, but I’m sure if you went on your own you could just book tickets for solely the Bernina Express). This new and amazingly smooth train winds up the Swiss Alps as you relax and gaze at the amazing sites. Yet another scenic tour, that consisted of mostly retirees. I really didn’t mind being the youngest and actually felt privileged that I was able to experience the sites this early in my life. There are really no words to express how amazing the scenery was so I will just post the photos. While in Switzerland we stopped in an exclusive town (mostly for those who are wealthy) called St. Moritz. I have never been to Aspen, but this is what I imagine Aspen to look like but even better. Many wealthy individuals stay here for a few weeks during the skiing season (which begins in November). Our tour guide joked that the men usually ski the slopes while their wives ski the streets that are lined with luxury boutiques such as Gucci, Prada, Versace, etc. Well, I know I’d rather ski and I am so envious of those who had the chance to do so on the Swiss Alps. If you have the money and are looking for an unforgettable ski trip, I highly recommend taking a trip to the Swiss Alps. Since I couldn’t afford the latter, I simply bought delicious Swiss chocolate and was happy as could be! We didn’t take the train home, rather a bus. It took three hours to get from St. Moritz to the starting point in central Milan (which included the long time it took for the bus to get down the Swiss Alps which consisted of narrow, winding roads that I’ve never seen before in my life). All in all it was a great day trip and I hope you will get to experience this at some point in your life.

View from Bernina Express

Snow capped mountains (taken in beginning of Sept.)

"White Lake"

Bernina Express

Well, I hope this information will be able to guide you in the future. Until next time… Ciao!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vita a Milano

Difficulties & Simplicities of Milan

The most difficult task here in Milan is finding internet. I was told that there would be internet cafes on every corner. Well, they simply do not exist. I’ve only ever seen two and it’s not free wifi like Starbucks (which also does not exist), it costs money (and quite expensive too). I never realized how much I would really need the internet while abroad. Being that I am abroad by myself I need contact with those from home. In order to solve my problem I bought a wireless internet key from Vodafone. Well, that was the worst decision. Do NOT go to Vodafone for anything (cell phones, SIM cards, internet keys). Vodafone internet keys do not work with Macs (Macs are in Italy, but not one person is knowledgeable enough to help with problems so beware). They do (sometimes) work with PCs but would not refund my 80euro because they blamed the problem on my Mac (although they knew that I had a Mac prior to purchasing the key). So after a month of waiting around and arguing back and forth I gave up. I went to a new company, TIM. Much better. I’ve had no problem with the internet in the past week or so. I definitely recommend going to TIM for your internet needs, especially if you have a Mac. TIM is also cheaper. It costs 69euro for the internet key and 100hours of internet for the first month then you can pick your own plan after that. It is well worth the cost.

On a brighter note, I was pleasantly surprised by the public transportation of Milan. It is very easy to use and economically efficient. I use it everyday and really do not mind. The metro system is called the ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi), not to be confused with our kind of ATM, which is actually called a "bancomat" in Italy. The ATM is clean and very modern for an old, old city. It even has flat screen televisions underground casting the news! (Although that kind of reminds me of Big Brother, so I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not). I think it is much better than the SEPTA (which isn’t hard) and the metro system in Manhattan. Fortunately, it is very easy to navigate having only three metro lines (and of course trolleys and buses). If you need to use the metro system daily and will be in Milan for at least a month I recommend signing up for the metro card. For a student it is only 10euro for the card and 17euro a month of unlimited travel. Although it does take about 15 days to register so I suggest ordering it right away. This can be done at the Duomo stop which can be reached from the M1 or M3. Visit this website for more information and to see a map of the metro system. The taxis, of course, are another source of transportation, but very expensive (more so than in the States). They are extremely clean and nice (it is common for a taxi to be a Mercedes Benz), but it’s really not worth the money unless you really need it at night since the metro does close at midnight.

Well, I hope this information will be of use. Until next time… Ciao!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vita a Milano

Language Lessons & Internship

Greetings from Milan! My name is Amanda Comunale, I am a junior at Drexel studying Design & Merchandising and Marketing. I will post from time to time in order to give advice and share my great experiences.

I am currently doing my co-op in Milan through a program called Global Experiences. I highly recommend this company because not only do they help to set up a co-op position, but they also arrange language lessons and accommodations. They were very helpful through the entire process. They offer the language and internship placements for areas other than Italy as well.Check it out if you are looking to gain a working experience abroad!

When I first arrived in Milan I had three weeks of language lessons at Linguadue. There are ten different levels of Italian within the school. I asked to be placed in level two just because the lessons are more in depth (and my teacher knew absolutely no English, so it helped the learning process). Level two at Linguadue is equivalent to Ital102-103 at Drexel. It is an amazing school even though it is not a university (solely a language school). There are people from everywhere! My class consisted of three girls from Thailand, two girls from Sweden, a guy from France, and two girls from Russia. It is absolutely incredible. I met so many different people. It’s a big world out there and I strongly suggest experiencing it at some point in your life… the sooner the better!

During the weeks of the language lessons I was preparing for co-op. Fortunately, the interview went well and I was hired at Studio Zeta (one of the largest fashion showrooms in Milan). The concept of an internship is very new to Italians. Their own word for it is a ‘stag’, so I am currently a ‘stagista’ in the showroom. If you are looking to work in a showroom and do not know much Italian, don’t worry about it. Some of the sellers know up to three languages fluently! If you know broken Italian and your employer knows at least the basics of English, you should have no problem. I absolutely love work! If you are looking for a fast-paced environment and want to observe both the selling and buying aspects of the industry I suggest looking into a showroom for your co-op, or at least for half of your co-op due to the short time of the selling campaign.

My responsibilities include assisting the sellers during the campaign. We stylize and keep in order the designer collections for our clients (the buyers). I also work with the models. The days can be very long and hectic, but it is all worth it in the end. Fashion Week was absolutely amazing, even though it was extremely exhausting. We worked long hours everyday and then attended fashion shows, presentations, and the designers’ after parties. It certainly was a rush. I was able to attend the Spijkers en Spijkers presentation (Dutch sister designers) and the Angelos Frenztos presentation (both hosted in the showroom). I was also invited to the Marco de Vincenzo runway show!

Vincenzo Runway

Designers: Spijkers en Spijkers

Well, I have off today so I better get out there and enjoy the city while I can! Until next time… Ciao!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

While in Mykonos


I spent the past week on the island of Mykonos in Greece. I have been to most of the Greek islands and can full heartedly say that Mykonos is my favorite. The island is beautiful, full of life, and has so much to offer. Here are some tips of things to do that made my week in Mykonos one of my favorite weeks of my life.

Stay at Hotel Tagoo
I found this hotel on Trip Advisors top 10 hotels in Mykonos. It was number 1 so I thought it would be expensive but it turned out to be very affordable and a perfect hotel. It was clean, full of kind staff, and only minutes from the town center. I find it hard to locate such perfect hotels in Greece at such an affordable price but this one was simply perfect in every way.

Rent ATVs
Mykonos is an island that one needs to have some sort of transportation to get around. Beaches, clubs, and shopping are all on different parts of the island so renting an ATV makes everything easy to get to. You will find numerous ATV rental shops all over the island. Stop in and ask for prices at a few and then choose the place with the best price. We found 25 Euros a day to be one of the cheapest.

Spend as much time as you can at Psarou Beach
Psarou is one of the most glamorous beaches on the island. Movie stars from all over the world come to Psarou during their visit in Mykonos. The beach is made up of 3 different beach clubs. Namos in in the middle and the most expensive (up to 40 Euros per beach chair). Further down the beach you will find other chairs that are much cheaper. If you would like to spoil yourself one day I strongly suggest you get to Psarou in the morning, get a lounge bed, have lunch at Namos restaurant and stay until as late as you can. After the sun sets music plays all night long. It is truly my favorite place on earth.

Party at Paradise/Super Paradise/Space/Cavo Paradiso
Mykonos is most well known for its night life. At some point during your stay in Mykonos it is a must that you party at one of these places. Paradise and Super Paradise are for happy hour from 5-8pm daily while Space is a night club to go to after dinner from 2-5am. Cavo Paradiso is a beach club that people go to from 6-10am. If you can't stay up and do all of them in one day, you must at least visit them at some point. I have never seen any party go this crazy in my life.

These are just a few highlights from my trip. I suggest if you visit the island you do so for at least 3 nights. In order to get to know it and feel comfortable getting around you will need at least this much time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

6 Countries in 6 Weeks: Photographic Retrospective

As I prepare to head back to the United States tomorrow, I am thinking back over all of the incredible places that I have seen in the last six weeks. The slide show below are some of the highlights...

"When we travel, we travel not to see new places with new eyes; but that when we come home we see home with new eyes."

- G.K. Chesterton

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lake Como

Lake Como

Located on the boarder between Italy and Switzerland, Lake Como, is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Easily accessible from Milan via train, the lake makes for a good day-trip if you have some extra time. Take the train from Milan to Como Nord Lago Station, and you will arrive in the town of Como. Once there, make sure not to miss the funicular which takes you up above the city for some great views.

A relaxing place for a rest

View of the funicular tracks leading down to the water

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Athens Sightseeing

One of the best ways I have found to discover Athens is on a sightseeing bus. I recently went on a hop on hop off bus and got to see more of the city than ever before. The bus tour lasts around 90 minutes if you stay on the bus, but you are welcome to get off and get on any other of the company's buses throughout the day. The bus visits 15 sights and is only $30 if you purchase your tickets online and $34 on sight. The buses run every half hour from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.

Photo Courtesy of Athens Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours

Sights visited:
-Syntagma Square
-Melina Mercouri Statue
-Acropolis Museum
-Acropolis & Parthenon
-Temple of Zeus
-National Gardens
-Benaki Museum/Museum of Cycladic Art
-Panathanaic Stadium
-Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
-National Library
-National Archaeological Museum
-Omonoia Square
-Karaiskaki Square
-Thession Station
-Kotzia Square

You are welcome to visit all of the sights or pick those that interest you most.

More information is found here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea (PAC)

The PAC is a Contemporary Art Museum in Milan. It is currently showing Passports: A Journey with Art. The exhibit displays the best in British art from the last 75 years. The most highly acclaimed works of photography, painting, installations, and sculpture, are shown. The selected 40 works were selected from an original grouping of over 800 by the British Council of Art.
Artists include: Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, Bill Woodrow, Bridget Riley, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Anish Kapoor.

Rear view of the PAC from the gardens

The Chant of Blue. Anish Kapoor. 1983

More info on the exhibition is available on the British Council's site.

Entrance for students is 3euro, and 5euro for general admission.

Galleria d'Arte Moderna
Gallery of Modern Art

Located in the same place as the PAC, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna is a huge collection spanning four floors, and including works from artists such as Pablo Picasso, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Entrance to the museum and garden is free. When you go in, you will receive a small catalog of the collection identifying all of the pieces, as not all of them are marked on the wall.

How to get to both the PAC and the Galleria d'Arte Moderna:
Subway 1 Palestro Station, or Subway 3 Turati Station
14, Via Palestro, 20121 Milan

Duomo di Milano
The Duomo, or cathedral of Milan is the central point in the city.
It is open to the public everyday from 8:30am to 6:45pm - free of charge.
Subway 1 - Duomo Station

Duomo di Milano
Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco

Opening Hours:
Everyday 7am-6pm in winter -- 7am-7pm in summer
The castel itself is free of charge, however if you'd like to visit the museum within the castle, it will cost 3euro. There are some times during the week when the museum is available free of charge, more info here.
Subway 1 - Castello Station

Parco Sempione
The Parco Sempione is the large green space stretching between the Castello, and the Peace Arch. During the summer it hosts theatre performances and activities for children, as well as creates a great place to rest in the shade with a cool drink.

Parco Sempione - looking towards the Peace Arch

La Triennale de Milano

Triennale Design Museum

The Triennale is a museum of Italian design from the most prominant designers. Divided into sections by items that were experimental, produced only in a small number, small series, large series, high artisanship, personalized items, video, and technological research - the collection ranges from a shoe designed for Judy Garland, to an attempt to hybrid a car and a motorcyle.

Tuesday - Sunday
Thursday 10.30-23.00
Last admission one hour before closing time
Monday closed

Subway 1 - Milano Cadorna Station

The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci

Italy's most famous painting The Last Supper is by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is in constant state of renovation, housed in Santa Maria della Grazie refectory. Due to the high demand to see the painting, reservations should be made up to two months in advance. Tickets can be reserved here.

Monday, August 17, 2009


We Flew into Zagreb, but with only a few days, and dying for some sea-side-sun, we opted to head straight for the coast. We took a bus from Zagreb's airport to it's bus station, and then another from the bus station to Split.

An interior portion of Diocletian's Palace

My favorite thing about Split is Diocletian's Palace (a UNESCO world Heritage site), which in ruins, now houses a labyrinth of restaurants, shops, and market vendor's stalls. During the day wander through the market, and when it is lit up at night, it is a great place to grab a drink. There is a surreal juxtaposition of the old palace walls, with its neighboring pedestrian 'see and be seen' street, with polished marble sidewalks, and massive futuristic light posts, palm trees, and a sleu of over priced sidewalk coffee bars, all complete with overstuffed white cushions on wicker sofas and chairs.

Split's pedestrian street. photo courtesy of the Chicago Athenaeum

From Split, we took a quick ferry ride to the island of Hvar, arguably the most beautiful island in Croatia. The rocky 'beaches' are overflowing with sunbathers - bikini tops optional - and the many beach bars playing loud music from 10am until around 2am attract people all day. Hula Hula Beach Bar is a good starting point, as it's relatively close to town, the farther you walk along the coast, the smaller a more low-key the bars become.

Sunning and swimming on Hvar

I really wish that we had more time in Croatia. On my next visit I'll definitely book a mini-cruise along the coast which seems to be the best way to utilize time. The boats dock at various cities from Zadar to Dubrovnik for swimming and exploration. BusAbout and STA both offer student focused versions of this cruise.

Getting There:
The two easiest ways to get to Croatia are to fly, or take the ferry. There are train routes, but they are lengthly and usually more expensive. A number of low-cost airlines such as fly directly to Croatia's major cities. Wizz Air flys to Croatia's capital, Zagreb - and SkyEurope goes to the coastal cities of Zagrab, Split, and Dubrovnik.
The ferry line Jadrolinija runs ferries both within the Croatian islands, and to the Italian cities of Bari and Ancona.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Greetings from Athens, Greece. I came here after the program and will stay until September 10th with a few trips in between. Over the past few years since the 2004 Olympics, Athens has improved greatly and has become very easy for tourists to get around.
My favorite aspect of the city is visiting the many archaeological sites. This year the new Acropolis Museum opened. The museum holds nearly 4000 artifacts that were found on the site of the Acropolis. It is an unbelievable museum and sits close by to the Acropolis itself. It is a must see for any tourist or Greek.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 8am-8pm with the last admission at 7:30pm and the best part is that the museum's admission is only 1 Euro!
If you are ever in Greece, this is the first museum I suggest anyone visits - After climbing the Acropolis to see the 5th century BC Parthenon that is.

Acropolis Museum Website

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amsterdam Top 10

1. Rent Bikes!
MacBike has various locations and is great - we rented a bike for 24hours and explored every side of the city. (Make sure you have a good set of locks for it though, as our guide told us that it is funny for locals to throw unattended bikes into the canals, and that thousands of bikes are removed from the waterways every year.)

This sign provides a perfect starting point for the trip with some great photo-ops. The IAMsterdam Card is also a good idea if you plan on seeing a lot in a short amount of time - it offers free admission to a number of museums as well as discounts in other places across the city.
3. Visit the Van Gogh Museum
Right next to the I AMsterdam sign, this museum has over 200 Paintings by Van Gogh, and are arranged in chronological order to view the images in a new perspective.
4. Visit the Rijks Museum
This museum has works from all over, but it's "greatest hits" are worth seeing. The garden is nice too.
5. Take the Free Walking Tour
New Europe offers free walking tours in many cities throughout Europe. The guides work on a tip-only basis, and so they're always energetic, knowledgeable, and a lot of fun. (They also take a group photo and post it on their site - ours hasn't been posted yet)

6. Visit the Anne Frank House
Visitors can see the space where the 8 Jews, including the famous diarist Anne Frank, hid during WWII. If you want to avoid standing in super long lines, pre-order tickets online - and that way you skip lines and enter through a separate door to the side.

7. Red Light District
You have to see it to believe it. Try going during the day and then at night to see how dramatic the difference is.

8. VondelPark
If the weather is nice, this is perfect for a picnic or a few beers. A great place to ride your bike through too!

9. Shop!
There are neighborhoods dividing Amsterdam. Each on has a slightly different feel from the one before it. In the city center, there are a number of great stores with a heavy design student influence. Hema is great, similar to Target at home, you can get anything you'd need while there - but having been designed by local students, everything looks cool!
Grab some Wok to Walk while you're in this area too - not at all typical regional food, but great customized noodle/rice dishes create a great quick and cheap meal.

10. Leave by ferry!
With an easy train connection from Amsterdam Centraal to Hoek Van Holland - a great way to leave Amsterdam is via boat. The ferry on the StenaLine is massive, choose between public seating in the restaurant areas or book a private cabin - the boat is complete with a casino, an arcade, a movie theatre, and many dining choices -- the 7 hour ride from Amsterdam to London's nearby port of Harwich, flys by.

some images courtesy of Wiki Travel