The Dutch as a people speak English like a native and I mean everyone does, shop assistants, bar staff. Puts us Brits to shame.
It is a very pedestrian friendly city, but to be completely Dutch you have to ride a bike. Cars and parking spaces as like hens teeth. Quite a few companies rent out bikes and all routes are bike friendly. To be completely Dutch though you have to have a bike that looks like it was handed down from your great grandparents and is held together with string, glue and brown paper. I did not see one mountain bike. Well why would you need one in such a flat country?
Here is the bicycle park at the main train station, with room for 2500 bikes, unfortunately though 9500 bikes are parked there everyday. So you can imagine every bit of railing, lamp post etc in the surrounding area is fixed with bikes 3 or 4 deep.
TC and I walked everywhere though the trams make the whole city centre accessible. We think we probably walked about 15miles in total over three days, helped by the fact I had chosen a nice hotel but 3.5km from the city centre.
We stayed in the Manor Hotel (Hampshire Eden), which was immaculate inside, though the rooms were on the small side and when you walked into the room you could look into the bathroom and toilet through a window. These rooms are obviously designed for guests who are comfortable with each other. But, it was lovely, a boutique style hotel - aimed at young professionals and couples - certainly not child friendly.
Is it me? But I also thought it was a little strange to have an oversized picture of flesh eating fish (like the fish spas) over our bed.
TC said the hall ways reminded him of “The Shinning”.
As I stated in my previous post, TC and I avoided the main museums – we did walk past the Rijksmuseum. Ann Franks House and the Van Gogh Museum. All of which had long queues snaking round the block. So we avoided going inside. I took a picture of the Ann Frank House (on the left). Rather innocuous isn’t it? The building to the right houses the attached museum.
We walked there and I kept thinking this is where she must have walked as they made there way there. Tragic. I also downloaded her diary to read again, as the last time I read it was for a school assignment.
We did visit the Rembrandt house to see where he lived and it was so beautiful apart from the ankle twisting staircases. All the beds are inside large wardrobes and only about 4-5ft lengthwise. Apparently in his era, the Dutch believed lying flat would send a rush of blood to your head, which could kill you.
All of the buildings in Amsterdam are so beautiful, tall and elegantly thin going up 4 or 5 stories. TC is terribly interested in buildings and so he took a lot of pictures especially when he saw wonky houses.
We spent Sunday hoping on and off the canal bus, my back at this point was pretty stiff, as the stop was so close to our hotel during the course of the day we circumnavigated the city including seeing the harbour. You can go 1-2 hour trips at a cost of about €12 pp, our tickets were for the whole day at €22 pp. Much more expensive but they really paid off and with 3 different routes to take you can see a whole lot of the city. Certainly not a cost effective way to travel, but a nice treat on our last day to save our weary feet.
|Yes, that is me in the grey hat.|
A quick hop off and then on again at the flower market.
We did of course visit the red light district for a wander, but only during the afternoon. We saw some of the “sexy ladies” in the window. My particular favourite was ‘Doris’ (not her real name) 50 yrs old if she was a day dressed in some revealing lingerie covered by a skin tight luminous yellow string vest style frock smoking a cigar. My goodness, now I have seen it all. If I was a chap and contemplating paying for a bit of a cuddle, surely you would choose the lithe young lady? Not allowed to take pictures there I am afraid.
There is a heck of a lot of marijuana cafes too. I would say about 1 every other street with a large concentration in the red light district. You can smell the drug a lot and it does encourage a youthful element inside (especially hen and stag dos). But it does also mean they are too stoned to drink, fight or engage in antisocial activity. You can see one such café in this picture just above the 2 hoodies drinking coffee in the foreground.
I can tell you, I felt safe everywhere I walked, and the city is incredibly clean. It has constant road sweepers around. However, I would not be keen to go for a weekend with young kids in tow as there are bikes coming from you in every direction and the roads are treacherous to cross having to take into consideration – cars, bikes and trams. In the end I gave up and The Chap took me by the hand at every cross roads.
Great weekend with perfect city break weather. TC and I both came back with a large chunk of our spending money, some cheese and a couple of small kilner jars for storing salt / pepper etc.
Unfortunately, TC also managed to pick up an absolutely stinking cold, which developed over the course of Friday. So, if you are planning to go to Amsterdam any time soon. My final advice would be take some over the counter cold / flu tablets with you as none of the shops sold them only souble asprin / paracetamol which does not dry up your cold and improve congestion. The pharmacies are only for prescription drugs and we were soon ushered out by an outraged Pharmacist when we entered waving his hands at signs stating colds are not a reason to be in there.
Would I go back? Hell, yeah! but not for another 7-8 yrs, and if you are planning to go soon and would like to indulge in a certain herbal element, then be quick - as from Jan 2013 the drug laws are changing. All cafes will have to become private members clubs, which you have to apply to join. It is in an effort to cut down on the drug tourism.
And finally, Amsterdam is a vibrant clean city, the Dutch are so friendly and it is incredibly tourist friendly, but take some pumps to wander around and please please please try and visit the Alber Cyup market, which was just fantastic.
Thanks for a wonderful weekend!
Hmmm, now where to next???