A Weekend in Amsterdam

Friday 6 May 2016

Arriving in London via Hong Kong, after 24 hours 25 minutes in the air, we took the 15 minute ride on the Heathrow Express to Paddington station. A lady dismounting the train wasn’t quite fast enough! Her bag was still inside as the door closed with just the handle protruding from the door.


A short tube ride and a short walk had us at the very comfortable Charlotte St Hotel.

We spent the evening dining at a local Italian Restaurant with Evan and Kristin, friends from NZ.

Saturday 7 May 2016

We enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at the hotel.

Terminal 5 at Heathrow was packed as we made our way to board our BA flight to Amsterdam.

Sylvia has been here before. I was surprised by the extent of the flat land, green fields and waterways. The taxi from the runway was quite long, at one stage crossing a motorway before proceeding through an area with a bus depot on one side and houses on the other. For a while it was like the pilot was going to drop us off in town!

An efficient train and tram ride got us to within 300 meters of the Banks Mansion Hotel, situated on the banks of the Herengracht (canal) in the centre of town.

After checking in, a stroll through the streets and over a few canals took us to the Blue Boat Company for a canal tour.
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Amsterdam got its name from the damming of the Amstel River in 1270. The original canal was used as a moat to help defend the city from bad guys. Over the years, as the city expanded, more dikes and canals were dug to reclaim the marshy lands, also serving as a transport system for what became a nation of worldwide traders. Large dikes now wall off both North and South Seas forming a large lake called the Het that protects the city from rising seas.

Picturesque towers that once served to help guard the city still stand, long since surrounded by the ever expanding city.

The buildings on each side of the canals and streets are stunning with their unique gable ends – some bell shaped others stepped or pointed. In some cases they are built leaning back or forward others to the left or right.
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Some lean out at quite an angle up to the first floor then go straight up for the floors above. Were they built like that to gain a few extra square meters on the upper floors or did the builder have a problem with his plumb bob? With a lot of these buildings being three to six hundred years old there are many theories. This is truly the Venice of the north but with much better maintained buildings.

The tour took us past the house of Ann Frank, the church where Rembrandt is buried, and along past the central Railway station. Bicycles are stacked up everywhere here including under bridges and on wharfs. Apparently over eight hundred thousand are in town – more bikes than people. Most are old and upright and speed amongst the pedestrians and cars with what seems like an unchallenged right of way. About ten percent of these are stolen each year.

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In the evening we took a stroll down to the red light district. With many more bars, restaurants and cafes than red lights the area was packed with people. The sickly smell of dope wafted through the air on frequent occasions. Interestingly a local friend informed us that in spite of dope being legal here few locals smoke it.
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Sunday 8 May

We took a stroll to the Vondel Park where people ran, strolled and even slept on the grass, enjoying the sunshine. Tulip gardens stood out in various parts of the park, some on islands in the waterways.

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Next was a visit to the WWII Resistance Museum, which was established in the eighties. Well laid out, it told the story of the Dutch early surrender after Rotterdam was bombed five days into the German invasion and how various factions of the community sided with the Germans, others set up a resistance movement and assisted in hiding people who were destined for concentration camps. There is also a section on the role of the Dutch East Indies role during the Pacific war.

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A short stroll from there took us to the Partage Cafe where we met up with Anne and Mila for a nice relaxing lunch and a long chat about what we had all been up to since we met in Caye Caulker, Belize earlier this year with AJ and Cam.

Another short stroll took is to the Canal Museum. This is a very interactive museum more about the building and expansion of Amsterdam than the canals. They paid for the expansion of both the city and its fortification walls by selling off lots of land in advance.

Interestingly piles for the houses were driven 15 meters through the soft marshy land into the sand below. All these were driven by hand using a suspended block and many ropes off the main rope with twenty plus people hauling up and dropping a heavy weight on the wooden pile. The top of the piles are left buried under ground with a footing on top to prevent air getting to the piles and causing rot.

Amsterdam in the 1600’s

Monday 9 January

We took up Anne’s suggestion and hired a couple of upright bikes. With Sylvia in the lead and navigating we made our way across town to the Amstel River. There is a wide sealed bike and sometimes car road that runs alongside the river.

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 It’s a lovely summer’s day, the fields are lush with green pastures, sheep and cattle graze in some paddocks while hay is being harvested in others. The river has many rowers speeding along in their slim boats. Large mansions and nice houses are in places set back from the river. We pass a couple of redundant old style but well-kept windmills along the way.
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Reaching the picturesque town of Oudekerk aan de Amstel we cross the river and head back down the other side.

At midday Sylvia heads to the airport for her flight Montpellier. I get on the Inter City train (not very fast) for the 7 hour trip to Metz in eastern France. All the way to Brussels the land is dead flat. Every bit of land that is spare is growing something or being prepared to grow something. Grass has been cut and hay bailed.

The traditional Dutch windmills are few. Towering above the land in many places are the big power generating mills.

Heading east out of Brussels we hit some low rolling hills, all well farmed with stately farm houses set between the picturesque tidy villages.
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The only sign we have crossed the border into Luxembourg is a txt from Vodafone. The countryside and buildings look the same. A train change in Luxembourg and we are heading south into the Moselle region of France. Once again Vodafone announced our arrival in France. I checked into Hotel Metropol just across the square from the station.

3 thoughts on “A Weekend in Amsterdam

  1. John says:

    Thanks for that Roger very interesting. Still trying to figure out how they get that yank tank off and on their floating home!

    All the best from John and Rosa

  2. Jo-Anne Hitchcock says:

    Loved Amsterdam! i didn’t realise there was a canal museum, that would have been really interesting.

  3. Steve Tesar says:

    hey you cant stop there!!

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