Amsterdam, Holland. D-Day plus 1

by - August 25, 2010

Yesterday’s kind of counts as a “we have landed safely” entry.  Today was our first full day, and our only full day in Amsterdam.  After speaking with an Australian couple about who was going to win the Ashes at the hostel, we packed down at just gone midnight this morning.  In the knowledge that if we didn’t get up and go, we would probably faff the morning away, we left the hostel just before 10.  We were provided with a continental breakfast which I had forgotten about and wasn’t bad.

The station was our first stop, where we gathered what we needed to do on our first travel day tomorrow, and caught a canal cruise boat from.  The tour was named the “100 sites of Amsterdam”, but after the captain pointed out “my mate Jaap the best tour boat captain in the city” and “a bicycle that had fallen in the canal”, we realised that the title might have been exaggerating a bit.  The tour was good though for a general feel and overview of the city and we got a fair few photos of bridges and canal-front buildings.

It was a round trip so we ended up at the station again and wandered through the streets towards “Dam Square”, the centre around which the city is built.  On our way we stopped off for lunch - I am ashamed to say at McDonalds.  I will be totally honest on this blog, so I can say that we will play the McDonalds card as sporadically as reasonably possible.  The square was your standard European square with human statues and musicians and that.  Unfortunately the main site in the square that we wanted to see - the Royal Palace, was being renovated.  Apparently an essential part of the renovations was a complete cladding of scaffolding - I have never seen a building so mummified. It was as if it had been done to spite tourists.  As a result, I still have no idea what the Royal Palace looks like, despite going inside it.

After the slight dissapointment of the Royal Palace, we headed down a shopping street towards the “Beginhof”, an old courtyard which used to shelter Dutch Catholics.  Despite the no photography signs, we happily snapped away and as a result got some nice photos of what was a fairly stereotypical Amsterdam street.  We continued to wander, past the Anne Frank house (where the queues were miles long), a big cathedral with a name that was difficult to memorise and the Waterlooplein market, stopping on the way for a beer by the canal.  The Waterlooplein market was my idea, as it was well known for its eclectic array of clothes.  I was not dissapointed and have now picked up what I think is a very nice grey jacket with epilettes.  I think that the fact that Daniel and Morgie say I look like a member of the secret police can only be put down to jealousy.  Bad city planning in Amsterdam has resulted in two of the major galleries - the Rijksgallerij and the Van Gogh museum, being a long way out of the centre and after walking towards the latter of these we realised that we weren’t going to make it that day and turned back around towards the hostel.

On the way we stopped off at the “Oude Kerk” - literally old church.  Unfortunately, for the church, the building has been swallowed rather by the red light district.  I have to say I didn’t know what to expect from the red light district - in my mind it was a dark and shady side street that tourists kind of peered down from a safe distance.  In reality, the district sprawls over a considerable part of the city centre and is impossible to avoid without a major detour.  As a result, the poor congregation of Oude Kerk have to walk to their services under the eyes of windows full of women, who are clearly not that great at their job as they are there at lunchtime.  Now I know that a fair few of you readers will say that I am a prude, but I like my churches and my brothels to be well kept apart.  

By now, after walking what the well educated Mr Hankin described as “like 100km”, we headed back to the hostel to ‘freshen up’ before going out for dinner at a steakhouse.  The city centre was filled with football supporters as Ajax were playing Dynamo Kiev, so that was an interesting taste of dutch culture.  We headed back to the hostel reasonably early to do some planning - for those who are following the trip avidly, we have now added a new country, in the form of Luxembourg, which will replace the first night in Frankfurt, due to train timetable issues. 

I shall hopefully post tomorrow from Brussels, but if not, see you after the Grand Prix. Go McLaren!!

Oh and also, on a personal note. Mum, the patch on my trousers has fallen off and I now have a gaping trouser hole.  This is a major issue as I now have no black trousers. Please send more patches/trousers?


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