Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Jane had planned our itinerary for today months ago. There were 3 major activities which she had separated to ensure time for refreshments and moving between them. Fitting them in would require an early start.

We were all up and ready for breakfast around 7:00 am. That was an assortment of muesli, yoghurt, fruit, bread and honey with tea or coffee as necessary to get us started. Our departure time was governed by the need to visit the office to check on laundry access. It opened at 8:00 am so we were there for Jane to get answers to the relevant questions and then we were on our way.

There was traffic on the road toward Amsterdam but it was not too bad. Our Park & Ride research last night had established Sloterdijk as our target and we made it there easily enough with Majella driving. Getting further required us to use the parking entry card to activate a machine that then wanted my credit card to dispense 5 tickets for travel to the city centre. Next challenge was to find the number 12 tram which involved going up into the station and back down the other side to the tram terminus. Watching other passengers clued us in to the necessity of tapping our tickets on entry and exit.

The tram got us into the city soon after 9:00 am. Jane had arranged a bike tour at 10:00 am for her, Margot, and me. Majella and Virginia had tickets for the Rijksmuseum which also opened at 10:00. We got off the tram at the stop closest to the bike tour and had coffee at a nearby café. Jane, Margot and I walked to our tour start point while Majella and Virginia took a tram on a couple of stops to be nearer to the museum.

When we arrived the staff at A-Bike could find no record of our booking but Jane was able to produce a copy of the email message with the booking details. The manager was unable to find anyone else to run a tour at short notice so offered to take us on the tour himself. Jane had booked the longer version and asked about refund of the extra but he indicated that they would refund the lot because of their error.

DSC_6383The bike tour lasted about an hour at a mostly leisurely pace through the city streets. Many of the streets had cycle paths that separated cycles from other traffic but some did not. There were a few points where we had to weave around vehicles or wait for one or more of our party who was separated by a stream of traffic on a cross road. Our first stop was at one end of the Vondelpark which is a large area of parkland with cycle paths throughout. We also visited the Museumplein where we saw the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum buildings before riding through the ‘tunnel’ in the Rijksmuseum to continue our tour through city streets and the Dam square. Our guide paused periodically to talk to us about some of the history of the buildings and other features we saw. The tour was enjoyable and I was pleased to be back on a bike for even a short time after not riding since we left home in July.

DSC_6399After the bike tour we walked to the Rijksmuseum where I was able to get an iMessage to Majella who was on museum WiFi. They were about finished but when they came out they were so impressed that Jane and Margot went for a quick visit to see some key exhibits including Rembrandt’s Night Watch. We sat in the nearby garden to wait for them. When they reappeared we had to get photos posed on the I Amsterdam sign in the square.

From there we walked toward Dam Square so that Majella and Virginia could see it. Along the way we stopped at Café P.King for lunch before continuing to the square and then on toward Ann Frank Huis which was our next major activity. Along the way Virginia spotted a sign for UPS Post and went in to ask about sending some of her baggage home. That did not seem practical but we were intrigued by some of the items for sale in the shop, including cannabis chocolate and lollipops.

Jane had booked tickets online for 2:30 pm. We were a little early for that so we sat and waited until entry time and then spent the next hour walking through Ann Frank Huis and viewing the exhibits accompanied by a well produced audioguide. The display tells the story of Ann and finishes with a video presentation of reactions by a variety of people, including some who knew her and some who are well known figures. Perhaps the key messages were that Ann was an ordinary person, just one of very many who suffered similar fates, and that our horror at the events of that time should not blind us to the risk that similar things could happen again.

There was still more than an hour to our next major activity, a canal tour. We found a post office where Majella was able to post a small parcel to Australia. Virginia bought 2 flat pack packing boxes which she assembled after we got home and spent much of the evening packing, weighing, repacking, addressing and documenting for insurance. It really did seem like a lot of trouble and expense to reduce the bulk of her baggage which has expanded as she has shopped over the past week.

Our cruise was a BYO drinks and nibbles event so we also stopped by a small supermarket where we bought some beers (Grolsch because the wire tops ensured we could open them) and various nibbles. More heavily laden, we walked on to the rendezvous for our cruise at Cafe Wester, where we had drinks while we waited for the tour people to arrive at 5:00 pm. Tables were crowded so Majella prevailed upon a couple from Iowa to share the large table they were occupying. We compared travel notes over beers (Jane, Margot and me), white wine (Majella) and coffee (Virginia).

DSC_6431Once the tour man arrived and sorted out a misunderstanding with two other travelers who had gone to a wrong rendezvous we were on our way. Those Dam Boat Guys run tours using small boats (10 to 12 seats) that enable them to access some spaces that are not available to the large boats (100 seats) that cruise the canals. Our guide was born and grew up in Canada but had a Dutch parent so is a dual citizen who has lived in the Netherlands for about 20 years. He provided informative and entertaining commentary as we cruised the canals for almost 90 minutes. We enjoyed the sights and commentary along with our beer and nibbles. One of the entertaining stories he told was of the man who, centuries ago, went mad and painted graffiti on the front of his sandstone house using his own blood which soaked so deep that it cannot be completely removed. Another was of the owner of a very large house who overheard his butler comment that he could live in a house as wide as the front door and built him one to that width across the canal for a Christmas bonus.

Once our tour was done I was able to locate the nearest stop on the number 12 tram line so we walked the kilometre or so to catch the tram back to Sloterdijk. Jane and I managed to interpret the instructions to access the discount parking linked to using public transport to the city centre. Parking and trams cost us less than 16 euros for 5 of us.

The drive back to Volendam was easy with traffic light by that time. We sat around for a while, catching up on Facebook and email and watching Virginia pack, but we had soon had enough entertainment for one day and called it a night.

Advertisements