Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 12 Amsterdam

Now think about this. For two people for a cost of $250, a cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam which includes a cabin for two, coach transport from the port to the centre of Amsterdam and back, then another night on the ferry to return to Newcastle and that includes on board entertainment, shows etc. Pretty cheap hey. Well, we saw ads the day we left the UK where they had dropped the price to $220 and thrown in breakfast which is worth $20 each.

But where they make their money is from their captive diners and drinkers. $8 for a glass of wine. Evening meal, $40. A plunger of coffee for two cups, $10.

We had pre paid for our dinner and it was an excellent spread. The same for breakfast, again fantastic food. But we were blowed if we were going to pay $40 for dinner on the return trip.

The first night we had a late dinner and then watched a few shows and performances. We were out aft looking at the sky at about 10.30 pm and we could still see traces of the sun. Our cabin was ok although the drain in the shower was very slow which was to become a problem on our return journey when the waves were bigger and the water sloshed back and forth across the whole bathroom floor. The water managed to find a horrid ball of black hair and at one point it was chasing my feet across the bathroom floor. I had no option but to pick it up and flush it. Believe me, there was a lot of paper towel between my fingers and the hair.

R hauled himself onto the top bunk that night, but then could not get down in the morning. He had to wake me to get the steps and prop them up. We heard later that this is not unusual.

We docked at the port of IJmuiden (sic) about 9am and after a bit of a coach drive, we found ourselves opposite Central Railway Station on the corner of Damrak, the main tourist street. We walked along a bit until we saw some canal boats offering a very reasonably priced canal tour. The trip was excellent although we did get a shower of rain.

Amsterdam property rates are charged on the width of a propertie's frontage, or they used to be, so houses are built as narrowly as possible. This means they also have very narrow steep staircases, which make it impossible to move furniture in and out in the conventional manner. Many of apartment blocks have a large metal hook at the top. To move furniture, a window is taken out and the furniture hoisted in or out via the window.

Some of the houses and apartment blocks are very very old, like hundreds of years old. Their foundations sit in a wet syrup and so many of them are on a lean. Leaning blocks lean on dead vertical blocks who in turn hold them up. Do they ever fall down? I have no idea. I would guess that they are carefully monitored.

After the residential and commercial canals and houseboats, we were taken out onto the harbour and we saw some large significant buildings from the water.

Back on land, we wandered along Damrak and had some lunch, looked at shops, wandered along a back street. I sat for a bit watching the many trams carting their loads along. I recognised a Combino tram, similar to what is in Melbourne, except it only had controls at one end.

There are huge works happened off Damrak behind a fenced area. The trams could go in the fenced area but to stop cyclists, there were gates for the trams to enter. While the electric gates were reasonably quick, most of the tram drivers were a bit quicker and pushed the gates out of the way with the fronts of their trams. Every tram had marks on the front apron from this gate pushing business.

We were warned in advance to be careful of cyclists because many of them are stoned when riding their bicycles and consequently don't notice anything in their paths. It is not usual for them to end up in a canal. There are even a couple of cars each week run into a canal, in spite of barriers.

J had some local knowledge and we walked along a street to another street with a canal running down the middle of it. I think it is called Oudezijds Voorburgwal and it is the start of the red light district. We did see a couple of women in the windows of their premises, but I expect it is much busier at night. We walked back along a narrow street and look, a coffee shop. We went in and ordered cold drinks from the front of the menu, and someone's sister in law ordered a couple of splifs from the back of the menu to take back to England. We wouldn't dare try get something through customs like that here, but evidently it is quite common for English people to take 'stuff' back to England.

More looking in shops and watching the street life and then to the coach pick up point. We could have also done the included coach tour of the sights, including Ann Frank's house, but I was over ruled on that one. Shops are boring.

We had stocked up with booze and food and got together in one cabin for food and drinks. It was a fairly early night. The sea was much rougher and it was a side to side sway as you walked. This did not worry me until I was back on land.

I found Amsterdam interesting but not as appealing as London or Paris. Maybe it is an acquired taste. Of course we hardly saw anything in just a few hours and the skies were grey with a couple of showers of rain. I had a mental picture of Amsterdam, and unlike London or Paris, it really was nothing like I imagined.

Bicycles are everywhere, thousands of them, often hanging almost down into the canals.
Some houseboats are legal, some illegal, some are floating junk but this one was quite neat and nice.
This house has quite an appealing look
Hundreds of thousands of bicycles.
Evidently a replica of a restaurant in Hong Kong harbour. It was pretty big.
The canal in the red light district. You want photos of a girl in a window, you pay, or someone will be out to smash your camera.
Tram at the gate to the works area on Damrak. The very grand Central Station is in the distance.




8 comments:

  1. I take it (judging by the metaphorical change from white to black type) that it got a bit gloomy towards the end.

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  2. I loved Amsterdam when I was there. Mind you, I was staying with some well-off relatives in a nice street in the suburbs. You really have to be there a while to appreciate it - and the streets can be very confusing.

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  3. Wow, those images are great Andrew! I wonder if our city will ever get as busy with bicycles as that..what an amazing picture!

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  4. Love the tram pic BTW!

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  5. That was because I cut and pasted the name of the port Brian. Too complicated to explain and it is readable, so I shan't go to the bother of fixing it.

    They sure are the most confusing streets I have come across Reuben.

    Thanks Cazzie. We saw cyclists but not that many. Probably because of the area we were in. Trams looked very efficient there.

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  6. The pics are great and the canals look exceptionally clean.

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  7. Anonymous10:49 am

    So how were the spliffs? Did you partake in any, Andrew?
    As they say when in Rome.........

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  8. Perhaps clean Jayne, certainly green.

    I did not Anon. Being stoned in foreign country where I don't speak the language stymied me.

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