Archive for July 2019

Amsterdam Rivers and Parks (and Beers!)   16 comments

Lots of Amsterdam still to see and already some favourite spots to revisit. We took a stroll up to the old historic centre through Rembrandtplein. One of Amsterdam’s main squares and heart of party-land. It has rather strange urinals that remain hidden in the day and rise up out of the ground at night. We were disproportionately pleased to see one out in the open on another visit.

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The old centre is rather nice and contains some fine old buildings.

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This – I think – is the Oude Kerk. Rather fine, except that its right in the heart of Amsterdams notorious Red Light District.

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We took the briefest of wanders around the narrow streets but it’s unsurprisingly seedy and a bit distasteful. I was rather shocked at the cosy closeness of cafes, church and porn. I knew that the Red Light district is something of an “attraction”, if that’s the right word, and close to the city. I just hadn’t realised just how brazen it was right in the heart of other tourist areas. Safe to say we felt a bit uncomfortable and soon moved on.

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The Centraal station – a very fine building in it’s own right.

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The Ij river separates North Amsterdam from the rest of the city. There are ferries that cross the river and as they were free we took a quick trip over. Never turn down a freebie.

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It was a stunning day and whilst North Amsterdam is not terribly exciting and the Ferry ride only a couple of minutes we still enjoyed the trip and a walk along the waterfront.

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This is the A’Dam Tower, what passes for high rise in Amsterdam. We thought about a trip but it was pretty expensive and not exactly a true skyscraper so we declined and looked at it from below which was free.

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Amsterdam Centraal station across the Ij.

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Larking about on the signs.

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And back across the river.

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All this excitement had made us hungry so we took the modern and very sleek Amsterdam Metro back to the Albert Cuyp Market. We loved it there. We found a fishmongers that did a whole range of delicious fried fish of varying types include Kibbeling (cod bites in batter). They also did raw herrings with onions and gherkins. I thought it would be pickled like rollmops in the UK but they were just marinated and were amazingly tasty and sweet. Me and TJS loved them.

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The market had loads of food stores and it was a great place to eat. Plenty of fresh fruit stalls and sweet stuff. We loved the Stroopwaffles but our favourites were these tiny fluffy pancakes with icing sugar and butter called Poffertjes.

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We came down here pretty much every day for lunch and always enjoyed a feast and a look at the stalls, some quality, some very cheesy but great fun.

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A tram ride took us to the far end of Amsterdam’s largest park, the Vondelpark. We walked its length back to the centre of the city and its rather lovely. Lots of waterways, fountains and wooded glades.

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And Storks taking time out from delivering babies.

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Onwards to the Museumplein, home to several of Amsterdams best know Museums.

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The Rijksmuseum is the best known and it’s a hugely impressive building. Not really our sort of thing so we had a look at the sculptures in the gardens a short wander about and moved on to something more in keeping with our tastes.

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Another Brown Cafe and this one became our firm favourite (well mine anyway).

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Proeflokaal Arendsnest had a beer menu! Over 50 beers on tap and another 100 or so in bottles. All Dutch. We sampled several different varieties, all wonderful, some rather strong! The spot by the canal and flowered be-decked bridge was gorgeous. We returned several times to sample the wares. The Funsters tell me the soft drinks were nice as well. 🙂

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A walk back through the city to rest and relax in the apartment ready for water based fun the next day.

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Amsterdam First Impressions   14 comments

Summer holiday time. We had a fantastic time on our city break by rail trip a couple of years back so all agreed a similar repeat was in order. This time the trip was focussed on a week in Nice on the Cote D’Azure with a few stops on-route. First stop was Amsterdam. Rather than an overnight in London we decided to use the overnight ferry from Harwich. At less than £300 for ferry crossing, cabin and train fares from London and to Amsterdam is was good value and its a nice relaxed way to travel (other than transferring between stations in London in the rush hour with luggage – not recommended)

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We had a quite a nice sunset from the ship and were in bed and asleep before it left port.

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Arriving at Hook of Holland on time it was an easy bus transfer to Schiedam station for an onward (and busy) train to Amsterdam Centraal.

We dropped our bags at the apartment, a very nice, narrow Amsterdam Townhouse on Utrechtsestraat above a shop (we had to open up the shop to access the apartment which was neat!). Time to explore.

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We took a walk along and around one of the main wide rivers/canals, the Amstel.

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A cloudy day was beginning to blink into sunshine as we walked.

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Looking across the Amstel to the Keizersgracht.

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And over the Magere Brug bridge.

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After lunch at the Albert Cuyp Market (more on that in a later post) we returned to the apartment, unpacked and went straight back out to explore some more. Amsterdam has an extensive network of well run trams and we used these all the time to get around. We headed to the Dam, Amsterdams central square overlooked by the Royal Place. Rather dark looking while sun was in.

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From there we headed out to the western canal ring and the Jordaan. It became our favourite part of the city.

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Its the quintessential Amsterdam of the photos. Canals lined with tall gabled houses and flower decked bridges.

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We took an ambling walk around the neighbourhood. Some of these canals may or may not be the Prinsengracht, Bloemgracht and Egelantiersgracht.

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The impressive tower of the Westekerk.

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Its endlessly charming and very quiet when you consider what a popular and in places crowded city it can be.

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All this walking is thirsty work. Luckily Amsterdam is well supplied with quaint old drinking establishments that locals call “Brown Cafes” but are really pubs, all wood panelling and beer taps.

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This one is the t’Smalle bar with a terrace right on the Egelantiersgracht where we were lucky to score a seat for a cold beer. I was starting to like Amsterdam quite a lot! 🙂

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A walk back along the Brouwersgracht (Brewers Canal) to catch a tram home before freshening up and out again for a meal.

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We thought we’d try some local dutch fare and found a rather nice quiet old world restaurant, De Koperen Ketel (The Copper Kettle). We sampled the potato Croquettes in various flavours and the Mash Pots with a sample of various meats, mashed vegetables and gravy, all delicious.

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Bellies full we headed out for a long walk back around the canals before bedtime. The weather had cleared to a glorious sunny evening.

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It lit up the canalside buildings to dramatic effect and was my favourite time of day in the city. The weather can of course be as cold/wet as the UK but we got lucky and had abundant sunshine for our first 3 days.

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We wandered across and along many canals so I have no idea which one is which but it was all wonderful and peaceful.

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Except for the bikes! Everyone knows Amsterdams is a city built for cycling but nothing prepares you for it. They are everywhere not only parked up and locked to railings in unimaginable numbers but also in motion. They pretty much rule the road here and it takes some getting used to to watch for these silent assassins as they emerge from every street and crossing. I lost count of the number of times I was nearly run down, they take no prisoners!

We had thought about hiring a bike for the proper Amsterdam experience but it would be a scary challenge. Trying to navigate around a city you don’t know among thousands of other cyclists who do. We decided against it (much to TBFs annoyance – she became somewhat obsessed with bikes and the idea of cycling in the city).

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As the sun set on the city and our first day the views just got better and we realised we already loved the place.

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First impressions were rather positive. Not a bad first day.

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