Friday, August 15, 2014

Thursday 14th Aug Day 1 in Amsterdam

Hello all.
After a pretty good night's sleep, we set out after brekky, to wander around this city.  When we arrived last night, our first impression of our hotel was that it looked like it was in a pretty ordinary street.  On reflection, it is really well situated as it just around the corner from the city area.  
A short walk in one direction took us to the Ooster dok (Dock area) much prettier than in most cities, then around the city past a whole host of museums, Royal Palace, canals, Central railway station, houses and apartments. We also dropped into a homewares shop "Blokker" which was having its Grand opening today. Giving away beautiful cupcakes and coffee.  Passed on the coffee, but tried the cupcake! Yum, and a freebie!
There are more canals in Amsterdam than Venice
Most houses are built to at least 3 levels, quite narrow (as land  was very expensive) and all wall to wall with their neighbours. Internally, their staircases are very narrow, In the photos below, you will notice at the top of each house, a large hook.  Ropes are attached to the hook for furniture removal purposes. To avoide damage to the houses during this process, the houses have been built leaning forward.  It looks like dodgy building, but in fact is quite clever architecture.  Other houses lean left or right.  This is not by design.  They are actually sinking!  Most of this city is below sea level and older houses do have some structural issues.  Much work in progress to rectify the problem.

Central Station in the background.  Very grand.
One part of Dam Square
Royal Palace in the morning.  Later in the afternoon, it was a mass of people. Slow starters to the day around here.
Our afternoon saw us doing a Bike tour around the city.  This country has more bikes than residents!   There is a fabulous network of bike lanes, although it can be a little hairy negotiating the volume of bikes, especially when on the other side of the road. It is the form of transport for most residents, I imagine most people don't own cars as there is very little parking available.  The bikes are parked everywhere (a bit like Vietnam), most being the "cruiser or townie" style. Helmets not required.
 Our guide for the tour, Geoff, was an incredibly knowledgeable Canadian who had been living in Amsterdam for 15 years.  This was an amazing tour, riding about 12 kms through the streets, along canals, through Vondel Park, Dam Square, the Red light district.  At times our group would get a little lost, and  a very trying task for the guides, herding 19 tourists around very busy streets.  It was amazing riding, don't know how we didn't collect someone else, or vice versa.  Learned a lot about this beautiful city in such a short time from our guide, including the reasons for the many "herb" shops (put into anything like cookies and ice cream).
 Vondel Park
 One of the many sinking houses, this one dating back to 1695
I will pass on these ice creams.
The red light district is interesting!!!  Also a very pretty part of town.
We have just returned from dinner, 9pm and the sun is just setting. Still masses of people everywhere.  Plenty of tourists (most wandering around with maps in hand, like us).  Cool enough now to need a jacket on.  The day was nice enough for shorts, but most locals had long pants and jackets on.
Maybe some rain tomorrow.  Won't stop us.  Bye for now.

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