Saturday, March 30, 2013

Windy, chilly Amsterdam weekend

When I booked a weekend away at the end of March with cousin Trish, I was expecting winter may have been receding for a few weeks.  Alas, winter had not loosened its grip on the UK & western Europe last weekend.  But it was still a good weekend to be away, as however bitterly cold & windy it may have been in Amsterdam, it was dry and therefore better than being at home.

Flying in from Southampton, it turns out Schipol Airport is massive if you're in a little turboprop that takes an age to taxi to the terminal.  With only a vague idea of which trains to take to our airbnb accommodation (go to Central & get the metro), we fortuitously got off the train at the first stop (after overhearing advice given to other tourists) and eventually managed to get on the metro and cut quite  a bit of time off our journey.

The first thing noticed while walking in the dark was of course all the bicycles still out at that hour of the night.  We managed not to get knocked over by any and find the apartment OK.

After a good sleep, for me, and the start of mass-cheese-consumption-Saturday at breakfast (bread, ham & cheese) it was a short metro ride in to town, then a walk west admiring the old buildings and canal towards the Jordaan area and Anne Frank House.  It was well worth waiting for over an hour (we got up a bit too late) in the wind and occasional sun to get in to see such a reminder of those dark times in Europe's recent past.  The warehouse and offices do well to hide the small annex at the back in which eight people managed to hide for two years with the help of Otto Frank's office staff.

The rate (number over time, not price) of admission was such there was sufficient space to linger and contemplate without feeling rushed or that there were too many people around. 
Royal Palace from Dam Square in the centre of the city.

The front of the Anne Frank House complex
 We spent much of the afternoon wandering around the old suburb of Jordaan following a walking tour, popping into various little squares hidden in the centre of blocks of houses, looking at the rather higgledy-piggledy skinny houses. When the cold got a bit much - popping in to various cafes and bars for beer, lunch, hot chocolates and gargantuan pieces of apple pie.

Note the protruding beams at the top for lifting furniture up, to circumvent the narrow staircases.

A city with the wisdom not to rip up its tram tracks, there were still plenty of trams around.  As dusk started to draw in, we jumped on the first tram we saw as we walked out of Central Station to rest our legs and generally speed up the wandering.  I think we went all over looking at canals, bikes, and whatever street scenes happened to pass by.
The third, final and best cheese meal of the day was the three-cheese fondue served in yet another bar somewhere in town.  Walking back to the metro there was that often-present lingering smell of weed before we inadvertently wandered through the red-light district copping much too much of an eyeful.

Excitingly, there was even a bit more sun as we took the tram towards the National Museum.  The guide we were using told us that it was under renovation & only partially open.  After walking all the way around, we can confirm that it is completely closed.  At the least, I got a token photo of the sign below.  We followed the red rope up at streetlight level to the van Gogh exhibition at the Hermitage.

The small part of the van Gogh exhibition that is temporarily housed at the Hermitage was well worth seeing - even if I was a little underwhelmed by Sunflowers.  We crossed the Amstel a few times over the course of the afternoon before more food - I had delicious snert (pea soup). 

Trying to not look too cold above the Amstel.
A great weekend away from England, the first for quite sometime - since late January I think.  Unfortunately back to a four-day week in which I tried to cover three different roles at work and went in to Easter exhausted.  So my first weekend at home in five weeks is much needed - thankfully only one more week until a proper holiday.

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