Our Europe Excursion travel blog

Taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam - I was raining but at...

A tall ship docked in Amsterdam harbour. It is called The Amsterdam

Canal houses right on the edge of the canal

Amsterdam's canals are lined with buildings, many of which are now museums,...

The hundreds of canals are interconnected. The bridges are all very low.

A cheese shop in the old part of Amsterdam. The little lane...

Inside the Palace at Amsterdam

The rooms in the Palace at Amsterdam are decorated richly with frescos...

Each wing of the Palace was open to the public, with exhibitions...

A visit to Amsterdam: A very busy day

There were thunderstorms during the night. I didn't know about them until I was told about it at breakfast the next morning. Lidwien and I must both have been more tired than we thought.

Over the past couple of days we have been all around Schiedam, through Utrecht, in the middle of Holland, and to Arnham. We also went to a little village called Lichtenvoorde near the German border to visit some relatives of Rob and Riekie. They took us across the border to a shopping mall in Bocholt, Germany.

Malls are still something of a novelty here. We were careful not to say that our malls are much bigger. Actually, we have enjoyed shopping in the shops on the streets of the cities we have visited. Most of the towns and cities have what you would call the shopping district. This is usually in the old part of the city, with old shops leaning a little because of the sinking of the land in places.

In Delft there is a big Square surrounded by old small shops that were built around the 18th century - some even earlier. The character of the shops and the shopkeepers make window shopping an interesting experience.

Amsterdam promised to be really special. There are a lot of old churches, museums and other buildings to look at. The earliest of the churches is reported to have been built in the 1500s.

After Koffie and Ontbijkoek ('ont-bay-kook' - breakfast cake) which is much easier to eat than to say, Riekie drove her daughter Monique, her husband Rob, and Lidwien and I to the train station in time for a connection to Amsterdam. she stayed at home to pack some things together for the next day as we were planning to leave to go north to Denmark to visit relatives, Hans Christian Anderson's birthplace in Odense and LEGOLAND!

This next exciting part of our trip was to take about three weeks but for one day we were free to go to Amsterdam.It was worth taking the time.

Sitting in the train, Rob tried to point out interesting landmarks as we passed through cities like Haarlem. Staring out of the window into the driving rain, it was hard to make out what Rob was pointing at. It just looked like a darker patch of grey in an already grey sky. There are many spires, windmills and other buildings that rise above the low landscape of Holland. It would have been nice to see them.

Eventually, the weather cleared a little and by the time we arrived in Amsterdam it was merely a dull day with sprinkling rain and a persistent haze. We decided to first go on a canal cruise in a covered boat as the alternative was to walk around in the light rain with raincoats on. What we had seen as we entered the city on the train was echoed as we puttered through the harbour. The juxtaposition between the very old and the ultra-new architecture was amazing. As we passed, we saw the concrete ribbons of elevated motorways sweeping over small red brick cotteges. Tall, modern buildings of strange geometric designs punctuated the landscape and shared the horizon with the old mills, the church steeples and the old canal houses of the early 17th century.

The canal cruiise was enlightening and despite the rain, we got some decent photos. It was great value as we were able to take in a lot of the old part of the city and as well, the harbour. By the time it was finished, the weather had broken and the sun, struggling to peek through the still cloudy sky, slowly warmed us.

We went from the canal boat jetty, past a pub that was built in 1606, to the palace where the Royal family, the Oranges, once lived and governed the country. You have to see it to appreciate how grand the architecture is and how richly the rooms are decorated.

We stopped afterward for lunch at a large store that has been operating for hundreds of years. The food on sale at the restaurant was varied and delicious. After a meal of gourmet sandwiches, smoothies and cakes, we emerged into a bright, warm, sunny afternoon.

We discovered that it was a quick walk through the shopping district to Amsterdam's History Museum. The exhibits there were amazing. you could take photos as long as you didn't use a flash. A couple of hours later we all had tired legs and needed a sit down. We found a tiny cafe called the Littler Restaurant of the Rosetree, 'Petit Restaurant de Rozenboom', just off the main shopping street and had coffee and more cake.

Refreshed, we walked in the general direction of the station and found a little enclosed villiage in the middle of the city with its own little Reformed English church. Someone was getting married so we waited around and celebrated with the guests by taking photos of the couple.

Tired but absolutely satisfied with our day out, we returned to the railway station and found seats for the journey back to Schiedam. Riekie picked us up in the car and, back at the house, we crawled upstairs and went soundly to sleep.

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