Amsterdam - the blog

She said: "Sex, drugs, culture and cuisine...that just about sums up our four day trip to Amsterdam.

From the four flights of stairs which go straight up to reach our apartment to the trams and tourists wandering the cobbled streets it was a fabulous experience.

Loved a holiday with no excess heat or insects but there was lots litter which when I visited Holland as a child you never saw.

A new experience was the double-decker trains and there are bicycles everywhere although hardly anyone wears a bike helmet and you have to remember to look left when crossing the road and not to walk in the cycle lane! 

The best mode of transport is the trams.

The canal trip is a must and the art museums are great.

Modern art and old masters – sums up Amsterdam.

Highlight of the stay was the newly renovated Rijks museum although like many others we found it a bit difficult to find the ‘front door.

The flower market, all year Christmas shop, a secret garden called Begijnhof, street sculptures, red light ladies and leering men of the dirty raincoat or baggy sweat pants variety, red brick architecture and the royal palace all made an impression.

Most disappointing is the Anne Frank house which was a two hour queue despite trying unsuccessfully numerous times beforehand to book online.

We were packed in like sardines and it was difficult to see – I welled up as we walked into her bedroom only to be pushed and jabbed by fellow disrespectful visitors.

Security was tense and wearing full frontal hi-packs was the norm here while other places insisted on people using their left luggage facilities.

What was a surprise is the assortment of restaurants – the food we sampled was better than in France oh la la and everyone spoke English.

We loved the Van Beeren restaurant which we stumbled on while looking for somewhere to eat.

From the outside it seems like a pub but no it offers a great menu and ‘secret garden’ full of locals which we took as a good sign.

For main course we ordered eggplant cannelloni, guinea fowl and poached bream served at a leisurely pace and beautifully prepared.

Another surprise was the cafe restaurant de Plantage at Amsterdam zoo – more upmarket.

We sampled delicious fare in a delightful setting – it was packed early on a Monday evening.

We have to go back to Amsterdam soon because we missed THE best live music gig which plays only on a Friday/Saturday night.

And we will fly again with KLM via Bristol Airport, the most convenient from our North Somerset home ."

He said: "Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful and friendly cities I have visited. It is amazing the difference a car free city centre makes.

You can wander the historic streets free of fumes and enjoy the leisurely pace of the city.

The public transport is cheap, efficient and easy to use with one plastic card enabling you to travel seamlessly by metro, tram, train and canal boat.

One of the star attractions is the Rijksmuseum reopened in 2013 after a 10 year restoration project. 

This wonderful Victorian building showcases the very best of art from The Dutch Golden Age with masterpieces including The Night Watch by Rembrandt and The Milkmaid by Vermeer. There is a beautiful garden outside and a lovely bright welcoming cafe indoors.

Dam Square is a must for every traveller with tourists of every nationality posing for photographs among the colourful mime artists and tacky souvenir stalls.

Dominating the square is the magnificent Royal Palace originally built as the Town Hall back in 1655.

You enter the building via the imposing central hall with its 90 foot high ceiling with ornate marble columns.

The whole building is a visual statement of the power and wealth of the 17th century Dutch empire whose ships dominated world trade.

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre, I recommend a detour to take in the Begijnhof.

Here you will find a wonderful collection of 16th and 17th century buildings enclosing a charming quiet garden. 

The Begijnhof is a lovely peaceful sanctuary where you can sit and reflect on the beauty and diversity of this welcoming city away from the crowds.

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to the Anne Frank House. 

After a two hour wait in the queue we climbed up the narrow stairs to view the attic where Anne and her family hid during World War 2 - it was a very emotional experience especially when you see the photos of her favourite film stars that Anne herself glued onto the wallpaper in her hiding place.

It was a timely reminder of the reality and horror of living in a fascist state."

'My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them,' Terry Prachett
 

'Finally we hit upon the old cathedral of Amsterdam, which belongs to the Reformed Church and which we remodeled. The owners gave us permission, on certain financial conditions, to shoot the film there. Before that, we had planned to use the cathedral of Cologne, but two days before we began our preparations, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover was shown on German television and the archbishop immediately forbade us from entering the cathedral site!'

Peter Greenaway

Our own capital of Netherlands

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