The rain stopped as we reached the park.
(to view photos clearly, click on them for enlargement)
Wednesday/Thursday 9/10th May 2012
The time has finally come, we're off on our next adventure. Because of all the things going on in our life recently, what with a wedding, Rags' medical condition, and Judy's university tutoring position, we aren't as excited as we normally are. This we're sure will change as we get further into it.
The day started with a bit of luxury, our friend Cal taking us to the airport in his new BMW, from where we flew the 8 hours to Hong Kong. Qantas looked after us well on this leg, with good food and service. After a 5 hour break we boarded the huge Cathay Pacific 747-400, for the 12 hour flight to Amsterdam. This was uneventful but the food or service wasn't a scratch on our previous flight. A bit disappointing!
Our arrival at Schipol at 0700 was met with grey, wet weather. Hope this won't continue. By 0800 we were met by Rags' cousin Hans, who took us into Amsterdam to another cousins' home, Nel and Lee. They were on holidays but had kindly allowed us to stay for the 3 days and then they
This area brought back memories
would host us for the last 3 days after our barge tour.
After taking Hans for a coffee and something to eat, he left us, intending to return tomorrow with Marion for a reunion.
He'll come by train, parking here being hard to find and expensive at over A$5/hour. They have an interesting way of paying for parking in that you ring and give your vehicle registration, credit card number and how long you want to stay. The council has anonymous cars which randomly drive down the streets photographing the parked vehicles, violations being sent in the mail.
The house in Frans van Mierisstraat, is in what Lonely Planet describes as a “genteel' neighbourhood, often called the Museum Quarter. It is a very short walk to the Museumplein, a park onto which the Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh and Stedelijk museums adjoin. The rain had stopped and as we walked along the path to the lake in the park we reminisced about when we were here in the 2007 winter and locals were skating on it. For some reason we both thought of our friend, Mark, who arrived here this morning
These mottos are in several places around the city
so we kept our eyes peeled. Sure enough, there he was with his camera to his eye, accompanied by Julie and Pixie. Small world!
We teamed up and decided to go on a canal cruise , 1.5 hours long where you could get off at different spots and catch following boats. This was a good choice, we seeing all the beautiful, old buildings, most restored warehouses and now luxury homes and hotels. After about an hour we left the boat and found a cafe for lunch, having croquettes as these were a favourite of Rags' when he was a child, Judy also enjoying them on a previous visit.
We walked back to Museumplein through some of the back streets, enjoying the scenery and dodging the many bikes which seem to zoom around at a great pace. They have their own lanes in most areas and have right of way on them. This we explained to Pixie, after he strayed into one and he started to abuse a cyclist who nearly ran him down.
For dinner we had decided to have a “picnic” at our new home, so we all went shopping
at the Albert Heijn supermarket, which is underground in the park. An interesting assortment of food was selected, cheeses, salmon, smoked beef, mussels, crusty bread, sushi, all making their way into the basket. Jacobs Creek wines were on special, these cheaper than we can buy them at home, so in they went too. A couple of interesting beers completed our shopping. Strangely, credit cards were not accepted but we had enough cash to cover our shopping.
A break of a couple of hours were had, giving us a chance for a break and a much-needed shower. The others then arrived and an enjoyable meal was had. Because everyone was tired we made it an early night, the lack of sleep, assisted by a 500ml can of local 12%!b(MISSING)eer, having Rags start to nod off at the table!
Friday 11th May 2012
We both slept soundly and by 0600 Judy was up and about, Rags following soon after. Until 1000 we both spent time on our laptops, Judy continuing her Online University of Australia tutoring, presently having to mark assignments, Rags writing the blog.
We walked to the Koster Diamond Museum
where we were given a short tour showing how the diamonds are cut, then led into a showroom where all sorts of expensive jewellery was on sale. Judy didn't see anything she really liked so we walked out of there considerably more financial than could have been the case.
From there we walked further into the centre of Amsterdam, firstly finding the Flower Markets with their displays and bulbs for sale. If it wasn't for our quarantine regulations we would have bought some bulbs home. The bonzai for sale were unbelievably priced, many not much more than the cost of a normal plant.
Kalverstraat was our next stop, one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam, beautifully restored and operating as businesses and high priced housing. Here we went into a Vodafone shop where a young chap, speaking perfect English, set up our wifi unit. This should keep us in touch with the world wherever we are in the Netherlands.
We continued on to the Central Railway Station, where Mark and his group said they had a great feed. Unfortunately the place was being renovated (as every other building seems to be)
and we couldn't find the eating outlets. One of the security guards tried to help, but he admitted he too now got lost in there.
Both of us now being footsore and a little grumpy, we decided to catch the tram back. It was a little disconcerting when 15 minutes into the ride we still hadn't seen any familiar landmarks. We decided to continue, returning to the beginning if we had to. Then, rounding a corner, there was the street just near where we are living. We weren't lost, just a little disoriented!
Lunch was at the bakery we visited yesterday with Hans, then back to the house where we put our feet up and did our computing stuff. Just after 3pm we saw Hans walking up and down the street, this reminding us that he kept on forgetting the house number. A fond welcome from Marion followed, we inviting them in for a coffee. The next few hours were spent talking of families and current activities. Hans is all for coming to Australia but Marion still has some serious issues at home. Only time will tell.
Rags used to have his mother laughing about the word for sailing and gas
We all went out for dinner, aiming to go to a tapas cafe some distance way but ending up in an Italian cafe much closer to home. Here we had the usual fried squid as well as delicious a carpaccio which consisted of thinly sliced raw beef, to share as an entree. Calzone, lasagne, and 2 different chicken dishes were served up with salads and the obligatory fries. The helpings were very generous and four sated people left the restaurant eventually. Rags bought Hans a beer (this being the pre-arranged payment for our airport pick-up) it being the first drink he has had for over 4 years!
The day ended at 2100 with our guests leaving, we will meet again on the 27th May, when it appears all the Weggelaars will be getting together. The sun had still not fully set at this time, the streets lighter than they would be at 1700 at home. Takes a little getting used to.
Saturday 12th May 2012
Today was a little bit different to usual, we organised to go on a city tour rather than going it alone as we normally do.
Triple storey bike parking
Judy booked a tour with Sandeman tours, a group who take people on tours free of charge in the hope they can get them to go on their paid tours. You are asked to tip the guides at your discretion.
We started our tour with our Irish guide, Dave, from the Dam. This area, as its name implies, was where the first dam or dyke was built in the early 12th Century. directly opposite is the Royal palace, but we were told the royal family now reside in the Hague.
The next 3 hours was spent touring the red light area, the markets, the 'coffee' shops, the original dyke near Chinatown, some of the canal areas, as well as specific points such as the Anne Frank house. Dave was most informative but tended to answer his own questions before anyone had a chance to ask. He admitted he was very left-wing and had his own opinions. This was most evident when he talked about the use of marihuana and the present legislation where non-residents will be banned from indulging. This, together with his much repeated views on the sex industry, was a little off
Many of the vessels moored alongside the canal were permanent residences.
putting, but still made it an experience worth doing.
By the end of this tour we both felt we had walked enough so we set off for home. We did stop for some grocery shopping, neither feeling we had the energy to go out tonight. By the time we arrived home we had been out walking for over 5 hours, enough by any standard. Rags was pleased by the way he was feeling, the bike section not as daunting as it was.
The afternoon was spent resting and continuing with assignment marking, respectively, before an evening meal of our new purchases and left over food and drinks. Its been great having our own place to go back to and being able to do this. Nel and Lee have been most generous in letting us stay here and we look forward to seeing them for the last 3 days we are in the Netherlands.
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