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Amsterdam - Trams and Markets

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Day 51 Friday 5 November – Amsterdam's Trams & Markets

Overcast again, slight breeze and occasional showers, about normal for here this time of year. First order of business was to buy some post-cards and convert some US$ to €, exchange is about three for two US$250 converted to 170,00 €.

Walked along footpaths crowded with parked cars, parked scooters, parked bikes and miscellaneous construction equipment. It appears that the bike is king in Amsterdam, the only thing that has to give way to everything else is the pedestrian. Fortunately the traffic is generally light and it is quite easy to cross the road provided you dodge the bikes.

Walked to the North Markets to find that they are only open on Saturdays and Sundays, missed by one day. Back on the trams and found the Flower Markets – not to be confused with the International Flower Market where the wholesale deals are done. Lots of the most unusual flowers and bulbs and seeds available in dozens of stalls.

Bought a small gift and decided we should mail it home. Found a Post Office, operated by TNT, tucked away inside a book shop. Bought the carton, tram back to the hotel, pack it and address it and back to the Post Office. 20,00 € to send 2 Kg to Australia with delivery in 8 to 10 days.

Off to the 'flea' markets, numerous food stalls, fresh food, clothing and even some patchwork material for Jenny. Tried a variety of food items, herrings with onions and a dill pickle in a bread roll – yum !!! The fresh “fries” were great too, served in a conical paper cup.

Picked up some bread rolls for supper and then called into the cheese shop near the hotel for some slices of cheese and wedges of apple tart.

Tomorrow we're off to Paris, the stay here has been way too short and it has been the most 'interesting' city so far. Street after street of unique buildings, canals that break up the landscape and the most extensive public transport system.


Posted by greynomadm 09:03 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

On Amsterdam's Canals

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Day 50 Thursday 4 November – Amsterdam's Canals

There was a brisk wind with an overcast sky when we set off to find the south-side office of the Canal-bus company. We travelled most of their routes and covered many of the waterways that make up Amsterdam's 100 Km of canals. The structures date back to the early 1600s and most retain the character of the era.

Unfortunately it is difficult to take decent photos from inside of an enclosed cruise boat. It is also impossible to remember all the landmark buildings along the way.

We were well aware that there are a LOT of bicycles in Holland, we had also seen the extensive bike-paths but the impact of the multi-storey bike parks really brought the message home. Literally thousands of bikes stacked side by side wherever they can be anchored to a rail, a post or each other.

The house-boats along the canals are varied in style, appearance and condition. Some look quite derelict and detract from the scenic appeal of the canals. Others are well maintained and look quite comfortable. The city is no longer issuing new mooring permits.

There are hundreds of bridges across these canals, some of them for pedestrians only, others that open to allow larger vessels through. The cruise boats are just low enough to sail under them with just inches to spare.

Many of the houses are quite narrow, some of them extremely so. This stems from a time when the amount of tax charged was dictated by the frontage on the street. Some of these narrow houses are four stories high and over 30 meters deep. Most have hoisting beams to facilitate the delivery of furniture to the higher levels. Many 'newer' structures retain that feature.

I was caught short near the central station and followed the signs to WC. Imagine my surprise when I had to part with 0,50 € just to have a pee !!! After that I kept an eye out for public toilets and didn't see any, either 'pay as you go' or free.

Towards the end of the day we visited the Van Gogh Museum, not because of a great interest in the artist but because it was part of the Canal-bus package. There are four floors of paintings that reflect the life and times of the artist, no doubt more meaningful to those with an artistic bent.

There are over 20 museums listed on the public transport guide, it is unlikely that there is a human endeavour that isn't covered. There's even a Museum of Bags and Purses.


Posted by greynomadm 12:31 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

To Frankfurt and on to Amsterdam

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Day 46 Sunday 31 October – To Reykjavik

An excellent breakfast to start our last day in Canada then a final check of the luggage and we check out at about 11. The 747 bus is an express from down-town to the airport and there's a stop just down from the hotel. The bus is configured to carry the large pieces of luggage and the travellers at a cost of just $7 each, a great deal. The only catch is that the fare must be paid in coins, no provision is available to pay with bank notes.

Check-in at the Air Canada desk for the start of our journey through the airport. The terminal is divided into three section, one for USA destinations, a second for other International destinations and the third for Domestic travellers. We are processed through the USA section even though we are headed for Frankfurt because we are going via Boston. Our baggage is checked through to Frankfurt, that's the easy part.

Next we encounter the first Security check. Remove your belt, boots, watch and almost strip to your jocks. Next stop is US Immigration, full hand scan, digital photo and we are permitted to enter the air-side. Not the best or friendliest departure area ever, we find there are only three food outlets, Burger King, a fancy licensed bar/restaurant and a middle of the road bistro. I also converted my remaining Canadian dollars to Euro.

At the appointed time we board for the 48 minute flight to Boston. On arrival we are required to take the shuttle to the International Terminal for the Iceland Air check-in desk. A large queue and eventually we are issued with boarding passes for this and the next leg of the journey. Just for good measure we are subjected to another rigorous Security check. While waiting at the Iceland Air departure area we watched the ground staff for Virgin Atlantic arrive in a variety of costumes in celebration of Halloween.

The flight to Reykjavik is about 5 hours and we try unsuccessfully to catch some sleep. We set our clock forward by 5 hours as Iceland uses the GMT time zone. We disembark and are required to pass through yet another Security check and have our passports stamped.

Day 47 Monday 1 November – To Frankfurt

A relatively short three and a half hour flight has us in Frankfurt and another we advance the clock another hour. There's a 'technical problem' with the baggage handling equipment but eventually we're re-united with our checked cases, mine somewhat the worse for wear. Nothing to declare and no Customs check, no-one even asked to see our passport.

There are thousands of people and their luggage carts and we start the adventure of finding our way to the hotel. First we have to board the shuttle to Terminal 1 to find the S-Bahn station. We ask various people for directions and find ourselves going up and back down a number of escalators as we try to follow different instructions. Finally we find the ticket machine hall where we join a scrum of likewise confused travellers. A very helpful employee walks us through the process and I spend my first Euros.

We crowd aboard a very fast train that takes us to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (the central station). A massive structure with huge crowds milling about, there may have been a special event but I suspect it is like this on a regular basis. Out on the street and we try to find our way to the Holiday Inn Express on Gutleut Str. Again some confusion about directions and finally we relent and find a taxi, just as well as the hotel is quite a distance away in a mainly Industrial area. There is a widespread network of buses, trams and trains and we'll look into it tomorrow.

The man at the desk is most helpful and shortly we are in a very comfortable modern room on the 6th floor. First order of business is to catch up on some sleep. When we wake again at about 7 we decide to miss out on dinner and wait until breakfast.

Overnight air travel with today’s Security regime is no joke and I'll have to think long and hard before I sign up for another similar exercise.

Day 48 Tuesday 2 November – In Frankfurt

We slept through most of the night and wandered down to breakfast at about 7:30. What would be known as a Continental Breakfast consisted of cold dishes, cereals, breads, sliced meat, cheese and fruit. I may have overdone my intake because I felt very uncomfortable and had to hit the bed for half an hour.

We misjudged the temperature and by the time we walked to the Central Station we were decidedly cold. Checked out departure arrangements for the trip to Amsterdam and marvelled again at the size of this building. Bought an all-day transport ticket and boarded a tram to the old city centre. Many spectacular buildings including churches, the old city hall and large buildings now housing museums. By about noon we were starting to feel the chill and I wasn't all that flash so we headed back to the hotel.

Slept away most of the afternoon with Jenny fussing over me trying to ensure that I was OK. I suspect I have a bit of a fever and figure that rest and liquids will sort me out.

Day 49 Wednesday 3 November – To Amsterdam

Up about 6 and breakfast by 7, order a cab for 8 and check out. Short taxi ride to the station and we are way too early. About 30 minutes before departure time we find the train and stand for a while, imagine our surprise when it breaks in 2 and the front half with our Car No leaves the station. So we walk back to check out the piece left behind. Sure enough it has changed its identity and IT is now our train.

We board and find our seats, then the fun begins. By the due departure time there's an announcement that there is a 'technical' problem with the train's computer – they will have to re-boot the system. That fails to resolve the problem and some of the passengers with internal destinations are advised to transfer to alternate trains, WE are told to stay put for now. After a while they return what was the front bit of the train and reconnect it, this solves the problem and some 45 minutes late we leave Frankfurt.

The train rockets along at about 250 Km/Hr and the countryside flashes by. The autumn colours are everywhere and there are little towns and big cities and agricultural fields on both sides. Unfortunately there is no opportunity to take any photos.

Arrived in Amsterdam about one hour behind schedule. Found some very helpful people at the tourist information office who guided us onto the correct tram. 5,20 € brought us almost outside the hotel. The room is small but adequate and we will be out and about most of the time. Catching up with the laundry is becoming an urgent issue.

Will update again in a few days, the WiFi is in the lobby and I don't like sitting down there too long.


Posted by greynomadm 08:56 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

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