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1 June 2014

A Taste of Amsterdam

I'm still recovering from a flying visit to Amsterdam. It's been a bit of a blur... and not for the reasons that you're thinking. What better way to make sense of it all than by dusting off some of the holiday snaps!

Spirits were high as we set off from Hull on the overnight ferry to The Netherlands. You might remember our trip to Bruges a year or so ago where we traveled through snow. This time it was gloomy rain. P&O do two trips to the Netherlands: one to Rotterdam and one to Amsterdam. Both arrive at Europoort which is officially the Port of Rotterdam. It's 25 miles to the centre of Rotterdam from the port and just under 70 miles to Amsterdam. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes on the coach P&O laid on for us. By the time we arrived I was climbing the walls desperate to get exploring!

 These pictures are going to be all out of sequence, but here's a quick taster for the architecture of the centre of Amsterdam.... tall thin buildings, set along spiderwebs of orderly streets. It was heaving on the Thursday, but this was nothing compared to the Friday; It seemed that everywhere we went we were cramped in a corner, or in somebody's way. It was vibrant and busy but unlike other big cities I've been to, people seemed generally happy to be there. It does help when you get some sunshine like in this photo!

There are over 100km of canals in Amsterdam if you are to believe the city guidebooks and I reckon I must have walked alongside all of them. These days, whenever I see a stretch of water like in this photo, I'm instantly wondering about the dangers of flooding, but I don't think that this is a problem in Amsterdam. These guys are the masters of making things work for them. These particular canals were dug in the 17th Century by forward-thinking city planners. Genius! It didn't take me long to realise that knowing the canals was the key to finding my way around Amsterdam.

You knew that it would only be a matter of time before I mentioned bikes didn't you? Amsterdam is famous for them. For more than half of the population of Amsterdam use bikes on a daily basis! They're crazy-mad racing around on specially designated cycle-paths. I found myself doing full 360s whenever crossing the road wondering where the next attack might come from! Fortunately, I survived the ordeal and I only witnessed one person being mown down by a gentleman on a moped. It must happen a lot, because the locals didn't break a sweat.

You know that I'm always on a lookout for ukuleles. Here's one I spotted in Subway of all places. And no, I really, really, really didn't want to spend any time at all in Subway... I have kids... that it all!

I did actually spot a Ukulele shop on my travels called Uke Boutique near the Leidseplein. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to "accidentally" drop in before heading home, I simply ran out of time. Well, that's a good excuse for a return trip if ever I heard one!

A loved the architecture or Amsterdam. If I'm not mistaken, this is a snap of a lintel above a door of the Westerkerk. What's not to love about cherubs and skulls? 

I realise that up until this point my holiday snaps have been fairly conventional. Now is the time to start ringing the changes! Ha ha! Whilst wandering about Amsterdam Zoo I found a small section hidden away behind the aquarium dedicated to taxidermy. Here's a photo of Paul Louis Steenhuizen mounting a Bonobo monkey. I'm not a fan of stuffed animals, but I do love these vintage photos!

Poor old Neuseeland, hidden away in the corner of this map! Isn't it funny how things go round and round in endless circles. Take the naming of the Land of the Long White Cloud. Originally called "Staten Landt" by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman the country was renamed "Nova Zeelandia" in 1645 by Dutch cartographers. James Cook is credited with anglicising the name when he coined "New Zealand". And here on this modern Dutch map, we see that it has been dutchified back to "Neuseeland". Brilliant!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love New Zealand?

This is a picture from the back of a sculpture made by Bert van Loo. It sits outside the Instituut voor Taxonomische Zoölogie on Mauritskade.

Here's a wonderfully restored stone carving I found of a golden axe on Sint Luciensteeg : "D VERGULDE STEEKBYL". 

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere. ~ Vincent Van Gogh

I am still working on the final draft of The Black Pirate. The artwork is improving and I hope to have something I'm proud to publish soon. It seems that everywhere I look there are reminders of this project lingering.

Do you remember the Stray Cats? Look what's hanging on the wall outside the men's toilets in the Hard Rock cafe! Slim Jim Phantom!

I love the Hard Rock Cafe! 

Here's some more Black Pirate mashup. This time I've pinched a picture I saw hanging in the P&O terminal as the basis of some cowboy fun. This is definitely how it happened! 

It struck me that this street had a very Victorian look to it with the trees and tram-lines. Plantage Middenlaan runs down the western side of Amsterdam Zoo: Natura Artis Magistra.

I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's end here with plane tracks over Dutch skies. What a fantastic little adventure! 

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