Sunday, October 22, 2023

Grand Tour for 30th Wedding Anniversary - Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Holland. Friday/Sunday 20/22-October-2023.

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We only had a short stay in Amsterdam due to the high cost of accommodation and the variable pricing of the overnight ferry to Newcastle which was much cheaper on the Sunday night compared to the following the week. The weather was very changeable with some heavy rain showers however we still managed to fit in a lot in a couple of days before heading back to the UK, tired and happy.

We had a fast and uneventful train journey from Cologne and very wet trek out to our hotel, the Radisson Hotel & Suites Amsterdam South. We thought that a hotel in a business park, presumably catering to business travellers, would have good transport links but it turned out to be quite a trek from the nearest tram stop. We arrived drenched to the skin! As we were out in the boondocks it was much simpler to eat in the hotel that night which had a decent enough restaurant.

The next morning, Saturday aka #parkrunday, we headed of to the lovely Amsterdamse Bos. Luckily it stopped raining for a bit. A third of the participants were tourists from all over the world. Two laps of a lovely flat course around a scenic park with a friendly bunch of volunteers and participants.

We were amused by the cheese they use for collecting the parkrun tokens!

After a post run shower back at the hotel we headed off into the city centre for some normal touristing. We managed about a 2 hour tour of the Rijksmuseum taking in the highlights before our eyeballs were full.

Then it was time for a couple of local beers and shelter from the rain. Mary, the beer hound strikes again! She researched and found a craft ale bar: the Beer Temple, only a short walk away. A lively place with a huge selection of beers from all around the world as witnessed by the extensive chalk boards.

On Sunday we walked south along the side of the river Amstel with a planned turn round point of a coffee shop only to discover we were too early and it was not yet open. We decided to walk on a bit further and serendipitously found ourselves in the fascinating, historic village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. The Kerkburg bridge (1649) is a historic monument. The building with the red roof behind is Bakkerij Out which is dated 1897 but bread has been baked on this site for more than 400 years.

The town is also home to the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands, the Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel.  Another historic monument is the Roman Catholic cross basilica in neo-Gothic style built in 1867.

We then went back for our coffee at Café De Vrije Handel (17th century) which is one of the oldest establishments in the area. The courthouse, the seat of the government of Ouder-Amstel, used to stand here until a new courthouse was built in 1656 on the other side of the road. The inn also used to serve as a weighing house for cheese, pigs, grain and vegetables.

We saw a lot of herons along the sides of the canals and rivers.

As you might expect in we saw several windmills along the river. Grey weather at first but then the sun came out.

Nearby we came across a statue to Rembrandt who drew many sketches of the area.

Heading back to into town we had booked lunch at Klein Kalfje a charming restaurant next to the river. We then completed the walk back to the hotel to collect our luggage and head off to the ferry port.

We boarded the DFDS Princess of Norway around 5:30pm for an overnight crossing to Newcastle. After we'd settled into our cabin we went for a wander round the ship. Sadly the duty free didn't sell Jonge Jeneva - a variety of gin almost impossible to find in the UK. We originally booked for a buffet meal but discovered there was a proper classy restaurant on board so paid for the upgrade - proper linen tablecloths and waiter service. Afterwards we sat in the lounge with a beer and listened to a band performing a whole range of impressively authentic sounding cover versions.

Sunrise as we approached Newcastle the next morning.

The three week rail trip was a fantastic experience. Mary is already planning the next one!

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