First stop: Amsterdam

Friday 14th – Saturday 15th September.

Our flight from Sydney left at 10.15 am on Friday 14th and we made it to Amsterdam at around 7 am on Saturday 15th. That might seem fairly quick to you but it was a rather drawn out affair for us due to the 6 hour layover in Hong Kong. Check-in for our apartment wasn’t until 2 pm but we were able to drop off our bags so that is where we headed after our rather quick passage through Amsterdam airport – no passport scan, just a stamp!

The owners of our apartment, Claire and Hans, were away for the w/e but their nephew, Olivier, kindly woke at 8 am to grant us access and, as we found out later on our return, he also very kindly carried all our luggage up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. Which Mark was most appreciative of as the stairs were quite steep.

Our drive in from the apartment had revealed that very few people rise in this city before 8 am. Our search for a cafe, after dropping our bags, revised that back to 9 am and you’d be rather hard pressed finding a cafe open anywhere before this time. A later Google search revealed one or two cafes that open early, but by early I mean 7 am, so they are now bookmarked. 9 am rolled on though and we found  a cute little cafe near a canal and in we went. We had seen lots of parked bikes on our drive into the city but none of the MAMIL activity with cyclists you’d see at this hour of a weekend morning around Sydney. They must get enough riding done with just getting around from A to B?

The weather was shaping up to be fine and so we decided to kill time before our 2 pm access to the apartment by taking a walking tour of the City. I had already reviewed available tours and booked one with Freedam Tours so we just pushed it forward by a day. This was a 3.5 hour walking tour of Amsterdam to take in the major sights of the city departing at 10.30 am and so this worked in well with our schedule.

Our guide for the tour, Sergio, was a native of Amsterdam but with Italian parents and was a most engaging and entertaining young man. We later learned that he was previously a Geography teacher but left that profession 2.5 years ago to start this walking tour business. It has grown in that time to become very popular and he now has 16 employees and brought in a good friend as partner to help him manage the growing company.

We spent the next few hours walking the city with about 18 others and got some perspective about the layout and history of Amsterdam. Sergio runs another walking tour that goes into greater depth about the history and other aspect of Amsterdam and we decided that we would take that tour on Sunday. We had a great time as we strolled through the various neighbourhoods guided by Sergio and we now know how to identify the wealthier parts of town; they’re the ones with wider house frontages as taxes used to be paid by order of how wide your property was. However, like many cities around the world, any apartment in the city of Amsterdam today is going to cost a small fortune! Sergio also informed us that the Dutch are among the tallest in the world and we noted as much in our travels around for the rest of the day. I’d also like to add that they are a very handsome race too, males and females alike.  The tour wound up just after 2 pm and so we headed back to the apartment to pick up our keys.


Photos from our arrival to the walking tour:



Our lovely Starry Night

We made it back to the apartment by about 2.30 pm and were please to find it as comfortable and luxurious as it had been advertised. The apartment is on the third floor with the owners living on the ground floor and a gallery of sorts on the second. We have gleaned that the owner, Claire, must be a sculptress hence the many sculptures in our apartment and the Gallery on the first floor. And, what we first thought might be a school across the road turns out to be a Diamond factory, Gassan Diamonds; the Open Top buses and many coaches pulling in there throughout the afternoon gave us a bit of a clue. Needless to say, I might pay them a visit too!


After settling in and unpacking we walked up to the corner where we found a couple of choices for buying supplies and found a HA that was rather like a large Woolies Metro.  Our apartment has two BBQs, one gas and one with coals, so we checked out the meat offerings for any future BBQ night at home. For dinner tonight though we walked to a local restaurant Van Beeren, suggested by Olivier, as we were both too tired and worn out to venture much further afield. We walked home via the Newmarket area and sampled their ice cream offerings. These had come with high praise but I think a Ben and Jerrys would offer them a decent run for their money 😦  One thing of note though was just how many people were packed in the cafes and bars spilling out on to the streets in this area. Such a contrast from just 12 hours prior!



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