Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Holiday 2016: Amsterdam

I don't really have time to do a long recap of my holiday, so I'll stick to just a few reflections...

My major impression of Amsterdam was of just how welcoming I found the whole place. Where I feel that Paris tolerates tourists and Rome endures them, I did feel that Amsterday went out of its way to welcome folk. Notably, most of the places we visited had audio guides that automatically translated into a range of languages, which was a nice touch - and wasn't as common in those bigger cities I mentioned. (Actually, in that regard Amsterdam most reminded me of St Paul in the US, where I similarly felt I was welcomed rather than merely acknowleged. Given how many people in the US have roots in the Netherlands, that may well not be a coincidence.)

For those who were wondering (and a few people have indeed asked): no, we didn't partake. Of course, it's worth noting that the Amsterdam Museum reckoned that most of the dope sold in Amsterdam is actually fake anyway, so there's a real chance that lots of people haven't partaken either...

One thing that proved invaluable was the "I Amsterdam" card that LC found online before we went. This gave us 96 hours of unlimited use of most public transport, access to many attractions, and discounts in several other places. In addition to basically paying for itself through museum accesses and discounts, this also allowed us to visit one or two things we otherwise wouldn't even have considered - the Tulip Museum (seriously - and there was also a thing called Tulipmania that you couldn't write a novel about because nobody would believe it), and Micropia (which is an odd one because I'm sure I saw that on "Travel Man", but apparently he's never done Amsterdam). So that was cool.

Probably the biggest highlight for me from the trip was a Maritime Museum, which included access to a replica of a Dutch East India Company trading ship. That was very cool indeed - though I'd hate to actually take a voyage on one of those things!

Other highlights included "Our Lord in the Attic", a 'hidden' Catholic chapel from the days when Amsterdam's religious freedoms conflicted by their official state religion - essentially, other faiths were tolerated but had to be practiced out of sight; and the river cruise.

We also attended a comedy show by a group called "Boom Chicago" which was, perhaps oddly, about Trump and his bid for the White House. It was funny enough, and with the discounted tickets (from the "I Amsterdam" card) was quite reasonably priced. Amusingly, at the point we debated joining another couple at a table but instead decided to sit in the balcony; later on, it transpired that that other couple were also from Scotland. (And, incidentally, the reaction to this was interesting. It seems our Dutch friends are quite open to Scotland staying part of the EU. And then there was the store we happened to see with the name "F CK BREXIT"...)

I felt that the Van Gogh museum was okay, but not spectacular - it was harmed somewhat by being just a little too busy. And the Anne Frank house was also underwhelming - partly because of the sheer number of people there, partly because the rooms were left unfurnished, and partly because it being open robbed it of its impact (it wasn't so much being in those rooms that would have been the issue; it would have been the combination of not being able to go out coupled with the threat of others coming in, if that makes sense). I think that was somewhere we had to visit, and wouldn't have felt we'd really visited Amsterdam had we not done so, but I doubt I'd go again.

Oh, and we also visited the Zoo. While we were there, I took the opportunity to ask the giraffes their views on Captain Ric, but they just gave me a blank look. It seems they don't believe he exists either. Also, there were meerkats there. They were much the same as the ones in Edinburgh Zoo. (And that's both of my zoo-related jokes. Aren't you lucky?)

And I think that's about it. It was a good trip, good to get away, and nicely relaxing. I'd certainly recommend Amsterdam, especially given how easily accessible it is from the UK (as opposed to other places which might need connecting flights, that is).

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