A Travellerspoint blog

September 2012

Historic Amsterdam

overcast 15 °C

After an evening of dubious pleasure in Amsterdam's hotspots we thought we should get down to some serious sightseeing and where better to begin but with the museums. But which ones? There are more than 50 museums in the city. We could have joined the lengthy queue for the Anne Frank museum but we're only here for a few days so we skipped that and worked our way down the list: the Erotic, Hash and Torture museums were just "not really us" and we dismissed the Pipe, Beer and Diamond museums as being too frivolous. The Funeral museum is obviously much more maudlin but we are here to enjoy ourselves so, after skipping past the Pianola, Purse, and Houseboat museums, we slipped into the Verzetsmuseum which catalogues the struggle of the Dutch Resistance during WW11. It wasn't exactly fun, but it was interesting. With our heads full of the ravages of war we were trying to decide between the Jewish, Chess and Canal museums when we realized that we didn't need another - history surrounds us. Amsterdam is one great outdoor museum - every house, church and building tells a story. The beautiful canalside houses are mostly converted warehouses which housed goods from every corner of the globe in the 17th and 18th centuries ...
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The unique lifting bridges are a picture...
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And this 1480 Munttoron clock tower still cheerfully rings the hours with a carillon of bells installed in 1680...
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So, instead of wandering the galleries of museums dedicated to tulips, ships and trams, we took a canal cruise where the helpful guide gave us a quick rundown on everything we had missed. For example, "On you right is the 1885 Rijksmuseum where you will see....etc. etc." ..."and on your left is the Van Gogh museum where you will see... etc. etc." Alright - we cheated, but in an effort to make ammends we spent the evening with the Netherland's Philharmonic Orchestra as they played a programme of Bruckner in the beautiful 19th century Concert-Gebouw, one of the most visited concert halls in the world.
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Next stop - the pretty medieval town of Delf. But we're not finished with the delights of Amsterdam by half and will keep it on our bucket list for a future trip.

Posted by Hawkson 12:38 Archived in Netherlands Comments (4)

A is for Amsterdam

Biking, Bonking and Bongs

semi-overcast 17 °C

Amsterdam is known for its regal architecture. This is the central station...
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But the narrow cobbled streets of this ancient city are clogged with bikes - at least a million bikes - an amazing number considering the population is only 750,000. There are so many bikes that canal barges are used as parking lots...
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Although most end up chained to the railings and bridges....
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The majority of bikes are relatively inexpensive sit-up-and-beg machines: this is useful because 100,000 are stolen and a further 25,000 are thrown into the canals each year.
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Cycling isn't the only form of exercise here and, judging by the number of sex shops and brothels, it seems that most Dutch people are bikers by day and bonkers at night. Sex is around ever corner in Amsterdam and most tourists flock to the Red Light District where ladies-of-the-night flaunt their wares like skimpily clad mannequins in a saucy lingerie shop window. Every visitor comes to gawk at the women but most are just voyeurs. However, in our desire to bring you, dear reader, a true experience of our travels we visited the famous sex museum. We would be censored if we showed you what the butler saw, but there was this very interesting bronze fruit bowl, (or maybe it was for nuts?)...
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Despite the Netherland's straight-laced puritanical past, Amsterdam's air is heady with the smell of pot and almost every store that isn't selling sex is selling dope. But there is much more to Amsterdam than biking, bonking and bongs: there are boats, bakeries and bookstores everywhere and, of course, there are bags of bulbs and bunches of blooms. Holland is renowned for its flowers and here are some bulbs and blooms for sale at the famous floating Bloemenmarkt....
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Our next stop is Delft where we will be cycling the canals in search of ceramics. But we had better stop this alphabetical rhyming or we will run into a lot of problems when we get to Q,X and Z.

Posted by Hawkson 00:13 Archived in Netherlands Comments (8)

Summer on Paradise Island

sunny 22 °C
View Through Siberia to China and Beyond on Hawkson's travel map.

When the summer sun warms our decks and the cornflower sea stretches ahead of us until it collides with the snow-capped peaks of British Columbia's rocky mountains; when hummingbirds and bees feast on our fragrant lavenders and honeysuckle and a doe teaches her fawn to graze on the fruits of our garden; when the silence is only broken by barking sea lions, blowing orcas and the cries of gulls and eagles; and when our home is filled with the laughter of friends, it is easy to believe that we live in Paradise. But even Paradise can be a little crazy, and when we arrived home from Mexico in March we found ourselves in the midst of mayhem. Millions of herrings had laid billions of eggs on our beach and, for weeks, both sea and sky were whipped into a frenzy as a multitude fattened themselves on the bounty. Then the fishing fleet showed up...
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The cool damp spring finally warmed when we celebrated James' senior moment at the end of May...
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And after a shaky start summer finally turned on the heat. Crimson dawns burst into golden morns and the cloudless sky stretched into endless days as the hummingbirds hatched in their tiny nest...
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Oh those lazy days of summer! But not for James. In an effort to dispel any notion that his youth is slipping away he took out his hammer and knocked together a rustic bridge, a rocky ravine and a little cove complete with sunken rowboat tied to an ancient dock...

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...together with a sunken Japanese garden with a waterfall and fountain...
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But now it's mid-September and, while the midday sun still burns brightly, night's curtains are drawn ever earlier and somewhere just over the horizon lay the first of the winter's rains. The birds are flocking to migrate, the whales came by for a final wave, and it is time to pack our bags and head for sunnier climes. Two thousand five hundred years ago Confucius claimed that a journey of a thousand miles began with a single step, but as we head to the Island's ferry we wonder if he could possibly have imagined taking the initial step in a journey of more than thirty-three thousand miles - a journey of a hundred million steps. So where on earth are we headed? To the land of Confucius and beyond; from the western edge of the New World to the most easterly edge of the Old. But not for us a leisurely hop across the Pacific. We'e going the long way around and doing it the hard way. Come with us and we'll show the sights and introduce you to the folks we meet along the way.

Posted by Hawkson 17:24 Archived in Canada Comments (3)

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