A few weeks ago, my eldest daughter went on a day trip to Amsterdam with her friends. Inspired by her, my wife, younger daughter and I decided we would go ourselves. I think our experience was probably quite different to her’s, but that’s part of the attraction of visiting a city like this – it has something for everyone. We decided to take a boat trip around the canals, visit Anne Frank House, do some walking and enjoy an evening meal in a local restaurant.
Amsterdam is a 3 hour drive from our house and we arrived at about lunch time after a fairly smooth journey to Rai Park & Ride. From here, it is very easy to get into the city using either the tram or the metro. We chose the tram so that we could cram a little more sightseeing into our short visit. This took us through its suburbs which were full of cafés, stylish houses, apartments, shops and canals. The canals are everywhere. I lost count of how often we passed over a canal bridge. They are a charming feature of this city and the clean water makes it easy to understand why people choose to live on its many house boats.
Our first visit was to Anne Frank House. I am not going to tell the story of Anne Frank as I want you to learn about it from better sources than me. But I will say that our visit there was both moving and fascinating. When we left the house and museum, I noticed the beautiful street that runs alongside an equally beautiful canal. The cyclists, pedestrians and boats were travelling up and down and most people appeared relaxed and happy. The sun was shining and the air that had blown in from the sea was lovely and fresh. Not far away, the cafés and bars were full of people who were enjoying good food and drink, and a friendly atmosphere. I thought of Anne Frank hiding up in the annex to the house for two years during the Second World War, writing those famous diaries that she would never see published, and I asked myself if I really know how fortunate I am to live in western Europe today.
Next we took the Amsterdam Canal Bus, which is a hop-on hop-off tour of the city, obviously by canal. We chose the orange route, which is a circular cruise that lasts for just over an hour – and we didn’t hop-off until we were back where we started! It was wonderful to sit back, relax and enjoy seeing the city from a different viewpoint.
I expected the boat to take us through a network of narrow canals and locks, overlooked by tall narrow houses and cobbled streets along which people ride those traditional Dutch bicycles with the handlebars slanted back to give the rider a very upright posture. There was some of this, but the boat also entered a vast waterway which links the North Sea with the IJsselmeer, the largest lake in Holland. Here we saw lots of large modern buildings and some very nice cruise boats. I noticed one that I was sure I had seen go past my house. Well, not literally past my house, but along the river Rhine which is a 10 minute walk from my house. I took a look at the Viking River Cruises website and saw that you can indeed travel from Amsterdam to Basel in Switzerland on an 8 day cruise. It passes my house on day 4! 🙂
Anyway, we decided to take a slightly quicker means of transport back home, and after a lovely meal, one last stroll around the city and a tram back to the Park & Ride, we finally arrived back home at midnight. I wondered what Amsterdam might have been like after we left. We saw lots of beer bikes, beer boats and groups of young people who were just starting to get warmed up for their Saturday night. I suspect there is another side to the city which we did not see. Nevertheless, it was a great day out and quite amazing how much you can do in a single day if you put your mind to it!
© Chris Robinson 2014. All rights reserved.