August 3, 2013

pancakes for breakfastWe spent the whole day in Amsterdam today. As our hotel charges €25 for breakfast (per person) we didn’t have breakfast in the hotel but rather went out and found a restaurant along the road serving breakfast. When in Amsterdam, do as the Dutch and have pancakes for breakfast. They were as good as they looked. We then headed down to the main canal to pick up a canal tour. We had hoped to buy a hop-on-hop-off ticket but due to the Gay Parade (which seemingly takes place on the canals), many of the canals were closed and hence we could only do a tour.

boatIt was a 1 hour 15 minute tour that took longer as they had to avoid certain canals that were closed. Unfortunately that messed with the automatic commentary but we still got a general sense of Amsterdam and the important sights. The buildings are amazingly thin and that is because there were restrictions on how wide a building could be as land and canal frontage was limited. That didn’t prevent the wealthy people buying two lots and building one house behind two separate facades. A lesson in regulation seldom achieves what it sets out to achieve. The houses also lean – some because the wooden pylons they were built on have rotted slightly over the years and some because the owners wanted people to think their house was bigger than it really was. It all adds to the charm of the city now.

We also passed at least one of the famous ‘Coffee shops’. You don’t find coffee in them but they are in fact where you can buy cannabis and other narcotics which are legal in Amsterdam. The other incredible thing is the number of houseboats moored on the canals. Many of them cannot go anywhere and are not made to go anywhere – they just float and are lived in. Amsterdam City is no longer giving out permits for moorings. This has resulted in the value of permits increasing significantly. You can buy an apartment for the same price you can buy a houseboat.  The cheapest houseboat now sells for around €80000 and that won’t be a great houseboat or a great location.

heinekenAfter the canal trip we thought we would go and visit the Van Gogh museum (on recommendation of a colleague who used to live in Amsterdam) but the line for entering was so long that it lost it’s appeal. We will have to do it when we come back one day. We went instead to the Heineken Experience (also on the recommendation of the same colleague). It is a basically an explanation of how Heineken started and how they make the beer. You get to drink a few around the tour as well. There is only so much beer you can drink in a short time (or at least I can only). They also instructed us on how to drink beer to ensure you don’t get the bitter taste. There were various games and machines spread around too that you could play with including one that tested your beer pouring (or drafting) skill. I tried and was told I need more practice. Helen did it once and was told she was a master drafter … clearly random.

view over amsterdamWe had purchased a ticket which entitled us to a hamburger on the roof top of the Heineken Experience and so once we had completed the tour we headed to the roof for our lunch. They were making the burgers fresh on a grill and it was a great lunch with a view over the city.

By this stage the City was filling up significantly with people arriving for the parade. We had spent a significant amount of time walking around and so we headed back to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. A late afternoon nap in hotel room always seems to work wonders. On the way back we did walk past some of the famous ‘windows’ with a few ladies displaying themselves. They were the ones I had missed yesterday and might have missed them again had it not been for Helen pointing them out to me.

This afternoon while I was working on my computer I pulled open the desk drawer (as one does to see what they contain) only to find a loose tooth in the one draw.  Not kidding! I think I might need to point it out to the hotel staff. But I will only do that after they fix the hot water problem which we currently have. We discovered it at 10pm when Helen wanted to warm up with a bath and found only luke warm water. We are still waiting for them to resolve it even though half way through typing this post I phoned and they said someone was on their way up right now (#nowgettingirritated).

dinner amsterdamWe headed out at 7pm for dinner and went to the same area as yesterday. The only difference was that the number of people had multiplied and it was very festive. Clearly a lot of drinking had happened today before, during and after the parade. We did eventually find a table at an Italian restaurant who took forever to take our order and bring the food. Nothing to do but to wait and watch the people trying (because they weren’t that stable many of them) walk past. We stopped and bought American ice creams (Ben & Jerry’s) at a Sushi place (again not kidding) on the way back to the Hotel.

Now if only they would come and fix the water problem ….

P, H, S, M & C

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