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  • Day159

    Day 160: Exploring Amsterdam

    July 24, 2017 in the Netherlands ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    First day in the Netherlands! Awoke at 6:30am to the whistling melody of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" as the ship approached the coastline. Got up and had a quick shower, then buffet breakfast in the on-board lounge. It was a bit of a zoo, lots of snotty kids running around shrieking and fat people on mobility scooters, so we ate fairly quickly and left.

    Packed up our stuff as the boat was docking, then went down and got Schnitzel. Had to take it in turns as we weren't allowed to take him upstairs, so we had to bring our luggage down separately and pack his stuff back in my bag. As the only foot passengers with a pet, we were basically first off the boat which was nice! Straight through customs and immigration at the dock, then onto a bus to Schliedam station near Rotterdam, then a train north to Amsterdam.

    Felt a little nostalgic arriving by train at Amsterdam Centraal Station early in the morning, as this was the exact steps I'd taken the first time I arrived in Europe 12 years prior. We dropped our bags in a luggage locker (10 euros well spent!), and headed off into the city.

    After stopping for a coffee (at a cafe, not a "koffeehuis"!), we wandered around the old medieval city. Lots of good stuff to see, as it's really a very pretty city. The canal houses are so picturesque the way they lean over and forward, looking like they're about to fall over but have stood for centuries in the same way.

    Grabbed some lunch, then headed south into the canal district where most of the canals are. This area is UNESCO World Heritage listed, so we did some filming and pieces to camera while exploring. It's interesting to see how well planned it is, despite the water being everywhere. This part of the city was dug out of marshland in the 17th century and is very orderly, lots of straight lines and direct routes everywhere. And very pretty, with the trees and bicycles everywhere of course.

    Walked past Anne Frank's house and boggled at the size of the queue (Shandos had entertained ideas of going in but snuffed those out quickly), then retreated to a bar and grabbed a drink. Quick wander around the red light district as well before heading back to the station to collect our bags and grab another train.

    Our Airbnb for the next week is about 20 minutes south-east of the city by train, partly because they allowed dogs, but also because we want to spend a couple of days in the nearby city of Utrecht and it's easier to stay halfway than move every few days.

    More transport dramas though - the trains were delayed for reasons only explained in Dutch, so after watching everyone else get off our train we asked a guy who said we could get on the train sitting at the adjacent platform which would stop at our destination. So we hopped on, in the first-class carriage. When we realised, Shandos jumped back on to the platform to change carriages, just in time for the doors to close and the train to leave - with me on it! Very helpless feeling, as the open-door button didn't do anything!

    Thankfully we both had data on our phones and could communicate, plus we both knew where we were going. So I just waited on the platform at our destination, and thankfully she managed to find and board the next train. Called our Airbnb hostess who picked us up, as the houseboat we're staying on is 5 minutes drive from the station (but about 30 minutes walk).

    Nice place, good size and comfortable which is good. For dinner we rode bicycles back into the nearby town and ate on the terrace of the local pub. Bikes were provided by our host, and a nice touch! Everyone cycles here, it's something you hear about but really only sinks in when you're here.

    It's a beautiful little town too - canals running through, narrow cobbled streets, pretty church tower, drawbridges, flat fields around, and (modern) windmills dotting the horizon. It's very very flat, very idyllic and very pretty. Looking forward to exploring more of the countryside here!
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