Amsterdam! Day 2October 14 in the Netherlands
Considering we were so close to the heart of a capital, City Camp Amsterdam provided a relatively peaceful night's sleep and we woke ready to explore. On today's agenda was the Western Canal Ring. The centre of Amsterdam is surrounded on 3 sides by 4 concentric canals, bending round the core. The Western Ring is said to be the most photogenic so we once again took the tandem on the ferry and navigated our way in. It was another bright, warm day, the sun cutting the streets in half by shining a spotlight on one side whilst casting the other into shadow. We spent the morning wandering along the canalsides, stopping to admire the eclectic collections of houseboats moored on their vertical banks, crisscrossing quaint, arched stone bridges and noticing the oranges and reds as they began to show in the corridors of trees. We made a point of visiting Reguliersgracht, a canal that linked two of the radial waterways and was reputedly the prettiest. It was smaller and the trees more mature than on the main canals and although it was beautiful, we would only have put it on a par with the Western Ring.
Our tummies were beginning to rumble so we made a beeline for Dam Square, the place where this great settlement was founded and whose title is combined with that of the River Amstel to produce the name Amsterdam. We needed to get back to Poppy so opted for a takeaway cone of frites and a hotdog for Will from Chipsy King. The chips were advertised as Belgian but the Dutch cut them thicker. They went down a treat as we sat on the cool stone seating behind the white stone obelisk at the eastern end of Dam Square. As we ate we took in the sights and people watched. The old Royal Palace, originally the town hall, stood at the western end, its large stone bricks dulled with time and exposure to pollutants. The 15th century gothic style New Church sat beside it with tall stained glass windows, its facia similarly muted. All of the tall stately buildings surrounding the open cobbled space were impressive, although their appearance would have been enhanced by a little TLC. When we first started our journey around Europe we'd been shocked to hear so much English spoken in the cities we visited. It has become something we now expect to a certain extent but in Amsterdam there was a particularly high number of English speaking voices.
Our appetites satiated we peddled back to central station and caught the ferry over the River IJ for the last time. We'd been able to see so much more on the bike than we ever would have on foot and after spending some time with Poppy we had enough energy to take a walk around the NDSM neighbourhood close to where we were staying. An old shipyard transformed into a cultural and creative hub, the streets and buildings had a rough but vibrant feel to them. Tentatively setting foot inside a huge manufacturing warehouse we found it had been populated with shipping containers used as artist studios. Upstairs was a free exhibition showing a range of disciplines from cut paper designs, to welded iron, conceptual art and painting. Outside, walls were covered in grafitti; a mix of hastily sprayed tags and incredible murals with most things in between. We were particularly drawn to a huge painting of a child's multicoloured face with the title 'Let me be myself'. After researching it, we learned it was a 240 square metre representation of Anne Frank painted by world famous Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra in his signature style. The house where Anne hid from German troops for 2 years is located in central Amsterdam and now exists as a museum.
Flagging slightly, we made our way to Noorderlicht café; an arched greenhouse turned trendy venue. The outdoor picnic tables by the river were packed but we found a spare place to sit inside where there was a grassroots duo singing and playing keyboard and saxophone. We ordered a couple of shots of Jenever (Dutch gin), some local beers and sat back to enjoy the hip atmosphere and performance. The walls were strung with heavy bohemian style curtains in rich colours and we could imagine that when the sun went down the place would be transformed from a light and airy space to something cosy and snug, with warm lights twinkling.
We really enjoyed our two days in the Netherlands' capital. As always there was plenty more to see and do but we felt we'd picked up a flavour of the city. We are glad we didn't visit mid summer because even this time of year it was very busy with tourists. We loved the free ferries and how easy it was to get around by bike. The beautiful canals gave Amsterdam individuality and the enjoyable coffeehouse experience wasn't one we could have had in many other cities. The NDSM neighbourhood had real character not to mention colour from its many murals, but there is more to a country than its capital and it was time to move on.Read more