Ok, so it's taken us more than a month but we've finally gotten around to sorting out and labelling all of our photos from Amsterdam!
So, on the 13th of February we packed up our clothes, tidied up our apartment and headed off to Gatwick Airport. We had looked online at what terminal we needed to depart from and discovered that the monorail that connects the north terminal (the one we were departing from) to the south terminal (the one where the railway station is) is undergoing some construction at the moment and a replacement bus service is being run. So we decided to be ultra organised and make sure that we were there extra early for the check in. While we were waiting for our flight to be open for check in, we heard over the loudspeakers that the Ezy Jet (whom we were flying with) computers had a fault and this was causing delays in their check ins; we didn't think much of this to start with and sort of ignored it. . .The time came for us to get into line to check in and an Ezy Jet representative comes out and apologises for the delay and then says that their IT guys are looking at it to see if they can get it running again or if they need to start manually checking people in. Five minutes later and they decide to start manual check in! The announcements go from saying that there is a Fault in the Ezy Jet computers to saying that there is a *SYSTEM FAILURE* which I felt should be said with red flashing lights and alarms. At this point We were sitting on the floor of the check in area, and Shelley was practically asleep on her pack. We got told to please go away and clear the area for those that were going to be checked in first, so down stairs we went.
At this point they started checking in flights in order that they were supposed to leave so we knew we had a bit of a wait on our hands. When we finally got through check in and customs and on to our flight we both breathed a sigh of relief, until we realised that we had been delayed over 2 hours and that we were not going to arrive until midnight. When we did arrive we realised that we had to change our plans as the bus we were planning on getting to our hotel had stopped running at 10pm. We walked around all the signs on the bus lanes trying to see if any of it sounded at least a little bit familiar. When that didn't work we went and asked a cab driver for a guesstimation for the fare to our hotel. He guesstimated 40 Euros (no damn euro sign on this keyboard) we promptly thanked him and went looking for other means of getting to where we needed to go. Back inside we found a help desk and asked very nicely how we could get to our hotel. The very nice lady (they were all nice there) gave us a bus number and when we finally got on the bus Amber waved the address under the bus drivers nose and asked if we could get there. He said that we could and then told us that he would let us know when to get off. Success at last! By the way at this point we were sooo happy to be on the move again and also to get our packs off our backs and also somewhere remotely warm I think we both felt that we didn't really care where we ended up as long as we were moving away from the airport all was good.
Once we got of the bus Amber's G.P.S kicked in again and we found our hotel in minutes. Unfortunately we also found a very grumpy concierge as we were more than 2 hours past our check in time and she had waited for us to get there. After some old fashioned groveling she softened up a bit though and welcomed us to Holland.
We dumped our stuff and immediately set out to explore our new stomping ground. The first thing that I noticed when we hit the cafe/bar part of the city was that although by this stage it was after 1am there were people and bikes everywhere. It was very crowded and I think Amsterdam people must be made of some strong stuff as it was freezing and they were all hanging around outside. Anyway we found some dinner and then made our way back to our hotel and then finally got some sleep.
The following day, after we got some sleep and stuff, we went walk-about.
Here are some photos from that adventure:
The top photo shows a very cold Shelley with a canal in the background (OK, so that might be a tad obvious) it's next to the "Floating Flower Market" which is actually remarkably not floaty. . .apparently it used to be though...The bottom photo was taken by two other tourists who were very kind and whom we took a photo of as well :) It's, kinda obviously, a statue of Rembrandt in this huge square called Rembrandtsplein that was surrounded by some very awesome buildings!
Ok and now we have some very awesome buskers which were in the square, Leidseplein, just down from our hotel. We have no idea what the big giant triangular shaped instrument the guy on the left is playing but we THINK that it might be some sort of Bass. Even though we were pretty damned cold, we stopped and listened to these guys for like 10 minutes! They were really awesome!!
When we finally decided on a cafe to sit in and warm up, Shelley took this photo of me. BOO!!
Right, so that was the first proper day in the city. . .we were a little nana-ish and had a nice early night that night. . .
When we woke up the next morning it was to discover that the temperature had dropped so much over night that the canal's were frozen over! This was the view from our room in the hotel:
In the bottom-most photo you can see one of the many seagulls that live on the Canal actually being ON the canal. . .Poor cold birdie. . .
ANYWAY we had decided to tackle the centre of the city, The Red Light District (which is just one of those things that you 'have' to 'do' in Amsterdam) and some museums which we had read about in our Lonely Planet guide (actually it's Mel and Mike's guide but they kindly lent it to us for our trip) that were around that area. On the way to the first museum we found, in the middle of the Red Light District, what is the oldest church in Amsterdam, the Oude Kerk:
While we were standing here admiring this awesome building, Shelley started to look around at the surrounds. She turned around and directly opposite the church was one of those lovely ladies that the Red Light District is famous for! For those of you that don't know; Amsterdam's Red Light District just has like loads and loads of little rooms with beds and not much else, with really large windows. The ladies stand in these windows and when you 'hire' them, they simply pull the curtains! Shelley wasn't quite prepared to see one directly opposite a church at about 10 in the morning however!
So, after Amber consulted the guide book and the map yet again, we headed on from the Oude Kerk towards the Museum Amstelkring (Our Dear Lord in the Attic). Ok, so; back in the day when Protestantism was first started (late 1500s, early 1600s), Catholic Mass was made illegal so some rich Catholic families often held secret Masses (Is that the correct way of pluralising that word?) and this one particular businessman, who was quite rich, bought the two houses beside his family home, knocked down the walls in between and created an entire Church (albeit a little one) in the combined attic space. In the 1800s sometime the church was 'restored' which basically meant they plastered all of the walls and made them yellow. Unfortunately, for us at least, the proper historians of today are using science and stuff to figure out the colours and materials of the original building and they are working on restoring at the moment, which means that a lot of the very fine altar has been removed temporarily to keep it safe while the restoration is taking place. The pictures of what it used to look like however were very pretty!!
This little guy however was still there:
There were some rooms which had been restored already and they were very cool. One of them was a 'sitting room' which, as was the style of the day, was perfectly symmetrical; down to a fake door to balance out the actual door. The coolest thing in that room though was this awesome clock:
So the next morning we woke up to find it was snowing! Possibly the only annoying thing about our hotel was the heating. It was always so damn hot inside that we couldn't actually layer up until we were outside. But on this particular day when we got outside Shelley made me stop so she could take a photo of me as apparently I was being 'cute' in the snow. . .
So anyway, we then went on to visit the Rijksmuseum. It was not too far from our hotel but in a different direction to where we had previously explored so we walked. Despite the snow. When we got to the museum there was a long line and so we had to wait (in the snow) to get in. When we finally got up to the entry we could see what the hold up was; before we could enter the museum we had to go through a metal detector and our bags had to go through an x-ray machine.
Anyway after that we finally got into the actual museumy part of the museum. Things I really liked about Amsterdam: So it is pretty cold there as previously mentioned, and at places like museums they have coat rooms so you can shed all your layers and don't have to walk around with them, it is always nice and toasty inside so it is really nice to be able de-layer and not have to worry about what to do with all your crap....
Anyway the actual museum was very nice, I was impressed with the decor, and how homey they made it. The day before we had been to visit the Van Gogh Museum which was very stark and not very welcoming, but the Rijks was carpeted and wallpapered and had these massive leather couches where you could sit and look at the surroundings.
Side note, The Van Gogh museum is in this really modern icky stone and glass building and next to it is this other little stone and glass square buildingy thing that has 'Van Gogh' written all over it, we wandered around this building looking for the entrance before we saw a sign saying 'Van Gogh Museum' and pointing to the building next to it. We walked around to the entrance and went in! A couple of hours later we glanced out of the window of the Van Gogh Museum towards this strange square thing that we had walked around and saw a couple of other people also walking around looking confused before pointing at the museum! We still haven't figured out what this building was but we strongly suspect it has been put there just to confuse tourists and that there is a camera somewhere which they use to watch and laugh at tourists!!!
Anyway once we got through at the Rijksmuseum we layered up and went into the garden to take some photos before we went in search of lunch....
We walked down this street and immediately Shelley started noticing the names of all the shops. It was like she had found her Mecca. In one street we saw; Tiffany's, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Versace, and heaps of other top label shops.
I did pause to lovingly stroke the shop windows of a couple but there are not photos and we did not linger for too long as by this point it was snowing again and we were A) freezing and B) starving so we kept walking looking in search for food. It was looking pretty grim as all the eating establishments had price tags to match the shops. So we had just turned the corner and paused to get our bearings and then we turned around and looked behind us and like Moses parting the Red Sea it was there, Simon Meijssen, in other words Lunch!
So after some very tasty lunch we went to find the Albert Cuypmarkt which was this market that was mentioned as a place to visit in the guide book. We didn't spend long there as it was outside and freezing but we both commented on the amazing clothes that were for sale. Unlike many other places (including England) Amsterdam doesn't have a problem with it's citizens showing some individuality so many of the less 'boutiquey' type stores had some really awesome clothing on sale.
Funny story about us trying to find that by the way. . .Amber was staring at the map in the guide book and trying to figure out where we were and which direction we had to go in to find the Market and almost walked out into traffic as she wasn't paying attention. So I forced her to pick a direction and then took the guide book off her! We got about halfway there before Amber said "I think we've come the wrong way - please give me the guide book again?" I finally gave in and gave her the guide book only for her to discover that yes indeed, we had gone halfway in the wrong direction, in the snow! We were slightly numb and I was unimpressed!
Amber here: I would like to point out that Shelley is the one that took the book off me before I was sure where we needed to go!!!! And as you can see from this picture when she made me pick a direction I wasn't exactly sure about things:
Anyway, our next and final day was quite boring as we basically just wandered around souvenir shops looking for pressies and stuff.
However, we decided that as we had been quite good and not spent too much money we could go out for a nice dinner and indulge ourselves :) We asked our very nice waiter to take a photo of us and although it's a little blurry you can still see that we were quite happy:
Anyway, half a litre of wine later we were still a little too wired to just go back to the hotel and have our holiday end so we wandered through Leidseplein and took some more photos of our fantabulous surrounds:
So that was our holiday in Amsterdam. . .we didn't want to come home and return to our normal life, but alas and alack, we had to. . .stoopid normal life! I think we've both between us rambled enough for now and I shall publish this post now so you can be entertained by it :)
Hopefully us swapping and changing between us didn't confuse you all too much!
Our next post should be about our trip yesterday to Marwell Zoological Park, I got to see LOTS of Nanimals!! Hopefully we will be organised enough to get that in under a month. . .