After leaving our friends home in North Holland we parked our van in the City Camp for Amsterdam. Located north of the old town and within an easy ferry ride to the wharf by the central station it is mainly a secure car park, very basic with access to water, emptying the toilet and grey water, but very convenient to visit the town and as the ferry is free it also cuts down the costs for public transport. We picked our spot as we checked in via the automatic machine and after paying with the Credit card we were allowed to drive in and find our spot. No great view, surrounded by an industrial area, the scenery was nothing to write about but we were happy to have the opportunity to spend a few days exploring Amsterdam.
Monday 22nd Sept.
We had a slow start for the morning and after packing a bag we rode our bikes to the ferry landing about 700m from the parking site. Our only plan for the day was a visit to the Van Gough museum at 2 pm which we had pre-booked online when we were staying with friends. While we were there I also downloaded a few walking route maps onto my android tablet and with a map in hand we negotiated the streets and along the canals watching out for cars, pedestrians and other cyclists ever mindful of the hazards that seemed to come out from every direction.
The headed first to Waterlooplein where there is a flea market which is the oldest and most interesting market in Amsterdam. Originally a Jewish market it is now the place to go to buy old bric a brac, T shirts, Youth culture items, posters and tourist paraphernalia and you can also get your bike repaired in a couple of the stalls. We had a wander around looking at the variety of goods, but found nothing we could not do without. It was lunchtime by this time so we bought a snack from one of the stalls then as we had a little time to wait before our museum visit decided to have a coffee in a Café in one of the shops nearby. Refreshed and satisfied we got on our bikes and wound our way along the streets to the museum area and arrived at the Van Gough museum where we had the pleasure of being able to walk straight in and avoid the queue that was lined up outside. We spent a good couple of hours inside enjoying the masterpieces of various artists, although it was quite busy, and at times had to wait our turn to be able to get close enough to have a good look at some of the most interesting paintings we decided it was worth it.
When we emerged from the museum it was bright and sunny and so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon meandering the streets back in the direction of the Main Square and then back to the ferry. So after riding a bit we pushed the bikes along the crowded shopping street and then parked them next to the Palace locking them securely so that we could continue unencumbered by their presence.
We had a wander up the shopping precinct then enjoyed another coffee (of course) and then did a bit of food shopping in a supermarket before deciding it was time to make our way back to the camper.
Tuesday 23rd Sept.
Today we decided to take a different ferry across to another part of Amsterdam, our plan for the day was to do a couple of the walking tour routes but use the bikes to make it easier on Jenny as her foot was still quite tender and the cobble stones seem to make it worse. Our first route was through the district of the Jordaan, built as a large expansion of Amsterdam in early 17th century, a district for the working class and emigrants, today it is a favourite place for students, artists and young professionals. We roughly followed the route plan, but mostly went with our whim and enjoyed finding interesting buildings and streetscapes. Being out of the usual tourist route it was an area where most people walking the streets were locals and we just enjoyed seeing daily life happen about us. We stopped at a local Albert Hein supermarket and bought a couple of sandwiches and drinks and then found a bench next to a playground to eat our lunch.
We then continued on with our exploration of the city, the next route taking us through the golden canals area where the most prestigious homes of Amsterdam’s golden age were situated. These three main canals, Herengracht (Gentlemen’s Canal), Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal) and Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal) form a historic monument which was placed on the World Heritage List in 2009. Trade exploded in the 17th century, Amsterdam’s Golden Age. In one very ambitious expansion project that took 50 years, the 3 main canals of the city were dug and the houses around them were built. Completed around 1660, it made the city grow to 4 times its size and gave it the most intricate and efficient system of navigable waterways in the world.
This route was quite long and the walking tour was said to take 3 hours to all day, but we found with the bikes we were able to manage it quite well in a couple of hours even stopping for a coffee in a small establishment along the way. We had plenty of time as the only place we had to be was for was a booking for an evening canal cruise which started at 8.00 pm, so when we had enough of wandering around we made our way back to the Waterlooplein and returned to the coffee shop from the previous day which we knew sold good coffee, had free wifi and comfy chairs. The perfect place to have a break from sightseeing and bide our time until our cruise. Having done the daytime cruise before on previous trips to Amsterdam we wanted to see the sights by night for a change, and we had a very enjoyable cruise through the canals, seeing it all lit up by night is certainly a treat and very romantic.
Nevertheless we still had more to see and a ticket for the Rijksmuseum. Checking the weather report we decided that the afternoon weather would be worse so we could manage to do a bit more sightseeing on our bikes. We didn’t quite finish the old town route yesterday so we picked up the route again and made our way along the streets and found ourselves back at Waterlooplein.
This was where the next route started with the Jewish Walking tour taking us into a different area of the city that we hadn’t been to previously. The Jewish people in Amsterdam have been prominent since the 17th century building their synagogues and homes in this tolerant city until 1940 when the Germans invaded, there were 60,000 living there at that time, but unfortunately not many survived those terrible years. Not much is left of the Jewish Quarter, a few historical museums and the Portuguese Synagogue which was left in its original state, and still today does have not have electricity or heating.
We rode through the quieter streets and after a while the weather looked worse with threatening rain so we decided to head back towards the busier centre of town and found a shopping centre where we were able to shelter from the rain and buy some lunch from a small takeaway inside. Finished with lunch it was time to ride across to the Rijksmuseum to enjoy the Masterpieces that are housed in that magnificent building. We arrived at about one o’clock and spent the rest of the afternoon inside, it was quite busy, we were able to enjoy the atmosphere but were only able to see one level of the building as there is so much to see. The museum closes at 5.00pm and although we felt we had seen enough it is obvious that you would need to spend many days exploring the building to see everything it has to offer. Maybe next time, another level.
Leaving the Museum it was obvious that it had rained quite a bit while we were inside, so it was a good place to have been for the afternoon. We waited a while in the shelter of the arcade until the rain eased and then unlocked our bikes and took a direct route back to the ferry.
We then took the ferry and rode back to the camper to start packing it up to leave that evening. We had until 8.30 p.m. on our ticket and decided that we would move on that night to a place closer to our final destination and the campers “home”. We had our dinner and packed up ready to go before our time expired, but…. Again the camper wouldn’t start. Another phone call to the Ford breakdown service and about an hour later a man came to help us. Ewout at least was able to talk to this one in a common language and get the man to check what the problem could be, his opinion was that it maybe the alternator or regulator or something else, so now it will be a visit to a mechanic to find a solution to this problem. After a later leaving time that we planned we drove off into the night to find a small overnight stopover near the town of Oudewater.