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I though it was about time that I did a post about my recent holiday to the Netherlands. I flew into Schipnol airport, Amsterdam, then travelled around via train, an experience entirely divorced from the unreliable train system we endure here in the UK. My first port of call (literally) was Rotterdam, a beautiful modern city of business. Heavily bombed during world-war II the city has been almost entirely rebuilt, giving it an eclectic mix of modern architecture. Most notable was the beautiful Erasmus bridge, which was a stones throw from my hotel and the towering Euromast, which is certainly one of Rotterdams tallest buildings. Staying in the Maritime Hotel I was ideally placed; with the Erasmus bridge and Speedo tour on my door-step along with the last tram-stop for the number 7 tram! For the first time I took my notebook on holiday, had no problems getting a KPN wireless connection at the hotel, though later on when I stayed right next to Dam square in Amsterdam the lack of a public wireless link was amazing!
So, I took the Speedo boat tour of Rotterdam, explaining all about the port and its history; its a good way to see the city. And I went to the top of the Euromast, discovered I didn’t have a SD card in my digital camera! So I bought a disposable camera at the shop and went back up again! At that same shop I picked up a copy of “The Undutchables” – a book I had heard about, in-fact I’d ordered it, but it had never materialized – it’s a guide to Dutch culture, recommended reading if you plan to live/work in the Netherlands. Water taxi’s were a new thing for me, but I took to the trams mostly to get around. It’s an easy city to navigate by tram, I was there for 3 nights, if I’d been there longer I would probably have hired a bike, they are so well catered for.
I visited The Hague (Den Haag) for a quick day-trip, not long enough to really see the city, but I got a snap-shot of the grandeur and viewed the ocean of bicycles at central station! There was some sort of environmental protest taking place by one of the government buildings, good natured and interesting to watch whilst sipping a cold beer from a nearby cafe.
With my trusty inter-rail pass allowing me unrestricted use of the rail network for several days I wanted to fit in at least one more city before arriving at my next hotel, in Amsterdam, so I stopped off in Utrecht, a lovely historic city, much quieter even with it being market day. Checked my ruck-sack into a locker at central station. As usual my first stop was to get a 1 day tram ticket, but the lady behind the counter looked at me with surprise and said “but where do you want to go!”. This was indeed a much smaller city, I didn’t need to use trams!
I arrived in Amsterdam in the early evening, I’ve been to Amsterdam before – about 5 years ago I spent a week there. The first thing that strikes you about the city, compared to the other cities I had visited are the crowds… busy, busy, busy… and every nationality under the sun. Based on my past experience there top of my agenda was to hire a bike to get around, with a lock that weighed more than the rest of the bike together. Remember, back-pedal to brake (counter-intuitive to my brain I think, but I managed). I stayed at the Hotel Damrak, on Damrak street, one of the main streets running from Central Station to Dam square
Wireless internet from my hotel room proved to be a non-starter, but there were lots of internet cafe’s around. Last time I was in Amsterdam I ticked off most of the major tourist attractions; Anne Frank House, Rembrandt House, Diamond-works, canal tour and of course the seriously impressive Van Gogh Museum. So this time my focus was more on relaxing, though I did take the time to visit the Rijksmuseum, which is packed with incredibly famous works of art by Dutch masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt. Amsterdam still has plenty more museums and galleries I have yet to see. I love the Netherlands and plan to visit again, I’d like to see much more of the country.
If you are planning a trip yourself I highly recommended the Lonely Planet guide to Amsterdam and the guide to The Netherlands. Other than that the internet is an excellent source of information, particularly if you are prepared to use services like BabelFish to translate Dutch language sites. Some recommended links:
Bookings.nl (Hotel reservation)
InterRail Train Tickets