Having placed Sophie in her cell at the cattery, I drove to Manston Airport and parked the car, wandered into the airport building, booked my baggage and waited for the airplane to arrive. It trundled in, dropped its steps and we climbed on board. This was the Sunday morning KLM flight to Amsterdam, a 40minute flight with a drink and biscuits, friendly staff, comfortable flight and an eyeopener.
The concept of a KLM/Air France City Hopper system is a gem that works well – you can compare it to the local UK tour bus pick up system but with all the airplanes going to just the one destination from their starting points.
Tips: Once arrived at Schiphol unless you are going on use the train; at €4.50 one way the trip is easy and direct if you are going to Amsterdam Central. Connexion worked for me once because the buses go to Leidesplein where my hotel was located.
The hotel was ideal. My reason for flying to the extreme east of Kent was to visit the Van Gogh Museum. I did that but I also found a pleasant city. In many ways it was like Auckland – it has parks, odd squares and nooks, with crannies, a waterfront and apart from its lack of hills it seemed like home.
I had a three day break and luckily the weather was good. I booked in at the hotel and took a stroll in Vondlpark where it seemed the population of Amsterdam had decided to converge for picnics, music and bicycles. Girls in bikinis, boys showing their bronzed muscles, families picnicking, children having fun in water, people on bikes and on foot but most of all people having fun. There was a nest of breeding Storks. And I met people who spoke kindly and friendly to me and made me feel as if I too was part of the celebration.
Tips: Don’t try to speak Dutch – you will only embarrass yourself – the locals speak better English than Kent Chav or Estuary English – nice to be able to speak Posh. Eat fish. Try Dutch food. Be aware that a ‘pint’ of bier is expensive – put up with it.
The Van Gogh Musuem was a gem – I arrived at 10am and was in quickly (you can buy tickets and queue hop) – and spent much of the day wandering, sitting, looking and absorbing.
Result: I was right! The sun does need to be stamped on, I can paint how I like and if I get the drawing right I can do it!
You have to go there to understand.
Starry Starry Night.
The next day I took a tourist trip. We saw a clog making shop, a chefs making demo, a fish auction house and windmills. I met up with an Aussie couple and we talked about Aussie and the Ashes, had a meal of fish, lost some of the punters (the coach was already over-booked and some were turned away having already paid) and had a boat trip across part of the Zuider Zee.
Tips: When getting on the bus at first push to the front. Stick to the time the guide tells you.
Anyway, I walked around the city following the canals and enjoying the bridges, the barges and the bicycles. I liked the idea that you just rode the bikes in whatever garb you wanted to wear, no helmets or Lycra and small scooters were allowed to use the bike lanes. I liked the trams, the buses and the Hop on hop off boats and buses as well as the Metro system, and that there were not many motor vehicles in the smaller streets. The negative was that the pollution downtown is kept in place by the breeze – the city smelled of burnt gases.
The giggle was the silly Pommie buggers who were riding from Hayling Island with all the gear on trying to cope with the Dutch road system.
Tips: Bicycles rule. Dutch people drive on the opposite side of the road so look left and then right. Learn the crossing signals and methods – there are a couple you need to know. The controlled system has noises and buttons. On the uncontrolled crossings you have the right of way but be wary of the bikes.
On my last day I went to the Maritime Museum and went back to the airport on the train. The trains are easier than the busses and cheaper. €4.80 by bus.
Summing up: Enjoyed the city and the Van Gogh museum as well as the bars and cafes, would take trips out if I was spending more time there, by train or on the bus. Hiring a bike would be good once you are familiar with the city. Oh, and if British Airways and another airline are not doing similar City Hopper flights then they deserve to fail.