European Cavalcade – Amsterdam

European Cavalcade - Amsterdam
This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series European Cavalcade

The trip up through Belgium and the Netherlands was uneventful. The Trafalgar Tour coach was comfortable and the driver was obviously experienced. My daughter relieved the tedium of the trip by teasing me from the seat in front.


But eventually our destination appeared ahead.

Amsterdam’s name is quite descriptive, meaning a dam on the river Amstel. However it has come a long way since it’s origin 800 years ago as a fishing village. Now it is a place of commerce, canals and culture – and an endless stream of bicycles.


The culture aspect really excited me. The place supposedly had a great variety of museums and I love museums and galleries. I particularly wanted to visit the Rijksmuseum, for that held Rembrandt’s Night Watch, a painting I had wanted to see ever since I saw it in a book as a small child.

I was to be disappointed.

This was my first encounter with what travelling on a Trafalgar Costsaver Tour actually meant – superficial experiences at many (not all) of the locations. Now don’t get me wrong, a optional tour was offered that involved a canal boat ride and walk through the Red Light District. But we did not arrive there till late afternoon, well after the museums had closed. In the Rijksmuseum’s case, closing time is 5pm. And then we left Amsterdam at dawn the following day. So museums were off out itinerary. So when the others went on their optional tour (we did not want to take 11 year old Rhiannon through the Red Light District), we were left to wander Amsterdam as the sun set and then into the night.

My first impressions of Amsterdam were as a bustling, somewhat quaint, city. And bikes – they were everywhere.


And the canals proved great camera fodder.







I should also point out that when I got home is when I truly appreciated the ability of Adobe Lightroom to rescue overly dark photos. Some of the photos above were awful before I lightened the shadows caused by the end of day.


Another interesting visual aspect of this place were the houses. The tour guide informed us that Amsterdam had a law forbidding the building of identical houses side by side. I found this dubious, perhaps a bit of tour guide fun. I’ve since had a very cursory glance at their building codes as they appear on the web, and saw nothing supporting this tale. But perhaps if any reader out there is a local they could enlighten me.


Besides the idyllic side canals, the centre of the city held its own architectural interests. There were indeed a number of large public buildings and the odd square or two.








Two experiences stand out in my mind from that evening.

The first was that my daughter decided that we were going to celebrate my 51st birthday by having a McFlurry in the local McDonalds restaurant. Ok – before you go off at me for travelling half way around the planet to eat the same food we can get at home, let me just say that it was only a McFlurry and my daughter really wanted one just for me. The one that we entered was in a small street off the main drag. The staff looked about as unhappy as fast-food restaurant staff can look. So I tried some friendly banter with the guy behind the counter. At first he glared at me, but soon a smile and a laugh followed. A girl behind him suddenly called out to me.

“Please, you should come more often. It is the first time I have ever seen my manager happy.”

I was glad that I could help, but saddened that this is the lot of many a person out there.

The second incident that I recall is walking along one canal and Rhiannon suddenly asking me why the lady behind the shop curtain was only wearing underpants. Oops! We had accidentally strayed too close to the Red Light District. We left in a hurry.

The rest of the evening was spent looking at neon lights and novelty shops.



I am torn about this quick visit to Amsterdam. While I enjoyed the walk around the canals, I am still disappointed by not seeing the Night Watch or other museums. Could Trafalgar Costsaver Tours have done this better? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was impossible to get us from London to Amsterdam in time to see the museums, but I feel that they did not communicate this fact very well before we booked.

Anyway, that is enough for today.







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  1. What a blessing to travel with your daughter!


    1. Thanks :) At the end of the day the trip was all about her seeing that the world is more than suburban Sydney :)


  2. There are some beautiful light effects you managed to capture in the canal photos!


    1. I think those light effects were luck more than skill :)


        1. Your response made me think of Teela Brown in Larry Niven’s Ringworld


          1. Sadly I haven’t had a chance to read Ringworld. I was simply thinking of various RPG rule systems =)


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