Rob and I love a good road trip; we’ve got some really lovely drives under our belt, and seen some great places on our journeys by car. We decided to take a long weekend in the Netherlands, and seeing as how we got a hire car for free with our Avios, we decided to see more of the country than simply going to Amsterdam.
We began and ended our trip in Amsterdam, with a day or two in the city either side of a drive up to Den Helder, which is in the north of the Netherlands.
The first day we arrived, I balanced my new phone on a bridge, making a steady surface to take a photo from, and watched as it slipped down, down, into a canal. The lights stayed on as it sank into the water, just so I could see it disappear. So, that was the end of that! I guess it was fortunate that it was right at the beginning and not near the end, and therefore not full of not-yet-backed-up photos!
While in Amsterdam we stayed at the 4 star Art Hotel, in Spaarndammerdijk, which wasn’t too far a walk from the centre, though wasn’t exactly within spitting distance of the main sights of Amsterdam!
One of the things I really like about Amsterdam is that it has a huge number of very fascinating museums. I’ve visited (and loved) the Tropenmuseum, the Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank House before, so this time we went to the National Maritime Museum, which is a bit out of the way but worth it! I like the history of the Dutch East India company – Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC, and it was great to see some of the exhibits there. Also, if you look for them, you can see links to the shipping business that built up the country’s fortune all around the city.
After a good night’s sleep in our hotel we jumped in the Ford KA hire car and headed up to Den Helder, to meet our friends. I did all the driving in the Netherlands and it was easy. It was my first time driving a car with manual gearbox while driving on the wrong side of the road (having previously only driven on the right in the States in automatic cars) but I didn’t attempt any gear changes with the door handle!
There are some hot houses and a little garden to wander around, but don’t think its impressive accolade means you’ll spend much longer than an hour at the Botanic garden – Oranjerie.
The town has strong shipping links, and there is a submarine in the Marinemuseum. Our friends had never visited before, despite living in the town, having a father who worked on the submarine, and being in the Dutch navy.
The museum was very interesting, with many models and artefacts to see inside, and steam and sail boats outside. For me, though, the amazing thing was the submarine. You can go inside and see the cramped spaces men worked in. How anyone remembered what all the dials and pipes are for, I’ll never know. And, worse, how do they share a bed on shifts?!
This is the rather gorgeous Lange Jaap, which we visited after stopping for apple cake and coffee in a beach front cafe. It’s an active lighthouse, we didn’t go up – I’m not sure if you can.
We headed back to Amsterdam via the fascinating open air museum Zaanse Schans. It’s full of windmills, barns and shops, some of which date back to the 18th century, and which have been moved here since 1961 from around the Netherlands. It’s a free museum, though you have to pay for some attractions, and you’ll definitely part with some money in the shops!
There was definitely a peaceful air about the museum, even though it’s popular and busy. If you remember my post about Berlin, you may recall I have a rather convincing German accent. It turns out both Rob and I can say alstublieft (please) and dank u wel (thanks a lot) with a good Durch twang, so we were often engaged in a burst of Dutch as we wandered around Zaanse Schans, though fortunately not with any embarrassing results as in Berlin.
After spending a little more than half a day here, we left to head back to Amsterdam, just in time for the city to warm up at night time, but not before spotting this amazing double rainbow! .
How great would it be to have a fairground in the middle of Newcastle? I guess there isn’t room, but it would be nice to smell roasted almonds as you do your late night shopping around Eldon Square!
And I like that there are so many swans gracefully swimming about in the middle of the madness in the red light district.
I really love Amsterdam. I’ve been a few times and enjoyed it for different reasons each time. It was great to go on a road trip and see more of the country, including the windmills and clogs!