Waking refreshed on Day 2 it was time to test the breakfast buffet aboard the Scenic Jasper. Fortified by a full English it was collect camera and jacket before joining the coach into Amsterdam City.
Heading through the rush hour traffic reminded me that all large cities around the world suffer the same traffic problems with the exception that in the Netherlands many of the inhabitants commute by bicycle, thousands of them, at times causing as much congestion as the cars.
Arriving in the centre it’s a short walk to the pier to board a glass top canal boat belonging to Gray Line. Soon we are gliding along the canals with our guide giving an interesting and at times witty commentary. Passing numerous house boats that began life as temporary accommodation for people in Amsterdam but which have since become a static feature and ones that change hands for eye watering amounts. The canals are busy waterways being used not just by tourists but also a way of transporting goods from the sea and terminals to their final destination. Passing the Anne Frank Museum there are queues of people waiting up to 3 hours to gain entrance. Anyone wishing to visit should book in advance to avoid the queues. Floating by houses, old but elegant, previously owned by wealthy shippers, ship owners and importers of the 18th and 19th centuries. From the canals you obtain the best views of the photogenic buildings, the Westerkerk, Rijksmuseum, Stopera and many more. Too soon we are back at the pier and thanking our guide for an excellent tour. Waiting for everyone to assemble I notice there is even a ‘Sex Museum’ on the opposite side of the road. Never seen one of those before and we move swiftly on. Now follows our walking tour of this lovely city and a chance to try out the ‘Tailormade’ a device supplied by Scenic Tours that has several channels and allows you to listen to your guide’s commentary through an earpiece. Also loaded onto these devices are details allowing you to go on self-guided tours. Ingenious idea and they work well. You will find them in your cabin and they have their own charging socket. Modern earpieces are also supplied.
First stop, ‘Amsterdam’s Kaashuis’, a cheese shop that began life many years ago, where we are enlightened by a lady in national costume on the cheese making process. The history, ingredients, time to mature and of course tasting the finished products with flavours of ginger, fruit, coconut and even garlic. An education and a very tasty one. Opposite is a shop selling spirits, Vodka at 92%, a mind blowing experience.
Onwards now through the cobbled streets, passing warehouses that have been converted into desirable residences for the rich, small restaurants with the aroma of seasoned cooking wafting through the air tells us it was nearing lunch time. Soon finding ourselves back by the canal from where we had begun is the fish stall of ‘Stubb’s Haring’ made famous by the raw Herring it sells. This was tried by many but liked by few, definitely a required taste but an experience.
Boarding the coach for the final part of the tour. Passing firstly ‘Sea Palace’, the largest floating Chinese Restaurant in Europe, it takes you by surprise being such a contrast to the surrounding buildings, past one of the Red Light areas, there are 3 in Amsterdam, and then into the heart of the city past the Royal Palace, Opera House, beautiful churches, there is even a Madame Tussauds.
Soon we are back on the ring road and heading for the ship. Amsterdam is a beautiful city and it is easy to understand why people spend long weekends here. It has so much to offer and is easy to navigate, however beware of the trams and bicycles. Trams can’t swerve and stop like cars and bicycles race along their reserved cycle lanes so be careful and be safe.
Silver Travel recommends Scenic Tours