Saturday, 12 August 2017

Raggy's Travels: A flying visit to Amsterdam

My dad I are had a flying short visit to Amsterdam this year to see the Piano Guys. They were due to perform in the UK on their tour, but we were on holiday over those dates. I had seen them before in Birmingham, but my dad had missed out due to work. He felt it would be a nice unique experience to see them in Amsterdam this year.

I had never been to Amsterdam. We weren't there very long but I really enjoyed my 24hrs in the city. The first thing I noticed flying in, was how flat Amsterdam and the Netherlands are. Due to this flatness, the other thing you will notice very quick into your visit is the popularity of cycling in the city, with thousands of bikes and lots of cycle paths and routes.

Cycle track outside Amsterdam Central Station

An Amsterdam residential street with pretty architecture and hundreds of bikes.

We landed at Schipol (Amsterdam Airport) which is a huge busy international airport, serving 50 million passengers a year, and an important transfer hub for many. From the airport we caught a direct train to Amsterdam central.

As we were travelling light we decided to explore a bit before heading to the hotel. My dad has been to Amsterdam before, so suggested we take a fee ferry to NDSM, an arty district of the city. The journey only takes 10-15mins but is a lovely way to see some of Amsterdam.

View from ferry looking back at Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam architecture 

Amsterdam Film Museum

Swings at the top of Amsterdam Film Museum

NDSM was once the largest shipyard in Amsterdam. Around 1984 it was abandoned, squatters moved in to the area which was in decline. To revive the area the City Council gave subsidies to artists, craftsmen etc who were settling there. The area is now rather quirky with a boat hotel, abandoned submarine, and crane hotel, but it also has cafe's and art studious.

The submarine, is an abandoned Soviet Zulu Class submarine, purchased after its decommission to be turned into a night club, but it has now been abandoned, presumably due to planning issues of a night club on a submarine.

Soviet Zulu Class Submarine, Amsterdam NDSM

Hotel boat, Amsterdam NDSM

Ship ramp remains, and tables from Europe's largest Flea Market

Abandoned Crane, Amsterdam NDSM

Crane Hotel Faralda, Amsterdam NDSM

Abandoned Tram, Amsterdam NDSM

Inside Large boat house where artists and startups based 

After catching the ferry back to the station we then took a tram to the hotel. We purchased 24hr tickets from the Amsterdam gift shop at the station, but you can buy tickets on the trams too.

We stayed in the Hilton Amsterdam, which was very nice. It actually is a bit of an attraction in itself, as John and Loko, staged their Bed-In for Peace in room 902 (now 702) between March 25th - 31st 1969. They knew that their wedding on March 20th 1969 would draw large press interest, so they used their honeymoon to promote peace. They invited the press daily between 9am and 9pm to discuss peace. The hotel has been refurbished since 1969, hence the change in room number, but guests can still stay in the John and Yoko suite, which is decorated with memorabilia.

Hilton Amsterdam

John and Yoko Suite, Amsterdam Hilton

In the afternoon we headed to the Rijksmuseum. We didn't have very long as it was closing at 5pm and we had arrived at 4:15pm. You really need a lot of time to really explore and appreciate the museum, as it has 3 floors and a basement, but I enjoyed what I saw on our flying tour round.

The museum is an arts and history museum, covering the Netherlands from the Middle ages to present day. It holds many fascinating objects and artwork including the famous Night Watch painting by Rembrandt, which was painted in 1642. It is a large painting  363cm x 437cm. As well as this world famous painting, the museum also holds such objects as a piano which King Louis Napoleon ordered to be created for his wife Hortense in 1808, an impressive Doll's house c. 1686-1710 which belonged to the wife of an Amsterdam merchant, and a Crown for the king of Ardra, gifted by the English in 1664, the crown never reached the King as it was seized by the Dutch who were expelling the English from Dutch fortresses on the African coast.

King Louis Napoleon's wife Hortense's piano

Doll's House of Petronella Oortman

Crown for the King of Ardra

After the museum we heading back to the hotel to get ready for the concert at the AFAS Live venue. The security was very good at the venue, with bags being checked and everyone being patted down. Due to the security checks the show did start late, but it is better to be safe especially in the current climate of todays world.

The venue sells drinks and snacks by tokens which are silver, however some are blue which is a competition. The lady at the bar told us that with our blue token we were entitled to 2 free cocktails, which I took full advantage of in the interval.

The venue was very good, it was busy and at times difficult to get served, but everyone was friendly and helpful. The show was amazing as usual.

AFAS Live venue

The Piano Guys performing Fight Song / Amazing Grace with Bag Pipers

The Piano Guys enjoying life

I had a wonderful flying visit in Amsterdam, but I definitely need to go back and explore more sometime.

*Word of caution for any fellow hayfeaver sufferers, the Netherlands are known for their tulips. My hayfeaver was rather bad whilst I was there due to the pollen in the air, so make sure to pack any hayfeaver tablets before you go.

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