Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A-Z Blogging Challenge - and A is for Amsterdam

Another April (don't they come around quickly?) and time for another A-Z Blogging Challenge, thanks to Arlee Bird and his team.
This is the 4th year I've taken part, and, since in previous years people seem to have enjoyed my blogs about different places, I've decided this year's A-Z will cover other places (mostly in mainland Europe) which I've visited, some only one, some several times.

So - here goes: A is for Amsterdam

My first visit to the city was as one of the leaders of  a school group (of 12-15 year olds) back in the 1970s. Main thing I remember is a canal cruise in the evening, which went through part of the Red Light district. Most of the teenagers were fairly wide-eyed at the sight of women leaning out of red-lit windows – except for a group of 4 boys, all aged about 13, who had spent most of the trip to the Netherlands playing cards. Even on the sight of the scantily clad women couldn’t drag them away from their card game!

A few years later, I took my car over to Holland, one of the only times I have driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. We stayed at a seaside town, but one day decided to be brave and drive into Amsterdam. I had the route into the city planned in my mind, but unfortunately, there were road works on the main road that should have taken me right into Dam Square, and traffic was diverted. As with many diversions, the signs didn’t help, and eventually I decided that a narrow street might take me to Dam Square. Only after I’d turned into it did I realise I was driving the wrong way up a one-way street. Fortunately, no traffic was coming the other way, but when I got to the end, there was a policeman directing traffic. He obviously saw my car’s British number plates and grinned as he gave a shrug, then stopped all the other traffic, and with a sweeping movement of his arm, waved me into Dam Square.

On another visit to the city, my purse (wallet) was stolen. I think it may have been in a souvenir shop, although I didn’t discover the loss until later. My friend and I then had to ask for directions to a police station (where I needed to report the theft for insurance purposes). This involved a trip on a crowded tram where we had to ask people to tell us when we reached the police station – which turned out to be the city’s police headquarters. After all the hassle, though, we did get to meet the most gorgeous blond-haired and white-uniformed police officer, who was most sympathetic, but obviously couldn’t do anything about the theft apart from give me an official report to submit to my travel insurance company.
I’ve been to Amsterdam several times since then – seen the canals frozen over on a New Year’s Day and visited the Van Gogh Museum, but maybe my most abiding memory is of the Anne Frank Haus on Prinsengracht. The rooms where the family hid were much smaller than I’d expected, and it was hard to imagine eight people living there for two years.

Anne Frank house


  1. Stopping by on the first day of the #atozchallenge because we are close in number on the participant list. I've never been to Amsterdam and envy your considerable knowledge of the place. Hope you make a lot of new blogging friends this month. I hope you won't mind an observation. Your post, the writing is the most important to me, yet it is the smallest presentation. Applaud your books and featuring them, definitely!,but isn't there a way to make the post more important than the side bars? I'll be back.

  2. I've been a couple of times, very cool city.

    Moody Writing

  3. What a lovely idea! My fourth year as well and I am happy to do it again!

  4. Stepheny, many thanks for visiting! To be honest, I haven't a clue how to make the sidebars narrower!

  5. Agree, mood. I love all the canals and those tall houses!

  6. Hi Claudia, look forward to visiting your blog :-)

  7. What a fun read as always, Paula. I had to chuckle about your description about the "Red light" district. You've enlightened me as I never knew that's why it was called that though I had a vague idea about it.

    The idea of the thirteen year old boys more engrossed in their card games than wanting to see ladies of the night cracked me up.

    My, you did have some mishaps driving on the wrong side of the road and losing your purse. That's what makes for interesting travel memories and good ideas for books, right?

    1. Those four boys did give us a giggle, Cat. And it's the mishaps that you tend to remember and laugh about, if not at the time then later!

  8. It sounds like you gathered quite a few memories from your trip. I'd love to see Amsterdam, but I don't think it's in my near future. Maybe someday…
    Enjoyed your article. See you around the A-Z grounds!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Debi. Amsterdam is well worth a visit sometime!

  9. I went to 'Dam for a long weekend for my 50th birthday. Coming in to land, we passed over the bulb fields with their long, straight lines of solid colour. My non-writing partner made the best observation ever...
    'They look like packets of new Plasticine,' he said.
    They did, too!
    Our plans for our time there included a dinner cruise (and nearly 7 years later we STILL don't know what any of the dinner courses were) that went briefly into the Red Light District and also passed what we were told was the world's largest floating Chinese restaurant. It was certainly impressive - a huge pagoda all lit up on the night-time water. Also, the way those boat skippers manoeuvre around tight corners is amazing.

    We were staying in the museum district, near to a friend's home, and a short walk from the Van Gough Museum... and, of course, we went in there. My partner, who is not fond of heights, hated the 'open' staircase in there.
    We did a lot of walking along canalsides: marvelling at the tall, thin buildings, all wonky because they are built on piles which go through sand; nearly getting high on the pot fumes from the university and the numerous brown cafes along the way; being shocked by the various forms of male public toilets all open on the streets; being startled when what we thought was a plastic heron standing on one leg outside someone's house suddenly moved. The multi-storey bike parks were a wonder to behold, as were the bespoke 'work bikes' that abounded. Even the grafitti we saw was artistic.
    The highlight, and main point, of the stay was the visit to Keukenhof in Lisse. We marvelled at all the beautiful bulbs, some planted in 'rivers' of colour and, of course, had the obligatory photo taken wearing giant clogs.
    We'd been warned to be early if we wanted to get into the Anne Frank Museum, but although we practically got to the worms before the early birds did, there was still a huge queue when we got there. It was nearly two streets long! We decided not to wait. After all, Amsterdam is only a short flight from home, so we were sure we'd visit again. One thing I did not like were the almost vertical staircases in many of the tall, thin buildings. That said, we will be visiting again.

    1. Love all your memories, Jackie, but what a pity you couldn't get to the Anne Frank house. The first time I went (back in the 80s) there was no queue, and I think the last time we were there (in 2009) we only had to wait about 30 minutes, but my grandson was there last week, and evidently would have had to wait about 4 hours to get in!