The Venice of the North
10.09.2013 - 12.09.2013 22 °C
One final European dream (or bucket list entry as they now like to say) had yet to be fulfilled - a trip on the 'chunnel' train, and a visit to Amsterdam. Thanks to Lisa's generosity ... and running up an enormous slate of credits to the better half ... I was able to complete this trip off just before our London departure to Hong Kong.
Whilst the Eurostar train was a bit underwhelming - efficient enough, but the carriages were pretty dated - the connecting Thalys train from Brussels to Amsterdam was a ripper. I arrived late in the evening, and after catching the straightforward #1 tram down to the suburb of Overtoomse Slius, checked into my Airbnb apartment where I was greeted by owner Hans, who turned out to be a good bloke.
Wednesday was a frantic day of sightseeing. Nearby Vondelpark was the first stop, and this 150-year-old park was peaceful (despite plenty of energetic citizens) and beautiful in the mid-morning sunshine.
A slew of standard tourist activities followed - mainly on foot - although I did succumb to a canal boat trip as recommended by Hans, and this turned out to be better than expected. It didn't take long for the charms of this magnificent city to win me over, and I eventually just let the bulky Canon hang around my neck as the photo opportunities were so frequent.
The highlight of the day was yet to come however ... a trip to the Rijksmuseum, recently re-opened after a 10 year/375 million euro renovation. The Dutch Masters were abundantly represented, and it was a magical three hours spent (along with many others) touring the impressively remodelled rooms and spaces.
A drink was called for after this engrossing visit, and an innocent beer turned into quite a few more as I got chatting to a German guy called Toby on one of the main tourist drags. Educated in Denver, he was amusing company, and I paid for it the next morning with a shocking hangover. This was not part of the plan, as I had an early start on my way to the KLM Open out at Zandvoort - a 30-minute train ride from Centraal Station.
Zandvoort is a seaside resort, and Kennemer Golf & Country Club - founded in 1910 - is not dissimilar to many British links courses. The tournament as per normal did not draw a cracker field, but I was content enough to follow the quality grouping of Ross Fisher (UK), Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium), and Mikko Ilonen (Finland). It was easy enough to watch a bit of the trailing group as well, which included local hero Joost Luiten (pronounced Joast Loyten), who to the delight of the local fans went on to win the tournament.
Anyway, the hangover eased as the day wore on, and I managed to board the Easyjet flight from Schiphol Airport in a reasonable state. A highly enjoyable mini-trip was capped off by getting a big upgrade on my cheap-as-chips car rental at Gatwick (new Mercedes A180 ... lovely), and a big greeting from Gabi and Nat as I returned to Newbury.