Wednesday June 17, 2009

We touched down at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport early this morning (after a long night of midflight tossing, turning and trying to sleep) and transited to the Crowne Plaza Hotel – smack in the middle of Old Amsterdam. Then the rest of the day was ours – to relax, freshen up, snooze, shop, and explore this lovely old city on our own.

Holland is small (you can drive from north to south in just a couple of hours), densely populated (16 million people), and famous for its islands, bridges and bikes. Much of the country is also below sea-level – like the area surrounding the airport, which at one time was a lake. But that’s no problem to the Dutch: they’ve long been experts at dikes and dams, draining water and reclaiming land.

Anyway, we’re here … all present and correct … and I thought you’d like to know that.

With its picturesque canals, cobbled streets, colourful markets, old crooked houses, lumbering windmills, steep-gabled mansions and cosy Dutch cafés, the Netherlands’ capital is one of the most captivating centres in Europe … and, although we’ve barely arrived, we Mad Kiwi Midlifers are already captivated!

Our hotel is just a hop-step-and-jump from the famous Dam Square, and most of us hopped-stepped-and-jumped in that general direction, cameras at the ready. We Cooneys ate a very long baguette in a sunny outdoor café and watched other tourists watching other tourists watching other tourists. Then we wandered along the banks of one-of-the many picturesque canals, admiring the stately architecture of the gabled houses and wondering what it would be like to live in one of those ancient Amsterdam houseboats.

Tonight, those who had nothing better to do shared an early dinner in a nearby seafood restaurant. And now? Well, our lovely soft beds look very tempting.

So keep the noise down please, and don’t forget to turn off the lights …

TOMORROW: We’re splashing out on a canal cruise, appreciating art in the Van Gogh Museum, and reliving a sad chapter of history in Anne Frank’s House. So don’t change channels …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!