DANUBE and RHINE BLOG 03

Friday May 31, 2013

I realise you’ve been hanging-out for another report, and we’ve got a bit of ground to make up, so let me keep this brief – okay? Okay …

Wednesday:

After 11+ hours in the air (yawn), we touched down at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (Holland) around 7am, and were delivered safely to the Convent Hotel in the city-centre. With its cobbled streets, picturesque canals, colourful markets, old crooked houses, Rijksmuseum, lumbering windmills, steep-gabled mansions, cosy Dutch cafés and countless bikes, the Netherlands’ capital is one of the most captivating places in Europe … and, despite misty clouds and drizzly rain, we Kiwis were soon captivated!

Come early evening, we paid a respectful visit to the museum-plus-hiding-place of Anne Frank – one of the millions of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution during WW2. Teenager Anne kept a diary (now published in more languages than any other book, save the Bible) until 1944, when someone betrayed her family to the SS. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen camp.

Finally, we wrapped up the day with a classy, fun-filled ‘Midlife Madness Welcome Dinnerat a local “cellar” restaurant … Yeehaa!

Thursday:

Following an early wake-up call, we drove through Amsterdam’s outskirts to Aalsmeer, home of the largest flower auction in the world – where we caught early-morning buyers bidding for zillions of flowers, and marvelled at the organisational brilliance involved. Then, in the quaint little town of Zanse Schanse, we checked out some traditional wooden houses and watched clogs being made – before driving to a one-time-fishing-village-now-famous-tourist-attraction, Volendam, where we ate lunch and tasted some cow, goat and sheep cheeses.

However, what we’d really been waiting for happened late-afternoon, when we arrived at the dock where the Amadeus Princess, our floating hotel, was parked. We went aboard, unpacked in our cabins, had drinkies in the expansive lounge, sat down in the dining-room to a scrumptious five-course dinner, crawled into big comfy beds, lay our weary heads on huge soft pillows, and went out like lights.

Pray for us, won’t you. This non-stop pampering is gonna be awful, but we’ll do our level best …

Friday:

Amsterdam, first settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, is one of the world’s best and oldest hangouts: a unique metropolis made up of 70 islands (and land reclaimed from the sea) connected by canals and bridges galore. So, with one further morning to enjoy here, we grabbed the chance of a leisurely city-tour – plus a magical canal-cruise in one of Amsterdam’s famous glass-covered boats: along tree-lined waterways lined with Burgher’s mansions, gabled roofs, floating houseboats, the Royal Palace, the ‘Magere Brug’ (the city’s most photographed bridge), the Red Light District, and more.

Then, an hour ago, as the clock struck noon, the Amadeus Princess set sail along the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal, through the flat polder landscape of Southern Holland. (The weather? Warm and sunny!)

If you’re doing nothing tonight, why don’t you join us on Deck 3 for a rousing, brightly-costumed, hand-clapping, leg-kicking, petticoat-flashing Dutch folklore-show?

PEOPLE NEWS: Nominations for our hotly-sought-after Midlife Madness Awards are being received … and two of these quacky yellow ducks have already been claimed:

  • Cheryl-with-a-C walked off with the ‘Zippety-Doo-Daa’ Award – and the long-story-short goes like this: (i) Cheryl lost her camera, and reported that it had been stolen from her bag somewhere between Singapore and Europe; (ii) she sparked a full lost-&-found plus search-&-rescue, but to no avail; (iii) she was, therefore, on the verge of buying another camera when, (iv) lo-&-behold, she discovered another zip in her bag and another compartment she hadn’t previously noticed, and (v) therein (you guessed it) was her stolen camera.
  • Alan-with-an-A took away the ‘Whatever-You-Do-Don’t-Push-This’ Awardfor letting his curiosity get the better of  him whilst seated in the loo on our Singapore Airlines 767. Spotting a red button and wondering what it was for, Alan pressed it (as you do) – and, when nothing happened, pressed it again. He then saw it was an alarm, for summoning the cabin crew, and, quickly finishing up, he vacated the loo. His place was instantly taken by another urgent passenger, the door was quickly closed, and Alan walked quickly back to his seat – passing, on the way, two crew members who were rushing to see why the alarm had been pushed. (We would all love to know what happened after that …!)

TOMORROW: We have an afternoon rendezvous in the great German city of Cologne, dominated by its vast Gothic Cathedral. So stay tuned …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this page, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.