Monday July 2, 2007

08-Amsterdam canalsIt was raining this morning when we downed another yummy breakfast and went ashore again – this time for a magical cruise along tree-lined canals in one of Amsterdam’s famous glass-covered boats … past 300-year-old Dutch mansions, floating houseboats, the Anne Frank House and many historic sites.

The rain wasn’t a problem (apart from imposing a few limits on our photography) – and our guide, Liza, more than made up for it. She was hilarious, announcing from the outset that Amsterdammers (of which she was one) “are pig-headed, arrogant and rude” – but they compensate by having “a wonderful sense of humour!”

08-Amsterdam gablesSomething you must do when you visit Amsterdam is look UP – because the gabled rooflines of the city’s old houses are truly a highlight all in themselves.

The other thing you’ve got to do is look OUT – otherwise you’ll get run over by a bike. Because they’re everywhere. Holland is only one-tenth the size of NZ, but it has four times the population – and they all believe in pedal-power. On one major canal we cruised past a multi-story BIKEpark – no kidding! How anyone can find their own bike amongst the thousands lined up (and locked up) side-by-side I do not know …

Amsterdam - bikeFollowing a visit to the Van Gogh Museum (where we witnessed the talent of this brilliant but unhappy young artist) we bussed back to the ship – passing, on the way, one of Amsterdam’s humungous flower markets. (Did you know that tiny little Holland supplies 70% of the world’s flowers?)

Anyway, Amsterdam is now behind us. The ‘Marco Polo’ powered-up and pulled out a couple of hours ago, and we’re now cruising back through the canal to open waters.

TOMORROW: We cruise the North Sea in search of the spectacular fjords, waterways and tiny villages of the Norwegian coast. So stay tuned …

PEOPLE NEWS: If any of you reading this blog have friends/family on board, you may like to know that the following much-coveted Midlife Madness Awards have been given out:

* The ‘Newborn Baby Award’ to John M – for completing the Singapore airport arrival form with his date of birth listed as 25th June 2007.

* The ‘Technologically Challenged Award’ to Jocelyn M – who spent half the flight from Singapore to London trying in vain to make her little video screen work, only to discover that she’d been using the controls from the seat nextdoor.

* The ‘Blind As A Bat Award’ to Edgar H – who, at breakfast time on our flight to London, opened this nifty little pack of cornflakes-plus-milk and poured the milk all over the bowl (and his lap), not realising the bowl was still covered in cellophane. (You had to be there, but it was funny – true!)

* The ‘Watch Where You Put Your Feet Award’ to Don R – who “lost” his prescription glasses on the coach, only to discover them when he got back to the ship – in his shoe!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

PS: While we’re in the mountainous fjords over the next week, there may be the odd day or two when we’re out of signal-range. But we’ll be back, I promise.