About half way through 2006 we started thinking about what to do for New Year. This is a significant departure for us considering that we usually don’t really think much about New Year until Christmas is nearly over (or maybe that is just me). Anyway, as regular visitors will know, the last few years we have spent New Year in London drinking and flocking down to the river to watch the spectacular fireworks display. This has been really cool but we thought that this year was time for a change. Originally I proposed going somewhere nice and warm but having looked at the costs of flights etc, we decided to go for a cheaper European option. After much discussion, we settled on Amsterdam, at least partly due to the fact that you can fly there from East Midlands airport!
We booked flights and then set about looking for accommodation. We were frustrated in our attempts to get everyone into a house boat on the canals and eventually ended up booking into several different rooms in the Shelter City hostel. As far as I can tell this is the cheapest B&B type accommodation in Amsterdam but that cheapness does come at an additional cost as I will describe later.
After having been out drinking with Jonny and Dave until 12 last night, woke up at 4 to be ready for Lisa to pick us up at 5. All the usual airport and flight shenanigans and by 10am Dutch time we were on a train on the way to Amsterdam. Checked into the hostel which for some unaccountable reason took ages and then went in search of food. In the afternoon Lisa, Dave and I went on a walking tour of Amsterdam with an Irish man who told us loads of interesting things about the town and it’s history. Most of the comments about the following pictures (and most of the stuff we bored the later arrivals with in the following days) comes straight from his tour information. The pictures below were taken on the walking tour:
This is one of the big locks that were previously used to protect the city from flooding by the sea. They are no longer needed for this function due to a series of dams along the coast which prevent the water levels rising too high.
Amsterdam’s famous narrow streets and leaning houses. The one Dave is striding towards leans forwards and away from where I am standing. The forward lean is deliberate to help facilitate the winching of goods in through the upstairs windows. The other lean is caused by the decomposition of the wooden pillars that make up the foundation of the building.
More typically Dutch houses.
This is a statue interpreting Rembrandt’s famous Night watch painting. It was done by Russian artists and has been lent to the city for a year. It was on display in Rembrandtplein but I think that the year is now up so it may no longer be there. Local businesses have been campaigning to keep it longer so it may still be there, it does seem the right place for it to be. There are more photos of this later when we revisit it with the rest of the group.
This is the door to an orphanage and I think also the entrance to one of the museums. We are apparently standing on the site of the “miracle of Amsterdam“. Apparently a sick man took communion and then regurgitated the bread which was then placed in the fire. The bread did not burn in the fire and the church declared that the bread was indeed the body of Christ and therefore could not burn. Apparently 2 buildings that the bread was displayed in subsequently burnt down but miraculously the bread survived! Our guide outrageously suggested that it might not have been the same piece of bread each time, I’ll leave you to make up your own minds… Oh and after many years and at least 3 escapes from firey demise, the relic was stolen by a drunken sailor and was never seen again.
Jonny boy taking a load off in the 4 bed dorm that he, Dave and I shared with “random other” for the weekend.
The first day ended with us drinking in a local bar waiting for the rest of our party to arrive. Valuable drinking time was lost to them due to the fact that it took them absolutely ages to check in to the hostel. Admittedly they were being awkward as one of them had cancelled and they wanted to rearrange which rooms they were staying in but it really wasn’t that difficult to sort out. We were going to give out the t-shirts that Helen and I had made that night but several people went to bed before the check in was completed so we kept them for the morning instead.