SNAPSHOTS FROM AMSTERDAM

Spring in Amsterdam; the old city awash in sunlight

Spring in Amsterdam; the old city awash in sunlight

Still the quintessential city of bikes and canals

Still the quintessential city of bikes and canals, Amsterdam is a classic

Brownstone gable houses have long typified this amazing city

Brownstone gable houses have long typified this amazing city

Those canals give the city it's unique, freewheeling vibe

Those canals give the city it’s unique vibe

The famous frontage of Dam Square on a perfect day

The famous frontage of Dam Square on a perfect day

The facade of the Town Hall, one of the city's crown jewels

The facade of the Town Hall, one of the city’s jewels

A perfect Amsterdam pastiche; bridge and canal

A perfect Amsterdam pastiche; bridge and canal

Mirrored reflections in a golden stream..

Mirrored reflections in a golden stream..

Amsterdam's cafe scene is not limited to land

Amsterdam’s cafe scene is not limited to land

HOORN PHOTO GALLERY

Hoorn waterfront

Hoorn waterfront

Hoorn from the river

Hoorn from the river

The waterfront tower, close up

The waterfront tower, close up

Old steamer on the waterfront

Old steamer on the waterfront

Yachts and gables. Typical Holland

Yachts and gables. Typical Holland

Rooftops of old Hoorn

Rooftops of old Hoorn

Hoorn town centre

Hoorn town centre

Hoorn statuary

Hoorn statuary

Dutch coaster on the bay

Dutch coaster on the bay

Amazing water sculpture

Amazing water sculpture

Beautiful waterfront vistas

Beautiful waterfront vistas

Sunset over Hoorn hafen

Sunset over Hoorn hafen

Springtime twilight

Springtime twilight

Hoorn at dusk is spellbinding

Hoorn at dusk is spellbinding

Early evening in town

Early evening in town

ARNHEM PHOTO GALLERY; THE CITY AND ‘THE’ BRIDGE

The gates of old Arnhem town

The gates of old Arnhem town, rebuilt after the fighting in 1944

Arnhem Cathedral was restored after the Second World War

Arnhem Cathedral was restored after the Second World War

Modern Arnhem sculpture on the struggle of the ordinary man

Modern Arnhem sculpture on the struggle of the ordinary man

Cobbled streets and tall, gabled houses are typically Dutch

Cobbled streets and tall, gabled houses are typically Dutch

Another view of the street scene in contemporary Arnhem today

Another view of the street scene in contemporary Arnhem today

This is Arnhem's pretty little cinema, set on the town square

This is Arnhem’s pretty little cinema, set on the town square

Cafe life in Arnhem centres around the main squares

Cafe life in Arnhem centres around the main squares

Arnhem is far more than just the site of a famous battle

Arnhem is far more than just the site of a famous battle

This is the river front promenade that overlooks the Rhine

This is the river front promenade that overlooks the Rhine

A cafe with a view. Umbrella shaded vistas of the mighty Rhine

A cafe with a view. Umbrella shaded vistas of the mighty Rhine

The lovely little river side promenade leads into the old town proper

The lovely little river side promenade leads into the old town proper

Really? I'll let you be the judge of that. Cafe table, Arnhem style

Really? I’ll let you be the judge of that. Cafe table, Arnhem style

Dutch table side delights. A lovely location for a warm summer night

Dutch table side delights. A lovely location for a warm summer night

25 pounder British filed gun, open air museum, Arnhem

25 pounder British filed gun, open air museum, Arnhem

Panorama of Arnhem after the battle and bombing in 1944

Panorama of Arnhem after the battle and bombing in 1944

Business end shot of the same British field gun, Arnhem museum

Business end shot of the same British field gun, Arnhem museum

The reconstructed 'Bridge Too Far' is an exact replica

The reconstructed ‘Bridge Too Far’ is an exact replica of the original

Looking down the Rhine from on top of Arnhem Bridge

Looking down the Rhine from on top of Arnhem Bridge

View of the bridge from the 'German; side. Identical to 1944

View of the bridge from the ‘German’ side. Identical to 1944

Gun post from which Frost's men fought off German attacks

Gun post from which Frost’s men fought off German attacks

Shot of the underside of the bridge. over to the far bank of the Rhine

Shot of the underside of the bridge. over to the far bank of the Rhine

 

GHENT PHOTO ESSAY

Ghent's colourful canal side setting is simply gorgeous

Ghent’s colourful canal side setting is simply gorgeous

Ghent, is chock full of Gothic architecture, still completely intact

Ghent, is chock full of Gothic architecture, still completely intact

The famous 'Grote Kannon'- the Big Canoon, in the city centre

The famous ‘Grote Kannon’- the Big Cannon, in the city centre

Canal side scenes like this one typify Ghent's old world appeal

Canal side scenes like this one typify Ghent’s old world appeal

One of the amazing confections that lines the old Graslei harbour

One of the amazing confections that lines the old Graslei harbour

Want castles? Gravenstein is as fairy tale as it gets

Want castles? Gravenstein is as fairy tale as it gets in the ancient fortress league…

Gravenstein looks like some kind of amazing, medieval theme park

Gravenstein looks like some kind of amazing, medieval theme park

Quite the view; sidewalk cafe and ancient castle; sums up Ghent perfectly

Quite the view; sidewalk cafe and ancient castle; sums up Ghent perfectly

More atmospheric, old world magic on show in this amazing city

More atmospheric, old world magic on show in this amazing city

The heart of the old city of Ghent; it resembles a lot of old trading cities

The heart of the old city of Ghent; it resembles a lot of old trading cities

The town hall, set on a main square, is typical of Belgian cities

The town hall, set on a main square, is typical of Belgian cities

The city is littered with amazing statuary, like random jewels

The city is littered with amazing statuary, like random jewels

The city's waterside setting is one of it's major attractions

The city’s waterside setting is one of it’s major attractions

Bridges and ancient buildings along cobbled streets; Ghent

Bridges and ancient buildings along cobbled streets; Ghent

It's not all water and stone in this most beautiful of cities

It’s not all water and stone in this most beautiful of cities

A FEW HOURS IN AMSTERDAM?

ImageIf you’re visiting on a cruise or just transiting through Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, and have a few hours to kill, it can be pretty difficult knowing how best to maximise that time. Truth be told, this amazing old merchant’s city- once the focal point of a vast colonial empire that stretched out to the Far East- is so chock full of attractions and diversions that even a week would barely allow you to scratch the surface. So, we’d better get cracking….

If culture is your thing, then the museums in Amsterdam are second to none. The recently re-opened Stedilijk is more contemporary in terms of displays. It could easily absorb your attention during the entire stay. So, too, could the legendary Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh, two overblown confections of amazing art work from the likes of Van Gogh, Vermeer and, of course, Rembrandt.

On a far more sobering and contemporary note, you might check out the haunting, claustrophobic bolt hole that is the Anne Frank House. The young Anne was only thirteen when she began writing her famous diary, in 1942. Of the extended Frank family, only her father would survive their subsequent betrayal and brutal internment. It’s a sobering, yet ultimately quite life affirming, experience.

ImageCulture is all well and fine, but to gain a real perspective on this beautiful city, try taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam. The city is locked and welded together by a serpentine network of canals that are actually the very life blood of the city.

You’ll beetle at a sedate pace past a landscape of looming brownstone houses, flanked by lanes of elegant plane trees. Cyclists on both banks try to keep up with your boat as it ghosts under a succession of vaulting bridges.Old barges, many of them long since converted into floating homes, sit alongside the river banks,

If it’s an evening cruise, street lights shimmering on the water enhance the vibe no end. On some cruises, you can savour the delicious local Dutch herring, washed down with a bottle of the refreshing, local Amstel beer. Some even feature live, languid jazz and blues on board. And, because the boats are enclosed, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours, regardless of the weather.

Amsterdam is a relatively easy city to walk; it’s pretty flat and even. Enjoy cafe life in Dam Square with a beer and some of the delicious local bitterballs, as you watch the office crowds rushing home at the end of the day. The local trams run the whole length of the city; they look like nothing so much as giant, yellow mechanical snails that swoosh silently past umbrella flanked bars and restaurants that crouch along the sidewalks.

ImageFor a matchless view out over the old copper spires and steeples of Amsterdam, you can do a lot worse than to check out the rooftop terrace of the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. The cappuccinos are first rate, but the view out over the city on a warm summer night is just sublime, and a definitely recommended highlight.

The hotel also has the advantage of being very near to the cruise terminal, and it’s also quite close to Dam Station, if you are getting the train back out to Schipol Airport. For those that wonder, journey time from the city centre out to the airport is around eighteen minutes, and up to five trains an hour run in either direction during peak hours. There are also hourly trains that run right through the night.

So, there’s a slice of Amsterdam for you. Compact, compelling and totally attitude free, it remains one of the most enduring and endearing of all the great cities of Europe. Enjoy.