30 March, 2009

On being a tourist in Amsterdam

I'm one of those annoying people who pretends not to be a tourist though that is clearly what I am. I don't always do the touristy things, and I definitely try to avoid the tourist traps. In Amsterdam that would include pretty much any street near the Central Station which are really horrible. Lovely buildings from the first floor up, but on the ground floor it's endless plastic, tourist menus, smoking coffee shops which is all very well but never really my scene and now I have kids. The Leidseplein is similar - lots of shops, expensive places and large grubby looking bars.

But today we chose to do that uber-tourist activity and take a boat tour of the canals. The weather was glorious and it was a lovely way to spend an hour. Like Venice, you don't really get a sense of the structure of the city until you spend at least a little time on the water. This is a port, made its money through trade and is ringed and riddled by canals which are in use. It's still the easiest way to transport large bulky items like construction materials to the centre of town.

The afternoon was spent ineffectually shopping as I'd chosen to shop on the day the shops are shut. How was I to know that on Mondays Amsterdam is shut - well not entirely but the shops I particularly wanted to visit were. I seem to remember the same finding in Germany on Saturdays. Downright confusing - of course they're entitled to their own national choices about opening hours, but I always seem to find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like aiming to visit specific museums in Italy on a Tuesday. It does save money so Tom who didn't come shopping and was no doubt worrying about it back at the houseboat was relieved when we came home almost entirely empty-handed. I have however managed to persuade him to forgo Anne Frank's House this time around (huge queues, little time, explain the Nazis to a 4 year old), and I'll let him work while I take the girls properly shopping. I get called manipulative sometimes and have no idea why...

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