7 August 2007

Amsterdam Weekend - Part 1

Phew. What a scorcha!
We were lucky with the weather. When we arrived at the tunnel there was a Harley and two Vespas in front of us in the queue. The Harley guy was wearing an Arsenal scarf but heading to Belgium for a Harley rally, we weren't wearing any Arsenal gear but were heading for Amsterdam. Partly for a weekend away, and partly to go to the ArenA for the LG Tournament (see elsewhere on the Blog).

By the time we got into Belgium my odometer was showing 60 miles since fuel. I needed a drink as I hadn't had any breakfast so we pulled into the new services after Veurne. I filled up and we had coffee. We were in no real hurry. The route I had planned for the GPS was scrapped as for some reason the Quest was on the fritz again. Unable to find satellites. I persevered for most of the journey to Amsterdam and it wheezed into life a couple of times. Maybe for 3 miles in 230 travelled each way!

As we approached Breda (with Amsterdam not on any road signs) I took the straight on option towards Rotterdam and Den Haag rather than the loop over the top pt Utrecht. By fluke not a bad mistake as was revealed on the way back (more of that later!)

With the GPS belly-up, we were lucky that I had printed off the Via Michelin route to the hotel and the hotel's own info sheet, so Claire was able to navigate off the motorway ring road. We checked in and changed into civvies.

We then discovered that we had booked into the same hotel as the Arsenal team - the Hilton. As we went down in the lift we shared it with Nicholas Bendtner, (he is very tall!) and one of the kit men. We ran into players all the time and never when Claire had the phone-camera turned ON! No darned pics!

We found the two nearest tram stops and took #2 into the centre and then checked out how to get a strippen card to hop on and off the trams and metro. It's all done by folding the 15-trip card in the right place and sticking in a machine. Once stamped you have an hour to get where you want. How you work out how many zones seems like a lottery as Emmastraat seemed inside the yellow line on the map showing it to be in the Central zone, the same as Centraal Station, but they bipped it twice when there was a guard/ticket seller on the train!

After sorting the tram tickets out, we decided to have a cruise along the canals and the harbour area. We chose Holland International (http://www.hir.nl/) for cruise. It was €11 each, but had the most comfy looking seats! The cruise takes about an hour and is indeed a rondvaart!

After the cruise we decided to head back to the hotel. We had got our bearings for the next full day of sightseeing! We retraced our steps on the #2 tram. Stopping for a beer (our first!) at a bar by the Emmastraat tram stop. A bit upmarket with some "beautiful people" (or plonkers!) drinking wine in such an affected way of holding the stem you wanted to slap them. Especially the blond version of Llewellyn-Bowen in the white blazer.

After nap and change we rubbed shoulders with Cesc and Alex Hleb who were larking about in the foyer. Sadly, we didn't have the camera with us (!) and Claire's phone was turned off! Too late! Later, as we ate. Mr Wenger and Pat Rice came past as we sat outside a nearby Italian restaurant.

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