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Friday, 29 April 2011

Easter in Amsterdam 6

I'm writing this live in the sense, this blog has caught up with time, I have finally found a nice place to blog from, because I never before found somewhere suitable, East of Eden had a very slow connection, but Westers was very nice, great service, good Internet connection, but a poor perch for my poor nearly fleshless bottom, basically on a wooden chair, I'm sitting on the bones of my pelvis. Today decided to go for the whole hog, scootered all the way to Westers from Zeeburg CS around 7 kilometres took me nearly an hour, but an adventure never the less.

Amsterdam seems a mess, but is a heady mix of canals, bike herds, manic scooters, incredible trams and endless numbers of people trundling wheeled suitcases, it is possible there are more tourists here than inhabitants. But somehow this place seems to work, but you need eyes in the back of your head. Its manic but nice.

I finally arrived at Westers and discovered that all the tables inside had been stowed away and using my laptop outside, is none to easy, because it is hard to read the screen in sunlight.

Westers was being rearranging stuff blocking the street an installing a massive sound system for a street party on the Saturday. The situation was not fit for blogging, so I set off vaguely in the direction of home, tried another bar, would have been perfect, nice atmosphere, there were even two people playing chess with a clock, in the middle of the room, truly home so I asked the waitress did the place have wifi ? "No" she said :( Off I set again, all the while vaguely in the direction of home.

As I was leaving the centre of the 'Dam sort of the area of canals with the word gracht after their name. According to Wikipedia gracht is nearly untranslatable I disagree, ok there is not a exact translatable term in English, but an inner city canal with a road either side of it is very easy to understand. The way the 'Dam is laid out is very nice. The plural to gracht is grachten, this system makes the inner Amsterdam very easy to navigate, just head in the opposite direction to Centraal station, or the Dam square and you will bump into a gracht find one and you have found them all, learn the names Heren, Keizers, Prinzen, Lijnbaans and you will never need a map in inner Amsterdam.

The next place I tried was a coffee shop, but everybody had glassy eyes and the atmosphere was very smoky, so I carried on the homeward trundle.

Found another candidate, everything seemed to checkout, had a cup of tea and tried to get connected and yes I could see the connection on my laptop screen, but alas no password, so probably half the street was leaching the connection. Knowing that one IP can only be shared with 255 users I gave up on that one.

Finally I found a place, that seems fit for purpose, called the 'Lempicka bar', not that far away from where my caravan is sited only 4.3 km away.

Met this Dutch who guy reckoned he could get me on Dutch television, I turned the offer down, perhaps  he was serious but I doubt it.

A photograph of my scooter safely parked in the Lempicka bar.

Stayed till around 11 o'clock, then made for the caravan, just about made it the battery was beginning to die though. Now I know roughly what the range of the scooter is 17 km or nearly 10 miles. This knowledge will be important in future.  

Easter in Amsterdam 5

I think the reasons I was getting so tired is because my scooter is very heavy and getting it in and out of the car takes quite a bit of exertion and to explore Amsterdam means I'm loading and unloading it twice, after my nightmare in Edinburgh, I'm scared of going long distances on my scooter, in case it happens again (I ran out of battery about a mile from the caravan, took me around 2 hours to get back). So I decided on a compromise that being, to head for somewhere on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The route I was taking into Amsterdam with the car meant going via a tunnel according to my TomTom and the tunnel had no pedestrian access, so I had to find a way into Amsterdam suitable for my scooter. Consulting the maps I had I found a way via this bridge.

Entering and exiting Zeeburg CS I kept noticing something that looked suspiciously like a commune, but because before I was in the car I never investigated it and made some potential friends, Lars and Peter.

Now because I'm on my scooter here is a few pictures of their 'commune'.

This is a shot of the campsite from the bridge.

The caravans are actually behind the tents.

On these trips, I always manage to forget something I miss, this time it was a warm coat, the reason being the weather was really warm when I left England and I thought I would not need one, discovered I was wrong on Tuesday, a cold wind blew and the night saw thunder and lightning. So I went looking for a coat. Found a street market, very much like the street markets you see in London with stalls on wheels, that are stowed away when the market is done leaving a big empty street when done. And bought a sort of anorak not what I really wanted as it was not very substantial,  but at 10 Euros whose complaining? I will leave it in the caravan as an emergency coat.

I really like Zeeburg campsite and feel very at home there, but its 'free internet' service is abysmal, they are trying but don't have a clue. I can get a connection by tethering my phone but it is expensive, Vodafone say in their text they send, they will give me 25 MB for £2 and this should be plenty! 25 MB is roughly 8 medium sized photographs after the 25 MB is used up they will then charge me £1 for per MB, this means if I upload 9 photos to this blog, the ninth one, will cost me around £3, who are these people? What makes it worse if you don't use the whole of the allocated 25 MB it is not added to the next days allocation, the MB counter is reset. So you could be in the situation of downloading your emails in the morning consuming 1 MB  and not going online again that day so 1 MB would have cost you £2 these companies do not know the meaning of fairness. The company that owns Vodafone is actually Walmart. I thought the EEC was about harmonising systems, if I use my phone on the internet in England it costs  £1 for 24 hours and as far as I can see the access is not capped. I fail to see why the same scheme could not be used in Europe unless of course Walmart are a bunch of scammers.

Found a cafe called 'East of Eden' with wifi but it was slow, still it enabled me to spend a few happy hours writing this blog. The big benefit of using my scooter instead of my car, meant I allowed myself a couple of beers, not that I was over the limit or even near it, but drinking and driving I will not compromise on.

Set off back to the van and got completely lost, after being given directions found my way back. The concept of exploring with the scooter works,  arrived back plenty of charge left, so decided to go all the way in the next day and had a quiet night in listening to radio 4 on long wave. I would advise anyone touring Europe to buy a long wave radio, there are a few English speaking stations on medium wave, like the BBC World service and Radio America, but they are not the same as radio 4.    

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Easter in Amsterdam 4

When I last visited Amsterdam back in 1973/4 a place I spent a lot of time at, was called the Paradiso it had a very nice basement cafe, that had table tennis, a big fish tank and the sort of atmosphere I felt at home at in, so I decided to visit it to see if it was the same. Drove to where I had seen the disabled parking bays and yes there was a space, but the problem was, there was not enough space behind the car to get the ramps down due to an enormous pile of garbage in plastic bags, oh no I thought, I would have to move loads of them to give me room, oh well at least it would save 20 Euros, then I got lucky. It was actually two bays and the bay in front of me had a car in it, a German guy turned up with his disabled wife and vacated the bay in front thus letting me give myself room behind to extract my scooter.

Set off to track down the Paradiso, finally found it next to the Rijksmuseum

but sadly no cafe any more, so decided to go back to Westers to have one of their excellent salmon sandwiches.

On the way passed, a lesson, on how to do furniture removals in a narrow Amsterdam street.

Revisited Westers, sadly no salmon sandwich, two teas and some savoury things nice, but not a patch on the salmon sandwich.

But got these mad photos of a heron perching first on one car and then another.

 The heron perching on cars attracted much photographic attention, I think he/she got upset with the media attention and flew off,  now if they had rewarded the Heron with a nice tasty fish, it might have remained on the photo shoot.

Got back to the car no problem, put the scooter in the car then back to Zeeburg campsite. Extracted scooter and decided to have a quiet night in because I felt tired, next day would be different.

Easter in Amsterdam 3

Left Uitdam Monday morning taking the long way around to Zeeburg, missing out 'the lane of hell with a caravan' arrived around 12:00 all the while worrying whether my booking was recorded properly. Relieved to find my booking was ok, paid my bill for the week and dropped the legs.

Home again! The point being is, with your own caravan, once you get the caravan where you want to be, unhitch and drop the legs and you have a normal car again, with campsites that have electricity all your appliances work.

Took a ride around the campsite, and checked everything out.

Found some pictures of Camp Zeeburg on Flikr

I put my scooter back in the car and revisited the city, I had last visited in 1974, found an underground car park, got the scooter out of car and the first place I headed for, was where my partner and I had stayed - a houseboat more or less opposite the Anne Frank house. On the way 'round I saw this statue of my favourite philosopher Spinoza 

Found a small bar called Westers roughly in the area of where the houseboat we had stayed on was and saw this enormously long queue of tourists, all wanting to visit the Anne Frank house, seems quite an industry this.

Had a very nice salmon sandwich in Westers, couple of cups of tea, went online via Westers wifi, and then made my way back to the car via Dam square and saw this amazing fairground ride.

I didn't used to be scared of heights, 'till I broke my neck in Greece, now you would not get me on that thing 'for all the tea in China'. I know I went on the Pepsi Max in Blackpool, but that was all over in around three minutes, I do not know how long the ride is, from start to finish, but would imagine it would be much longer than that to be lifted nigh on 200 feet, whirled around then dropped back down again.

Got back to the underground car park paid, the parking fee 20 Euro for about 2 and a half hours! As I was driving back to Zeeburg I saw a street with plenty of disabled parking spaces on it, next time I will try that.    

Got back to Zeeburg and spent a happy evening playing chess with an Italian lad, even though he beat me three times.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Easter in Amsterdam 2

Arrived at the Hook of Holland late afternoon and discovered I was only just  an hour away from Amsterdam, might as well try to book into Zeeburg campsite a day early I thought, so I entered the postcode of the campsite into the mighty TomTom and I set off,  arriving at around 6 o'clock, the place was a heaving mass of campers trying to leave and arrive due to the Easter break.

No room, I was informed by reception, I asked if I could park close by, I was informed there was a tiny car park on the periphery of the campsite, so I decided to give that a try. A bit of manoeuvring about and I had car and caravan in such a position as to not be causing an obstruction to anybody, then this Dutch chap came up and politely informed me, you can't park there sir, so I asked him if there was anywhere else I could park, out there he vaguely informed me, then things started to get weird.

Opposite to the sign pointing at the Zeeburg campsite, there was a sign pointing at another campsite, so I decided to give that a try. Going down this narrow and bumpy country lane, I started to get feelings of deja-vu, the first time I had camped at Zeeburg, I had found it by accident and as luck would have it, there was room to park up.

When I had set off on my Swedish trip last year, my plan was to break the journey at Amsterdam and camp again at Zeeburg, no such luck, it was full up, so they rang around for me in the Zeeburg reception and gave me a printed map of the route to the nearest  campsite, so I drove there and was informed the site was campervan only and there was not enough space for caravans but if I carried on down the very narrow lane I would arrive at another campsite called 'Uitdam' which I did.

It was not until I got to the first campsite signposted that I realised it was the same campsite that I had visited last summer, the person at that campsite assured me, there was a campsite 10 minutes up the road, just past the next village, half an hour later, I arrived at Uitdam, paid my 24 Euros and set off for the area where I had parked last summer, the weird thing was, there was only one practical place for me to drop the legs, exactly the same place as I had dropped the legs last summer, is this a conspiracy?

Events conspire, do not mention such things as free will - they are meaningless.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter in Amsterdam

Strapped wrapped and ready to roll Saturday lunch


Down the A14 to Harwich ready to catch the Stena line ferry, 10:30 Sunday morning. Drove down to Parkeston Quay to look for somewhere to drop the legs for the night, nowhere friendly, so decided to try the postcode of the caravan site in the Caravan Club hand book. Found it ok the Dovercourt caravan site £12 for the night.

Quite poignant - feller around my age at the booking hut, had sailed on the Arnhem, the British Railways night ferry that I had worked on back in the sixties. One of the reasons I wanted to take the Harwich Hoek route was, I wanted to see how much I remembered of the time I lived and worked in that 'neck of the woods'.

The caravan site even had electricity, known in the caravanning fraternity as a 'hook up', so all 'mod cons'.

Woke up bright and early 6:00 next morning, cup of tea and down to Parkeston for 8:30, boarded no problem

Ferry was nearly empty only about 200 people aboard, nice breakfast, then found ways to waste the next 6 hours. Had the Internet but very restrictive in terms of which websites you could visit, anything that had high bandwidth like Youtube was a definite 'no no' as the link was satellite based, but managed to download my emails.

The ship had a cinema, so decided to watch the Oscar winning film 'The King's Speech' one review I read, said it was "historically inaccurate" in terms of the way Churchill was portrayed, apparently Churchill did not want King Edward to abdicate, ok a little detail but a very important in terms of understanding what kind of man Churchill was. He was obviously not a moral absolutist, bit more of a pragmatist. I do wish people who make films about British history, did not tell lies about British history, the British state should be able to sue them for misrepresentation.

It only cost £8 million to make and made around £238 million so they could afford a few million paid into the widows an orphans fund for telling lies about my nations history. A particularly annoying example was 'Brave Heart' there were many inaccuracies, a historical film that is accurate is double benefit, entertaining and a lesson in history.
I thought the interplay between Logue and the Duke of York was very convincing and when the Duke became King very moving, but one wonders how historically accurate this bit of the film was?

The problem with our species is, the people in charge of things, care more about money than truth.