Visiting Amsterdam for a few days.... Almost forty years ago, I was in Amsterdam for a week, starting off as a solo traveller using the Youth Hostel, then teaming up with an art student and moving on to some dormitory hotels, at the budget end of the spectrum.
This time we were staying in a family-run hotel in the museum district, which sounds sedate enough; in daylight, the street was a shady avenue. In the middle of the night, though, it was a different story.
Arriving from the overnight ferry, we started as we meant to go on with the Van Gogh Museum. Recent visits to exhibitions in London have been spoiled for us by the press of people; here, a version of "The Sunflowers" passed almost without remark, among the full range of his work from every phase of his career. We learned a lot.
In the shop, I was amazed to see how far merchandising has gone. Bike saddle bags featuring sunflowers? A dog-coat? Amazing.
We settled in to sightseeing mode with a canal-boat trip. All along these canals, are the typical tall, narrow houses surmounted by the gable hoist. Some of these date from the seventeenth century.
There are 700,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, a figure which may be an underestimate. Yes, there are bike lanes, but these are also used by motor scooters and are part of the pavement, not the road. At every crossing, you take your life into your hands.