Ashore in Amsterdam

After an extremely good night’s sleep, I woke up very late this morning, partly due to the fact we had to put our watches forward an hour to European time.  So it was 10.25am before I crawled out of my pit.  Trevor had been to breakfast two hours earlier!

We weren’t the only ones however; we spotted Gill and Carl at breakfast in the Palms Café, along with other people who had forgotten about the hour time difference!  I enjoyed some melon and pineapple and smoked salmon along with a cup of coffee and some fresh orange juice.

We then went out on deck to see what the weather was like.  It was quite warm but still cloudy, but at least it was dry.  Afterwards we went to listen to a lecture about the famous Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Ver Meers and Van Gogh; it could have been quite fascinating but for the droning quality of the speaker’s voice, who managed to turn an interesting subject into a boring one.

Afterwards we went back out on deck and walked around for a while, before having a look around the shops, where I bought some sparkly slider sandals for the bargain price of 12 quid!  😊

We spent some time just pottering pleasantly around the ship, before going to the Palms once again for a light lunch.  Quite a lot of people were out on the pool deck, and we could smell the tantalising aroma of barbecued meat; a burger stand had been set up nearby.  I just enjoyed some cold meats and salad and we spent the time people-watching.  There were quite a few kids on the ship this time with their parents and grandparents, but it is the middle of the school summer holidays, after all; at least the kids were well-behaved.

After lunch we returned to cabin 6009 and just relaxed and read for a while, looking at the Fred Olsen river cruise brochure.  When the Future Cruises desk opened at two o’clock, we went along and booked another cruise for June 2020!  This time we are going on the Brabant and spending a week cruising the upper Danube river, taking in such delights as Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna to name but a few.  We got a good deal because there are five excursions/guided tours included in the cost of the cruise, and we also received our Oceans Club discount.  That is now three holidays we have booked for 2020 already!!

By this time the Balmoral was slowly making her way along the North Sea Canal towards Amsterdam.  One of the great things about the smaller ships is that they can get right into the heart of the destinations, and we would spend the night and most of tomorrow in Amsterdam, within walking distance of all the sights (and there are certainly some sights to see in Amsterdam!!)

The sun was out now and it was pleasantly warm on deck.  We spent some time watching the Balmoral make her way through some lock gates, and we looked at the other boats and craft as we glided through this mainly-industrial landscape.  We were to due dock around 6.00pm tonight.

At 3.45pm we went along to the Lido Lounge and joined John and Linda for the quiz and a couple of drinks and a bit of banter and some good conversation.  We got 17/20 in the quiz and were the winners.  Yay!  We each received some prize tokens that you save up, then redeem at the end of the cruise for goodies such as keyrings, bottle openers, coasters, mugs, pens etc.

It was around half-five when we left the Lido lounge as we had to be ready for dinner at 6.15pm.  Trevor and I and Gill and Carl had all decided we’d go ashore after dinner and explore this fascinating city.

We enjoyed the usual scrumptious meal in the Ballindalloch Restaurant, then hotfooted it back to our cabin to change into shoes more suitable for walking in than my 5” stiletto heels.  Then we disembarked the Balmoral and met up with Gill and Carl in the cruise terminal, as we took a pleasant stroll through the streets of Amsterdam, marvelling at the many bicycles and watching the small cruisers making their way placidly along the picturesque canals.  Amsterdam is such an amazing old city with its chocolate-box tree-lined streets with their three- and four-storey gabled buildings, many charming pavement cafés and boutiques and, of course, its famous Red Light District.  This is where we decided we’d head for.  😊

For anyone who’s never visited Amsterdam, the Red Light District is certainly an eye-opener.  As evening was beginning to fall, the ‘working girls’ took their places in the windows of the brothels, most of which were lit with red or pink strip lighting.  The girls were stunning to look at, with gorgeous figures and perfect hair and make-up.  Well, in their profession I suppose their looks were all-important in what I imagine was a competitive business.  😊

We saw one girl negotiating a price with a would-be client and a little way down the street one gaudily-lit den of iniquity flashily advertised its “Live Sex Show” with the accompanying photos to tempt customers in.  Every other building seemed to be a sex shop or a porno show, and we could smell the distinctive aroma of pot emanating from the open doors and windows of many of the places, particularly the “Coffeeshops”.

For amusement we went into one of the sex shops to look at the range of “toys” and scanty clothes such as crotchless panties and peep-hole bras.  Everyone was completely blasé about it all; the Dutch just take it all in their stride and have a much more liberal attitude to the sex business than we do in Britain.

Some shops were selling cannabis seeds to “grow your own” (completely illegal in the UK) along with cannabis sweets, cannabis chocolate and cannabis cake, all in different strengths from mild to extra strong.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I bought some of the “strong” cake, which was a complete rip-off because it had absolutely no effect on me whatsoever!  Likewise with a fruity lollipop I bought.  I’m sure there’s not really any cannabis in these items, and they are just normal sweets that they rip off the tourists with over-inflated prices.  Oh well.

We continued on our way and decided to try to find Anne Frank’s house, as we were booked to visit there in the morning at 9.00am.  Carl used the Google Maps app on his phone to help us find the place, then we decided to take a slow stroll back to the ship in time for the 10.30pm show in the Neptune Lounge.  We arrived back at 10.25, just in time.

Tonight’s entertainment came in the shape of comedian Gerry Graham, who was really quite funny.  We thought he’d be performing to a half-empty lounge because a lot of people would be ashore, but there was a decent crowd in, and there were laughs a-plenty.  We enjoyed the show a lot.

As it was already quite late when the show finished, we just had a nightcap and returned to cabin 6009, as we had to be up at seven o’clock in the morning to walk to Anne Frank’s house.  As the Balmoral was docked in Amsterdam overnight, the ship was nice and quiet, and we settled down and slept very well once again.

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