It was ten o’clock by the time we had finished our leisurely breakfast and checked out of the hotel and stepped out into the sunny but chilly streets for a second day in Amsterdam. We followed Prins Hendrikkade but with the Maritime Museum in site and those among us who do not like museums beginning to tremble we turned right back towards the centre and more or less followed the route of the canal boat ride of yesterday but this time on foot.
Dodging bicycles and walking on the sunny side of the street we wandered along one of the main canals until we reached the city hall and concert hall and a busy flea market before reaching the river Amstel where we crossed to the other site over a large bridge called Blauwbrug (Blue Bridge) as the near empty canal tour boats slipped casually below us.
So far our stroll had been fairly aimless but we were looking for something specific now because the canal tour had taken us to a spot for a photograph opportunity which the commentary claimed was the prettiest canal in the city and with an architectural feature called the seven bridges. This was the Reguliersgracht canal and although we knew that we were somewhere close my map reading skills seemed to temporarily desert me as pressure was brought to bear by others to find somewhere to stop for a coffee so I was forced to temporarily abandon my quest and to fall in with the wishes of the majority.
So we walked for a while along the busy street of Rokin and then into Spui where we came across a pleasant square next to a canal that was declared to be a suitable café for our first stop of the day. While we sat and drank our coffee next to a humpbacked bridge over shimmering green water I consulted the guide book again and hatched a cunning plan to plot a route back to the Reguliersgracht without sharing this information with the others lest they declared it too far to walk and objected.
After we had finished our drinks I resumed control of the route and started to walk towards the Rijksmuseum on the Singelgracht crossing a number of canals on the way and threading our way through narrow streets of interesting shops and coffee houses. We came across a bakery and delicatessen and remembering a blog post that I had read, ‘A moment with the “stroopwafel” man’, I went inside to buy some.
Stroopwafel were first made in Gouda in the Netherlands, in 1784 and is a waffle made from two thin layers of stiff baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle gluing them together and they are now popular as street snacks all over Amsterdam and beyond. I had never had one before but they were delicious and so after I had finished one I had a second and I was certain then that I had taken in enough calories to give me enough energy for the next part of the walk.
I led people on along Stadhouderskade before crossing through a small public park and into Weteringschans and around the next corner was my objective. As we turned in the others all sympathised with me that we hadn’t found the Reguliersgracht and what a shame this was but, quite by chance, this was perfect timing because here was my opportunity to say ‘Da Da!’ and throw open my arms in theatrical style to introduce them to the prettiest canal in Amsterdam!
So we walked along the narrow street cocooned in the shade of the towering gabled houses with their brightly coloured shutters folded back like butterfly wings and crossed the seven bridges one by one in a sort of zig-zag fashion as we made our way along its length and back towards the Old Town area.
Everyone declared it time for another drink so we sat in the sun in Rembrandtplein and then with the afternoon slipping away walked past the large statue of the artist at the beginning of our walk back to the hotel. No one wanted to visit the Rembrandt house museum but that didn’t matter to me because I had been before so we contented ourselves with a walk through the University Quarter and the Nieuw-Markt where we purchased some cheese from a market stall and then through the Red Light District again where the Bohemian ambiance was perfectly accompanied by a man in gaily coloured rowing boat going around in random circles on the canal as he played a melodious and soulful tune on a French horn while collecting coins from the onlookers in appreciation of his talents.
Back at the hotel we collected our bags and waited for the bus which arrived shortly afterwards and transported us on another highly congested motorway journey from Amsterdam back to Europoort in Rotterdam where we joined the check-in queues and were allocated our cabins for the return journey – and this caused a little bit of a problem! Along with the boarding card which had the room number on it was a card key for the cabin which for obvious reasons didn’t.
Well, the room numbers and the card keys didn’t correspond with the room allocations as we wanted them – I didn’t want to share with Micky and Sue and Christine didn’t want to be separated so we had to try and fathom out which key went with the correct boarding card and this we got hopelessly mixed up.
Kim and I were fine but there were problems with the other two and the normally sanguine Micky became unusually irritated when he couldn’t get in his room, became unnecessarily agitated and blamed Kim for the mix-up. Although the sea was calm it looked as though we might be heading for stormy waters so while we waited for him to join us we played ‘pass the parcel’ with the responsibility for the confusion but after half an hour or so he calmed down, saw the funny side of it and we spent a pleasant evening in the all you can eat buffet restaurant and enjoyed a couple of beers before finally returning to our correct cabins with keys that worked!
We remembered not to order the all you can eat breakfast this time and after the collective alarm call woke us up we made do with a cup of tea and a croissant in the over-priced on-board Costa Coffee as we watched the ferry nudge its way back down the Humber Estuary before docking exactly on time in the King George Dock. It had been a good few days, we had enjoyed the experience of the ferry crossing and we all agreed that we would happily do it again!