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|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2004
The Land of the Midnight Sun - Part 1
It is always possible to see where the ship is going and whether it is raining because of a camera located on the Bridge which broadcasts on one of the TV channels. So we were surprised to see a lock ahead of us in the early morning. Two tugs were helping us into the lock. We just all fitted. The water level went down, and it reminded us that Holland was so vulnerable, with the landscape being very flat, and below sea level.
Smaller boats and a number of yachts used another lock next to ours. We deduced that there must be a speed limit because everyone was travelling at the same slow speed. We were due to berth at 11.00 and our escorts made sure that we had no problems reversing into our mooring berth at Ceres Marine Terminal. They stopped all other boat movements while we turned. To our surprise, we could only just see the town of Amsterdam in the distance. We had assumed that we would moor near to the Central Station, in the centre.
We knew Amsterdam well from business trips, and had not paid for organized tours. So we had a leisurely lunch and then went out to catch a shuttle bus. The shuttle bus went to the Gasson Diamond store, which was just a few minutes walk from Waterlooplein. This was a good central location. The weather was fine and we planned a circular afternoon walk around the centre and along the main canals.
We walked alongside the Amstel then explored the Prinsengracht, the Herengracht and the Singel, before walking the length of the Rokin to Muntplein. At the flower market we purchased two packets of tulip bulbs. During the afternoon we took lots of photos of the bridges and picturesque gabled houses, using our new Canon A75 which arrived 2 days before, as replacement for a broken Canon A70. We hoped to stop for refreshments at De Admiraal at 319 Herengracht, but it was closed on Sundays and didn't open until 17.00 in the evening on Monday, by when we would have sailed. It still has a restaurant as well as the opportunity to taste a range of the local jenevers. We had brought a bottle of their jenever with us from home, to sip on board in the evenings.
We looked at the various options for a canal trip for the next morning, and decided to pay slightly more to Reederij P. Kooij, instead of from their competitors near the Central Station. Prices vary between 5.5 and 6.5 euros, and a candlelight evening cruise with cheese and wines is just 21 euros.
The next morning we disembarked at 9.15 to catch an early shuttle bus. We just missed the 10.00 departure of the canal boat trip from opposite the Doelen Hotel, but were able to get a window seat each for the 10.30 departure. We enjoy a canal trip because it gives a good overall view of the town, and is not expensive. Our route began along the Amstel, then the length of the Herengracht, to the Central Station and out through level open locks into the Harbour. Passing by the Central Station we saw that Saga Pearl, formerly the cruise ship Minerva, was moored at the International Cruise Terminal. ( Later, at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, we met a couple who were on Saga Pearl; she had just returned from the North Cape. ) We were able to admire the East India Company replica "Amsterdam" moored at the Scheepvaart Maritime Museum before turning back towards our starting point.
We decided that we would go back to see the "Amsterdam", for comparison with the "Matthew" in Bristol. To reach the Maritime Museum there were two choices, either to walk or catch a ferry. We were told about a circulating ferry where you buy a ticket for 24 hours and can get on and off an unlimited number of times during the day. The ferry operates three different routes - blue, green and red. We walked down the Rokin and Damrak and tracked down the ferry at the Central Station. Unfortunately the tickets were quite expensive and we only wanted the one journey, so we walked. It was less than 15 minutes walk.
We did not have time to explore the inside of the Museum fully because our priority was to visit the replica "Amsterdam", moored outside. During its maiden voyage in 1749 the original Amsterdam was sailing on the North Sea when its rudder broke. The ship was deliberately run aground near Hastings and its remains are still visible at low tide. Building of the replica began in 1985 and involved the work of over 400 volunteers. We bought a guide book but it had not yet been translated into English, so we settled for German.
Alongside the "Amsterdam" were two other ships. The "Insulinde" is an unsinkable motorized lifeboat which operated between 1927 and 1968, and the steamship "Christiaan Brunings" which was built in 1900 is an ice-breaker. She still sails regularly. The main museum building was the arsenal of the Amsterdam Admiralty, designed in 1656. There are many interesting displays including model ships and paintings.
The museum also owns a number of boats, of which the 18th century tow-barge and the Royal Barge built in 1818 are on display indoors. We wished we had more time to explore it all properly.
Before catching the shuttle bus we spent a few moments in the Royal Delft Pottery shop and purchased a white and blue bowl. It was pierced work and hand painted, and only 30 euros. The higher quality items were nicer but even a little wine bottle coaster was over 100 euros.
At 17.30 the gangway was raised and QE2 began her slow departure from the mooring, turning back to the lock and the sea. Captain Heath explained that he had a lock time of 19.00. Unfortunately his progress was slower than he hoped and we finally entered the lock at 20.00, accompanied by two tugs. We know from discussions with the passengers on board her that Saga Pearl had been determined to leave before QE2, and we saw her in the distance heading west and back towards England. She would have passed through the lock at about 19.00. Dinner at 20.30 was followed by watching The Last Samurai . This film starred Tom Cruise, was directed by him, and was made in New Zealand, in the area of Taranaki.
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