Grand Eventure – Day 1 Amsterdam

DISCLAIMER: Everyone is entitled to their opinion on any topic. These are mine. I do not expect you to agree with all of them. Neither do I expect to be taken to task for expressing them. If you don’t agree, fine. But it’s not your blog, is it? It’s mine, so it’s my opinions you’re going to get. 😉 If you’re wondering why I feel the need to stress this at this point, on the 125th posting on this blog (happy anniversary, me), it may become clear as you read on, but, as a starting point, I don’t much like Amsterdam. 😉

Woke at 10, which seems quite civilised. I am on holiday, doncha know? *insert vociferous head nodding here*.

Got up at 11. Well, no rush. Am currently reading ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. Review to follow.

Well, they’ve found the Higgs Boson. Huzzah. Watched the news people trying to get all excited about something even I don’t understand, and I’ve done a bit of astronomy and quantum physics and stuff. Sort of. For those looking at me blankly, the theory is that no particle has mass unless the Higgs gives it mass. Don’t ask me how, but that’s my impression of what it is. So if an atom has no mass, it has no pull to drag it towards or bind it to any other atoms, which means no sticking together to form bigger stuff which means no stuff at all. No planets, no people, no stars, no McDonalds, nothing. So the Higgs is really rather important. Assuming all the other assumptions are correct of course… ahem… Anyway, they’ve found it, which is the important bit and now they can study it and the Europeans beat the Americans and everyone is mighty relieved that we didn’t destroy the archaeology of three entire countries for nothing. So phew. And someone at the BBC deserves a prize for the headline caption: Mass Higgsteria. No, really, take a bow, that’s beautiful.

Went up onto deck in shorts and t-shirt. Warm and sunny. Lovely. Read for a bit and then eventually located parents for lunch. Oddly, it seemed like the ship stopped moving just when I left my cabin. Turns out we were in a lock. Who knew? During lunch, the captain tannoyed us to explain not to get too excited, it would take us another two hours to get through the canal to Amsterdam and moor up and stuff, so the 3pm ETA remains intact. Okey dokey. Back down to cabin for proposed nap which turned into yelling at HardTalk on the telly. Niall Whathisname, who clearly knows not one jot about either banking or human nature, saying there is too MUCH regulation in the banking sector but refusing to explain how he thinks it should be done/would be done if he ruled the world. Rather a waste of camera time, all in all, except we all got to see what an ignorant, pompous, opinionated yet ill-informed divot he is. Which was nice.

At 3pm, the Captain tannoyed time to go ashore and everyone did. At once. Eighteen hundred people. One gangplank (Netherlands immigration insisted, allegedly).

They then demanded passports, which meant several of us were sent back. Now, firstly, this is Europe, so strictly speaking I don’t have to show anything at all, that’s the whole POINT of Europe, and secondly, a photographic driving licence is valid Government-issued ID and should be acceptable. Oh no, not this bitch. Lots of people gathered around the ship’s head of security to yell at him, but it wasn’t his fault, so I just went off again and snapped at the immigration bitch, whose fault it actually was. She just said “Rules are rules”. Pay attention, this is important. This is not the last such behaviour we will encounter along these lines. Officious seems to be a much-admired personality trait in Amsterdam.

Taxi waiting outside. Nice touch, missing in many ports. Although a shuttle bus would have been nice, P&O. Ahem. Went to Rijksmuseum – dad had booked tickets on the internet last week. Strolled in, strolled around, nowhere to sit for the first few rooms – naughty. Had a sit, lost mum and dad. Strolled at own speed through The Night Watch (definitely not allowed to sit in here, got to keep the crowd moving!) and into the shop, where I did my Thing. Oh yes. Can’t beat a museum shop. Even in a country you hate and have no intention of ever returning to. Oh, didn’t I mention this? Right, short digression time.

Last time I was in Amsterdam, which was my first ever visit, I was dipped. I, a Londoner, born and bred, who have lived in a crime-filled city all my days, never so much as a glare from the criminal underclasses, am in Amsterdam for less than 24 hours before someone helps themselves to my wallet. So the first time in my life I ever set foot in a police station, it’s a Dutch one. Next day, queuing for the Anne Frank House, get a phone call on my mobile from a frantic parent. He has just had a phone call from a random stranger in Amsterdam to say he has found the contents of my wallet by the side of a canal. Have I thrown myself in? Erm, no. So got the stuff back (not the cash, obviously), but the cards were already cancelled and the hatred of the city was already firmly in place.

So there’s the background. Now, add in the officious immigration bitch, who has just blown it completely for Amsterdam – you only ever get two chances from me, sorry. I am in a Bad Mood. I’m hot because I changed out of my shorts into long jeans only to find it was over 80 in the shade ashore and now I’m in a museum with virtually no seating. I am not the cheeriest of souls right now, shopping notwithstanding.

So, anyway, the Rijksmuseum e-ticket says if you eat or drink at the Cobra cafe, you get a discount if you show your e-ticket. Very nice. So out we go. We hand back the chair we borrowed for mum and the man says, ‘nip out the side gate and the cafe is round on the left’. So out the door we go. There is another security man at the gate, which is open. We try to walk out of it. He stops us and says we have to walk 100 yards to the right, go out the main gate and walk back 100 yards along the pavement before we can go left. We can’t go through this gate, they’re doing deliveries. Go on, guess how I reacted. Bearing in mind that other people are blithely walking through this gate while he is gesticulating at us. I point out, surprisingly calmly, for me, that my mother walks with a stick and I will be going through him before I am making her walk the long way round. He folds immediately and waves us through.

Now, there is a lesson here, which will stand us in good stead for the rest of the day. Everyone in Amsterdam is unnecessarily officious. But if you argue, they always fold immediately and without further ado. Take note, this may come in handy if you ever come here.

So we go to the cafe. It is next to a little pond and I wish I still had my shorts on because everyone is paddling due to the very intense heat. We sit and order two cokes and a lemonade. Well, I summarise. We get ignored for about a quarter of an hour, then told we can’t sit there and THEN we order two diet cokes and a lemonade. They have a private party coming. We can drink our drinks outside but not inside. Despite the fact that there are at least six tables currently occupied by a Japanese coach party, who I am pretty sure are not the intended party people either. More officious for the sake of it. So we move outside, drink our drinks and leave as hastily as possible. Why would we want to give our money to people who so blatantly don’t want it?!

We grab a cab back to Dam Square and Dad is feeling nostalgic so we pop into the Hotel Krasnopolsky for a cup of tea and to use their undoubtedly lovely loos. Dad stayed here about 50 years ago with his mum and his brother. So we order drinks, served by a lovely man, and we notice that the food would suit us dinner-wise. It is 6pm. Would you mind if we wasted some time and then ate here? Of course not, they’d be delighted. The tea was not to mum’s liking, so she used her own teabag and sweetener – using only the hot water and a drop of milk provided by the nice man. Are you taking notes? Good. There is a quiz at the end. We have a superb meal, of several courses, which costs about the same as a snack at the De Vere but leaves us fit to bust. For the fact fans, we had one tomato soup, one salade niçoise, one vegetable lasagne and one Waygu burger, several soft drinks and one chocolate mousse. I’ll leave you to work out who ate what. When the bill came, they had charged mum for tea, despite the water and milk thing. When we pointed this out, the nice man backed down but not nearly as immediately or as graciously as he could have done. Rules is rules, remember? But if a glass of water is free, why isn’t a cup of hot water?

So, we’ve had the immigration lady, the museum gate man, the cafe that would only serve us if we sat in certain seats and now tea that you have to pay for even if you use your own teabag. Like I said, we had a nice day, but the officiousness and the sheer bloody-mindedness is now starting to wear somewhat thin. So 10pm, back to the ship.

Now, I am aware that, hating Amsterdam with a firey passion already, as I do, I may be a little biased, hence the disclaimer at the outset, but even Dad agreed that the attitude was started to wear on him somewhat too. And we all know how lovely and patient and put up with anything he is.

So tomorrow, is Amsterdam’s Very Last Chance. We are going off in the morning to shop at C&A. There is a 60% sale on, we’ve checked. And I really don’t care who we have to hurt to do so. I am on a mission – particularly as the Calais branch has left me empty-handed twice this year – and I will not be putting up with any bloody-minded officiousness from anybody, whoever they may think they are.

Watch this space. This could get messy.

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