A Short Break In Amsterdam

I haven’t written my blog for some time , I think I had lost my motivation for writing, but now on a short break to Amsterdam, it feels like a good place to start agin.

I’ve never been to Amsterdam before. I traveled here with my husband and two of our friends. We flew early in the morning, but unfortunately spent two hours sitting on the pane before it took off as one of the runways in Amsterdam. In any event we arrived by midday in a cold and windy Amsterdam.

Amazing transport system

We were booked in to stay at the Westcord Fashion Hotel, a very bright and quite quirky hotel, with really comfortable rooms, gorgeous bathrooms and a great Sky bar on the top floor. It is out of town, but very close to the tram stop which takes us straight to town and all the well known tourist areas. The tram is impressively efficient, running regularlythroughoutbthe day and always appears clean. All the stops have didgital announcements and there is a conductor on board who sits behind what looks like a doctors reception desk. We bought a pass for 4 days, which cost us €24 each, which is amazing value and being true Yorkshire folk, we made sure we got our money’s worth.

A first look at Amsterdam

Our first outing on the tram was to Leidesplein, where we stopped off for lunch. We then took another tram to the old town, where we wondered through the various streets, trying to get our bearings and work out what we would like to see over the next few days. The canals and bridges are beautiful and although it’s common knowledge that cycling is a common form of transport, I couldn’t get over the thousands of bicycles parked up at the side of each road, particularly near the station

Later in the day we went back to the hotel, had a swim in the pool and then went up to the Sky Bar for a couple of cocktails, before getting a great night’s sleep in the lovely big comfy bed.

Anne Frank House

We had booked tickets in advance as we knew that the museum gets very busy and only allows limited visitors each day.

We went on the tram to town and went to the Pancake Bakery for breakfast. This was recommended by someone who our friends had sat next to on the plane. The breakfast was amazing and it was a really lovely atmosphere in the narrow pancake restaraunt, which, by the time we left had people queuing to get in!

We then went to Anne Frank House at our allotted time. The staff there were very welcoming and explained everything as you went in. The annexe rooms have been left empty, but on the walls, information about Anne and her family is displayed. There is a full Audio commentaryas you walk around the house. There is a really respectful air to the visit, in keeping with the subject matter. You get a real feel of what life was like as you travel through the house, into tiny rooms and up and down steep staircases.

It is a really good place to visit, interesting but leaving you feeling quite somber. We talked afterwards about how shocking it all was and it left us feeling a little sad, because looking at the world today we haven’t really changed very much. You only have to look at TV and social media to know that there are still many people in the world who promote hate based on the fact that others are different to them. A very sobering thought.

The flower market, Red Light District and library

After the visit we then walked to the flower market and wondered through the various stalls selling lots of tulips (real, plastic, wooden) and gifts based on a Dutch theme. Where the flowers are real, there’s is a lovely fresh smell. The colours are amazing.

We then continued walking and went through the Red Light District. I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I’d seen photos of it, but mainly taken at night. During the day it looks like most other streets, until you read the signs and look in the shop, windows, which sell an assortment of sex related items. There are adverts for all sorts of live shows, but there was only one girl in one of the windows. I am curious though and will probably go and have another look during an evening to get more of an idea of what it’s really like.

I had been told that the library was an amazing building and that the 7th floor has an amazing terrace where you can look out over Amsterdam.

The Library (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam)is very impressive. It is very modern, airy and bright. The children’s area alone is bigger than most libraries I have seen. The seven floors contain books, reading areas, multi media section and a theatre area.

When you get to the 7th floor, there is a cafe with an outside terrace area which overlooks Amsterdam. On the wall around the edge is information about what you can see from the roof and some of the history of the buildings. Definitely worth a visit!

Our next stop was food and we opted to visit the Chinese restaurant near the Library, The Sea Palace. This is a huge floating restaurant. The food was excellent and there is a great view across the water, with boats passing regularly.

Feeling full, we made our way back on the tram to the hotel, for a bit of a rest and maybe a further visit to the Sky Bar

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Marvellous Majorca

As I wrote my last blog, I was sitting on a sun bed by the pool at a beautiful villa in Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. We have been to Majorca for the last three years because it is such a pretty place and we feel able to relax and enjoy ourselves there. It is the first time that we have been without our children and the first time that we have stayed in a villa. Unfortunately I have now returned to a cold, rainy and windy England, but thought I’d let you know what I got up to on my travels last week.

Old Town Pollensa

On Sunday morning we took a trip up to the market in the Old Town of Pollensa. This is a beautiful market square, surrounded by lovely old buildings and a church in the corner.  The stalls sell lots of beautiful fresh fruit and veg, cheese, cured meats, olives, nuts and sweets.

As we were staying in a villa we bought some lovely fresh fruits and salad to put with our barbeque later on. I also bought some olives, which I love and some very brightly coloured jelly sweets.

We walked up the Calvari Steps, which are 365 steps up a very steep hillside, leading to a tiny church. There are pretty little houses on the way up the hill and there were also a couple of buskers playing acoustic guitars which sounded lovely It was extremely hot, but the view from the top was amazing. It was made more worthwhile as I felt able to treat myself to an iced coffee with cream and ice cream when I got back down. I’m pretty sure that the walk had burned all the calories off!

Soller

Soller is a beautiful little town on the west coast of Majorca. To get there you have to drive along the  very twisty roads that run through the mountains. Although the journey feels quite treacherous, it is definitely worth the drive.

We had breakfast and a wander through the town, before taking the tram down to Puerto del Soller, which is such a beautiful coastal area with a glorious beach and harbour. It was very hot by this time, so after a short walk, we went for ice cream, in a restaurant overlooking the bay and just watched the world go by.

Alcudia

We visited the old town of Alcudia during the evening to have a meal. The town itself is set in a medieval castle, so is inside the walls. It is a lovely setting, particularly on an evening as it starts to get dark. There are lots of restaurants to choose from and there is a lovely atmosphere, sitting outside within the impressive walls of the city.

Walking and snorkelling

Both me and my husband really enjoy snorkelling. This is something that I have come to enjoy fairly recently, over the last few years. I tried scuba diving when I was younger, but found that I didn’t really like the feel of the mask and breathing apparatus. I had a go at snorkelling when we went to Majorca. The water there is so warm and clear that I found I really enjoyed it. Another thing that it also did for me was to slow my breathing down. When I was struggling with anxiety, I spent the majority of my time breathing really fast and sounding out of breath. Once I had my head under the water, all I could hear was my breathing and it helped me to concentrate on that and deliberately slow my breathing down, which really seemed to help.

This year we walked to Cala de Boquer, which is about a 45 minute walk from Puerto Pollensa. It’s quite a rocky hilly walk, but if you set of early enough, you  can get there before it gets too hot. There is nothing there at all except for a beautiful rocky cove and obviously the sea, which is full of fish and great for snorkelling.

The other walk we did was to Cal San Vicente. This is quite a hilly walk, again to a beautiful cove with a soft sandy beach. There are a couple of restaurants here and sun beds on the beach. The sea, again is crystal clear and great for snorkelling.

Mosquitoes, car hire and fish bites

Just a couple of things that you might want to be aware of if you are thinking of going to Majorca.

We hired a car from AVIS and met the rudest person I have ever met behind the “customer service” desk. She told us we had not hired a 7 seater vehicle and that there wasn’t one available unless we paid an extra 25 euros per day. Luckily we had booked through Villa Plus, who managed to sort it out for us with a phone call. Having read reviews about Avis, this appears to be a bit of a ploy to get extra money from customers.

I have been to Majorca several times, usually in July and August. I have never been bitten by mosquitoes, but this time I had a lot of bites. I understand this is more common in September, so be prepared if you go at this time. Some of us had bites, some did not, so it appears mosquitoes like particular blood types, scents etc. It certainly didn’t spoil my holiday, but it is a bit of a pain when you are scratching and spotty.

For some reason whilst I was snorkelling this year I was bitten/ stung by something in the sea. This has never happened to me before. It was a bit of a shock and felt like I had been cut by something. After the initial mark, which swelled up a bit, there were no other effects. I understand that there are no dangerous fish or jelly fish on the island so there was no panic.

Not sure why I was so attractive to the hungry wildlife this year!

Something for everyone

Whilst we were in Majorca, my youngest daughter was also there, but in Magaluf, on her first holiday abroad without us. She also had a great time, but a completely different holiday to us. We’ve certainly recovered quicker than she has and I think the most of her holiday was spent partying. She returned home safely despite this, so that’s a relief.

If you’ve not been to Majorca I would recommend it. It’s a very scenic island with lots of lovely coves and bays. It does get busy in some areas, but this depends on where you go and what time of year. It is certainly one of my favourite places and the other bonus is that it is a really short flight and you can get there so quickly.