Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Integrated Transport

I loved our visit to Amsterdam!  One of the things that is immediately apparent is that they have actual integrated transport. 

One can get off the plane, collect your luggage and walk to the train station.   While we were collecting our luggage, we bought a 5 day train/bus/tram ticket from a chipper and cute as a button helpful person right next to the luggage carousel!  It seemed to be a good idea to get the transportation portion of our budget out of the way.  A train caught at the train station (waiting time for train 15 minutes) will take you right into the centre of Amsterdam . . .

From Amsterdam Centraal - Dutch spelling folks ;-)  You walk over to the tram stop and wait for your tram.  In this instance the wait for the tram was 8 minutes.  The tram takes you to about two blocks of your hotel.  Genius!  I was impressed by how all the different modes of transportation are integrated.  Our tickets were good for the trams and buses all over the city.  You "checked on" to each bus or tram by presenting your card to an electronic sensor and it "blipped".  At the end of your journey, you checked out as you got off by presenting your card to the sensor once again.

We followed the directions and got off at our stop . . . but got a bit confused as to which direction to walk .
We figured it out.

The above is a put together by the hotel we stayed in while we were there.

So from the time we landed until we were knocking on the door of the hotel was less than an hour.  We had taken a train and a tram with very short walks and brief waiting times.  I loved that!  I know how UNintegrated transportation is if one arrives at Glasow airport. 

We walked/took a tram everywhere on this trip.  My poor feet suffered.  I am unused to walking quite so much.  I should walk more.

The other mode of transportation in Amsterdam are the canals or grachten (plural of the word gracht).  Boats are still a viable form of transportation in Amsterdam though there is no public system on the canal.  If you want a boat ride, you're going to have to make friends with a boat owner OR go pay to go on a canal tour. 

We did that!  We followed the advice of the Lonely Planet guide and went to Boom Chicago on Leiseplein where we booked passage for a boat tour the following day.
It was like being on your pal's boat.  Everything was easy and relaxed.

Everywhere you go in the world, you can always find an Irish bar.
Beautiful old warehouses with the old canal access.  So beautiful.  I loved the architecture and the huge windows of the buildings.
Seven bridges view
The old houses all have tilted fronts and large booms with hooks on them.  Front doors are small and staircases inside are narrow and steep.  If you wish to get furniture into the house, it is going to have to get hoisted through a window.

I can only imagine the sort of canal tour that we took is at its best on dry summer days.  What can be nicer than sipping Heineken as you glide along the canals, taking in the sights.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Surprise! We're Going to Amsterdam!

A few years ago when The Man of the Place had his 50th birthday, I surprised him with a weekend trip to Paris.  We had a lovely weekend full of sightseeing and finding little Parisian treasures where we least expected to find them.

This year I was given a similar surprise. I knew we were going somewhere.  I was asked to book some time off work and get Polly the wonderdog booked in at the kennel.  I did this without knowing the actual destination.  Of course I asked questions like . . . "Do I need to pack a dive computer, sturdy walking shoes, swimming suit, sparkly dress?"    Apparently The Man of the Place had spent money on a Lonely Planet guide to Morroco and left it on the coffee table in the front room.  I didn't even see it! What's the point of creating a red herring if the person it was designed for is too clueless to notice?
We were leaving early early on Saturday morning so I was told on Friday night to pack for a European (non UK) city destination and to leave my swimming suit, sparkly dress and dive computer behind. 

Seven bridges
On Saturday morning at bleary o'clock in the morning The Man of the Place, George and I left our place and made our way to Glasgow airport.  At the EasyJet check-in desk I discovered the destination.  Amsterdam!  Wow!  I had never been to Amsterdam before.  This was going to be fun!

We were in Amsterdam from Saturday until Wednesday afternoon.  I'll write more about where we stayed, food, cultural stuff and the fun things we did later.  We did loads of fun things so there is much to tell.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Dead Tree

A few years ago a seemingly healthy tree in our garden just died.  One summer it was alive and growing and the next year - it was bereft of life.

We have been contemplating removing this tree but have held off for a couple of reasons; 1. The dead tree is the perfect hammock distance from another tree.  We would have nowhere else to put a hammock unless we BUY a hammock stand.  2. We are very lazy (I refer you to the title of the blog) and would have to arrange chainsaws or get somebody in to cut it down.  Now we have a third and important reason.  Wildlife.  There has been a nest box on this tree for many years now. It has been the site of many successful batches of blue tits.   Today while we were all watching telly in the back room, we had a rare treat.  A great spotted woodpecker was hopping up and down the trunk of this tree, pecking at holes and making grabs at a small swarm of flying insects near by.

After the woodpecker flew off, The Man of the Place and I went out and inspected the many holes that have appeared on this tree.  Seriously, there weren't any holes there on my birthday when I went to hang the pinata on a branch.  If there were holes, I didn't notice them.

No missing the woodpecker holes now!  They go all the way down.  There is obviously food there for the bird or he wouldn't give the tree so much attention.  The woodpecker's validation of the dead tree has ensured that the tree will not be cut for now.  Dead trees are important to wildlife as this woodpecker has shown us.  We will keep the camera in the back room to see if we can get a photo of a return visit.

Over in the other part of the place, I checked on the swallow nest.  There was only one egg!  I don't know what happened there.  Was the nest predated by some other bird or (horror) a rodent?
In any case, the swallows are not losing any time.  There has been a new nest built and there are three eggs in it!

I really hope that the eggs hatch and that the birds manage to get big and fat quickly enough to make it all the way back to South Africa!