Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Holidays: Cities

My final holiday post is a tale of two cities.
The first is Amsterdam, which we went to during the first half of our week when the weather was not so good. It was breezy, chilly and wet and I wished I'd brought a warmer coat than my thin pink pack-a-mac! Nevertheless we are made of strong stuff and headed there armed with umbrellas. We parked on the outskirts and caught a tram into the centre. I enjoyed spotting more hollyhocks tucked away into little corners and crevices in urban surroundings.

A tandem offers imaginative planting opportunities here. I like the fairy lights.

The tram was very crowded and we had to stand. It took us past lots of pretty canals, bridges and cafes, all of which looked very appealing. As we got off in the centre, the skies darkened and shortly after I took this photo the heavens opened. People gathered under shop awnings as the rain hammered down.

Thereafter my photography opportunities were limited due to some pretty heavy downpours throughout the day. The four youngsters were keen to go off and explore after lunch, and P and I were keen to find a cafe and relax, so we went our separate ways for a couple of hours.

 Looking for a cafe wasn't as easy as expected. The bad weather meant that everyone else had the same idea. Eventually P and I found one in a square and sat under a dripping awning, glad of the rest and a hot drink. I must admit I wasn't really feeling at my most holidayish and carefree. However, the surroundings more than made up for it. The tall narrow houses with their prettily decorated roofs line the canals and streets in a higgledy-piggledy jumble which is very attractive.

The wide canals break up the busy streets and provide a sense of calm in a very bustling city. Attractive bridges and trees add to the sense of green-ness, and a watery, brackish smell lingers pleasantly here and there.

Of course there are bikes a-plenty and they're parked in rows everywhere you look. 

Here are some more rooftops in a mix of styles.

Much of the architecture is very ornate. This clock tower caught my eye with its bright red, blue and gold paint.  I really like the brightness of Dutch historical buildings.

By the early evening the sun had come out and the cold wind had died down. We spent the late afternoon visiting Anne Frank's house. It had been something which D had very much wanted to do and I was feeling weary at this point as my foot is still not quite better yet and we'd done a lot of walking (the queue was over two hours' long). However, none of this mattered as we did the tour around the tall, narrow house with its concealed annex, and marvelled at the courage and strength of its former occupants. A thoughtful quiet descended on everyone present as we listened to and watched archive footage of people and events connected with the family's life. Walking through those tiny, darkened rooms and climbing the steep ladder-like stairs, comparing the day-to-day humanity with the catastrophic events which came to pass was a powerful experience. Anne's diary gives such insight into her thoughts and life and are a lasting tribute to her and others like her. The whole experience was very moving and I came out feeling humbled, and grateful for all the things I take for granted as well as encouraged by what wonderful things humans can achieve. I'm so glad we went.

 The other city which we visited was Bruges, or Brugge, in Belgium. It means 'bridges' and certainly lives up to its name, as canals wind through the city, criss-crossed with many little bridges. We were luckier with the weather that day, as by now it had changed to hot and very sunny for the rest of the week. 

Bruges is an incredibly pretty city with wonderful buildings and views around every corner. The central square was very impressive.

And our first view of a canal was very striking.

Once again beautiful rooftops caught my eye. I love the twirly decorations on this one.

And these stepped roofs which we also saw in the Netherlands.

A mermaid sits on the top of this one.

There were some stunning windows too, full of flowers.

Bruges is famous for its lace ...

and chocolates. Just look at this window with its beautiful sweets and chocolates! 

And this one with its charming tins shaped like little houses.

After lunch we decided to see the city's canals by boat. The boat trips were very popular, but the queues moved quickly and before we knew it we were speeding along the waterway smelling the river weed and enjoying the wonderful views.

It was a very cooling and restful way to see the city on a hot day.

Bruges is famous for its swans too, and we were told that altogether there are 150.

In places the canal widened out and the architecture took on a grander aspect.

We had a great time in Bruges and were so lucky with the weather. It was undeniably a touristy place, but had such a lot of charm that it didn't matter one bit. We left feeling tired but happy and a few lace and chocolate-related items came home with me.

Thank you for sharing my holiday memories with me, and well done for making it to the end! It was a very good one this year. Last week we went on a couple of sunshiney days out which I'll share at a later date. P's back at work now, and I've begun my 'to-do' list for the second half of the summer holidays as well as squeezing in some creativity. I'll catch up with you soon x


  1. Wow, lucky you! Those two cities are on my wish list for places to go and your photos didn't disappoint. Stunning architecture and I love all the bikes (fairy lights - now there's an idea!) and the little house tins. Thanks for taking us along. xx

  2. I loved the photo of the tall houses in Amsterdam. It's somewhere that I would like to go and see and your photos have made me want to go all the more! My eldest daughter went to Bruges on a college trip last year, and funnily enough, none of her photos were of the architecture! She did bring back some chocolate though :-) xx

  3. Two beautiful places and so different from over here. Glad you had a good time and that your batteries are recharged enough to tackle the to-do list. Karen x

  4. Shame about the rain in Amsterdam, but it doesn't look as though it held you back. Your photos show that it is just as I imagine it to be - having never visited. Glad that you enjoyed it. See Anne Franks house must have been very moving indeed. We have been to Bruges several times and loved it, so it was great seeing it again through your eyes. It is a lovely place isn't it! xx

  5. Your post makes me want to go to the Netherlands too! We went to Amsterdam in April and we loved it there! I haven't been to Bruges but it looks like a place to visit!

    Take care
    Crochet Between Worlds

  6. Goodness, you past few post really want me to visit, we have never been to Amsterdam, it's now on my city list.

  7. Oh, this brings back memories! I visited both and on the same memorable trip, what lovely lovely cities, and great photos as well.

  8. Bruges is lovely, I had a couple of lovely days there several years ago and really enjoyed it, great blog and photos :)

  9. What lovely cities - Amsterdam has been on my 'to go to' list for a while, might have to add Bruges too! Doesn't a bit of sunshine make a difference though?!

  10. The architecture in Amsterdam and Bruges is stunning. I would love to visit the house where Anne Franks lived one day. Sarah x


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