How our Honeymoon began: The Netherlands

This post follows from earlier post giving an account of my recent honeymoon, in which we visited 9 countries in 30 days. I hope it’ll be some use to people planning to visit any of the places we visited.

Getting to Amsterdam
The ferry from North Shields to IJmuiden is a nice way to travel. I’d used it once before, in the opposite direction, having been at a conference in Utrecht when Iceland exploded. That time I’d travelled home, with a colleague, in the cheapest cabin we could get on the King of Scandinavia; though by the time we booked, that meant a relatively nice one, with a sea view. By that point, my fiancée and I had already reserved our Commodore Plus cabin, on the Princess of Norway, for the honeymoon. Both journeys were very nice, but the difference between a standard cabin and a Commodore cabin is best described as being like the difference between a nice train compartment and a very comfortable hotel room. The mini bar and the free coffee and cakes on arrival were a nice touch. We were also impressed by the buffet we had for dinner: it wasn’t cheap, but there was a really wide selection of meat and seafood and even a reasonable (if not astounding) selection for vegetarians. The breakfast buffet was much as expected, and good quality. We took a few extra rolls and eggs to have for our lunch. All in all, in other words, a good way to reach the continent from the north of Britain.

As she dropped us off at North Shields, my new mother-in-law mentioned that she’d heard you can get from IJmuiden to Amsterdam by boat, and that it’s apparently a bit nicer than the bus. She was right. I enquired on the ferry and was told to take bus 74 from Oranjestraat (right by the ferry port) to Pontplein. From there we caught the Fast Flying Ferry (a hydrofoil), which cost €5 one-way and took about half an hour. Much nicer than the bus, and it stops right behind Amsterdam Centraal railway station. Two bits of advice, however: the ferry wasn’t exactly on time in either direction, and it was about 40 minutes late on our way back. What’s more, there was no information about why it might be delayed or when it was likely to turn up. I still think this is the best way to travel between Amsterdam and IJmuiden, but if you’re catching your ferry home, leave yourself a little time. Second, the hydrofoil goes, strictly speaking, between Amsterdam and Velsen Zuid, the latter being just on the edge of IJmuiden, so don’t be worried (as I was) that it says that instead of Amsterdam-IJmuiden.

Amsterdam
I don’t think we were in the right frame of mind for Amsterdam. We’d submitted our PhD theses three weeks before the wedding, and then of course we’d had the wedding to prepare for. After all that, we needed a night or two somewhere relaxing to recuperate. And Amsterdam’s not relaxing. For obvious reasons you might think it would be, but it’s not. So many of the tourists are there to get pissed, stoned, and laid, and the city caters for them, crassly. What’s more, we were there in late June, in something of a heatwave. So it felt hot, busy, loud and garish. Now that’s all very well, there’s nothing wrong with it, and such places can be a lot of fun; for us, however, I think it was the wrong time for such a place. It didn’t help that, to save money, we’d been forced to choose a room in a cheap hotel called Hotel Travel, right in the centre. The room was cramped, and it was extremely noisy at night. If we were doing this again, I think we’d pay more to stay somewhere better.

Well, that’s the negative side, and as much to do with our temperament as with Amsterdam itself. In fact there were many positives to make up for it. On our first day we took a walk to the Vondelpark, where we enjoyed an ice cream and lay under a tree. This was lovely: not only was the park nice, but our route to it took us through some very nice parts of the city. If you go, do this. We also visited the Sex Museum, which was fun, and ate Belgian fries with mayonnaise, which were delicious. Do this too.

On our second day we visited Delft, which is just as delightful as we’d imagined, and a really welcome gentle relief from the frenetic pace of the capital. We spent the afternoon visiting churches and drinking beer by the side of a canal. Having returned, we spent the evening wandering through the nicest parts of the centre, which includes the red light district. And I left with the feeling, being the liberal cliché that I am, that if a country is to have prostitution (and I think that must be treated as an inevitability), then this is how to do it. That, of course, is a superficial impression gleaned from an evening wander in Amsterdam, so I make no claims for its well-thought-outedness. In any case, we then shared a joint in a fairly pleasant coffee shop, which no doubt contributed to our sense of that having been a very pleasant evening. The muffin we took home probably helped us sleep too.

There’s not much more to say about our stay in Amsterdam. I would most certainly go back, but I wouldn’t stay in the centre, however much cheaper that might be.

From Amsterdam, we caught a train to Berlin…

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