A tour of Two Cities

As a complete contrast to our previous rural existence, we’ve spent some time in Amsterdam (OK, only one afternoon)

and Utrecht (3 days).

In Amsterdam,birds are very keen on their food. This Heron was hanging around outside an Italian restaurant, deciding whether or not to go in.

And the pigeon was making a nuisance of itself at our canal-side table at Bagels and Beans.

The city was huge, busy and exciting and fortunately, we had our own guide with us.

I wouldn’t dare to ride my bike there!

Utrecht felt almost as big. Their Gay Pride event was on Saturday and of course, it involved boats. The canal-side was a mass of people, soberly dressed, quietly asserting that they were happy with their identities. And not playing any loud 70’s music. No, not at all!

Utrecht also has the oldest water tower in Europe, a carillon of 50 bells which plays a tune every 15 minutes and a bell clock tower which chimes the hours and quarters, but not at the right time. This is a common feature of chiming bells in The NL, so it’s not good relying on your ears to know what time it is.

The Oudegracht canal runs through the centre of the city, but after floods in the 10th century, they had to raise the street level, thereby creating ideal sites for people (and Spiderman)

to watch the boats going by, while eatingĀ  and drinking.

I think we call this gongoozling in the UK. We didn’t spend long enough in Utrecht and so missed many sights worth seeing, such as the view from the Dom Tower, the Botanical Gardens, the Riet-Schroder House (modern architecture) and also Dick Bruna’s house. We’ll have to come back.

The route to our next place: Wijn bij Duurstede, lies along The Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal -a waterway which is not for the faint-hearted. We met this particular monster on Wednesday, when a broken bridge forced us to travel along a lower section of it. I have no need to go on any White Water Experiences or fairground rides now. ‘Small’ commercial barges with loaded weights of 3000 tons are bad enough, but the largest one which went past us was fully loaded at 8679 tons .

We decided that our second passage along this canal should happen on a Sunday, when there’d be less traffic and an easier passage. And so it was, thank goodness. Here is a barge full of Mercedes cars and later, what they look like when they’re scrapped!

To make up for the smoother ride, we had to pass through the biggest guillotine lock ever. Guillotine locks are alarmingly named, but all it means is that instead of gates which close to let the water in or out, a large metal plate descends.

Just like a guillotine. It all worked as it should and we both still have our heads.

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