Saturday, 21 August 2010

Amsterdam - Herrings,Herons and Canals

Marina was so hungry and just couldn't wait for the first course..

Enjoyed a very special Evening cruise and 5 course dinner around the canals. Lots of Champagne and wine flowing well. A perfect way to round off a wonderful day!.

As well as a Parakeet colony there are also lots of Grey Herons, which can frequently be seen in the canals. Usually found in the warmer parts of Europe, the Grey Heron has become a very common sight in Amsterdam in recent decades. The herons hunt as they usually would but also eat food discarded by humans.

Outside the Anne Frank Huis.

The Jordaan is also the location of the Anne Frank house,where the famous teenage diaries were written. The building itself is an old merchant's house built in 1635. There were already long slow moving queues forming so we decided not to go inside. Her father, Otto Frank took his family into hiding in tiny rooms above the business premises. Which is where they stayed for 25 months in virtual secrecy until some lowlife betrayed them to the authorities. Born in 1929 she was to die tragically young in March 1945 in the Nazi death camp at Belsen.

Looking across the canal at the Anne Frank house, already queues are round the block.

The Jordaan is home to many art galleries, particularly for modern art. The neighbourhood is also dotted with speciality shops and restaurants, and markets are held regularly. The most common theory on the origin of the name is as a derivation of the French word jardin, meaning garden. Most streets and canals in the Jordaan are named after trees and flowers.
It is a lovely relaxed area of the city and ideal for chilling out by the canal with a chilled beer - Just like we did.

Enjoying my Herring - couldn't persuade Marina to join me though!

Started the weekend in traditional Dutch style with raw Herring for breakfast. Traditionally, the fish (minus its head) is eaten by grabbing it by the tail, throwing one’s head back, and — while gently lowering the fish into the mouth. I opted to have mine in a bread roll along with diced onion and pickles. And the taste..? Lets just say it was love at first bite!
In fact Amsterdam owes it's very existence to the Herring. A permanent settlement came into place when they learned how to preserve the fish so that more could be brought ashore. The settlement in question was in the centre of Amsterdam,Dam Square.

The plan was to have a slow wander up to the Jordaan district of Amsterdam stopping off for the odd beer of course.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Amsterdam - Rembrandt,Scream, A stroll in the park and Metallica

We were treated to cracking versions of classic songs such as , Nothing else matters, Enter Sandman, Creeping Death, One,Master of puppets and the Four horsemen. Really enjoyed the set and the frontman was a real talent- hope they win.

The lead singer (James Hetfield lookalike)from the Metallica tribute band who were absolutely brilliant.

Marina and me at the Leidesplein.

The U2 tribute band who we caught the end of their set. Highlight had to be when the singer (Bono) jumped down into the audience and sang as he walked around the crowd. He then took it a step further by boarding a tram and walking the length of a carriage still singing away!!

Rockdonald - Tribute band who were pretty good.

Had arranged to meet Marina at the Leidespleinslein after she finished work.
The square and surrounding streets are packed with bars,restaurants,cafes,clubs,cinemas and souvenir shops. At night time it becomes neon-lit along with a strange art-nouveau style.
A big marquee had also been erected along with temporary bar facilities. I found out that the weekend was the culmination of a tribute bands competition that had started off with 5,000 bands competing. This had now been whittled down to just 9 over the three days.
We decided to watch the first band who were covering songs mainly by Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Pearl Jam. They were actually pretty good and went down well with the crowd.
Not being too keen on U2 we decided to miss the next band and come back later for 'Present Danger' a Metallica tribute.

Views from Vondelpark.

Spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the Rijks and was even happier to see that it had stopped raining and the sun was out as I emerged into daylight again.
Decided that it would be nice to have a wander around Vondelpark as close by and it was now a lovely day once again.
It was clear to see how 'Amsterdammers' love Vondelpark from the amount of runners,cyclists,walkers and general chilling out taking place. Apparently more than eight million people visit it's 111 acres every year. The Park is the biggest in the city and is filled with trees,pathways,ponds and lakes with loads of wildlife. There is also an arboretum, bandstand, Rose Garden and an open air theatre.
Rembrandt - 'The Nightwatch'

My Favourite Painting - Hendrick Avercamp- 'Winter Landscape'

What had started out as a beautiful sunny day soon turned into a rainstorm. Of course my umbrella was back at the hotel! I discovered a wonderful flea market selling just about everything as I meandered the streets and canals. Taking extra care not to be run down by a tram or more likely a bicycle. I was pleased because I picked up the latest 'Lee Child' paperback for next to nothing. I can mooch around these old markets for hours but had to reign myself in a little- time was passing.
Due to the rain I had to duck into a few 'unusual' shops to shelter on my way to the Rijks Museum. Loaded down with my book and 8 newly purchased CD's.
The Rijks Museum is the major art gallery of the Netherlands. It contains many works by Rembrandt including the amazing and world famous 'Nightwatch'. The other great Dutch name in the collection is Vermeer, the most well known work being the 'The Kitchen Maid'. A beautifully lit portrait of a young girl pouring milk into a bowl. I have to say my personal favourite is be Hendrick Avercamp 'Winter Landscape'. There is always humour in his work somewhere , as in this case with a courting couple as well as people going to the toilet!!

My rough destination was a CD shop that I wanted to check out in the south of the city. The journey was to be on foot and a voyage of discovery taking in whatever was to come my way......

Central Station


I had the whole day to explore as Marina had already left early for work. I caught one of the 15 tram lines into Central Station using my newly acquired OV Chipkaart. The tram is by far the easiest way to get around.
Central Station is located in the middle of the City and is an attraction in it's own right. The stationed opened in 1889 and is currently under reconstruction and serves 166,000 passengers a day. It is twinned with Liverpool St Station in London.

Monday, 2 August 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls - Spratton Church

Various views from the Church Tower.

The inner cogs and wheels of the Church clock. It needs 100 cranks to keep it 'ticking' over for a week.

The Church in the Distance from the Brixworth Road

Spratton Church - Northamptonshire
The parish church of Spratton is dedicated to St Andrew and stands on Brixworth Road. The church is built from ironstone and stands on high ground in the centre of the village and has a tower with a spire. The chancel is 29 feet long by 15 feet wide. The earliest church built on the site dated from 1120, but it has been altered and remodelled considerably over the centuries. It's claim to fame is that the great great grandmother of George Washington was baptised in the church. As well as numerous members of my family as well as weddings and funerals. In some cases all three !

Decided that it was about time that I paid a long overdue visit to see my Uncle in the village of Spratton Northamptonshire. Also he has promised me some rhubarb and I fancied making another crumble.
So I biked over as it was a nice late afternoon or early evening depending on your perspective. It's only about seven and a half miles so didn't take too long.

Against my better judgement I agreed to help him 'wind up'the Church clock. Sounded nice and easy enough however where 'Uncle John is concerned nothing is ever quite what it seems. We have fallen in canals, got stuck in quicksand in a quarry, sat on a wasps nest together and various other misadventures I could but won't go into.

To even get to the clock involved a considerable climb up rustic wooden rungs and narrow ledges. There was very little to balance on , I soon discovered that using the Bells was not an option...It didn't seem to bother John too much that I was hanging on for dear life rather like Harold Lloyd in 'Safety Last'(how appropriate) back in 1949.
Once the clock was wound more agony was to follow as John insisted I get to the top of the Belltower and enjoy the views. Shoehorning myself out of the narrow window at the top I found myself out on the ledge, for some reason John had decided that he was happy where he was, however did give me plenty of encouragement in my quest. As I recall motivational phrases such as 'get a move on' and 'don't be such a baby' were offered up.
Ultimately I was glad I did as the views were superb as you will see from some of the photos posted.
I was glad to get home (with rhubarb) a little sweaty, oilstained and covered in dust and cobwebs - Happy days !