Amster-dam

At this very moment, I am on the train to London. As I looked out the window, I could vaguely remember the view of Stockport, Wilmslow, Crewe and other small towns that we passed. Except that this year, the snow isn’t as heavy as the previous year. Even so, I could not help but admire the snow that covers the vast land, rooftops and the pine trees. But I am not going to talk about London today. Instead, I am going to share about the trip I came back from – Amsterdam!

I accompanied Josephine, who arrived in Manchester on 18th December (more about this later), to Amsterdam with two other friends, Elie and Nellie. We had to take a train to Hull, but our train was cancelled because of the heavy snow. We ended up taking a train that transit at Leeds, which took an extra hour. That’s not all, Elie’s and Nellie’s train got delayed, so we ended up waiting at Hull for over three hours. Thank god there is a big shopping complex next to it (with the biggest Tesco express I’ve ever seen!)

We took a cab to the P&O dock, and by that time, it was past five in the evening. Oh, I should have mentioned this earlier, the trip to Amsterdam is by  a cruise. It costed around £36 pounds for a return trip, including a return bus trip to Amsterdam city. Pssst…  By the way, I’m wearing my new puffer! It kept me warm, but also made me look so fat 😦

Our room was 10320, which stands for deck 10, room 320. When i entered it, I was a little surprised at how small it was. In fact, it was half the size of Weston’s Hall room – I’m going to appreciate the size of my room in Manchester 🙂 There was only one bunk bed, a small side table, two hangers, and a ladder, and an ensuite bathroom.

After taking our luggages in, we took a short rest before walking around the cruise. I just noticed I never took any pictures of the shops. There were three main shops, one for perfumes and makeups, one for alcohol, and the last one is my favourite: gift shop! The gift shops sold Me to You bear (and Hello Kitty is always in the next shelf) for 10% off! I was so tempted to buy all of those that I like, which is almost all of them.

There was a sun deck, which allows passengers to go out and experience the cold (and smoke 😦 ) I managed to take a picture on it, though I was shivering when I went out. It should be around -10’C at least. Of course, in the picture above,  the cruise haven’t left the dock yet. Sorry for the lousy quality, but this is the only picture I could take before my camera went hair-wired.

Let me reveal a very sad fact: My Sony DSCT70  randomly starts vibrating internally, causing really blurry pictures. The problem existed within a month after my brother gave me his camera. I figure it was just a minor problem then, but now it is really a major problem. 😦 As I googled my problem, I realised I am not the only one, though I have not found any solution for it yet. Apparently, most  other people experience the same problem too.

Back to the trip: For the first night, we spent most of our time playing Monopoly at the children section, called Children World. I went bankrupt immediately after one hour. Anyway, I don’t know what it is called, you know the place where there are many colourful plastic balls (picture above) and the kids just play with them? Well, after all the kids left, we took turn taking pictures in it. I regretted how I never got to play in it when I was young, though I understand that my mother must be worried sick about the cleanliness of these places. She’s major OCD, I’m minor OCD .. shhh.

Then we went to enjoy live show by a band in the lounge. Someone had just turn 21 that night, and there was a tiny celebration going on. The songs weren’t the one I used to listen to, and listening to them were like a whiff of fresh air. I was enjoying the songs so much I didn’t take any picture then (Also, camera problem 😦 )

After a while, it was around midnight and we headed back to our rooms for the night. For the first night, I slept at the lower bunk. I could feel the ship rock slightly left and right but eventually fall asleep.

The ship docked at Amsterdam port at 8.30am in the morning, local time (equivalent to 7.30 am UK time!). Only then, I realised how large the ship was. If you look closely, it is named Pride of Rotterdam. All of us got on a bus to the city, and unfortunately, we were stuck in a traffic jam. I didn’t know how long it took because I fell asleep soon after I got on the bus. There was something very comfortable about sitting in a moving vehicle. Back when I were young, my mother told me when I couldn’t sleep, she would just put me in the back seat of a car, drove around the neighbourhood for a while and *poof* I slept like a baby. Well, I was a baby then.

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The first thought that cross my mind was: Amsterdam is so much colder than the UK. Brrr.. After much hesitation, we took a city tour and canal cruise that costed €19 (equivalent to £16)


I nearly boarded the wrong bus. The tourist center person told us it was a RED BUS and that we could not miss it, and i got on the first red bus that I could find LOL. The above is the Touristbus Amsterdam, the right bus lol. Did you notice how dirty the snow is? 😦

The bus was quite advanced. There was a GPS guide in seven different languages. Did you know, the name Amsterdam came up when the inhabitants built a bridge with a dam across the Amstel? So, as the bus went round the city, through different stops and major tourist attractions, there were short and precise explanations of the places in your selected language. How cool is that? For some places which are under construction, the tour guide told us about the place briefly.

The view was beautiful, but it’s hard to take a decent picture in the bus, not because it’s moving too fast, but because the windows are dirty. Not to mention reflections. And my cameraaaa.

The bus stopped at the Gassan Diamonds, a museum for diamonds.That was the only stop we got off from the bus.I forgot the name of our tour guide, but I adored her! Her explanation of the diamonds are short and precise. I am not a fan of diamonds, but surprisingly, I was very captivated by them today.

Diamond is the hardest mineral on earth, so only diamond can cut diamond. The two tools in front of the diamond display are covered with diamond dust. Raw diamonds are worthless, only when cut and polished to a proper size (which 40% of the diamond turned into dust), it is worth  a fortune.

The two diamond polishers. They must be so used to people looking and taking picture of them polishing the diamonds that they didn’t bother to glance up. Or probably they concentrate too much!

Next, we were brought into a room where we learnt about the cost of diamonds. These costs were affected by the 4 C’s : Carat, Colour, Clarity,  and Cut. The most expensive colour is the River Diamond, up to the cheapest colour Yellow Diamond. The clarity runs from perfect to pique 3. Cut depends on the angle at which the diamond is cut, and how much light is refracted in it. A diamond may have the most expensive colour but is low in clarity, so the price fluctuated. At the end of the explanation, the tour guide brought out real diamond jewelry for people to purchase, and surprisingly, some of them really did!

We boarded the next bus, which continued to tour around the city of Amsterdam. The whole city tour took about an hour, plus the additional hour in the museum. Next, we went on the canal cruise. Did you know Amsterdam is build on soft soil, and is below sea level? Imagine what happens when super high tide came and sweep the city away.

This is embarrassing to say, but I fell asleep when the boat went out into the sea. The boat was rocking so gently 😛 Needless to say, the view was once again beautiful. The water was so cold that there was a layer of ice on it, the ducks and birds looked as though they could walk on water. The canal cruise ended at around four fifteen in the afternoon, and we had about three quarter hour to kill before the bus leaves for the dock. I went to the gift shop and bought myself an ear muff and a windmill….replica?

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For the second night on the cruise, we spent more of our time in the bar, although we didn’t order any drink. imagine a 250ml fruit punch costs £5.00. Luckily we weren’t chased away. There was a pianist who played songs my dad would love, some of them I know: Sweet Caroline (guess who does it remind me of? :P), , I Dream a Dream, some Neil Diamonds and Garfunkel songs.

I wish i had a picture of the pianist lol.

The second night, I slept at the top bunk, and I did feel a little seasick. But I contemplated for a while, is it worth it to climb down the ladder to get the travel sickness pills? I thought about it… until I fell alseep. LOL On the whole, the trip was great, but IMHO, the time spent in Amsterdam is too short. It could have been longer, and more exciting.


 

 

 

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