Final leg of our mini-European tour. C and myself had been invited to lunch on the Sunday in The Hague by some Dutch relatives who she had never met before. So, we decided to combine it with spending a few days in Amsterdam. I've only ever been there once before, and that was for a friend's 21st. Needless to say, I didn't do any of the things I wanted to. Can you really see a bunch of 21 year old male students visiting Amsterdam and going to the Anne Frank House together? No, neither can I.
This was the chance to make up for that wasted opportunity. The weather was predictably crap (isn't winter in northern Europe so damn depressing. The sun just goes into hibernation from November until May), so we took advantage of the "I Amsterdam" pass which, for €49, allows you to visit a huge number of the cities finest museums, galleries, canal houses, have unlimited use on public transport, do a boat tour, and much more, all in the space of exactly 48 hours.
I think I worked out that we would have spent the equivalent of about €110 had we paid for everything we saw in this time, thus more than doubling the value of the pass. Never been to so many galleries in my life.
I finally got to appreciate what a wonderful and, damn right cool, city Amsterdam is. I wonder how many Brits who visit it actually pay any attention to its delights, or whether most never venture beyond the red light district (fascinating though it is) and the coffee shops. It does cosy, brilliantly. Everything seen from the outside looks so warm and inviting. You find this in Scandinavia too. Must be the weather.
The boat tour took in the many neighbourhoods situated alongside the canals. A proper, long, canal walk will wait until a return visit, and warmer weather. It really is one of those cities you just can't imagine being unhappy living in. And then you have the Dutch people themselves: tall, fair, handsome, and thoroughly lovely in every way. They also speak English (perfectly) with the best and most endearing accent by anyone I have ever heard.
A city to rival Paris? A couple more visits to both to come up with the definitive answer.