Holland: 30 May 1969

Raining again first thing in the morning, so felt Amsterdam was probably a good place to be aiming for. Decided to go via Aalsmeer and see if the auctions were still on. Had great difficulty finding the halls and then finding the correct entrance, but eventually located it after walking round in circles. Had a guide escorting us – Sarah tactfully remarking in a loud voice “Isn’t he small Mummy”.  The pot plants are not auctioned on Fridays to there weren’t many of them about, but saw boxes of superb bedding plants. Then proceeded to the cut flowers halls, where the auction was finishing and the flowers being loaded onto the trolleys. Marvellous smell everywhere, especially from the stocks, but there were also masses of roses and carnations, they have a separate ‘tribune’ each and assorted lilies, herbaceous flowers and irises. Great activity as each buyer paid for his purchases and loaded them on to his truck. Action method very complicated – start at highest price and then downwards, the whole computerised for bills. Very modern building, purpose-built and very impressive. Had a coffee and bought various odds and ends then proceeded, clutching a carnation (Sarah’s) and some Sweet Williams (Andrew’s) to Amsterdam. Past Schipol Airport, tremendous place with lots still being built, we went under one of the main take-off runways.

Weather improved a bit, so decided to have a picnic lunch in the car, (on a meter by canal) and bought cooked chicken, chips and strawberries. Rained while we ate, but enjoyed the meal and watched the water buses on the canal. Andrw adding fast to his tram-count, and Sarah to her taxi list. Traffic is very heavy and fast moving, and noisy too with the trams clanking by.

Had a terrible time finding a long-stay parking space, very relieved to track one down in the end, literally squeezing into it.

Walked through what must be red-light district of Amsterdam to the water bus – every doorway and window seemed to have a colourful, pneumatic occupant. David was obviously a dead loss to them, pushing his Babbit along!

Got a water bus from the Damrak, full of children. Andrew and Sarah sitting well up front, and Sarah especially being a pickle. Our guide was not very good, but the trip was lovely, past all the old houses – those in the Henengrafht £100 rent a week. Mainly used by embassies. Saw chain and cutting works, the flea market, the docks and former Jewish quarter – took about 1 1/4 hours. Then went shopping for some badly needed shorts for Andrew – found a shop with Grand Sale in progress, so naturally went in there! Young men offering lollies to the children, general air of carnival. Bought Andrew a super mustard Trevina shirt, and some tough green shorts – he put them on at once! Walked down the Kalverstraat and some very high quality goods in the shops, all clothes are expensive.

Then met David, got some cash, and set off the Rijks Museum which proved a bit of a problem to find, but eventually located it, in a thunderstorm, with 15 minutes to go until closing time! However, we were determined to see ‘The Night Watch’ after all this, so in we went, and they didn’t charge us. Had an admiration session with it, really is worth coming to see, and having been cleaned out recently it looks very fine. Tottered out, had a coffee and quick shop in a suburb and drove home. Had a frozen Chinese meal incidentally. Goreng, noodles and meat, very nice.

It’s a pity Amsterdam has so much traffic – cars are everywhere and parking hellish, and the general effect so noisy and trying that you can’t enjoy the beautiful streets and buildings as you would like. Not much space for car parks in the centre of course, and last year 70 cars fell into the canal, mostly fished out by the Fire Brigade for a small consideration. Not a place for the drunken driver! Loads of long-haired individuals around and masses of mopeds etc. Fair number of tourists too.

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