Ghost rider

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We had several close encounters with these fearsome individuals while in Amsterdam.  I’m told that the rules of the road apply to cyclists just as much as any other road user in Holland, it’s just that in Amsterdam many of them choose to ignore the rules.  We saw countless examples of them cycling the wrong way along one-way streets and on the pavements (that’s sidewalks for any US readers).  Red lights were no obstacle to most of them and bike lights at night were for sissies only.

We were crossing the road once when a cyclist ploughed into the man in front of us.  After he picked himself up he pointed to the green walk sign but the bike rider just jumped back on his bike and rode off, weaving through the traffic crossing the junction in front of him.  The startled pedestrian turned to me with the most comical of expressions as if he couldn’t believe that the collision had really happened.  I just shrugged; what can you do?

Tame herons of Vondelpark

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A comment by Rachel (http://www.hithernyonder.com/) about the herons that you encounter while walking through Vondelpark in Amsterdam prompted me to look again at my photos.  These were very obliging birds, so habituated to humans that they allowed me to approach much closer than is normal with wild herons.  What a photo opportunity if I’d taken a telephoto lens with me.  Unfortunately I hadn’t so a heavily cropped image was the best that I could do.  But that’s not a problem; sometimes I have to remind myself to forget my camera and just enjoy the moment.

Vondelpark

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On our last day in Amsterdam, Julie went to visit the Rembrandt Museum and I walked around the nearby Vondelpark.  I must admit, as parks go it was a pleasant couple of hours but I quickly found myself wishing I was home.  I’m just not a city person and a few days is all I can manage in one go.  Even a park like this with plenty of trees and water just feels wrong to me; too “manicured”.  It’s no coincidence that most of the photos I took were of the less tidy parts, in particular the many old and gnarled willow trees that had fallen over into the ponds.  Real nature is rarely tidy.

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Amsterdam in the snow

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Amsterdam is a great city to look around; compact and interesting.  However we haven’t seen it at it’s best so far.  Cold, wet and very windy are not the weather conditions most suited to sight-seeing (or photography).  And to make matters worse I’ve come down with a bad cold and have had to put up with sneezing, watering wyes and a head feeling like it’s full of cotton wool.

But there’s still a few days left and last night we had a dusting of snow and woke up this morning to calmer conditions with blue skies.  All I need now is for my cold to improve.

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Off to Amsterdam

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Every winter for over a decade I have met up with a group of friends (former work colleagues) in Amsterdam for a good natter over a few beers for a couple of days.  We go in January or February, in part because of tradition but mostly because everything costs less then, with cheap flights and discounts on hotel accommodation.  It’s one of the advantages of travelling outside the peak season.

Julie was never able to come along before because she was a school teacher and the trip was in term time.  But now that she is a retired school teacher, we can travel whenever we want.  Brilliant, no more holidays in July and August when everything costs twice as much and the weather is always far too hot for me.  So both of us are going this year and to celebrate we’ve extended our stay to five days.  And I’m taking my camera gear too.  Roll on tomorrow morning.