A long weekend in Amsterdam was the prefect spring break, even if it was a belated company Christmas do.
Having never been there before, I found it a fascinating place and a really good walking city, every other street being a canal. I shall definately be going back. Must also try it out for Christmas markets, as it sounds very good.
In May, I drove over and spent a week in South Holland, touring old towns and the Tulip bulb areas of the Netherlands. September produced a trip to South Devon and October a trip to Budapest. Budapest also turned out to be a great place, in spite of the smoking, and will be somewhere on the list of places requiring a return visit.
Classical Amsterdam, a canal, boats, houses and a bridge at the other end. Not quite the same site at night, when in the Red Light area, they are full of British and Antipodean tourists throwing up in the canals. Not a pretty site.
Well, this is definitely a country of bicycles and this city is mad about them. They seem to rule and have right of way over everything including pedestrians. You really have to watch out to not get run over by them.
Only the Dutch would have multi storey bicycle parks and so many different uses for a bicycle. This is just a selection of bicycle encounters I had.
Cafe de waag, Nieuwmarkt square and one of the little lift bridges that look lovely at night, when they are all lit up. Unfortunately, I found it on my last morning.
Something about France and the low countries, where they are more than happy to have outdoor male toilets. Strange we don't have these! Expect they are very useful after a nights heavy drinking. Having said that, I did see a young woman trying it.
This reminded me of a Monty Python sketch from the 1970's "Condoms through the ages". The one on the left being "The Harry hold you firm".
All the houses seemed to be competing for the most decorative windows above their front doors. A selection below.
Stayed in South Holland for a week and toured around. For those who don't know, North and South Holland are provinces of the Netherlands.
Windmills, the old and the new. Something I had not realised before, how many of the old windmills were thatched and not just the roofs, but also the side walls.
World renowned for it's Tulips displays in the March to May period, we paid a visit to catch the displays. Unfortunately, due to the warm spring we had, the displays were a little past their best and arriving a couple of weeks earlier would have been a better idea. As can be seen from some of the photograph's below, there's an awful lot of green, where the tulip heads have been removed on those past their best.
The whole area is geared towards Tulip production and the hotel was surrounded by Tulip fields, which would have looked brilliant, had they not already been harvested.
Note sure what the flower is on the left, and an old Trabant being used as a flower display on the right.
Finally a picture of some of the bulb fields, although this was taken in North Holland near Alkmaar.
Leiden and Delft↑ Top
Leiden well, it was OK, but didn't see anything of any great interest.
Whereas Delft is well worth a visit. Lovely old medieval town. The town square was worth it, sit out in the sun and eat and drink and then a visit to the Royal Delft pottery. All hand painted. Below are a couple of pictures I tried to take of the "Night Watch", a famous Rembrandt painting. All hand painted blue delft tiles. Lots of them and it must have taken ages to produce.
Den Haag and Gouda↑ Top
Both worth a visit.
The Hague had a mixture of old and new, which did not work for me. The old was spectacular and worth seeing, but I felt there was too much new and it spoiled it. Gouda well worth a visit, although I believe it is best to go the last week in June or through July, on a Thursday. Then they do the cheese weighing ceremonies and I suspect it is worth seeing.
The Ridderzaal, where the State openning of parliament is performed. It's one of the Binnenhof buildings.
They were filming a TV series at the Binnenhof, hence no one in the pictures. It was about a Dutch type Mafia in the 1930's who nearly brought the government down. Or so the pretty young lady from the film crew was telling me. Frankly she could have said anything and I would have believed it.
How many people can you get on one bike, or rather children. This young woman had her hands full, but seemed to be coping. Amazingly, I don't recall seeing a cycle helmet in Holland at all.
Gouda, The cheese museum. The marble carving on the front depicting cheese making is new. The original from the 16th century is inside and badly eroded by pollution.
The South Sands ferry, Salcombe harbour.
Decided to go away in the UK for a change, so took a week off and went down to the South Hams part of Devon and stayed near Kingsbridge. A part of the country I had never been to or explored before. Lovely part of the country and well worth a visit, perhaps some better weather next time. Took a little while to get used to driving a big bloody Volvo around those small narrow country lanes.
Slapton Ley and Sands. Fabulous long beach. This whole area was cleared and people forced to leave their homes in the 2nd world war, as it was commandeered for training for the D Day landings, and looking at it in this picture, you can see why.
Coastal Path↑ Top
Went for a walk along the coastal path between Hope and Salcombe. Weather so so on the day I went, still very high winds at times. They had had 100 MPH winds the day before and horizontal driving rain, so glad I did not go that day. Still struggled to stand up in some very exposed areas.
Took the first picture of a couple standing on the edge of this bit of rock jutting out. Then took the 2nd picture standing on the edge of that rock looking down.
Liked the Salcombe and the Dartmouth areas, really nice, but becoming very exclusive. They say Salcombe is a ghost town now for large parts of the year, as a lot of homes are 2nd holiday homes and only occupied for small parts of the year.
A long weekend in Budapest made a welcome change at the end of October, a very interesting city. Had been to Vienna last year and these two used to be the main cities in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Again, a great city for walking, although the public transport was great and easy to use. It has a wealth of old architecture, but also a strange mix of old, new, communist era and old that is desperately in need of attention. Some of the old buildings were riddle with bullet holes.
A night view of the Parliament building.
Buda is on the left bank of the Danube and is more the old royal side of what was once, 2 cities.
Night shot of the Matthias church, and a night shot from the chain bridge of the church and Fisherman's Bastion.
Buda Castle by night. For some reason I don't seem to have a day shot of it. It's a museum these days.
Unusual buildings on Castle Hill. I believe they are all rebuilt after being destroyed in various conflicts.
Gellert hill with the citadel on the top and of course, the obligatory Russian statue, although the old soviet star has been removed. Some great autumn colour on the hill and in other photos further down.
View from the citadel of the Danube, with the chain bridge in the foreground and the Parliament building beyond it on the right hand side. Yes that is pollution in the distance,too many cars.
The spectacular Parliament building. Day and night views and this was right opposite my hotel on the other side of the Danube.
The Central Market Hall, a spectacular building with views outside and in. Well worth a visit. Sample the food area.
Andrassy Avenue. This is one of the major boulevards leading out of Pest to the north east, ending at Heroes Square. Its a bit like some of the major boulevards you get in Paris and has some spectacular buildings along its length. A long walk as it is about 2 Km's long.
It's very fashionable in parts with flash homes and shops. The Opera house is also on this boulevard as I think is List's house.
Andrassy Avenue, including the House of Terror, a museum covering the Fascist and Communist control of Hungary.
Two buildings next door to each other on Andrassy Avenue, one in great condition and the other in desperate need of some attention.
Heroes Square at the far end of Andrassy Avenue. The avenue was built in the 1870's to easy traffic problems and to provide better access to city park, which is just beyond Heroes Square.
A panorama of the square, taken from 3 hand held shots. It shows the museums on either side of the square. I suspect you have guessed by now, there are museums everywhere in Budapest.
Just beyond Heroes square is the city park. You can find another major Spa here, with pools etc.. the Szechenyi Gyogyfurdo. You can also find the Vajdahunyad Vara, which is sort of a museum, but has famous castles and building from all around Hungary recreated.
I had forgotten that Hungary was carved up after the first world war and various parts went to other countries, because it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and backed the Germans. So I had no idea that Transylvania, Dracula country, had been part of Hungary.
This amazing looking build, believe it or not, is the entrance to the Ice rink on the edge of the city park.
On the Sunday, I took a train trip out into the country side to the village of Szentendre on the banks of the Danube. Its a bit of an artists type colony, but picturesque and has apparently been there for over 1000 years.
Came across this unusual building with a tiled front, but because of the buildings opposite, I could not get back far enough to take a picture, to do it justice.