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The Smiffs On Tour 2014

On 7th July we are off to A Beer Odyssey being held in Brussels from 27th to 29th July.
We begin our trip in Amsterdam followed by 4 nights in Prague 2 in Brugge, Ghent and Ieper before returning to Brussels on 23rd July.

Diary Entries

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Before I get started about this section of our jaunt, I must not omit the following about Amsterdam;

Besides being filled with exceptional architecture, history, art and a friendly atmosphere, I was amazed at the passing parade of tall, beautiful young Dutch people - both women and men. Absolutely stunning!! (And who said "smoking stunts your growth??")

Despite the early start we managed to get to our hotel and have a siesta before getting ready to catch a taxi to take us to the Theatre of the Estates to pick up our tickets for the "Mozartissimo" Concert there.

We had been informed by email to be here half an hour before the start of the concert @ 5pm (1700) and had paid an additional cost for this. So dressed to the nines we arrived at the theatre to be informed that the concert started @ 8pm (2000). Luckily I had remembered to bring the email and my phone and called the emergency number only to have the courier who was delivering the tickets walk towards me as I spoke.

Of course he was wildly apologetic but this hardly placated Creaky who was in high heels and Prague's streets are entirely cobbled stone in irregular stones. Only solution was to find a quiet spot to wait for the performance.

As Creaky worked her way through a crossword and a white wine, I headed off to find the Tourist Info Bureau for some info about doings and viewings in Prague. After passing through a narrow street (which housed a Museum of Sex Machines) - following the direction I had received - I came out into the Old Town Square. I was totally gobsmacked. I didn't know where to look first as I walked towards the Czech Tourism Office across the other side of the square. As it was now 5.05pm it was closed of course!!

The concert was short but sweet. But just being in the theatre where Mozart conducted a couple of his operas and where Don Giovanni premiered made up for the short 1 hour program.

Mozartissimo consisted of a 3 piece woodwind ensemble (oboe, clarinet and bassoon) and a soprano and baritone - all in period dress. it was a most enjoyable concert.

After the concert we found a delightful Czech restaurant and had garlic soup and pork knees and boiled potatoes for our dinner.
A short walk via the Metro station to buy a 24 hour public transport pass each and we came upon Wenceslas Sqaure to see a brilliant full moon above the National Gallary at the top of the Square. Absolutely stunning.

After a short 3-5 minute tram ride we were back at the Hotel Royal Standard ready to tackle tomorrow.

Friday, 11 July 2014

We're off again - up the end of the street to catch the #2 or #5 to Dam.

But wait!! Last night (around midnight) we had one hell of a thunderstorm and they can't get to Dam on #2 because the lines are down. Luckily #5 which normally goes the same route as #2 has been diverted to come into the back of Dam - right smack bang in the centre of Dam on Ronkin.

Call it my unclean mind (if you like) but the "plinth/column/erection" in Dam Square seemed cominal/ironic as it at the rear of the entrance to Amsterdam's Red Light District and at the front of the Royal Palace - a sort of "up yours and his and hers and yours" statement.

From there we visited the Wester Kerk almost next door Anne Frank's house; the Nieuwe Kerk and the Oude Kerk (all accessible with our I Amsterdam Pass). We did venture into the Royal Palace but as they wanted real Euro, we decided we weren't going to contribute to the Dutch Royal coffers and did a bit of a trip around the Red light District before heading off to the Hermitage Museum for the Silk Road exhibition; then to a pleasant bar for a thirst quencher; and then to a museum voted the best in the Netherlands - the Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum).

We left somewhat depressed after this (by the way, it is a very impressive museum on its depiction of its topic) and returned via Rembrantplein, where we enjoyed the ambience but didn't linger because the bloody smokers spoilt it for us.

Returning to Dam we walked to Spui and found a pleasant smoke free outside bar to have a drink and listen to a mobile nickelodeon (I think? not sure of machine or spelling???)

No siesta today - back to The Poet to finalise our account; get the print out of our boarding passes to Prague and have confirmed our Airport Shuttle for 6.30am tomorrow.

As I did want to return to the sights close to Dam, and Creaky argued against it - she owes me one! So it's good night from me and good night from HER!!!!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Another day - another day of using the fantastic tram system and walking AND cruising!

Up early, breakfasted and fourth in line at the Van Gogh Museum (again, just around the corner from The Poet) ready for its 9am opening. Wonderful museum!

After a tram ride to Centraal Stn we walked to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum (The National Maritime Museum) which was also enjoyable.
We wandered throught the various decks of a restorded Dutch East India Company ship - Amsterdam - which is superbly set up to give you and idea of being a crew member. This ship and the whole exhibition was expertly set up for adults AND kids! The "slavery" exhibition was an eye-opener and the Whaling exhibition was fun too - as well as informative.Tired from the confines of the Amsterdam and a steam ice-breaker AND the other joys of this museum we caught a tram back to Maxeuweplien for a quick bite before strolling down to the banks of the Singlegracht Canal to enjoy an hour + cruising the canal system of Amsterdam - accompanied by a great audio commentary.

Back to The Poet for a brief siesta before heading off to what turned out to be the worst Italian meal we've ever had! A saving grace was we only had to pay for one meal and the Suavo Classico was the saving grace!

Tomorrow is our last day and after the canal cruise there are a couple of more places on our I Amsterdam Card we've gotta get to.

Looks like a "Kerk" morning awaits us!!!

Wednesday, 09 July 2014

Location: Netherlands

We awoke refreshed and were greeted, unfortunately, by another cold and wet windy day. It was bloody warmer in Newcastle and it's WINTER there!!!
Anyway after a fulfilling continental breakfast at The Poet, we headed up our street, hung a right and were at the Rijks Museum.
This glorious building - outside and inside holds the treasures of Dutch history and art and some from their former "colonies."
As we strolled throught the Nacht Watch display leading into the Gallery of Honour featuring Vemeer, Rembrandt, Steen and Hals (and I think some of Van Gogh) we were treated to a bonus. It's Mercedes Fashion Week, so a bevy of tall, thin, young Dutch females paraded through the crowd, creating a marked contrast to the art in the building and the building itself. Vemeer's "Milkmaid" at least looked well-fed!! And probably got more attention than the skinny Dutch giants.

After a couple of hours in the Rijks Museum we decided to wander through the museumplien and drizzle to the Van Gogh Museum. YIKES!! the queue was gigantic! Horde of people under umbrellas stretched along the footpath - so we go to Plan B and jump on a tram to Centraal Station to the Tourist Info.
The tram trip itself was a good orientation for getting the gist of how this lovely city is laid out.
We came away with an I Amsterdam 2 Day Pass (see pic to understand the I Amsterdam logo) and set off back to the Centraal Station to cash in some remaining AUD at the Travelex desk.
The cashiers were wearing orange Ts with "Wisselen!" (Change in Dutch) across the front. This word was related to how the Dutch "changed" their keeper who saved them in the Round of 16 - getting them into the semi. Nearly everyone was wearing some orange clothing in preparation for tonight's World Cup semi.
I noticed you had to change 400+ euros to get one free.
Anyway I bullshitted about how our Socceroos scared the hell out of them and ended up with a shirt even though I only changed $AUD120. She said "that's for the 3 point we got for beating your team."
We went back to The Poet and had a siesta; headed out to Leidseplein to join the masses and find a bar to watch the soccer.
Just let me say it was a memorable night/early morning.

Tuesday, 08 July 2014

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Well, what a bloody marathon!!
Arrived in Amsterdam at 1.15pm, 26 hours after leaving Sydney. We had a one hour stop over in Bangkok and 3 hours in Dubai.
What a shitty day!! Cold wind and rain welcomed s to Amsterdam's summer!!!
Took an hotel shuttle bus to our hotel, The Poet, which is in the heart of the museum & fashion precinct of Amsterdam.
After checking in and finding out we were on the 4th floor (there is a lift!!!) we took a short stroll to find the Tourist Info centre in Leidseplein (Leidse Square) to find that he Tourist Info Centre aint there anymore but met a helpful cal in the late-tickets place who gave us a map and some other ueful info (the nearest tourist info centre is at Centraal Station.
Utterly buggered by now we walked out and saw Dan Murphy's Pub so we got a beer and a wine and struck up a conversation with another local who gave us the good oil about getting around Amsterdam cheaply.
After our informsative imbibing session we wallked to the newsagency around the corner and purchased a ov-chipkaart to use on the tram system.
Then it was back to The Poet for a beer and a chat with the hotel staff about the area before heading upstairs to be safely ensconced in our bed by 7.30pm.
Tomorrow we begin to explore the Museumplein (Museum Square)

Sunday, 06 July 2014

Location: Mayfield, Australia

G'day,

Just one more day until we embark on our latest trip OS.
Tomorrow at 6.45pm we depart for Amsterdam and will arrive there at 1.30pm on Tuesday.

I hope to post a daily record of our "doings and viewings" so if you want to follow us, just check for updates.

Cheers and beers,
Brian & Chre


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