Noordhollandsch Kanaal, Amsterdam

It’s the middle of February, and according to both the astronomical and meteorological reckonings we’re still in the ‘middle’ of winter as well.

Except… thus far this has been an exceptionally mild winter.  Sure, it’s been cold and wet at times, but in Amsterdam we have seen hardly any snow and certainly no ice on the canals.

We’ve had about a week’s worth of grey-sky weather, though. So when I noticed that today the sun was shining in almost spring-like abandon, I dropped my work in favor of spending some time outside.

Inevitably I first headed for Al Ponte, our favorite coffee shop.  I took the photo above from the ferry that brought me there.

Ferries, Amsterdam

There are some hobbyist activists who want the city of Amsterdam to built a bridge between the old town and Amsterdam-North, but few died-in-the-wool Amsterdammers think it is necessary or even desirable. Though not without problems, the free ferries still suffice — and many of us would miss them if they were replaced by someone’s pet-project bridge.

Anyway, the boats in the photo are moored in the outport of the NoordHollandsch kanaal.

This canal — that in somewhat haphazard fashion runs all to the way to the North Sea at Den Helder in the top of the province of North Holland — was dug at the start of the 19th century, when Amsterdam had become increasingly difficult to reach by boats traveling across the South Sea.

Shallow waters close to the city became impossible to traverse, which made it necessary to transship goods to smaller boats — a time-consuming and expensive process.

Noordhollandsch Kanaal

When the 80-kilometer canal was finished, in 1824, it was the widest and deepest canal in the world.  But the canal was too narrow and winding for ships to be able to sail, to they were pulled along by horses instead.

The sluice you see in the photo is the Willem I sluis, named after the King who commissioned the digging of the canal.

At times instead of taking the ferry to Al Ponte, Jan and I walk across this sluice. Just east of the sluice is another one, the Willem III sluice, which was constructed in 1861 to accommodate additional traffic.  It lost its function when the IJtunnel was built (in 1968).

As always,  I truly enjoy seeing Amsterdam’s history in everyday locations.

Oh, the green-sided three-master is a square rigged sailship built in 17th century style, complete with figurehead and canons.  It functions as a hostel.

Anton Hein

Here comes the sun

We’re having a rather mild January here in Amsterdam. Cold, but mild. As in, temperatures a few degrees above freezing — though the windchill factor makes it feel right at, or just below, 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit.

Still, since July 2013 we’ve been having a streak of above-normal temperatures, with the exception of last August, which was very wet and fall-like indeed. Continue reading Here comes the sun

Greenpeace Ships in Amsterdam

Janet and I are fortunate is that we live in a car-free park in Amsterdam. Though we live in a suburb close to gorgeous rural Amsterdam, we’re not far away from downtown.

To get there we can take a bus to Central Station, using the IJ tunnel. Or we take a bus (a bike-ride or a walk) to nearby NDSM — a former shipyard — and cross the IJ river by ferry to the station. Continue reading Greenpeace Ships in Amsterdam

We survived Benidorm

Those who know us will be flabbergasted — shocked, even — to learn that Janet and I just spent a week in Benidorm.

Benidorm is a Costa Blanca city that went from the proverbial ‘picturesque small Spanish village’ in the middle of last century to one of today’s worst examples of the excesses of mass tourism.

After the fishing industry went into decline in the early 1950s, the town council thought it would be a good idea to target the emerging tourist trade.
Continue reading We survived Benidorm

Tres Hombres — Chocolate, Coffee, Rum and more

Last week Janet and I spent some time on board of the Tres Hombres, a beautiful brigantine that happens to be “the one and only freighter carrying cargo across the Atlantic without an engine.”

Propelled only be wind power, it leaves no footprint whatsoever as it travels between Western Europe and the Caribbean.
Continue reading Tres Hombres — Chocolate, Coffee, Rum and more

A spot of sun in Amsterdam

It’s been a bitterly cold March in Amsterdam this year — with more days of frost than we had in January. What a contrast with last year, when birds, bees, flowers and trees all got an early start.

In looking for some weather illustrations for one of my websites, I saw this photograph — which I took in May 2008. It’s one of those typical downtown Amsterdam scenes: two guys enjoying the sun at an intersection where one of the streets is car-free. Continue reading A spot of sun in Amsterdam


It’s almost 2 pm, and I’m quite pleased with the way this day is shaping up.

Thus far I have written two blog articles for different websites. I have update the front page of a news site. I sorted through the overnight catch of email — deleted some 50 of them, answered 36, and filed away for later handing a further 30 or so.

I have also written a few lines for an e-book project, made some notes on an overdue book review I hope to finish this week, and updated three websites to the latest WordPress version.

Oh, and I’ve done a load of laundry, and a few minutes ago I started the bread machine.

Laundry? Baking?
Continue reading Deadlines

Brouwersgracht 56 – 46, Amsterdam


The city of Amsterdam includes thousands of 16th, 17th and 18th century buildings, more than 7500 of which are considered National Heritage Sites.

Shown above are six of those monuments, in this case a row of houses along Brouwersgracht (literally Brewers’ canal — a reference to the many breweries that used to be located here).

Many of the monuments along this canal were built during the 17th, 18th and 19th century.

This row of houses, at Brouwersgracht 56 – 46 (left to right), all were built in different years during the 18th century.

You’ll note that neck gables were popular at the time.

More information…