Amsterdam: Jordaan and the West

Jordaan at dusk

Back in November, we spent a week in Amsterdam staying in the Jordaan, a former workers’ quarter which is now given over to shops, cafés and galleries. We spent a lot of time just wandering around it, and the nearby Western Islands, enjoying the quirky sights – we’ve been to Amsterdam six times before so we don’t feel the need to visit all the major museums again. We’re almost locals!

Those sites include quirky house carvings:

Quirky cats and other animals (one is actually real!):

Quirky street art, shop-fronts, museums:

And of course, the buildings and the canals in general, which are, as ever, gorgeous:

The last picture in the gallery above is Het Stuivertje, our favourite restaurant. There are many good places to eat in the Jordaan, but we went back to this one twice. Not only was the food excellent, the staff were absolutely lovely and some of the friendliest we have come across on our travels. Highly recommended if you are ever in the area.

Also wonderful was the landlady, Greet, of Amphora Apartment where we stayed – she and her husband live upstairs. Greet is an artist and the kitchen and bathroom areas were decorated with her mosaics.

We had breakfast in the apartment every day, but only ate dinner there once. We got so wet during the day that we didn’t want to go out again, so stopped off at one of the local supermarkets, Albert Heijn, on our way home. A word of warning – we queued at a “No cash” check-out only to discover that, despite having several different cards between us, none of them was any use. I think the only thing they accept is MasterCard Debit which neither of us has. In the end, the lady behind us in the queue paid for us and we paid her back in cash. The welcoming bottle of wine left by Greet was an added bonus that night!

In the next instalment, we go out east for more slightly-off-the-beaten-track sights. In the meantime, a reminder, or a heads-up if you don’t know, that Wednesday 14th February is a special day. No, not that one – it’s International Book Giving Day. Follow the link for ideas to get books into the hands of as many children as possible, either through personal gifts or by supporting a charity. Much better than a Valentine’s card!

All the same, I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day AND a Happy International Book Giving Day on Wednesday.

Happy International Book Giving Day!

You might already have been wished Happy Valentines Day, but maybe I am the first to wish you a Happy International Book Giving Day! This takes place on 14th February each year and aims to get books into the hands of as many children as possible. If you’d like to help celebrate you could give a book to a friend or family member, leave a book in a waiting room for children to read, or donate a used book, in good condition, to a local library, hospital or shelter. If you don’t have a suitable book to hand, there are many charities such as Book Aid International which would welcome your support.

I’ve also just found out today about a Crowdfunder to set up an international Directory of Independent Publishers. The founders want to make it possible for readers to discover exciting new titles, for writers to discover publishers that align with their interests, and for publishers to reach them.

I’ve enjoyed the gift of reading all my life and I want to pass it on. These two initiatives are a great way to do that.

International Book Giving Day

IBGDWhat is International Book Giving Day? It takes place on 14th February each year and aims to get books into the hands of as many children as possible. Some facts:

  • Most children in developing countries do not own books.
  • In the United Kingdom, one-third of children do not own books.
  • In the United States, two-thirds of children living in poverty do not own books.

To support the day, you could give a book to a friend or family member, leave a book in a waiting room for children to read, or donate a used book, in good condition, to a local library, hospital or shelter. You can download book-plates from the site to include in your gift.

There are also numerous charities that work year round to give books to children. Ones I like are:

In the past I’ve sold an old banger and donated the (meagre) proceeds to Book Aid, collected books for Brownies, and taken part in an international book swap. This year, I’m supporting the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre which is acting as a focal point for sending books to the refugee camp in Dunkirk.

Happy Book Giving!

Journey’s end

In 1993 my mother-in-law bought a new car, a VW Polo, and then died very suddenly a month or so later. It seemed sensible to keep it, given the instant depreciation in value a new car has when it leaves the showroom, so we did. Now, I’m not interested in cars and I don’t like driving much – a car is just a box to get me from A to B with as little trouble as possible. However, I have taken a sort of inverse pride in this old Polo which has kept going for 19 years, has only broken down on me once and hardly ever needed anything major done to pass its MOT. For most of its life it has been a second car, so it also has the incredibly low mileage for its age of 71000. Despite all that, today I waved it off, with a tear in my eye, to the car breakers. My Dad has recently given up driving and I have taken over his car, which has 4 doors and is therefore easier to get elderly passengers in and out of, and the Polo is now surplus to requirements.

My original plan was to use a company which collected old cars for scrap and donated the proceeds to the charity of your choice. Because it was close to International Book Giving Day, I selected Book Aid International. However, the pick up arrangements proved problematic, and in the end I used a local firm and donated the proceeds (such as they were) to the charity direct. Here’s the poor old car just before it went – at least, being in full working order, it was driven away and didn’t have to suffer the final indignity of being towed.

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I have to say well done Volkswagen. They certainly knew what they were doing when they made this one.