Amsterdam by water

I forgot to add the text to my Amsterdam post.  As I have said before our internet connection is highly variable so when the signal is strong I try and get the pictures online.  This time got them online and did not get it all together.

Amsterdam is another city that needs lots of time to explore.  A day is just not enough.  Instead of taking a bus tour we elected to get a hop on hop off “boat” for the day.  It was a perfect way to see the city by travelling up and down the miles of canals that parallel the roads and start from the very busy harbour.

Beautiful homes, churches and even offices line the various canals and every residence has a docking permit for a boat on the canal.  There are no empty canal spots left and those individuals that choose to live on a boat have seen the value of their permits rise to very high amounts.

The highlight of our stop here was a private tour of the Rijksmuseum in the evening.  Our departure was delayed until after midnight to enable all the guests to get to the museum, have a wonderful private reception and enjoy the gallery without hordes of visitors that we saw lining up during the day when we passed.  We stood in awe of Rembrandt’s famous painting The Night Watch.  Not only were we up close and personal we were surprised that photographs were permitted.   Van Gogh’s paintings were also on display including his famous self portrait.  Obviously it was a great evening and all part of the Grand World Voyage as it is called.

Today we are in the North Sea with the temperature falling.  Tomorrow morning we begin our week of touring the Scandinavian countries and then comes Ireland and Scotland.  I am running out of memory on my camera discs and computer storage!

Easier to get hit by a bicycle than a car in Amsterdam

The variety of boats travelling the canal and the distinctive building fronts make for a truly remarkable city.

Susan stands in front of the famous Rembrandt piece the Night Watch.

There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people and if your bike is stolen, get it back tomorrow at the flea sale.

The spires of churches and other historical buildings dot the landscape.

The Rijksmuseum is famous for many famous pieces of art from the 17th century.

The locks are used three times a week to flush the city canals with fresh water while holding the salt water out in the North Sea.

The War Memorials in France and Belgium

The Menin Gate in the town of Ypres has the names of 54,000 soldiers who died in the battle but their remains have not been found. Every day, the Last Post signals this tragic event while flower petals are thrown down through holes in the monument.

After Portugal, it was on to the port cities of Cherbourg in France and Zeebrugge in Belgium to see and try to experience what the soldiers in both World War I and World War II faced and how they died in those epic battles.

In France we visited the beaches of Normandy.  This year marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the invasions by the allied troops on Utah Beach, Omaha Beach and Juno Beach during the Second World War.  As part of the planning, the Americans had Utah and Omaha as their invasion point and the Canadians were assigned to Juno.  Sword and Gold beaches were assigned to the United Kingdom.  D-Day was June 6, 1944 and will never be forgotten!  We came away in awe both from the number of casualties and the complexity those troops faced in pushing back the Germans. As well as walking those beaches, we had the privilege of visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial located immediately behind Omaha Beach.

The next day we were in the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium where a bus transported us to the town of Ypres (pronounced e-per), Flanders Fields and the Commonwealth Cemetery.  Those stops took us to see the battlefieds of World War I around Ypres and gave us the opportunity to see and hear of  the life-saving work of Dr. John McRae (from Guelph) and where he wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.  We were deeply moved and astounded at the number of casualties and the total futility of such conflicts. We took hundreds of pictures and they speak for themselves.  Both locations (Normandy Beaches and Ypres) are highly recommended to anyone interested in world history. To think that D-Day was 75 years ago and the First World War now more than 100 years in the past is a reminder of the phrase, “Lest We Forget”.

To get ashore massive floating docks were assembled to form a road from out in the ocean to the shore.

The remains of the portable roads out to sea can still be seen. Fifteen derelict ships were also sunk to form a breakwater.

The Normandy American Cemetery sits atop Omaha Beach.

Instead of a cross, Jewish soldiers have a Star of David on their grave.

The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery is located just outside of Ypres.

This is the Advanced Dressing Station where wounded soldiers were triaged by Dr. John McRae and where he wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields”.

The plaque in honour of Dr. John McRae is located in the Essex Farm Cemetery next to the Advanced Dressing Station and within site of Ypres.