Amsterdam as a Tourist

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.  This is partly due to because I’ve not really been anywhere and partly because I’ve been uninspired to write or take photographs. However, back in August, I visited Amsterdam for a weekend break and thought I would write a brief post about what I got up to whilst I was there. 

This was my second visit to Amsterdam, my first visit was back in the winter of 2013. This time, I only took my point and click camera, not my DSLR due to only taking hand luggage on the flight.  The weather all weekend was beautiful and it was wonderful just to mosey around the city and enjoy the atmosphere.

Getting there and Getting Around

We flew from Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) and paid about £75 each for return flights with Flybe. This price included hand luggage only, to check in a bag will cost you extra, in fact, it costs almost as much as the flight itself (£25 each way). As we were only going for a few days, we managed just fine with hand luggage. The only downside to this was that I could not take my large camera as you only get 10kg. Bear in mind at the airport they were checking some bags (not all) to make sure they weren’t too large or heavy. We saw at least two people that had to check their bags in as they were over the size or weight limit. Remember, cheap airlines will try and get as much money as possible out of you so be sure to measure and weigh your bag before you leave home. Doncaster airport does have parking, however, it was going to cost us £75 to leave our car for 3 days, OUCH! So we took the bus from Sheffield, which was £7 one way and got my partner to collect us when we returned home. The flight was only about 45 minutes long and it was quite comfortable as flights go. You have to pay for everything on the flight so take your own water and snacks on board should you need them. When we got to Amsterdam, we took the train into the center of the city, one way, it cost about € 9.00. We got off the train at Amsterdam Centraal and took the bus to our hotel. To get around, we purchased the Unlimited GVB Day/Multi-Day Ticket, 96 hours (4 days) which cost €24.50. We also used this ticket to get back to the airport at the end of our trip.

One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

Accommodation

We stayed at the WestCord Art Hotel.  The hotel was basic, and did not come with breakfast.  I booked through eBookers and paid £340.86 for a twin room for 3 nights. Breakfast is available to purchase for EUR 16.5-20.5 for adults and EUR 8.25-10.25 for children.  The location of the hotel is a short bus ride from the city center, we did walk it a few times but it was a good 3-4km each way. If I visited Amsterdam again, I would stay closer to the heart of the city, just to be more in the hustle and bustle of things. If you like to be in a quieter location, then this hotel is perfect.

Rooms were clean and basic and did have a Nespresso machine and a fridge.  I’m not a fan of Nespresso so I took a walk each morning to get coffee from elsewhere.  There weren’t many local places, so I walked about 1.5 miles to Haarlemmerdijk where there were plenty of different options for nice coffee.

One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

Things to do

Like most tourists, the Red Light District was something I wanted to see, but whilst walking down the streets and alleyways, looking at all the women in the windows, I felt a sense of guilt for looking at women as commodities.  Some of the women looked incredibly young and were very beautiful and it made me wonder why they choose to work in such an industry.  As soon as I returned home I purchased a book by Sarah Forsyth called Slave Girl.  The book is about an English girl that was unknowingly trafficked into working as a prostitute in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.  After reading the book (although I’m not overly convinced the story is 100% true, parts of the story don’t add up or make much sense), my opinion is that, in a progressive society, where we as women are fighting for equal rights, women in windows for the pleasure of men seems a little backwards.  Perhaps most are willingly there and I understand they are only trying to make a living like the rest of us, but my personal opinion is that something needs to change.

The next thing I did in Amsterdam was to visit Ann Frank’s House.  I’ve wanted to do this for a while, most people are familiar with the story of the Frank Family, but visiting the actual apartment really brings it home, especially as there are still personal touches in the house left by the family. For example, there are pictures of movie stars that Anne’s sister put up as she wanted to be an actress.  Photography is not allowed in the house but we booked the tour with the introduction beforehand.  A guide talks you through the story, which lasts about 30 minutes. Here you can take pictures of some of the artifacts and the pictures that are on the walls.  To visit Anne Frank’s House you have to book tickets in advance online.  Still expect to queue to get into the house, but it’s well worth it.

The front of the house where the Frank family hid , photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
The Frank timeline can be seen if you book the introductory program , photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

The next place that I visited was the Jewish Historical Museum. Entry is €17 for Adults and €8.50 for students.  The ticket covers five locations: the Jewish Historical Museum, the JHM Children’s Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, the Hollandsche Schouwburg, and the National Holocaust Museum.  The only other place on that list that I went to was the National Holocaust Museum.  This museum, I think is relatively new and they are just developing it.  There isn’t a great deal to see at the moment, but it’s worth a look as it’s free once you have your ticket. 

National Holocaust Museum
National Holocaust Museum

The next museum I visited was Rijksmuseum.  Adult entry is €20 and they do not offer a student discount.  The museum was very busy and there is a lot to see, but I personally was not overly impressed by it. After reading rave reviews online, I thought it was a little disappointing. Perhaps I unfairly comparing it to the British Museum, which is wonderful and free.

The last two museums that I visited were the Sex Museum and the Erotic Museum.  My advice would be to just visit the Sex Museum (Sexmuseum de Venustempel), I thought the Erotic Museum was rubbish in comparison and it was more expensive at €7 with the Sex Museum only being €5. 

Sexmuseum de Venustempel, photograph taken with iPhone

Food and Drink

Although I don’t smoke, I thought Barneys Uptown was really nice if you do want to smoke and drink (usually you can only do one or the other). They also serve food, the menu is not huge, but the food was nice and reasonably priced. For breakfast, the Breakfast Club was my favourite place.  I think they have a few locations in the city. For dinner, we ate at an Italian restaurant called Van Speyk, the food was mediocre, service under par and prices were expensive.  This isn’t somewhere I would recommend, nor return to. It felt like one of those places that simply was there to rip off tourists. We also ate at a placed called Cafe Broer “Brunch, Dinner & Drinks”, which I thought was really nice. Service was friendly, the menu wasn’t massive but the food was really good and very reasonably priced. It also felt like it was more of a local place than one geared towards tourists.

Heertje Friets, photograph taken with iPhone

Overall, Amsterdam is a really nice city to visit, I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. I had read the odd article online that said Amsterdam is corrupt and the police are on the payroll of the underworld, but I don’t know how true this is, I certainly did not feel like I was in a corrupt city. I felt much safer walking around Amsterdam than I do in London. I definitely want to return with my DSLR, maybe next summer, but my next trip is to New York in November.

Happy exploring!

One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
One of the many canals, photograph taken with Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
Sculptures at Westerpark, photograph taken with iPhone

The Abandoned Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel and Baker, California, USA.

Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel opened in 1957 and closed in 2009. There is not a great deal of information about the motel, but it is currently for sale at a price of $390,000. I first saw Arne’s on a YouTube video and so when we were driving through Baker, I had to stop off for a look. 

The town of Baker was named after Richard C. Baker, president of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad.

Baker has some other cool places to stop including; The Mad Greek Cafe, The World’s Tallest Thermometer and Alien Fresh Jerky.

The World’s Tallest Thermometer

The thermometer is 134 feet tall in honour of a 134 degree Fahrenheit (56.67 degrees Celsius),recorded in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913. The thermometer was built by the Young Electric Sign Company of Salt Lake City, Utah in 1991 for a man named, Willis Herron, a local businessman who spent $750,000 to build the thermometer next to his Bun Boy restaurant (now closed).

Alien Fresh Jerky

Luis Ramallo opened his first Jerky shop in Crystal Springs, Nevada, in the year 2000. In 2002, he moved the store to Baker, CA.

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada, USA.

On the way to Beatty, Nevada sits the once booming town of Rhyolite.  Today, there is nothing much left of Rhyolite apart from a few ruins, the bottle house and the old station.  Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite ghost towns.  I first visited Rhyolite back in 2016, and then returned in 2017. Unfortunately, in the space of a year, I noticed more graffiti and the old truck near the bottle house had gone. 

In 1904, Frank ‘Shorty’ Harris and Eddie Cross discovered gold in the nearby Bullfrog Hills.  By 1908, it is said that Rhyolite had a population of around eight to twelve thousand people. Although the mine produced more than $1 million in bullion in its first three years, by 1910, it is estimated that the population fell to just under seven hundred people.  The last Rhyolite resident passed away in 1924.  Many of Rhyolite’s buildings were relocated to the nearby town of Beatty.  The Miner’s Union Hall in Rhyolite became the Old Town Hall and many other buildings were used to construct a school. 

Rhyolite gets a mention in Ian Flemming’s 1956 novel, Diamonds Are Forever.  

Spectreville is a fictional place but there is a Specter Range near Amargosa Valley in Nevada.

The Bottle House (known as Tom Kelly’s Bottle House) was restored by Paramount pictures in January of 1925 for the filming of a silent movie, The Air Mail. For some reason, and I have no idea why, I did not take a picture of the house.

The movie, The Island (2005) starring Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor was partially filmed in Rhyolite as was Six-String Samurai in 1998.

Ruins of the School Building
H.D. and L.D. Porter Store
H.D. and L.D. Porter Store
The Train Depot (privately owned)
Ruins of the John S. Cook and Company Bank Building 
The Train Depot (privately owned)
Ruins of the John S. Cook and Company Bank Building 

Useful Information:

Rhyolite is a mixture of private and federal land.

Entry is free and the ghost town is open 24/7

Remember, be respectful and take nothing but pictures.

Happy exploring!

Goldwell Open Air Museum, Nevada, USA.

Next to the ghost town of Rhyolite sits the Goldwell Open Air Museum.  The museum began in 1984 when Belgian artist, Charles Albert Szukalski installed ‘The Last Supper’.  I must admit, I don’t know much about art and sculptures. However, the sculptures are said to be designed within the context of the desert landscape that it is situated in. The sculpture of the miner and penguin is a tribute to Frank “Shorty” Harris. Harris, along with his partner, Ernest Cross founded Rhyolite along with many other mining towns around the Death Valley area.

Fred Bervoets, Tribute to Shorty Harris.
Charles Albert Szukalski, Self Portrait.
Charles Albert Szukalski, Self Portrait.
Charles Albert Szukalski, The Last Supper, 1984.
Dr. Hugo Heyrman, “Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada” 1992.
Sofie Siegmann, Sit Here!
Charles Albert Szukalski, Ghost Rider, 1984.

The museum is open 24/7.

Happy exploring!

Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, USA.

1705 Mariposa St, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA
https://www.anchorbrewing.com/

I have to admit, I’m not a beer or ale fan and going to Anchor was my boyfriend’s choice.  However, I really enjoyed it.  We were in a small group of about 10 people.  You get to walk around the brewery, see the whole brewing process and learn about how Anchor Steam is made, as well as learn about the history of the company.

The Anchor Art Deco Building.

The Anchor Brewing Company dates back to the 1890s and was the creation of German brewer, Gottlieb Brekle.  In 1965, to save it from closure, Frederick Louis Maytag III purchased the company.  In 1979, Anchor moved to its current location on Mariposa Street.  The building was once a coffee roaster and is a wonderful example of Art Deco architecture.  

Our tour guide was super enthusiastic and from seeing the staff in the factory, it looks like a great place to work.  The tour was $25 but I would say you get that in beer if you want it.  As I’m not a huge beer fan, I only had a taste, but you get to sample a lot of their different beers. The tour talks about their past, where they are now and their vision for the future. As well as how they are trying to keep the history and their methods of brewing alive.  Anchor Brewing is community minded and supports local initiatives as well as California State Parks from the sale of their California Lager.

Grist Mill. This was used until Anchor moved their new location in 1979. The date is unknown, but according to the Anchor website, the design dates it to the late 1800s.
2018 Christmas Beer

Useful Information:

  • Guided public tours every day
  • Approx. 1.5 hours long
  • Tours are $25 per person
  • Beer tasting included
  • Booking is advised
  • Don’t forget your ID

Stovepipe Wells & Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, California, USA.

I was going to do one long post about my time in Death Valley but I feel that it will go on and on and so, I decided to split it up.

I first visited Death Valley in 2016 and instantly fell in love.  On my first visit, I stayed at the Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel.  To be honest, for the price, I thought that the hotel was awful.  I paid about £170 for one night, room only for two people.  The room was dark and had loads of small fruit flies in it.  The air conditioning was noisy and it smelt like the drains needed cleaning.  The hotel is rated a three-star, I would probably give it one or two and the actual rooms looked nothing like the pictures on their website.  The area around the hotel is cool though, there are a few old vehicles and things to have a look at and at night, it was beautifully quiet. There is a gas station and a general store, I would advise to full up before entering Death Valley though as gas prices were expensive.

Stovepipe Wells Gas Station and General Store
Old cart wheel
Rusty old tractor
Old cart

Stovepipe Wells was the first Tourist town in Death Valley.  In 1926, Bob Eichbaum opened Stovepipe Wells Hotel and operated a toll road.  From looking online, Xanterra Parks & Resorts® used to manage the hotel but don’t anymore.  They do manage the two hotels at Furnace Creek. 

Just down the road from Stovepipe Wells, is Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.  The dunes are easily located, right off Highway 190.  There is a car park, with plenty of spaces.   You are free to walk on the dunes and there are some fabulous photograph opportunities, with lots of dead trees and branches lying around that make great props.

 I have not yet had the chance, but I’ve read that it’s beautiful at sunrise and sunset. Remember, it is the desert so take plenty of water.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Zzyzx, San Bernardino County, California, USA.

Formerly Soda Springs

I find myself dawn to old places that have fascinating back stories and Zzyzx is no exception. 

Located off Highway 15 in California, Zzyzx is home to the California State University Desert Studies Centre.  However, this has not always been the case.  It was once home to a health spa called Soda Springs.  The spa owner, Curtis Howe Springer was born in 1896 in Birmingham, Alabama.  He worked as an insurance salesman and then a radio evangelist, calling himself “the last of the old-time medicine men.” However, it seems that Springer had no formal medical training.  After making some money through preaching and selling homemade homeopathic remedies, Springer used the money to file a mining claim in the Mojave Desert, which he called the area, Zzyzx.

Springer built a hotel and health spa on his desert land, heating the water with pumps and claiming that the site offered miracle cures.  Soda Springs ran for almost 30 years with people believing they were receiving natural medical treatments.  In 1969,  several customers made complaints and the American Medical Association subsequently investigated Springer, labelling him the “King of the Quacks.”   He was convicted in 1974 of fraud for which he served prison time.  Springer died in 1985 at the age of 88 in Las Vegas.

Only a few of the old buildings remain today but nevertheless, they are a reminder of the obscure story of Curtis Howe Springer and how one man managed to con people for the majority of his life.

Tips for visiting.

We just stopped by on route to Los Angeles. The place was quiet with maybe one more person having a look around. I assume you can walk around at your leisure as we did, but if you want to make sure before visiting, contact the university. http://nsm.fullerton.edu/dsc/desert-studies-center

Happy exploring.