I woke in a bit of a daze, that weird Air BnB feeling of working out whose house you are staying in and how you got there. The mind cleared and I made my way down to the kitchen to test out their fancy coffee machine. Luckily, it was the same as the one in the office and so I managed to make a decent brew.
Eventually, the rest of the clan were roused and we made the short walk over the road to Bussum train station. It was spotlessly clean and I got the sense that I was sitting in the middle of history that had hardly changed in a hundred years or so. I could easily imagine a World War Two drama being filmed there, it would only need a few vending machines to be shifted and it would be ready to go.
We jumped on the train and 25 minutes later, there we were in Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. The contrast between the clean and twee Bussum and the cauldron of filth that is Amsterdam Centraal Station could not be starker. Having said that, take me to the main train station of any city on the planet and I very much doubt that you will be in the nicest part of town.
Our scheduled activity for the day was a trip to Anne Frank’s house. I thought I knew the story pretty well and I wasn’t really sure how we could fill the two hours that we had allocated for our tour and, in all honesty, I fully expected it to be a bit dull. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It started off with a half hour presentation as we sat in a large room surrounded by images and artifacts from the time and from the region. The brutality of life during the occupation was made perfectly clear and, sat in there with my family around me, it was horrible to think of the choices the Frank family had to make and what lengths people went to to look after their loved ones, as well as the risks that people took to protect others. It was inspirational to say the least.
To then walk around the property that we had just been told all about and see, feel and sense the history around you, you felt as if you were drowning in history. When you came out of the building, walking in modern Amsterdam with its ultra-liberal mindset, there was almost a sense of shock.
Despite it being late July, we had lunch at a burger restaurant called Ellis Amsterdam just off the Singel canal. We were one of their very first customers post Covid lockdown, it was their first day of opening and it felt like they were delighted to see us. It was interesting to hear that Amsterdam has been almost dead for two years and the migrant workers that keep the pubs and bars moving and the tourists entertained were only just coming back to the city.
We spent the rest of the day pottering around the shops trying to find gifts for those at home. My kids (14 and 17) spent the entire day asking if they could get stoned, try mushrooms or get drunk. It went on and on and on and on. We decided we would walk through the red light zone just to see what their reaction would be but we spent an hour or so trying to find it. We must be one of the few people that came to Amsterdam and couldn’t find it! No big miss, I had been before many years ago and it actually made me feel pretty weird.
With all of the travel and walking around, we were starting to flag. We headed back to Centraal Station and back to the cleaner, and more pleasant, Bussum. We decided to jump off Bussum train station straight into the rather lovely looking Grande Selene Italian restaurant. It was rather lovely and we were well looked after and well fed, but it was a tiring day and we didn’t stay out late. We trudged home and had just four of five rounds of Uno before getting to bed and crashing out.
Thank you Amsterdam, it was a blast.