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Saturday
Jan232010

Dutch Dash, 12th-14th January 2010.

I like Amsterdam. I first went there when I was continental truck driving in the early ‘70’s. Then, when I changed professions, Amsterdam was the venue for my first international sales conference. It also is very accessible from where I live because there is a daily ferry service from Hull to Europort. Rather, there is a nightly ferry service, because the journey is made overnight, with either the Pride of Hull, or the Pride of Rotterdam making the journey in either direction.

Hotel Krasnapolski, Dam Square, site of my first overseas sales conference, 1975

The crossing is fairly expensive during the summer holiday season, but there are some very cheap deals during the winter. Your foot passenger ticket buys you a cabin for the crossing – both ways plus a return coach transfer to either Rotterdam or Amsterdam. You make the crossing on night one, go to Amsterdam the next day, then the return crossing on night two. If you are working, you can do it with just one day off, the ferry doesn’t leave until 9.00 pm on night one, and is back by 8.00am on day three. For this reason, the trip is known locally as a ‘Dutch Dash’.

My cabin on the ferry to Europort

The service is now operated by P&O ferries. Locals still talk nostalgically about the days when it was operated by North Sea Ferries when the ticket was ‘all-in’ and included a famous ‘all you can eat’ buffet meal within the price. It doesn’t now, in fact if you are not careful, your on board spend can be more than the cost of your ticket. I won’t go on about it, P&O have to make a profit, I just don’t like them trying to make it exclusively from me! Overall, with some care, it is a good deal.

The ferry was about an hour late into Europort. Officially, this was blamed on bad weather which certainly hadn’t disturbed me. Once ashore, scuttlebutt maintained that the delay was caused by engine trouble. I don’t really care which it was, but I would mind if it turned out that I was casually lied to.

It takes about an hour and a half for the coach to get to Amsterdam and we arrived at the Central Station at about 11.00am. Pick up was arranged for 5.00pm which gave about six hours in the city. First stop is a tobacconist where I purchase some of my favourite un-tipped Dutch cigarettes.

Caballero - untipped Dutch cigarettes

Then on to a café I like for coffee and a cheese platter brunch. Once you have had a Dutch coffee, you wonder why all retail coffee in the UK tastes like lightly flavoured water!

Officially, Holland has introduced a similar non-smoking policy to that which operates in the UK – no smoking in public places, like bars. I was quite surprised, therefore, to note some bars appeared to have ashtrays on the tables. Eventually, deciding that it was time for a beer, I went into one of them. Sure enough, those that wanted to, were puffing away to their hearts content. It turned out that the explanation was typically Dutch. Yes, they have introduced the no smoking legislation, but they haven’t decided who is going to police it, or what the penalties for non-observance will be. Some of the bars have therefore decided to carry on smoking until the situation is clarified. The result is that the majority of bars are non smoking – a big yippee from the non-smokers. Some bars allow smoking – a big yippee from smokers. Everyone has a choice. How very sensible is that?

 

Frozen canalIt was cold in Amsterdam, so I maintained my Michelin man dressing style and enjoyed myself wandering around, with occasional breaks for a small beer and a luxurious indoor cigarette. I did walk around the red-light area – it has to be done – but I didn’t, on this occasion, visit a legal cannabis café. Then, at 5.00pm, it was back on the coach for the return trip.

Swan coming to terms with frozen canal

The trip home was uneventful. P&O have adopted a highly vigourous smoking policy on their ferries. You can only smoke on deck, at the rear of the vessel. This can be freezing cold, and arguably dangerous in certain conditions.

Smoking area on P&O ferry