Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 24 January 2013

Greetings from a very cold and snowy Amsterdam, where (as you can see) if you want to tempt customers in by tempting other customers to sit outside, you might as well try offering them blankets, in fetchingly contrasting colours.

Feeling like a break, I've given the traditional rail and ferry option a try. They can zhoosh up the ferry as much as you like (comfy bed, own telly and ensuite bathroom well up to medium hotel standard), but I doubt if I'll ever be able to sleep properly on any sort of moving transport (not that the movement made itself felt on this trip, with much less juddering and jolting than I get on the bus of a morning). And the rail connections are still somewhat unwelcoming and inescapably tedious, with seasonal problems adding to the commuter crush.
Arriving in the murk of a winter twilight, the view is all shades of grey across the snow, apart from the lights of cars and the occasional advertising sign; and when the sun finally breaks through, the few distinctive objects on the landscape barely make a mark through the mist.

But Amsterdam retains its distinctive mixture. Amid the bikes and gables and down a side alley, the eye is drawn past today's graffiti art to the 16th century outline of the Begijnhof, more peaceful than ever in the untouristed snow.

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