Apparently, crazy things happen when you’re in the Netherlands.
In the span of the past 12 hours, I have worn a 45,000 euro diamond on my finger, watched my tour guide heroically rescue a cat from a tree and witnessed a wedding procession on bikes.
So yes, I suppose you can say that today was eventful.
Disembarking the MS Lafayette, our adventure began with a bus and walking tour around the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. Known for its picturesque canals and stacks of narrow houses, Amsterdam is a wonderfully romantic city with postcard-perfect scenes at every turn. Beyond its physical beauty, it is also known as the most international city in the world, with 183 nationalities who call it home. As our guide pointed out, this large number can be owed to the city’s inclusive and tolerant culture, which makes it a highly attractive option for people from all walks of life.
Instantly on our tour, nothing grabbed my attention more than the incredible amount of bikes everywhere. In Amsterdam alone, there are over 2 million bikes for its 1.2 million inhabitants. "Cyclists here have right of way.... and they'll always take it," warned our guide. This couldn't have been more true! Bikes dominated every street, zipping through traffic at a terrifying speed. If you're visiting Amsterdam any time soon, be sure to watch where you're going!
After a brief introduction to the city and its history, our bus brought us to a diamond tour at Gassan Diamonds. Though I'm not the biggest fan of jewels, I found this tour to be really interesting! The amount of work that goes into producing a single diamond is pretty unbelievable, with the cutting process sometimes taking up to a week depending on the number of facets. Inside the factory, we got to watch diamond cutters in action, and also received a private lesson about diamond valuation, where our guide brought out various samples to show us. At one point, she brought out a giant Gassan 121 diamond and urged me to try it on for fun. Imagine my shock when I was told that the diamond on my finger was worth over 45,000 euros. Now that’s a kind of luxury I will never know again!
We then continued our walking tour with a stroll through the colourful displays of the Amsterdam Flower Market. From here, we ducked into a local cheese shop, where we took a quick break to sample cheeses in various flavours, from herb and garlic to spiced cumin. Along with a few samples of stroopwafel (made from a sweet caramel syrup sandwiched between two thin waffles), I was in Dutch food heaven!
As our tour continued, we were taken through small canal streets, major shopping areas and even private courtyards. At one of these courtyards, our tour halted because we heard panicked voices huddled around a nearby tree. What was the cause for panic? Well, apparently a small white cat had somehow gotten to the top of the tree, and couldn’t get down. A cat stuck in a tree? I didn’t know things like this actually happened in real life. What occurred next was completely unexpected and incredible: our tour guide, without hesitation, hopped to the other side of the fence, hoisted himself on a step ladder and proceeded to rescue the cat himself. It wasn’t an easy battle... that cat was clawing and scratching in all directions, but after a long struggle, he successfully got the cat down and into the loving arms of its owners.
So, like I said, there’s never a dull moment on this Photo Tour.
After lunch, we took a short trip out to the city of Haarlem, located west of Amsterdam. Haarlem is a charming little town with a similar aesthetic to Amsterdam, but significantly smaller crowds. It was nice just to walk around and admire the cute canal houses, while exploring a few churches, museums and main squares.
The highlight of my day came when I witnessed a random wedding (on wheels, no less). While we waited in Haarlem to board our bus back to the boat, we noticed a group of very well-dressed people at a cocktail reception just a block down from us. Within a few minutes, we finally saw what they were waiting for: in true Dutch fashion, a suit-wearing groom pedalled right by us, with a giggling bride in a carriage attached to his bike. They were beaming with joy as they cycled their way to the reception and I must say, it was incredibly cute.
And so, with that eventful day, my fifth cruise of the Photo Tour has come to an end. Can you believe it?! I’ll update you all soon from Porto!