The cruise included a boat trip through the Amsterdam harbor and some canals. On a previous trip, I took a similar tour, so I substituted another included excursion through the Jordaan area in Amsterdam. AMA Waterways offered alternative included tours at about a half-dozen locations during the trip but this was the only alternative tour which I took.
Originally a working-class neighborhood, the Jordaan has become one of the most expensive, upscale locations in the Netherlands. The Jordaan is a network of narrow, colorful streets and picturesque canals. It is home to many art galleries, particularly for modern art, and also has numerous specialty shops and restaurants. Rembrandt spent the last years of his life in the Jordaan and is buried in the Westerkerk church.
The Jordaan has a high concentration of hofjes (inner courtyards), many of them with restored houses and peaceful gardens. These courtyards were built by rich people for elderly women, as a kind of charity. By the 1970s, most of these courtyards were in very bad shape, like the rest of the neighborhood. But since then, many have been restored, and are now inhabited by artists, students and some elderly people.
Our guide lived in the Jordaan - there were only eight people who took this alternative tour. One of the most interesting parts of the walking tour was entering some of the inner courtyards. What appears as a door or inconspicuous doorway from the street sometimes leads into an intimate courtyard or maze of interconnected courts. There is frequently more behind the simple facades of these building than one would expect.
At the end of the walking tour, we went to a café for a complementary slice of apple pie and a free drink - I had hot chocolate. The café served lunches and pastries - as there were children in the café - it was not one of the well-publicized cafés where smoking is permitted. What I like about European pastries is that they are not overly sweet - the apple pie and hot chocolate hit the spot after the long walk on a moderately cold day. I enjoyed this alternative tour.
As an appetizer that night, Waldorf salad with duck and then the beef consommé. For the main course, I had the fillet of salmon trout and selected the white wine. For the dessert, black forest coupe which is a dessert of ice cream and fruit served in a stemmed glass. As usual, this supper was excellent.
Photos belong to Phil Bianco