Back on the bus and returned to Amsterdam for the mandatory visit to a diamond factory. Some of the ladies had the opportunity to wear for a small 10 seconds a diamond valued at $350,000. Some people obviously have too much money. No I did not buy anything!
After this we went on another one hour cruise through the canals. This was included in our optional dinner and cruise we had decided to take. Little bit different to the cruise we had taken several days earlier, taking some other canals so still worthwhile. The group then had free time and we walked back to Dam Square which is where the royal residence is and Madame Tuassards, buzzing with people, and now raining .. again. I had really wanted to go to both the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, however they have been shut for about 8 years. Found this unbelievable and our guide said its a cause of great shame for Amsterdam. Another surprise is how Kevin has not been cleaned up by a motor bike, car, tram or push bike. He crosses wherever, whenever and walks on the bike lanes etc. And then gets frustrated with me for always being behind! The bikes here have more rights than cars and do not tolerate pedestrians getting in the way.
Our meal that night was at a restaurant called Haesje Claes which has a Michelin one star. The food was really lovely, we had pea soup, hotchpotch and pork fillet for mains, and pancakes/cinnamon ice cream for desert. After tea we we walked through the red light district with our tour guide. Expected it to be confronting and it was, our guide kept saying things such as this is a well paying and well structured industry. May be but I could not help feeling a little uncomfortable about the closeness of the girls to the general public and the poses they adopted as we walked by. Kevin really lagged the group and kept complaining that we were all walking too fast! It is heavily regulated by the government and the girls pay tax etc, but is apparently being phased out gradually. We saw no shortage of men requesting business though.
More drinks in the bar but not too late as we have to be in the bus and on the road at 7.15 in the morning!
Off to a smallish (nothing too small anywhere over here) seaside village called Volendam. About a 30 minute drive away and very touristy with heaps of shops selling the same souvenirs. Very pretty area and highlighted well the big difference between the high sea level and low ground protected by dykes. A fair bit of coastal Holland is reclaimed land and the dykes are essential to keep the water from flooding. Went for long walk to admire the immaculately kept houses all with window boxes full of flowers. The Dutch are certainly very house proud and it is one of the features of their country I think, how immaculate they keep their gardens and yards.