Actually, day one-and-a-half, because this was the day we moved onto the Viking Embla, our floating home for the next two weeks. But we began the morning with a ride on a canal boat. (After I went and got the photographs I had wanted of the Niewe Kirk – and well worth the extra €5 admission!)
If you visit Amsterdam, you really have to take the canal boat tour; the whole city revolves around the canals. The photos of the boat tour begin in my Amsterdam gallery with the photo of the water hen:
These little critters were all over the canals. They look like coots to me, only with white faces; but water hens they're called. We saw them nesting in the canals in abandoned boats, and piles of trash.
Our tour boat looked exactly like this:
As you can see from the spots on the glass, it was raining; but it didn't rain for long, and eventually we just opened all the windows. The biggest problem with taking photos from a canal boat is that everything is even more up than usual. But it's clear from the canals that the 17th century houses are intermingled with some very 21st century buildings. This is the Dutch National Film Institute, also called "the Eye":
And this elegant building by Renzo Piano is NEMO, a science museum for teenagers:
You can see from these photos that it was pretty much overcast that whole morning, with a lot of background glare. I think this was my favorite canal shot, but there are plenty of others there to give you an idea of what Amsterdam looks like:
We had packed and put out our luggage before leaving for the canals, so once we finished, we simply walked over to the Viking Embla, which was docked about 4 blocks from the canal tour dock. Here's the Embla's sun deck. Notice the herb garden on the sun deck. Yes, they grow their own. Cooking herbs.
Viking River Cruises names its "longships" after figures from Norse legend, or so they claim. I never heard of Embla myself, but Wikipedia says that, in old Norse mythology, Ask and Embla were the first two humans created by the gods (male and female respectively). As you can see from the link, these ships are very long, not very wide (they have to go through a lot of locks), and 4 decks deep, plus the working bits. No, I didn't play shuffleboard, but some people did. They are very shallow draft; the captain discussed the ship capabilities several times during the trip, including giving tours of the wheelhouse, and he said that while he normally operates in 6-12 feet of water (kindly translated from meters for the Americans), he can actually maneuver in as little as 3 inches. Very, very slowly.
Because we got a very steep discount for ordering 10 months early, we sprang for a "veranda suite," two rooms with mini-bath. It was all very compact and comfortable, with LED lighting throughout, but some genius decided that an ordinary dimmer switch wasn't good enough for the bedroom. No, we had rocker switches, which you had to hold down for a count of about 14 to turn the lights all the way up, and another count of about 14 to turn them all the way off. If you just push the switch, nothing happens. This drove us so crazy that we got the hotel manager to come in and explain it to us. They had an ordinary round dimmer switch in the sitting room, I can't imagine why they couldn't just put another one in the bedroom. Sigh.
This was what we could see from the foredeck of the Embla, the afternoon before we sailed:
That's Jim in the chair. He said that until he got to Amsterdam, he didn't believe the cloud formations you see in old master sea paintings. He thought they invented them. You see them every afternoon in the Amsterdam harbor. Amazing and beautiful.