Water & Diamonds

Friday - Decided to take a canal boat ride that morning. We noticed that the afternoon tours were packed but at 10:30 on a sunny Friday morning, we shared the boat with only two other vacationing couples and the Skipper - Brave and sure.

The one hour narrated cruise pointed out items of interest along the route in four languages but I was so busy enjoying the sights that I confess to missing parts of the taped program..

Highlighted were the Mayor's Residence, various architectural styles, Six Bridges and much more! One eerie site was the House of the Seven Faces. According to legend, seven burglers broke into a residence late one night. Only the faithful servant was home so in defending the property, one by one he caught and decapitated the seven.  Below, likenesses of four of the seven can be seen gracing the front of the building as a warning to others thieves.

Notice the low rail running along the canal at the bottom of this picture. This "barrier", elevated eight inches above the roadway, serves to keep cars out of the canal. As can be expected, it doesn't work very well. On average, one car per week ends up in the canals! But thousands of bicycles are dredged out each year.

A small portion of the tour is on the Het IJ which serves as a water highway transporting goods to market. Below, colorful ships at dock awaiting their cargo.

Since this was to be our last full day in Amsterdam. we got a jump on our 2002 Christmas shopping splurging on delft-like Christmas ornaments. Stopped to pick up boxes of Leonidas pralines. Deciding to wrap up our day as true tourists, we toured  Gassan Diamonds.  Learned how diamonds are shaped and polished and watched as masters ground these chunks of carbon into brilliant pattern diamonds. This particular cut  reflects almost 100% of its light giving the gem its fire. Displays lined the walls showing how a diamond goes from raw mined stone to a work of art. I asked if the price tags on the necklaces and rings were in guilders. "No, they are priced in euros." What could I possibly say but, "How nice", upon realizing that the cost of some of this jewelry displayed could house a family of four for a decade! We were then ushered into a showroom where actual gems were displayed for our viewing pleasure. From the diminutive 1/4 carat stones to the magnificent 1.8 carat marquis cut, prices were discussed and the  merits of the different stones debated. Various necklace, ring and earring settings were displayed. A visit to the refreshment center completed our tour where displays of Swatch watches were available for purchase. All in all, very low sales pressure made the tour informative, interesting and enjoyable.

A fine meal finished our day and we returned to the hotel to pack our bags knowing that tomorrow we'd be flying home.

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