I thought it’d be nice to get in one more trip before the end of the year considering my two trips overseas had been at the start of the year. Somewhere in Europe would be the easiest, just so long as Brexit didn’t cause complications. Whatever side of the argument you sit, there isn’t really any denying that whether we left the EU with a deal or not, travel would be different in some way.
When my most recent attempt at the Greater Manchester Marathon didn’t go to plan, I found myself wanting an autumn marathon to have another go at accomplishing my goal. I’d got a few ideas, such as Berlin and Frankfurt. It was difficult to find something that would fit in with my existing plans. I then remembered that a friend had done a marathon in Amsterdam and had enjoyed it. I checked the date - it fit in perfectly. Things quickly progressed once I’d got the race entry and soon had a hotel booked reasonably close to the start, along with my flights.
Whilst researching the city to see what I could spend a few days photographing, I learnt that Amsterdam is apparently referred to as the cycling capital of the world. Interesting. I find cycling after a marathon to help with recovery, so a short bike ride to places outside the city might be a good idea. It’d be the sort of adventure I’ve never had whilst overseas. It’d have to be dependent upon the weather though: the last time I’d travelled overseas for a marathon I’d encountered a lot of rain.
To further pad out the list, I looked at the local ‘I Amsterdam’ card which is a city pass for covering entry to a number of sights around the city. I’d used one of these in Dubrovnik and in Chicago - both had been worthwhile to make a saving. Here I’d use it to get an idea of more things to see, and to then see if I’d be wanting to see enough to warrant the price tag.
Of the sights, the one I really had to pre-book was the Anne Frank House museum as there are limited numbers per day, and the tickets go on sale at 11:00 exactly two months in advance. I figured as I couldn’t take my backpack or camera there it’d need to be a special trip to see it, so booked this for the morning of my flight home. Any others I could pre-book would be to make a small saving.
Since I was using a local airport it meant I could get a train there easy enough; but would need to figure out transport on the other end for getting from Schipol into the city. From what I could tell, there’s a hotel shuttle bus available that stops by a number of hotels. Online, the website indicated a one-way journey costs €18.50, or €29.50 for a return ticket.
Currency would be easy enough too since they use the Euro. Unfortunately due to politics it meant that between me starting to plan and getting the currency, the Pound Sterling had gone from being worth a little more than a Euro to realistically being a little less than one for the first time ever. In hope of getting the best rate I could, I kept one eye on the exchange rates every day for weeks, and the other eye on the news for signs of anything that could cause it to drop again.
For just a few days in a European city, I wouldn’t need to pack that much. I did however need to replace one of my backpacks due to some damage earlier in the year. Even though it’s one I don’t use for cabin baggage anymore I felt it was still worth ensuring it was around the same size in case I ever need to. This sort of thing I feel is well worth researching before you buy if you plan on using it as a day bag.
I wanted one around the thirty litre mark, and having different compartments. I figured as long as I could store my laptop, a change of clothes, and a wash bag in there then it’d serve almost any purpose I could have for it. After seeing what different stores had, reading reviews and watching videos of them, I decided on an Osprey Nebula 34. It really is important to get the ‘right’ one for you. A rough outline of what I packed is:
- Paperwork (photocopy of passport, printout of bookings, etc.),
- Canon EOS 5D mk3,
- Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens,
- ND 16 filter,
- Manfrotto Befree Carbon Fibre travel tripod,
- Bluetooth adapter for DSLR,
- MacBook Pro (Retina 15-inch, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM),
- Garmin ForeRunner 235 and charging cable,
- 2x CompactFlash Cards,
- 2x batteries for Canon EOS 5D (one of higher capacity),
- Lens pen, air blower, and cloth for cleaning equipment,
- Chargers for MacBook Pro, iPhone, and cameras; along with travel adapter,
- Cycling gloves,
- Phone mount for use on a bike,
- Electric heater element (for making cups of tea),
- A bowl, spoon, and mug for marathon day breakfast,
- Reusable sandwich bags and bag clips,
- A bag of cereal, and snacks for use whilst out.
Most of this is the usual camera equipment; but scaled back a little to keep it light - it was unlikely I’d need extra lenses for wildlife. On top of this I’d be packing a couple of bits for use when hopefully cycling around, my running kit for the marathon, and to ensure I could have an early breakfast that resembles what I’d normally eat before a run on race day.
This would be the first trip where I’d be alone from beginning to end, but it seemed likely the time would still pass quickly anyway. The days would be filled with photography, and in the evenings I’d take more pictures and maybe read a little. It wouldn’t be a problem, and hopefully it wouldn't feel too lonely as I wouldn't have the time!