Amsterdam Diamonds – Why Amsterdam Sparkles As a City Break Gem

Amsterdam hardly ever makes the grade in anyone’s hit list of Europe’s top romantic cities. Paris, Rome, Venice – even London – are likely to leave the Dutch capital in the shade. Some frown on Amsterdam’s links with red light sleaze and its drug smoking ‘coffee shops’. Others may think Amsterdam just a little too dull for a decent city break. Whatever the reasons, when a romantic weekend city break is on the cards, Amsterdam rarely turns up trumps.

What a pity! Despite what you may hear, Amsterdam is not all cannabis and carnality. Amsterdam also turns out to be a gem of a city break destination that could win the heart of the one you love. And what gives this city a romantic gloss?   Amsterdam, in fact, is one the the diamond capitals of Europe. And what surer way to win her heart than a glitzy tour of its diamond workshops? It’s a glittering jewel in this tourist city’s crown. And what’s more – it’s free! One of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions is the diamond factory tour.  

The Gassan diamond-polishing factory in the city centre is itself considered a jewel in the city’s tourist crown. Factory tours are free – but you should book in advance to be sure of a place. You get to see where diamonds are found, how they are classified, cut and polished. You can even watch the polishers at their craft and wonder how they resist the temptation to drop the odd stone into a pockets. Visitors agree that the tours are every bit as sparkling as the gems themselves.   About 340.000 visitors come to see Coster Diamonds craftsmen at work every year in the heart of the Museum District.

During free guided tours, which are available in more than 25 languages, the process of cutting and polishing a diamond is explained in detail by an efficient and accommodating staff. Costa is the firm that re-cut the 5,000-year-old Koh-i-noor diamond which sits in the British Royal Crown in the Tower of London. As an added treat you can admire their impressive diamond and jewellery collection – a brilliant experience you will not forget in a hurry.   Amstel Diamonds Limited, one of the oldest diamond factories of Amsterdam. They have been polishing gems here since 1876. The factory is found on the Amstel river in an old canal house in the very heart of historic Amsterdam and factory tours are free.   It all makes buying diamonds in Amsterdam a very special occasion for any visitor. This city has been a world centre for the diamond trade since the 16th century. It all began when Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition sought the safety of a tolerant and welcoming Amsterdam.

Many jewelers brought the diamond trade with them and, when diamonds were discovered in the Dutch-colonised parts of southern Africa, the diamond trade boomed   Many rough diamonds have been handed over to the expert tradesmen at the factories and workshops of Amsterdam for polishing and processing. The trade flourished until the Nazis occupied the city in the Second World War and the Jewish community was almost wiped out.   Much of the Amsterdam diamond trade moved to Antwerp in the wake of Nazi atrocities.

But the Amsterdam diamond trade has prospered again in recent years thanks to the city’s large and growing tourist trade, in particular its rising popularity as a weekend city breaks destination.   OK, classy diamonds may be a trifle too expensive for most pockets but there is nothing like window shopping and even trying on some of the most dazzling jewellery to be found in the world. What better way to dazzle that special person in your life with a city break trip that has that extra sparkle?

Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2013

Who decides what makes a travel destination “hot?” Why do people from all over the world start buying air fare tickets to places they know very little about? Tourism is often times attracted by economics. Sometimes major events such as the Olympics place a city “onto the map”. Before you know it, it is placed on the “hottest 2013 destination” list. Of course, a clever marketing strategy makes a huge difference too. For years an advertising agency ran the “Visit California” commercial featuring famous celebrities wearing bikinis and drinking wine on the beach, which attracted millions of visitors to the sunny state each year.

Our top destinations are:

Corsica, France

Corsica is a mixture of Italian and French cultures. Its stunning beauty and challenging topograhopy make this epic beauty a spectacular choice for our top destinations of 2013. Corsica will host the initial stages of the hundredth Tour de France.

Rabat, Morocco

Marrakech has always taken the spotlight from Morocco’s low-key capital. While many travelers are seduced by Marrakech’s heady sights and sounds, Rabat has a historic old town feel, featuring mosques and hassle-free shopping. It also features lovely cafes and wide boulevards.

Yukon, Canada

As one of the least densely populated areas in the world, Yukon is enjoying tremendous mineral wealth which is drawing new residents to this region. Due to climate change parts of the north area is actually dissolving into the Arctic Ocean with the glacier parks undergoing profound change.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

In 2013 the 160th anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday will take at the city’s Van Gogh Museum. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which is considered one of the world’s greatest orchestras, turns 125 years old in 2013. Amsterdam’s canal ring will celebrate its 400th anniversary. This city always finds ways to celebrate, especially so in 2013. And we thought Amsterdam was already so much fun.

Carinthia, Austria

Carinthia is known for its uncrowded ski slopes nestled on every mountain top. Bordering Italy and Slovenia, the region offers Mediterranean laissez-faire. Now is the time to check out Carinthia, while it’s peaceful and quiet. It won’t stay like this much longer.

Palawan, the Philippines

Palawan consists of thousands of sparkling islands and offers a 2000km pristine coastline. This untouched beauty is about to explode with regional airlines realizing Palawan’s potential and scheduling direct flights to the capital. Combined with high-end boutique hotels normally found in places like Bali, you can feel that Palawan is ready to become big.

Colombia

A magical mountain scenery, stylish hotels and new direct routes from major airports, put Colombia quickly onto a traveler wish list.

The Gulf Coast, USA

The Gulf Coast has taken a few hard hits in the past few years. In 2013 the area with rolling sand dunes and sparkling water is ready for some seasonal travelers.

Mustang, Nepal

The completion of a road connecting Mustang to China in the north and the rest of Nepal to the south will make all the difference to this remote region. Until the early 90’s nobody was allowed in; after that it was opened up to a few hundred a year. These days anyone is allowed to enter as long as they have the pricey trekking permit. This provision keeps the numbers down; but expect that to change soon.

Scotland, United Kingdom

The 2012 James Bond thriller “Skyfall” was filmed there. If you saw the movie, you probably walked away wishing you too could race through Scotland’s dramatic countryside and hide in its foggy pastures.

Travel Journals – Take Your Imagination on Vacation

Travel journals are supposed to be fun. We use them to capture our travel experiences on paper, so we never forget our journeys to places around the globe.

Are you and your travel journal getting along? Are you bored with it? Perhaps when you got home after a long trip, you fell out of love with your faithful companion. Now facing another trip, you are tempted to leave the trip diary at home.

This is a simple case of writer’s block. Writers experience boredom all the time. It is so common, that there are hundreds thousands of books and exercises that writers use to get themselves back on track.

If you are looking for ways to spice up your travel journal, here are some ideas.

Get a new trip journal. Select one that feels good. Does it bring you pleasure? Is the cover pleasing? Run your fingers along the pages. Do they have the right texture and weight? Does the journal fit you?

Pack your favorite pen. Write in your journal before you leave home to make sure the pen feels good on the pages. Bring a spare pen.

Show, don’t tell. It’s perfectly fine to say, “Today I saw the Eiffel Tower.” If you want to spice it up a bit, try something like this, “A sparkling blue sky shined through the lattice of the Eiffel Tower.”

Use your senses. We tend to write what we see, such as “saw the Washington Monument.” What we hear is the next most frequently used sense. If you were kept awake by a barking dog or a clanging elevator, write that down. Food is a big part of travel, so describe new taste sensations.

Touch and smell are often overlooked. When you held a local craft, what did it feel like? What did the air smell like? Smell is especially important because our memories are easily triggered by odor-even if we are just remembering the scent.

Describe your feelings. The world is filled with amazing sites. When you see something, how does it make you feel? Jot down your emotions. Record them even if you are disappointed. Perhaps you were looking forward to seeing the Liberty Bell, but someone stepped on your foot.

Play with words. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote a story using only six words: “For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Although there is no proof that this notion came from Hemmingway, the six-word memoir is now popular. Try writing a six-word memoir every day you travel or one summarizing the entire trip.

Try stream of consciousness. This is when you write down anything that pops into your head. Do not censor anything as this clogs the process. Imagine looking at the Statue of Liberty. Write down anything that comes to mind, for instance, “green, big, windy, postcard, people from all over the world.” Without writing a complete sentence, you can capture the moment.

Make a gratitude list. If you are not sure about what to write, keep a gratitude list in your travel journal. By listing those things for which you are thankful, you focus on the highlights of the trip. Moreover, gratitude helps us maintain our perspective.

Travel journals are more than precious keepsakes. They add depth to our journeys and help us to see the world with new eyes. Have fun with your trip diary. Once the creative juices are flowing again, it is like falling in love.