Amsterdam

Amsterdam location map

Amsterdam

In one of Ian Fleming’s non-Bond novels, “Thrilling Cities”, he describes the various cities he visited for the Sunday Times. He chose these cities because of their “hidden, authentic pulse”. He claimed to have focused on the “bizarre and perhaps the shadier side of life”. He succeeded, but forgot to visit one city: Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands. Whenever abroad you just have to mention the city’s name, and everyone knows bizarre details about it..


Below is part of the story City of Diamonds, as featured in full in the travel guide.
Nowadays, Amsterdam is also one of the most important diamond centres in the world. Therefore it seemed logical that Amsterdam was chosen to be a filming location for the 1971 Bond movie Diamonds are Forever. Amsterdam is easiest reached by air, coming in on Schiphol Airport. A ten minute train ride brings you to the hart of the city. Stepping out of the Central Station, you will find the Tourist Information Office on you left. Here you can arrange your stay in one of the many hotels.

Crossing the busy streets opposite of the Central Station, you can walk towards the Dam, a big square known for its pigeons flying around. On this road from the station to the square, all you have to do is turn left at some point to land in the middle of the red-light district. This neighbourhood has been the home of a thriving prostitution business since the early 17th century. In those poor days, prostitution was one of the only ways to make a living, and to regulate things, the Dutch authorities tolerated prostitution only in this specific area. This has been so ever since. The circumstances have become much better now, and the women all operate from their own rooms in 17th century buildings. They sit behind the front windows, reading or flirting. A red fluorescent light hanging above their window, notifies you whether a woman is on or off duty. This unique way of advertising themselves, is being tolerated by authorities and attracts thousands of tourists each day.
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Reguliersgracht 36, the house used in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Reguliersgracht 36, the house used in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Amsterdam was founded around the 14th century, and is (like Venice) largely built on poles to make sure the marshy ground did not affect the stability of the buildings. The centre of the city is surrounded by canals, built in the early 17th century. In that period the Netherlands had become an important seafaring nation that grew affluent from world trade. In 1626, Dutchman Peter Minuit was the one who acquired Manhattan from the Indians, for merely $30, and called it New Amsterdam. The Dutch ruled the important area until 1664, when Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant was ejected in favour of the English. The settlement was then renamed New York and English became the official language there.

Standing on the Dam square, opposite of the National Monument, you can see the Dutch Royal Palace, reportedly built on 13.500 wooden poles. On the left of the palace is the beginning of Amsterdam’s busiest shopping street, de Kalverstraat. Walking through this street makes it almost impossible not to buy anything. After a thousand meters, on your left you will find the Leidsestraat, leading you to the Leidsplein square. Here you can find numerous restaurants, bars, and also the Casino. Crossing the Singelgracht canal and following the street to your left, you will walk towards the beautiful Rijksmuseum. This national museum houses a magnificent collection of 17th century Dutch paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals among others. Its most famous painting hangs in its own room at the end of the Gallery of Honour. It is officially called ‘Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant van Rutenburch’, painted by Rembrandt in 1642. Through the years it became covered with grime, and was therefore later mistaken for a night scene. This way it acquired its incorrect but world-wide known name De Nachtwacht (the Night watch).

This and much more can be found in the chapter 'City of Diamonds' in ON THE TRACKS OF 007

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