Recently, I was asked, “How did you enjoy your trip to Amsterdam and the North Sea Jazz Festival?” After gushing with excitement for about 10 minutes, I realized the need to put my thoughts into words to share with everyone.
Well here it goes… My travel group’s “North Sea Jazz Festival” vacation lasted for 8 days / 7 nights. It consisted of two parts. The first phase of our journey had us arriving in the city of Amsterdam on a Monday morning, after an overnight flight from the states. We whisked through customs, and before we knew it, our home for the next 4 nights was in front of us.
We stepped out of our mini–bus, and were immediately thrust into the energetic pace of the city. Our hotel, The Grand Krasnapolsky was located directly across from Dam Square, the epicenter of Amsterdam.
As we ventured out, we were engulfed by the unique energy of Amsterdam, fueled by the passing sounds of the bicycles. Everyone has a bicycle, and it’s a mode of transportation that is engrained in their culture. The locals moved at an quick, easy pace, that immediately created a relaxing atmosphere. Our vacation had begun!
We gathered for an quick orientation walk, which took us through narrow streets alongside and over the never ending flow of canals. It was a series of “Oh Wow” moments that alerted us that this vacation was going to be something real special.
Our first meal took place at Tibet Restaurant, located in the infamous Red Light District. This family owned & operated eatery has an extensive menu of Tibetan / Asian dishes. Our diverse orders were all delivered hot, fresh, and oh so tasty.
Day 2 had most of the group headed to Belgium for day long sightseeing tour of Brussels. A beautiful city, lined with buildings of exceptional design, all with a story to tell. Of course there was time for shopping, especially for chocolate.
The centerpiece of our 3rd day was Jennifer Tosch’s “Black Heritage Amsterdam Tour (BHAT)”. We were educated on the institutional enslavement that took place in the Netherlands via Ms. Tosch’s eye opening presentation through the streets and on the canals of Amsterdam. It was quite sobering to learn that many of the policies that were put into place hundreds of years ago, are still having an impact overseas and here in the USA. The BHAT is highly recommended!
Day 4 was spent doing some last minute sightseeing and shopping. We closed out the evening with a 3 hour Gourmet Dinner Cruise, with the meals cooked on board, along with overflowing wine glasses. A beautiful ending to the Amsterdam portion of our vacation.
It’s Friday morning, and the excitement level goes up a notch as we head to Rotterdam to begin Phase 2 of our adventure.. The next 3 nights will be all about the music at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
After a short HiSpeed train ride, we checked into the Manhattan Hotel, directly across from Rotterdam’s Centraal Station, 15 minutes by metro to the festival site. Next up, a brief group gathering to get aquainted with our surroundings, before heading out to the festivities.
The North Sea Jazz Festival is a music lovers’ paradise. It takes place at a massive multi-use space named Ahoy! There’s 13 stages of music, indoor and outside, with small, medium, and large configurations. Most of the time, it feels like there is music playing everywhere. The Food Courts located around the venue had an amazing selection of gastronomical delights, which supplied the fuel for our marathon days/evenings.
The array and diversity of the performers is overwhelming. Before heading out to the festival site, you have to study that day’s schedule to map out your concert list. Decisions must be made about which artist(s) you’re going to see, due to the volume and overlapping nature of the shows. The program begins at 4:30pm and winds down around 1:30am, just in time to catch the last metro back to the hotel.
No matter what genre of music you enjoy, it’s represented. In addition to a healthy dose of Jazz, there’s a deep menu of Pop, R&B/Soul, Blues, Funk, Dance, Electronica/Lounge, World music, and more. The following is a list of the artists that members of our group saw perform: Buena Vista Social Club, Robert Glasper, Bootsy Collins, Pharoah Sanders, Sheila E, Robin Thicke, Mavis Staples, Brooker T Jones, Gregory Porter, Pharrell Williams, Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Joss Stone, Stevie Wonder, Dr Lonnie Smith, Lalah Hathaway, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Hall & Oats, Outkast, Nile Rogers & Chic, and Natalie Cole. There’s a few more, but I’m sure you get an idea how intense the 3 nights of music were.
Our North Sea Jazz Festival vacation had an abundance of highlights. The music, history, sightseeing, food, and shopping will always have a place in our memories. The most compelling aspect of our journey was the group of travelers.. We had members from New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, and South Africa. The diverse personalities and backgrounds blended together flawlessly.
Group travel with time for independent explorations, is a wonderful way to visit new or familiar countries and events. It’s was so much fun, we’ll have to do it again next year!
A Few Concert Highlights from the NSJ ’14: