Saturday, July 30, 2016

Unforgettable Amsterdam

When I wait a month before writing about a place I've visited, I run into the challenge of remembering all those glorious details I had intended to share. But instead of scolding myself for procrastinating, I offer some stand-out memories of the wonderful city of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Centraal Station is our first destination after landing at Schipol airport.

A barge filled with tourists floats down one of Amsterdam's 165 canals.

Flowers frame another view of Amsterdam.

Look up and look out!

We take two guided tours during our five days in Amsterdam. A free (meaning tip-based) walking tour in the rain provides a great introduction to the city. On our last day the sun comes out, and our canal tour gives us a different perspective on Amsterdam.

I keep my camera in my hands when travelling. I'm simultaneously looking around (to see the sites and to avoid colliding with bicycles), looking down (so I don't trip over a curb or step in dog-poo, of which there is surprisingly little here), and looking up, where I discover some of the city's sweetest surprises.

Brouserij't IJ micro-brewery is located in a former bathhouse next to
the De Gooyer windmill in Amsterdam. 
I spot this little green guy sitting on the eaves of a house in Amsterdam.

A door-topper that I may have missed if I wasn't looking up.

A sculpture in the sidewalk that I may have missed if I wasn't looking down.

Monique of City Free Tour Amsterdam shares historical trivia and shows us
sites we likely wouldn't have otherwise come across.  

We choose a small boat for our guided tour of Amsterdam's canals. Tours
on bigger boats are a bit cheaper, but have recorded "guides." 
boats are being phased out because of pollution and canal traffic.

Eat anything anywhere

It didn't take us long to realize that eating while walking down the street is perfectly acceptable in Amsterdam. This is very different from France where, if we can't wait until we get home to eat our almond croissants, even total strangers inevitably wish us a bon appétit (meaning: "You clearly are not from around here.")

At least one travel report we watched on YouTube before our trip had warned that Amsterdam was not known for its cuisine. Boy, is that wrong! We eat street food (raw herring sandwiches and sauce-laden fries), ethnic food (Mexican nachos and Indonesian rice tables), and comfort food (burgers, bagels and corn on the cob). A month later, I'm still trying to take off those Dutch pounds.

Ken is halfway through his soused raw herring sandwich —
a Holland specialty for more than 600 years.

We should have ordered a smaller serving of patat frites, smothered in samurai
sauce, from Manneken Pis — we tried our best, but we couldn't finish them. 

Don't let the tiny bowls food you. It's a challenge to finish our rijsttafel
(rice table) meal at Betawi Indonesian restaurant.
Aside from our morning coffee, the only thing I cook at our rented
apartment is the corn on the cob we pick up at an open-air market.
While not as sweet and tender 
as American corn, it's light years
ahead of what we can get in France.

Lean in and out

In the 1500s, taxes were determined, in part, by the width of houses. That's why so many of Amsterdam's houses are narrow — but deep. Houses built on water mean that some lean sideways. And some houses were built forward-leaning, on purpose: in order to minimize the chance of damaging furniture when it was hoisted up via hooks hanging out over the front of the houses.

The red house with the flowers surrounding the door
is Amsterdam's narrowest home.

Nearly all the homes along Amsterdam's canals have hooks
onto which furniture is attached and hoisted to upper floors.

The step gables on this Amsterdam building are an architectural style from
the 17th century.

Meet the Masters

Eschewing religious themes in favor of portraits of real people and scenes of everyday life, Dutch Golden Age painting is one of my favorite genres. Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is the place to see the great Dutch and Flemish masters. I also dig the dollhouses and Delftware.

Rembrandt's "Syndics of the Drapers' Guild" is on display at the Rijksmuseum
in Amsterdam. 

"Girl in a Large Hat" by Cesar Boetius van Everdingen
is on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

"The Merry Fiddler" by Gerard van Honthorst is on display
at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Later in the day, tourists will jockey for position to be photographed by the
"I amsterdam" sign at the back of the Rijksmuseum.

Yeah, yeah, yeah

The Beatles slept here, at the Doelen Hotel and escaped their enthusiastic fans
by exiting though a back door directly onto a water taxi. Just before their 
6, 1964 concert, fans attempted to reach the 
Royal Yacht, from which the band
was sightseeing, by jumping into the canal, and other fans tossed 
gifts to the
Fab Four from bridges.

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