Saturday, 20 September 2014

What I Did on My Holidays - Amsterdam

I travelled to Amsterdam on a 'Rail and Sail' package, with trains from London to Harwich and Hoek van Holand to Amsterdam, and an overnight ferry in between. It's obviously slower than flying, but much more civilized - being able to have a meal, shower and go to bed certainly beats hours in an airport!

I visited Amsterdam once before, about 10 years ago, but haven't been back since. Part of my reason for going was that it would enable me to see a performance of 'October in the Chair', a project based on Neil Gaiman's short stories, which I supported via Kickstarter, but I also wanted to see the city again, and I enjoyed my visit.

I visited the Rijksmuseum, which has, among other things, a large collection of ship-builder's models, some loot  trophies of war, including the stern transom carving from a British Ship, the Royal Charles captured in 1667, in Chatham, Kent...

The museum also, of course, houses Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch', which is, I admit, and impressive painting, but I confess that I'm not a big fan of his style of painting, and spent most of my time elsewhere in the museum.

I also spent a wonderful morning in the Van Gogh Museum, which is (obviously) full of the most glorious art. 

I didn't know, (or had forgotten) that the skeleton smoking a cigarette was his - and that he painted works influenced by Japanese prints.

I spent a while with my (current) favourite - the Irises I took the precaution of going on a week day, and at opening time, which meant that the galleries were not too crowded.

Nor were these the only museums I visited. I also went to the Kattenkabinet, a glorious little museum dedicated to cats (and occupied by several, although I did not meet them on this occasion) It has little gems by Picasso, Rembrandt and Steinlen, as well as less elevated art. 

I also spent a day in Haarlem, with a Dutch friend of my sister and brother in law (they met while travelling in Turkey!) and we had a lovely day, looking at canals and windmills and beer (there was a wonderful brewery in a deconsecrated church) and visiting Teylers Museum - the oldest museum in the Netherlands. 

It was lovely to have a day in good company, particularly as I was mostly alone.

As well as the museums in Amsterdam and Haarlem, I spent a lot of time wandering around and enjoying the architecture, and of course visited the flower market, where I bought some more wooden tulips, to go with the ones I bought last time I visited, and some tulip bulbs,which I shall try to grow for next spring. 

I also wandered along the outside of the Ship museum to see the various historic vessels they have.

And I went, one morning, to the Holander Manege, a riding school based on the famous Spanish Riding school in Vienna. You can go and take tea on the balcony and watch people as they ride, and I did so, although the riders were having lessons, rather than riding beautiful figures, but it was still pleasant to watch!

I also visited the Begijnhof - a peaceful, enclosed 'square', with a couple of churches - it was originally a religious retreat for unmarried/widowed women, where the oldest house in Amsterdam is situated.  (It is still occupied solely by women!) 

Naturally, I took the opportunity while in the country to try a few specialities such as poffertjes (thick, mini pancakes) and stroopwafels. And some beer. 

I enjoyed my break, and would have liked to have stayed longer.
Sunrise over Harwich

More photos on Flickr, for those interested.

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