Driving in the Netherlands is pretty straightforward - km after km of flat, straight roads with a wide bicycle path on one side and a canal on the other, interrupted every now and then by a "rotary" where you have the opportunity to change direction - easy and predictable.
Approaching the city of Amsterdam, the tempo accelerates - more cars, more bikes and more canals. After about 5 minutes of driving into the center of the city with its narrow cobblestone streets, dodging cyclists right and left, endlessly circling to find our hotel since GPSally is not hip to one-ways, we discovered the First Truth of big city exploration in Europe : Never Drive.
The Albus is very purple plexi-modern, with stylish "urban micro" rooms - ours had a 2-person rainfall shower! The price was reasonable, we thought, for center city. That is, until we discovered that there is no "free" parking associated with this hotel (Be advised!), and that parking anywhere on the streets in this neighborhood is 5 Euros per hour, at all hours of day or night, if you can find a spot! We finally located an overnight parking garage a few blocks away and were able to negotiate in a mixture of English, German and Dutch, a price of 40 Euros per night and we were happy. Lesson: Remember Truth 1.
With that taken care of, we headed out to explore and find an evening bite. There are hundreds of restaurants of all kinds within walking distance of center city: Italian, Turkish, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Spanish, Subway? We tried the Dutch specialty stew "mashpot" at a cozy little gem of a restaurant nearby called Tomaz. Mashpot is nothing to write home about, but hearty enough to get you through a cool evening.
Took the long way back to the hotel afterwards and managed to stay out of the famous "Red Light" district, but some of the revelry always overflows. Saw a few "very well dressed girls" in 5-inch heels (a bitch! on cobblestones) and had a passing whif of burning cannabis but all in all felt very safe on the streets.
In the morning, we headed out early for coffee and fresh pastry at Lanskroon a corner bakery we located the night before - ain't nothing like steaming cafe au lait and a warm cinnamon croissant - Breakfast candy!! Got these images of the morning commute.
|Daddy Duty: How's that for a baby seat?|
|Imagine taking the kids to school like this!|
On to the Rijksmuseum!
The most important painting in the Rijksmuseum collection is Rembrandt's "The Night Watch," shown here to give you an idea of it's actual size. One of the most famous paintings in the world, "The Night Watch"is renowned for it's large size (about 12 ft x 14 ft), the perception of motion, and the effective use of light and shadow (chiaroscuro).
The Rijksmuseum also has a substantial collection of Delftware, the traditional tin-glazed pottery from the region, depicting classic Dutch themes.
With more than 8,000 objects of art and history on display, the collection of the Rijksmuseum is definitely a "must-see" in Amsterdam. Cross another one off my bucket list - it was time to relax and have dinner.
What is Indonesia today was a Dutch colony for more than 300 years. One of the results of that is a tasty one: plenty of delicious Indonesian restaurants throughout Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Our choice for dinner that evening was Kantjil & de Tijger (Rabbit & Tiger) within walking distance of The Albus. It's a popular favorite for tourists and locals alike so reservations are recommended. The Rijsttafel (rice table) for 2 was a delicious way to sample about a dozen Indonesian dishes at 25 Euros per person.
The next morning, after visiting our now favorite bakery for coffee and fresh croissants, we headed over to the Amsterdam Bulb market, which is a series of greenhouses along the canal with GIGANTIC specimens of Holland bulbs for sale in every variety imaginable. Very good quality bulbs and they claim "We Ship Everywhere."
We finished the morning by taking in an exhibition, Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Conde Nast Years 1923 - 1937, at a cool modern photo gallery near center city called Foam.
With more than 200 unique vintage photos, this exhibition represents a high point in Steichen's photographic career when he created images that have been considered some of the most impressive photographs of the twentieth century.
Our appetite for art sufficiently sated, it was time to get back on the road for Rotterdam. En route, we passed through the 13th century town of Gouda and, of course, decided to have lunch.
This is a typical cheese shop in Gouda, which offers plenty of free samples as well as vacuum packaging for the long trip home.