We have begun our foray into Holland! I will be writing about Holland with a very general tone , as I have experts in the family ;)Â We arrived here by train , a little groggy after the long day and night of heavy metal in Brussels . It has been a great few days so far!
We are Air BnB’ing it for the first time. It is a little cheaper and a lot nicer then usual hotels/hostels/B&B’s. It is a bit like couch surfing (except you PAY!), but you usually get a bit of your own space. In our case, we have a open plan style room in a three bed apartment. It is a lovely place and we have a kitchen and access to a washing machine as well. (This is important as sometimes Greg’s socks nearly need their own train ticket as they start to talk back). We are pretty close to Amsterdam central, although it is not a huge city centre at any rate.
Found on first stroll, by Greg…
The first afternoon, we simply got settled in and went for a stroll through the local neighbourhood and admired the pretty canals (which are a lot wider than those in Venice). We picked up some groceries from nearby – where in we discovered how cheap the beer was!Â A six pack of Leffe for 4.50 Euro! Greg was pretty happy with this. After ingesting some green things and a sly beer we crashed. The day before we had been up till nearly 3 in the morning!
The next day was bright and sunny. The tram bought us into a more central spot and we collected a map and a 96 hour tram pass. It is always hard to decide whether to buy these passes or not. They are usually for transport or a combination culture card, which gives you entry into certain cultural attractions for cheaper or free. They have had them in nearly every city in Europe we have been to so far.Â I think they save you money if you are really organised in your plans and have a high interest in museums!
Wandering around the streets, stopping occasionally for a bite to eat or a drink stop, was very nice. (Although I tended to forget about all the bike paths and cyclists barrelling down them – may have nearly been hit a few times!) Lots of nice shoe stores about too 😉 We bought a gift for someone in a store full of so many colours, you would have been sure it was me who bought something,Â but it was Greg in the end!
There was a lot of orange decor going on around the place as well, which was confusing until google helped me out. Apparently orange is the colour associated with the Dutch Royalty. There is also the national holiday forÂ Koninginnedag (“Queen’s Day”) in which there are festivities and a sea of orange on display. This weekend the soccer team are playing in European finals so, the orange is out and proud.
Amazing shoes that come with a matching belt….
We went to the Anne Frank Huis, which is about 10 Euros and quite interesting to see, if a little sad. The tour of the house is well put together, with a documents and quotes from the book on display, media presentations and so on. You tour the house in sections, leading through the hidden entry through the swing out bookcase. There is a section at the end which discusses current social issues in today’s media, which Greg and I both sat and watched for sometime.
A little more walking and then we checked out the Botanic Gardens, which has quite a few old tree specimens and greenhouses to keep tropical and dessert plants in. We wandered through these for an hour or so, they have a butterfly house inside as well. I quite enjoyed the gardens, but there weren’t enough flowers to keep me occupied! There are also some very old water lily species there – but it either wasn’t flowering or we missed it!
We ambled around a main area after this, then found a stretch of markets that were packing up for the day. I have since realised they could have been one of many sets of markets. Amsterdam has heaps of little pockets of them operating all over the city -Â on most days of the week. We did walk down past the flower markets at one point I think!
There were some interesting starter kits available!
Recharged and ready to go we set out for a inside culture day – the weather was badÂ – cloudy, windy and a touch of rain. We made it the Van Gogh museum, (along with quite a few other tourists) before a lot of the rain hit. The museum is quite good,Â the focus was on Van Gogh’s inspiration and has a large collection of his earlier works. Greg noted the personal history was not very involved, the place was definitely more about the art. I like his more colourful paintings from later on. They also had a section featuring artists inspired by his work and the French poster print phase.
That afternoon, we ended up in the Amsterdam Ice Bar….we got roped in (sort of willingly!) by a Dutch girl dressed as an Eskimo….it was something you needed to have been at a local coffee bar beforehand to enjoy I think! There is very budget intro movie which involves a talking polar bear and a disco routine with an ice queen and king, then you are all ushered into the ice bar. Once inside with your jacket and gloves on, you can wander around and ooh and aah at the ice sculptures (there are a couple) and then enjoy a beer or cocktail out of an ice glass. It was a cheesy novelty, prooobably not worth our Euros…but still, not completely terrible 😉
We caught a movie that night – Prometheus. Sometimes it’s nice to get a break from all the location culture and get some regular oldÂ brain drain, movie culture! The cinema was in a really pretty old theatre – it was very ornate and decorated. I also barrelled downstairs after the movie full to busting and almost ran into the men’s loo. Oops.
Rembrandt has his own square 😛
Some of the old buildings around are really nice. Although we have noticed they all have large hooks at the top of each one and that they seem to lean forwards slightly. I’ve seen workers using the hooks with a pulley system of ropes and buckets down the street from us.
This is not one of those buildings – but it is a pretty clock tower!
Greg was charged with planning today so it will be no surprise to anyone that we ended up at a wine and cheese tasting! We went to the Reypenaer shop and had an hour long cheese and wine tasting. They are quite high end cheese makers (apparently) .It was pretty darn good. They make some really nice creamy goat’s cheese and a fantastic aged gouda. Greg has decided to start drinking whiskey as is supposed to go very well with some good cheese.
This was where we had coffee while waiting to start the tasting – but it should be heard here and now that every coffee store should have a cat sleeping in it. It slept nearly the whole time, then woke up, cleaned itself and waltzed over to the staff and announced with a ‘Meow’ that it would like some attention. I melted.
Before and after cheese tasting, we strolled through Amsterdam a bit more – skirted through the red light district, but not where the woman hang out in the shopfronts. (Henk told us this happens!). We found record stores, novelty condom stores and all sorts of things. We walked pass Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, but it was packed out.
We had dinner around the corner from our flat, in a nice local pub. Not particularly Dutch cuisine was had, but it was tasty. We walked home via the canal and saw a few houseboats and birds in evidence. There was a lovely ginger tabby getting pats shamelessly on our street as we went upstairs.
There is a lot to do in Amsterdam central, aside from get whacky on local soft drugs and drink beer of course. It is strange to see people smoking bongs in cafes as you walk down the street! We probably should have gone to the Amsterdam museum, it is supposed to be quite good. Seeing the cyclists everywhere is quite funny, there are bikes of all types and few people seem to feel the need to wear skin tight fluros. Greg and I did what we could, without going nuts, but we are alsoÂ booked in to hang out with El’s family on Saturday (tomorrow) – it will be a jaunt through the countryside, guided by the locals – can’t wait!
Lovin it. Looks beautiful!
Love Gouda. Gouda is good. Must go to Amsterdam.