Amsterdam: March 8 & 9, 2015
Blue Eyes and I are toying with the idea of starting a travel blog. Just for fun. I decided to practice a bit here on this blog since anyone who reads knows we are currently traveling in Europe. First off, I realize I need to bring my big fancy camera with me if I am going to take this seriously, but I do not have it this trip. Also, warning: I love to take pictures of food.
Much of our travel is for business purposes (at least on this trip it is), so there is not so much time for sightseeing, but we sneak in a little here and there. I spoke some about our first afternoon in Amsterdam in my last post. We were only in Amsterdam for one night and I had most of one day set aside for sightseeing, alone. Jet lag was a small issue, but didn’t really hit until we got to Paris.
We stayed at the beautiful old Intercontinental Amstel Hotel on the Amstel River. The hotel originally opened in 1867 and the lobby is small, but opulent and the rooms are good sized with comfortable upholstered furnishings in a traditional style. The hotel is really quite gorgeous.
Blue Eyes had meetings in a town called Eindhoven, which meant he had a 1 hour and 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam on that Monday morning. We went down to breakfast early. It seems all the European hotels have a breakfast buffet option and our room rate usually includes a full breakfast. At the Amstel, full breakfast meant the entire buffet plus the option of eggs prepared to your liking. There were also waffles and pancakes, etc… The buffet was quite well stocked with lots of healthy options including cereals and super foods (grains/nuts/dried berries), fresh fruits and juices, a display of meats, fishes and cheeses, salad, hard boiled eggs, quiche, and yogurts plus a gorgeous selection of fresh baked breads, rolls, croissants and cakes. Tea and coffee to your specification are served at your table.
If you enjoy breakfast, including it with your room is a smart option. Often times I take a picture of the buffet, but this time I did not. I did take a picture of our plates, and of our view.
View from our breakfast table
My food (above)
Blue Eyes’ Plate (below)
I am a big fan of Eggs Benedict, so I usually place a half order anywhere they serve it. I forgot to tell them half order this time so quite a bit went to waste, which I do not like to see happen, but better left on the plate than in my belly. The egg was perfectly cooked, but the hollandaise was a little thick for my taste… more the consistency of a mayonnaise. I prefer pouring versus spooning. However, the flavor was quite delicious. The ham was delicately sliced and the muffins were easy to cut, lightly toasted, very fresh.
After breakfast, Blue Eyes left for his meetings, which would last all day and with the train ride, he would not return to the hotel until about 6:15pm, just in time to head to the airport for our flight to Paris.
I worked in the morning, then I visited the amazingly wonderful and witty concierge and asked him for walking directions to the Rijksmuseum. He warned me about all the bikes in Amsterdam and how the riders do not like to stop for tourists (or anyone else) and so they won’t stop, they will just run into you. I figured this out the last time we were in Amsterdam with numerous near misses when trying to figure out where I was supposed to walk and they were supposed to ride. There is often a very blurry line between the two.
The above photo was actually taken in October, 2012 outside our then hotel (the Grand Hotel Amrath Amsterdam) of our son’s bike while he was on his abroad semester in Amsterdam. He rode that bike everywhere, every day, in rain, sleet, snow, and the occasional sunshine. December apparently got very dicey. I have to say a couple words about the hotel we stayed at in 2012. What a strange experience.
The hotel itself was an old shipping building that was renovated into a hotel. We had a wonderful view and the room was done nicely with a Nespresso machine and a lovely bathroom. Unfortunately, the room was obviously equipped with two twin beds that had been pushed together to make a king and every night the beds would separate leaving a big gap in the middle. Not great for a couple who likes to sleep close or have at least a full size bed to enjoy together. Since Blue Eyes and I don’t drink much alcohol, our college age son was thrilled that the entire mini bar was complimentary (filled with all kinds of alcohol) and refilled every day. Unbelievable. Who has ever heard of such a thing? My husband swears he was bitten by bed bugs and indeed we did both have some kind of rash type situation when we left the hotel. The hotel itself is what I would call creepy beautiful. There are lovely leaded glass windows and lots of old Amsterdam School style details, but the exterior is heavily decorated with stone carvings and the interior is a confusing maze with elevators that don’t work well. All in all, we got a great rate through a travel agent, but decided not to stay there again. If you are taking the train around, however, the location cannot be beat. It is also quite close to the Red Light District, if that is your thing.
When we visited Amsterdam in early October 2012, the Rijksmuseum was closed for renovations. Last time in Amsterdam, I window shopped, took a canal cruise, we visited the Anne Frank Museum with our son, we also went to the Hermitage museum. The Van Gogh museum was also closed at the time (a most interesting twist for our son as he was there on his semester abroad attending ART school–he is a painter and a potter), but many of the Van Gogh’s were actually being displayed at the Hermitage at the time. Next time back in Amsterdam, I will definitely go to the Van Gogh museum.
Back to present. The concierge mapped out a nice route to the museum that took me along a beautiful canal and also by an open air flower market.
The canal at Prinsengracht (above)
I love these little European delivery vans. Rome has some of the cutest I have seen. It’s difficult to get a size perspective, but suffice it to say at 5’5″, I could easily see right over this thing while standing next to it. It’s hard to believe a decent sized human actually fits inside.
Typical Amsterdam street scene and architecture standing on a bridge at the intersection of two canals. (above)
Even though the flowers at the flower market were pretty standard fare for early Spring, they really brightened the spot and it was fun to watch all the chatter going on amongst the vendors at their stalls and the patrons strolling through with babies in prams, dogs on leashes, and elderly couples gingerly examining the first blossoms of the upcoming spring season.
It was a little over a mile walk to the museum and although I lost the blue skies, the chilly wind had died down and it was a lovely 57 degrees on what was actually still a winter’s day.
Above and below: The Rijksmuseum
The museum highlights the dozens of wonderful Dutch born artists with a smattering of other art represented. When your country boasts the likes of Rembrandt and Van Gogh (plus too many others to name), flaunt it. Since the Van Gogh museum is very nearby, there were only a handful of Van Gogh’s on display at the Rijksmuseum and the ones that were are small (including the famous Van Gogh self portrait) and highlighted on the audio tour that so many people purchase for an additional fee. The problem with this is people swarm in front of the art and then stand during the entire recording time without a care for those around them and so it is nearly impossible to get near the art. This is not the case with the absolutely enormous and famous The Night Watch Rembrandt painting on display, which has an interesting story and they provide a large laminated cheat sheet for you to look at while viewing the painting. This was perhaps the highlight of the museum for me.
There were some lovely carved pieces and they are currently exhibiting an amazing array of Late Rembrandt works (get tickets in advance–it is a separate exhibit) that will be on display through May 17, 2015. All in all, the Dutch paintings are of a very muted palette and the museum highlights mainly Dutch painters (especially Rembrandt) so if that is your preference, you will not be disappointed. I actually fell in love with the Monet that was right around the corner from the Van Gogh self portrait and there was not a soul around the entire time I viewed it.
When my feet started to get tired, I headed to the museum cafe for a late lunch. Museum cafes generally have really wonderful food and the Rijksmuseum was no exception. I enjoyed another cup of the fresh mint tea I had fallen in the love with the afternoon before, plus I enjoyed a delicious fresh salad of cos lettuce, pancetta, farmer’s cheese, chicken, egg, and croutons.
I chose a different route on my walk back to the hotel, which afforded me more views of beautiful architecture and canals, and the Amstel River. When I returned to the hotel, I still had a couple hours to wait, so I worked from the lovely little hotel bar on the lower level. I wish Blue Eyes and I had had more time in Amsterdam as a couple, but I am grateful for the time I did have. I managed to walk away from Amsterdam with no souvenirs except a little package of stroopwafel cookies.
That’s okay as I need some room in my luggage for Paris…