We travel: Luci stays home; Amsterdam

Bags were packed and left by the door of our stateroom by 7:30. We had time to eat breakfast in the restaurant before the bus came at 8:30 to take us to the Hilton Amsterdam. Bags were identified and we got on the bus and to the hotel where they held our bags for check in at 3PM. We were scheduled for the walking tour of Amsterdam at 9:30 and everything worked like clockwork. Amazing. No lost luggage or passengers left behind.

The tour guide met us in the lobby and off we went. In the parking lot outside the hotel she told us to look up at a window on one of the top floors and if we squinted we could see writing on the window. It said HAIR PEACE and BED PEACE. This is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent their honeymoon (Bed-in for Peace) for a week in March 1969. Most of us on the tour remembered when that happened. The guide says that the hotel keeps the room as it was in 1969 and rents it out for weddings and such.

This photo is hanging in the lobby of the hotel.

Just across the street from the hotel was a green space where the city sponsors sculpture exhibits. This year there a modern sculpture exhibit extending in both directions for several blocks.

The areas we walked through were high density with apartments and condos. Our guide told us a little about the government’s help for low income residents and how their apartments were located in regular residential areas. Those residences were well made and architecturally interesting. There is universal health care and high taxes. She indicated that this was the way the Netherlands took care of its people and they were used to it and were satisfied with it. She took us into another area and told us that some of the royal family of the Netherlands live here but they are not bothered by photographers or news people. There is a regularly scheduled photo and question opportunity for the media to interact with the royals and privacy is respected at all other times. The streets are narrow and there are few parking spaces for cars. She said that cars are taxed heavily and parking fees and licenses are expensive so most everyone rides a bike. That was very evident. Bikes were parked everywhere, chained to bike racks. Young families have bikes that have a box-like structure (that had a bench seat and room for bags) affixed on the frame in front of the handlebars with the front wheel beyond that. You might think this would be awkward loaded with a couple of kids and groceries and a baby in a back pack but we saw it done with seeming ease. There are dedicated bike lanes and pedestrians are warned not to walk in them for fear of a good scolding.

The guide took us into a pretty ritzy area of shops and boutiques. She told us that there is a covenant that storefronts had to be constructed of brick so when Chanel redid their store they used glass brick. It must be pretty at night.

Another interesting tidbit of information from the guide was that at some point in the fairly recent past, possibly during WWII, the government was bent on collecting information on the citizens. In order to show that there was nothing to hide, people stopped using window coverings. She said that is still practiced.

We walked along the edge of a large park near the fashion and museum district that she reported was used extensively by the hippies back in the day. Another turn and we were in a large open area.

The tour ended in this space called the Museumplein which is surrounded by a concert hall and three museums, most notably the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.

This is the area where we spent most of our two days in Amsterdam. We need to return. There is a lot to see that we just didn’t have time for.

What do you do next on your first day in Amsterdam? A canal boat tour. Of course. Our map showed us just where to find the Blue Boat Tours.

We waited for the next canal boat along with lots of other folks. It is a very popular thing to do.

You can look on the above map and see that the Amsterdam canals run in a circular pattern much the same way the streets do in Sun City, AZ. So if you have tried to navigate the Sun City streets you might feel as mixed up as I was as to what canal we might have been on.

Our tour guide talked about the unique stone carving on the buildings and the interesting doors and architecture of the buildings. It was hard to take it all in and remember to take pictures too.

Closer to the harbor we saw some larger buildings. One was a huge parking garage for bicycles!

There were houseboats along all the canals, some in good shape, some not. Some were pretty exotic. One was supposed to house a shelter for stray cats.

The canal guide assured us that the canal water was clean and that the canals were dredged at various times. The main items that dredging produced were bicycles. Just across the canal from the Blue Boats was the Amsterdam Hard Rock Cafe.

Having had a full morning of sightseeing, we looked for a likely lunch spot and found it right around the corner from the boat tour. We ate at an Asian place called MoMo.

Dave had a bento box. The restaurant was an open, airy place that seemed quite popular. The food was good but not so memorable that I can say what I had. We decided to walk back to the hotel and see if our room might be ready. On the way back we walked through the Museumplein where the I Am Amsterdam sculpture was. The Reijksmuseum is in the background.

Our hotel was on a canal. This is a picture of me on the bridge over the canal and the back of the hotel.

This is a picture of the hotel’s private dock. I watched ducks and coots swimming around. Our room was ready so we checked in and enjoyed resting from a day full of walking. Since it had started raining again, we decided to have a light dinner in the bar overlooking the canal and call it a day.

On our last day in Amsterdam we went to the Rijksmuseum. We had purchased tickets on the internet. It was suggested that to avoid long queues, to visit early in the morning or after 2 in the afternoon. We’re early folks and we’re at the museum when it opened.

The information from Viking Cruises stated that the original museum was founded in 1800 at The Hague to exhibit the private collections of wealthy Dutch families. It was decided to move the collections to Amsterdam in 1808 but there was no adequate space. A building design competition was won by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers. Construction began in 1876 and was completed in 1885. Since then the Rijksmuseum has been added to and renovated extensively. The latest renovation was started in 2000 to restore many original design elements and create a graceful, unified space. It was finished in 2013 so the entire museum and art history research library is available to the public to enjoy. Dave is standing in front of the museum. The archway is a pedestrian cross-through and divides the museum in half. Here is a drawing of the museum that appeared on the museum guide.

We entered the museum into an atrium and avoided the ticket line by having our barcodes scanned by an attendant.

Pictures of the atrium.

Dave and I had downloaded the free app for the museum to our smartphones. It helped us navigate the museum and learn about many of the artworks. By inputting a number associated with a painting we could listen to a narrative about the painting and artist. It was very helpful.

The museum had a wonderful spacious feel. As the day progressed more and more people, individuals, families and tour groups flocked in. There are four levels starting with 0 level which had special collections, everything from Delftware to ship models plus art from 1100-1600. Level 1 was the entry level and contained art works from 1700-1800 on one side of the atrium and art of 1800-1900 on the other side. We started on level 2. We wanted to see Rembrandt’s Nightwatch before the gallery became busy.

There was so much to see we had to just skim some of the areas just taking in the more important works that could be identified by the numbers beside them.

Level 2 had paintings and sculpture from 1600-1700. Level 3 had art of all kinds from the years 1900 to 2000.

On towards noon we descended to the bottom level where the cafe was located and had a nice lunch in this light and open space.

This is a Delft-like ceramic vase holding silk tulips in the cafe. I can imagine what it might look like with real tulips in season.

After the meal we continued to see the museum which became busier and busier. Finally we could not take in any more. We spent a little time in the museum shop and then walked through a flea market located in the Museumplein area. There were food vendors and lots of people and dogs but it didn’t seem especially crowded. It is a large area.

Back at the hotel we took a much needed rest. Later we looked for a nice restaurant within walking distance from the hotel.

The Oud-Zuid restaurant on Verhulststraat fit the bill. It was a cozy corner bistro serving nice food and wine with indoor and outdoor seating. It was evident that this was a restaurant that locals favored. Most folks strolled up, looked at the menu posted near the entrance and came inside. Others arrived on bicycle. Kids played outside on the street. It was fun and the food was excellent.

Our airport transfer was scheduled for 7:15 the next morning. The hotel had a sack with breakfast items and snacks for us since their restaurant wasn’t open until 7:30. A nice van came and collected four of us. The other couple was headed for Tucson but our routes were totally different. And many, many houses later we arrived at Sky Harbor. An hour later we were home.

No more travel for a while!

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