Sunday, May 1, 2011

Amsterdam: Part II

The second half of our Amsterdam vacation started with a canal boat tour. It's a great way to see the city from a different perspective and learn more about the history of Amsterdam. We could not have asked for better weather. I think our few days in Amsterdam was the longest time, since living in the Netherlands, that I haven't had to use my umbrella. Score! 

Our canal tour took us to famous sites like the Skinny Bridge and the Seven Bridges. The majority of our boat tour was spent on Herengracht, Keizergracht, and parts of Prinsengracht. (Grachten meaning canals in English). This is where all the wealthy merchants lived during Amsterdam's Golden Age. 
The Skinny Bridge
Riding through these canals was my favorite part of the tour because we learned more about the typical 17th century Dutch architecture that everyone associates with Amsterdam. This style of gabled roof top architecture was popular in the 17th century. I could stare at these roof tops all day. The city is so pretty.
Seven Bridges
After our boat tour we had lunch at De Bakkers Winkel. I went to this restaurant in Utrecht with my former Dutch teacher Mari. It's delicious. I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Amsterdam. Very simple, but yummy. We finished our meal with a raisin scone topped with some clotted cream and their homemade jams and spreads. I topped mine with some lemon curd (that I ended up buying afterwards). Holy LEKKER!!!
Next stop: Het Rembrandhuis. Since visiting Anne Frank was practically impossible on Easter weekend we thought Rembrandt would be an interesting alternative. Well to be honest, I thought it would be an interesting alternative. Jaap could go on living life without ever entering another museum. I, on the other hand, could visit every museum possible. We have had to blend our two different travel styles and compromise. Jaap has instituted the 'only one museum a day rule', which I have come to embrace. I'm actually enjoying spending less time in museums and more time outside, exploring the city itself. And for the record, we only visited two museums in Amsterdam. :)

I have to admit. I was very impressed by Rembrandt's digs. The house is very large and gives you a good glimpse of what his life was like during this time period. Rembrandt moved to the house at the height of his popularity in 1639, right before he was commissioned to paint The Night Watch. The house was expensive and by the 1650s he could no longer afford it and had to move. However, many of his masterpieces were painted here in his large studio, as well as famous etchings in his printing room. Some of his pupils lived and painted in the upstairs portion of the house as well. 
Jaap exploring Rembrandt's kitchen
One room of the house (that I don't have a picture of) was where he kept his collector's items and rare objects. He collected hides, shells, exotic stuffed animals, as well as pottery, art, and weapons from all over the world. One of the museum guides said that they have a detailed record of his belongings because when he filed for bankruptcy the city of Amsterdam drafted a list of his works and antiquities that were eventually sold to repay his debts. If only he knew how much his paintings are worth today!
Rembrandt's large painting studio
Jaap was thrilled to be there.
Here are some pictures of our afternoon stroll. 

A quick stop at the Bloemen Markt.
Tulips, tulips, and more tulips! They're everywhere. This is to be expected though, we're in Holland after all. Vondelpark was great. Amsterdam's own mini-Central Park. We lazily strolled around, ate some ice cream, and sat on a park bench for a long time enjoying each other's company. Jaap fell asleep in my lap and enjoyed a little cat nap. He's so cute! It was one of my favorite parts of the day. 
On our way back towards Amsterdam Centraal we stopped to listen to a jazz trio playing outside. They were pretty good and there was an outdoor café right where we were standing, so we sat down and enjoyed a few drinks before heading off to dinner in Chinatown. It felt like one of those perfect 'New York moments' when you just love the city and the company you're with so much you don't want it to end. This was even better because we were in Amsterdam! The sun was setting, the weather was warm, I was with Jaap listening to quality jazz, and enjoying a nice witte wijn. Could things get any better? 

Here's a little clip of the jazz trio playing one of my favorite jazz standards, St. Thomas. I apologize for the sound, you can't really hear the bass player that well. On another note: Please tip your street musicians when listening to good music!
We ended our trip with a little stroll through the red light district. It still amazes me a country that legalizes pot smoking in coffeshops and prostitution still functions well, and in most cases better than other places in the western world. That's how cool Dutch people all. But seriously, after visiting Amsterdam and learning more about Dutch culture, I continue to fall more in love with this country. 
Red light district

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