Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Quick side trip to Amsterdam.

After a reasonable night's sleep at Jacques and Claire's apartment in Le Chesnay, we got off to an early start and left their apartment at 6:50 am to drive to Amsterdam.We've been there a few times but not in a while and we figured, while in Europe why not go check out the Van Gogh Museum and sample some Dutch Cuisine. So, off we went. After Jacques got us started, I drove most of the way in his new Nissan, a model that doesn't exist in the USA.

Using the onboard GPS, we found the address of the hotel but had a tough time actually finding the hotel itself. It was in a courtyard of an office building with a little sign on the mailbox. We checked in, dropped our luggage and walked to the Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam is a pretty good walking city so we were close to where ever we wanted to go. No photos allowed in the Van Gogh museum except at this spot...see photo on the left...

I was there about 4 years ago while on a business trip to Holland and it has been redone since then. It really is a terrific museum, not overwhelming but loaded with a history of his life as a painter.

That night we had to go for Rijsttafel, a Dutch Indonesian meal with 15-20 small plates of meats, poultry and vegetables in a variety of sauces.
Here we  are with our waiter at Kartika after he has loaded up the table with a pile of food that we washed down with a few IPA's Rijsttafel was one of the Dutch Treats we remembered from our first visit to Amsterdam in 1969. Tempus Fugits.

Next morning it was time to tackle the Rijksmueum home of all the Dutch Masters. The building was constructed as a museum to display the best of Dutch art work. We signed up for a guided tour and met Esme for our walk around to see the highlights. The building itself is worth the visit. The entry way before the main gallery is meant to inspire you or make you grow as a person (according to Esme ). There are tile inlays in the floor of the four seasons and the signs of the zodiac and the stained glass window has images of Dutch artists and scientists instead of saints. At one time it was deemed to be "too Catholic" so the walls and floor were completely covered over with paint and wooden floors. Only recently was it restored to its original state.

Of course, the main attraction of the museum is the Dutch Masters. One enters a long gallery lined with famous Dutch painters like Vermeer and Frans Hals. At the very end is the room dedicated to Rembrandt. You see it as you walk down the gallery after taking in all the other masterpieces on each side.

When you finally reach the end of the walk you join the masses who are appreciating one of Rembrandt's most famous paintings, The Night Watch. The watch was a group of militia who patrolled the streets of Amsterdam. Because of the dark background, it was assumed that the men were getting ready to patrol at night but it was probably a day patrol. With the dark background, the light on the men in the painting makes them stand out more and become more important. These were portraits of the major players in the Watch. It is thought that Rembrandt himself is peeking through between a couple of guards.

That night, we wanted to try another Dutch "Delicacy" called HotchPotch. That is a catch all name for a pile of mashed potatoes with other vegetables mixed in topped off with, in my case, a giant meatball. Judy had cheese croquettes on her mashed. The restaurant, De Blauwe Hollandeer, was near the Leidseplein Square. Leidseplein Square is a very busy and happening area just at the outer ring of canals and just far enough from our hotel that we could walk off our latest culinary experience.

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without the obligatory canal tour. So, to get out of the cold wind, on the last day we boarded a boat near the West Church, not to be confused with the East Church, the New Church or the Old Church. It was a leisurely cruise around the loop of canals that make Amsterdam so charming.

Once again, walking through neighborhoods and crossing the weave of canals we were presented with iconic views of what makes us want to come back to Amsterdam.

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