Intimate with Van Gogh and Market Flowers- Amsterdam

An early start to a jam packed day : a morning visit to the Van Gogh museum, meeting up with Elsa (the girl I had met during the historical walking tour of the day before) right after to explore the Albert Cuyp Market and then heading back to the hotel to freshen up before heading back out to meet with my friend Dennis for the first time. And somewhere in there or after, finding time to pack up to head to Germany the next day.

First stop though, the Van Gogh Museum, happily only about a 10 minute walk from my hotel which was helpful as it was yet another slightly rainy morning. Putting in my headphones and listening to some U2 while I walked through the quiet streets was it’s own adventure though, and once I made it to the museum I couldn’t quite mind the drizzle. You might notice theres only one photo of the museum in this post and thats because photography is only permitted at certain designated areas- the Entrance Hall and by what are called ‘selfie walls’ (which I don’t think I even saw….or maybe they were the areas that were surrounded by people and so I skipped them). I did see some people sneaking photos of the artwork when the attendants weren’t looking – btw, this museum has the most attendants i’ve ever seen anywhere- but i’m happy to follow the rules in these cases and respected the policy.

I’ve heard some people describe this museum as small, and I guess compared to the Rijksmuseum it is, but considering its dedicated to just one artist, i’d say it does the job perfectly. It feels intimate to me, partly because when I visited early that morning the crowds hadn’t descended yet, and partly because of it’s size. Every section feels carefully crafted and above all else, respectful to the spirit of the man who’s work we’re all there to see and reading the placards, seeing his artwork with your own eyes, it’s so humbling. There’s a deep melancholy to everything of course, you can’t quite escape that, but it’s appropriate and real, and you leave the museum feeling, hopefully, like you’ve gained just that little bit more of a closer understanding to who Van Gogh was as an artists and as a person outside of his art.

According to the I Amsterdam website, the Albert Cuypmarkt is the largest and most popular outdoor market in the Netherlands, and it’s located on the Albert Cuypstraat between Ferdinand Bolstraat and Van Woustraat, in the De Pijp area of the Oud-Zuid district of the city. It’s also only about a 15 minute walk from the Van Gogh museum which I appreciated as I headed straight from there to meet up with Elsa. I hadn’t planned on visiting, I actually hadn’t known about it until she mentioned it but having only visited the more touristy areas of Amsterdam, I was more than happy to go somewhere with a more local atmosphere.

I definetly recommend some good walking shoes, cash for the vendors, an empty stomach for all the tasty treats for sale and probably a tote bag or two for anything you end up being tempted to buy (and trust me, you will most definetly be tempted by at least one stall if not five). We wandered around the market for a good hour and a half, and I bought a fantastically yummy cappuccino, a couple of art prints for my friend Rachid (who I would be visiting later in Paris) a couple of magnets for friends and a tote bag to add to the collection I had started in Edinburgh. Elsa bought some fresh cheese for a friend she was heading off to see in Geneva and even now i’m sitting here wondering why the heck I didn’t buy myself some cheese as well. Oh well, another reason to head back, no?

After we finished up at the market, Elsa and I walked back towards the Van Gogh museum together, where we parted ways- she was headed to the airport to catch her flight to Geneva and I was headed back to the hotel to freshen up (and unload all the souvenirs I had bought) before heading out again. I’m not going to go into how I got lost heading back to the hotel despite having just walked from there that morning….but I will mention that eventually I realized I was going the wrong way well past the point you would think I’d have figured it out and had to call a cab to come get me…and the cabbie ended up being the same one from the day before who had dropped me off near the walking tour meet up point. Whats kinda shocking is he actually remembered me and after I had settled into the back seat said, “hey so how was the tour yesterday?” and I completely freaked out before I realized why he knew that. Lovely guy though, I definetly suggest using Amsterdam Taxi-Online if you’d like to support a local business but still have an uber-like convenience.

I met up with Dennis at Leidseplein Square at around 1:30, again just another 15 minute walk from where I was staying and honestly, I have to agree with everyone else who’s said this- Amsterdam is truly one of the most walkable cities. Not saying you can’t get lost or you won’t be run over by either a tram, bus, car or bike….but you’ll get further to your destination before you do at least. There were no real solid plans for this part of the day, though there had been a mention of a record store and possible a book store, an idea I was more than keen on. Side note- I met Dennis online about oh, 5 years ago back after I had first gotten interested in Amsterdam as a future travel destination, and as he was a city native it was the basis of our first few conversations but we kept communicating because he has really fantastic taste in music and we have similar taste in books and movies. Unlike my first meeting with Rob in Edinburgh though, this one was planned much more on the fly and involved a lot less hiking.

A wonderful guy with a ice-dry sense of humor and a high tolerance for my sometimes over-exuberant personality, we clicked about as soon as we met and hanging out with him that afternoon was the perfect way to end my trip to Amsterdam. We went to a music shop called Concerto, a really fantastically stocked and chill place where I had to hold myself back from buying a vinyl copy of U2’s The Joshua Tree and instead contented myself with buying a couple of CD’s… one of which was a Toto’s Greatest Hits- which yes, he did rather mercilessly make fun of me for but I still hold up as an awesome and sound purchase. Afterwards he took me to the American Book Center, a really lovely and well stocked bookshop where we browsed their graphic novel section and he most graciously allowed me to photograph him holding some I wanted to buy (but would be responsible and wait till I got back home to buy- adulting, I do it sometimes).

I eventually made my way back to the hotel, taking a very leisurely walk back through the streets and trying not to fall prey to the urge to cancel the rest of my travel plans and extend my stay but it was a near thing. Of course the next day proved that perhaps I should have listened to my instincts and stayed at least another day but, thats for another post.

~m

 

Delftware, Ship Models and Romanticism- Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

And now we get into the good stuff…

That was my thought as I left the Hall of Honor gallery and headed towards the rest of the galleries on the second floor. Not to say the paintings and areas I had been in before weren’t very literally breathtaking but, as i’ve mentioned before, my jam is more historical objects/documents than paintings, and boy was I in for an overflowing bounty of arrestingly interesting pieces and items of all kinds.

All kinds of beautiful artwork, craftsmanship and exquisite what have you was what I found wandering the halls of the more than 30 galleries devoted to the 17th century (1600–1700) . From the Navel Power gallery to the King Stadtholder III and Mary Stuart gallery and French Court art and Delftware, there’s honestly something for everyone- provided of course that you interested in these kinds of things in the first place. But what would you be doing here in the museum if you weren’t?

I ended my visit back on the first floor,The 18th century (1700–1800) , making sure to get a good look at the three Van Gogh paintings housed here because at the time I had decided I wouldn’t try and go to the separate Van Gogh museum on this visit. I sat for a good amount of time just there near the entrance/exit area just taking it all in, experiencing that godawful feeling of nostalgia for a moment you’re still living in and wondering if I would ever get the chance to come back to this amazing musuem. Eventually I kicked that weird mood though, and went to hit up the giftshop, because of course I did, it’s become literally impossible for me to go somewhere and not leave many (many) euros lighter.

I headed back to my hotel just a couple of blocks away and enjoyed the great weather on the walk back, a complete sunny departure from the foggy rain of that morning. Once back at the hotel, dinner on it’s way and my bed covered in museum brochures and more ticket stubs than I could count, I made plans for the next day which did actually end up including the Van Gogh museum because go figure.

~m

p.s here’s a floor-plan for the Rijksmuseum for anyone curious.

Medieval Treasures and Night Watch Crowds – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

It would be hard- though not impossible- to be in  Amsterdam and not visit one of the many amazing museums located there. For me, the struggle was real when it came to deciding between museums like the Ann Frank House, The Van Gogh Museum, and even the rather esoteric Museum of Bags and Purses. Thankfully this heartbreaker of a decision is something tour guides are well aware of and during the morning walking tour I took the guide our group had helpfully suggested that if you were pressed for time and you really could only visit one museum, the best choice would be the Rijksmuseum.

Reasons why this would be your best bet? It’s the largest art museum in the country (and one of the most visited), has a total collection of 1 million objects that span the years 1200 to 2000 – 8000 of which are on display to the public- and it even has three paintings by Van Gogh so that you won’t completely miss out on the experience of seeing one of his paintings here even if you can’t make it to the Van Gogh museum. The museums collection is focused on arts, crafts and history- which made it all that more fantastic for me because while I like art museums, wandering hall after hall of paintings can lose it’s appeal for me after a while. That being said, plunk me down among armoire, cabinets, tapestries and other objects with historical context, add in piles of documents/bank notes and throw in some letters and you’ve got my attention for probably an eternity. That stuff is like cat nip to me and this museum not only had it in spades but its also one of the most beautiful buildings i’ve ever been in.

Almost inadvertently, I started out in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (1100-1600) section, on the ground floor 0 and spent a really peaceful hour slowly perusing the objects on display at my leisure. As you can probably tell from the photos, very few people lingered in this section- though to be fair,  few areas of the museum were really crowded, probably because it was around 1pm on a weekday when I visited. Not really having much of an idea of where I wanted to go next I decided to skip the first floor for the time being and head to the second floor, where the much lauded Night Watch is located.

I found the crowds here in the Gallery of Honor and more specifically in the Night Watch Gallery . I won’t say the Night Watch isn’t spectacular to behold in person, but it’s a bit like the Grand Canyon in the sense that no matter how magnificent it is in person, it’s been well and truly hyped up to an almost dizzying degree so that it can’t quite match up to what you have pictured in your head. The presentation though, thats unexpected and truly breathtaking.

An inside joke for friends- of course I love any depiction of Caesar getting stabbed as the final assignment in the worlds worst/best group project

I eventually finished up in this part of the museum, took a quick break on one of the many cushy benches scattered around and made my way to the 17th Century hall, passing through theThe Great Hall which I didn’t take any photos of, because honestly only video can really do justice to how amazing that hall is. Hopefully I can get around to putting together a video compilation of the trip that will include that clip but for now, just take my word on it, it’s unexpected and just that close to heavenly.

~m

Foggy Canals and Amex Adventures- Amsterdam

The day started early…ish. It also started with some light rain and a bit of a foggy mist, which really wasn’t the most promising start to my first day in Amsterdam, especially given I had planned to spend most, if not all, of it walking around. I was tempted to think the rain I had encountered in Scotland had followed me down, but that would be dubious logic, right?  No matter the weather, it was still unbelievable amazing to actually be here, in Amsterdam.

Not to say being in Scotland wasn’t amazing and it’s own kind of dream come true but, Amsterdam was the city I had first picked out to visit when I was 16 and only just starting to dream of traveling to Europe. Full disclosure: this probably had a good bit to do with a big and rather inconvenient crush I had on an incredibly sweet and friendly Dutch boy I knew at the time, but the love for the city remained even after that summer infatuation faded.

I had never done any kind of tour before this trip, but after reading about people who’d done them and not wanting to spend all my hours wandering by myself through a new city, I decided to sign up for one just a few days before leaving and hope for the best. The walking tour I signed up for met at 10am at the National Monument in Dam Square and for someone that hadn’t ever had the chance to really sit down and learn about Amsterdam’s history, it was unbelievably informative while still being super fun. Some of the subjects and areas that were covered in the 3 hours:  Anne Frank’s story, the Dutch East India Company, the Red Light District, multiple hidden Catholic churches, Amsterdam’s Chinatown, and the history and reasons behind the leaning buildings & gable stones. While doing a walking tour that consisted of mostly all couples while I only had my camera as companion might have turned out a bit depressing, the guide we had was so chipper and genuinely enthusiastic about teaching us about her city’s history as to make me feel only that much more happy to be there.

We stopped at a restaurant for half and hour (I can’t remember the name of the place but I can tell you it was surreal, purple and very cool) in the middle of the tour so people could use the bathroom, rest their feet and talk to the tour guide about other tours available.  While I was debating whether to take that nights Red Light District tour one of the other people in the group came over to talk to me- she introduced herself as Elsa from Chicago and we started chatting and getting to know each other better as the tour continued.

By the time the tour concluded at the Homomonument (exactly what it sounds like yes- a memorial that commemorates gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality) the sun was well and truly out, the fog has dissipated and we set off to try and find lunch together.


Now, if you’ve read the last couple of posts you might remember that I lost one of my credit cards somewhere on my flight from Paris to Edinburgh and as such only had some Euros and one card left to me while I waited for the other two to arrive by overnight mail. The good news was that my other cards were due to arrive that afternoon to my hotel, the bad news was that I still had a whole morning to try and get by with what I had with me…which wouldn’t have been such a problem if I hadn’t decided to take my American Express card with me instead of say, my debit card. Amex, as some of you might know, is not excepted everywhere. Generally i’d been lucky with it being accepted and thankfully Elsa was a good sport about making sure we could find a place that took it but it was still a fun half hour of walking around the streets of Amsterdam looking for that little blue and white “we accept” sticker on windows. Eventually though we found a nice and quiet sandwich shop and tucked in to barbecue chicken and gouda sandwiches and chilled pear juice which was an interesting but surprisingly tasty combination.

After that we walked off in the general direction of the Rijksmuseum, which I had bought skip-the-line tickets for and where we parted ways as she was headed towards the Vondelpark. We exchanged numbers though, and made tentative plans to possible meet up again the next day before she headed off to Geneva and I headed inside to spend the next couple of hours wandering happily through the many (many many) hallways of one of the most beautiful museums i’ve ever visited.

So, fair warning- the next 2-3 posts will probably be about the Rijksmuseum because i’m a gigantic nerd and so if you’re not too interested in that (but why wouldn’t you be, it’s an amazing museum!) feel free to tune back in for the Salzburg, Germany and France posts that will come after that.

~m

Crinkled Maps, High Hopes and Rain Clouds- Loch Lomond, Scotland

The day started earlier than I expected, at 5am. Jetlag sucks, but at least it helped me get an early start to the day, which included a brisk walk down into the center of Morningside (the district in Edinburgh my hotel was located in) to pick up some breakfast and grab pastries to bring along the planned roadtrip up to Loch Lomond. The day was already a bit rainy but I had hopes that maybe it would clear up as it went on. I also had hopes that I wouldn’t completely collapse on the side of some Scottish mountain while trying to keep up with someone who was much more accustomed to being out and about in the woods than me. Only one of these two would be fully realized (lets take a guess which one).

Fun side story: the week before I left for this trip, actually just 4 days beforehand, I endured a grueling hour long 3-person panel interview for a new position at work that I still wasn’t even sure if I actually wanted. The reason this is relevant is because I couldn’t help from worrying about hearing back about it, as I can be a tight-knit ball of stress sometimes that doesn’t know how to relax even when on vacation. I do honestly still feel bad that Rob had to deal with that while just trying to enjoy this mid morning hike up around Loch Lomond that we eventually decided on, but then again he’s been my friend for a good bit now and knows my personality can be a fun grab bag of both good and bad. 

The thing about this hike was, I didn’t realize till about a 3rd of the way- at the point where I needed to take a break every 15 minuets- that we would only be going straight up and the landscape wouldn’t level out till we started making out way back down. It was at this point that I decided to just gracefully bow out of further physical exertion and head back down to the lakeside to rest and de-stress. Though it would have perhaps have been more interesting for me (and this blogs readers) if Rob had followed me down and we had tried a different trail or continued exploring the area together, I urged him to finish the hike as he had been really excited to do it and I didn’t feel it was fair for him to miss out on the experience just because i’m a dumpster fire mess sometimes.

So after we parted ways, I took my time on the winding trail heading back down to the lake, photographing the beautiful landscape as it was laid out before me, the air so crisp and clean and scented with something I still can’t quite put my finger on. Green, wild and unknown. Eventually making it back down to the lake I spent the next two hours writing in my travel journal, talking to my boyfriend back home who helped me stop worrying about everything (the lost credit card, the potential job I was waiting to hear back from, the idea of meeting up with a bunch more people I had never met in real life and wondering if we would all get along, the stress of traveling through all new countries mostly by myself, ect) and by the time Rob made it back from the hike my head was clearer than it had been in weeks.

We headed back to Edinburgh to drop off the rental car, enjoying a leisurely drive that was full of more genuine conversation and laughter than had been there before and we wrapped up the day at The Worlds End pub complete with fish and chips, haggis and of course, surprisingly good warm beer.

The next day was another early start as I headed off to Amsterdam and though it wasn’t as quick or as easy as I had hoped (I missed my connecting flight and kept mistakenly buying sparkling drinks even though I hate sparkling drinks), eventually I made it to the city I had dreamed of visiting since I was 16 and all the struggles to get there were more than worth it.

~m

Coming up, Amsterdam (Walking tour around Amsterdam and the canals, the Rijksmuseum, Albert Cuyp market) and then Germany (Bavaria and King Ludwig II’s castles) and Austria (Salzburg).