Day 4 in Bruxelles – Amsterdam! 15 April 2013

We went to Holland today for lunch – because we could!

On our last trip we were in Lille, France with a few days to spare before meeting my parents. We wanted to go to Amsterdam but were travel weary, looked at the map and decided that it was too far. We went to Brussels instead and never got to see Amsterdam. Therefore it was high on the agenda on this trip.

Last night we had got home off the train from Brugge at 10pm and this morning we found ourselves back on the train at 8.20. Luckily we enjoy the train travel! The trip was 2hrs 45 mins via Rotterdam (big, cold, draughty train station with toilets a lonnnnnng way away from our platform).

Once off the train we decided to tackle the Red Light district first and then dampen those memories with the good bits!  In the spirit of keeping this blog viewable for all ages, I am omitting photos…

We were distracted by a nice cafe before we got too far in – Prinsheerlijk Sandwich Bar. Very nice if anyone is looking for a light lunch or coffee not far from Amsterdam Central train station. We just had to try a Dutch apple cake which was yum.

I was then distracted again by finally finding a hair/nail salon to get my crumbling nails re-done. It was virtually in the Red Light district so I wasn’t surprised at the service (or lack of). I provided my own colour and the ‘manicurist’ lathered as much as she could onto the brush and then onto my nails. I suspected at that point that I would only get one coat of colour – and wasn’t disappointed…

After applying the colour she flapped her hands at me (which I took to be – let them dry for a bit before we apply the top coat). That would have been OK except next thing I knew she was washing someone’s hair and then she was blow drying someone else’s hair…I wasn’t going to spend any more of my one day in Amsterdam in a nail salon so I applied the top coat myself, waved her goodbye and departed (I had pre-paid so she didn’t chase me down the street)…

Meanwhile, hubby had located the ‘local goods’ and gave me a guided tour. Like everyone else I’m sure, I didn’t know whether to look (some of them certainly wanted me to) or feel sorry for them and walk away (which I did after not too long).  Once again, no photos…

The streets were narrow cobbled lanes, bordered with a wide range of shops, bars, restaurants and various businesses that we didn’t need to know about. On our meandering through the Red Light district we saw some very interesting shops and window displays. One pub had a fold down seat in front of the window and I pointed out to hubby the cute row of action men figures that the folded up seat half hid in the window. We peered over the seat and saw that the ‘action men’ had left home only half dressed – or maybe their trousers wouldn’t fit…  Sorry, no photos…

We bought some far more suitable souvenirs, including another of the cute little Dutch/Belgian houses – of course this one had to be the Red Light district…

Some of the cobbled streets dipped and dived and almost rolled into the canals. Some were under repair. What amazed me were the cars that were parallel parked next to the canals with no path between the car and the canal and on narrow streets. Reverse parking would be very precarious!  I’m sure that the canal is the recipient of many cars, bicycles, people…

Amsterdam cars parked next to canal
Amsterdam cars parked next to canal
Amsterdam houses on canal
Amsterdam houses on canal
Amsterdam crooked houses
Amsterdam crooked houses
Amsterdam crooked house
Amsterdam crooked house
Amsterdam busker
Amsterdam busker
Amsterdam bikes
Amsterdam bikes
Amsterdam tulips
Amsterdam tulips

We then headed off into some of the nicer areas of Amsterdam, picking up a yummy lunch of dense Dutch bread, cheese and ham on the way, washed down with a little Chardonnay. Everyone seems to speak very good English but some of the menus perhaps weren’t translatable. Made selecting meals interesting as Dutch doesn’t read or sound very attractive to the average Aussie.

I have always been a Van Gogh lover and have already mentioned how I had to run through the Musee D’Orsay on our first visit to Paris and had followed up with another visit a few days ago. There were not many Van Gogh artworks in Musee D’Orsay so I was determined to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. We had timed it so that we got the Red Light district out of the way, had some pleasant meandering, then intended to do the gallery and were saving the nicest bit of Amsterdam to walk through on our way back to the train station.

We got to the Van Gogh gallery and found that it was under renovation and temporarily relocated – 25 minutes walk back in the direction that we had just come from!! Our timing was completely thrown but I just had to see it.

We bought tickets as the Museum Shop near the original gallery location so that we could go straight through.

Luckily the walk to the temporary location at the Hermitage gallery was very nice (lovely canals and leaning houses) but it was done at high speed!

We finally got to the Hermitage gallery which is a very bland brick building with a tiny front entrance and raced straight to the exhibition entry as time was of the essence. Only to be told by the security guard that we needed to swap our ‘ticket’ for a real ticket. We had been sold a ticket for a ticket… grrr. Luckily the queue wasn’t too long or we just wouldn’t have had time to go in. He also found that we had been sold a ticket for a ticket to the wrong exhibition but all was finally resolved.

It was all worth it. I just love Van Gogh’s paintings (well most of them) and fell in love with them all over again. It was the biggest collection of his work that I had ever seen in the one location and I suspect that was only a small selection as it was a temporary location.

We then speed walked our way back to the train station and collapsed on the train for the 2 hour 45 minute trip home. Love train travel!

It seemed like a lot more walking but I think it was only about a 10km day.

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