Wednesday, 1 February 2012


Amsterdam in 4 Days, that was our latest venture. It was spurred on by our good friend, Kris, who was flying through Amsterdam on her way to Dar, Tanzania. She is going to help improve nursing practices in a major hospital. Unable to miss our friend whilst she traveled toward more important business, we took O out of school and hopped on over for a visit, museums, and eats.
The first day was spent walking about the city and enjoying just the novelty of company and canals in the rain. We popped into a small cafe where Olive entertained herself with a bowl of pea soup and a colorful calico kitten until we dried & warmed up enough to head back outside. We walked the Bloemenmarkt and stopped for some cheese tasting. Olive was so charming that the Eastern European woman (dressed in a Dutch costume) gave her a entire package of chocolates for being good in the shop. Makes you wonder how other kids then act. We also spent time taking in the local flavor visiting a hammock shop, walking by coffee houses, looking at cows attached to the ceiling in the official Iamsterdam shop, and buying boxes of hagelslag.

That afternoon, after one of us napped (any guess who?) and some games in the hotel, we searched for the "best frite" in the city, but I mistakenly mislabeled the map before the trip. But we did get to see much of the Jordaan section of town. We also walked by Ann Frank's home opting out of that subject with Olive. The Nazis in the Sound of Music scare her enough... some of life's ills can better be explained when older.We tried to go to a Brown Cafe, Int Aepjen, for dinner, but alas they did not serve it. We vowed to return again later to take in the place properly. We ended up dining at the Restaurant De Haven van Textel. Josh got his much needed mini croquet and the rest of us had various meats in brown sauce. Jet lagged and tired, 3 of the 4 of us retired by 6:30pm that evening (or 5:30pm UK time)

Friday we woke at 6am (5am UK time) with 3 of the 4 of us up and ready to go. Alas, most things do not open until 10. We hung about our hotel, Hotel De Gerstekorrel, as long as we could and braved our way into the cold morning streets. We were treated with the sun rise over the city on our way to the National Maritime Museum.

The Het Scheepvaartmuseum has all sorts of Dutch East India Company kit in an old beautiful building. Josh got his naval fix. Olive liked the maps and running the path through the navigational equipment. However, by the time we made it to the tall ship, her blood sugar was running low and she flipped out thinking the cannons were going to fire upon her. A good imagination she has. Lunch was in another small cafe & consisted of beer and sandwiches. Then we were off to the Van Gogh museum. There we saw a the famous "Sunflowers" among others. Over 800 oil paintings + sketches, watercolours, and other pieces in around 20 years. Amazing how much work he did before doing himself in.

After the museum Josh found the frite shop we were searching for earlier, Vleminckx Sausmessters, and had ourselves a cone of fries with curry catchup or mayonnaise. An old pipe organ was playing down the neighboring street singing tunes from Aladdin while we ate. Ironically, the day before while searching for this very frite stand, Olive payed them for a song... we were so close and didn't even know it.

Since we were on a lucky streak we chose to look for the upstairs pancake
house as well. Sure enough, 15 min later we are there. Pannekoekenuis was a tiny 14 seat eatery at the top of a very steep and narrow staircase. Once upstairs you are entertained and served by the large owner/operator. He has amassed a large tea pot collection which he displays on his ceiling. Savory and sweet pancakes alike are to be drenched in strop.

After our early dinner we headed in the Red Light district. At 7pm things were surprisingly very busy. Most shades were already drawn with customers inside, but there were a few women still in the windows. Olive didn't ask why they were in their underwear or swimsuits... she just commented on the quality of the red lights. She liked the ones which were more magenta better.

The monkey cafe we attempted for the second time for an aperitif, but alas, a Friday night created a hopping crowd. Thwarted again, we settled on a cafe by Dam Square to do a little people watching and have a drink before bed. Kris kindly took Olive back to the hotel so Josh and I could go out for another as adults. We ended up in a small cafe where a band of older men were celebrating one's 60th birthday with a round of gin and beer. We were back and in bed by 9!

Saturday was packed with things to do. After another early wake up via Olive's impressive internal clock. We were up and out for the day. After a quick shop & a flan drunk, we first stopped at Open Bare Bibliotheek. The public library is amazing! Fantastic views of the city, modern architecture, fun children's section. A must see for anyone traveling through.

Next was NEMO, the hands on science museum. There we all played. Josh and Olive did a hydro electric experiment and the girls did a bit of dancing about with the light screen. We got to watch a giant chain reaction/ Goldberg machine, play with bubbles, and be part of a factory. A very informative place, especially when you reach the 3rd floor and learn ALL about sex. Forget the adult museums or shops in the red light district. For the price of our universal museum pass we saw much to inform. We joked at the model that showed french kissing where each person stuck their arm into a big tongue puppet (Kris has this on her camera, so I am unable to share) . Then you turn the corner and BAM in your face photos, videos, models... nothing held back. Olive kept touching the buttons on a model, before we could whisk her away from it... it was to help demonstrate erogenous zones on the female anatomy. Luckily no further questions have arisen. I'm okay with her knowing the basics of babies, but a few things there were new for me to see.

We had a lovely pick-nick lunch on the terrace roof garden and headed into town for our last stop with Kris in tow. We did finally get a seat at the Brown Monkey Cafe, Int Aepjen. The reason we wanted to go there due to it being, "One of the oldest bars in Amsterdam, housed in the only remaining 15th-century home. 'Aepjen' means monkey, which refers to the time this was a sailors lodging house. A guest couldn't pay his bill, and he supposedly bartered with a pet monkey. " Olive took plenty of photos of the interior for us since we had been talking this place up for 3 days. We said our goodbyes to Kris after walking her back to the train station & headed in search of dinner. We settled on a micro brewery, Bier van de Maand, for supper. Once full, we were done for the day and were back to the hotel just as the town started waking up for the night.

Sunday was our last day to see the sights before we flew back home. That morning after our final breakfast from the neighboring bakery, we wandered desolate streets for an hour and a half on to the Rijks Museum. While on the long walk, we saw the cordoned off scene of a tram/bicyclist collision. I guess they're quite common, because a fabric silhouette was laid down on top of the bike. We saw the highlights of Rembrandt's "The Night Watch" & Vermeer's "The Kitchen Maid". Our picnic lunch was short due to it getting extremely cold out and we sought comfort in another cone of frite from our favorite shop.We even stumbled out of the cold into the Amsterdam Museum. There was a neat interactive exhibit where Olive got to be an orphan in a poor house & the story was told by a mouse (but in Dutch...) Unfortunately by then we were all worn out and done with museums- I well could have visited it again if we had another day. On our way back to the hotel Josh treated me to a new satchel (of which I've been searching endlessly for) By then it was time to get our luggage & pack our way to the train station & airport.

Thank you Kris for helping make this one to remember- Wishing you the best in your efforts. To all others, enjoy the friends around you. You don't realize how important they really are until they are too far away to share your everyday life with. Here's to seeing a few of you this summer! -A