Magic through the Mist in Amsterdam
Amsterdam greeted us with heavy rain that turned to hail, right at the moment of uncertainty when we were trying to figure out how to reach our apartment using public transportation. As the raindrops got harder and heavier, we groupthunk our way to the taxi stand and hopped in. Luckily the place was close and the cab cheap.
Then we (mostly Todd) had to lug our heavy bags up the steep narrow stairways to our apartment. Classic Amsterdam homes were mostly built by shipwrights and include some features that you might recognize from ships, like stairways that seem like ladders leaning against the wall, with very narrow steps. Our place also had a hook installed outside of the top floor front window, which was used to load large items into the home when they wouldn’t make it around the stairway corners. Homes were also built very narrow, as they were taxed based on their width on the street, like shotgun houses in New Orleans.
Here are a few pictures of our place and others:
We had a very laid-back relaxing week in the city, which was partly due the rain but mostly because our apartment was so comfortable. When we did get out, we did lots of walking, eating and shopping, but not so much straight-up tourism. With the leaves changing colors for fall and the canals as backdrops, we walked almost everywhere. Because we stopped so often and took lots of pictures, occasionally we had to hail a cab or call an uber in order to show up to our reservations kind of on time.
We did manage a walking beer tour. We met our guide at the biggest beer store in Amsterdam, where they had an impressive array of bottles from most of Europe and even a shelf of American craftbrews. We were happy to see that some of our favorites from San Diego were well represented. Heineken ran the beer industry in Holland for a long, long time. People took loans from Heineken in order to open bars, but then committed their bars to serving only Heineken beers for the lease period. Nowadays there are some small Belgian breweries popping up with their own brews, and a general excitement about the American and Belgian craftbeers. My favorite was a scotch ale, which apparently was the standard Holland beer before Heineken took over and started popularizing whatever you all their stuff.
Our beer tour guide also bought us a ginevre (Dutch liqueur) on our way from one brewery to the next, which is what most of the pictures in the gallery below show. This is one of the oldest bars in the city, and was really small with people drinking from their tiny glasses spilling out onto the street.
Our attempts at tourism also included a visit to the Rijksmusuem, where we saw many works of the Dutch Masters, including the Night Watch, which is featured as the central work at the museum, kind of like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The Night Watch, in my humble opinion (and I’m no art critic) is way more interesting than the Mona Lisa from just about any perspective. They’ve done a lot of research into the painting, and in 2008 even identified the actual people who stood for the painting. My heart quickened its beat when I entered the Hall of Masters at the Rijksmuseum, and I remained blown away for hours after we left. These guys really knew how to work the brush.
After the museum closed, we took a close-to-sunset canal ride, where we took even more pictures of the canals from the water. Because we were among the last people to board the boat, we ended up in the back, outside, with no audio narration. It was a beautiful ride through a beautiful city, but all of the history was lost to us.
We had lots of amazing food, including a tasting menu at De Kas, which is Dutch for greenhouse. The restaurant is inside an old park greenhouse in a residential area of the city. Now they use the greenhouse to grow veggies for the restaurant, and source the rest of the food from in and around Amsterdam. We had the three course lunch, which included lots of veggies, a salad with fish and beet syrup, and a fish main. The dessert was one of the best spins on yogurt that I’ve ever had, especially since I’m no yogurt fan. Since we were some of the last diners, they also brought us the extra wine to finish – score!
Since we loved it so much, if you’ve made it this far, I reward you with ANOTHER gallery of Amsterdam street pics.
First, the bikes. It’s a huge bike culture, with bike lanes everywhere. Instead of looking out for cars, you have to look both ways twice for bikes. I had more than a few run-ins with them and never quite learned my lesson.
And some other random shots: