This giant teddy bear was blowing bubbles outside one of the first shops we saw after arriving in Amsterdam. As we are easily impressed and admittedly are sometimes drawn to cheesy gift shops, we had to pause. My partner’s mother shopped (I won’t judge, as that’s what my mom tends to do as well). I had to capture it on film (or whatever the digital equivalent of that is), because I am under the impression (as are most bloggers) that people want to see hundreds of random photos of my vacations. If only it were the 70s and I had a slide projector…
Our original intention was to take our guests on one of the large scale boat tours that we had taken over my birthday weekend in January. However, upon arriving at the ticket booth, we were greeted by a very eager tour guide named Eddie. Eddie was around 60, and claimed to have been giving tours since he was 12. Or maybe 14. Sometimes I don’t pay attention. In any case, he had been doing it a long time. He was extremely friendly, and his boat was small and more intimate. He was also able to navigate into some of the smaller canals, which the larger boats are unable to do. His tour was very informative and interesting, much moreso than the standard big-boat tour usually offered. And it was no more expensive than the other tour, so I would highly recommend the smaller boats and private tours for anyone visiting. As an added bonus, he let us all have a go at steering the boat.
With the weather clear and in the mid-60s (mid teens for you European Celsius people), it was heaven. Here are some shots from the boat, including one of me steering. You’ll notice some of the houses in these photos are painted black. Those homes (built around the 17th Century), were plague houses. The plague hit Amsterdam during the 1660s, and houses where plague was present were painted black to notify the population. The houses continue to be painted black even today. Thanks for the tidbit, Eddie!
I realize our next destination probably seems obvious and beneath the standards of the snooty world traveler, but–as someone who is indeed snooty at times–I am here to assure you it is actually quite fun (and a good way to get three free beers). I am speaking of course of the Heineken Museum. For around 12 Euro, you gain entrance to the museum, and get three beers in the process. I can assure you there is almost nowhere in Western Europe where you will be able to get three beers for just 12 Euro, so you may as well give this a try for the booze. The museum itself is fairly interesting, though, as they walk you through the beer making process. I also learned that Heineken is supposed to be served a full degree colder than most beers are usually served (6 degrees C), which is likely why I’ve never cared for it. Served extremely cold as it is meant to, it is actually quite good. Though I’m also willing to accept we may have just been exhausted from traveling and walking around, and that the museum may have been full of subliminal messages that we must learn to love Heineken and write about it in blogs and social media or die. Anyway, it was fun. And check out the guy cooking up the barley….
Our next adventure was the Rijkmuseum, which was a special treat as it had just recently reopened after ten years. The museum is over 200 years old (opened in 1808), and has a substantial collection of both historical artifacts and art. If you only have a limited time in Amsterdam, you will probably have to choose between this and the Van Gogh museum (which was obviously the one I chose on our last trip). You will not be unhappy with either, but you may want to pick Rijkmuseum if you are more interested in history than art. If art isn’t your thing and you don’t care about the Rembrandts or Vermeers, you will still find plenty of items of interest here, from model ships, to musical instruments, to household wares, to really spectacular, intricately designed dollhouses. It’s a wonderful taste of Dutch history!
We have just learned that we may have the opportunity to live in Amsterdam temporarily during the late summer, and we are overjoyed. It is one of our favorite cities so far. If any friends want to visit during this time, let us know. We would be glad to have you and show you around!