Amsterdam to Barcelona Journal - Our first visit August 1999

August 24 Tuesday

Amsterdam Slide Show

We arrived in the late afternoon arrival in Amsterdam and checked into the Hotel Hestia, stopping in the breakfast room for some coffee and cookies before going up to our clean, neat room. After unpacking the basics, we took a walk to familiarize ourselves with the neighborhood and see Leidseplein. Although we were very tired, we went to the Palladium Restaurant for a light dinner - penne pasta with broccoli, chicken and sun dried tomatoes in cream sauce, a salad Nicoise, bread with olive tapenade, Torres red wine. It was a relaxing, cool evening with interesting crowds and a lot of bicycles parked along the street.  By 11 p.m. we were in bed.
Hotel Hestia is convenient to trams and has an elevator

August 25 Wednesday

We got up by 9 a.m. for a typical Holland breakfast (toast and breads, cheeses, cold cuts, assorted jellies and spreads, coffee).  Our first stop was the Rijksmuseum.  It has an amazing collection of Rembrandt and Vermeer - small, large and famous pieces.  We were fortunate that they had some wonderful art in a special exhibit of Still-Life paintings from the Netherlands dating from 1550-1720.  The general collection has many religious works and portraits. Some favorites: Hendrik van Balm's (1575-1632) "Bacchus & Diana"; Herri met de Bles (1485-1550) "Paradise" an unusual round oil that depicted Adam and Eve, a jeweled spire, angels, possums, lion, goats, elk, civet, cattle; Pieter Claez (1597-1660); Adam Willaerts (1577-1664) shipwreck off a rocky coast with a great carp; Pieter Lartman "Orestes & Dylades; Rembrandt "Musical Allegory"; Balthsar van der Ast "Fruit, Shells, Insects & Flowers"; Melchior d'Hondecoeter; Jan Breughel de Oude "Garland of Fruit & Flowers"; Jan Davidsz de Heem.

After the museum, we took the Canal Boat for a tour - interesting architecture - touch of the sea. We debarked near the Royal Palace and went in to find interesting marble carving, great floors & chandeliers, and an exhibit of concert information from the past.  The Palace had been converted to government offices but some rooms were maintained to show their prior use (bedroom, dining room). It has some wonderful frescoes, statuary of Greek gods and goddesses. We missed the last boat, and walked back to hotel.  On the way we picked up some cheese, wine and olives for dinner, then sat in cool of hotel patio to enjoy them. It's tough walking on cobblestones. Early to bed.


You can spend hours in one of the great museums of the world

August 26 Thursday

Our morning began with a visit to the Van Gogh Museum - WOW! Wonderful, Wonderful! The two modern buildings ( three floors each) have a comprehensive collection of Van Gogh's work, well displayed, lit and described. In addition to Van Gogh's work, his brother Theo had collected an excellent variety of work by Vincent's contemporaries (many of whom had been represented by brother Theo).  Some favorites: Van Gogh's "Flowerpot with Chives"; Claude Monet's 1888 "Under the Pine Trees at the End of the Day"' August Renoir's "Lunch at the Restaurant Fournais". 

In the afternoon, we took the tram to Dam Square to hunt for the Oude Kerk (Old Church).  This led us through a "red light" area with loafing ladies and lots of small shops - very colorful. The Kerk was closed, so we stopped for a Wiltmalle dark beer and a Heineken at a corner bar where we rested and people watched. We rode the tram back to Leidseplein, stopped in at the Bulldog and went to dinner at Dionysus (fairly good Greek food but not as fresh as usual - great Hatzimichaelis Cabernet and Metaxa after dinner). Too full to sleep well.

An incredible permanent collection of drawings, paintings, and personal memorabilia

August 27 Friday
In the morning we rode the Circle Tram #20 from Leidseplein to #6 for the Hortus Botanicus. This good size botanical garden is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1638.  It is nicely done with a large metal and glass 3 part display of large number of species (around 8,000), an old brick "greenhouse" contained cycads and largest philodendron and African rubber tree, a fine little cactus house, an orchid house ( not open) and a butterfly house that had unusual "pitcher" plants. Next, we crossed the Amstel (photo op) and went down to the Willet-Holthuysen Museum.  It is an 17-th century, partially restored canal house furnished with many of the households' original items.  Our next stop was at the Three Sisters in Rembrandtplein for Leffe brune-dubbel and a stuffed baguette with fries. We looked inside Smokeys, and strolled along the Bloemenmarkt (flower market) with its thousands of bulbs plus house and garden plants. We ducked into herbalist shop that had more focus on mental and sexual health than general physical. The people there were very friendly and had a lot of interesting products - from "magic" mushrooms to passiflora, powdered to whole, with amusing ideas for usage. We also found a great- to- browse print and etching shop that had some good prices on originals. We caught the #20 and finished the full route before stopping at Leidseplein. A stop for some fresh orange juice and cupcakes at the Bulldog hit the spot. For dinner, we went to Kartika, a traditional Rijsttafel (Rice Table). This Indonesian menu offered a wide variety of tastes and textures.  (See scanned menu.)


The gardens house many fascinating plants

August 28 Saturday
We were slow to rise this morning, then off to Muntplein on Tram #20 with a stop at the flea market ( much like any other). We strolled up Muntplein past interesting shops, went to Boomkeeke for fresh pastries, Smokeys for cake, and a corner pub for beers (Belgian draft & Irish).  Then we continued on to Katten Kabbinet - a fun place with variety of posters, paintings, sculptures in an old canal house - worth a stop for any cat lover - very nice old Foujitas.  We caught a taxi back to the hotel then transfer to the Celebrity Century. Soon after boarding we did our first safety drill, figured out the safe, unpacked, oriented ourselves with the ship's layout, ordered wine for our table, booked tour to Granada and started relaxing - all by 7 p.m.
Chat sur fond rougeThe Katten Kabinet is a must see for any cat lover
September 29 Sunday
It's 5:21 p.m., and we're sitting in Brussels Nord train station - next stop Amsterdam. We flew from Barcelona into the Brussels airport, caught a quick train (below the airport) to here, have about 15 minutes to spare, getting hungry. We had no chance (or change) to eat. We met a nice Nederland couple on the train who enjoy travel and art as we do. The ride through Belgium was pleasant with much chat, scenery a blend of French and Dutch. The couple had been to Brussels for an Andy Warhol exhibit. They detrained in Roonsdaal and we continued on towards Schipol airport through the rich agricultural and dairy lands of northwest Nederlands, past Rotterdam, The Haag. After a shuttle to our hotel, we checked in, then returned to the Schipol station (again below the airport), caught the train to Centrum, where we caught #5 bus to Leidseplein -  just like we knew what we were doing. We returned to the Palladium for a last glass of wine, carpaccio of smoked salmon, spicy chicken satay and fries. Last stop was coffee and chocolate cake at the Bulldog. (Just to round out the circle.)  Back to the room by 1 a.m.

This was Salvador's favorite bridge in Amsterdam

Belgium to Holland Musical Holiday Journal - Our second visit in July 2001
July 15


We took the train to Amsterdam Central station and started our leisurely wander down the Dam and onto Kavelstraat where I found some lotion I'd been looking for on this heavy duty shopping street. We ducked in to take a peek in the courtyard of the Architectural Museum on the way. Cool green art deco building, Munt's Kerk, down to Rembrandtplein, a stop at the l'Opera Cafe for lunch. They offer a fair price, good food, generous servings, a nice interior (nouveau Egyptian meets dark red leather and wood bar), and a handsome balcony.

After lunch, we wandered back up through town, stopped for a soda and then headed in to the Niewe Kerk for an organ recital by Egbert Schoenmaker. Marvelous panels of painted wood covered the organ pipes and swung open to reveal the lower pipes. The concert began with simpler pieces from the 15-1600's before the upper panel opened and the music continued with music written in the 1700's. The concert was brilliant! The organ has wonderful tone and it was very well played - the organ and player were of a single spirit - the kind of sounds that makes you smile and want to dance. The church itself is a progressive work from the 16th century forward with lots of angels and naked cherubs, very worth a visit.

From the Kerk, we crossed the Dam plaza and dropped into the Golden Palm Bar at the Hotel Kraznosky to sip some B&B and Benedictine. But more importantly to get a peek into their renown Winter Garden dining salon. It has a grand glass panel ceiling much like the Sheraton Palace in San Francisco and is adorned with lots of fancy ironwork and marble.

A little after 10 pm and we're on the train heading back to Haarlem. There is dark sky behind us and a broad sunset ahead. The flatness of this country is so blatant when the entire horizon is at sunset - not even a small hill to break the line. It was warm all day - truly summer with clear skies. The horde of tourists in Amsterdam makes Haarlem look tiny and quiet.


de Nieuwe Kerk Hoofdorgel

Amsterdam - A Quick Stop on the way to Brussels
May 6, 2005


Off to the low countries once again - this time to join up with our travel buddies, Virginia and Harvey, for a week in Belgium. You might wonder why we fly into Amsterdam, but with such short notice, we had to catch the only flight that would get us here in time. It gives us a wonderful chance to enjoy a favorite snack place (Bagels & Beans) and head to Albert Cuypmarkt to do one of my personal favorite things - spice and herb shopping. You can find the freshest of everything and there are some remarkable seasoning blends (for things like gyros and pizzas) that are tasty and convenient. We have also wanted to visit and see more of Utrecht and have booked a room for the night. That gives us a chance to wander the town and catch the train to Brussels on Saturday. Public transportation is wonderful - no driving required - a bus to the Barcelona airport, flight to Amsterdam, trams to and from the market, quick train back and forth to Haarlem, and another train to arrive in Utrecht by 4 in the afternoon. We walked out a bit, had a Chinese dinner and got to bed early - a lot of moving around today!


Utrecht Gallery