Sunday, 24 July 2016

July 22, 2016- Wandering the Centre of Town, Canal Tour, Museumkaart, and the Van Gogh Museum

Today, July 22nd, we awoke late at 10:30 a.m., after falling asleep late, but sleeping very well on the comfortable bed at our hotel. The hotel is very quiet and is in a sleepy little posh neighbourhood. The neighbourhood is beautiful, safe, and clean.
The Bilderberg Garden Hotel - We're still waiting for the invitation to the conference to be slipped under our door.
We had a protein bar at the hotel and then walked towards the centre of town to find lunch and see the sights.

We stopped at a pizza place in a very touristy area, Leidestraat. We sat outside and ate the delicious pizza (haven't had a pizza that good since we were in French Polynesia) and watched all the tourists walk by in various states of confusion/inebriation/cockiness.

This is a step up from the Pizza we get in Canada...even that place in Cook St. Village.
Full, we stumbled through the cobblestone streets, trying to avoid idiot tourists (not that that profile fit us). We walked through the Flower Market. It was a mob scene. The bulbs available were diverse and gorgeous and so much cheaper than Canada. But then you think of trying to get anything through the agricultural screening process, etc. and you just give up.

Flower Market.
We continued to walk towards the centre of town towards De Wallen that used to be inside the wall in the old days and now houses the Red Light District. We walked by the Oude Kerk or Old Church. We had a refreshing Coke and continued our humid and hot overcast walk around.
Central Station.

We found a place to buy a canal tour near to Central Station (De Dam area). We went on the almost hour long tour. Seeing the houses from the water was interesting. The leaning houses are called "dancing houses" and the audio guide had funny stories about people building houses in different ways to avoid taxation (small in front, large in back or tall but thin, or buying two adjoining lots and then adding a door inside between them). The greenhouse like feeling in the canal boat started lulling both of us to sleep towards the end. There were a couple of scary moments of smaller boats running into our boat and near collisions of various boats in the busy canals. The canal boat captain said "see you can drive here without a license."

You can meet creepy people under bridges.

Scenes from our canal tour.
We wanted to buy the Museumkaart, but from a less busy museum where we wouldn't have to wait to buy it from anyone. We had chosen the Allard Pierson Museum that is attached to the university, but as the minutes towards 5:00 pm ticked on, we were worried we wouldn't find it. We finally found it, just before they shut up and at 4:46 p.m., we both bought a Museumkaart (for 59.90 EU each it allows you into 400+ museums in the Netherlands for 31 days for tourists or one year for residents). We discovered after reviewing photos from earlier that April had taken a picture of Bill in front of that very museum earlier in the day, so we really ought to have known where it was. Oh well.
Oh, that place. Right....
We walked back towards the Museum Quarter where we're staying. We stopped into a pharmacy to get something for April's sore neck/upper back. Interesting that muscle relaxants are not sold here either, just like the U.S.. Why are we selling them in Canada? We bought some anti-inflammatories and continued walking through the hip neighbourhood of De Pijp.

Back in the Museum Quarter we tried to find a restaurant. We wanted to have something like Indonesian or Surinamese, but this proved to be difficult between closed restaurants, tourist traps, and that one Indonesian restaurant we sat down in and waited almost 10 minutes but the guy just continued talking on the phone and staring at us without serving us or bringing us a menu (the highlight of that place was the sleepy cat on the front steps).
The cat seemed like a good omen, but that Indonesian restaurant turned out to be a bust.
In desperation we went to the cafe behind the I Amsterdam sign by the Rijksmuseum. Yes, it was touristy, but it appeared open and we were starving and needed something to eat before we went to the Van Gogh museum. The server nodded at us, we sat down, and then we were ignored for at least ten minutes. We tried to get a menu, but everyone kept ignoring us, until finally one of them told us that they were closed.

Like ravenous drifters we traversed the square, eyeing people with food hungrily (could we take that kid on and get his ice cream? Where did he get that from?). We found a little stand in the square and ordered their last sandwich, tuna, to share, and then waffle with ice cream. April assumed it was a waffle cone, but it was actually a hot waffle with gorgeous vanilla ice cream melting onto it. Between that and the ice cold Spa Rood (their fizzy water), we were in drifter heaven.

Our drifter dinner . . .

Impulse to kill and steal food fading.
We went over to the Van Gogh museum and took out our Museumkaarts to try them out for the first time. We showed them to the guard and he directed us to the special group tour entrance and we went there. No wait, no extra charges, and we were into the museum that didn't close till 9:30 pm that night. We spent almost two hours going up the three floors of the museum and then over into the special exhibit on the bottom floor. No matter how many times we see Van Gogh's paintings we can't help but feel moved. They had quotes from his letters to his brother, Theo, woven throughout. They also had objects like his paints, the revolver that he may have killed himself with, and accounts by others about his state leading up to his suicide. One has to wonder, if he had been stabilised on a medication like lithium how much longer he could have lived and what else he could have produced (he died at age 37). It should be noted that the museum even at about 7:30 pm was so, so, so busy and it was hard to get near enough to read the captions by the pictures. Plus, a lot of these tourists don't follow common rules of consideration where they will actually let you have a turn or move or clear a path. So, that was frustrating.

As we walked home, we found an ice cream place in our neighbourhood and had an ice cream while we wandered over the canal back to our hotel. We were both exhausted, hot, dehydrated, and sore. We had walked almost 16 km.

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