So where were we? Oh, yeah. From Paris I hopped a train to Amsterdam, which wound up being a slightly longer journey than intended because of my own stupidity. It’s been a while since I’ve done serious travel, and I guess I’m not at the top of my game anymore–spacing out on one important question when buying the ticket (“do I have to change trains when whe stop in Brussels?”) meant that I got 3 extra hours on various trains, turning 4 1/2 hours of travel into 7 1/2. Unnnnnnngh.
But I guess it happens to the best of us sometimes, and since it’s been a while since I did anything that stupid, I guess it was my turn.

By the time I got to Amsterdam, it was late and I was a very cranky girl. I checked into the first hostel in my book, the one closest to the train station. It was listed as being “popular with young backpackers.” Sure ’nuff, the place was crawling with extremely stoned 20 year-olds. There was a “chill out” corner in the lobby of the hotel, a raised dais with grubby pillows to slouch against, Bob Marley and Cypress Hill blaring from the speakers ’till 4am. And then of course there were a few computers with online access, and a stocked bar over to the side. I felt a bit like I had walked into some kid’s fantasy of what the dorms are like at Humboldt State. The hostel was in the middle of the Red Light district, so when I went out to walk around a bit, there were mostly fast food restuaruants, skeezy sex shops and row after row of the famed coffeehouses. Many of them had a cheezy theme, like Jim Morrison or Jamaica, or a cheezy name like “The Greenhouse Effect” or “The 420 Club.” Whatever you do or don’t want to say about the Amsterdam coffehouse scene, subltety and class are not really its forte.

There was one place in particular that really offended my native Chicagoian sensibilities:
so so so wrong

Who’s that dancing on top? That’s Jake and Ellwood Blues. And from where are the Blues Brothers? Not New Orleans, I’ll tell you that.

Anyway. The next day I successfully arranged my change of departure date, so I was feeling like I could splurge an extra 8 or 10 Euros on lodging, since I was saving myself 5 nights of hotel expense. So I moved from the Humboldt State hostel to a small, inexpensive but more of a grownup hotel, which was verrry good. Then, finally, I was able to explore the city a bit.

What a beautiful city!
canals are nice

Reminded me of Stockholm, except a little arier, little lighter. little cheerier. Utterly charming. It was the perfect time to see the first delicious crop of tulips at the Bloemenmarkt (flower market)

And they had these staggering bulbs, the size of grapefruit.

I went to the Van Gogh Museum, which was amaaaaazing–a wonderful collection of his work, and though I’ve grown up looking both at reproductions and actual paintings of Van Gogh’s (my mom was an art historian), getting to see so many together, I felt like I was understanding his work for the first time. His compositions, his Japanese and Dutch (and other) references, his use of perspective, his unbelievably skillful use of paint–how he excercised restraint, how he didn’t, how deliberate his texturing was. Really really incredible.
Reproductions do nothing.

I also went to the Rijksmuseum, which was also fantastic.
The Rembrandts! The Rembrandts! Swoooon. Wow. Uhmazing.
To get to spend time with this painting of Jeremiah

or this self-portrait

Agh. There aren’t words, really.

Sad to say it, but my Dutch museum experiences pretty solidly kicked the butt of my French ones.
It was a lovely 3 1/2 days, really. Lots of walking around the pretty town, from canal to canal, wandering into amazing little galleries here or there, drinking Belgian white beer that was so good it was pretty much worth the price of the plane ticket itself–like drinking sunshine, or liquid light. Sweetness all around.

By the end of the third day I had definitely had enough, was ready to come home and sit dormant for a bit (and I’ve been doing an excellent job of that since then, I might add.) My only regret, if you could call it that, was that I didn’t more seriously consider buying these:
fuzzy wooden shoes!

Yes, yes they are. Fuzzy slippers shaped like wooden shoes. Could there be anything better than that? Really.

Share This