A study in art and
Windmill near Leiden
Every so often I take what I call a "sanity vacation".
For a long weekend, I think less about work, family and community
and concentrate more on renewing myself. I try to go somewhere exotic to fill my
mind with new thoughts and think things through. On this
trip, I met a former colleague and friend John Carter in
the Netherlands. John is one of the few people I know
who moves at the same fast pace that I do on a trip and
listens to similar music. John and I met again in Europe
in May, 2001 in
Austria and the Czech Republic. John had been to the
Netherlands numerous times before and was an excellent
tour guide. Gezellig!
December 9th - Amsterdam Nightlife
My flight in was uneventful from LA and I arrived in Amsterdam
Saturday evening well rested. John Carter and I met for
dinner. We had a rijsttafel (literally a "rice table") which
is a traditional Indonesian dish popular in Amsterdam.
includes a variety of small spicy dishes that are served over
rice accompanied by a peanut sauce. After dinner we headed out
on the town.
We took a tram to the Red Light District and
walked around. No tour book that I read adequately described
this place. There are storefronts with red lights over them
and girls of every imaginable type in the store windows
enticing customers. The vast majority of people walking around
were tourists like us. When a real customer comes to a
storefront door to negotiate for services, nearby tourists
stop and gawk, trying to overhear the transaction. The area is
so "in your face" with vice, it was a stark contrast to other
large cities where similar activities are hidden in the
shadows. The Red Light District is not the type of place that
you snap pictures in on a Saturday night, so there are none
We took a tram back to the museum area and
warmed up in a crowded pub where we spoke with a couple from
the UK and a group of Scottish folks who were picture crazy.
One of them snapped the large picture (above right) of John
and I sipping Belgian beers. From the pub, we walked over to a
live music club called the Milky Way. They had several rooms
with good groups playing. The large room had a very good Irish
rock group playing and we hung out there until their set ended
at around 1am.
Sunday December 10th - Amsterdam Museums
It was cold and rainy most of the day, which made it a good
day to be mostly inside of museums. John and I bought museum
passes that allowed us free entry to most of the major museums
in The Netherlands for one year. It paid for itself on this
trip alone. I have had an interest in Von Gogh since I was in
college, so the
Gogh Museum was the first stop (first picture above). The
new addition was just completed a year ago, which added space
for the 200 Van Goghs in the Museum, along with some special
The Van Gogh museum had an obnoxious rule that did not
allow any photography in the museum, even without a flash.
That kept me from capturing the actual frames used with some
of the copies I have at home. I did sneak a picture of the
actual Wheatfield with Crows (second picture above), since I
have a professional copy of it at home, done by the students
at the Vincent Art Gallery
in southern Netherlands.
We moved on to the
Rijksmuseum to enter the Dutch golden age. The style is
dramatically different than the impressionists, with dark
tones and large commissioned pieces. John snapped a picture of
me in front of
Nightwatch (third picture above), the most famous
Rembrandt in the museum. We then moved on to the
Museum to move into modern times. The Stedelijk was much
more of an attack on the system with interactive art and
Not yet "museumed" out, we trammed and walked across town
along the canals to the
Rembrandthuis. I caught a nighttime picture of canal
architecture along the way (fourth picture above). We got
there with just 45 minutes before closing. The Rembrandthuis
was Rembrandt's home and studio at the peak of his commercial
success. There were displays of his prints and some minor
artwork, but the more interesting experience was to see the
way he lived and worked.
We then took a side trip to see Rembrandt's final home, a
small plain apartment along a plain street. By that point the
rain was coming down sideways and the temperature had dropped
sufficiently for us to head back toward the hotel and a good
dinner at the Luden restaurant. From there we did some bar
hopping and finished the night watching karaoke at the Bulldog
Cafe near the hotel.
Monday December 11th - Amsterdam Canals, Leiden and Rotterdam
The weather looked like it would hold up for a while, so
John and I started the morning with a canal boat tour through
Amsterdam. There is a contrast between Amsterdam and Venice,
in that the Amsterdam canals have almost no traffic. I got the
impression that they were essentially useless to the city. For
tourists, however, they make a good vantage point to see the
architecture and parts of the city that can't be seen from
land (first three pictures above).
After the canal boat, we headed for the train station and a
trip south of Amsterdam to Leiden and Rotterdam. Despite the
cold, wet climate, bicycles are a primary means of
transportation throughout the Netherlands. I took the fourth
picture above outside of Leiden's train station of the bicycle
parking racks. This was in a small town where the weather was
a rainy 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Leiden is a picturesque
college town with a character and architecture that was
unique. It also had the first windmill I saw since arriving
(large picture at top of page). We walked around the confusing
circular streets (first picture below) admiring the canal
scenery (second and third pictures below).
After lunch at an Indian restaurant, we
headed back for the train to Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a modern
city reminiscent of western cities in the US. We saw a huge
outdoor interactive art park (fourth picture above - we could
move the crane-like lights) and then walked toward the museum
area. Most museums were closed on Monday, so we took in the
grounds (first picture below) and then found a pub and some
strong Belgian beer before heading back to Amsterdam on the
train. At the train station I picked up some "Fritties", which
is a disgusting concoction of French fries with sweet
mayonnaise or barbeque sauce on top (second picture below).
After a stop at the hotel in Amsterdam, we headed out for a
gourmet 5 course dinner at the
Restaurant d'Vijff Vlieghen (the five flies).
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