Amsterdam (Thursday May 31- Saturday June 2nd) aka Girls on Vacation
Distances in Europe are so much shorter than those we are used to. The idea of even getting on a plane for an hour is contrary to a most sensibility, but we did it nonetheless. The Air France bus that we had intended to have convey us to the airport was running late and, fearful of missing our flight, we took a cab with an elderly British lady living in Paris who was off to a birthday party in Pisa for the week-end. It was a pleasant drive through town and on the Parisian autoroute – the peripherique.
Upon arrival in Amsterdam we decided that an Argentinian steakhouse would be a good idea for dinner. We stayed at the airport Sheraton and had to take a train into Amsterdam proper. We then walked down the central street to a central square (the Dam) and had one of the best meals i have had, ever. The ribs were delicious and garlicy – as i ordered them. We wandered back to the train station trying to find two of the landmarks in my guidebook: the Neumarket and Oude Kerk. On the former deigned to reveal itself. One of the few old gates still existent in the city, to get inside we would have had to dine in the swanky restaurant, but we could still ogle from afar and take pictures.
We began museum touring on Friday. It was a glorious day, but i must preface it with a lack of pictures as my camera was pickpocketed sometime throughout the course of our explorations.
We headed over to Barney’s for breakfast and i purchased a space cake. We then got on the tram and headed over to the Rijksmuseum, first stopping in Amsterdam’s famous flower market. The array of tulips, glads and other bulbs was mind-boggling and made me wish i could purchase one of everything for our home garden. Though under extensive renovation, the Rijksmuseum still exhibits the most extensive Rembrandt and Vermeer collection, so the eye candy continued. I was not blown away by the Rembrandts as i was the Vermeers. Unfortunately, my favourite work, the Cat’s Breakfast, and many of my other favourites, like Aert van der Neer’s nightscapes (particularly “River by Moonlight”) and Gerard Dou’s “the nightschool” were not available as reproductions. ah well.
We stopped for a snack (and space cake, of which my aunt partook also) in the gardens outside the Rijksmuseum before heading back to an antique jewelery shop where some garnet earrings had been spied. There was also a detour into a delft store. I love delft.
The effects of the space cake had taken effect by the Van Gogh museum, where i kept getting lost in his “spacey” portrayals of flowers – particularly the almond tree in blossom and landscape at twilight. The Van Gogh museum has an interior that feels much like the Guggenheim in NYC.
We took the tram back to Dam Square and wandered around looking for a gin joint suggest by the guidebook. Down a small alley that also serves as a hotel lobby sits Wynard Fockink, one of the oldest gin distilleries in the world where one can purchase shots of gin for 2 euros through a small window if you are willing to sip the gin off the brim BEFORE picking it up with your hands. My aunt fell in love with their superior (unflavoured) and we had to buy it. Sitting on the window sills outside watching the crowd stop by for a quick drink before heading home was a very pleasant way of experiencing life in this city. If you are ever in Amsterdam, i strongly urge you to find this gem of a spot (on Peljsink, just off Dam Square). We then procured some danish baked goods for dessert with our pate and cheese left over from France and made a meal with cheap bubbly in the hotel room.
The effects of cheap champagne had us off to a slow start. We only left the hotel around 11am. We began the day by finally finding the elusive Oude Kerk, and awesome church now exhibit hall, which changes architectural style as you walk around it. We then strolled through the red light district – Saturday morning workers are not the best looking that’s for sure – and ended up in Cafe Latei where we were served DIVINE open-faced cheese sandwiches and a hearty and tasty spinach, split pea and lemon soup. The best part of this meal was not only how healthy it was, but also the seeds in the organic, freshly made bread. Yum.
We then headed to Rembrandt House where i encountered the master’s etchings for the first time – and was floored, blown away, astounded, and fell in love. The depictions of mythological and religious scenes were especially compelling and i broke down and bought a book on the collection. We strolled over to the market, bought some socks and i had some pistachio gelato, killing time before a second trip to Wynard Fockink. This time there was a large group of men visiting from the suburbs who decided it would be fun to chat with the Canadians and, for the first time in my life, i was asked if it would be okay to kiss me. The answer was no, but i will have fond memories of dear Bart and Aaron for the rest of my life. LOL.
Unfortunately, upon arriving at the hotel it became clear that i had not “forgotten” my camera in the room. The rest of the evening was spent moping.
Scandinavia (Sunday June 3-Friday June 8):
Day 1-2 (At sea):
Packing, filling out a police report on the theft, and purchasing a new photographic device took up the better part of our morning before we called a cab (a MERCEDES arrived to pick us up. There are no cheap cabs in the Netherlands apparently).
The days on the cruise ship have been spent mostly reading (i have finished volume 2 of In Search of Lost Time and the Alchemist), flirting with crew members (went out for a drink with an officer last night – hehe), and drinking at the martini bar. There are many British and Irish guests, including a Voltaire scholar who gave me some tips about British PhD programs.
Day 3: Copenhagen
Breakfasted we disembarked down the gangway into the port of Copenhagen. A thirty minute walk, longer than we expected, led us to the Kastelet, one of the world’s oldest maintained forts where Danes walk their dogs and go for runs. June 5th is Constitution Day in Denmark, so though the stores were closed, the inhabitants were all enjoying a glorious day of heat and sun out in the open. We headed over to the Little Mermaid statue in the harbour and continued to be amazed throughout the day by the number of statues throughout the city. I particularly enjoyed the Valkyrie in Churchill park and the Viking legend fountain with bulls snorting a mist of water out their nostrils.
We managed to catch the changing of the guard, visiting Amaglienbord palace, and reached the Tivoli gardens around 2pm. I have never seen such a pretty amusement park. Every opportunity was made to cover the ground in lush, flowering plants and beautiful light fixtures. It was not kitch. Unfortunately, our ship was scheduled to leave port by 5pm, so it was impossible to see it lit up at night.
We came back to the ship by taxi without getting a hold of either Christiania vodka or Quintessential gin. Neither was i able to buy stamps in convenience stores – hopefully they will be easy to get a hold of in Stockholm.
Dinner was scrumptious as usual – my shank of lamb with couscous and veggies was NOT as good as that served at Last Supper however, and ended in a competition by our various waiters to make the best hot chocolate for fickle old me. i enjoyed the attention very much.
At 11pm i met Rosario, from Guest Relations, for drinks and we toured the various guest-access bars on the ship. I had been looking forward to seeing the “longest land-bridge in Europe” all day, but crossing under it around midnight was very anti-climatic. It’s a bridge. It links Sweden and Denmark. It is not as long as Confederation Bridge. Whoopdeedoo. Ah well.