Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 1: Arrival in Amsterdam

Brian was unexpectedly chosen to present at a conference in Amsterdam. The timing wasn't great, since we'd have to leave about 10 days after returning from New Orleans, but we couldn't really pass up a plane ticket to Europe. The conference would be picking up his round trip ticket and 3 nights in a hotel, and we'd be responsible for the rest.

We stayed in a hotel that was much more expensive than anything we would have chosen on our own; however, being Amsterdam, it was still very small, though perfectly adequate for us!Our first day, we walked around a bit, Brian registered for the conference, and we went to dinner.Since we were so tired, we pretty much went home shortly after dinner and slept. Brian had to get an early start on the next day.

Day 2: Churches

Brian went to his conference in the morning, but was able to come back over lunch. We stopped at a lunch counter for a quick breakfast; just a pastry and coffee:Like many (most?) old European cities, we had some trouble at first understanding the maps and finding our way around. Some smaller streets were not marked on the map and streets would unexpectedly change names. Throw in the canals and, at least at first, we'd have to consult our map with relative frequency to get where we wanted to go.A view of the houses alongside a canal:
This was one of our confusing periods. We could see the Weigh House, but were having trouble locating exactly where we were on the map. It took us about 20 minutes longer than it should have to get to our destination!Which was the Church of Our Lord in the Attic. During the Reformation, Catholic worship was outlawed. A wealthy Catholic merchant transformed a canal-side mansion into a church. The family lived in the front rooms, and from the outside, it looked like a normal house.

We purchased our Museumkaart here. This is an amazing value for anyone planning on visiting even just a few of the sights in Amsterdam. As an added bonus, it's valid at many museums in other cities in Holland.

Here I am, descending the stairs from the house-part to the church-part:The church is in the process of renovation, so some parts were closed to visitors. However, other parts were still open, giving us a glimpse into the restoration process. On the bench, you can see paint chip samples and other restoration tools:
A view of the organ:After leaving this church, we decided to head over to Oude Kerk (Old Church) nearby. It's currently located right in the middle of the red light district.During the Reformation, most of the Catholic embellishments were destroyed, so it was a bit bare when compared to other churches we've visited in Europe. Brian was disappointed to not find any relics.
I'm not exactly sure where this staircase goes, but I'm happy I don't have to climb it!After leaving the church, we went to the Allard Pierson Museum, which is the University of Amsterdam's archaeological museum. We didn't take any pictures, but we loved it here! There was a special exhibition on Alexander the Great, as well as the permanent collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and elsewhere.

Also, they had a funny sign for their bathroom:
We had a light lunch in their cafeteria. It's amazing how a simple cheese sandwich can be so delicious!
We then went back to the hotel as Brian had more conference things to do. I took the opportunity to read (and perhaps nap) a bit.

He got back around 5 pm. We decided to go for a run. Amsterdam, at least the old part, is not conducive to running! We had to stop frequently for traffic, so it was more like interval training than a steady-state run, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We eventually found ourselves at a park where we saw some grey herons. We got a bit lost, but eventually made it back home, having completed about the distance we'd been hoping for.

We quickly showered and went out for dinner, choosing an Indian restaurant that was close by. I'm not sure why I have such a weird look on my face, but I suppose I should just be happy that my eyes were open in the picture.
The food was good, and we then pretty much returned to the hotel as Brian had another early day in front of him.

Day 3: Conference and Relaxation

Saturday dawned with a full conference schedule. Brian had to get up early, but I got to sleep in. When he stopped by again, it was close to lunch time, so we went to a nearby cafe for lunch. As was everything we ate here, the food was delicious!The afternoon was filled with conference (for Brian), relaxation (for me), and a hard treadmill run (for both of us). Given our troubles running in the city, we decided it was best to take advantage of the treadmills while we still had them!

For dinner, we'd decided to go to a vegetarian place that was highly rated in all three of our guidebooks. However, we were unable to find it, and subsequent research had led us to believe it's not longer in business.

Not to worry, as we found a nice Italian place.
When we ordered garlic bread, this wasn't exactly what we were expecting, but it was delicious nonetheless!
With the conference over, we could now really get started with our sightseeing!

For me, it was nice to have these few days with limited activity as I could get over my jet lag and really appreciate what we saw later instead of seeing it through a tired-fog.

Day 4: New Apartment & Museums

Sunday morning, after a last treadmill run, we had to pack everything up. Though we had another week in Amsterdam, we were moving from the hotel paid for by the conference to an apartment we'd rented. We couldn't check in to our apartment until the afternoon, so we left our luggage at the hotel (in their left luggage room) and set out to see some sights.

We went to the Amsterdam Historical Museum (they are in the process of rebranding as "Amsterdam Museum"), which was incredibly interesting. One of their exhibits was the recreated interior of a famous lesbian bar that had closed, but may possibly have been reopened?Since it had gotten to be lunch time, we stopped at the museum cafe. Brian had another sandwich and I had a pancake with apples, raisins, and honey.By the time we'd finished lunch, it was time to check in at our apartment. The entrance was in the middle of this picture. We were two flights of stairs up.
Brian, waiting for Daniel to show up and let us in:The apartment was very cute and well-designed to take as little space as possible. This was quite possibly the smallest bedroom I've ever seen -- pretty much just room for a bed:
The kitchen:The bathroom:The living room:Having dropped our stuff off, we walked to the Botanical Gardens.
We joked about what this tree must have done to get itself locked up:There was a building with tropical plants. It was very warm in here, so we spent a lot of time looking at the plants!
Our plan was to then go to the Tropenmuseum (which has exhibits on the tropical former Dutch colonies) or the Amsterdam Resistance Museum (about the Dutch response during WWII). We thought we were heading in the right direction, when suddenly we saw the Amsterdam Hermitage (which is in the opposite direction):Since we were here, we decided to visit. They also were having an exhibition on Alexander the Great.

Brian was standing there, trying to figure out how we got turned around, when a stray cat started rubbing against his leg. He was so startled and I got a good laugh out of that! Though she's trying to enter, we did not let her in the museum:
As it had gotten to the time when the museums were closed, we headed back home. The window of this coffeeshop made me laugh every time:
Though we didn't take any pictures, we stopped at the grocery store to buy dinner and snacks. (Our host stocked our fridge with bread, cheese, and yogurt for breakfast every morning.)

Then, we went to a coffeeshop for the full Amsterdam experience. Neither Brian not I felt the effects of this trip, so we were a bit disappointed; though in retrospect, perhaps that's a good thing. We returned home, munchie-free, and went to bed.

Day 5: Museums

On Monday we decided to make use of our Museumkaart. We started by heading toward the area where the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum are located. On the way, we stumbled upon a little park with many lizard sculptures. What a fun surprise!We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so here's an outside shot of the Rijksmuseum, which was undergoing renovation, but still had many old masters on display:And the outside of the Van Gogh Museum:Even in winter, there were so many people at both of these museums that we really couldn't enjoy ourselves as we would have liked.

Consulting the map in the book to make sure we weren't missing any museums:We decided to grab a quick sandwich from a street vendor:And then some more map-checking:This was at the Willet-Holthuysen Museum, which is a canalside mansion that's now open to the public. Brian was working on taking artistic photographs:Outside, in the W-H's courtyard: As we left to head to our next destination, I realized my hat and gloves had been taken from me:I think this may have been a picture of the W-H Museum from across the canal:Entering another museum (obviously, my notes and memory are lacking):About to enter the Rembrant House, which was one of my favorite places we visited.Outside, we saw many magpies; this guy is hiding in the tree:Here's an Indian Ringneck Parakeet. We also saw these in Istanbul and London. They are not native to any of these cities, but have adapted incredibly well:After our long day of museum-going (we visited several not mentioned here), we went to the grocery store near our house to grab stuff for dinner. The basket Brian is holding has wheels on the bottom and can be pulled with a fold-out handle as a mini-cart.Later that night, we had a Trappist taste test.I thought the Tripel won, but Brian preferred the Dubbel. We went to bed early as we had an early day of birding planned for the next day.