Procrastination Power #1

Oldham street sweepers

It’s been a while.

Maybe a while is quite an understatement.

There is an explanation. I have been putting my  energy almost 100% towards uni. Which is actually very rewarding.

I’ve been planning to get back to this for a long while. Thinking about possible new concepts and getting back on track with the old ones.

As I don’t really have much time, at least not for writing my usual epistle like posts, I’ve come up with a concept that might well fit in with my life at the moment: As much as I have managed to get myself to focus, there is still that part of me that has the urge to procrastinate for a while, at least once a day. Procrastination for me usually ends up being reading interesting articles on the internet, looking at interesting pictures/art on the internet, watching interesting video’s on the internet etc. Sound familiar? Probably!

Basically, my new concept, which is not particularly original, is stuff I found while procrastinating.

Now… Usually, I would share the stuff I found on Facebook. BUT!!! I have made a decision: I am no longer going to be posting on Facebook. At least not directly.

This new concept is the solution to the following problem: But what about the stuff you find so interesting you want to share it with all your Facebook friends!!?? Or the WHOLE WORLD if you could!!!??

The only thing that will be appearing on my Facebook page from now on, will be my blog posts, in which I will collectively post the stuff I found interesting. Or maybe I’ll post ten times a day, Muhahahaha!

So… For today’s episode. My procrastination got a bit out of hand today. I spent a long time nerding (help me turn this into a verb please!) Nerding to me is basically spending a lot of time reading about books and films that I still have to read or watch, instead of reading books or watching films.

After the time spent nerding, I did FOUR! things that I now want to share with the world:

Pollan

  1. I started watching Michael Pollan’s documentary ‘In Defense of Food’.

    Michael Pollan is an author/journalist who has written several books on food, and a few other books, one on Mary Jane and one on Gardening (I believe).

    I’ve read two of his books on food which were both, in my opinion, highly interesting. The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, I’m not going to go into those now though as I could spend a whole blog post on them, which is not the point.

    His books about food make lots of connections with health and nutrition. He’s a supporter of local and biological food, and one of his tips for eating well is: “Don’t eat what your Grandma, or great-Grandma, wouldn’t recognise.” That’s just to give you an idea of his ideas without going into too much detail.

    Anyway one of his books, which I haven’t read yet, is called In Defence of Food, and has recently been made into a documentary which he presents.

    So I started watching that, then realised I had been planning to read for the past five hours and still hadn’t picked up my book, so hit the pause button to finish later.

    BUT it is REALLY interesting! So I recommend, if you have two hours left over, go watch it, it’s available for free until the 28th of January here.meteoriteaustralia1

  2. Soooooo… I hit the pause button…. and somehow ended up scanning Facebook (which I basically use as a kind of newsfeed, just with stuff I actually find interesting). Procrastinating… Still.

    But there was this article that just kept saying READ ME!

    It’s an article about a meteor that’s been discovered in the Australian desert which is older than the earth is!!! Now usually I’m not really such a science geek, most of science I find too hard to understand… But the idea of something being older than the earth. How could you not be fascinated by that? Anyway you read the article for yourself, it’s worth it, plus the guys who found it have such happy faces!

  3. Number three is for the comic relief. It’s a video brought to us by TED, a guy called James Veitch talks about the three years he spent replying to scam e-mails. It is absolutely hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud. Really loud! Have fun!Tennant.jpg
  4. And last but not least, and for some more laughs…. I bring you… David Tennant (whom you may know as the Doctor or from Broadchurch, or both) on a BBC programme called Room 101 talking about his crapacious South African accent. As an English student, although I’m not very good at linguistics, it is really interesting. One of my favourite things about linguistics is accents, so this is on that level also quite interesting, though brief.

Well I hope you enjoyed all these tidbits as much as I did, now I’m going to get back to not procrastinating, which this blog post is not, and reading my book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Juno Díaz, which is actually really good!!!

P.S. One more really cool thing, is the painting at the top of this post. It’s some street sweepers in Oldham in Victorian times (Oldham is where I was born). I think the painting is so beautiful, I found it because an uncle of my Mum’s had posted it. It’s done by an artist called John Houghton Hague (1842-1934).

Sources:

http://www.pbs.org

http://www.mymodernmet.com

http://www.ted.com

The BBC’s YouTube Channel

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Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Den Bosch Part 2: A Boat Trip Along the Binnendieze

Today’s trip to Den Bosch wasn’t particularly meant to be part of my Lonely Planet Challenge, but seen as it is in the Lonely Planet and it is what I did today I may as well write about it. Otherwise I would have to do it all over again just for my blog.

Den Bosch is famous for three things (maybe more, but three I can think of), the Bossche Bol (which I’m sure I must have mentioned in the last Den Bosch post and which of course I ate today), the painter Jheronimus Bosch and the Binnendieze, a route of canals throughout the city.

A Bossche Bol (stolen from google images)
A Bossche Bol (stolen from google images)
Jheronimus Bosch, the famous painter
Jheronimus Bosch, the famous painter

There a three different boat tours you can do. The Fortification Route (which I’d done a few years ago), the Historical Route and the Jheronimus Bosch Route (focussed on the famous painter, who has actually done some really cool stuff). Today I went for the Historical Route.

Yeahh stole this somewhere online, google images , just to give you an impression :)
Yeahh stole this somewhere online, google images, just to give you an impression :)

The boat trip lasted for about 50 minutes. You’re taken through a whole route of canals throughout the city, some of which go under whole blocks of buildings at a time, and at the same time are informed about different historical features of the city. It is a wonderful experience and anyone going to Den Bosch whether for the first or the millionth time should try it out at least once. My favourite part of the boat trip is how peaceful and serene it is, when just a few building bricks away is a busy city centre. I also want to live in a bridge house!

Next time I look forward to doing the Jheronimus Bosch tour, then I will have had them all.

The dude painted this, I mean, WOW!
The dude painted this, I mean, WOW!

Now one that isn’t in the Lonely Planet that certainly should be is the restaurant De Nar, this is where I had tea (dinner, whatever you call your evening meal), it’s actually in the street were you get on the boat. Both the food and service were amazing. I had the vegetarian quiche, which was seriously pretty much the best quiche I have ever tasted! A perfect sized portion as well, I’ve ordered quiche in a restaurant often enough and been so disappointed by the size. But this time no, perfect, and wow, the flavours. Very very good. The waitress dealt with wants and needs very well, my intolerance to chilli peppers and anything similar, she was very understanding and made sure all the food was in perfect order, as well as being very friendly at the same time, so thumbs up for that.

A wonderful day in a wonderful city.

Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 7: The Forgotten Chapters

Being back in Amsterdam for the day visiting friends there inspired me. It made me want to get out there and see things and write about them again. I’ve been planning this post for a while but never got round to it. There have been a few trips that could have ended up in a Lonely Planet Challenge post, but never did. I was either too lazy or left it too late or a combination of the two. Now I’ll combine these little trips in one post.

NEMO

My Lonely Planet on NEMO: “(…) designed by bug name architect Renzo Piano. It’s a science museum with loads of interactive exhibits to entertain kids, such as drawing with a laser, ‘antigravity’ trick mirrors, and a ‘lab’ where you can answr questions such as ‘How black is black?’ and ‘How do you make cheese?’ NEMO’s stepped roof (admission free) is the city’s largest summer terrace, and worth a stair climb for its fantastic views.”

NEMO is a place full of memories for me; the first time I went to Holland when I was nine or ten, before we lived here, we visited NEMO and I absolutely loved it. I’m not sure whether we ever visited it again, we may have once or twice, I couldn’t be sure but the place really stuck with me. More than a year ago, not long after I started this challenge, I visited it once more. It’s funny when you visit a place you loved as a kid when you’ve all grown up. You experience things in such a different way and the visit partly felt a bit disappointing. My first impression (as an adult) was chaos! Chaos everywhere. Things going on all over the place. Kids running about. Where do I start? Where do I look? What do I look at? But as a kid, that’s probably the reason I loved the place, there’s something new and interesting to do around every corner. As a kid I loved learning, especially in such an interactive setting as NEMO. NEMO is for kids, that became clear. I think it would have been a very different experience if I’d had kids with me though, a lot more fun. If I have kids I will most certainly take them to NEMO. With kids you can just go along in their fun and have a really great time helping them learn whilst probably learning a lot of stuff yourself at the same time. I most definitely recommend a visit if you have kids (otherwise if possible borrow some; nieces, nephews, friends kids etc.) because they will love it and you will love them loving it.

Practical info: For those of you visiting from abroad, almost everything has an English translation as far as I can remember. Normal fees are €15,- for ages 4 and above and younger kids get in for free. My advice would be to spend a whole day there (maybe that rainy day when you’re not sure what to do) because then you will most definitely get your money’s worth. People with an Amsterdam city pass, a CJP pass or a student card get in for half price, and museum card holders get in for free. Website: http://www.e-nemo.nl/en

Lo Stivale d’Oro

Last year in June I spent a day in Amsterdam. It was a lovely warm and summery day but we mainly spent it shopping and relaxing on terraces so there wasn’t much to report on here. Except for the food part of the day. We had lunch on the Waag’s terrace, the Waag is the beautiful building which is the centre of attention on Nieuwmarkt square. I wouldn’t recommend, the service was sloppy and the food was just okay, nothing special, it sounded much better than it was. Our evening meal is a different story. As our lunch choice hadn’t turned out very well, I decided to pick something from the Lonely Planet for our tea (=Brit,  Austral, NZ  the main evening meal – dictionary.com. Sorry just had to clear that one up for myself, I recently started doubting if I’d been using the right word all my life, also to avoid any confusion for my non-British readers).

Lo Stivale d’Oro sounded like a good choice: “Loosen the belt for excellent pizzas and pastas at this trattoria’s chummy tables. The Italian owner occasionally pulls out hiss guitar and strums for the crowd.” 

Lo Stivale d’Oro is exactly as LP describes it. First of all it is teeny tiny, I think it seats about 12 and that might even be pushing it. It’s a while back, so forgive me. The food was amazing and for a very good price. I went for a pizza, somehow I always end up going for the pizza and was very satisfied by the end of my meal, in all possible ways. The atmosphere was very cosy and it actually felt like we were in Italy for a little while; the employees were all Italians, most of them couldn’t speak Dutch and the food tasted like Italian food should do. The owner did strum his guitar for us, I couldn’t say that was a positive thing, it was the only not so positive thing though.

I recommend, if you’re in Amsterdam and you feel like good Italian food but you don’t have a huge budget this place is perfect. You’ll even pretend to enjoy the music just because everything else is so good!

Rijksmuseum

The place every art lover who visits Amsterdam should definitely visit. It was a rainy day in January, the ideal day to spend in an art museum! The information on the Rijksmuseum in my Lonely Planet isn’t up to date as it was being renovated at the time the version I own was written, so I’m not going to include the LP description, but it most certainly is in there and I’m sure it’s in the newest version too. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the queues. As I was with a group of people, some of which didn’t have museum cards, I couldn’t skip the queues. So we queued to get into the building, then queued to hang up our coats, then queued to get tickets and then queued for lunch. Don’t worry though the queues are very quick and we weren’t even there all that early. I do recommend that you buy your tickets beforehand online because then you get to skip the queue for the tickets. This is also the case if you have a museum card, you can just show it and go on through. The lunch was actually very good and not too expensive (sorry I can’t remember what I ate) On to the main event: the art. Seriously if you like art, even a tiny little bit, the Rijksmuseum is an absolute MUST! It is also absolutely massive, I don’t think I even managed half of it and I was there till closing time. If you want to see it all you’ll have to do it in parts or go really early in the morning. The art work is divided into periods, the focus is on older art but one of the floors is dedicated to modern art. The floors are big though, I managed one and a half and rushed the last half.  I really enjoyed myself, I’ve gotten more and more into art over the last few years, I actually especially like older stuff; 16th 17th century. I’ve noticed I’ve started to be able to recognise certain artists I like (the lesser known ones, I’m not talking about Van Gogh and Rembrandt now) and I also have a clear liking for certain things and disliking for others. It’s funny to take a step back and see this development in myself. I will definitely be going back to do the other floors and finish my list of favourite artists. I bought a few postcards at the shop of some of the favourites I’ve come across. A MUST DO GO SEE for anyone who likes art, the opposite for anyone who doesn’t.

Practical info: Tickets are €15,- for adults 18 and over, kids & teens get in for free, you also get in for free with a museum card (AWESOME! Seriously one of my best investments in the last two years). Website: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en.

Artis

I always have a bit of an inside discussion with myself when it comes to zoos. I’m not really sure how I feel about them. I find it cruel to keep animals in enclosures, cages etc. Another part of me thinks it does have educational value, and of course also likes looking at wild animals I’ll probably not get to see close up otherwise. This discussion will probably go on forever in my head and I will never be fully decided on my feelings. Stepping aside from the discussion, here are LP’s words: “The oldest zoo on the European continent, Artis has an alphabet soup of wildlife: alligators, birds, chimps and so on up to zebras.”

I visited Artis a few months back. It was a day after a rainy day, plus it was a week day, so it was really quiet which was nice. I really like the set up of the park, it’s very relaxing and it’s a nice place to take a stroll. There were a few things that I really liked about Artis.

1. The wolves howling – Apparently you have to be there around certain times to actually hear this, but I was there and got to see it actually happening which was really pretty awesome.

2. The sea lions – these guys are just real show offs and a LOT of fun to watch, I could spend hours watching them and eventually had to force myself away.

3. Lemurland – OK now THIS is the COOLEST thing I have EVER seen in a zoo. The lemurs in Artis live on a little island, and people can walk onto the island and basically be touching distance from the lemurs. You’re not allowed to touch them, but still, they can run around and play right before your eyes. You’re actually IN their enclosure! Loved it!

4. The aquarium – I love aquariums and Artis has one, I just love watching all the different kinds of fish and other sea life swimming about. Also some of the weirdest, most fascinating creatures live in the sea.

5. The penguins being fed – Again if you’re there at a certain time you might catch the penguins being fed, which is total utter chaos and fun to watch.

6. The butterfly house – there’s a big butterfly house with tropic temperatures home to some very pretty butterflies and some pretty weird birds, there’s also a case full of cocoons, some of which are really beautiful to see and if you’re lucky you might be just in time to see a butterfly breaking free.

7. The wrestling chimpanzees – seriously these guys could join UFC

Now even though all those things, amongst others, were really cool to see, I am going to have to go back to my not so happy feeling about zoos, especially as there were a couple of animals there who were most definitely unhappy. When I see an animal pacing or repeating the same exact movements over and over again in a cage, you can’t tell me that animal is happy. That makes me unhappy and I was unhappy a few times in Artis. Secondly and a lot less important than my first point are the catering facilities, they are bland and boring and don’t have much to offer, my advice: take a packed lunch (especially if you’re a foodie like me). Last of all the planetarium is really outdated and could do with some refurbishments.

A great day out if you have kids and you don’t have any problem with zoos. A little on the expensive side.

Practical info: €16.50 for kids from 3-9, €19.95 for anyone older than 10. Website: http://www.artis.nl/en/artis-royal-zoo/

Now it’s time for me to get back out there and discover Holland’s wonderful museums, nature, restaurants & cafe’s, and other sights and things to do… I’m hoping to plan a new Amsterdam visit in my Easter holiday.

Film Review: The Broken Circle Breakdown

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
imdb.com

As a film nerd and all I’ve wanted to start writing film reviews for a while now. It never seemed to happen though because I was always worried about not doing it right. But really this is my blog and it’s up to me. So I’m going to start writing reviews. Probably film and book reviews, but I may branch out. I’m going to do it my way, in my style. Part of me is saying “no you have to get online and find out how you’re supposed to write a review” but that part of me has also just received the finger because I’ve decided to do it however it feels right. It’s good to leave rules and regulations behind every now and again. There’s enough of those I have to deal with when I’m writing stuff for uni. So here goes, my first review. Enjoy!

The Broken Circle Breakdown surprised me. Not because I didn’t think it was going to be good. Before I watch a film I usually check its imdb rating. Not that this always says much as there have been films I loved that scored very badly on there and films I hated that scored very well, but it sometimes tells you a little bit about how well received a film has been. This one has (right now) a 7.9. It is also nominated for the Oscar (or academy award if you like) for best foreign film. As good as this film was I have my hopes set on Jagten (The Hunt) winning that one, but it is most definitely a well deserved nomination.

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
imdb.com

Now back to why the film surprised me. As far as I can remember the only Belgian film I’ve seen is Loft,  which is very good. Apart from that thought the closest to Belgian films I’ve seen are Dutch films, sorry Belgium I can imagine this being offensive. Now Dutch films are, generally, not very good. Not very good at all.  Obviously there are exceptions (like Loft, which is a Dutch remake of the Belgian film mentioned earlier. Why you wonder? I am still wondering the exact same thing.) and there are several mediocre Dutch films. But the majority are very cheesy and the acting is not usually very good either. From now on I will never ever think of Dutch and Belgian films in the same category ever again! I promise you Belgium and I’m sorry if I ever did. This film and probably most Belgian films are of a totally different calibre. Two small countries right next to each other on the map, who (partly) share a language have two completely different styles when it comes to films. Now obviously I can’t talk about all Belgian films, as I’ve only seen two, so anything I’ve said is going off the two films I’ve seen and anything I say from now on will specifically be about the one I saw today The Broken Circle Breakdown.

First off WOW! Just WOW! When a film makes me go WOW! it has been successful. This film was very successful. I said WOW! on several occasions. What I’m about to do is compare this film to my favourite type of films, Scandinavian films, more specifically Danish dramas, it’s the fact that this film is not Danish, or Scandinavian, but otherwise it would fit perfectly on the shelf between my collection of Danish dramas. Why? This film is realistic, raw, emotional and almost gritty at times. Think of Susanne Bier’s (Brødre, Hævnen) and Thomas Vinterberg’s films (Jagten, Festen). The cinematography is beautiful and the music, oh I loved the music!

Still of Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh in The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
imdb.com

The story follows Elise and Didier’s life together and with their daughter, Maybelle. Almost straight away we witness the family together in the hospital, Maybelle (seriously the cutest little girl ever, she had my ovaries going berserk!) has cancer. The film focuses on Elise and Didier’s relationship, from the beginning to the end. The hardship of an terminally ill daughter that they must face together. How they deal with this and how their relationship sustains throughout the process. The film is deeply moving and had me in tears several times. The emotions are all very real and I could really emphasize with the characters. The film pulled me in and it wouldn’t let go. There’s a scene during the first half concerning Didier, Maybelle and a dead bird and it had me crying like a baby.

Music plays a big part in the film. Didier is in a bluegrass band, which Elise becomes a part of as well. Naturally bluegrass becomes the film’s soundtrack and it plays an important role throughout. I have recently taken quite a liking to this type of music, so it was just one more thing that made this film all the more brilliant.

I think depending on the kind of person you are you will tend to understand either Didier or Elise more than the other. Two very different people with very different ideas and ways of dealing with things. Didier is both an atheist and a realist, whereas Elise is religious and has certain beliefs surrounding an afterlife and symbolism. I felt closest to the Didier throughout the film, I seemed to choose his side so to speak when certain situations arose. Near the end of the film he also has a few of the most beautiful lines in the film. I did understand Elise’s way of thinking in some aspects and maybe even preferred some of them, but I felt Didier was the most rational.

An eloquent drama, pieced together perfectly and wonderful performances all around. It touched my heart. There couldn’t have been a better soundtrack and I don’t know if it’s just me, but if a film has made me cry, more than once, it’s done it’s job and shown just how powerful a film can be. My rating is a nine out of ten, pretty much perfect.

Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 6

Soooooo, this post is late, very late, but I’m going to go and put it all out there anyway.

Two weeks ago Friday I left glorious Tilburg for a day in Amsterdam. I had some unfinished business around the Waterloopplein area and from there I’d decided to head into the Plantage district as that was closer by than the Jordaan region, which would have been next if I was sticking to the exact order of the book. As I am trying to let go of doing things in the precise order of the book this was very good for me. I shall be saving the Jordaan for next time.

Our first stop was the Zuiderkerk, which I ended up not being able to go inside. They had tower tours at certain times throughout the day but as the last trip I’d made (to Den Bosch) also included a tower tour I decided to skip that for now. Maybe I will go back and do it some day.

Next up was the Portugese-Israelite Synagogue. Before that I wanted to take a quick look at Tunfun , which is “a kids playground built in an old underpass” according to LP. I was very curious, so I asked the lady selling tickets if I could just go in and have a quick look. It was so cool! I wished I was a kid again. It’s literally what the Lonely Planet says it is. I would have absolutely adored this place as a child. It’s pretty fascinating, it’s filled with a big indoor play area with ball pools, slides, climbing things and the like. Now I just wish I had kids and so I could take them there.

The Portugese-Isralite Synagogue is connected to the Jewish Historical Museum, which I visited briefly during my last Amsterdam trip (Part 5). There’s a special discount ticket if you want to visit both. The Synagogue has a free listening tour you can pick up at the entrance. The tour is very flexible, you can either just listen to the basics or go for the extra listening options which make it very extensive. It basically leads you through the synagogue and it’s surrounding buildings. there are lots of listening points and I enthusiastically started off listening to everything, which ended up being an information overload, so I ended the tour just listening to the basics. It’s a good concept and if you want to you can learn an awful lot about the Jewish religion and culture and more specifically the Portugese Jewish culture in Amsterdam. If you choose to do both the synagogue and the museum I would recommend spreading them out over your time in Amsterdam, as the tour in the museum is similar and your brain might end up crashing from all the new data. The ticket is valid for a month so if you’re there for a week go on separate days. If you do want to do them both in one day, make sure you take an extended lunch break in between.

From all the hard work listening I was pretty hungry so my next mission was somewhere to eat. The place I had planned ended up being an ‘evening meal’ restaurant, it wasn’t open. I say evening meal, because if I said tea, which is the word I use for evening meal, most of you fine people would have probably thought I mean the drinking kind of tea. It’s a difficult thing this evening meal, depending where you’re from there are many names to call it by. Tea, dinner, tea, supper, tea… I’m sorry, I’m drifting… Not wanting to be too have to walk too far I went for a place close by, which wasn’t in the LP. I am still going to review it though.

I can’t remember the name of the place. I have a photo of it on my phone, but the name is unreadable, this because of the font, not the size. Anyway this café is actually also in Utrecht (which is like a home away from home, for one thing it’s where I went to college/will be going to uni and secondly it’s where we used to go and stay with the Dadman when he came to visit us in the Netherlands). I actually had a conversation with a couple of friends about the unreadability of the name of the café, whilst sitting at another café on the other side of the road (this in Utrecht). So I don’t know what it’s called, for now. *Update: It’s called Orlof, so there you have it* Anyway I ordered a humus & roasted veggies sandwich. I was so happy! Finally a humus without chilli! It was scrummy and it filled my tummy.

After lunch I went to the Hortus Botanicus (which is botanic gardens in Latin, I think). It was nice just to walk round this peaceful, beautiful garden. I liked looking at the strange plants and the plants with nice flowers. There are five or six greenhouses ranging from small to big. One of them contains butterflies and moths, now I like butterflies, but I have a bit of a phobia to moths. I would show you why, but I would have to film myself and I’m not sure I’m ready to embarrass myself on here yet. I am very good at showing people the difference between a butterfly and a moth though. Thankfully, the moths in there weren’t very active, so I managed to survive without ending up being the laughing stock of the greenhouse. I mean whose scared of moths??? It’s stupid, I’m the girl who makes fun of other people being scared of spiders, bees, snakes, cockroaches and the like, but I’m scared of moths…. There is a story, but then I would be drifting again… There were some more greenhouses, they were very hot and it was a hot day too, so it was a bit overwhelming. One of them had all kinds of cacti and another one had all kinds of tropical plants but also an interesting art collection. The last greenhouse was too much for me, so I don’t really know what was in there. I ended up on the garden’s café’s terrace. Wow! So the garden has a café and the café has a terrace, which I sat at. Just in case you didn’t get that. I wanted the raspberry cheesecake, but it was all gone and so was my second choice, so I just enjoyed my Coca Cola (this is not an advertisement, just a preference).

The day was almost over and I had one more wish on my list of things to do that day. The Gassan Diamond Tour, which is free. Now I’m going to come straight out and say I wouldn’t recommend this tour. In fact I ended up sneaking out of the tour and leaving. As great as I think it is, a FREE tour, but, well… First off I signed up at the reception for the tour. The lady said I could join a group in a bit. After about 20 minutes waiting, seeing different groups go in with tour guides and asking twice which group I should join, I was finally allowed in… Wait for it…. With a group of forty something other people…. TOTAL CHAOS! I have no other way to describe what went on in the humongous Gassan Diamond building that day and probably every other day of the week… Not just our tour group of MORE THAN FORTY people, but about three other tour groups of mixed sizes were all led into one (yes rather big, but it was no stadium) room. Then the tour guides, each speaking different languages had to take turns to tell their tour group some stuff, which might have been interesting (I don’t know, I couldn’t hear very well or concentrate very well on hearing), about diamonds and making diamonds. Yes we watched some people making diamonds, but the diamonds were so tiny that if I’m completely honest I didn’t really see that much. When we were being led to our next destination, a tiny room, FORTY PLUS PEOPLE, I decided to leave the chaos behind and go to Marks & Spencer to buy some cheese. And crumpets, but they were sold out, sniff sniff… I’ve seriously been craving crumpets for weeks now! :(

I didn’t eat my evening meal in Amsterdam as I’d made plans to have dinner  in Abcoude. It was a wonderful evening and a very nice end to another satisfying day in Amsterdam.

Looking forward to next time, the Jordaan….

Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Den Bosch Part 1

I’ve decided to throw things around a bit on the Lonely Planet Challenge (LPC) front. I have a bit of a problem sometimes; I have to do certain things in a certain order. Like when using a puzzle book I have to do the puzzles in order, so from front to back, I’m not allowed to pick out the ones I like and do those, which means when I get to a word search (which I’m not a fan of) I usually end up never picking up the puzzle book again. I have a similar problem with my LPC. I’m trying to go through the Lonely Planet in order. From front to back. So my initial plan was to do everything in Amsterdam first and also in order. Now I’ve scrapped that plan, I have a new one. I’ll be following two routes through the book from now on. Route number one will be what I was already doing, starting at the beginning and going through the book in the order it is put together. And route number two will be following a kind of logic route from whatever is closest to home, so starting in the province Noord-Brabant. And maybe every now and again I’ll even throw in a completely spontaneous trip to wherever. You never know ;)

So how did this change of behaviour begin? Yesterday, the plan was to go to Amsterdam, until I realised that the trains in that direction were all a bit messy this weekend, plus I needed to get back to Tilburg in time to see The Smashing Pumpkins at 013. So I decided to still go out and about, but closer to home. The result of which was Den Bosch, the first city mentioned in the Noord-Brabant part of my LP.

Now I know Den Bosch quite well, it’s one of those cities I go to when I want to go shopping and I want to get out of Tilburg. It’s a good shopping city and it’s also quite beautiful with its canals and medieval buildings. I’ve done a few of the things in LP before, but I will be doing them again to refresh my memory. Yesterday though, I did something new. The first thing LP recommends is Sint Janskathedraal (Saint John’s Cathedral). According to LP it’s Den Bosch’s main attraction, this is what else LP has to say:

“(…) one of the finest churches in the Netherlands. It took from 1336 to 1550 to complete, and there’s an interesting contrast between the red-brick tower and the ornate stone butresses. The interior is also of interest, with late-Gothic stained-glass windows, an impressive statue of the Madonna and an amazing organ case from the 17th century. Unfortunately, Protestants destroyed the cathedral’s paintings in 1566. Recent restorations uncovered a few 15th-century survivors. Take the opportunity to climb the 73m tower, with its carillon and great views.”

Now this is one of those places I’ve always seen, but never properly seen. I’ve walked past it, but never really looked at it. I’ve also never been inside. My plan was to go for the tower climb, which actually turned out to be a guided tour. I went to buy my ticket at a building a little further down the street. They cost five euros for adults, kids between four and twelve cost €2.50 and under fours are free. The tour is two to three times a day throughout most of the year (except on Mondays) and it lasts for about an hour and fifteen minutes. (For more information check out http://www.kringvrienden.nl, which is unfortunately in Dutch). I bought tickets for the two o’clock tour which gave me some time to have lunch and visit the comic book store (nerd, remember).

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The comic book store in Den Bosch, Silvester, is pretty good. They have a good English section. It was mainly just a browse, though. The problem is that I can get the stuff I’m interested in for quite a bit less money on the internet. And whilst I’m all for supporting shops, as in real-life shops you can walk into. I really don’t want shops to disappear! If the difference between the internet price and the price in the shop reaches a certain limit, I have to be honest and say I will order my stuff online. I am sorry! :(

Koffiehuis Voltaire, the café I planned to go to, was actually just opposite the comic book store, which was very convenient as well as being a complete coincidence. In LP’s words:

“The definition of funky. Settle into a table out front or amid the multi-coloured shambles inside for some fab veggie fare. The affable owner cooks up a mean house special: a grilled sandwich of organic cheese, pesto, arugula, avocado and more. Great fruit shakes. No smoking anything.”

Basically what is described above is a pretty good description. But to be honest I wasn’t overly convinced. When I walked in there were four people spread around the place and they all seemed to know each other, I don’t know if they all worked there, or whether they were friends or what exactly there relationships were with each other, but when I walked in it felt like I was interrupting something. They did all say hello, but there was a bit of a strange atmosphere which made me feel like I wasn’t particularly wanted. It’s a small café and it’s set up a bit like a living room, it actually felt like I was barging into someone else’s living room. I sat down anyway. There are all kinds of items lying all over the place from throughout the years, also piles of books and magazines, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge of things. The girl that helped me was actually very friendly. She came over and gave me glass of tap water and asked what I’d like to drink, I ordered and asked what they did for lunch as there was no menu to be seen. Basically she told us she could make us warm or cold sandwiches with a list of ingredients she could put on the sandwiches and she could also do an omelet. It was a bit strange. I said I’d like a sandwich, I went for a cold one with both goat’s and cow’s cheese and avocado. The sandwich was actually really good, very tasty and it looked great. I paid and left pretty quickly once finished, though. I don’t think I’d go back again, just cause the mood was so strange, I didn’t really understand the vibes. Also I didn’t really get the concept, if there even is a concept. It was as if you had to be familiar with the place and the people who work there/hang out there and then maybe you’d also be in on the secret of what exactly they serve. I didn’t get the point of not having some kind of menu. I saw someone on a table nearby receiving a smoothie, I know LP said they had smoothies, but I’d forgotten that and if there’d have been a menu I would probably have ordered a smoothie too… So, no, I wouldn’t recommend. I am sorry to say so. It makes me sad :(.

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I still had a bit of time to spare before the climb, so I had a bit of a drift through the shopping streets. I bought a few tops from America Today, it’s sale time, so there are bargains galore! I arrived in front of the tower on time and was met by the lady who would be giving the tour. She was very friendly and seemed genuinely interested in the people on the tour. There were twelve of us in total, including two men from Israel, so she did the tour in Dutch but translated into English for the Israelis. Her English was perfect, I was very impressed! I can always appreciate it when someone not English has such a good command of the language. :) So kudos for that! The tour was pretty amazing, very informative and interesting. There are enough breaks in between climbing and you get to see the carillon actually playing, very very cool! The climb goes up to 43m, so not all the way to the top, were you get to look at the wonderful view from three different sides of the tower. It was all very fascinating, definitely worth it. My compliments!

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After the more scary climb back down I went inside the cathedral, which is just WOW! I think it’s probably one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen when it comes to interior. There’s an awesome organ which can only be a humongous honour to whoever gets to play that thing, again WOW! The windows are dazzling and the ceiling is magnificent! I have to agree with LP, for now, that this is Holland’s finest cathedral/church! I was pretty flabbergasted, I hadn’t expected something I’d pretty much ignored whenever I was in Den Bosch to be so amazing.

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Next I went for the acclaimed Bossche Bol, it’s the local speciality when it comes to pastries. The original ones are made by the baker Jan de Groot, I didn’t actually eat at the Jan de Groot establishment as it’s near to the station and was a bit out of the way, but I did eat a real Jan de Groot Bossche Bol. There are cafés all over Den Bosch that sell the real thing, you just have to look for the signs. They are delicious, though very heavy on the tummy. Oh yes, a little explanation may be of use here, the Bossche Bol is quite a big ball of pastry filled with whipped cream and covered in chocolate ;). If you’ve never had one and you’re in the area, you should really give it a try.

Next up was some more shopping. Of course I ended up going home with four new books. <3 I don’t have a problem, really I don’t! I rounded off with a drink on the terrace of a local pub/bar. I had a Kriek (cherry flavoured beer, my favourite).

Then it was time for more food! Tea time (or supper, or dinner, what you call it depends where you come from). The plan was to go to a restaurant called Puur, which was in the LP but in the address where it was supposed to be was a different restaurant. I didn’t know whether it was the same with a different name or whether it was something completely different. Also there wasn’t a menu hanging outside, which was a sign that this restaurant was probably quite expensive. Also it was in a street shared by all the most expensive looking shops. So I decided to try something else. The next few things in the LP were also a bit too expensive for my liking, so I ended up finding something myself. I came across Nul73 (Nil73, which is the telephone code of Den Bosch, just like 013 is the telephone code of Tilburg), it’s opposite the church and the menu seemed very promising.

I sat in the garden and went for the four course meal for €25. The first thing that attracted me about the place was the choice of vegetarian meals. So I went for the four course veggie meal. The first course was bread with two dips (a pesto dip and a mustard/lemon dip) and a herb butter. It was scrummy! Second up I got a veggie salad with lettuce, brie, gorgonzola, green olives, walnuts, pine nuts, figs, dates, green grapes, tomatoes and cucumber in an orange flavoured dressing. Which I enjoyed as far as I could, the problem wasn’t the food, it’s me. I don’t like the combination of sweet and savoury. I also have a bit of a problem with blue cheeses, it’s fine if they’re in a sauce or melted on a pizza, but I still have to get used to them just as they are, I am learning though and I forced a few pieces in. Anyway like I said my problem, not the food. ;) Now for the main course, here it comes… The one in the menu was a pasta with a chilli sauce, as you will know if you’ve been following this blog from the beginning (when it was still on blogger), I am allergic to chilli peppers. So I told the waiter and he said they would make a different sauce for me, “great!” I thought. :) But I took one bite and I was pretty sure there was chilli in there, as I got the feeling I get when I eat chilli, even if it’s a tiny tiny tiny bit of chilli my mouth sets on fire and I don’t have any taste left at all. So I asked the waiter if there was chilli in my pasta after all, he phoned the kitchen and everything, but they said there wasn’t any chilli in there. I went back and tried again, but I just couldn’t eat it. We had to ask again and I have to say the service was brilliant. Without a problem the waiter and also waitress, this time, arranged for a different pasta for me. Later the waitress told me they’d tried the pasta themselves and they both thought it was definitely too spicy. But still there was no chilli in there, so it seems I may be allergic to a type of pepper as well. The new pasta I received was a creamy mushroom pasta. It was heavenly! I am a big fan of mushrooms, always have been, if they were officially a vegetable, they would be my favourite! I couldn’t resist the crème brûlée for dessert. When I received my plate my mouth almost dropped open, the crème brûlée was HUMONGOUS and next to it were three large scoops of ice cream with a massive dollop of whipped cream on the top. The  crème brûlée was exactly as a crème brûlée should be, very tasty! All in all it was a very enjoyable meal. The service was excellent and not just because of my chilli adventure. The prices were astounding and the food was as you will have already concluded above pretty much perfect! The only thing I can point out is that the portions were way too big, which isn’t a negative for the guest per se, it’s just a shame that they’ll probably end up throwing a lot of uneaten food away. The portions of each course, if eaten alone, or maybe in a three course meal, would be fine, but in a four course meal it was just way too much! Apart from that though I was very impressed, so for the second time today my compliments! I will most probably be back and will definitely be recommending Nul73. :)

References: Quotes used from Lonely Planet The Netherlands 4th Edition, (www.lonelyplanet.com)

More info: Cathedral (http://www.kringvrienden.nl, http://www.sint-jan.nl), Nul73 (http://www.nul73lunchendiner.nl)

Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 5

I can’t believe this is my fifth Amsterdam trip already and I’m not even halfway through the sights to be seen. I love Amsterdam though, I just absolutely love it! Every time I go back there I just love it even more.

The trip I am about to write about happened last Friday and I think it’s busiest trip I’ve done yet. I arrived in Amsterdam around one in the afternoon and between then and five I managed to pack in four museums, the cannabis college, a Buddhist temple and a restaurant! WOW! Now really it isn’t that much of an achievement, you will see why in a few moment.

Again this was a pretty spontaneously planned trip, which seems to work a lot better for me than planning weeks ahead. I actually go, whereas the times I’ve tried to plan ahead, I end up not going. So I’ll be sticking with this method. I must say I already feel a new trip coming on again this week. It excites me!  I might even go twice. I actually was thinking of going today, as I heard there’s a Game of Thrones exhibition on and today was the last day, DoH! Why I not know this Friday? But I decided before doing another trip I should really write this blog post first. So I’m not going to get to sit on the iron throne today :( , but you never know, the exhibition will probably be back at some point, ‘because of amazing success!’

Anyway I should probably start my story.

So it was Friday the weather had me taking my coat off and putting it back on all afternoon, I must have been through this routine about 10 times throughout the day. One minute it was really sunny and warm and the next minute it was raining and cold. I wasn’t actually really looking forward to this trip, two of the next three sights in my LP just didn’t do it for me; ‘The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum’ and ‘The Erotic Museum’… “Just great, really great, really looking forward to this stuff…. NOT!!” I don’t know if it’s just me, but these kind of cheap (I am not talking about the prices :O !!!) touristy attractions are just not my thing. After the Sex Museum which was a couple of trips back I could pretty much confirm my suspicions. Now I might actually have to say, that the Sex Museum was better than the two I just noted.

First up was the Cannabis College, which I actually feel very positive about. Basically it’s a little information centre about cannabis and I think it’s a really good initiative. People (whom will mainly be tourists) can go there and ask questions about anything cannabis related. Also the guy behind the counter was really very very friendly. They also have some plants in the cellar, as I’ve never seen cannabis plants before I decided I would go and take a peek. It costs three euros to look at the plants, included in the three euros is also the use of the vaporisers upstairs… The ticket is valid forever, so you can go back and do it again whenever you want. It’s more of a donation really as they’re a non-profit organisation. I asked the dude where the good coffee shops are in Amsterdam, because most of them are really touristy and the quality of the cannabis is therefore often not very good. He marked about five places on a map for me. So I now know where to go. I think it’s a really good thing to have, especially for people who go to Amsterdam and want to smoke weed but haven’t done it before, they can get some truthful unbiased information there.

Two of the plants
Two of the plants

Next up was The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp museum. This museum includes The Hemp Gallery which is a few doors further up. It cost NINE euros to get in!!! Which is WAY to much for what it is. Well what is it? Basically it’s a gallery filled with pictures, sculptures and other items that all have to do with cannabis, weed, marijuana, hemp whatever you want to call it. At the entrance you can take a book, free of charge, thankfully after paying NINE euros to get in! The book quite thick and filled with text. Throughout the museum and the gallery, there are numbers, each number has an explanation in the book. But really you could read the book at home and learn the same stuff. The museum, similar to the sex museum, doesn’t really have an order or a story. It’s just as if it’s someone’s collection of things to do with cannabis and you can look at them. And if you want you can spend hours reading the texts in the book that support the items. No thanks! So I just quickly went through the museum and the gallery and decided I would read the book at home. I wouldn’t bother with this museum, especially for the price. It’s maybe worth about three euro’s, but only if you still get the book. Really though, just don’t go, it isn’t worth your time or money.

This is pretty much what both the museum and the gallery looked like.
This is pretty much what both the museum and the gallery looked like.

The same I will say about the Erotic Museum, which is SEVEN euros! And like I said the Sex Museum was bad, and this is just a bad rip off of the sex museum. Again just a jumble of pictures, sculptures and other items, this time to do with sex. There was a little corner where they had a tv-screen showing rude cartoons. But apart from that there was no story leading you through the museum, in fact I didn’t see any text anywhere explaining anything.  One of the floors did have some pretty cool artwork, but that was about the only interesting thing there. Again, do not go. Do not even bother. It’s boring. Seriously. I was done in about ten minutes and the building has five floors.

The Erotic Museum had a very similar set up as the Hash Museum
The Erotic Museum had a very similar set up as the Hash Museum

Leave both of the above out and leave the sex museum out and go to the good museums, which there are plenty of in Amsterdam. Two of which will follow later. For now it was time to go to the Buddhist Temple, the Guan Yin Shrine, which I have walked past many a time, but I never went inside before. It’s worth a little peek and it’s free which was nice after spending too much money in shitty museums :). It’s actually quite small and there’s just one room open to the public. For a small donation you can light a candle and they sell some books about Buddhism. Apart from that it’s quite beautiful in a kitsch kind of a way.

The Guan Yin Buddhist Temple
The Guan Yin Buddhist Shrine

Now the belly started rumbling and one of the restaurants in the LP was across the street from the Buddhist temple, so I decided I would eat there. Both the temple and the restaurant are in the China Town part of Amsterdam. On the street Zeedijk, which is also mentioned in the LP. The restaurant is called Nam Kee and it’s not much to look at, both on the outside and in.

Nam Kee
The beautiful Nam Kee!

In fact when inside it has a bit of a depressing feeling about it.

Inside Nam Kee
Inside Nam Kee

It’s a Chinese restaurant as you had probably already guessed. According to the LP “The most popular Chinese spot in town”. Now the people who work there are also not very friendly at all. I was doing my very best to be friendly and polite, but I think the waiter must have trained with the guards at Buckingham Palace because it was impossible to get a smile out of him. So at this point I was wondering why this was the most popular Chinese Restaurant in Amsterdam??? When I received my food I knew the answer. The food is absolutely perfect! Delicious! Really really really good! So THAT is why they are so popular, nothing more, nothing less, it’s the food that does it. I ordered a Tjap Tjoy (Mixed Vegetables) with Tofu.

My meal in Nam Kee, yum!
My meal in Nam Kee, yum!

The vegetables were so fresh it was like they were exploding in my mouth! I was really impressed. The taste combinations were just perfect. I would recommend if you like Chinese food you should definitely go there. In fact even if you don’t usually you’ll probably like this Chinese food. They wouldn’t get anywhere near even a six or a seven out of ten for service and design, but the food very much deserves a nine out of ten. Scrumptious!

My exploration of the Zeedijk and Red Light District area’s was over for now. It was time to move on to the area surrounding Nieuwmarkt, which is a big market square. On the square the building Waag takes up all the glory. It’s a beautiful fairy tale (to quote the LP) like building. It used to be the weigh house and it’s now a restaurant/café. I’d already eaten, but maybe some other time. It has a big terrace so on sunny days it’d be lovely to sit outside.

The picturesque Waag
The picturesque Waag

In a street going off the Nieuwmarkt was my next destination ‘Museum het Rembrandthuis’, finally some quality! It’s where Rembrandt both lived, worked and taught until he went bankrupt and had to sell the place.

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It’s a gorgeous building, a very typical one to Amsterdam, but I just love the architecture in Amsterdam. The museum is similar to ‘Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder’ which I visited on my last Amsterdam trip, similar because you’re led through a house which is reconstructed to how it would have been ‘then’. The then now being when Rembrandt lived there.

The gorgeous building
The gorgeous building

There was a listening tour, by now you will know, I LOVE LISTENING TOURS! <3 Listening tours are in my opinion the best way to be led around a museum. And this one was very good. You filled in the number you saw on the wall and it told you about the room you were in.

I really like the beds people used to sleep in, it's almost like a little hut, I would have loved a bed like this as a kid!
I really like the beds people used to sleep in, it’s almost like a little hut, I would have loved a bed like this as a kid! This one is in the kitchen, so one (or maybe even more than one) of the servants would have slept here.

Once upstairs, where a lot of paintings where all over the walls (I mean we are in Rembrandts house so paintings were to be expected), each painting also had a number, so if you were interested in a painting, or in all of the paintings, you could hear stories about those too. Now I just listened to the paintings that I liked personally, if I’d have listened to them all I would have been there for hours. So the tour through the house is quite short when you do it that way. But when you’ve finished the tour there are a couple of temporary exhibitions. One of them was showing a lot of Rembrandts etchings. Which was quite interesting.

An etching of himself
An etching of himself

The exhibition I really liked didn’t really have much to do with Rembrandt at all. It was called ‘Langs Amsterdamse Grachten’ (which is ‘Along Amsterdam’s Canals’) and they were paintings/drawings of different places in Amsterdam that were painted or drawn a long time ago. Then under the paintings they had photographs of what that part of Amsterdam looks like now. I thought this was really cool. In the giftshop they had a book with all the paintings and photos, I almost bought it, but it was quite expensive, so took two postcards with me instead. I might still go back for the book though at some point, but for now I’ll be finding a place to hang the postcards up in the house. I also bought a magnet of one of Rembrandts etchings of a typical Amsterdam canalscape which has now joined the collection on the fridge.

My favourite temporary exhibition
My favourite temporary exhibition

Next I had a little wander over the market on the Waterloopplein, which isn’t really anything special. A lot of touristy kind of market stalls and a couple of other things. The Waterloopplein is also home to one of the ugliest buildings in Amsterdam, the Stopera, which is home to the city hall and an opera/theatre. Close by was the ‘Joods Historisch Museum’ (Jewish Historical Museum) which was my next stop.

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It was a short visit as it was four now and the museum closed at five. So I went through it quicker than I would have liked to. They also have a listening tour, so thumbs up for that. And the museum is split into the old synagogue and the new synagogue. The old synagogue covers the Jewish religion in general and the history of Jews in the Netherlands, going back to around the 15th century, if I recall rightly. Like I said, it was a bit of a rushed visit. The new synagogue was also about the history of Jews in the Netherlands but more modern, I think the last hundred years or so. Both parts are set up very well, especially the new synagogue, which was very modern and it makes use of lots of video material. There are two massive videos projected onto the walls which makes it look quite spectacular. I will certainly be going back to visit it properly.

The exhibition in the new synagogue
The exhibition in the new synagogue

I forgot to mention both the Rembrandt House and the Jewish Historical Museum are free if you have a museum card. If you don’t the Rembrandt House costs €12.50 for adults and the Jewish Historical Museum costs twelve euros. Both museums are well worth the price, but make sure you have enough time to wander round. Give yourself at least two hours for each museum.

The Jewish Museum also has a very good gift shop, lots of books! After a bit of a browse in there, I didn’t buy anything in the end though, I decided to do a bit of shopping. I walked to the centre via the Muntplein and took the opportunity to get a picture of the Munttoren, which is also featured in the LP.

The Munttoren
The Munttoren

And then I noticed a most amazing thing!

A wonderful thing.

Something that made me so happy that I almost did a dance in public.

There is a Marks & Spencer in Amsterdam!!!

For those who don’t know Marks & Spencer is a British chain department store. They mainly sell clothes and food. Anyway it meant one thing, British food!!! So of course I HAD to go inside. The one in Amsterdam has a tiny clothes part (but I wasn’t there for the clothes anyway) and the rest is pretty much like a small supermarket. I must have looked like a smiling idiot walking through those aisles. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. I ended up taking home a very nice extra mature cheddar, cheese and onion pasties, two ciders, sticky toffee pudding, and some pickled onion (for on sandwiches). They usually have CRUMPETS!!! But unfortunately they were having problems ordering them, but they will get them again. And they only cost €1.75 or something!! Save me going to the little English shop and paying five euros for them :D. I was very happy with my discovery and I will probably end up going to Amsterdam every week now just for Marks and Spencer.

I ended my shopping spree in Waterstones (YES another British shop that is in Amsterdam, bookshop) and ended up going home with three books, I just couldn’t resist!

Now while I was in Waterstones I saw they had the latest version of Lonely Planet the Netherlands. It just came out this month. So I had a quick flick through. I’ve not quite figured out whether I’m going to replace the one I have now, which is the last version. But one thing I noticed shocked me terribly, they have now added Madame Tussauds to the sights!!! :O Sorry if I offend anyone but I’ve been to Madame Tussauds once as a child, the one in Amsterdam and even then I thought it was really cheesy and terrible. So I am quite ashamed that it is in the new Lonely Planet for the Netherlands. Terrible, terrible. But then really, in my opinion, they also shouldn’t include the Sex Museum, the Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum/Gallery and the Erotic Museum.

It was a great day and it seems very packed, but really I kept the first few visits, especially the ones I didn’t like, very short. I’m already looking forward to my next visit, especially as I think I’ve pretty much had all the stuff I didn’t really want to do… Unless I buy the new version ;). Maybe I’ll go tomorrow… It’s very tempting… :)

For more information on anything I did today, you can use the following websites; Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com), Cannabis College (www.cannabiscollege.com), Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum (http://www.hashmuseum.com), Erotic Museum (www.erotisch-museum.nl), Guan Yin Shrine (www.ibps.nl), Nam Kee (www.namkee.net),  Museum Het Rembrandthuis (www.rembrandthuis.nl), Jewish Historical Museum (www.jhm.nl).

Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 4

Now it’s been almost two weeks since I actually made the trip I’m going to be talking about today. I should have been posting this blog last week Tuesday, or at least last week. But you know how it is, all kinds of distractions, some of which would be legitimate excuses whilst others not so much. I mean if I’m honest I’ve had plenty of time to sit down and write for a few hours. I think that is partly where it goes wrong though, I know that when I write my blog I can be sat there for hours on end, I know how much time goes into writing a post. The stupid thing is I enjoy writing it, so why in the world do I worry about how much time it’s going to take? Anyway it’s something I have to work on, in fact I might have to try a little something like: post at least one thing a day no matter what it is. But I can’t make any promises, I know myself too well for that.

I’m sorry I tend to ramble, let’s get back to the topic shall we…

It was Monday last week. The 25th of March to be exact. In fact now it’s a whole new month I’m writing this in. Tuttut. I was off to Amsterdam anyway, as I had bought concert tickets for Of Monsters and Men ageeess ago. And finally the day had come. I decided to make a day of it. Which, very much like me, ended up being ‘a half day of it’ because I am terrible at getting my bottom out of my bed. Which is something else I need to work on, although it is probably very much interrelated (with my lack of being able to sit down and write my blog) and could easily go by the name of: A HUMONGOUS LACK OF SELF DISCIPLINE! Oh yes… Amsterdam… First off I needed to find, somewhere, anywhere, where I could print the tickets for the concert, as I don’t have a printer at home. The first thing that came up in my head was the library, so I looked up where the library was and realised I’d been there before. I found my way there and I can tell you it has never taken me so long in my whole life to print something! First of all I had to figure out how to print. This didn’t take too long and I will not go into detail here as I don’t want to bore you. Now secondly I was apparently using someone else’s computer, well it was the library’s computer, but someone else was already using it. As there was no sign of anyone using it  (no coat hung over chair, no sign saying computer in use, apart from the computer itself the workspace was completely empty) I had no idea. This guy came up and said “you’re using my computer!” he came over pretty angry and I was a bit surprised (having no clue that it was already in use). “Sorry, I didn’t realise someone was using it” I said. “Well, have you clicked my windows away?” He asked. I had, clicked a few windows away, something that looked like advertisements, something I thought must have accidentally been left on. “Well, I guess, yes, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise….” He looked at me as if I was stupid and then he replied angrily “You can use that computer there” and pointed to the one next to him. I apologised again, got up and went to the other side of the room. I felt really stupid! When really he was the one that was stupid, not making it obvious enough that the computer was in use. Unless there was a secret library computer use sign he’d left behind, there was absolutely no way I could have seen that he was using that computer! Anyway bygones be bygones I moved along, being glad I’m not the kind of person who gets angry or frustrated when someone makes a tiny little mistake… Next problem, the printer didn’t work, thankfully there was already a librarian trying to figure it out and after about fifteen minutes of her pressing random buttons on the printer and after restarting it several times in several different ways I left the building with the two concert tickets. Yeahhy!

Now ‘FINALLY’ you think. This blog is finally getting to the point. Amsterdam. Don’t worry from here on out no more libraries and other boring stuff. But a wonderful days of churches, churches and more churches. Four to be exact! If you count the fact that Paradiso (the music venue Of Monsters and Men were playing) used to be a church, a long long time ago. First up was the St Nicolaaskerk.

St Nicolaaskerk from a distance (it's difficult to get it into a photo otherwise)
St Nicolaaskerk from a distance and hidden behind other buildings (it’s difficult to get it into a photo otherwise)

LP describes it as follows: “St Nicolaaskerk built in 1887, is the city’s main Catholic church.The impressive interior features black marble pillars and an ethereal blueish aura in the soaring dome. St Nicholas is the patron saint of seafarers, so the church became an important symbol for Amsterdam” I have to say I must have walked past the church millions of times and not even properly noticed it. Whilst you really can’t miss it. I didn’t taken many pictures inside as there were signs everywhere basically asking you not to take photos. As there were other people taking photos anyway I took a few, but nothing really interesting enough to post here. But I must say it is a pretty beautiful church on the inside. The glass work and the murals covering the walls. And of course the wonderful peace and quiet you can only find within a church (and some other religious buildings).

Around the corner from the church is the Schreierstoren, which you can also see on the photo above, but I’ll give you a better look here:

The Schreierstoren
The Schreierstoren

LP says “Where English captain Henry Hudson set sail to find a Northern passage to the east Indies (and ended up buying Manhattan instead).” This story is also told on the side of the building, which is now a café/restaurant. I will keep it in thought and maybe go back at some point to eat or have a drink or two there. 

Next up was the Warmoesstraat which is the Western boundary of the famous Red Light District. LP on the Warmoesstraat: “Here rough-edged bars, hotels and sex-shops luridly rub shoulders with some great old architecture and cafés.” I would say this is a pretty good description, although the street is also filled with coffee shops and head shops, but mostly foodie places; restaurants, take-aways, burger bars etc.

LP: “East off Warmoesstraat is the city’s oldest surviving building (from 1306), the mighty Oude Kerk built to honour the city’s patron saint, St Nicholas (the inspiration for red-suited Saint Nick).”

The Oude Kerk
The Oude Kerk

So that was my next destination. Now I must say, it was pretty strange visiting a church located on the same square as some prostitute’s windows. Which is also something I have to get used to. It’s not the first time I’ve walked through the Red Light District, but these women half naked stood in windows looking out at you, I dunno, it’s weird, I don’t know where to look, or whether I should look or shouldn’t. and then when you do look, some of these women look at you  in a really grumpy way. Or like you’re in their territory and they don’t want you there. I guess being a woman I am not their main clientèle and they probably see me as competition in some way or another. Oh but we were talking about churches, not prostitutes… The Oude Kerk is, like the Lonely Planet said, quite a spectacle, from the outside. And I just love the ‘golden torso’!

The golden torso and my foot (tuttut messy photography Alicia!)
The golden torso and my foot (tuttut messy photography Alicia!)

Now the inside, was a bit too spacious for me. When it comes to churches I like ‘gezellig’ (which could be described here as cosy, but there is no proper English translation for this word), smaller, warm and cosy. The Oude Kerk is so spacious, it feels empty, even though it’s not. The windows are beautiful and some of the other features like the chairs with funny carvings in them, but all in all it’s too grandiose for me. I would have liked to do the tower tour, but unfortunately it’s only held on Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays. There was a really cool art exhibition going on though and of course I made a photo of Saskia van Uylenburgh’s grave (which really is nothing very special).

The church:

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The cool art exhibition:

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Now I was really looking forward to this next church, as it is hidden in the attic of a house: Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Dear Lord in the Attic). Now the LP still calls this museum Museum Amstelkring, I’m guessing since the latest edition was published in 2010, the name has changed. Anyway this is what my trusted guide has to say: “…was a Catholic chapel set up c 1578 after the Calvinists seized power and outlawed other religions. Inside you’ll find […] a labyrinth of tiled staircases [and] cubbyhole quarters.”

Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder, now would you expect a church to be hidden in there? ...I didn't think so!
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, now would you expect a church to be hidden in there? …I didn’t think so!

Now one thing, they’re renovating. They’re actually planning to buy/or already have bought the building next door across the ally so there’ll be space for a proper entrance hall, a museum shop, a café and temporary exhibitions. I understood they’re going to connect the two buildings together somehow, I believe underground. Because they’re renovating most of the art as mentioned in the LP, has temporarily been taken away. But there was a very interesting listening guide which explained a lot about the building itself and the different rooms. I hope they keep the listening guide because it’s a lot better than walking round having to read tons of information. In some rooms it also had an extra option, if you wanted to hear more information you could press ‘b’. I thought this was really great as you can choose exactly how much information you want to hear. The house itself was lived in and there was kind of a secret stairway leading up to the chapel which the churchgoers used. The chapel itself was pretty incredible to see, you really don’t believe it until you actually see it. And then it’s there, in it’s very PINK glory! I jut love this idea of these people secretly climbing those stairs to practice their forbidden religion. Rebels! Wooo! Another part of the house was rented out to the pastor (I think that’s what you call him, or priest, I must say I’m not completely sure). The tour also led you through the renovations, so one of the rooms was full of woodworking tools, and the listening guide explained about what they were renovating and why. I really liked how they brought that into the tour. As I have now figured out how to make slideshows, another one will now follow :)

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Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is definitely going to make my top visits list once I’ve finished my Amsterdam adventure. I would definitely recommend it, even if you usually don’t like churches, this place is worth a visit. I’m looking forward to what it will be like once they’ve finished renovating. I hope they keep the listening tour!

It was time to pick up my concert companion in Utrecht. Once back in Amsterdam we found somewhere to eat, nothing special though. We were on a pretty tight schedule before the concert started, so we ended up (after walking around for about an hour thanks to moi) in one of the touristy pizza places in one of the touristy restaurant streets. It was fine though, we shared a veggie pizza, which tasted great. But nothing wow! And then we were off to Paradiso.

Of Monsters and Men are one of my favourite bands at the moment and last year at Lowlands I heard them live, but didn’t actually see them. There was a heat wave and it was too hot to go inside the tent, so we just sat outside and listened. I was looking forward to see them live properly. Paradiso is one of my favourite venues in the Netherlands and perfect for them. It used to be a church like I mentioned earlier and it’s definitely the most beautiful music venue in the Netherlands. The support act was this funny guy who played a combination of blues, country, folk and even some metal. He basically just did whatever he felt like. It was very entertaining. Of Monsters and Men played very well, it was a great show. I enjoyed it, but I have to say I’m a bit spoilt when it comes to bands I’ve seen live. I missed that little bit of magic that makes a musical evening absolutely perfect. There was also not much interaction with the audience, which I don’t always mind, but when you already miss the magic you start to miss other things too. I think from working in a music venue and from seeing amazingly magical live acts like The Tallest Man on Earth, Band of Horses and Mumford and Sons, the ones that really give you goosebumps and make you cry, my bar is just set too high. They were great though, just not magical.

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That was the last slideshow and also the end of my blog. I hope you enjoyed. Comments and tips are welcome. I do have one question for my readers: What do you think about the length of my posts. Also any tips for blogs I might be interested in, inspiring blogs, interesting blogs, anything you think I might like are very much welcome. So tip me here.

Thanks for reading!

References (I believe I should have been doing this from the beginning) and information: Lonely Planet (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/), St. Nicolaaskerk (http://www.nicolaas-parochie.nl/index.php?menu=2), Oude Kerk (http://www.oudekerk.nl/) , Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (http://www.opsolder.nl/) Of Monsters and Men (http://www.ofmonstersandmen.com/) and Paradiso (http://www.paradiso.nl/web/show).

Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 3

First of all, I want to welcome everyone to my new blog page. I decided to switch from Blogger to WordPress as I wasn’t completely satisfied with the functions available within Blogger. I used WordPress a while ago for a school project, it seemed to have more functions, and it does, so here I am.

Earlier today I combined all my old Blogger posts in one ‘archive’ post on here, but they are also still at http://imanerdandiknowit.blogspot.nl/. So anyone new to my Lonely Planet Challenge, you can read about my idea and it’s development using either option.

Friday, as in last Friday, yes I’m getting quicker at posting my blogs and they’re on a more regular basis. Friday I went to Amsterdam, making it the third Amsterdam trip for my LP Challenge.

Beurs van Berlage

Beurs van Berlage

I started off in the Beurs van Berlage café for ‘koffie met gebak’ (coffee with  cake) and as the Beurs van Berlage was on the list of sights to see in my LP I thought I’d go there. According to LP: “The Beurs van Berlage is the old stock-and-commodities exchange designed by renowned architect HP Berlage. The functional lines and chunky square clock tower are landmarks of Dutch urban architecture. Today the building is home to the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and hosts occasional museum exhibitions. Roam the premises or grab a bite and ponder the murals in the café.” Now wandering the premises was, as far as I could tell, not really an option. There were two exhibitions going on and apart from the café the rest of the place seemed off limits without buying a ticket for one or both of the exhibitions. I really loved the café, even though it’s only a tiny part of the massive building, it did give me a good impression of the place. It seems as if they’ve tried to keep everything as authentic as possible, but adding some modern touches here and there. The entrance into the café has this beautiful revolving door and inside the café there are three large murals on the walls which are also very impressive.

The beautiful revolving door to the Beurs van Berlage café
The beautiful revolving door to the Beurs van Berlage café

The bar in the middle of the room is in contrast to the rest of the interior very modern, but it all fits together as a whole and works well. I ended up going for just a green tea, as I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth. One of the exhibitions in the Beurs van Berlage was a Van Gogh exhibition displaying ‘200 of his most important works’, I debated visiting the exhibition, but saw in the small type that they were replicas of his work and €16.50 to see some replicas seems pretty expensive to me. The other exhibition was about Queen Beatrix, who will be handing over the crown to her son Alexander in a few weeks time, this personally didn’t really interest me very much.

My next stop was Sexmuseum Amsterdam, which to be completely honest I was not looking forward to at all. The Sexmuseum pretty much pounces on you whilst entering Amsterdam, it’s on the right hand side when you head from Central Station to the city centre. It looks so cheap and cheesy from the outside it has never attracted me to go inside and take a look. Now part of the idea behind this challenge is to do new things and things I wouldn’t have done before. I definitely wouldn’t have done this before, so there you go, it’s working. It’s €4 to get in, so I paid up at the fair ground like entrance booth and entered. Oh and this is what the LP has to say about the Sexmuseum: “Those in the mood for a giggle should head to the Sexmuseum Amsterdam. Ogle replicas of Pompeian porn, 14th-century Viennese erotica and some of the worlds earliest nude photographs, along with plastic derrières that fart at passers-by and an animatronic flasher. It’s good, silly fun.”   Now I have to say I don’t really agree with the good silly fun part, in fact I don’t think this museum has changed since it first started out which was probably in the seventies. And it actually probably doesn’t need to change, as it’s one of the first attractions tourists see when they visit Amsterdam and as the city known for ‘drugs and sex’ I think there are enough tourists who remember it on the way to their hotels and go back for a peek. But for me, and I think for many Lonely Planet readers, this isn’t the kind of thing I’m looking for for entertainment. The humour was atrocious, probably outdated as well, I mean there seriously were plastic bottoms hung up the stairs that let out fart sounds as you went past, do people still find that kind of thing funny? I mean I did when I was seven, but adults?

The not so funny farting bootoms
The not so funny farting bootoms

Apart from the terrible humour on the ground floor, the rest of the museum wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. In fact it was quite interesting and it makes you realise that sex has been around forever. There was lots of interesting visual material showing how sex was portrayed through the years and throughout different cultures. The only thing that bothered me was that there wasn’t a line to follow, there was no story that held everything together, it was just a mish mash of everything mixed together. Plus you could tell that all the little cards with written information on them had been hanging there for years on end. Nothing refreshed, nothing new, but as I mentioned earlier, they don’t need to renew things as they get customers anyway. I wouldn’t go there again and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but I could give a lot of pointers on how to make it a museum I would visit again as there is actually potential there.

On the Damrak (where the Sexmuseum is located) is a really cool shop called ‘Options!’ where I took a quick peek. I ended up taking some elephant shaped paper clips with me; just because they exist.

Next I had a bit of a wander in the Kalverstraat, which conveniently was also in the sights to be seen for today. Not that I’d never seen or been to the Kalverstraat, in fact I don’t think there’s been a visit to Amsterdam that I haven’t. But it’s good to look at things you see as normal through a critical lens. Now what I have to say about the Kalverstraat, is really it’s not very much different to any other shopping street in the Netherlands. All the shops that are in all Dutch cities. Some shops even pop up more than once, here we’re talking about one street. Obviously the independent shops are different from anywhere else, but you won’t find the most interesting independents in the Kalverstraat. To shed a more positive light most shops in the Kalverstraat are bigger than there little brothers and sisters in most other cities, which means more clothes, books, shoes, jewellery or whatever else you might be after. I ended up taking a big study book home with me that I probably wouldn’t have found as easily anywhere else. And now I must take you a little bit off topic, because I can’t just skim over this subject I’m too enthusiastic.

So I’m going to be quitting the programme I’m studying at the moment (International Communication and Media) as it hasn’t turned out as well organised I thought it would be. I received my Propedeuse (P; A Dutch diploma you receive after completing your first year of study successfully)  a few weeks ago, which permits me to go to university (well a higher level of university) which I am going to do in September. I will be following my dream and studying English Language and Culture (which after the first year is basically English Literature, which is actually what I’ve really wanted to do ever since the word college or university crossed my mind, it was not until recently though that I realised I could study that here in the Netherlands, silly me). I can not wait! I just get nerdier and nerdier as life goes on.

Now where was I, oh the enormous study book I took home with me. I was in this book shop, De Slegte, they have new books but mainly second hand books. I was browsing the English Literature department and (I’s already been looking at books I will need next school year) came across The Norton Anthology of English Literature, it was only €30 and I’d seen it online for €50 or more. The book itself got me very excited and so decided to buy it. I’m glad I had my rucksack with me cause I had to carry it around Amsterdam with me for the rest of the day. But I dived into it as soon as I got home. Very very interesting stuff, I’ll be stuck with my nose in the thing for hours on end I think.

My new favourite book!
My new favourite book!

Now after my little shopping spree I got a bit peckish, on the way to Amsterdam I tried to reserve a place at Gartine (see my last post) for lunch, but unfortunately they were already fully booked. Next time I will have to phone a week in advance. Now I really really really want to eat at that place! What I noticed in my search for food was that there are lots of interesting sandwichy kind of places where you can order but you can’t sit and eat it there, I guess you would call that a take away (although I connect that more with evening meals for some reason).I was specifically looking for somewhere I could sit as I needed the toilet. I found a little place in a side street of the Kalverstraat, it was nothing special, but good enough. It was run my an Indian looking guy and seemed to be very much targeted at tourists and specifically English ones, as there was an English breakfast and they had bottles of HP sauce on a shelf. I had fried eggs with mushrooms, cheese and onion on bread. It was good, it felt very fatty, but it was good nevertheless. Not really worth any photos or elaborate reviews though, I don’t even know what the place was called.

There were a couple of shops I’d seen in the same street as the place I had lunch that I wanted to visit, a little Italian place that sold Italian delicacies, I took home a pot of asparagus pâté for on bread, which I haven’t tried yet, but is bound to be delicious. Across the road from that was a comic book store, filled to the brim with both new and second hand and Dutch and English graphic novels and comic books. There are a couple of graphic novels on my list, but they’re mostly the first part of a series and they’re most often the only issue not in stock. I just browsed for a while. There was one more shop after that I wanted to visit, in the Kalverstraat. I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s filled with all kinds of useful and less useful items in all kinds of colours, mainly very bright colours and shapes and sizes. I bought an owl shaped lens container, which I just couldn’t not buy, being an owl myself.

Next up was the Allard Pierson Museum; “…run by the University of Amsterdam, shows a rich archaeological collection, including an actual mummy, ancient Greek and Mesopotamian vases, a wagon from the royal tombs at Salamis (Cyprus) and galleries stuffed to the wainscoting with other fascinating items.”

DSC_0187
The Allard Pierson Museum

Now I must say I didn’t manage to cover the whole museum, as I believe I arrived there around fourish and it closed at five. I managed the ground floor, which covered Ancient Egypt and a temporary exposition about Troy. Now the Trojan exposition was done pretty well, not too much text and some videos to make it a bit more diverse, it was modern enough, it could have been a bit more interactive, but that might just be me. The Egyptian theme was a bit out of date, now I don’t mean the subject obviously, what I mean is the way it was set up. Now Ancient Egypt and history in general are things that interest me greatly, there were lots of things to look at and lots of bits to read but there’s a point in a museum when I’ve had enough of reading. I liked seeing all the Egyptian artefacts though, especially the real life (not literally life as in alive) mummy!

The mummy!
The mummy!

Yeah I know, i’manerd! I bought a little scarab amulet for a euro as a souvenir, oh and  a fridge magnet to add to the collection. I guess I’ll have to go back at some point to see the rest of the museum. I would recommend it, just don’t try reading everything, because you’ll give up anyway.

After being kicked out of the museum, it was time for a couple of drinks and on the way to a bar a Belgian waffle with chocolate, I shouldn’t have done it, I enjoyed the first two bites, but when it comes to sweet things eventually I’m just asking myself “why am I eating this when I’m not really enjoying it all that much?” There’s something wrong with me, I realise that. I found a nice beer bar and had a couple of drinks and as my stomach started rumbling I moved on to Hofje van Wijs, explained well by LP: “The 200-year-old coffee and tea vendor Wijs & Zonen (the Queen’s purveyor) maintains this pretty courtyard café. In addition to cakes, it serves inexpensive Dutch stews plus beers and liqueurs.” This was my favourite place and part of the day! Hofje van Wijs is a café attached to the shop that sells tea and coffee. It has a very homely feeling with a bit of an unfinished touch. The guy who served me was really friendly and a little bit chaotic, but in a charming way. Also the menus were half English half Dutch, and the English was a bit messy but also in a cute charming way, when usually badly translated English really really annoys me, for some reason though I could forgive it here, it fit. There were four menus, on a mixture of separate pieces of paper, some of which were laminated and others not so a bit crinkled at the sides and so on. Chaotic. There was a menu with pasta’s, one with cheese fondues and two others that seemed to be seasonal menus. I went for a cheese fondue with Emmentaler, Goudse cheese and truffle, it was scrumpdiddlyocious (for first time readers, I sometimes make up my own words).

The most delicious cheese fondue ever!
The most delicious cheese fondue ever!

In fact it was the best cheese fondue I’ve ever had, better even than the one I had when in Lausanne, Switzerland, last year. And that is saying something!  It would be like saying a pizza or pasta in a restaurant here was better than one you’d eaten in Italy. Sorry Switzerland, it really was better… I loved the place! And I will definitely be going back. Anyone and everyone should go! Also the prices are not too bad either, very fair. And the tea is also extremely tasty (as they are also a tea and coffee vendor).

It was a great day! Tomorrow I will be off to Amsterdam again, I’m going to see Of Monsters and Men play in one of my favourite music venues in the Netherlands; Paradiso. I can’t wait! My plan is to go early and make another Lonely Planet Challenge day out of it. So stay tuned and good night for now…

The days souvenirs :)
The days souvenirs :)
And some pigeons, just because the one sitting down looked so cute!
And some pigeons, just because the one sitting down looked so cute!

Oh and next time I will try taking more pictures, for some reason I didn’t manage to do this as enthusiastically as usual, this time. 

Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 2

– Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 2-

I know it took a while, but I’m back! I finally managed to get myself to Amsterdam again on last week Friday, yes I am writing this blog a week later, to carry on with my Lonely Planet Challenge.

 
I’ve decided not to post pre-trip posts as I think they will end up being boring. I’m still figuring out which direction to take with my blogging. My posts won’t be following any formula, unless I find one throughout experimenting that I’m happy with and want to stick with. As I mentioned in my last post I’m also not just going to blog about my Lonely Planet adventures, but other stuff as well. I do still need to get into the flow of things though. So you may have to bear with me for a while.
 
So, back to Friday. I arrived in Amsterdam around lunchtime (I had school in the morning) and headed to ‘t Spui as I knew from preparation that this would be the area I would be covering today. First I took a stroll over the book market held on ‘t Spui every Friday (mentioned in the Lonely Planet and definitely worth a look if you’re a bookworm like me). I had to make it quick otherwise I would have ended up taking a bag of books home with me when I have at least two shelves full I still need to read. I managed to restrain myself, although it was difficult I must say, and perused my friend the Lonely Planet (who from now on I will be calling LP) to find a good place to eat as my stomach started sending messages to my brain that it wanted food and soon.

The book market
LP told me there was an interesting restaurant/café close by called Gartine so I headed there. Gartine is a very small, cosy looking restaurant/café with a mouthwatering menu. Unfortunately it was full to the brim, the waiter guy apologised, I told him I’d come back some other time. Apparently this is a popular place and it being full can only be a positive thing in my eyes, so I will definitely be returning, in fact I will probably make a reservation on my next Amsterdam trip.

Gartine, next time…
 
The entrance to the Begijnhof

Unfortunately LP didn’t offer me any other good places to have lunch that were in close range and I didn’t feel like trekking across the whole of Amsterdam just to fill my belly. So I decided I’d find a place on my way around and I would begin today’s sight seeing adventure. I started where I’d left off in LP, with the Begijnhof. A Begijnhof is a courtyard surrounded by houses used by the Beguines (Christian lay religious orders whom were mainly active in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg).  The last Begijn died in 1971, so since then I presume the occupants are just your everyday Joe, well the ones who can afford such a beautiful house in such a beautiful place of course. There are similar courtyards dotted all over the Netherlands. I love the places! There’s always such an oasis of calm when only the walls are separating you from the bustling city life. Apart from the tourists, who did actually seem to respect the peace of the place and weren’t very noisy, it was the same here. And beautiful, oh so beautiful. I would love to live in a place like this! 

The Begijnhof

Within the courtyard there’s both a church ‘de Engelse Kerk’ (the English Church) and a chapel, which doesn’t look much of anything on the outside, but inside it looks like a very small church (which is basically what a chapel is I guess). I’m not religious person, in fact I’m pretty much an atheist, but there’s something about churches that I really like. It’s the smell, like a musty old smell, I have the same thing with books and again the peace and quiet, the kind of peace and quiet that almost feels magical. I don’t know, but without any religious feelings about the places I kind of like them, a church would be a good place to write a book I think.

For residents only

The English Church
Inside the English Church
The chapel
My dream house
More of the Begijnhof
Inside the chapel

I left the tranquillity behind and arrived back in the lively streets of Amsterdam. My next stop, according to LP, was the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, renamed Amsterdam Museum in 2011. I decided I would eat in the museum café as I was having no look finding anything that looked interesting enough and I was starting not to care what I ate and where. I decided eating in the museum café might add an interesting extra to my review. Not really interesting though, just don’t bother really. The service was not very good, for one thing I had to pay to use the lavatory. Secondly it took them bloody ages before the noticed me, it wasn’t even busy, there were three waiters/waitresses standing around doing nothing. I almost left and then finally a waitress appeared in front of me. I ordered a tea and a club sandwich. Now here comes thirdly, the tea was fine, tea’s tea, but the sandwich, no thanks. If I hadn’t have been ravenous by that point I wouldn’t have eaten it and paid ten euros for it. I don’t know if everyone is familiar with the club sandwich and whether the club sandwich differs depending on which country you’re in. So I will explain, a club sandwich (as I know it) is 3 slices of (usually toasted) bread with a variety of fillings but most often it would be chicken, bacon, some kind of sauce/salad dressing, tomato, lettuce, maybe some other salady (yes sometimes I make up words) kind of things and maybe cheese. Now the usual ingredients were all there, and the bread was toasted. But while eating I started wondering when the bread had been toasted. It must have been hours before as it was stale and chewy and not very easy to eat at all. Also for some reason, I don’t know why and I don’t mind it in particular, club sandwiches are often served with a side of crisps. This club sandwich was not just served with a side of crisps, but the whole plate was full of crisps and the sandwich seemed to be the side. Now I like crisps, in fact I love crisps, so I’m not exactly complaining, but it was a bit overdone.

Onto the museum itself. Now the museum, you should definitely visit the museum, just not it’s café. Well that’s if you like museums and history and culture and that kind of thing, but if you don’t you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place.

The museum is amazing! It’s massive! I love it! And I want to go back. There are three floors filled with history; information, art, artifacts, videos etc. The lady at the desk advised me to start with their newest exhibition Amsterdam DNA.

 Amsterdam DNA is an interactive exhibition, you get a QR-code, which you can scan in different places to either, watch a video (in a certain language as the QR-code is connected to the language you speak), answer some questions on a computer screen and take a photo of yourself as a civic guard. The exhibition is about Amsterdam in the past 1000 years and the story is told using these core values; spirit of enterprise, freedom of thought, civic virtue and creativity. It was very interesting and I loved the interactivity. There were two small things that didn’t work very well. The first; when watching a video, you scanned your code and the video played in your language, but if someone else came and just scanned their thing (this happened) without thinking about the fact that you are now watching the video in your language (instead of waiting for you to finish) the video starts all over again and possibly in a language you don’t understand… This was a little annoying. Secondly there was an interactive quiz kind of thing, throughout the exhibition there were I think 5 or 6 computers where you could scan your QR-code, at each different computer you were asked to watch four videos and choose one of them. Each video had to do with one of the values. I didn’t really get the point of this. I think in the end the idea was to see which you personally valued the most. I liked the idea, but it wasn’t completely clear and one of the computers wasn’t working for me. All in all though the concept and effect was both interesting and entertaining. 

I learned that Amsterdam is built on piles 

(as in poles under the ground) because it was built on a marsh. Compelling stuff. The second floor, which I’m not sure if it was actually the second floor as I can’t remember whether I went up or down, and this got kind of confusing throughout this visit, was all about the Golden Age, which is one of the most interesting parts of Dutch history and I just love the art from that period, I don’t know why, I think it has something to do with the hats. At one point I walked up some stairs and there was this really fishy smell, it smelled like dead fish. I thought there must be some kind of problem with the sewage or something then I walked into the next room and the smell got even stronger. As I noticed this I noticed there were a load of dead fish hung from the ceiling. It was disgusting, but really cool at the same time. It really made you feel like you were in that time period, this part was about ships and fishing and stuff. I thought it was really great, it added to the museum experience. 

After the Golden Age, I couldn’t really concentrate very much any more, as there was so much information. So I just kind of strolled through the rest pretty quickly. The rest seemed to be a look through history after the Golden Age until now, but I have to admit I’m not 100% sure as I really just skimmed this part of the museum.

The smelly ceiling
Some really cool chests, this just

made me think of Game of Thrones…

I will be going back to this museum cause it was too big to do in one go. Very very very intriguing! It made me want to dive back into the history books and learn everything! I’d like to go back and go through everything more slowly and carefully. I’d also like to go back and do some of the museums mobile tours through Amsterdam. Very innovative museum, I am very impressed and do very much recommend. It’s would be worth spending a whole day in there. There’s also a special part of the museum for kids, it seemed to be closed so not really sure what that’s like. I got in for free with my museum card, but I would say if you’re a regular visitor the €10 entrance fee would definitely be worth your while.

Tin figurines; an old Amsterdam speciality

 

David & Goliath

 

The orphanage

Across from the museum is the so called museum shop, although it seemed very much like a separate shop, as I could find hardly any souvenir that represented the museum. I ended up taking home a fridge magnet with a picture of the massive David and Goliath Statue which is part of the art exhibition in the Civic Guard Gallery next to but also kind of within the museum. Hard to explain, you would have to see for yourself. I took a stroll through there next, I’d already seen it from above and now I saw the massiveness of Goliath from below. And a mix of other art, both old and modern. I took a walk around the building as it used to be an orphanage and I’ve had this fascination with orphanages ever since I was a kid and I saw the musical version of Oliver Twist on television for the first time. Orphanages and adventures. Me, Freya and Charlotte, who was a childhood friend of ours, even wrote, directed and acted in a musical (in front of our parents of course)  about escaping from an orphanage when we were little, but that’s another story. The most interesting part to the building was the courtyard, which is where the orphans where permitted to spend time outside I believe, interesting mainly because of the set of old fashioned lockers across one wall, this is were the boys, who often had apprenticeships (for example with a black smith or so), kept their work tools. It was just funny to think back to all those years ago when they would collect their things from there everyday and go off to work.

The boys lockers, now being used for an art exhibition…

I ended my day in Amsterdam there and walked back to the train station. I can’t wait for my next visit, although the next thing I will be visiting is the Sex Museum and I’m not really looking forward to that. It’s one of the first tourist attractions you walk past on the way into the centre and it just doesn’t attract me at all, it looks so cheap and cheesy, but we shall see…

Next time I will be making a lunch reservation for Gartine, so I am looking forward to that.

As always please leave any comments, questions, tips, improvements, thoughts…. Anything you want to tell me is very welcome. 

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed :) Over and out.

p.s. sorry about the layout of the pictures, placing them doesn’t seem to work very well on Blogger, so they are not how I wanted them to be placed. I will be looking into switching blogging website sometime soon.