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.

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