The nice thing about a vacation is getting to relax and set your own schedule.
The tough thing about a mini-vaca is that you are pressed for time and you want to fit everything in.
Those warring sentiments hit us in the face like a cold cup of much-needed coffee when we woke up for the first full day of our Amsterdam jaunt — at noon. Dutch time.
We scrambled to focus and get ready for the day, wondering where we ought to be wandering. We had set evening plans, so our focus became quality, not quantity. I laced up my oh-so-appropriate sneakers and we headed off to the Van Gogh museum.
This was actually third on my list of museums to see, and the only one we actually made it to. First was Anne Frank’s house, but a spur of the moment trip sometimes means not getting into sold out things. Evidently you need to reserve months in advance. We were told to stalk the website day of, and tried for both our full days in Amsterdam, but did not get in. One of the many reasons for a return trip!
Second on the list was the Rijksmuseum, which is huge and has Vermeers, Rembrandts and more. Next time (with more time)!
So the Van Gogh museum: we loved it (https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/). Way better than I thought it would be. With the audio headphones on, we wandered and wondered, learned and admired and wondered. Every few rooms we’d ask each other which were our favorite pieces (we both adored his “Almond Blossoms” the most!), but I was fascinated by the variety of his work. So many different styles and subject matters. I would’ve been hard pressed to ID some of them as his. But when it was time to go, I took my fave piece of art with me:
(While learning about Van Gogh’s life, we came up with a great idea: planning a trip around the life of a famous person. For example: for Van Gogh, you would do Paris, Saint Remy, Brussels, London, Amsterdam and more. Not a bad itinerary!)
After the museum we wandered through the rain in search of nourishment — both the food and liquid varieties. Found another great neighborhood bar, Cafe Gruter (http://cafegruter.com/en), and greatly enjoyed the cozy respite from the elements.
That evening we were scheduled to do a boat tour of the canals, focusing on the light show. The entire city is crazy with lights this time of year, and some of the displays are best seen from the water. For more about the festival, go to https://amsterdamlightfestival.com/en.
I had booked a small boat tour, with just 8 of us aboard. We thought we had plenty of time — and we would have, if I hadn’t screwed up the directions.
A word about the transportation system: the trams are the bomb. No worries about if you are on the right train, or how to buy a ticket; unlike most cities, the system is not done without human interaction. Each tram has attendants, and they are there to help. Sadly, this time I thought I knew what I was doing, and didn’t ask for assistance. Instead, I relied on my Google Maps app. It was right: take the tram towards Centraal Station. But Is topped reading; while we were supposed to head that way, we were supposed to get off before we reached the station. We didn’t.
So now we needed to backtrack, and we were going to be late And it was raining. We ran in circles trying to get our bearings. I called the boat — someone actually answered! They said no problem. So stressful, as we new others were waiting on us. We ended up being almost 20 minutes late!
Luckily the other guests were drinking wine and nibbling on snacks, so they were cool. And the company was so gracious, they extended the tour so we all got our money’s worth. I would totally recommend them! If you head to Amsterdam, be sure to book a canal cruise through Pure Boats (https://pureboats.nl/). They were wonderful!
The lights were stunning.
After the tour, we paired up with two cousins who were also from the states, and found dinner at Restaurant Bleu (https://www.restaurantbleu.amsterdam/). The food was as delicious as the restaurant was stunning.
After awhile we realized the staff was waiting for us to leave so they could go home — always a good sign of a good time! We said goodbye to our new friends, and wandered back to the hotel for a night cap and some well needed rest. I warned HWSNBN that the next day, our last full one in Amsterdam, was gonna be busy, so he’d better be ready!