Part 3 - Amsterdam

Friday saw us in Amsterdam, the capital city of The Netherlands. It’s about an hour’s journey by tram and then train from where Caiti lives. I spent the whole time looking out of the window and enjoying the foreignness around me.

The Hague is hardly small, but Amsterdam immediately struck me as a seriously big city. It’s all impersonal bustle, impatient trams and people hurrying everywhere. It seems much more crowded. It’s handsome enough in places, but Leiden had already taken top spot for me with its quiet, elegant beauty.

Amsterdam home to the Van Gogh museum, which was our first port of call. I’ve always admired Van Gogh’s art, and read several books about them. I’d visited the museum before, way back in the early 1980s when interrailing around Europe with a friend. I’d either not brought my glasses on the holiday, or lost them en route, I can’t remember which, but I do remember borrowing my friend’s so I could see the paintings more clearly. I sneezed, and the loose-fitting glasses shot off my nose and hurtled across the room but fortunately had a soft landing!

This time I definitely had my own glasses, and Caiti and I had a lovely time admiring many of his magnificent paintings. Even though this was early November, we’d had to book in advance to be sure of getting in. The museum was busy, but not frantic. It must be a nightmare in the peak tourist season. The rooms in the museum are huge, for that very reason I imagine. Being small, Caiti and I nipped in and out amongst the gaggles of visitors who were either getting guided tours, or standing around listening to the museum audio-guides that they’d hired. We got good views of everything, and revisited our favourite pictures at least twice more before we left. We agreed that the almond blossoms painting is the best of them all, followed by a fabulous painting of irises and some exquisite ones of blossoming trees, and then, for me at least, the sunflowers and the painting of his room.

We went straight from this museum to the neighbouring Rijksmuseum, home of some magnificent artwork. We made a beeline for the café there, but it only offered pumpkin soup for lunch – gold plated pumpkins at that, judging from the price! We went in search of affordable food and ended up having a nice picnic of sandwiches and coffee from a small branch of Albert Heijn. (Albert Heijn is the largest supermarket chain in Holland, founded back in 1887.)

Thus fortified, we returned to the museum and restricted ourselves to art from the 1600s onwards. We saw a lot more Van Goghs, also Rembrandts and many other works by the Dutch Golden Age artists. I was rather taken by Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn.

We were all museumed out after that visit, even though we’d only visited about a quarter of the colossal Rijksmuseum, and so went off to find the Unnatural Beauty shop that Caiti wanted to call at. She’s a recent convert to their products, which do seem rather nice. I was fascinated by a shop that we passed on the way that sold lots of different varieties of chocolate all laced with cannabis. I only spotted that and one other shop selling cannabis products.

We were footsore by the time we reached home, but managed another quick visit to the city farm that evening. I needed a quick chicken fix, and we had some scraps for the goats. Unfortunately, everyone except the greedy sheep had been locked away for the night, but we were more than happy to feed them, and they were even happier still.