Part Three: Amsterdam
Katie Melua famously sang that there are nine million bicycles in Beijing. There may not be quite that many in Amsterdam, but there are certainly a lot:
Pretty much every fence, wall, lamppost and tree in the city is home to as many bicycles as people can possibly squeeze next to it. And the dinging of bike bells will follow me in my dreams for a long time now.
You know what else Amsterdam has lots of? Cheese! So many cheese shops! I ended up bringing rather a lot back with me, but that's ok cos cheese is good.
It even has a cheese museum.
Amsterdam is also home to some interesting statues:
I have no idea what this is.
And I forget where exactly this was, but it's very pretty.
Of course a trip to Holland wouldn't be complete without a taste of genever, the Dutch spirit that was a precursor to our very own gin.
First of all we went to Bols, which does many different flavours of the drink and has a cocktail bar at the end where you can use their touch screens to choose a cocktail which the bartender will then make for you.
It's quite a swish bar.
We also went to Wynard Fockink for their tasting session and because we were the only ones to book that particular time, we got our very own personal tour and tasting:
Our very own tour guide.
I wasn't enough of a fan of genever to bring a bottle back, but it was pretty nice.
A slight detour now for another odd statue:
This was above the entrance to the metro station near our hotel. I assume it's some kind of giant dog, but I have no idea why it's there.
Back to the booze now as we travel across to the Heineken Experience:
The Heineken Experience has a rooftop bar. Nice.
We decided to follow beer with a canal cruise, during which we learnt all about the buildings:
*puts on tour guide voice*
Back in the day, buildings were taxed based on how wide they were, which is why so many of the buildings are really tall and narrow. But having a tall, narrow building means it's difficult to get your goods and furniture up to the top floors, so they have hooks at the top so that people could winch their items up and in through the windows. That's also why the buildings lean forwards, so the big heavy loads didn't knock into them on the way up.
Some of the buildings also lean sideways. That's due to the poles they're built on rotting away, causing them to lean into each other.
Our boat also took us up towards the north and we got our first sight of the A'DAM Tower. As I said in my Paris entry, I really like going up towers, so this became a must visit for us.
We also saw something on the tower that Paul immediately declared to be madness:
It's a swing! The highest swing in Europe, to be precise.
Would I go on something like that?
Of course I would!
The other seat is empty because I don't think there's any amount of alcohol in the world that could have convinced Paul to go on that thing with me.
It was really cool though.
Later that evening we sought out a bar I thought sounded interesting called In't Aepjen.
In't Aepjen means In the Monkeys and sailors used to use monkeys as payment. As you do.
Not content with all the culture and art we saw in Paris, we decided to see if we could seek any out in this new city:
The Rijksmuseum seems like a good place for that.
The main draw of the Rijksmuseum is Rembrandt's The Night Watch, which, despite the name, doesn't actually have anything to do with Game of Thrones...
To be honest I don't really think it's all that, but I am amused by the guy at the front and his whole “WTF is going on?” expression.
Also, did you know that the painting used to be bigger? When it was moved to the Town Hall in the 18th century, it was too big to fit in the designated spot so people decided that the sensible thing to do to this priceless work of art that they wished to display would be to chop bits off of it. Obviously.
The Rijksmusuem also has a few paintings by Van Gogh. And close by is the actual Van Gogh Museum, which has lots more of his paintings, including the famous Sunflowers. I loved Sunflowers, but unfortunately the Van Gogh Museum didn't allow photography so I don't have a picture of it. I do, however, have a magnet, a tea towel, a bauble, a thimble, and a shopping bag with Sunflowers on. (I tend to go overboard in souvenir shops!)
Another place I was particularly interested in seeing was the Royal Palace, which we'd actually managed to walk past and not noticed before.
So small and unassuming, you can see how we'd miss it.
I absolutely loved the inside of the palace cos this kind of warm, red, autumnal décor is definitely my aesthetic.
And, of course, we couldn't go to Holland without seeing a windmill:
The fact that this one had a brewery attached may have had something to do with our choice...
Next up: Lille & Chichester