Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 16-17: Amsterdam

I've been without wifi access for over a I definitely have some catching up to do.  I'm only able to access basic (a.k.a. SLOW) internet on my Kindle, hence all the typos in previous posts.

We left Katherine's Opa's house in Zuidwolde yesterday morning.  We took the train from Hoogeveen to Amsterdam, switching in Amersfoort....not that you wanted that much detail ; )

We arrived at Amsterdam Centraal and took the tram to our hotel, the Eden Amsterdam American Hotel.  I didn't realize when we booked this hotel that it was just across the canal from the hotel my family and I stayed last summer (for our one night in Amsterdam).  I should have known, since both are right next to Leidseplein.  This square is great for a cafe lunch and people watching.  And there's always some form of entertainment going on--anything from rope climbing to accordion players.

Anyway, it was nice staying in a hotel for once.  Unlike some of our hostels, we had a room with a toilet and shower!  You don't realize what a luxury that is until you have to climb a flight of stairs to get to one.
We decided to have dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Cafe American.  It was definitely memorable....Katherine and I were seated near the windows, also where the radiators are.  Note:  this is a very old building.  We had just placed an order when I noticed something scurrying by....just a few feet away.  I have never seen a mouse in a restaurant before!  Katherine immediately went to tell our server; however, there was a bit of a language barrier.  She was trying to tell him about the mouse, and he thought we were asking for milk.  Oh well.  They couldn't really do anything about the mouse, I suppose, so they moved us to a different table.  We had a great time watching other diners when they discovered the mouse.

We spent the afternoon museum-hopping.  I have been looking forward to seeing the Van Gogh Museum.  We saw some of his most famous paintings such as The Potato Heads, Wheatfield with Crows, Sunflowers, and (one of my favorites) The Almond Blossoms
Note:  a little pre-trip research would have revealed that his most well-known painting Starry Night is not kept in the Van Gogh Museum.  Looks like I'll be needing to take a trip to NYC for that one.  

We also visited the Rijksmuseum where we saw more displays of Rembrandt's and Vermeer's paintings (we also visited the Maurithuis in Den Haag last week).  We bought our Museum Passes at the Maurithuis for about 45 euros each.  This allowed us to get into all the major museums in the Netherlands, and we were even able to skip the ticket line at the Van Gogh Museum.  It's really worth your money if you plan on visiting 5-6 museums.  We were only able to visit 4, but the pass is good for one year, so there's a chance I could use it next June if Adam and I plan on venturing into the Netherlands : )

Thursday morning, we got up bright and early (which isn't difficult, seeing as how it gets bright here really early), grabbed our Starbucks, and took the tram to the Anne Frank House.

You can even do a virtual tour of the Secret Annex on the museum's website.  The story of Anne Frank is worth knowing, and I don't think a trip to Amsterdam is complete without visiting it.  It's incredible to walk through the tiny rooms of the secret annex and imagine 8 people living there.  The museum has done a wonderful job of preserving these rooms.  The pictures that Anne pasted to the wall are still there, reminding us that even though she was living during this dark time in history, she was still very much a little girl, cutting pictures out of celebrity magazines.  
Anne Frank Statue
Our guide books had told us the museum opened at 10, so we were in line hoping to get a good place in line.....
....we still had about a 35-minute wait, which isn't bad, seeing as how it's typically and hour wait to get inside to buy your ticket.  When we left, the line was much worse, almost wrapping around the church on the other side of the street.
Westerkerk (Western Church....I think is the translation) was right next door, so we decided to check it out. This is the church where coronations and other royal events take place.  It is also the church where Rembrandt is buried.  I feel sorry for the organist who had to practice with all the tourists listening in, though.....but I'm sure he's used to it.
We didn't realize that the train ride from Amsterdam to Brussels would take nearly 3 hours, so after a quick cafe lunch in Leidseplein, we gathered our luggage and took the tram to Centraal Station.
We are now in Brussels.  I have enjoyed this trip, but 3 weeks is a LONG time to be away from home.  I have this horrible feeling that there's somewhere I need to probably comes from these dreams where everyone else has returned to school, and I'm on the wrong side of the Atlantic.  I am ready for school to start, yet dreading it at the same time.  I think I am mostly just wanting a return to reality : )  

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