Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Netherlands- Spring Break in the Low Countries, Days 3-5

IMG_4088_edited-1.JPG by gkhamilton
IMG_4088_edited-1.JPG, a photo by gkhamilton on Flickr.
Amsterdam’s nightlife is crazy, for lack of a stronger word. Hitting the town with such fun people as Claude, Garritt, Thomas, Juliette, Iris, Rosalie, and Helena (and everyone else whose names I forgot!) made the friendly streets of Amsterdam even friendlier.

IMAG2244.jpg Even on a late weeknight, Amsterdam handily defeats Portland for the most crowds, music, bicyclists (even in the poorly lit neighborhoods), drunkenness, prostitution, and of course pot smoking. Hey, at least that list started out with legit bragging rights, eh?

The least desirable of these Amsterdam “records” were evident from the obnoxiously loud vomiting that we occasionally heard from outside our hotel window. And from the hotel hallways. And the shower. Come to think of it, speaking of puking…

****Sorry, Mom. I’m really not trying to gross you out. A few weeks ago I posted a pic (link) of Brussels’ tacky Manneken Pis statue on my blog, and now this. I know that you would categorize this as “not dinner table discussion,” so hopefully you’re not munching as you read this. I’ll stop now.****

After Bo and I returned from Luxembourg City and Brussels (links), our stay in Amsterdam marked the end of our brief jaunt through the Benelux countries. 

On our first night in Amsterdam, we hastily picked the Hotel Jimmy as a convenient place to throw down our bags.   IMG_4093.JPG   The steep, winding staircase at the Hotel Jimmy lead to the reception desk on the "first" floor. Pro tip: Anyone who carries an innocent looking girl’s two small bags up stairs like these is just asking for trouble…especially when those bags weigh at least 70 lbs each! Oh, and never ask questions about said bags.

Although the night scene in Amsterdam (or at least some elements of it- see above) was the big draw for me, I’m glad that my dad wanted to use our daylight hours to see places that I had passed up during my previous visits to the city.

IMG_4047.JPG Using the canal boats as our main mode of transportation, we essentially made it a Dutch art museum day. On most overseas trips, I wouldn’t be caught dead in an art gallery for fear of being bored to tears. This day proved me wrong.

IMG_4076.JPGBo was impressed with this replica of a Dutch ship in the Rijkmuseum

In my dad’s words:

The Rijksmuseum is essentially the 'national art gallery' of Holland, and is currently under a major restoration inside and outside. CameraZOOM-20120330040037852.jpg  Much of the museum is closed, yet it contained hundreds of works of art, with a focus on the golden age of Dutch art. A centerpiece was Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, his most famous and greatest painting.

The Van Gogh Museum, only a few blocks from Rijksmuseum, was our next stop. It’s an amazing display of art and a life story of the gifted and tortured genius who shaped modern impressionistic art - sadly, only after he died. The Van Gogh Museum has four levels, and you start at the bottom level, with Van Gogh’s earlier influences and works. As you move up the levels, you can trace his progression as an artist, his growing influence with his contemporaries, and finally his dawning awareness that his artistic vision was fading along with his skills. In poverty, he died of a self-inflected gunshot wound, ending a career that spanned only 10 years, but which left an enduring impression (pun not intentional) on the art world.” --
From Doug Hamilton's travel notes.

IMG_4079.JPG   In addition to the collection of paintings, the Van Gogh museum also had iPads set up to virtually deconstruct various works of art.

IMG_4081_edited-2.JPG Day 4: Life imitates art in Amsterdam, with my delicious Belgian waffle standing in for Vincent van Gogh's pipe

On a final note, I wasn’t expecting everyone’s questions about Amsterdam's world-famous tulip festival.  IMG_4094.JPGFor those of you who inquired, I thought I’d toss in this blurry tulip pic that Bo snapped from our train to the AMS airport on Day 6. Talk about ending this story with an anticlimactic money shot!

The dozens of previously open seats on our flight home to Portland practically filled up overnight. After a significant delay at the Amsterdam ticket counter (it was training day, no joke) we glided through the security checkpoint and snagged the last seats as they were shutting the boarding doors.

As Bo and I flew home to Portland, I thanked God that our risky attempts to fly standby during spring break were spared the disastrous results predicted by our naysayers. After all, with all of the Portland flights overbooked to the East Coast and beyond, the choice was essentially made for me to make yet another trip to the oft visited Benelux region. No regrets, though. Who could tire of seeing the Low Countries?

Our original choice between skiing the Swiss Alps or cave-diving in Belize will have to wait until next time!

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