22
Dec

Storming The Castle

By: muttler

Monday December 5th

majestic

majestic

Given we had lost close to a day of holiday due to being jerked around, we had to become a bit more strategic about time spent. One thing on our list was to visit Himeji castle, as Kate had not visited, and it was under partial restoration when I had visited 6 years ago. So at the earlyish time of 8am we were back on Shinkansen, this time heading further south.

welcome to himeji!

welcome to himeji!

At about 9am we arrived in the city of Himeji. Himeji is most famous for the castle and nearby gardens, and as the castle had just reopened after 6 years of restoration, much under complete coverup, crowds were streaming into visit the castle. This early on a Monday though and it was very reasonable. 

the white heron looms large in himeji

the white heron looms large in himeji

there it is!

there it is!

Himeji castle was one of my highlight as from my first trips to Japan, and I was super keen to revisit. The “white heron” is gorgeous, beaming atop its perch looking over the city. We grabbed our tickets and in we went.

One important thing I knew was that English speaking guides were available for visitors, and that my guide last visit was a trip highlight, so I asked if any were available. In no time at all, our guide Yoko emerged ready to help us out. Free volunteer guides at one of the coolest places in the world… Japan I love you. 

img_4919

Yoko was probably in her 60’s and was eager to start telling us about Japanese history and leading us around. Knowing we had at least a couple of hours made her happy that we could explore the castle complex more and learn more about the history, so off we went. 

After a great history recap, it was into the women’s quarters, inside one of the wings attached to the castle. Yoko continued her history lesson for us, and told us of life in Himeji and the castle as we made our way around. She would point out many of the castle safe guards that were set up (but never actually used in the end) and tell us how the castle occupants would go about their day. 

everything is ornate

everything is ornate

every spot a postcard

every spot a postcard

We emerged from that wing and then began to make our way up into the main castle building, around the curved paths. All along Yoko would point out the designs of the castle, what was set up to confuse potential invaders, stones embedded in the walls that contained centuries of history, and all kinds of fascinating minutiae of detail. The it was into the main building, and weaving our way up the many flights of stairs into the top floor. On my previous visit I wasn’t able to do this, so it was so cool to get all the way up in the castle and explore all its hidden treasures. 

We came all the way back down and back into the castle grounds, our 2.5 hours disappearing way too quickly. Yoko was amazingly kind and generous, even giving us some small cranes as thank you gifts. Reason #7834 that I love this place so much. 

gorgeous gardens

gorgeous gardens

that's a big goldfish

that’s a big goldfish

Before heading back to Kyoto we decided to visit the nearby Kokoen gardens. This was a lovely space with small paths wandering around some extensive grounds. Small rooms, pools, waterfalls, fish and again lovely foliage greeted us as we made our way around. Aahhh.  

before...

before…

We decided it was time to wander back to Kyoto, so back to the station, on a Shinkansen, and back to our hometown. One reason to get back was that Kate had booked in a experience she was keen to do while here, and that was to get made up like a geisha and have some fun looking the part. We had a 4pm booking, so it was a wander back to Gion for Kate to have some fun. I had to leave her for a bit to get made up, so wandered about, chasing some Pokemon (where are you Farfetch’d?!) before heading back to see my wife unrecognisable for a split second as she emerged in full costume and face paint. So cool! Kate was loving it too.

... and after!

… and after!

We got to have fun taking a bunch of pics with Kate in costume looking the part. 

me hanging out at random pokestops

hanging out at random pokestops

ji-ji!

ji-ji!

totoro!

totoro!

Sadly, it was time to return back to 2016 and become normal Kate again and so we wandered back out into Kyoto to explore some more. We headed back into the old town part we had wandered the previous night, and visited one of my favourite shops… the Ghibli dedicated store with all sorts of awesome Ghibli treats. Kate was losing her mind at all the cool stuff (just a taste of what is to come in Tokyo) and couldn’t decide. She settled on some figurines as knowing we had more Ghibli in our futures, and so as the shop closed we wandered back out. 

i still don't quite appreciate the mos burger

i still don’t quite appreciate the mos burger

We spent the next couple of hours wandering the Gion area, with a little shopping and some Mos Burger for Kate for the first time (I’m still not that sold on Mos Burger to be honest) until we hit our limits and headed back to K’s House. Another action packed day had come to end with castles and geishas and Ghibli. Too cool. 

22
Dec

Reds and Greens

By: muttler

Sunday December 4th

Bright and early we checked out and headed back to Tokyo station. Our 7:30am Shinkansen arrived with Japanese precision and in no time at all we were travelling at several hundred kilometres an hour southwards. 

we're on our way!

we’re on our way!

As we travelled Kate pointed out the opposite window. “Is that Mt Fuji?” Pointing at a gloriously clear view of a snow peaked mountain. “Um, it can’t be can it? It just doesn’t look that big, and its super clear… I have never been able to see it from the train”. Turns out, yep, it was my friend Mt Fuji alright.

At around 10am we arrived in beautiful Kyoto. I used my spider-senses to wander to our home for the next few days, K’s House hostel, which I had stayed at a couple times in the past. A good spot and they had always been lovely meant it was a good place to visit again. They were happy to see us after our big delay and looked after us straight away. But it was no time for mucking around… drop the bag off and go go go!

In many respects a bit of the trip is about filling gaps for Kate. I have had the good fortune to visit a couple of times in the past but Kate had done one shorter visit in the past, so it was about finding the things that she had missed when she had visited previously. First destination, Arashiyama. 

catching up with the locals

catching up with the locals

Arashiyama is a short 15min train ride from the station. Being a Sunday, a relatively fine day, and a gorgeous locale, things were quite busy. We jumped off the train and strolled into the centre of the action. The Arashiyama area is nestled into the side of the woods, and so you get the blend from city into a more rural feeling place. While a little touristy, it is not hugely so as you wander the main street with its shops and food stalls. Mmmmm food stalls. More on that later. 

we're in japan alright

we’re in japan alright

bamboo groves

bamboo groves

We started by wandering the bamboo groves as most do. They are just stunning as you wander through the swaying greenery with the sun peeking through. It is quintessentially Japanese as you stroll the bamboo, coming across shrines and temples. 

We did this for a bit and then decided it was time to grab some food. Damn you food stalls! How were we to decide? Bah, just buy bits of everything. We started with yakatori style nibbles before going for sweets. First we bought a mochi like treat with strawberry on top. How could you not when they looked this good?

tofu ice cream!

tofu ice cream!

i didn't throw this one back

i didn’t throw this one back

my beloved coffee in a can. yum!

my beloved coffee in a can. yum!

Kate was intrigued by the tofu ice cream so we got one of those, with a scoop of soda flavoured gelato as well. Yum! The tofu ice cream was pretty good, but the soda gelato was delicious, a cross between lemonade icy pole and ramu soda. I opted to buy a sweet filled fish, Kate suggesting the sweet potato filling. Delicious! Kate especially was loving it. We chose well.

happy chappies

happy chappies

just your typical movie star gardens

just your typical movie star gardens

With food in our bellies,we wandered back into the bamboo, popping into shrines as we strolled about. At the end of the path we came across a private garden called Okochi Sanso, originally the residence of actor Okochi Denjiro. We decided to head in a stroll which was lovely, as it looked out over the Arashiyama area toward Kyoto.

so amazingly gorgeous

so amazingly gorgeous

It is about now I should mention that we had arrived at the tail end of autumn, meaning that while many trees had lost their leaves, many were stunning shades of red, had gorgeous views wherever we looked. Gardens, temples… you name it there was blazing red all around. 

time for a tea break

time for a tea break

seemed like this was the place to hang out

seemed like this was the place to hang out

This garden was no exception and it was great to sit and relax and soak it up with some matcha green tea and cake. Mmm. 

The sun was starting to go down so we jumped on a train back to central Kyoto. At the hostel we saw things up on the wall highlighting that a number of temples were being illuminated at night… with many having their last night tonight. No rest for the wicked then I guess! A little rest and it was back out into the now slightly raining evening. 

all lit up

lit

img_4794

The main temples that were lit up were those on the main temple walk, starting at Kiyomizu-dera temple. This is one that is quintessentially Kyoto… huge and stuck in the side of a mountain. The rain was obviously keeping some people away, but not many, as we joined the throngs making their way into the temple complex. The red leaves and the lighting made it amazingly beautiful, something photos would never do justice. In the temple complex we made our way around the buildings and through the trees. We weren’t really able to wander the whole temple complex due to the huge crowds inside, but it was OK. We soaked up the colour and stunning views as we made our way around and back out.

We were probably rushing it a little more than normal, as we only had an hour or so to visit another lit up temple or two before all was done for the evening. We wandered through the nearby narrow shop lined streets, seeing lights in the temples and flaming foliage. We eventually arrived at Chion-in, a large temple complex closer to Gion. This was much quieter, as it was more out of the way and also partly closed, but we ventured in. It wasn’t nearly as impressive as Kiyomizu-dera but the main draw was being about to venture up into the top of the main huge wooded gate, to look out over Kyoto. Aahhh.

Things were beginning to close up for the evening, and we had had a big day so decided to head back to the hostel, relax and call it a day. What a day… starting a little frustrated in Tokyo from our huge delays, and ending up calm in temples in Kyoto. Life is OK. 

22
Dec

Better Late Than Never

By: muttler

Saturday December 3rd

this image says it all

this image says it all

Our day was supposed to begin at half past midnight, leaving on our jet plane bound for Tokyo.  Alas, it began in our own beds when we found out, when arriving at the airport, that our plane was delayed by 10 hours. Yep, 10 hours. That meant that rather than arrive in Tokyo at 8am and then training down to Kyoto, we would be arriving in Tokyo at 6:30pm, with a chance we would not be able to get to our first nights accomodation in Kyoto. Sigh. Thanks Jetstar. Off it was back home.

So after a frustrating nights sleep in our own bed, it was *back* to the airport. With yet another minor delay it was finally in the air, bound for Japan. Better late than never!

Our flight was fine, and at about 7pm we touched down at Narita airport. Woo! We were in Japan! A smooth exit through immigration meant that we had a chance for a train. Run! Alas, on arriving at the train station we were greeted with a fair queue for rail pass exchange and our hope of making Kyoto was lost. Sigh. Thanks Jetstar. Alas about 3/4 of a precious day would now be lost as we would have to find a place to stay in Tokyo before an early morning train to Kyoto.

Fairly easily we found reasonable accomodation near Tokyo station and jumped on the Narita Express bound for Tokyo. An hour later we were wandering the craziness that is Tokyo station. Ah! I remember this feeling of being totally disoriented in Japan! It’s the best. Easily enough we found our way out of the right exit and legged it to the hotel. We checked in at around 10pm to settle in for some rest and thus ended our sadly uneventful first day of travels. Don’t worry… the stories will start getting a lot better from tomorrow’s entry… we were now in Japan after all 🙂

02
Jan

Happy New Year! (and reflections of a not so wintery holiday)

By: muttler
happy new year!

happy new year!

 

December 31st is usually everyone getting ready for a big night. Us, we were getting ready to head to the airport. I had mentioned that we felt our decision to head home before New Years Eve felt pretty vindicated. We chose the flights almost exclusively based on price (saving $800 each by leaving a couple of days early? Sounds OK to us!), but neither of us really felt the desire to be crushed on the streets of Amsterdam for New Years. I had actually already experienced it 15 years ago, and while it was not terrible, it was not one of my fonder memories of my visits to Europe.

So mid morning it was just on to the bus and off to the airport.

Not much else to report really. An uneventful 24 hours of travel home, just as we like it… catching up on movies (everything from Love & Mercy to Trainwreck to The Assassin to Black Mass), TV (finally finished Mr Robot!), reading (Carrie Brownstein and Kim Gordon autobiogs), and podcasts.

Sadly the New Years celebration was a total non-event. Not that I was expecting or wanting much (we were avoiding it after all), but I thought we may have had something of note happen on the plane to celebrate, but nope. A subtle message on my screen was all that I got when we were officially at New Years. I didn’t expect heaps, but I thought it was pretty weak to not even have an announcement from the captain or the offer of a drink. Disappointing as Cathay Pacific are usually pretty good.

And that’s it!

Overall it was a great holiday that I think we planned really well. Having a full week each in just 3 places was a great thing to do… less running around, a bit cruisier, a chance to explore lots in the city and less travelling in general. In hindsight we probably could have done with one more day in Berlin, probably taking the day off Amsterdam. But it was about right.

Taking the train was totally the right choice too. Our experience flying out of Amsterdam was testament to that. Not that we had any troubles, but by the time you get your way to the airport (an hour to get to the bus, wait for a bus, and get to the airport), be early enough to check in (they still say 3hrs before), go through all the security etc, and suddenly our casual wander to the train station in Berlin, step on to a train, and have a relaxed train ride was the right call. When you think that the 6hr train ride from Berlin to Amsterdam might be too long, all you need to do is take 1 hour to get to the airport + 2 hours waiting at the airport + 1 hour in the air + 1 hour to get into the destination city, and you already have almost all that time back. I would totally do it this way in the future.

Paris was one place that people were questioning our decision to still visit after the horrible events just 6 weeks ago. But there was never any doubt we would go. The whole time we were there we felt as safe as usual as we thought would be the case. What we probably weren’t really prepared for was how much security would be ramped up though. It was at all the usual tourist spots, however seemed a bit more thorough… it was essentially airport conditions at each museum and tourist destination. What we didn’t expect was that even going into shopping centres and supermarkets we would undergo security checks… looking in bags and getting us to open up jackets. We got used to it in the end, but when we got to Berlin and things were relaxed again, it really stood out to us how much things had sadly changed in Paris. Sad that for everyday folk things had changed so dramatically.

The other thing to mention might be the weather. We both packed to be in below zero and it proved totally unnecessary. It SHOULD have been below zero, especially in Berlin. But it seemed they were going through a warm dry spell, as we had continued 8-12 degrees, little rain, and sadly no snow. Even talking to locals, Berlin SHOULD have been covered in snow. I was hoping for a white lead up to Christmas, but alas it wasn’t to be. Not complaining though, as we were very lucky with pretty great weather all round.

Hope I didn’t bore you too much with my ramblings! Look forward to seeing y’all in 2016 🙂

02
Jan

Chips and Cheese

By: muttler
enjoying the traditional dutch fare

enjoying the traditional dutch fare

 

Our last day in Amsterdam and on holidays 🙁

This will be a pretty short post, as for our last day in Amsterdam and of our holiday overall, we really just wanted to keep it low key. We had nothing we HAD to do, and were content to just wander the streets for a bit, do some final shopping, and soak up Amsterdam. Who knows if we will ever be back?

After a sleep in we wandered off, with a quick stop to the Rijksmuseum, where I finally picked up a museum book that I had been meaning to buy. We also visited a nearby gallery/store called Famous that I had found out about online. I found them through my searching for a Takashi Murakami print I liked, so I decided to pop in and say hi.

The guy who helped us was really nice and and happy to pull out the Murakami print I liked to have a look. In the flesh it was really very cool and very tempting. Should I buy?! Hhhmmm! Kate was on board, but in the end I passed. Sadly our Aussie dollar was not doing me many favours, so I decided to leave it for the time being given it was a kinda pricey buy. If I had regrets in the future they said they were happy to ship so I know I could get it if I wanted.

 

getting the couch in would be a nightmare

getting the couch in would be a nightmare

 

Otherwise we just caught the tram up to the top of the city and meandered back, in some respects like what we had done yesterday. We stopped by one sight near the station, the famous narrow house.

Only a metre wide, this is the narrowest house (at least frontage) in Amsterdam. The reason harkens back to when house tax was based on the frontage, so one enterprising soul decided all they needed was a door. Clearly there was some more going on behind the scenes, but form the front it was pretty funny.

As we wandered down through all the shops, we were surrounded by people. You know how I said it was busy yesterday? Nothing on today. The streets were jam packed. Clearly the New Years influx was in full force. The main difference was not so much the number of people, rather the types of people now about. Without sounding snobbish at all, it certainly seemed that most people were in their 20s and here in Amsterdam for a good time. The ration of dudes was pretty high too. Kate and I both agreed that getting out of Amsterdam before New Years was definitely the right decision as it didn’t seem like it would really be our scene.

Over the next few hours we wandered and finally due to my hunger I opted for probably the most traditional food I could get here in Amsterdam. Chips in a cone! The ubiquitous frites and mayonnaise.

 

voted number 1 (at some random website)

voted number 1 (at some random website)

 

We stopped by what is apparently the best ships in town. The queue was a give away (as was their sign proclaiming as such), but when we tasted them… man they were some tasty frites! And the mayonnaise was soooo good. Mmmmmm.

We also took the opportunity to pop into some cheese stores along the way. While we wouldn’t be able to take cheese home thanks to our Aussie customs rules, that wouldn’t stop us from sampling. Gouda is king here and to be honest it is not my favourite. Not enough taste in there for me. But we did find some aged goudas as well as some other local cheeses that were really tasty. Kate fell in love with one that caused her to lament that we could not take them home. We would just have to get on the hunt back at home.

 

sadly no one was home

sadly no one was home

 

One final detour near the hotel was on the cards. One of my only disappointments with the trip to Amsterdam was that I entertained the idea of whether a tattoo would be possible. A tattoo?! Maybe. Why I was thinking about it was that Amsterdam is the home of the amazing tattoo artist Angelique Houtkamp, who’s gallery shows I had visited at Outre a number of times back at home. I love her work and the chance to get something my Angelique herself sounded like an amazing opportunity.

Sadly her salon was closed for our time in Amsterdam (which I knew beforehand) so it wasn’t to be. I decided to wander by and see the studio, feeling a little sad I didn’t have the chance to visit.

And with that, the week in Amsterdam pretty much comes to an end. We wandered to get some dinner nearby and it seemed EVERY place to east was full and had a long wait. Our perceptions that the streets were way busier were spot on. So an easy dinner was in order and then all we had left to do was pack and set the alarms for the morning.

02
Jan

Amsterdam Delights

By: muttler
mmmmmmm

mmmmmmm

 

Only a couple of days left in Amsterdam!

It was getting close to New Years (and us leaving), and we were starting to notice a bit of a change in Amsterdam. Around Christmas it had been pretty cruisy… everything seemed pretty chill and we had no trouble getting into places. But in the past day the streets had been getting a bit busier. At first we thought it was just that we started going to more of the touristy places or areas, but we realised it was obviously that the influx was for New Year.

We were on the home stretch, but as I have talked about we didn’t feel we needed to be running around too crazy. We had a few things we still wanted to do, but again we could take it pretty casually.

 

back at museumplein

back at museumplein

 

One thing I wanted to do was get back to the Van Gogh museum for another hour or so to revisit the Van Gogh / Munch exhibition. So at about 9am, nice and early, I wandered down to the museum. You know how I said things had gotten busier? And that 9am was nice and early. Well, it suddenly seem so early. I was greeted with a queue. A LONG queue.

Even my trusty museum pass wouldn’t get me in much quicker. A 1.5hr wait was what I had to endure if I wanted to get back in. Um… no thanks. I would try again later.

 

i still can't pronounce these street names properly

i still can’t pronounce these street names properly

 

So I got back to the hotel and Kate and I decided to get out for a stroll to the nearby Albert Cuypstraat market, the biggest in Amsterdam and one of the biggest markets in Europe. I wanted to visit not to shop but to eat!

 

breakfast of champions

breakfast of champions

 

There was your typical market stalls full of cheap goods that I had no interest in. I was keen on the cheese and the sweets and the fish instead. Mmmm. Kate started with some poffertjes, the small dutch pancakes. She hadn’t had them and finally got her hands on some. You can tell she was enjoying 🙂

 

breakfast of dutchies

breakfast of dutchies

 

just like a local

just like a local

 

Me, I wasn’t after the sweet stuff to start… I wanted something fishy! I knew I had to try some famous Dutch herring at some point, and now was the time. Kate was not so enamoured as I ordered some raw fish and pickles. Mmmmm, time for some herring. Kate snapped a couple of pics and then ran away from the fish smell and let me enjoy. And enjoy I did! Not something I would probably keep on ordering whilst here, but the combo of herring and the tasty pickles was a bit of alright.

 

the famous stroopwafel

the famous stroopwafel

 

my stroopwafel chaser

my stroopwafel chaser

 

kate gets in on the action

kate gets in on the action

 

I did want to follow it up with another Dutch market treat though. Time for some sweet sweet stroopwaffles for dessert! These are the famous syrupy thin waffle treats and the ones at this market are made nice and fresh and warm for each customer. The queue meant we must have been at the right stand too.

And how were they. Good! Not my usual dessert, but that syrupy goodness hit the spot after the herring and pickles.

 

dinner with the van loons

dinner with the van loons

 

With full bellies Kate and I kept moving. We didn’t have too much on the radar, but given we had our museum passes wanted to pop in to the Museum Van Loon. Like the Museum Jacquemart in Paris, this was a private home that had been turned into a small museum. This one was more interesting for me as it allowed us to peer into a canal house and see wha lay behind, which is something we hadn’t really had a chance to do.

 

a courtyard retreat

a courtyard retreat

 

The house is quite cool, about a dozen rooms that had been kept in their original condition. The family apparently still live in the upstairs part of the house which as fascinating. The house itself was quite cool too and we got to wander through the back courtyard into the former coach house.

 

of course they have a stuffed peacock

of course they have a stuffed peacock

 

Being so small we were through it fairly quickly, but it was well worth a visit.

 

 

batman!

batman!

 

It was mid afternoon so we wandered back to the hotel for a bit. On our way I saw a sign… for Adam West! We really should have gone to see if Batman himself was there. I’m guessing he wasn’t.

After getting back to the hotel, I decided I would try my luck and pay a visit to the Van Gogh again. This time only a short wait and I was back in. I revisited the Van Gogh / Munch museum and said hi to all those paintings I love so much.

 

into the light... festival!

into the light… festival!

 

We had a couple of after dinner plans for tonight. First up was part two of our Amsterdam Light Festival exploration. You will have read all about our adventures on the boat, but tonight was about adventures on foot. The festival guide details a path you can take from the Hermitage, and around the canals and back streets, visiting lots more of the light installations. And as it turns out it seems to be an activity that lots and lots of people get up to.

 

IMG_3754

 

IMG_3751

 

IMG_3745

 

IMG_3730

 

IMG_3723

 

IMG_3692

 

IMG_3682

 

We wandered from installation to installation, moving along with the quite large crowds. All the people made the whole experience quite fun. The installations themselves were a very mixed bag (just like the ones we saw on the boat), but being amongst it all made for a lot of fun. My favourite was the pieces that when looked at from the right spot appeared as a very cool dog (I am guessing you know which one it is above).

 

aussie aussie aussie!

aussie aussie aussie!

 

We even found one by an Australian which was very cool. Represent!

We sped through the last installations as we had to get to our second event of the evening. The Pathé Tuschinski was a cinema I had mentioned in a past post… apparently the most gorgeous cinema in Amsterdam (and in the world!) a mix of styles including art deco and art nouveau, so how could we pass up a visit! Anything reminding me of my beloved Astor Theatre back at home would be worth visiting.

But what to see? Stupid question! More Star Wars!

When buying tickets it seemed much of the cinema was sold out. What was available though was a 2-seater toward the back of the theatre that seemed to be not dissimilar to a La Premier style experience from back home. The tickets were a little more expensive (not too much) so we just said let’s do it and booked.

 

can't capture the grandeur of the place

can’t capture the grandeur of the place

 

gorgeous detail everywhere

gorgeous detail everywhere

 

When arriving into the cinema we were greeted with a packed, gorgeous foyer. The foyer was stunning… very hard to take proper pictures of to do it justice. It was full of nice little touches everywhere and was already a pleasure. But when we went in to the cinema proper, we were in for something else.

 

i wish all cinema screen curtains were like this

i wish all cinema screen curtains were like this

 

“It’s like the Astor on steroids” remarked Kate and she was spot on. The theatre was stunning. A beautiful theatre with an old style curtain, plush seats, balcony, and sweet 2-seater boxes at the back.

 

our own box!

our own box!

 

getting ready for more star wars!

getting ready for more star wars!

 

We were in Loge 13 and had only just settled in when our friendly attendant came to get our orders. Unlike Gold Class of having to pay for the drinks and sweets, or La Premiere which was some soft drink and popcorn, we had a great menu to choose from. A swing-top Grolsch and huge popcorn for me! Kate opted for the soft drink but a big bag of M&Ms. For not much more we had a primo comfy 2-seater and good snacks coming our way.

The lights dimmed and the movie started. Probably my fondest memory of the whole experience was as the Lucasfilm logo came on screen the theatre was full of the sound of popping Grolsch tops! A veritable symphony of bottle tops that was a joy.

And the movie? It is still awesome. I still won’t share anything that could spoil, but even though I have a few niggles, this movie is what I have been waiting for for years. And to see it in possibly the most gorgeous cinema I have ever been in was amazing.

It was almost midnight as the movie finished and we jumped on a nearby tram back to the hotel. Star Wars and the Pathé Tuschinski would be one of my favourite memories of Amsterdam.

30
Dec

Escaping Amsterdam

By: muttler
kate is in heaven

kate is in heaven

 

As you could tell from my previous posts, we actually have had a fairly luxurious time in Amsterdam. Luxurious in that we didn’t feel rushed to see the sights in Amsterdam we wanted to. So today was about escaping Amsterdam to explore some more of the nearby Netherlands.

Who am I kidding? There was no way Kate would have us coming to anywhere in the Netherlands and not doing a day trip to Delft. Conveniently it was only an hours train ride away, so slightly earlier morning than normal and we headed to central station and jumped on a train.

So why Delft? To be honest it wasn’t necessarily on my radar. So you may be able to start guessing something about the small town. Yes, it supposedly had a lovely town centre, but what it is most famous for is the distinctive white and blue handcrafted and painted pottery. Amsterdam was full of tourist places selling supposed Delftware, but the reality was that most was cheap knock-offs, and the genuine stuff comes out of one main place still located in Delft. Knowing that you could tour the factory/workshop, Kate wanted to visit. Why not get out of the city for the day?

 

the royal delft seal

the royal delft seal

 

An easy train ride later (with free wi-fi… love these trains!) we were there and casually wandered from the train station to the nearby Royal Delft factory. Located in a nondescript part of the town, it was nice and quiet when we arrived. Given it isn’t a huge space, that proved to be a good thing. Things kicked off with an informative, if slightly cheesy film about Royal Delft… the history of ceramics on the town, the downturn in demand, getting the “Royal” part of their name, and surviving to be the preeminent manufacturer of the signature pottery.

 

work in progress

work in progress

 

The vast majority remains hand made and importantly hand painted. That means that each piece is slightly unique and is signed and dated on the bottom before firing. As a consequent it sports such price tags, but not overwhelmingly expensive for handmade and unique pieces.

 

nice plate!

nice plate!

 

the night watch (delft style)

the night watch (delft style)

 

two dutch icons wrapped up into one

two dutch icons wrapped up in one

 

The Royal Delft Experience was simply self-guided tour through and while not huge was jam packed with examples of their work through the ages. Lots of commemorative royal pieces, as well as pieces intriguingly for a umber of other historical events such as landmarks in space travel. I want a man lands on the moon plate!

 

hard at work (for us tourists)

hard at work (for us tourists)

 

There were also different things to see along the way, such as one of the artists at work (“oh great”, she probably thought when she arrived to work… “I get the tourists today!”). Here you can see how it starts with the part-fired pottery, and painted with a seemingly black ink, that takes on the famous blue once the final firing happens. Each piece apparently undergoes inspection before being put on sale and not everything passes the cut which I guess accounts for the premiums attached.

 

waiting for the kiln

waiting for the kiln

 

 

mooooooo

mooooooo

 

We also wandered through the factory floor, seeing all the pottery either waiting to be fired or waiting to be painted on. It was actually all very casual, with the visitors to the factory being able to wander fairly easily and even chat to some of the floor staff as they work. I even came across this random cow.

Obviously the experience exists through the gift shop and Kate was in heaven. Overwhelmed by choice, but heaven nonetheless. The advantage of visiting the factory is the chance to pick up factory seconds and huge discounts. In most cases it was impossible to see why it was discounted except for the tiny mark on the bottom they make for themselves. how would Kate decide?! In the end she selected a couple of small pieces and she was a very happy chappy.

 

exploring old delft

exploring old delft

 

neuw kerk

neuw kerk

 

big clog!

big clog!

 

With that done we wandered into the town centre to soak up a small Dutch town. The most important things to see as you could probably guess were the town squares and churches (kerks). Delft was no exception.

 

wonky!

wonky!

 

Delft was well known for one church in particular, the Oude Kerk. Its main tower leans about 2 metres off the vertical. When it was built in the 1200’s, it started leaning as the foundations were not good enough. Did they stop? Nope! They kept going trying to compensate. But to this day it has a very visible lean. I guess if it hasn’t come down in almost a millennium, what’s the problem hey?

 

yum!!

cheesy!!

 

It was time for lunch and the idea of huge pancakes was too good to pass up. We popped into the busy pancake house and ordered up. I went for cheese, cheese, and more cheese and when it arrived I knew I ordered well. Check it out! Mmmm… delicious. Kate’s was a bit of alright too.

With full bellies we wandered back to the train station. Rather than head back to Amsterdam, we thought why not jump out at another stop? Especially when the first place on our way back was The Hague.

 

justice

justice

 

Most people know of The Hague but probably don’t know that much about it. My knowledge was fairly limited, knowing about it being the home of Dutch parliament and probably most notably the International Court of Justice (and UN). But as it turned out it was also home to one of the most famous Dutch paintings, Vermeer’s Girl With The Pearl Earing, so off we jumped.

Walking from the station instantly we felt we were in a different place. While there were some canals, they were much less prevalent than Amsterdam or Delft. But for me what jumped out was that city and people seemed much more multi-cultural. Amsterdam I think lends itself to a fair multi-cultural vibe, but The Hague felt like a greater mix of nationalities. Whether we just happened to wander through cultural centres of the other nationalities, but it was a real melting pot of influences.

 

weird skyline huh?

weird skyline huh?

 

The architecture was also very different. Gone were canal houses, and here we were in something more closely (but not completely) resembling a typical city.

 

mauritshuis

mauritshuis

 

Given it was already mid afternoon, we headed straight for the museum. The Mauritshuis is the quaint house the houses a modest but important collection of Dutch paintings and sculpture. In a museum not really any bigger than a large house, a couple of dozen rooms house a quite stunning collection. There were not many big works there, but as a museum capturing influential Dutch art, it really was a great place to visit. And the modest scale meant in an hour you were done and did not feel drained.

 

the other jane seymour

the other jane seymour

 

Kate was quite excited as she recognised a painting straight away she had never thought she would see, a slightly more obscure Holbein of Jane Seymour (not Dr Quinn Medicine Woman you silly folk, but wife of Henry the 8th. Surprises are the best!

 

there she is

there she is

 

she's a popular one

she’s a popular one

 

We wandered through the rooms, checking out more Rembrandts, before reaching the room everyone had gathered in. Much like the Mona Lisa, it seems when people come to this museum, many run for this room to spy on the Girl With The Pearl Earing. It was quite a buzz to see it, but for me the Vermeer’s in the Rijksmuseum were much more compelling. Not that this is a dud! And it really was so cool to see it in the flesh. But those in the Rijksmuseum are just something else.

 

perched above binnenhoff

perched above binnenhof

 

The sun was starting to descend so we did a quick wander through the courtyard of the Binnenhof, the home of Dutch parliament. we didn’t have time to do much, but was nice as a final interlude before heading back to the station.

By the time we got back to Amsterdam, got some food, and headed back to the hotel, we decided to have a quiet night. As a side note, I have to confess that while we didn’t watch any TV in Paris, in Germany we found that the Darts World Championships were on at the moment and we got hooked on having it on in the background for an hour or two each night before sleeping. Thankfully our darts addictions we being satisfied in Amsterdam too, so with our fix of darts it was off to sleep.

28
Dec

On The Hunt

By: muttler
10 points!

10 points!

 

It was Sunday morning and Kate was determined to have her Sunday morning sleep in. Me, you know what I’m like. I can’t sleep in at the best of times let alone when I am in a different city. I thought about heading out for a run, but instead yesterdays invader find prompted me to do a little research and get out on the hunt for some more.

It seemed that Invader had spread his work about the city a few years ago and some still remained. While details of exactly where were a little difficult to find, a combination of websites and a Google Map was enough to give me some locations to visit and see if I could find those cool little guys. So with Kate having a relax, I was off with my marked up map.

I had a bit of ground to cover. The plan was to do a bit of a clockwise circuit, heading roughly in the direction of Jordaan to kick things off. My map had the suspected location of invaders, some of which were known to have disappeared now, some only rumoured to be there, and some apparently still alive and well. All I was going to be going off was a rough location and my keen eagle eyes.

 

IMG_3194

 

In no time at all I found my first. On a corner next to the Leidesgracht canal was one in almost perfect condition. Score! 10 points!

My journey took me into a district we hadn’t really visited yet, the Jordaan area. We had skirted the edge on our first night when we wandered to visit Anne Frank’s house, as the Prinsengracht canal is actually what separates the old “working class” area from the more affluent ones in Amsterdam central. Today Jordaan is like our Collingwood or Fitzroy in Melbourne… working class suburbs now full of cool hipster cafes, thrift stores, record stores and the like. As a consequence there is also a bunch more street art.

 

IMG_3198

 

And it was as I entered this area I came across Invader #2. 10 points! This guy was on the corner of Lauriergracht and Hazenstraat. My map had it as a maybe but it was a definitely! Another one in great condition, especially cool as it is in an easy to reach spot.

 

more faile!

more faile!

 

The next couple I was looking out for were also just maybes, so I casually wandered through Jordaan. My luck was with me today… another Faile! As you remember I found one on our first day by accident, and so to this one as well. My force was obviously strong today! This was another great one, and an even more classic Faile image. I wondered if there were more about the city.

I explored Jordaan some more, alas finding more record stores than Invaders. In fact I couldn’t uncover any more. Oh well, maybe they just didn’t exist any longer. That is the thing with Invaders… those little coloured tiles actually don’t last all that long a lot of the time.

 

IMG_3221

 

As evidenced above. This one was in an archway just near the main Dam. Was being the word. I spent a few minutes trying to find this one, that my map was sure was there. And then I saw the outline of where this character used to be. Too late, he was now gone for good.

I skirted the edge of the red light district again, a different place at about 12pm and not 12 in the AM. I made my way into Sint Antoinesbreestraat looking high and low for the next little creature. Before finding it I did chance upon a rad record store. I wasn’t planning on buying any records… they truly are a pain to travel with. But how could I resist filling my Bowie collection? As a somewhat recent convert to Bowie (mostly early) I had been looking at getting the classics on vinyl. The current $300+ boxset was tempting, but all I really wanted out of it was Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and Hunky Dory. As my luck would have it, this record store had broken up a box set and was selling the individual albums for reasonable prices. Yes! So all 3 were now mine (and mine to work out how best to take them home). Listening to these will always now remind me of Amsterdam.

 

IMG_3222

 

I headed back out into the street, and in only 30 seconds or so I found #3! This guy was also looking good, but he was up a little higher meaning he was harder to reach. The mirror eyes were an especially nice touch.

I had been going for quite a while, taking my time, so I decided to up the pace a little. The next one on the map was in a pretty generic location that didn’t make much sense. Knowing Invader and his work, when in doubt, also try bridges as they are a favourite spot, and given we were in Amsterdam, they are a good spot to investigate.

 

IMG_3239

 

IMG_3231

 

Bingo! Number 4 was not in the easiest place to spy or photograph, but there he was. I tried to get a close up shot, but I didn’t fancy the way I was dangling my camera over the side of the bridge (well, didn’t fancy my non-klutz tendencies) so had to make do with the blurry shot. But 10 more points!

 

IMG_3242

 

Number 5 was just around the corner and on a bridge I had heard one was on, the Blauwbrug. Kate and I wandered over this bridge earlier in our travels, and I had half heartedly had a look but was unsure if this was the bridge. Well it was indeed and it was in a fairly obvious spot in the end. Again, not one that was easy to photograph well, but certainly less precarious! 10 more points for me.

 

IMG_3244

 

I was on a roll, and was on the home stretch down Neuwe Spiegelstraat back toward the Rijksmuseum. I hit the corner with Herengracht and found Number 6, which was actually the real number 1 from yesterday. But here he is again for record 🙂

 

IMG_3246

 

Number 7 was just down the street a little. This was a different one as it was quite low, next to a car park entrance. As a result it is a bit more damaged, but still mostly together. The thing is with these guys is that Invader uses a type of glue that really makes it impossible to steal the works. You either have to leave it or destroy it. As a result only a few tiles were missing, so still looking pretty good.

 

IMG_3259

 

In the end my total for the day was 8, with the luck last being on a bridge only a few minutes from our hotel, again on Neuwe Spiegelstraat (down near Prinsengracht). A bit hard to get a photo, but I like how this one turned out.

And with that, almost 3 hours later I arrived back at the hotel with 8 invaders (and a Faile) under my belt. Such a good morning of exploring… a great way to orient myself a bit more and explore previously unexplored parts of the city.

Kate was up for some action so we decided to get out and explore some more art, this time the rest of the Rijksmuseum. We had previously done the main rooms and seen the big ones from Vermeer and Rembrandt, but this time we wanted to visit the rest.

 

IMG_3282

 

As I had mentioned, the Rijksmuseum is an interesting one for how it combines painting, sculpture, furniture and an assortment of things all together. Well, it is also interesting in that it also incorporates some 20th century art into the collection as well. The smaller rooms on the 3rd floor were from 1900 onward and sought to highlight Dutch contribution to this. So of course Mondrian featured, as did a few modest Van Goghs that had made their way from the near by Van Gogh museum.

 

IMG_3267

 

I also discovered this huge stack of Kit Kats. Well, not Kit Kats, but they say all art is in the eye of the beholder don’t they? So I saw Kit Kats.

It was approaching closing time when we finished up. I loved the Rijksmuseum. Not nearly as daunting in size as many other museums, but still with an amazing collection and the focus predominantly on Dutch work meant it also kept you focused. A highlight.

The sky was a bit cloudy but there was no rain in sight, so Kate and I decided tonight was the night to get out and see the Light Festival proper. We could either walk one section, or elect to jump on a canal boat (conveniently just opposite the hotel) to see the bulk by water. With the allure of an open boat and gluhwein, we elected for the latter.

 

IMG_3287

 

So at 7pm onto the boat we jumped and made our way around the canals again, this time on a route designed to visit all the light installations. I guess it could be considered to be like Vivid in Sydney, but this had the good fortune of the immense network of canals to inspire the artists. So over an hour and half we saw a good 15 or so installations.

They ranged from the “wow!” to the “meh”, but it was so nice to be in an open boat, slowly cruising the canals, experiencing the installations, on a relatively mild night. It is one of the best things we have done in Amsterdam, and it was also cool to see the hoards wandering about the canals experiencing them all as well. No doubt we would be checking them and the others we can’t see from the water on foot too.

 

IMG_3446

 

IMG_3434

 

IMG_3413


IMG_3382

 

IMG_3374

 

IMG_3372

 

IMG_3345

 

IMG_3336

 

IMG_3317

 

IMG_3301

 

Above are a bunch that we saw. Of course photos don’t do the justice… it is all about experiencing them up first hand… but hopefully you get the idea.

 

IMG_3396

 

It was also nice to see the canal houses again. It is amazing that people are still able to live in some of them… the wonkiness of them being totally mind boggling!

 

IMG_3448

 

It was getting close to 9pm when we arrived back at the hotel. No need to top that tonight… but undoubtedly we would try something new tomorrow.

28
Dec

Old Masters, Kings & Queens, and Red Lights

By: muttler
kate enjoying the light festival

kate enjoying the light festival

 

A lazy morning greeted us on this fair Boxing Day. After a bit of a lay in, off it was again to visit some sights.

 

i spy an invader!

i spy an invader!

 

On our travels I was greeted with a surprise waiting on a street corner. I know we are in Amsterdam, but get your mind out of the gutter. Up on the corner of one of the canal buildings was an Invader! It was nice to spy another after finding a few in Paris. I had a sense that there was a bunch around Amsterdam, so I would have to get on the hunt later in the week.

 

i love a gorgeous cinema

i love a gorgeous cinema

 

Our wandering also took us past a sight we would most likely come back to, the Pathe Tuschinski. This is apparently one of the most gorgeous cinemas on the planet. From what we have heard it sounds very much a kindred spirit of our beloved Astor (although with more of a focus on current films), so I could feel another viewing of Star Wars in my future 🙂

 

visiting an old master

visiting an old master

 

Finally we arrived at the house of an old master… yep, it was a visit to Rembrandt’s house. The old master lived in Amsterdam in a well-to-do house on one of the main canals. Even though he moved out at one point (because he couldn’t afford it), it had been reclaimed and turned into a museum commemorating the way he lived and his studio.

 

rembrandt's huis!

rembrandt’s huis!

 

Although quite small, it is nice to head up and down the narrow stairs, getting a feel for how he operated back in the day and how he ran his studio. There was not too many rooms to go through, although each had been done up as close to what they think they were like, which they could do based on an inventory the taxman took when Rembrandt went broke!

 

still life

still life

 

There was also the odd demonstration of paint making and print making, as well as a small exhibition of print work from many Dutch artists.

So it was well worth a visit. If you were on time constraints it probably wouldn’t make the cut, but definitely worth a look with time and our museum pass.

 

royal palace

royal palace

 

hi vader!

hi vader!

 

Next up we headed toward the main city square, or Dam. Located there was the old town hall, now a Royal Palace. The main square was bustling, and certainly the busiest we had seen anything in our time in Amsterdam so far. Maybe this was a combination of being Boxing Day, a Saturday, and also being in probably the most touristy place in the city. Your usual cast of busker type characters were hanging out in the square, but with a bit more of a Star Wars theme it seemed.

 

the weight of the world

the weight of the world

 

In we went to the Royal Palace. I found this one a bit more interesting than some of the other palaces we had visited in this trip. I think that was mainly because since the building started as a town hall, the layout was such that rooms that were for the tax officers and the like were turned into bedrooms and other rooms for visiting dignitaries. It also meant there was a huge open space that was originally designed for the people visiting the town hall.  It had a great astral theme, with planets represented and Atlas high above.

 

no one home

no one home

 

We took the self-guided tour through. Sadly, there were no Kings or Queens there to say hi, so I had to make do with the photo in the main entrance.

It was getting later in the afternoon, but we decided to keep wandering for a bit. Given it was a Saturday and the place was bustling, we decided to head toward the red light district to see some of the seedier side of Amsterdam. To this point in our explorations, given we had been in the museum districts, we hadn’t really seen anything of the ilk that Amsterdam is notorious for.

We knew we were wandering toward the red light district, as the number of “coffeeshops” started to increase dramatically and the nature of the people on the street changed ever so slightly. Not that the people suddenly became a dodgy looking bunch, rather the number of tourists grew, as did the packs of guys obviously in Amsterdam for a bender of a weekend.

 

a bit odd being outside a church...

a bit odd being outside a church…

 

Before we hit the district in real force, we came across the Oude Kerk, or Old Church, which unfortunately now sits nestled in the red light district… as evidenced by the gold plaque strangely sitting out the front!

This was a true oddity. The church is no longer in use, and going in we were greeted with a dull, unkempt, church. For whatever reasons, it is clearly not a priority to do much with this sadly. Inside was a huge pipe organ, but I can’t imagine it gets played anymore. And also in the huge space was some pews and booths and remnants of days gone by. So strange in comparison to all other churches we had visited. I guess it is symptomatic of the Netherlands lower interest in faith like this.

 

spooky tombs

spooky tombs

 

saskia's tomb

saskia’s tomb

 

Inside there was some evidence of tombs and those buried. One that Kate found was Rembrandt’s wife Saskia. Apparently Rembrandt was a frequent visitor to this church back in the day.

 

um... ok

um… ok

 

We found some very strange wood carvings in one of the areas. 32 carvings told different stories. This one of a guy pooping money was just too weird not to take a photo.

It was well and truly dark by now and given there was no electrical lighting in the church, it was time to leave. And we were smack bang in the red light district.

To be honest, I’m not sure really what there is to say about this area. More so than find it confronting or sad, I just find it surreal. You have an amazing beautiful old city, with gorgeous canal houses and streets, and then you start to walk past red windows with women in them and you are immersed in an altogether different place. While some ladies would try to “entice” the lads walking by, most seemed disinterested, checking their text messages or somesuch on their phones. For most visitors to Amsterdam, like us I guess, it is just a tourist spot of some perverse interest no different to any other tourist spot. When in Rome.

 

light festival in full flight

light festival in full flight

 

So after experiencing some of the other sights that Amsterdam has to offer, we slowly made our way back toward the hotel, having a bite to eat on the way. Kate’s ankle was giving some grief, so I decided to head out for a bit more of a wander for an hour just to see Amsterdam thriving on a Saturday night. The annual Light Festival is in full swing (more about that in the next blog post), so I decided to visit a couple of those sights, before heading back to the hotel to call it a night.

27
Dec

A Bubbly Christmas

By: muttler
merry heineken christmas!

merry heineken christmas!

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Well, it was a couple of days ago, since it I am behind a couple of days on the blog posts, but the sentiment is there. I hope you all had a great day.

Kate and I woke to our Christmas present being the fact we were in Amsterdam. Not a bad one hey? The question was though what would we do on Christmas day? If we were at home nothing would be open and we would probably just have to settle for finding somewhere we could have a couple of good meals. But here in Amsterdam, I would almost go as far as to say it was business as usual. The vast majority of things were open, outside of the odd museum and restaurant. So we had options!

 

kate is amsterdam

kate is amsterdam

 

... and so am i

… and so am i

 

After a slow start we decided to visit a couple more of the museums we had in mind. So off we went to Museumplein, just a couple of minutes walk away. Seemed like a lot of people had the same idea as it was buzzing. The “I AMsterdam” sign was chock full of people clambering over the top of it. Cute slogan, and they seem to be doing their marketing well here.

 

van gogh!

van gogh!

 

Outside of the Rijksmuseum, the other big one to visit is probably the Van Gogh Museum. Dedicated to a more modern master, this houses an extensive collection of his work. Sunflowers? Check. Starry Night? Check. A lot of the big ones were here as well as a myriad self-portraits (as was Van Gogh’s thing).

Seemed like a lot of other people had this idea as the museum was pretty busy, certainly the busiest we had seen anything. So we drifted along with the crowds.

 

i love this little guy

i love this little guy

 

Photos weren’t allowed in most of the museum, so again there will be a lack of pics in this part of the story. I did take one before I realised however, one of this small painting that I really dig a lot. “Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette” is an early work and not typical of the rest of his oeuvre. But something about it is fascinating. Those of you who are avid readers may recognise it from the cover of a David Sedaris book too!

The museum charts his work in a fairly chronological manner, telling his story of mental breakdown along the way. It is a sad tale (like many artists unfortunately) and really it is thanks to his brother’s wife that Van Gogh achieved the posthumous fame he did.

Some of the major works of Vincent’s appeared to be missing from the walls of the main collection, and that was because they had been moved into one of the temporary exhibition spaces in the museum. Why? Luckily for me, there was a temporary exhibition in its last weeks of Munch / Van Gogh! Score!

Munch is a favourite of mine and I have been fortunate to visit the Munch Museum in Oslo, as well as see visiting exhibitions in Melbourne and Helsinki. This was another chance to see his works in the flesh.

The exhibition was designed to draw parallels to the two artists which, when looking side by side, become quite clear. Many of the Munch paintings I had seen before, either in Oslo or in Melbourne. But it is a thrill to be greeted again by a pastel Scream, a Vampire, a Madonna, and the Dance of Life. We wandered through, and given we have museum passes, I see me popping in a agin before our time is up here in Amsterdam.

 

van gogh's self portraits got a bit wacky

van gogh’s self portraits got a bit wacky

 

On the way out we said goodbye to Donald Duck. We were allowed to take photos of this guy 🙂

Kate was up for a break, but I was still in museum mode, so I wandered into the Stedelijk Museum, otherwise known as the modern art and design museum. These kinds of museums are not really Kate’s thing, so I took the opportunity to pay it a visit.

 

van gogh

van gogh

 

Like every other modern art museum I have written about, it was a love/hate thing. I love to see some of the work of the more modern masters… Van Gogh was again present, but also the other Dutch modern figurehead, Piet Mondrian.

 

obvious mondrian

obvious mondrian

 

 

a less obvious mondrian

a less obvious mondrian

 

While everyone can pick a Mondrian from a mile away (those lines and colours are a little bit of a giveaway), it is great to see a piece of an artists work that is totally not what you expect. The windmill above was also by Mondrian and is a good example to show when people wonder if some modern artists can actually paint.

 

this was stunning

this was stunning

 

One painting that jumped out was this one by Anna Boch. The name didn’t really jump out at me, and I can’t recall having seen much of her work in other places. But this was just gorgeous. I will have to read up on my fringe impressionists by the look of it.

 

classic man ray

classic man ray

 

The rest of the gallery was the usual mix of great modern works (I LOVE this Man Ray photo, above), and many head scratching moments.

The main head scratching was when I entered two large, empty rooms. In the first, I wandered through when an old man started walking along side me, chanting in Dutch (I assume). As I kept walking, smiling at him, and when I got to the exit, he said what sounded like a title and date, as if that was the name of the piece, and then wandered off to the next unsuspecting people. Hhhmmm!

 

um... ok

um… ok

 

The next room was also large and empty, except for three people. Two were on their knees facing toward a younger girl who was VERY slowly moving about. A small crowd was transfixed by what was going on. I can’t claim to understand. On the wall was actually a card indicating a title and the date acquired. Was this the piece? I was confused (not a bad thing when visiting these places).

It was almost closing time so I wandered back to the hotel. Kate and I weren’t necessarily up for a fancy Christmas dinner, so we decided to visit another museum, but one a little less serious…

 

yes!

yes!

 

Amsterdam is known for a lot of things, some high brow, and some not so much. It was time to indulge in some of the lower-brow with a trip to the Heineken Experience! Ha! I had visited 15 years ago and remembered a kitschy trip through the Heineken history with the promise of beers at the end. While some of the exhibits had changed a bit, it was still what I remembered… a kitschy but kinda fun way to get people to not simply race to the end to start drinking.

 

cheesy photo? of course!

cheesy photo? of course!

 

heineken disco!

heineken disco!

 

As such we wandered through the exhibit, stopping at every cheesy photo stop we could. Sure we learned about the company and the beer making process, but it was the cheesiness of it that made it fun. If you want serious, there is Museumplein. But we were up for a giggle and this was alright.

 

winner!

winner!

 

We got to one point in the tour when greeted by a bartender who poured us each a beer and guided us through what apparently makes Heineken so different and special. The head, the way the bubbles float, and the colour. When a question was thrown out there about the colour, Kate answered and boo-yah! Another beer coming our way! Nice work Kate! You can see the spoils of her victory above, which ended up being my spoils given her distaste for beer. We were both winners 🙂

 

heineken_1154240549

 

heineken_1154551164

 

heinekenexperience_Photo+booth_2015_12_25 (4) copy

 

We reached a football zone where we could indulge in Heinekens sponsorship of the Champions League tournament with lots of goofball photos. Why not we said!

 

ready for a ride

ready for a ride

 

Along the way there were some other activities. Have you ever wanted to feel like you’re a beer? Of course you have! So why not jump on their pretty lame beer ride! That is being a bit harsh, as it is not really a ride, rather a little bit of an experience of being bumped around, a little wet, and shaken up. Everyone giggled.

 

so much concentration

so much concentration

 

The other was to try out your expertise at the perfect pour. Kate was not too bad, I was a little better, but neither of us could perfect it. I’m happy to leave it to the professionals.

 

extra cold!

extra cold!

 

With that we reached the end of the tour. Two beers awaited us each at the end, meaning by the time Kate got a soft drink I had an extra one. I opted to try out their “extra cold” too, which in the end was a colder, slightly less flavoursome, version of their normal beer. But tasty regardless.

 

christmas mojitos

christmas mojitos

 

Job done. 8pm, a few beers under my belt, and we had to find some dinner. Rather than wander aimlessly trying to find something that had space, we visited the Hard Rock that was just across from our hotel. You can always count on them to deliver a tasty burger and this was the case again, with my strange seasonal burger (with goats cheese and apple amongst other things) being pretty delicious. We some celebratory Magical Mystery Mojitos under our belt as well, it was a Merry Christmas all round.