Viking dumped us off the boat early Sunday morning and took us to the hotel Okaru. We went on a walking tour since we couldn’t check in until the afternoon. Our guide told us a lot about how they keep the water clean by opening some locks and flushing the canals out to the North Sea. He even scooped up a cup of water to show that it was crystal clear.
Each ring of the city crosses a canal and a century with the inner city being the oldest part of Amsterdam. The oldest houses tilt because they were built on foundations made of logs. There were so many bicycles! We were constantly warned on the ship and I was pretty sure one of us would get whacked. (Thankfully, that didn’t happen!) People own multiple bikes in case they have a flat and have to get to work or school. There weren’t any fancy bikes because they’d probably get stolen.
We heard the explanation about The Netherlands vs. Holland a few times from tour guides. The 2 regions called North and South Holland are only a part of The Netherlands. Who knew?! One thing I constantly noticed is that the Dutch people are freakishly tall! It was fun to walk through the flower markets and taste samples in the cheese shops.
We wandered around quite a bit, ate lunch and wanted to get to the hotel without walking back. We were determined to figure out the tram system. According to Rick Steves (travel guru!) you had to board a tram that had a conductor to purchase a ticket good for 24 hours. The tram number we wanted kept going by but it didn’t have a ticket window. Finally, we decided to board the next tram that had a conductor. We did and bought tickets. She then told us to get off and switch to a different number to get to our hotel. It worked!
We only had a short time to rest before heading out again for our pre-bought timed ticket entry to the Anne Frank House. It’s the only way to get in and you have to buy the tickets 60 days in advance. The tour was very moving. I read the book when I was about her age and it traumatized me. I could have been her…
Monday was museum day! We visited the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum. Both were excellent, including the audio tours that guide you to the highlights. I also like having the headphones on so I can’t hear the inane comments around me. I guess I’m a bit of an art snob! I liked that the Van Gogh museum didn’t allow photographs. There were way too many idiots trying to take selfies in the Rijksmuseum. I took only a couple of photos and mainly just enjoyed the experience.
Van Gogh’s use of paint and color were so unique. He didn’t mix colors; he placed colors next to each other to invoke the atmosphere he wanted. He put complimentary colors next to each other to increase vibrancy. A lot was known about his paintings through the letters he wrote to his brother. We had followed Van Gogh’s trail in Provence but none of his paintings were there. It was amazing to see them all in person.
We saw a nice variety of art in the Rijksmuseum. Seeing so many paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer was a special experience. The museum is huge and you could easily spend a week exploring it. We had lunch in the cafe and ran into some people we met on the cruise.
We took our last tram ride back to the hotel. In the evening we discovered that they had Uber! We met up with our friends and neighbors, Chris and Janet at the Pulitzer hotel for a lovely canal cruise on a classic wooden boat. They had been on the same river cruise, only a day behind us.
On the canal cruise we got to see most of the city of Amsterdam from a different perspective. Afterwards, we had dinner at a local Dutch restaurant. The food was wonderful but they give you such huge servings. Skip tried snert, the Dutch version of split pea soup, and Dutch stew.
We made the long journey home – Amsterdam –> Toronto –> Ft. Lauderdale. Going through customs in Toronto we were so glad to have Global Entry. We breezed through while people waited in long lines and missed their connections.
Bailey was glad to see us after such a long time at the pet sitter’s. Stay tuned for our next adventures!