Thursday, December 07, 2017

Final Day in Amsterdam Museums and Bicycles

Here we are at the end of another European travel experience. I should begin by noting that booking an extra day or two at the beginning and end of your cruise is generally a win win if your finances can afford it. On the front end you are protecting against airline delays that might cause you to miss your boat. Second, an on time arrival gives you time to decompress from a long flight or to do some extra touring before you board your ship.  A day or two at the end allows for some extra sightseeing at your destination port plus a more relaxed trip to the airport for your flight home.

Our final day in Amsterdam started with a 9:00 AM entry ticket to the ultra-modern Van Gogh Museum.

There we re-visited the largest repository of Van Gogh paintings in the world.  They range from early drawings like this

to more familiar and highly colored work from his later periods.

A little after noon we left the museum and walked to the Amsterdam flat of some friends from our home town who were on an Associated Colleges of the Midwest  assignment during the fall semester.  They were living at the time in a long thin apartment that crawled along a third floor and was accessed by the ground floor entrance you can just see in the lower right of the photo below.    We had a typical Dutch repast with cheeses, sausage, crackers, bread, and veggies.  Oh, and did I mention wine.

Lots of good conversation about the benefits and challenges of living in a foreign land.

We didn't get back to our hotel until late afternoon and as we walked back from the tram stop along a major bike path, it did occur to me that I had not really commented on the bicycle bastion of the civilized world.  (Though Copenhagen may give Amsterdam a run for its money.)   Bicycles in the Netherlands come in infinite numbers and in all sizes and shapes.

Many have a rear slot for an extra rider.

Some prioritize infant comfort up front.

Then again it doesn't have to be an infant.


Yet when all is done, it is just the vast numbers of them that you remember.

Always be alert; they do not stop for pedestrians until they hit you. Our evening was completed by a nice dinner at a restaurant in one of the streets near the railroad station.

Early tomorrow morning we fly to Helsinki to spend some time with our son and his family who live there.

I hope you have enjoyed these posts that chronicle our trip down the Rhine. . If you have not done a cruise perhaps it will whet your appetite to try one.  If you have done this one, perhaps the daily posts will bring back some good memories.  You might also enjoy looking at my posts dealing with our Danube cruise from Budapest to Prague in 2015.  You can find those posts in the listings along the right side of the blog.

 Good night and a last look at Amsterdam as seen from our hotel window.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Rhine Cruise Day 8 Out of Dodge and into the Amsterdam Movenpick

The morning arrived.  We packed our PJ's and set our bags outside the door.  Then we headed upstairs for breakfast. Exiting the dining room we stopped at the cruise desk to check on any last minute bills.  All clear. 
The Movenpick Hotel, where we were booked for the next two nights. was perfectly visible from our ship. Promptly at 9:30 AM we boarded a coach for the three minute ride to the hotel.

At the check-in desk, of course, we were politely informed that no rooms were ready at that hour.  Luckily we knew the drill. No sense to kill the day sitting in the lobby waiting for a room to clear, so you check your bags and  get on with planning some more sightseeing. The hotel concierge desk came through immediately.  In about thirty minutes we had our bags checked, a public transport ticket, directions to the Rijksmuseum, and reservations for the next day to visit the Van Gogh Museum.  The No. 2 tram at the railway station would deposit us almost right to the door of the Riksmuseum.and off we went.

It had been some years since we had been there and we spent a delightful morning,  culminating with a tasty lunch in the museum cafe. Refreshed we then did some more gallery meandering. Old masters abound here in one of the finest galleries in all of Europe.

Some familiar from countless reproductions like Vermeer's Milkmaid

and some just plain delightful to look at.

While we were perusing this fine period pair,  I looked over my shoulder and 

there was a modern photoshoot going on near Rembrandt's famous Night Watch.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the hotel. Our room was waiting and our bags set just inside the door.  For an extra surprise we had not been there five minutes when the door opened and a couple waltzed in with their luggage. It seems they had just been assigned the same room. Lukily we were not in a state of dishabille and an emergency call sent the encroaching couple back down to the front desk to straighten things out. A few minutes later I decided I'd better go down personally and see that all was well. I stepped out of the room and for some reason thought I'd better try the door from the outside.  Yup, our original key card had stopped working. Leaving the wife on guard  I  headed for the elevator and quickly was able to get two new cards and a nice apology. With that I returned to the room. It was on the fifteenth floor and had a gorgeous view of the whole harbor and several parts of the city

 including our cruise ship that was still parked in its slip not far away and now loading up for a new trip upstream this time. .

River cruisers were not the only vessels in our view. These buggers are really big

Even bigger when you see them from the water level.

Total relaxation at last.  We settled for a nice dinner in the hotel dining room rather than trekking back downtown.

More Amsterdam tomorrow.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Rhine Cruise Day 7--Arrival in Amsterdam

By the morning of the seventh day the great god Avalon had created the world.  Oops, wrong book.  Let's adjust that to say that on the 7th morning Avalon's Tranquility II was safely birthed in Amsterdam for the formal day of our cruise.

It was grey and spitting rain as we proceeded down the quay to some smaller canal boats.They were covered so the rain was not an immediate issue,

 but photography through and amongst the dribbles produced some interesting effects.

Although the cloudy skies continued, shortly the rain diminished and the Amsterdam we remembered from our previous visits began to appear on all sides. Stately three and four story period buildings line the canals. Almost all are finely detailed and well kept.

We  motored  too fast past the famous Anne Frank House. All I got was a view of the canal. I hope you'll accept as a substitute two photos from our first visit to the house in 1963. At that time you just sort of walked in and wandered around; now it is a premier attraction that  needs reservations if you do not wish to wait in a long line.

We disembarked from our canal boat at a little dock near the Diamond Showrooms. We then had a choice to return by coach to the ship or walk with our guide. Since the rain had stopped we opted for the stroll and it did give us a better chance to know the city better.     

Our guide was eager to point out that when on the ground rather than the water you can stop a bit and savor the small scenes of local life. I like this shot because it does seem to capture the pace of  social interaction in so much of Europe.  The open air, good company, a cafe, and a beer,  Proast!

  We also got some insight into the liberal social scene in the Netherlands..

On a more serious note, our guide was able to direct our attention to  many of the small plaques scattered about  the cobblestones that reminded us of those who did not survive the Nazi extermination of the Jews. 

We walked by the painter Rembrandt's house.  Wish we'd had time to enter. Maybe tomorrow. 

One of our last stops before getting back to the ship was at Dam Square--the proverbial heart of Amsterdam.  It is the site of the country's main monument to World War II

On one side of the square is the Royal Palace with its high cupola where rich citizens could watch for the many ships entering and leaving the harbor. The Palace dates to the 17th century. It was once occupied by Louis Napoleon brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was reclaimed for the Dutch monarchy in the 19th century.

                     At the very top of the tower is  the symbol of of the city--a sailing ship in all its glory.

From there just a short walk back to the ship and a hurried lunch as we were scheduled to take a coach tour  out to the countryside to see some operating windmills.  Unfortunately it started with a double whammy.   A few more squalls moved in and that was followed by a dead calm.  The mills were elegant, but no wind no turn.

Inside this mill  we had a lecture on how they were using it today to grind pigments for artist's paints rather than for grain.

Sorry still no wind. The massive stones were not turning.   We headed back from the mills to see some of the other buildings in the  historical village called  Zaanse Schans,  There was a nice street of restored farm cottages. 


And not far along was the sign for that place no good historic Dutch village can be without--a Klompenmakerij  or a wooden shoe factory. 

  Almost immediately my wife and I we were reminded of our teaching stint at Hope College in good old Holland, Michigan some fifty years ago where Klompen dancing, wearing wooden shoes, and sweeping the streets were a part of the yearly Tulip Festival. The entrance to the factory took you first through a narrow hallway museum that showed  you various types of wooden shoes through history.

They even had a sequined version made specially for Michael Jackson

We rounded a corner and in the little factory proper we saw more sample shoes and the machinery used to make them.  Our young docent fastened some semi-formed blanks onto the old machines and flipped a switch.  

In a twinkling amid flying wood chips there appeared a wearable shoe.

          Today, the finished product is sanded smooth, painted, and decorated for the tourist trade.

By the time we fought our way out of the crowded  souvenir shop that took up the rest o the building, we were ready to head back to the parking lot and our coach. Had the weather been better this might have been a more satisfying excursion. It was pretty and the houses had charm, yet when all was said and done it didn't quite make it as an authentic trip into the countryside. So be warned that extra trips off your cruise ship are pricey and may be focused on getting more of your money through shopping than on their educational value.

Wait a minute.  A bit of a breeze has come up.  The mills are turning.  All is forgiven.

Back aboard we still had work to do. For the first time in seven days we had to get our suitcases packed.  They were to be picked up for transfer to our extra day hotel at  9:00AM  the following morning..

 Luckily it was a fine dinner with plenty of talk about the good times of the trip with a number of the folks that we had met during the week. Needless to say the wine flowed freely.  Too freely probably as I didn't seem to have taken any pictures.

Good night!  Watch!

Sorry had to sneak in a little inside joke.  Rembrandt now and forever.  More tomorrow.