A Day in Amsterdam – Art and Nia and Canals

Our first—and only—full day in Amsterdam dawned wet and cold and rainy. So we felt totally at home! I was also very glad that at the last minute I threw a light rain jacket into my luggage.

For breakfast, I enjoyed the most amazing plate of scrambled eggs (probably contained a pound of butter, but hey, I’m on holiday). Then, undaunted by weather and armed with the biggest multi-colour umbrella I’ve ever seen, we set off from Hotel Fita to visit the Reiksmuseum. I had not been there since 1970 on my trip to Amsterdam with Mom when I was 14. So I was understandably excited. Since it was still early, we had the entire museum to ourselves. By the time we left, the tour groups were streaming in.

The Reiksmuseum is technically closed for renovation so what we saw was the “Masterpieces of the Reiksmuseum” AKA all the biggies – the Vermeers, the Franz Hals, and a good sprinkling of Rembrandts including the Night Watch. It’s just as big as I remembered although I was surprised to read that it had been chopped to fit a specific space. I’m not sure if Rembrandt approved – I rather think not! There is a smaller version of the painting that Rembrandt painted for another space and you could see how the proportions were much better than the chopped version. Still, it’s a pretty darn good painting.

I do love a good stroll through rooms full of Old Masters. There is something very calming about all those faces and fine brush strokes. The collection also included some pretty amazing ceramics, a massive model of an old ship, lots of silverware, and various other objects d’art. A great hour (or two).

After the Reiksmuseum, we braved the elements again (it was REALLY pouring!) and wandered the soggy streets of Amsterdam looking for a hat for Gregg.  An impossible task – a) because there were very few hats for sale and b) because Gregg’s head doesn’t fit any of the hats we did see. Needless to say, we gave up and had lunch in a lovely little chi chi kind of place with amazing salads at great prices.

I must say that I enjoy paying the price that is on the menu without the addition of 12% HST and 15% tax! The menu prices are about the same as home (maybe a bit less) but the overall bill is MUCH less without the extra 27%. And so far the food has been wonderful. I’m writing this 11 days after Amsterdam so I’m including France, Spain and Portugal.

We spent much of the afternoon resting at the hotel before venturing out again for more adventures. Gregg took himself off to the Van Gogh museum and I took the tram across Amsterdam to a nice-looking residential area for a Nia class. I was early and so had a good 6 euro bowl of soup at a neighborhood Indonesian restaurant. I was probably the only foreigner but all the wait staff spoke English. We found it pretty tough to even say thank you in Dutch. Everyone spoke English!

My Nia class with Wilma Notermans was great fun. The class was small but enthusiastic. Wilma asked me to teach a song (Mulatica Mia from Aya if any Niaistas are reading this!). I picked something I didn’t need to think about. Thank goodness for Ipods.

Here’s a nice picture of Wilma and me after class. It was great to dance after sitting on a plane the day before. I only wish I could still be dancing 11 days later (but more on that later).

Wilma Notermans and me after Wilma’s great Nia class in Amsterdam

After class I met Gregg near our hotel and we wandered around the canals enjoying the Amsterdam night life. I haven’t been to Amsterdam all that often in the past several years – really only 4 times in total (five including this one). The last time I came to Amsterdam, Julia was only 12 or so and so we didn’t do a lot of wandering about at night. I was reminded more of the time I came to Amsterdam as a sweet young thing of 18 – my very first trip alone, orange backpack with Canadian flag on my back and traveler’s cheques in my money belt. Ahh – those were the days! I remembered drinking my very first Dutch beer (Heineken of course) and walking along floodlit canals with two guys from Liverpool (they sounded like the Beatles to me!) and a girl from Florida.

So 40 years later (well, almost), Amsterdam is still hopping but doesn’t seem quite as exciting as when I first saw it at 18 fresh from an unblemished youth in Kerrisdale.

By the time we staggered back to the hotel around 11, we dropped into bed and slept like the dead. Good thing the beds are so comfy!

Next morning, the rain was coming down in torrents – so much so that the breakfast room at the hotel was flooded with a good six inches of water. The poor hotel guys were going crazy trying to mop up the mess while guests were coming in for their breakfasts and we were up at reception waiting for our bill. I felt bad that we had to take the guy away from his bailing to do up our bill but we had a train to catch to Paris!

So through the sheets of rain, the taxi splashed to the central station. Half an hour later we were on the train to Paris and the next phase of the adventure.

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