After walking our legs off on the first day of our Amsterdam jaunt, we slept later than we expected to and as a result never went out for breakfast, so we ate it in our hotel, the Hotel Heemskerk, instead (that’s Mrs K in our room above). And boy, were we glad we did as it was the best breakfast I’ve ever had in Amsterdam. No, really. It was the usual continental breakfast offered by Dutch hotels, but they also had cereal and fruit salad on display with the option of scrambled eggs (with bacon) and pancakes. The quality of the food was excellent – I was worried about the food on this trip as hotel food can be notoriously mediocre and I really didn’t want to supplement that with the fried, greasy delights also on offer in Amsterdam. But, apart from some bland pancakes we ate just before we left, every meal we had was really great quality, good value and extremely tasty.
After breakfast we walked the five minutes to the Van Gogh Museum, where we sailed past the large queue that had already formed, thanks to Sabine from the Hotel Heemskerk, who sorted us out for pre-booked tickets. We even learnt how to pronounce Van Gogh properly. It’s Van Hoche, not Van Goff and certainly NEVER Van Go (American readers, please take note). I had always been a bit sniffy about the Van Gogh Museum (did you pronounce it properly in your head?) as a lot of his major work is held elsewhere in the world. But I must’ve not been looking properly on my previous visits as apart from some of the early work when Vincent was finding his feet, I found the paintings on display to be as vivid, strong and exciting as anything ‘important’ he’d created and enjoyed returning to the Van Gogh Museum more than I thought I would.
After a little pit stop in the wonderfully bonkers De Tante van m’n Tante (whose web site is equally bonkers), we went shopping again. Number One son and I left the girls at de Bijenkorkf, a large, posh department store facing Dam Square and ran off to the Prinzengragcht to visit Space Oddity, a store selling vintage toys (window above). Number One Son bought himself an old Hans Solo action figure – I eyed up a Batman robot and a wonderful Japanese robot from the sixties, but their prices made me dizzy so they remained on the shelf. Meeting up with the girls again we went on a canal ride, made all the more pleasurable by the beautiful sunshine. The Captain/Pilot even let the K kids take the wheel and I made a woman sitting behind me laugh as I put my hands together in silent prayer as Number One Son took the wheel first. But we didn’t sink, and went back to the Hotel Heemskerk for a quick rest before heading out for dinner at the Orient for a traditonal Indonesian rice tafel (rice table). Indonesian food seems to hold the same affection for the Dutch as Indian food does for us. Again, it was another lovely meal, a touch spicy for the K kids, but they liked it nonetheless.
The next day, after another wonderful breakfast, we walked to Kerkstraat, where I had another quick drool in Lambiek’s window, then we hired cycles from Mike’s Bikes Tours next door. Cycling in Amsterdam can be very hairy as no-one, apart from maybe randy tourists, seems to be interested in red lights. Motorists were quite courteous, but every bike seemed to behave as if it had something personal against you. Playing safe, we headed straight to the Vondlepark, where we completed many laps ohh-ing and ahh-ing at the houses surrounding the park and cheering loudly at the Picasso sculpture (above) we came across (OK, it was only me that was cheering). Unfortunately, Number One Son did come to grief a couple of times, but a pep talk from a passing Doctor made him feel better. Once the bikes were returned, we ate the mediocre pancakes I mentioned earlier before returning to the Hotel Heemskerk to say our sad farewells to Norman, the owner. We had a really brilliant time in Amsterdam and we’re all looking forward to a repeat visit – the Dutch are so friendly and Amsterdam is so beautiful, that you really can’t help but have a wonderful time.