Then I paint my dreams

Will travel for tulips – Days 4 & 7 combined – SO. Much. Art.

I dream of painting, and then I paint my dreams – Van Gogh

The Rijksmuseum and Museumplein were so easily accessible by tram. In fact, you could stay most places in the city and be within reach of a tram line. Many of them originate from Centraal Station and travel throughout the city. If not a tram, then a bus would just as easily do it. Or, if you want firmer calves, rent a bike. Just don’t be a crazy person who doesn’t know where the brakes are on it.

The Museumplein held three huge museums – the Rijksmuseum (get your fill of Dutch classic painters like Vermeer and Rembrandt), Van Gogh Museum (filled with … Van Gogh, sometimes in possession of his ear and sometimes not), and the Stedelijk Museum (modern, very modern, art like Pollock, Calder, Chagall, Kandinsky, and featured newer artists). The Van Gogh and Stedelijk Museums were included with the I AMsterdam card, but you do need to queue in the “I don’t have tickets yet” line. The Stedelijk shouldn’t be a problem in terms of queueing – I went here in lieu of the two and a half hour wait for the Van Gogh Museum, and by the time I’d gone through there and had lunch, the wait was about a half hour to forty-five minutes. Much better!

The Rijksmuseum, however, wasn’t included in the card, but it’s worth it to see the large collection of Dutch masters. This is the home of The MilkmaidWoman Reading a Letter, Night WatchThe Merry Fiddler, Delftware, and multitudinous other paintings, sketches, sculptures, furniture, armory, and loads of other fine goodies. It’s nearly impossible to miss The Battle of Waterloo, which takes up a massive space on a wall. Sit there and contemplate the minute details of the huge canvas by availing yourself of one of the small guides. It was worth a longer study just to understand all the pieces and how they fit. Of course, there is a Van Gogh self-portrait and some fantastical still-lifes. Check out the nearly iridescent asparagus and also the cheese composition that is the best advertisement for Dutch cheese if I ever saw one. The Rijksmuseum should be taken in slowly and savoured like a sip of good Scotch. Bonus: You can take pictures inside, which is a privilege you don’t get in all places.

On another day, I visited the Van Gogh Museum, which, if you’re a post-impressionist fan and want to see more canvases than the Starry Night poster in your uni dorm room, this was the place to do that. Between the IrisesSunflowersSelf-portraitsAlmond Blossoms, The Bedroom, Wheatfield with Crows, and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (an odd favourite of mine but no less beautifully done), I got a Van Gogh fix so strong I had to resist picking up the “ear” key chain in the gift shop. I stuck to a more conservative iPhone case with the Almond Blossoms on it. Photography wasn’t allowed here, but if you’re craving a pic of Sunflowers, there’s a copy by the gift shop you can take a picture of and pass it off as the real deal – much like Klimt’s The Kiss in Vienna.

A worthy visit on the Museumplein was the Stedelijk Museum – all modern art, all the time. After Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh, it was a crazy departure from the reality on some of the canvases. I got the Pollack painting of the two flowers – not too much to worry about there. But some other exhibits … I could have looked at the canvases like Ferris Bueller looked at A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute and still had no idea what it was all about. I’m a believer in trying out new art, new music, and new novels, but I’m still a sucker for the classics. Can’t help it. Photography is allowed.

Art … in Amsterdam, it’s hard not to be sucked into all the amazing works. I could go for a vase of those irises anyday.

I AMsterdam sign and Rijksmuseum

Since I’d spent an entire afternoon exploring the Western Canal Ring, the Southern Canal Ring had to be another afternoon.

After a long morning in the Rijksmuseum and then a hearty Dutch pancake lunch (on a plate the size of T-rex’s head … with apples and syrup and optional powdered sugar), I ventured out into the southern hook of the famous canals.

First of all, it’s almost compulsory to take some kind of selfie/photograph at the I AMsterdam statue on the Museumplein. It’s pretty popular and could be difficult to fit all the letters in as people stand all over it. No worries – eventually you’ll catch a good time to take the elusive picture.

In my quest to discover to this part of the city, I ended up a little distracted at the Bloemenmarkt, the lovely flower market on the canal. It’s hard not to imagine a garden bursting full of fringed, sunset-muted and sensationally bright tulips when perusing the pictures of sacks of bulbs. In addition to tulips, there were varieties of other flowers as well, and I chose a few types that *might* survive the intense subtropical heat and humidity of Hong Kong. I wanted to brighten up my deck planters but had no idea if anything would grow and thrive there. Since then, the bulbs have popped up and grown, but heaven knows if they’ll have flowers after this horridly wet and hot summer.

If flowers weren’t distracting enough, I found a cheese shop. Henri Willig was a chain cheese joint, but the samples were enough to send me home with “extra” mature cheese and truffle cheese. They were smallish wheels, but the weight was pretty substantial in my suitcase. Oh, and next door (or down a few shops?) was a vintage map and poster shop. Yep, found some really great B&W prints to add to my travel collection. If I ever actually put it up. I have finally put all my art in frames, but I lack the commitment to hang them up. That, and walls in China are made of freakishly hard concrete that is impossible to drill through.

Laden with more shopping than I’d anticipated, I continued on the southern route, finding new views and new landscapes. There were delights to behold on this section as well – the pretty Mint Tower, which is appropriately called that due to its minty green steeple, and the old world Hotel Europa. A quick roam in this area revealed more churches and churchyards with beautiful exteriors and artwork. Finally, I ended up at the curve of the Amstel River, which shows off beautiful locks and old lift bridges. The views toward the Stopera were incomparable.

I ended a sunny, blue-skied day with drinks at the lockmaster’s house on the river. Cafe de Sluyswacht was a little tilted thanks to land settling (and not thanks to drinking) but it’s the perfect spot to watch the day fade away and check out the boats coming up and down the canal. Highly recommended if you need a place to kick up your tired feet and enjoy a crisp beer either inside the historical lockmaster house (1695!) or on the deck.


Cafe de Sluyswacht on a fine afternoon

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