Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day 20 - fatigue, Het Sheepvaartmuseum, Arcadi Volodos at the Concertgebouw

Sunday 15th April 2012
Friday and Saturday nights are a problem here at the Hotel Fita.  After Friday night our hosts said to ring them if we got more noise.  So ring them we did.  Action was taken, but any reduction in noise outside the square was only temporary.  One considerate fellow was wandering around blowing a horn.  We are very tired. More tired than we should be.  Today was also slated as an “off” day. Some things we’d like to do but an expectation of just do nothing if that’s what we feel like.  We drag ourselves to breakfast at the last minute.  Best pastries all gone.  My dutch pancake is a bit burnt today. Sigh.
So, what to do. I’m anxious to at least get another day of blog completed. I laze around doing that while hubby showers.. and then some…
We decide that we will go through the motions and walk around past the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum so that we can freak out about the queues and go and do a canal cruise instead.  Yep. Check out the queue at the Van Gogh Museum. It won’t all fit in the photo. There’s about 20% out of shot. Possibly we could enter on our Iamsterdam card without the queue, but we're a bit over it and couldn't be bothered checking today. 
There’s an arctic breeze blowing. Man it’s cold.  We don our raingear and that helps as we stand and jiggle about at the bus stop.  There’s about 10 of us waiting for the tram.  Tourists are very obvious in Amsterdam. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere else where it was so clear when you are surrounded by foreign visitors. We’ve got another international crowd at the tram stop.
It’s a short trip in to Dam Square. Our intention is to take the Holland International canal cruise… but I really want to go to the maritime museum and I’d rather take the boat round there and get off.  I persuade hubby that we should just get the canal bus that is pulling in.  Eventually he agrees and we hand over our €22 pp.  With this we can ride the boats around the canals over three different routes.  Our first ride is on the green route and it takes us out onto the Ij breifly before turning up along a route we’ve walked a few times.  We figure that at this time of year, the view at street level is much better. Hmm.  But we did enjoy seeing the new Eye film museum.
It’s nearly lunch time and we have failed to realize that the boat will put up at the Rijksmuseum stop for the captain to have lunch. Everyone out.  Haha. Ah, we’re back home. Hmm.  I promise to do everything hubby suggests from now on. He wanted to just see how we liked the canal cruising on the free one with the Iamsterdam card.  Oh well. We need some lunch ourselves I suppose.  Hubby is leading the way again.  “The pancake place we saw from the canal is just down there.”  He can’t remember whether this is the one our host said to go to or to avoid.  Walking along there’s some pretty views of upmarket houses. Fingers are extracted from their hiding place up my coat sleeve long enough to press the shutter button. 
We’ve not gone too far when I notice that the Vondelpark is just across the street.  “This way” I say.  I want to have just a quick look at the Vondelpark.  Inside the gates there is a long broad and fairly busy path.  Wintery gardens border the park on either side.  The gates to the park are beautiful.  Yep. That’s enough of a reccie for me today.
From here we can see the pancake place better. Let’s get inside.  I could use a comfort stop.  We approach the entry. There’s a sign on the door.  There are no toilets at this place.  Sigh.  Oh well warmth and food is the more urgent requirement anyway.  We head in.  I didn’t note the name, but it’s hard to mistake this place. You just walk down the street from the canal boat stops and it’s very old fashioned looking.  Comes across as though it’s been sitting in this park selling pannenkoeken and poffertjes for a hundred or more years. It’s busy but they have a booth for us just vacated and soon to be cleared. We breath a sigh of relief as we step into the cosy interior.  It’s good to be inside today.  We don’t have any dinner plans tonight and I had been planning a substantial lunch.  We resolve to try three options.  Poffertjes, a bacon and cheese pancake and an apple pancake.  To our surprise the bacon and cheese pancake is the best of the three here.  The poffertjes are very different to the ones at home that you get at fairs or that you make yourself following the recipes on the internet.  All are much bigger and much more substantial than they look.
In the course of having lunch we miss one boat but are back on board for the next set.  At the main intersection points the boats come in clusters. First the red line, then the green, then the blue, 5 minutes apart.  Once you get this pattern it’s easier to plan your day.  We decide that we will hop the red line boat and go check out de Oude Kerk (Old church), then change to the blue and go around for a quick look at the .  We’ve read the history and de Oude Kerk is very important through a range of historical events.  We take a new route down a canal we haven’t walked along this time and the cruising experience is more enjoyable.  Phew.  Ah. We had considered bring our architecture guide with us, but decided it was a bit heavy. BAD DECISION. :o(   it would have been handy just sitting wandering down the canals doing an relaxing self guided architecture tour.  The commentary on the boats points out lots of stuff about the various houses and other buildings, but it’s in several different languages and on auto play so it isn’t always easy… well it isn’t always easy when you’re blinking exhausted from insufficient sleep – to match comments to buildings.  None the less it is pleasant and warm sitting here cruising a long.  We dread being out in the cold.  I always find it so much harder to cope with the cold (or heat for that matter) when I’m too tired.  It’s bitterly cold.  I suggest we just get back on the blue line boat now.  We sigh with relief to be back in the warm glasshouse environment of the boat.
The blue line takes us back out into the Ij.  Ij is pronounced “eye”.  I find this outer blue line route very interesting.  Amsterdam really does seem to be adventurous with, and proud of, its architecture.  This was a surprise to me as the guide books don’t really emphasise that.  It’s been one of my favourite things here.
We round a corner and the East Indiaman Amsterdam comes into view. WOW! It’s huge.  Over to the right there’s a long row of heritage vessels.  Fabulous collection.  I turn to hubby “Isn’t this great! This is why I wanted to come here! We hop of the boat. Brrrr.  I nearly decide to get straight back on when I see what I think might be a queue at the door of the museum… nah.. just a group loitering. Phew.  We walk briskly over to get inside, but not so briskly I can’t try to snap a quick photo of the view down the harbour.  I like this part of the city.
I’ve been curious to see the new glass roof here.  It’s got a heavier presence than the roof at the British Museum, but the intersections of each bar have a coloured light. These lights change colours.  The best effect is the geometry though.
Where are the facilities?  We study the museum floorplan. Down. That’s definitely the priority just now.  Down the stairs we enter a dungeon like environment.  Roughly textured bricks, arching ancient ceilings.  What a fabulous space.  This is wonderful.  There’s lots of people coming and going. I draw the line at taking a photograph in the toilets.  People would (justifiably) think I am very weird.  So I will just say that the toilets at the Sheepvaartmuseum are really great. Curved glass and brick.  Really quite a stand out facility.  We meet up in the unisex corridor and take a little wander, in no hurry to go upstairs.  There’s nothing to see. Just the ambience of the tunnels to enjoy.  While he’s been waiting for me hubby has found a lift.  My knee has been doing odd things so I’m in no hurry for lots of stairs today.  We hop into the lift. It’s manually operated but despite my growing alarm as it doesn’t behave in the manner we are used to. Were’s the button to open the doors?  OMG are we stuck in here?  Hubby figures it out.  You push on the door. Voila it opens! A modern marvel. :o) We alight back up the courtyard level.
There is no need to agonise about what to do first. I head straight for the door outside and join the back of the queue to explore the Amsterdam East Indiaman.  Queue is not so bad.  The pay off is worth it.  We have 20 mins in the cold to observe the people manning the entrance to the ship.  They are counting exits of people on a little hand operated counting divice then letting people in to replace them.  The Amsterdam is fantastic.  Huge.  Really very very large. We’re used to the tiny little vessels like the Endeavour that are significant in Australia’s history and they surprise you with how small they actually are. Not the case with the Amsterdam.  We were a little disappointed when the signs in the captains sleeping area told us that they would originally have had more head room and the lower decks less, but the people building this reproduction decided to give the lower decks a bit more.  I guess they figured that as it was for public display there might be less risk to visitors belting their heads that way.  None the less we both enjoy crawling all over this golden age supertanker very much indeed and spend about 40 mins on it. It is awesome.
Not a lot of time left when we’re through with the Amsterdam, but enough time to check out at least one of the other areas.  We ride the lift to the 1st floor.  Hmm. Back in the lift to the 2nd floor where we find an exhibition of model ships and some awesome modern stained glass with a shipping theme.  Beautiful. I’m so glad we came here.  In another room there is a big relief model of the Amsterdam docks and huge screens showing modern dock activity.  How nice to see that this modern industry is still such a source of pride.  I read over the statistics and other information about the operation of the modern port facilities with interest.  Then it’s really time to head back downstairs. 
In the courtyard the sun has broken through and the roof is throwing awesome patterns on the walls.
 Ten to 5 now.  The museum is closing in ten minutes anyway and there’s a canal boat at 5 past 5. I’m worried all the patrons from the museum will leave and be queueing for the canal hopper so we head back over to the pier, but stop to take a few photos along the way. I’m very glad we came over here and also that we visited Het Sheepvaartmuseum.
The pleasure of slipping down into the warmth of the canal boat is unabated as we board for our final leg of exploring Amsterdam on the water.  I’m quite excited to be heading up past the windmill.  There’s more modern architecture along the canal as well.  I’m sure we’ll find some of these in the guide we bought.  “Check that one out! It looks like it’s got spider eyes”.   Yeah, chuckles hubby.. did you see that one?”  It’s got an artistic curve draping down over the front of the building. A piece of modern sculpture. We’ve taken a seat in the booth facing forward. I go to take a photo and realize only the other seat in front of us (which is empty mind you) has the opening window for photos.  I couldn’t be bothered moving.  Lack of sleep is impacting again.  We’re just relaxing.  Hubby puts his head down and goes to sleep. I rest my head on my hand and doze a little here and there but never actually go to sleep.  I consider whether I should just let hubby sleep rather than get off at the Rijksmuseum to go home.  In the end it’s a moot point. He wakes and in any case this bought is finishing at Rijksmuseum.  This area has proven to be a convenient base.  If only we could sleep.
We have a half hour or so to rest before we head out to find some dinner.  I’m feeling rather unwell. Just tired.  Not to tired to notice that the light is good for a photo of the sign that is repeated on the pavement all the way along this section of the street.
 Food will probably revive me. It usually does.  We choose to head to Bouf. Very close to the Concertgebouw. Nice service and my meal there on our first night was delicious.  I’m too tired to be adventurous. I’ll have the same this time.  It’s a lovely stand alone meal with the chicken and a good range of seasonal veges.  Totally delicious. Our waitress recognizes us from the other day and seems more relaxed dealing with us.  Not that there was any problem the other day. Just the subtle difference that familiarity brings.
The kitchen has advised that in the time, we should just have mains. Good advice. We’re done in plenty of time to get over, pick up our tickets and find our seats without rushing.  The Concertgebouw is a beautiful performance hall. Very tasteful. Really well maintained.  There’s a good crowd tonight. Not quite a sell out, you could still have got good seats at the last minute judging by the empty seats.  There’s a lengthy announcement only in Dutch.  Then the performer comes down the stairs to an enthusiastic welcome.  Between pieces he gets up and heads back up the stairs. Then he comes back down and plays another piece.  In this way we get through the formal program and then we enter the ritual of encores.  We actually enjoyed the encores more than the programmed pieces.  Marvellous. The acoustics are fabulous as the Concertgebouw is well known for. Great evening. A short walk home. Sleep. Please god let us sleep. 

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