For most of the time spent in Amsterdam, we took the tram. Why? It is very convenient, the main stop lies just outside our hotel which is next to Amsterdam Centraal. With the transport card given by the iAmsterdam purchase, we could travel anywhere on the tram for a total of 48 hours starting from the time that we ‘tap’ the machine located on the tram.
Tip: Remember to ‘tap’ out too.
You wait all day for one, and then 3 come along at once
The only problem we had with the trams were with the punctuality. It was like the joke about London buses — you wait all day for one, and then 3 come along at once. I think the longest that we waited was about 20 minutes.
Broodje Bert (Singel 321)
For once, we had an early night. The ample rest allowed us to wake up early for today’s itinerary. Surprisingly, we managed to complete our itinerary for Amsterdam Day 1, although we didn’t quite managed to get into Rembrandthuis on time.
The nearest tram stop is Spui. The place was recommended by a Spotter on Spotted By Locals. We were there early, they only open at 8am. “What should we do?” asked the wife. “Easy. Let us take some photos.” After 15 minutes of looking around the immediate vicinity, we saw the owner turning the ‘Closed’ sign over, so that it says ‘Open’.
“Yay! That is our cue!”
Broodje stands for sandwich in Dutch if I am not mistaken. They have a lot of choices even for a simple breakfast, at last count, maybe around 15-20 of them. For the uninitiated (us), those under Special Sandwiches are served cold, which is quite uncommon for us. Whereas for the ‘hot’ ones — Melted Sandwiches.
Special sandwiches are served cold. Melted sandwiches — hot
We ordered a Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato and a Ham-Cheese-Tomato. Yes, the sandwiches are named after their basic ingredients. Sat facing the front window with clear view of the goings-on outside. 8 o’clock on a Tuesday morning, the traffic was mostly people going to work. Some were doing groceries. 10 minutes later, our sandwiches arrived. It was deliciously simple. The key ingredient — freshness.
The breakfast came to €15 for the sandwiches and 2 cups of hot chocolate. Definitely the place to start your day!
Since it was a bit early for museum hopping, we took the #2 tram to Van Baerlestraat. A stroll was still required among the shops before arriving at Vondelpark. The difference between this park and the ones we saw in Paris was the amount of cyclists here. The ‘ding’ of the cyclists’ bells filled the air as they weave their way in between the joggers and other cyclists.
Tip: Walk underneath the overhead bridge of Van Baerlestraat, staring across at each other is the statue of a boy and a girl.
“This park is huge!” exclaimed the wife.
“Yes. And we are just standing at one of the entrance, taking photos of the place.”
The presence of this park and the ones in Paris were products of good town planning which is very much lacking from the place I come from. Nobody gives a damn about cutting down trees or try to preserve a piece of greenery in the middle of a town or a city.
Walking back to where we came, our next destination is the place known as Museumplein. This large patch of grass is home to a few museums, on one end is the famous Concertgebouw, one of the world’s famous concert halls with about 900 concerts a year. Straddling the other end, is the Rijksmuseum, which is still under construction, although there is a temporary exhibit on show.
Isn’t this the place where the iAmsterdam logo can be found?
“Isn’t this the place where the iAmsterdam logo can be found?” asked the wife. “Yes, of course. I think there are a few more scattered around Amsterdam.”
Van Gogh Museum
The queue was already a block long when we arrived at the Van Gogh Museum. There were a few touts selling their tours of the museum but we were not interested. For those with the iAmsterdam card, the queue is slightly shorter but still quite a significant amount of people, since most tour groups uses this lane as well.
You can get the tickets at the Diamond Museum across the street
Tip: If you don’t have the iAmsterdam card or the Museumkaart, you can get the tickets at the Diamond Museum across the street. Surprisingly, quite a fair number of tourists knew about this. There was also a queue outside the Diamond Museum, albeit a shorter one.
Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed and you are supposed to check in your bags at the cloakroom.
Touring the Museum
The tour begins on the first floor. You can get the audioguide or you can just browse through at your own pace. The first floor is about his life and his style of drawings. Remember to walk clockwise, to view the change in his drawing methods, from the time in the Netherlands, right up to the time when he was at Arles.
Unfortunately, the education I received back home didn’t prepare me enough for the museum. I could only recognize a few of the famous paintings. His paintings finally became colourful by the time he reached Paris. Made famous by his self-portraits, namely Self-Portrait with Straw Hat and Self-Portrait with Gray Felt Hat.
Find the paintings in which he signed off as V.G. Example: Sunflowers (on the vase)
Tip: Try to find the paintings in which he signed off with V.G. This means he was proud of it. “Show me an example,” demanded the wife. “You’re looking at it. There. Right on the vase in the famous painting — Sunflowers.”
There are only about 200 paintings by Van Gogh here at the museum. Some are loaned out to other museums from time to time. One of the floors higher up is dedicated to a few of his friends, those that influenced him from time to time.
All in all, the museum probably takes an hour or so to finish.
(to be continued)