Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Day in Beautiful Amsterdam

We worked two very long days on Sunday and Monday getting the fair set up (almost there!), so a day off yesterday was very welcome. Though I was tempted to sleep in, relax, give myself a manicure, and sit at a cafe in Maastricht drinking wine all afternoon, I resisted and woke up early to catch a train up to Amsterdam. When in Rome, right?

Amsterdam is about a 2 1/2 hour train ride directly from Maastricht, making it a very do-able day trip. I visited on my Tuesday day off last year as well, so I knew that it would be worth it. I definitely nodded off a few times on the train, but once I arrived, I was full of energy and ready to explore the city.

Though the trams are extremely easy to navigate, the line for tickets was kind of long, so I decided I did not need to waste fifteen of my precious minutes in Amsterdam in a line, and hit the city on foot. Not exactly the best plan, since the cobblestones can be quite treacherous and it was hovering at about 30 degrees, but I survived. And Amsterdam is one of those cities that is so beautiful to wander through, you'd miss the best parts if you didn't walk. Or at least that's what I told myself.

I began with the Anne Frank House, since I missed it last year due to time constraints. This is definitely a must-see once in your life - I was very moved by the whole experience. Climbing behind the sliding bookcase jolted you right back to when Anne and her family were hiding in the tiny spaces. My favorite was seeing the magazine pictures of movie stars that Anne had cut out and pasted to the walls of her room. It looked practically identical to the way I decorated my room as a teenager, but with a blocked off window and about 1/8 of the wall space.

I then headed up to the Van Gogh Museum, stopping at one point for a Grolsch at a cafe to rest my legs. Those cobblestones! Anyway, this is a great museum that I also visited last year. There was a Paul Gauguin exhibit that was fantastic - some really great works and a lot of emphasis on his printmaking, of course very interesting to me. I didn't check to see where the exhibit is traveling, but we can all cross our fingers that it will hit New York - I really enjoyed it. Oh, and I walked through the flower park en route - definitely one of my favorite parts of Amsterdam.

After resting my legs in the Vondelpark behind the museum (by the "I amsterdam" sign) (with a cappucino this time) I hit the ground running again and headed to the Rembrandt House, hitting the beautiful Rembrandtplein onthe way. Wow. Wow! Was so blown away! This is generally regarded as a "third day in amsterdam" activity, not one of the top visits, but for a printmaker, this is a number one must see, I can't believe I skipped it last year. Rembrandt bought a large house in the 1650's that is currently the museum. He lived in it for about ten years before going bankrupt and having to sell it - the bankruptcy papers list all of the possessions, which is how they were able to recreate the house for the museum. There were a lot of Rembrandt school (Bol, Dusart, van Ostade, etc.) paintings there, but obviously the big time paintings by Rembrandt himself are at more major museums. What they DO have though, is an almost exhaustive print display (he made about 330 prints), with many of the actual copper plates. I was blown away. Also, seeing his painting and printmaking studios, as well as the areas he used to sell his work in, was really neat. Overall, so much better than I was expecting!

At this point, it was about 4:30 and I was starving, so I found an outdoor cafe (in the sun) near the national monument that had couches for seats. Talk about heaven! I just about collapsed. I had cheese croquettes and a Witte bier, read a few of Salinger's Nine Stories (Esme and Pretty Mouth, if you're interested) and then headed back to central station for a train back to Maastricht. Whew!

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