Museum Day in Amsterdam

Van Gogh self-portraits
Van Gogh self-portraits

Since the weather was a bit “iffy” with more possible rain, I headed out fairly early in hopes of beating some of the crowds at the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum.  Both trams 2 and 5 head there from Leidseplein, so easy to get there. I arrived about 9:30, and there was virtually no line. Perfect. The museum is massive with the collection laid out by year and floor:

  • 0: Special collections and 1100-1600
  • 1: 1800 – 1900
  • 2: 1650 – 1700
  • 3: 1900 – 1950

One thing you can say about the Dutch Masters – they liked to work BIG. Rembrandt’s Night Watch is large. It is also much darker than I anticipated. The William Rex room contained a fascinating replica of a ship and, of course, I was drawn to the library. I did not get as “lost” in this museum as I did in the Prada in Madrid. I’m not really sure why. Maybe I’m still a little groggy from jet lag. The building is beautiful with vaulted ceilings in the Great Hall. Or maybe I prefer El Greco or the Italians. I did like the Italian room a lot, so that may be the reason.

When I left, the line was very long – and confusing.  I’m not sure how they were sorting people out, but there did seem to be some sort of order to the madness. The weather was still dry, but cloudy and cold, so I continued to experience the museums of Museumplein by going to the Van Gogh Museum.  This one has also been renovated, although one part of it is still not open.

While it was just a short walk to the museum and it was before noon, the lines were formed here as well. There were several people helping to get you in the correct line, depending on if you had a pass, e-ticket, I Amsterdam Card, or needed to buy a ticket. As people left the museum, more were allowed in. I think I may have been in line for 20 minutes, so really not so bad. Once in, you had to go through a security check – something that did not happen at the Riiksmuseum.

They re-opened this museum with a special showing depicting Van Gogh’s development and sources of inspiration called Van Gogh at Work. I kept thinking that my friend Lydia would really enjoy seeing this progression. There was one room where two paintings displayed side-by-side showed the difference in how he captured the lighting of water when he painted at the seashore and in the studio. The one done in location had bits of sand added to the paint, giving it an added texture and depth. The light seems to catch the grains of sand and make it sparkle. The second one showed boats on the shore, but the texture was not as rich. I was fascinated by this. There was one section devoted to the artists and their subjects that inspired Van Gogh – and now we get to some of my favorites such as Paul Gaugin and Manet. We all know Van Gogh’s many self-portraits, but he also requested some of his friends to do their own – with some interesting outcomes! I loved this exhibit a lot.

So now, it really was time to find food. In the area between these two museums, there are several outdoor kiosks for food. I got a grilled brie cheese and tomato sandwich and coffee, and sat outside watching people climb on the I Amsterdam sign.

Next, I thought I should explore more of the city, so I headed to Dam Square. Not sure what I expected – this is supposed to be the central plaza for Amsterdam and I found it dirty and really uninteresting. Madame Tussauds Amsterdam is in a large building on this square – never a place of interest for me. I did go into De Nieuwe Kerk – the new church – which is where are the coronations for the Dutch monarchy occur.  Since Queen Beatrix stepped down on April 30th, there was an exhibit of the coronations of the House of Orange, including the Letters of Abdication from the last 3 monarchs. As a church, it was very plain. Again, I like the ornate churches in Spain and Italy and I’ve never really liked the plain ones in northern Europe.

Official document of Queen Beatrix stepping down for her son Willem
Official document of Queen Beatrix stepping down for her son Willem

In my trip planning, I downloaded several “walking tours” that all started at Dam Square, so I thought this would be a great time to do one – of course, I left the information in my hotel room! So, I decided to “get lost”. I found the floating flower market, and strolled along several smaller canals. I caught the beginning of a wedding (and latter saw the bride and groom leave the church on a boat). I saw many coffee shops – but I thought they were all very dark and a bit uninviting. And everywhere I went, there were crowds of people. I finally had enough and needed a break.

For dinner, I needed comfort food. I needed something familiar. I needed … something Spanish! So, after reading several reviews, I headed to Rancho Argentinian Grill. I was greeted by one of the cooks – in Spanish – and all of a sudden I was having a conversation in Spanish and feeling right at home! Yeah me for working on my Spanish!   I continued speaking it with my server. Next, I looked at the menu at the bar and they made caipirinhas – the right way (no added “club soda” like they try to do in Toronto). Another Yeah! So, I had an Argentinian meal and felt so satisfied. After dinner, I wandered a bit around Leidseplein before the crowds of futball fans got too much for me (again, not Spanish league – I am really learning where my heart lies) and headed to my home. Still looking for the tango school, but I found the salsa bar.