Caught the train to Amsterdam (along with hundreds of other commuters) and the weather started looking ominous. Had to stand till we got to Schipol and managed to find a seat for the rest of the trip. We were fairly disappointed with the amount of tourist info at the railway station office so just bought a map out of a vending machine for 2 Euros and decide to walk down to the Dam (square) and then find a coffee before going to the Rijks Museum. Ended up walking past the bloemen (flower) market and seeing all the vareties of tulip bulbsetc. and then had to shelter from a downpour before queuing up to get into the museum.
They are doing renovations to the museum and they don’t seem to be set up for large numbers of people coming through – it was very slow and wet waiting to get through the security check. Once inside we could see a smaller collection that what is usually available and enjoyed some wonderful paintings by Rembrant and others, and yes we did see the Night Watch. Then it was across the road and a quick snack before visiting the Van Gough museum. While this was a great exhibition, well curated and worth visiting, I was disappointed by just how many people were filing past the paintings. It was like a slow shuffle/jostle following everyone else past the paintings. The text for each painting was small so you had to get up close to read it but mostly I cruised behind everyone and picked my targets of things I wanted to see more closely.
Walked back toward the city and found out the times for a canal cruise and then went and got some lunch before hopping on board. The cruise was for just over an hour and fun to do, along with lots of other companies vying for the tourist dollar. The captain spoke three languages and gave an interesting commentary with many asides (and additional info) in Dutch, so it was nice to be able to understand and translate for the boys. Sailed past some old building and the Anne Frank House (yes, a huge queue there too!) and out into the harbour a bit before coming back via the Nemo and the Heren Gracht (lords canal) where all the rich people used to live (well, some sill do). Lots of nice views of canal bridges and old (many leaning) buildings. The weather fined up during this so it was nice to see the sunshine but it did get fairly warm under the glass roof and with little breeze on the water.
Amsterdam doesn’t seem that Dutch anymore, lots of tourist here for the ‘soft’ drugs (’coffee shops’ selling cannabis and various other supplies) and the red light district. You’d probably have to live here for a while to get to ‘know’ the real Amsterdam but I reckon Schiedam, Leiden or Haarlem would do just fine. We decided to split up for a couple of hours and do our own thing (checking out the flea market, looking for the fashion stores and checking out the souvenirs) before catching the train back through a very heavy thunderstorm that apparently caused flash flooding and closed the airport! Ate some dinner on the train and were very glad that we’d boarded when we had – the water was streaming down the windows. Straight onto the bus in Leiden and back to J & G’s without getting too wet.
We had arranged to go out with Jan and Anneke and keith and Emmy to an outdoor museum tomorrow but decided that it would be too much to spend a whole day out again just before we had to leave (at 6:45 the next morning). So, I rang and cancelled and they were very understanding about us just feeling too tired and starting to feel overwhelmed. We did agree to met Keith and Emmy in Leiden for lunch though as we did want to see a bit more of the city and just take it easy.