During a mini trip to Amsterdam, I stayed in Prinsengracht (English: Prince’s Canal) a street, along with two others: Keizersgracht and Herengracht, all of which can take forty minutes to walk from one end to the other. They are in the Negen Straatjes (English: Nine little streets) neighbourhood. A charming, scenic and quiet area in central Amsterdam.
Prinsengracht and the other two streets I have mentioned all have canals running along them. Sections, between the canals, consist of the nine little streets. This part of Amsterdam dates back to the early 17th century and the streets were named after work that was carried out there in centuries gone by. Such as Wolvenstraat ‘Wolf Street’ and Berenstraat ‘Bear Street’ where the, processing of skins, took place.
During another trip, many years ago, a visit was paid to Rijksmuseum and to this day I have copy of ‘Dreaming’ by the Dutch golden age artist, Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693) which I purchased there. I totally related to the image of the girl leaning out the window daydreaming and still do today.
The Rijksmuseum is only a few minutes walk from the Nine Streets neighbourhood. As is, Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Delighted to still have a copy of his painting ‘Butterflies and Poppies’ from a visit there too, many years ago.
Amsterdammers are right up there as my favourite people. I find them outgoing communicators with a happy, friendly and relaxed attitude. Within two minutes of my arrival I was immediately reminded of why I like them so much. At the Hotel Shuttle desk, the assistant, had such a friendly and at the same time professional manner. The shuttle is a super easy way to reach your destination in Amsterdam and to return to the airport.
One thing I should have made time for though, before I left the airport or on my return to it, was a visit to the Rijksmuseum annex. At the airport, the museum exhibits a small collection of contemporary and classical artwork. Visiting the main museum wasn’t on my itinerary during my trip.
A one or four day, I amsterdam city card, is a brilliant purchase. With prices ranging from 59 to 98 euros, in 2018. With the card you can visit up to three attractions a day and travel on public transport, for free. For more information check out their website.
As your journey from the airport nears the centre of Amsterdam you will truly comprehend how popular cycling is there, especially if it is your first visit. They all seem to have a carefree way of cycling, at high speed too, with no helmets in sight. At one point, in the centre of Negen Straatjes I noticed an adult on a bicycle, with children around eight and nine years old, one on the front and the other on the back. None of them wearing a helmet, cycling at speed amongst all the pedestrians, motor bikes, cars, vans and trams. They were extremely happy and confident. However, what I did notice, I didn’t see people walking along with their eyes focused on their mobile phones. Which I can’t say surprised me that much, because you need to keep your eyes focused one hundred percent on each and every step you take while you are walking in Amsterdam.
Late afternoon shortly after I arrived, Amsterdam was in the middle of a heatwave so it was bathed in brilliant warm sunshine, I searched for a place to have a snack and a lovely cool beer. I didn’t have far to go before I came across a lovely ‘bruin cafe’ (brown cafe) a traditional Dutch pub. A cosy place with a lovely wooden interior and a warm reception from the bartenders. Plenty of people were sitting outside at the tables with views of the canals and elm trees. Good music from the speakers and good beer, ‘Brouwerij’tij’, a light and refreshing beer was recommended to me. I was told I could visit the nearby brewery where it is produced as I tucked into a delicious toasted sandwich. The ‘bruin cafe’ Hans & Grietje at 27 Spiegelgracht.
Much to my delight from the window at Hans & Grietje, directly across from the canal, I noticed one of my favourite artist’s gallery, Marc Chagall (b. 7th July 1887 – d. 28th March 1985) at 32 Spiegelgracht. ‘Over the Town’ is my favourite painting by Chagall which he completed in 1918. The gallery will be on my itinerary the next time I go to Amsterdam.
Soaking up the lovely atmosphere walking along the canals with the sun shimmering on the water, zig zagging the reflected shapes of boats, canal houses, trees and the varying coloured light from the sky is really delightful while you are in Amsterdam. Locals on their own boats, with cushions scattered around, wine, beer, chilled champagne and platters filled with culinary delights, relaxing after work. Tourists on rented boats admiring all the new sights and sounds of a new land. While others sit by the side of the canals reading, thinking, talking and painting. Others, like me, finding it a photographers paradise. It is plain to see why Amsterdammers are so chilled.
The elegant canal houses, some turned into art galleries and antique shops are perfectly suited for such purposes. Prinsengracht, Prince’s Canal, a street fit for a prince to browse and collect beautiful items to adorn his castle. The houses are narrow with pretty windows, doors and some are embellished with gable stone work set into the walls of the building. The gable stone works, dating back to the 16th century, served as identification of who lived in the house. Carved with an image identifying the owners occupation and often colourfully painted, all before house numbers were introduced.
I came across a canal house with a beautiful balcony with a spire on top of it. At the time I took the photograph, a boat was floating right underneath it in the canal. A fairytale image, all that was missing was the princess inside the balcony.
The narrow canal houses have narrow stairs to make use of the floor space. The houses have pulleys inside and out to transport larger items to the upper floors. There is no additional space between the front of the houses and the footpath. This is not an issue, at all, for Amsterdammers. They make full use of every inch of outside space. Usually there are steps leading from the basement to the ground floor level. So they squeeze in pretty benches to sit on and also make use of the space on the top step to sit in the sunshine, to sunbath, read, paint or chat with friends. The windows of the houses are adorned with colourful flowers in lovely wooden flower boxes.
As you walk along the pretty canal streets, at times, you can see right through from the window facing the street directly to the window facing the back garden. Which is intriguing because having garden space in the back seems to come as a surprise with the houses being so narrow from the front. You just think there would not be that much space for a garden too. At one point, I came across the cutest basement door I’ve ever seen.
Waking up in a garden room to the sound of bird song in Amsterdam was utterly delightful. A lovely start to a new day. It was quite a pull to leave this lovely peaceful oasis, in the garden area, after breakfast. Had to though as a full itinerary lay ahead.
Amsterdammers, I noticed, are generally tall and lean with fair hair and bright blue eyes. Making my way to FOAM (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam), at 609 Keizersgracht, I was asked by two friends to take their photograph using their mobile phone. They planned to post it on one of their instagram accounts that shares photographs taken within a white frame. In this case, a house frontage painted white. Then a little further on I popped into a wine merchant’s store to check I was heading in the right direction. The owner, an extremely nice gentleman, entered into a sympathetic conversation with me about keeping Amsterdam’s relaxed and peaceful charm. For the local people to go on enjoying way into the future. He kindly posed for a photograph and allowed me to take a further photograph of the three wine bottles that caught my attention. Covered in dust, in keeping, with their old worldie charm.
At FOAM, I really enjoyed Seydou Keita (1921-2001) exhibition, a photographer from Mali. The exhibition showcased his portrait work and included a short film. Where you could see life going on in a village. While he was in the process of taking the photographs, in an open air studio. The exhibition ends on 20th June 2018.
On my way to the Floating Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt) on Singel canal, I sampled some delectable delights, Dutch homemade macarons. The following flavours: – raspberry, pistachio nuts, tiramisu, coffee, Peruvian chocolate and Marc de Champagne were purchased. Pistachio flavoured was the first to be consumed. Their logo is quite appropriate ‘Heart 2 Resist.’
A dream day to visit the world’s one and only floating flower market. Sun shining and the lovely sound of bells chiming shortly after my arrival there. The sound of the bells chiming came from the Mint Tower, still standing, since 1620.
Founded in 1862 the flower market is on the UNESCO listed, Singel canal, in a lively area in the centre of the city. A gardeners or flower lovers’ gem. You can buy souvenirs there too. The range of flowers is breath-taking and the prices are very reasonable. I am looking forward to a variety of coloured tulips blossoming, which I planted on my return home.
A wonderful church on Prinsengracht corner Raadhuisstraat, Westerkerk (Westchurch) built from 1620-1631. Rembrandt is buried here. It is a glorious sight to behold.
Amsterdam is one of the major centres of the world to purchase diamonds, dating way back to 1586. You can have diamonds polished or cut while you wait. Amsterdam Diamond Centre at 1-5 Rokin is the most central.
Kramer Kunst & Antiek is a magnificent antique and tile shop, that is certainly worth a visit, at 807 Prinsengracht. Every inch from floor to ceiling is filled with antiques and tiles. I didn’t have time to look around, but saw enough to know it is well worth a visit. Type in the name, online, where you can see the exterior and prime location of the shop, along with plenty of internal photographs.
On my way to catch the shuttle back to the airport, such a hot day and travelled everywhere I went on foot, ice-cream was the next treat. ijscuypje, are purveyors of ice-cream and frozen yogurt. Where you can purchase flavours such as: – apple pie and lemon cheesecake ice-cream, delicious!!!
So long, beautiful and elegant Amsterdam, until I return.