Further north to Amsterdam


Wednesday, May 5

(Remembrance Day)

Our time in Haarlem ended as we untied under a bright sky and retraced our steps up to the Noordzeekanaal, only this time turning right towards Amsterdam versus left for IJmuiden and the North Sea.

Due to a timed bridge opening, we hurriedly went through the first lock only to be put on hold awhile for the second. For the latter we really didn’t have to tie up to wait because we discovered we were gently ‘resting’ on the bottom of the canal…

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Further up in Spaardnam that lock became a can of sardines (or herring, more appropriately here) with everyone jockeying for position as the Lock Keeper waved for the stragglers to hurry up. There was a bridge up ahead opening at 10:30am with the next one not until 2:15pm. We piled in amongst a plethora of motorboats, headed off on a rally together.

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But, all of us did make it (note the traffic having to stop on this major highway crossing but the Dutch take it in stride),

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and we followed the canal to our destination.

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Since it’s difficult to tie up to a canal wall in Amsterdam this time we entered the Sixhaven Marina suggested by friends. With only a short (free) ferry ride to the center of town, docking here offered a perfect spot for exploring the city. Many others thought the same as we joined a herd of boats in this jammed marina. Although, we were once again stunned by how easily and comfortably the Dutch seem to pack in boats, such as waking up the next morning to find a sailboat docked behind the sterns of two other boats.

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We were welcomed by Joise and Hennie, who thankfully alerted us to a two-minute of silence at 8:00pm in honor of those who died during WWII. It would have been great to have experienced this in the city (where everyone and everything comes to a halt, and the popular King and Queen make an appearance) but we were a bit late in planning so we just observed this aboard. Tomorrow we’d begin our exploring.

Thursday, May 6

(Liberation Day)

Folks in Haarlem had warned us about the crowds in Amsterdam; yet, it was still surprising just how many people fit into this city space. Being another holiday leading into a beautiful spring weekend increased the flow of pedestrians and bikes and cars; but, we enjoyed the places we had mapped out:  Rembrandt’s home and studio after he moved from Leiden with two excellent demonstrations, one being how he mixed his paints, another how he created his prints (FYI: Anyone interested in the 17th century art business and bankruptcy should read about Rembrandt’s life from a commercial aspect. It would be a fascinating look into those times.)

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the Resistance Museum, featuring some very brave souls, such as Hannie Schaft, known as ’The Girl with the Red Hair’.

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and, the Gassan Diamond Tour (which was really a two-minute breeze-through of trying to watch some employees polishing the stones and a thirty-minute sales job… at least we managed to skip the Madame Trousseau ‘Museum’).

During our walk from one exhibit to the next we met a friendly pup who reminded us of our friend Sue H.’s Portuguese Water Dog. So, we had to stop and pet him while talking with his even friendlier owner.

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After a day of soaking up some of Amsterdam’s history we opted to grab a beer and glass of wine in the Waag’s square (because a lot of trade was conducted via bartering most municipalities had these Weigh Houses to ensure one was truly getting the correct of amount of cheese, butter, etc, bartered for). With trucks offering refreshments and picnic tables providing seating, we found a seat and then sat back to enjoy the partying going on around us.

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We had thought we’d only be there for one drink then head back to JUANONA, but, we were wrong, oh so very wrong. Within thirty minutes the table changed over and we found ourselves with a German Couple (Ilse and Werner) here for the weekend and three, thirty-year-old locals who had grown up together (Ditske, Koen, and Erik who’s taking the picture).

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We decided to participate as one of the table team’s in the trivia pop-quizzes (five rounds of ten questions each),

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and, well, one thing led to another,

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ending with our strolling through the Red Light District to a local pub

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for one last beer.

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We made it home by 1:00 am along with other revelers enjoying Amsterdam’s night (and morning) life.


Friday, May 7

Well, we DID get up the next morning (Friday) and continued our sight-seeing with the focus being the impressive Rijksmuseum. A major, ten-year renovation meant the art housed here was splendidly showcased. In fact there is so much art and history (1100-present day) covered in this beautiful building that we limited our ogling to several centuries while casing the joint for hopefully a return visit.

Not wanting to overload you with tidbits I picked up, I will post one portrait painted by Theresa Schwartze (1851-1918) who, I believe is our artist friend Ellen’s ancestor. She was the go-to painter for the Dutch elite and one of the few, recognized females during that time. Below is one she painted of her niece, Lizzy Ansingh, also an artist.

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As you can imagine on a beautiful holiday weekend the galleries were wall-to-wall people with Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” painting drawing such a crowd I just peeped over some shoulders then moved on. After two hours we exited to the garden with its nearby water pool and walked through the park connecting the Rijks with the Van Gogh Museum, another extraordinary art feast,

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one we decided to save for another day.

Sunday, May 10

Having felt the elbow-to-elbow squeeze on the sidewalks as well as in museums, we opted out of Saturday sight-seeing and toured on Sunday. We ended up at one of Amsterdam’s House Churches, the Lord in the Attic House museum (love the name as it compliments what mom said we use to call the guy in Sunday School, “Jesus in the basement”, which basically was the end of my religious instruction). This site offers a fascinating view of how Catholics worshipped when they, along with some other non-Calvinist, religious groups, could practice their religions but just not in public. Consequently, some ‘secret’ churches were constructed in homes, this being one of them.

The self-guided tour takes you up three flights of narrow stairs, where you stop on each floor to walk around rooms furnished from the 1600s. On the top floor you step into a three-story-high ‘attic’ that features a beautiful altar. This house church was in use until the late 1800s when Catholics could again worship in public.

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I had also read about the World Press Photo Exhibition being held in the Nieuve Kerk, so we stopped in there for some eye-opening pictures. It made for a relaxed stroll surrounded by current events.

Then back to JUANONA while spotting a rather unique mode of transportation:  a centipede of beer guzzling partiers propelling a cart by pumping with their legs while enjoying some brew…

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with women doing the same.

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Monday, May 11

Our brother-in-law Doug mentioned his brother John and wife Bette had toured the Flower Auction just outside of town. Saying that it had been the highlight of their trip we caught an early morning bus to Flora Holland.

Billboards provided background info and explained the process but it was enough just watching a beehive of buzzing human bees moving here and there.

Following a suspended walkway over the warehouse floor we landed outside the glass-enclosed auction room where buyers bid electronically on flowers from around the world (also possible to do remotely).

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And, it’s complicated.

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I tried following the little red dot but my eyes started spinning in my head alerting me it was time for a coffee break.

Outside we saw more evidence of the commercial trafficking of flowers as we watched truck after truck stream towards the highway loaded with freshly cut flowers. If only that natural floral scent could be bottled for JUANONA’s head.

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Back in town we met our crewmate Rudy, who had arrived from a two-week archaeological dig at Vindolanda, a Roman fortress town at Hadrian’s Wall.  We were fortunate to have him aboard in between his dig and visiting his Belgium Family (whom we also call our Belgium Family :) and were looking forward to some cruising, exploring, and games of OH HELL.

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To say life can be grand just doesn’t do it justice.

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