Saturday, October 19, 2013

Amsterdam - Day Two

Our second day in Amsterdam started bright and early. I was up at 7:00AM to practice Taijiquan. I tried practicing in our tiny room the night before but it just didn't work, there was not enough room to move properly, I felt like I was in a street fight, not practicing Taijiquan, so I gave up after the second third of the Yang long form. Since the room was too small I had no choice but to go out into the street by our hotel. The Hotel Fita is adjacent to a school so the cross streets are blocked off to automobile traffic although bicycles had free access to both directions. At 7:00AM in the morning the streets were quite, only a few pedestrians and bicyclists passed by and they all ignored me with a studied deliberation that I found to be reassuring. Feeling refreshed and full of energy after half and hour of Taijiquan I headed back to the hotel.

We ate breakfast in the basement of the Hotel Fita. The basement was nicely done, it had a cozy intimate feel. There were fresh croissants and pain au chocolate as well as granola and muesli, as well as fresh fruit. They had a very nice coffee machine that made cappuccino or European black coffee with a nice crema on top. The hotel keeper made us Dutch pancakes which were absolutely delicious.

After breakfast we purchased tickets for the Rijks Museum which was only five minutes from the hotel. We were concerned about standing in a long line for tickets so we bought advanced tickets for a 2 Euro surcharge, it was worth it not to stand in a long line to get into the museum. We arrived at the museum just after it opened at 9:00AM. We walked right in because we had pre-purchased our tickets. The thing was, there was no waiting because there was no long line. We could have saved ourselves a few Euros by buying our tickets at the museum.

We spent the entire day at the Rijks museum. Taking advise from Rick Steve we started on the top floor of the museum and worked out way down that way we would at least have a chance to look at the upper galleries before the crowds caught up with us.

    The museum itself us a magnificent building. It is a testament to the period when Holland was an economically powerful nation. Most of Holland's wealth came from trade and overseas colonies. These two themes are played out over and over again throughout the architecture and art in the Rijks museum.

 This sculpture represents man and the conflict between technology and the natural world.

This aiplane was designed by Frits Koolhoven, a Dutch designer who had a great influence on airplane design in the early 20th century.

The center piece of the second floor of the Rjks museum is Rembrandt's Night watch. It is a truly magnificent painting. You cannot appreciate the scope of the painting until you stand in front of it. I took this picture behind the crowd because there was never a time that there was not a crowd in front of this picture. Just down the hall from the Night Watch there were other great paintings. I spent a lot of time standing in front of some of my favorite paintings by Vermeer.

On the first floor of the museum I visited the library which is a full service research library for the arts. I spent some time there relaxing and looking at a book of beautiful wood sculptures.

There were so many wonderful and beautiful things to see and experience at the Rjks. We could have spent days there but one day was all we could allot for the Rjks. I have to share this picture of a wonderful Guanyin from the Asian pavilion.

This Guanyin was carved in the 12th century in Asia. It is a beautiful example of the incredible craftsmanship of that period.

I cannot do justice to the Rjks museum in this post. The best thing that I can say is that if you find yourself in Amsterdam on business or in transit and you only have one spare day to see the city then you must go to the Rjks museum, you will not regret it.

We regretfully left the museum around 5PM exhausted and dazzled. On the way back to our hotel we stopped at the underground supermarket that was near the Van Gogh museum to pick up salads for our dinner. The store also carried natural juices that were made from organic fruits. The salads and the juice were delicious. In the evening we went out to look around the city. Back at our room we practiced qigong and I went outside by the school to practice Taijiquan. It was a long and exciting and exhausting day.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


The first day of our vacation started September 30th. Our flight did not leave until 9:30PM so we thought it would be nice to stop off in Oakville for dinner. My wife had purchased a Wagjag for a Mexican restaurant near Trafalgar Road in Oakville. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed when we got there. Without a fall back plan we decided just to go to the airport and see what we could find there. We were at the airport just after 7:00PM. We checked in and got through security without much problem. I had decided that we should just go to the Maple Leaf lounge. With all the travel that I did to China and Mexico these last few years I earned access to Air Canada's Maple leaf lounge in terminal 1. Since my wife was traveling with me she was admitted as my guest. We had a nice meal from the buffet that is always available. Adding a glass of wine and desert and coffee we felt satisfied. After eating we relaxed in the comfortable chairs in the lounge. Since there was no reason to hurry we stayed in the Maple Leaf Lounge until it was time to board.

Having priority status we were one the first people to get on the plane so we could get ourselves settled before everyone else got on the plane. I know it seems elitist but it is one of the only perks that I got for spending all the time that I did away from home and living in hotels in China and Mexico.We took the 9:30PM flight from Toronto to Frankfurt and then on to Amsterdam. We arrived in Amsterdam at 3:00PM( which would have been 9:00AM) on October 1st. We lost six hours by crossing time zones. After getting off the plane, collecting our luggage from baggage claim We took the number 197 bus from the airport to the museum district where our hotel was located, it was four o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived at the hotel. We checked in at the hotel, dropped our baggage off in our small but comfortable room then we went for dinner. Not knowing the area we did not want to wander too far from the hotel. The hotel keeper told us that there were places to eat around the museum area so we walked up the street to the major intersection and past the music conservatory we found a Indonesian restaurant named Djanoko.

We decided to have the special that was posted outside the restaurant. It was a good meal, tasty and satisfying.

The Dutch have a great passion for Indonesian food which can be traced back to the period when Holland was a major trading power on the four seas especially in Asia and in particular Indonesia. . After dinner we stopped  at Renso's Delicatessen and bought some Sfogliatelle (Italian Lobster Claws) a pastry that we ate when we were in Italy a few years ago. we took them back to our hotel room where we ate four of the pastries with Nesspresso, there was a machine in our room. Also, on the way back to the hotel we saw a sign for a supermarket that was underground at the Museum square. We made a point to visit the supermarket the next day. After having our coffee and pastry we decided that that was enough for our first in Amsterdam.