May 13, 2012

Best of Holland (Day 2, 13 May 2012)

Day 2 started with a leisurely breakfast, the spread was thankfully not Continental, there was bacon and eggs. I could live on bread rolls and butter, the ones here were so fresh.


At 9am, we made our way to the Rijksmuseum to see some Dutch masterpieces with a local guide. Before we started, there was a group photo taken which will later be printed for a souvenir. We saw an antique dollhouse and some works by Frans Hals, Vermeer and Rembrandt including the famous 'Nightwatch'. The guide pointed out details and symbols in the paintings that I would never have noticed or bothered to interpret, so that gave me a new appreciation for art and the artists and the hidden meanings in painting.




We had a few minutes of free time before boarding the bus and I used the chance to snap some pictures with a giant 'I am amsterdam' sign outside the museum. Then it was off to Keukenhof so I can now strike one more thing off my bucket list!

I was keeping fingers crossed we would still be in time to see the spectacular tulip fields en route but alas, no such luck, they had started chopping off the stalks a few days before we came. There was only 1 red patch near the Keukenhof entrance...sigh.


Luckily there was still plenty of tulips in Keukenhof, though there were chopped off patches too. But it was enough to make my day. Nick bought a hot dog to snack on, and I had some strawberries and cream while we strolled through the gardens.


I was so busy snapping away and cam-whoring that I didn't get to enjoy the gardens properly, the sun was rather harsh though the weather was cool, between 12-18 degrees celcius. I dragged him to the section overlooking the tulip fields but it was all bare.


Just outside the indoor garden though, there was a big patch of flowers...if ever I am in Europe in April, I will try to come to Keukenhof again, even just for a day so I can see the tulip fields and enjoy the gardens properly. Though we were given about 2 hours, it was a little rushed, especially since the boy insisted on sitting down to eat a proper lunch, while I would have been happy enough to starve so I could take more pictures!




In the afternoon, they dropped us in the town and we had some free time before dinner. We decided not to join the optional tour to visit Anne Frank's house and forego the complimentary hop-on/hop-off bus tour since we had seen or passed by most of the attractions. Instead we went shopping at De Bijenkorf, H&M and Zara around Dam Square and Kalverstraat. Or rather, I shopped and he stood around. I knew that we wouldn't get a chance on other days to shop properly so I grabbed as much as I could!



It was troublesome trying on clothes when I was wearing 3 layers plus boots but I persevered. Picked up some items from H&M, Zara and Zara Home, along with a black chef bag from Fendi. Happy Mother's Day to me!


Then we made our way on foot to Haesje Claes for an optional dinner of traditional Dutch food, followed by a short tour of the red light district. We sat with a couple from Australia, they were going off on another Trafalgar tour right after this one!

They served us some gin as the aperitif, for 'Dutch courage' I suppose! The food was alright, portions quite big but service was indifferent. I guess meat and potatoes are staples here. Nick had a pea and sausage soup to start with, it was nice but thick. I had prosciutto with melon, the fruit was really sweet.



We both opted for the grilled pork with pepper sauce for our main, it was a thick cut and cooked just nicely, the sauce was lovely...I could have drunk it as soup!

For dessert, he had cinnamon ice cream and I pancake with ice cream and orange liqueur. They do like their pancakes here!


We next nipped over to De Wallen, the red light district for a short walkabout. There were plenty of novelty shops and 'coffeeshops' but Nick had banned me from trying any special cupcakes, bugger. Still you could smell the weed in the air, it's quite distinct. We were discouraged from taking photos too so I have nothing of the main attraction in the area - the girls in the window displays.



There were fat girls, skinny girls, tall girls, geeky girls dressed in bikinis or neon lingerie, posing like mannequins along the various brothels. Sometimes I wonder what motivates them to join this profession? I'm sure the money is good but what about their sense of self-worth?

There was a particular shop where we saw an elderly man exiting with a big grin on his face and his conquest seeing him off...men!

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