Good morning, Amsterdam! On our second day in this beautiful city, we woke up early so we could spend the day going to galleries and museums. And did we ever!
Confident Traveller Tip: I’ve always heard people talk about asking your concierge for things like dinner recommendations and reservations and I never did it. I think I was shy to ask and kind of didn’t want to be a bother. (I’m Canadian, after all!) Success with our dinner reservations started to change my mind and the advice and help we received with museum bookings sealed the deal! Our concierge let us know that the best time to get in line for the Anne Frank Museum was before it opened and they also purchased and printed online admission for us to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, allowing us to bypass the lines and save a lot of time. It was absolutely not a bother and made a big difference. In the future, I won’t hesitate to take advantage of the help that is available and I hope that now you will too!
We took our concierge’s advice and got into line for the Anne Frank Museum a half hour before it opened and still the queue was around the corner! Clearly this is one of the touchstones of Amsterdam. No photos are allowed inside so I can’t take you in there with me. I can say that visiting the place where Anne and her family went into hiding during the Second World War was profoundly moving. Seeing pictures or models doesn’t capture the oppression you feel when you step into a room where the windows are blacked out so that not a hint of light can come in and not a chance of a sighting can be had.
I was struck by three things most strongly during our time in this house. One, that everyone involved in this moment in history, those who did great good and those who did great evil are just people. It kept ringing in my heart, “They’re just people. We’re all just people.” Two, upon reading Anne Frank’s diary, her father discovered an entirely different girl than the one he knew as his daughter. In a video recording, he wondered whether it is possible for parents to ever really know their children. Three, again and again and again I was struck by the simple and profound power of having a journal, of having a safe place for our thoughts, our dreams, our selves. It led me to recommitting to a project that I hope to launch next year.
After visiting with Anne Frank, it was good for us to take a long walk through the city to find the Van Gogh Museum. This place is a treasure trove! Unfortunately, this is the only spot in the museum that they allow you to take photos, so I’ve brought some postcards to share too.
This museum is an incredible way to experience Van Gogh’s oeuvre. We followed the chronological presentation of the work through several rooms and floors. I loved how the progression was then divided into different themes or periods of exploration. What moved me deeply was experiencing Van Gogh as an artist through his work. I left feeling fascinated and wanted to know more. I’ve found myself slowly reading through his collection of letters, which is available online through the museum.
And then, the Rijksmuseum. We had heard from everyone about the amazing 10-year renovation project the museum had undergone and wow, it lived up to every word! This is a big, beautiful and impressive museum with a rich collection. Clearly we could have spent all day just here. On the advice of the concierge at our hotel, we focused on The Gallery of Honour, where we saw exquisite work including Rembrandt’s Night Watch . One of my favourites was The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn. It caught my eye, right over there on the left.
Confident Traveller’s Tip: It’s hard to admit but often you simply can’t see everything that you want to on a trip. Instead of getting stressed out or trying to make tough decisions in the moment, take some enjoyable, relaxed time over coffee in the morning or even before you go to peruse the options and set your priorities. That way you won’t miss out on the key pieces that will make your trip memorable for you.
Wherever I go, I love experiencing school groups learning about art. It’s fascinating to watch the reactions, from intrigued to bored silly. In this group, as soon as the instructor stopped talking, they all jumped up and started taking selfies with this masterpiece! I always wonder which kids have had an art seed planted in them right here in this moment, one that will last a lifetime.
And speaking of lasting a lifetime, look at this incredible collection at the library in the Rijksmuseum. I couldn’t help but think that the mere existence of a library could one day become museum-worthy as a representation of how we used to gather and share information in the past.
There was so much to see that we took in as much as we possibly could until we heard the closing announcement and knew that our day was coming to a close.
It was so easy to fall in love with Amsterdam.
It was time to slow down the pace a bit so we stopped to have a relaxed bite and a beer at Goodies. It was just perfect and felt exactly like the kind of place that we would go to at home. Amsterdam felt really liveable to us, very familiar but also very fresh. We were able to communicate wherever we went with English and that was a very big help. Though it is still very nice to say to everyone, “Dank je wel.”
Dank je wel, Amsterdam. We had a magical time with you and look forward to seeing you again.