Five Days in Amsterdam, Two Days in Dordrecht

June 29th, 2015. Categories: Amsterdam

After a one hour flight from Copenhagen, J and I landed in Amsterdam and took the metro into the city.

Amsterdam is flat.

We checked into our apartment and walked to a nearby bar restaurant for dinner. Since we hadn’t eaten yet, the meal was especially delicious. I drank a dark Dutch beer called Fanny.

After dinner, we took a short walk around the neighborhood to get out first view of the canals and buy groceries for breakfast. For some odd reason, the supermarket didn’t accept credit cards.

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Urban treehouse.
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Ghost storefront.
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A bike about to be absorbed by ivy.
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Juicy.
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Storm clouds.
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Crossing our first Amsterdam canal.
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Abandoned boat.
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No parking.
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Bull door.
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Roses.
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Pink door.
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Trash polygon.
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University expansion over canal.
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Fire starting kit.

Tuesday we took an epic walk across much of the western side of town.

The morning was drizzly as we followed as many canals as we could, enjoying the variety of bridges, houseboats, leaning buildings, bicyclists, and the boat traffic in the canals. There were numerous ducklings and baby coots swimming around, and we made it a goal to spot nests. The coots built their nests in the open with twigs and trash. The babies looked like tiny, puffy condors.

We bought two day I AMsterdam cards near the central station. For 59€ each, it allowed free public transit, a free canal tour, and free access to most of the important museums in the city. They proved to be a great value.

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Dutch cargo bike.
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Hippy boat house.
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Stretch banana.
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Bridge name.
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Houseboat and houses on the Amstel River.
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Floating garden.
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Don’t hate the playa.
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Charging port.
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Amazing cargo motorcycle.
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Concrete bottom house boats.
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One of many leaning buildings.
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Objects in the mirror may appear more shattered than they appear.
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Drawbridge.
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Ball shredder.
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Bulbs.
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Bulbs!
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Gabled canal houses.
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Dredging barge.
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Mad lion.
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Barrier.
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Massive amount of bikes.
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Central Station.
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Leaning.
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Another bridge.
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Shutters.
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Colorful doorway.
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Happy wheel.
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Knob adjuster.
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Ivy door.
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Zombies can’t wait to get buzzed in.
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Guitar pick logo container.
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The overly elaborate crosswalk instructions at every intersection.
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Glazed bricks.

On our walk home, we stopped for an early dinner at Wagamama. It was nice to have a big asian meal, but my ramen was lackluster.

The stands of the Albert Cuyp Market were packing up, and the street was empty. A scary amount of seagulls, pigeons, and great blue herons loitered everywhere or fought over scraps of discarded food.

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Circle of life.
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Closing time.
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Discount fruit.
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I have a bad feeling about this.
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Mr. Stencil.
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Jesus Christ!

We got an early start Wednesday by taking a tram to the zoo. It was packed with loud kids and even louder tweens. We walked through most of the exhibits quickly, though we thoroughly enjoyed the muggy butterfly room. A large variety of butterflies and moths freely fluttered around the plant filled greenhouse. Tiny frogs hid on the ground and near the man-made creek, making quite a din.

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Ostriches.
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Moth eye.
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The cutest little frog.
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Future vets of Amsterdam.
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Horny.

Next, we visited the slickly-designed exhibits in the nearby Micropia. This science museum was all about microscopic life, and the highlights were a variety of controllable high-powered microscopes and two large cases full of decaying foods. This reminded me of the fifteen year old bagel I still have in a jar sitting on a shelf in my childhood room.

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Lab.
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Poops of the world and human digestive system.

After thoroughly washing our hands, we walked to the nearby botanical gardens. We enjoyed another room full of butterflies (and cocoons!) and a massive, three-zone greenhouse.

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Glass wing.
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Cocoons.
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Inside the palm house.
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Humid catwalk.
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Rainforest J.

We ate lunch before checking out the Hermitage Amsterdam. This branch museum of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Russia, is located on the banks of the Amstel river in the former Amstelhof, a classical style building from 1681.

Our legs started feeling sore, so we took the tram to the nine streets area and went on a fairly forgettable, hour-long canal tour.

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Drawn.
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Watchmen.
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Captain Stinky.
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EYE Film.
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Bridges from water level.
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Two modes.

For dinner, we splurged on a rather amazing five course meal with beer pairings (129€ + tip). The meal consisted of an amuse bouche, three appetizer courses, main, and dessert. We only split beers on four of those, since we were already feeling lightheaded after the first serving.

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Surf and turf appetizer.
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Asparagus and saffron risotto.
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Steak with stuff.
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Dessert based on strawberry, rhubarb, and mint.

We ended up being the last people in the restaurant. After a pleasant conversation with the waitress and chef, we danced back to the tram.

Thursday, we explored the strange Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam building. We ate a snack lunch in the grass amongst kids playing soccer at recess.

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Weeping.
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Vaults over bike lanes.
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America.

Next, we went to a photo exhibit visited two historic canal houses with large backyard gardens and carriage houses. I finally got to pat a cat, but he was too hot to care.

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Courtyard garden.
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Lamp and lady.
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Dining room.
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Flower girl.
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It’s a living…[sad trombone sound]
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Staircase.
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Me in the infinite sun room.
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Ornate headboard.
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Another backyard garden.
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Bush pussy.

We took the tram to the central station and walked across the pedestrian bridges to Science Center NEMO. The building and the hands-on science exhibits inside feel straight out of the 90s, but it was fun to watch kids having fun. J and I tried a few of the experiments and got plenty of germs on our hands.

The stepped roof of NEMO is a free public park. It offers one of the better views of the city, but since the buildings and geography are flat, it’s not that interesting of a view. It is a fine place to eat apples, however.

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Pedestrian bridge to NEMO.
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Floating trash coot nest.
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Baby coot and mother.

From behind the massive central station, we took a free pedestrian and bike ferry across the harbor to EYE FILM. This angular building looks like it plopped down from the future. The interior is equally beautiful.

We thoroughly enjoyed the William Kentridge motion artwork exhibit, then went to a 6:45 showing of Blade Runner: the Final Cut.

I had never seen this version before, and on the big screen it was amazing. Spoiler alert: The Blade Runner is a replicant too.

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Pumping a flooded construction site.
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Waiting is the hardest part.
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Modern man.

On Friday, we took a tram to the end of the line at IJburg. We wandered around the new residential neighborhoods built on reclaimed land, bought ice cream cones, patted a silky cat, and rode the tram back to the central station.

From there, we walked back home through the Red Light District and got weirded out by the bikini-clad prostitutes smiling from behind the alley windows.

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Beachside strut.
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A rare grassy field.
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Growth and moss.
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Ducks on poles.
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Banana man.
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Boat people.
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Hooker.
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Golden slot.
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J crossing another bridge.
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Another trash nest.
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Spike barrier.
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Scroungers.
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Don’t hate the playa round 2, electric green boogaloo.

We made pasta and broccoli for dinner and watched the sun set from our window overlooking a duck-filled canal.

On Saturday morning, we took the metro to the central station and bought intercity train tickets to Dordrecht, Netherlands (16€ each).

After checking a sign on the train platform, I walked back to J and was surprised to recognize a friend since elementary school.

He was traveling with his mother, a teacher, and a group of students from my former high school. They had just arrived in Amsterdam.

I had hoped I would run into someone I knew on this trip. If any factor had been different, I would have missed him too. We only had a few minutes to chat before our train left. And in our haste, the photo of us was out of focus. We also looked very old.

I wonder how many times chance has conspired against me bumping into Christopher Walken or seeing Selena Gomez stuffed into a bikini and walking in front of me while “The Heart Wants What I Wants” plays from the outdoor speakers of a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf?

After an hour and half, we arrived at the small Dordrecht station. We took a short bus ride to our destination.

Villa Augustus is one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The rooms are in an over one-hundred year old brick water tower. A massive fruit and vegetable garden provides some of the ingredients for the restaurant and market. Our room overlooked the garden.

The other side of the hotel has a small orchard, woods, reflecting pond, and maze-like hedge, and access to the harbor.

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Villa Augustus.
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View of the garden.
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The crying game.
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Broccoli.
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Harvest line.
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Aphid infested artichokes.
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Peppers.
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Lady fennel.
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Nice hedgework.
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Pot.

We enjoyed a fresh lunch and slow service on the restaurant patio. A credit card processing error made our meal free.

In our room, we took a nap to the sound of the fan. We went back to the restaurant for dinner: steak and vegetables, pizza, and Trappist beer. Our card was processed properly.

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Squash blossom pizza with anchovies and herbed cream cheese.

On Sunday morning, we walked into Dordecht town and explored the empty streets. The buildings and canals were like smaller and more charming versions of Amsterdam.

Our only human interaction involved nodding hello to a policeman and having a conversation with the two bakers who sold us a load of raisin-loaded soda bread.

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Historic mill.
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Ladybug mosaic.
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Drawn.
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Old gate.
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Astro pole.
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Tiled edges.
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Delicate bridge.
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Overbearing awnings.
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Bear on a boat.
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Luxury.
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Empty shopping street on a Sunday morning.
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Passthrough to a canal.
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Lady amongst the bricks.
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Street blocking carnival.
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Beach babes.
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Another empty street.
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Window butt.
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Canal.
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Pretty canal houses with backyards.
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DAF.

Around lunch time, it started drizzling.

That evening, we ate dinner at the restaurant again and split a pint of rhubarb sorbet made from their own rhubarb.

Oh my, that sorbet was good. I can still imagine the sweet oxalic acid grit on my teeth.

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Villa Augusta’s path to the water.
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The market entrance.
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Our second and last sunset.

Monday morning, we packed our bags and ate breakfast at the restaurant.

J splurged on the delicious-looking buffet, but I decided I couldn’t eat enough to justify the cost. Instead, I ate my a la carte items and was ready to hightail it out of there.

At the station, we bought onward tickets to Belgium for another 16€ each and boarded the train.

As the beautiful, flat farmland whizzed by outside the train car, I realized how pissed I am at America’s crappy infrastructure. I don’t like driving in cars, and I especially dislike the idea of owning one.

The past few days had been a seamless experience of riding clean trains of all sorts, walking, and biking on dedicated city-wide lanes. It’s a pleasure, I’ll be sad to leave behind.