Rain and Rembrandt

The day started out cold and wet (and remained cold and wet) so it was as good a day as any to visit the Rijksmuseum and see the Dutch masterpieces of the Golden Age.  En route we saw a pair of coots building a nest with sticks and litter on a tree branch in the canal.  Along another canal we saw a flock of baby coots and Mama Coot came up to tell us not to get any closer.

Having purchased tickets for the Rijksmuseum online we were whisked to the front of the line and went through security.  The security guard smiled and gave me a thumbs up when he saw James the Red Engine among the things taken out of our pockets.

Highlights of the Rijksmuseum:

  • A seated cupid with a mischievous grin who resembles our own mischievous little boy Peter.
  • Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters – Peter enjoyed finding the horses, the dogs, the man who fell on his face, and the little girl running to her daddy’s arms.
  • The Dancing Lesson – children teach a cat to dance.  Followed by Steen’s next masterpiece, “Children bandaging up scratches to the arms and face.”
  • The Threatened Swan – this was Susan’s favorite.
  • And of course Rembrandt, Rembrandt, Rembrandt!  We’d prepared Peter for this trip by getting a child’s book about Rembrandt from the library.  We brought the book along so he could match the paintings to the book and he was very excited to find The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild and The Night Watch.  I was showing Peter one of Rembrandt’s self-portraits and Peter surprised me by saying “and there’s his mother reading the bible” which indeed it was.

Despite his precocious interest in Rembrandt, Peter is still a toddler so soon he was most interested in riding the elevator.  Then things got all confused in the museum because “someone took ill” according to the guard and paramedics rushed in.  All very exciting for Peter.  I went to the coat check and Peter lay himself down on the floor besides Susan in the lobby.  A woman asked if he was worn out and Peter said “The Night Watch!”  Peter’s reward for good behavior in the museum was to be able to run around the Museumplein and stomp in puddles.

Next we walked to the charming De Pijp district and found a kebab shop where we got two falafel plates and a pita kaas (cheese pita) for Peter.  Peter enjoyed singing “Peter’s Pita!” as he ate.  He also worked his charm on the man running the kebab shop who gave Peter a lollipop.  After lunch, we strolled through the Albert Cuyp street market, Peter chanting “lollipops for everyone!”  The market tents had a great variety of foods, clothing, shoes, handbags, and tourist junk.  We stocked up on strawberries, broccoli, and Dutch cheese.  Peter enjoyed the very large birds (herons?) who were stalking the fishmonger stands.   After that we returned to Peter’s favorite playground and then went home for a nap.

In the afternoon/evening we took a walk from Dam Square to the Jordaan neighborhood.  A man fed pigeons in Dam Square and brought some close to Peter to check out.  Later we saw the pigeon man throwing seed at unsuspecting tourists so that they ended up getting flocked by pigeons.  In the Magna Shopping Center we sampled some free green cheese (it was good) and Susan and Peter rode up and down the escalators.  A highly-energetic Peter ran circles around us while I tried to read the descriptions from the tour book.  At the Homomonument, a marble triangle dedicated to the persecuted homosexual people, Peter walked around the triangle singing and dancing.  We finished up in the quiet Jordaan where we dined out at a charming restaurant called Restaurant Vliegande Schotel that specializes in vegetarian cuisine.  Susan tried to order in Dutch but the woman told her “Oh no, you must speak English!”  Nevertheless the food was delicious.

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On The Canal Where You Live

On Tuesday afternoon while Peter took his nap, I took a little stroll along the Prinsengracht.  This is one of the major canals in the canal belt or Grachtengordel and the longest canal in Amsterdam.  We’re staying in a little studio apartment in the basement of a 17th-century house facing the canal.  There’s a lot of charm and scenery just between the two nearest bridges, so the slideshow below is a little photo tour of our neighborhood.

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Amsterdam Ups and Downs

Our second day in Amsterdam started off rough as Peter felt cranky and didn’t want to leave “our little compartment” as he calls our studio rental apartment.  We went for a walk over the Amstel River on the famed Magere Brug or “Skinny Bridge” to the Waterlooplein.  Here is located TunFun, a children’s play park located in a former highway underpass.  Peter had been longing to go to the “underground playground” since he first heard about it a few weeks ago and asked about it all day on Monday.  Unfortunately, he was still subdued and a bit overwhelmed so while he played with little cows and pigs and did a little bit of climbing he was not his usual active self.

We walked back by way of Rembrandtplein where Peter climbed up a jagged rock.  For lunch we went to a pancake restaurant called De Carousel.  The pancakes were yummy and Peter enjoyed climbing on the carousel horses with another American boy named Owen.  It’s pretty evident that Peter misses his friends from child care.  Nearby the carousel was a free, outdoor playground which proved to be much more enjoyable than TunFun.  There were little red tricycles, a teeter-totter, a trampoline, and all sorts of things to climb on.  We’ve made a mental note to return here every day.

After nap we rented a canal bike – what they call pedal boats here – and pedaled through the picturesque canals of Amsterdam.  Steering proved hard, although I eventually got the hang of it, but it seemed at any moment the canal bike would veer off toward a houseboat or a bridge.  We pedaled around for about an hour singing “Two fools and a toddler on a pedal boat down a canal.”  We docked by the Westerkerk and then stopped in a brown cafe (aka pub) for beers for the grownups and a hot chocolate for Peter.  I believe it was his first hot chocolate and he loved as much as siting on the big bar stools.  Then we strolled back down the Prinsengracht to our apartment for dinner and bed.

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