Irish travel blogge
Birthdays are for some a reason to party. For me I love to escape these celebrations and spend them bettering myself in my opinion. By travelling. So on this, my 39th I wanted to scratch one off the bucket list, to go in search of those expansive, linear tulip fields in Holland. We took a four-day trip to Amsterdam, splitting the trip between the city and the surrounding countryside.
The trip fell on the back of a long weekend in work and I was only getting over a tummy bug so the early start was worse as I was sleep deprived for a few days. The flight left Dublin at 650, and it was a relatively short trip, landing not long after 9 local time. We travelled light so the only issue getting through Schiphol was the excessively long passport line.
The weather forecast before the trip suggested rain so in my head I had christened the city Dampsterdam, expecting the worst. As it turned out it never really arrived.
I had previously contacted our hotel about transit from the airport and I balked at the suggested €50 Taxi ride, and the also inflated shuttle bus. So we caught the train to Centraal Station. The train stop was easily found, in the lower ground floor of the airport main terminal. Costing €5.30 per person single, or two the train left from platform 1. We took a step back to admire Amsterdam Centraal station, it has a beautiful neo-gothic style. From Amsterdam Centraal it was 3 metro stops on line 33 to our hotel in Plantage, followed by a 500 metre walk. If you plan on using the metro, tram or bus more than twice in a day, buy the 24 hour ticket. It’s good value at €7.50.
Our hotel had a grand entrance opening out onto the Oosterpark, Amsterdam locals favoured city park. The Hotel Arena, a 4 star converted property has the semblance of a church to the exterior. It has a varied history. Built in the 19th Century it started life as an orphanage for Catholic girls, before becoming a home for disabled and incurably ill women. Serving as a mental institute it later took in the poor and elderly. Bankruptcy led to a change of tact, and after a full scale renovation it emerged as a hotel. I love a hotel with a bit of history.
The reception area and bar were impeccably decorated and we noticed a nice gas replica open fire. Perfect for a drink later. A large stilted stairs is centred in reception and the high walls are lined with full length white curtains. The welcome was friendly, professional and knowledgable. Our room not being ready at 10am, we were offered a locker with personal pin code. I always worry about luggage rooms, they are hardly secure. Insider knowledge there.
Eager to see some of the city we took metro line 33 to the Museumplein stop. We alighted opposite the Concertgebouw, a fine columned building from 1886 and considered one of the worlds finest. In this area there are enough museums to spend several days viewing. I was content to merely take a few photos and we walked across museum square. I was tempted by the Van Gogh Museum, but (shame) I’m not a big fan of his brand of art. Also here are the Stedelijk Museum and Moco Museums of modern art and the intriquing Diamond Museum.
After a bit of self-indulgence at the I Amsterdam sign, which was overcrowded and had people clambering all over it, we joined a line to buy tickets to the Rijksmuseum. That took a while. The Rijksmuseum is a purpose-built museum which courted controversy on its completion in 1885. Designed by Philip Cuypers it was supposed to be solely Renaissance in style but he incorporated gothic elements. Much to the rage of the people of the time, as it wasn’t considered Dutch enough. It’s a magnificent building both inside and out, with a tunnel allowing access to the large clear roof lit atrium.
Before proceeding further we stopped at the cafe which was of a high standard by museum standards. We both had the same; two pulled pork sandwiches, with saurkraut on ciabatta and cappuccinos to wake us up. It was a little expensive at €32.
Energy levels weren’t high enough to see the whole museum so we stopped by a few temporary exhibits before heading to the main show. There are some 8000 artefacts on show at any time, of an extimated 1 million which the meseum holds. We enjoyed the exhibit of model ships, which have some excellent craftmanship, and a vast collection of armour and arnaments. Each floor of the museum represents a different century or era, with level 2 dedicated to the 17th. This is the Dutch golden age, when riches flowed from its foreign colonies, and all of the Dutch artistic masters are represented.
Taking the stairs here lands you in the gorgeous Great Hall, and then we visited the Gallery of Honour. The building is as much a work of art as the pieces within. Vermeer’s Milk Maid and Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride are in the alcoves here and this leads into the The Night Watch Gallery, the museums masterpiece. It’s beautiful but the swarms of people here detract from it a little. Much like the Mona Lisa its fame takes something away from it. Be sure to check out the library it’s small but impeccably presented. Other highlights for us on this floor were some of the Delft ornaments and the huge William Rex model ship.