Amsterdam (Our Lord in the Attic & The Rijks Museum

Finishing up our time in Amsterdam, we managed to knock off a couple of final big attractions; Our Lord in the Attic & The Rijks Museum.

Our Lord in the Attic

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Around the time that Catholicism was outlawed in Amsterdam in favour of Protestantism, an underground (or perhaps more accurately overground) church appeared. Its appearance guarded by its normal canal building shell. In reality, not only was this church hidden by a single canal side building but this church actually expanded back through 3 separate buildings and spanned 3 separate floors. The Church could hold up to 150 people in a single mass.

I believe it did become a little suspicious at one point as to why so many people were frequenting this building but was decided to turn a blind eye as long as it was kept away from the public eye.

The building itself, complete with its own 3 story altarpiece and beautiful organ are quite impressive. Impressive in terms of leaving an impression and in terms of the engineering that it was. It becomes obvious that they have spent a lot of time and money restoring this church (which is still underway in parts), extensively researching into minor details including which colours and paints to use.

The included audio tour is also quite clever, being activated by placing it up against NFC pannels as you move around the venue, allowing you to take whichever route you see fit through the building.

So overall, an intriguing visit with some beautiful views. The only problem overall that I saw was that at 9Euros pp, this seems a tiny bit too steep for its size. In my opinion I’d be happy to pay somewhere closer to 5-7 Euros, which would be just right.

Rijks Museum

Its hard to get a museum just right , often museums feel a little too small and sometimes they feel just a little too large. Rijks Museum for me fell into the latter category. Which it boasts an impressive collection, holding pieces from Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet & Mondrian, it all felt a little overwhelming & to be honest for me, nothing truly life changing.

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I was almost more by the layout of the building (which was closed under restoration for 10 years) & its clever organisation of its displays into progressive centuries.

Probably my favourite sections were the religious art sections in the basement & the 1900-1950 exhibitions on level 4 (which had the piece from Mondrian, some fascinating face masks and a Nazi Chess board. Also as a tourist, its a must to grab a sneaky photo with the I Amsterdam sign behind the museum in Museum Square.IMG_6981
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Overall though, 2 hours of power walking through the exhibitions probably got us less than a third of the way around the whole museum. We were lucky enough to borrow some museum passes frown our friends Owen & Fem who’ve recently become Amsterdam locals. The downside of this is that unfortunately I didn’t catch how much the museum cost.

One final point before I head off, If you’re a fan of Rembrandt’s Night Watch, the Museums centre Piece, make sure you head
over to Rembrandtplein where they have brought the whole painting to life though 3D bronze cast statues, now that is amazing!

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Amsterdam (Van Gogh Museum & Anne Frank House)

Jenny & I are currently hanging out in Amsterdam, after a few days with some lovely family friends in Rotterdam who generously treated us as family.

Now, this last week until today, has been so hot, like “I’m sweating through my clothes” grossly hot. It’s been terrific (and slightly exhausting)!

Travelling at our own pace away from a tour bus has meant that we are once again time rich, so we’ve managed to lock in a few more time expensive ventures this week including The Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank house. I thought I may expand upon these two as they are a couple of Amsterdam’s most visited tourist attractions!

Van Gogh Museum.

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Firstly) If you’re gonna go, buy your ticket in advance (even on your way walking there is fine) from pretty much any ticket seller in town, it costs the same but allows you to join the much shorter pre-bought ticket line).

Secondly) I’m not going to lie, I’m not a huge paintings guy. Prior to this trip, my instant reaction to Van Gogh would be “Why does he paint so weird?” or “why is he such a big deal?” So the idea of handing over 17Euro pp to see a whole museum of his paintings was keeping my expectations low.

I did however enjoy it.

In fact, I came away with a far greater opinion of Van Gogh than when I started. From our visit I came to see the intricacy and depth in his work, the variety of his works (including his Japanese phase), to see him breaking away from and challenging the status quo & to realize that his life was very intriguing. His was the the kind of life that usually generates a cult following. He was a deep and sometimes troubled thinker whose life ended before it should have. In this way he is similar in a sense to the likes of Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckley in the music world. I also had no idea how fast he was producing these masterpieces; at his peak he was pumping out a painting a day!

I often find that the artists I come to appreciate the most are the ones whom I don’t initially like. The ones who with time turn me, who redefine to me what is good, the ones who contagiously grow on me, and the ones who win me over. With this recent thought provoking visit to the Van Gogh Museum, I feel that may indeed be happening. So if you don’t like Van Gogh, I challenge you to try him out and visit the Van Gogh Museum (it’s the only place you’ll get the full picture of his works). Besides, you can’t fully appreciate him by Google Image searching him.

Anne Frank House.

Prior to my visit to Anne Frank’s House we’d heard some mixed reviews about the Anne Frank House, mostly that as it’s left empty (at the request of Otto Frank) that it’s a bit like walking around a prospective flat that you’re hoping to land. Alongside that we’d just missed out on getting some ‘skip the line’ type tickets by ordering them online from the Anne Frank website before they sold out & to make it worse, the lines were consistently HUGE. With that in mind, personally I was a little 50/50 whether we’d actually go…

But unlike our visit to Van Gogh we’d already done a little bit of homework by reading the book (as well as ‘The Fault in our Stars’ which also talks about it) so we already felt a connection that we couldn’t leave…

So we committed to it, waking up at 6am, getting ready and tramming down there for a 7:20am arrival. We were the 18th person in line (1 hour 40mins early) and it was actually a good time because we brought books, luckly managed to claim the spot in line under hang of the building away from the rain, Anne Frank’s offered free wifi for those in line & discovered that they secretly open 30mins early in summer to quell the queues. So in total we only ended up having to wait 1 hour 10mins, away from the hot sun reading books.

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Now while I think a little bit of furniture wouldn’t hurt, as the haters have commented, I think it was actually done really tastefully. I personally found it quite moving & connected with it immensely. Also at 9Euro pp it’s half the cost of Van Gogh! (the only extra cost is your time in the line which can be avoided by purchasing tickets in advance).

Ride Review: Efteling’s Baron 1898 (As featured on themeparkinsider.com)

Wednesday marked the day that The Efteling’s new roller coaster Baron 1898 opened! We were there to celebrate the occasion and as we do on the side, report back to Theme Park Insider.

Arriving at 9:30am we got in 30 minutes before the 10am opening time, using the “Ticket Extra” deal. At this point, only a fraction of the car park was filled. Once in we ran through the park in hopes of getting an early spot. We quickly realised however that they’d gated off the wing of the park containing the Baron ride (we suspect this was just for today). These inner gates only opened at 10am followed by a mass run of squealing Baron fans (us included), reminiscent of scenes from Jurassic World running away from the from the raptors!

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After funneling into the lines (single rider or group), which have been well built up since the creation of the promo videos, halfway along you are given the option of either selecting a front row seat with a longer line or 2nd/3rd row seats at half the time (with the initial single-rider line being the fastest of all the options). Being the first part of the day most selected the front row, creating opportunities for people near the entrance of the queues to jump a rail into the 2nd and 3rd row positions.

Once we were in the line it took a good while before the rides officially began operating, sending a number of test rides around the circuit, a couple of these had quarter-filled groups filling the seats. We believe the initial small groups were a mixture of park staff and radio competition winners which was cool.

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Rides officially began running consistently at 10:20am, nearly a full hour after we entered. Once they were running they were running at 18 people (three rows of six) approximately every 1 minute and 33 seconds.

The theming really begins once you enter the building, where in the first room you are presented with the story. A mining baron appears in black and white on a projector screen explaining that he’s seeking to find fortune and he’s sending you, his miners to go and get the gold! The projection is interrupted by some “white women” (i.e. ghosts) who are the guardians of the gold. Articles in the room begin shaking, lights start flickering and the baron encourages you to not to be put off but to push on!

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In the next room you meet the baron, an impressive, full-sized animatronic who gives you further instructions. Then the doors open to the ride itself.

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You hop on the ride, they check your restraints, giving the all clear, the ride moves forward through mist where you encounter the white women once more who tell you (in Dutch only) that you were warned and therefore you shall now face the consequences. Things begin shaking and moving before you move on and up the tower. At the this point comes the climax of the ride where you reach the top of the tower and pause, just before plunging vertically in to a white wall of mist at the entrance of the mine below. This is followed by a rapid series of twists and turns along the rest of the track (outside).

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The ride itself though reasonably short packs in a lot of thrills and is very smooth. It’s a lot more fun than I’d been preparing myself for. We came off buzzing! Can’t recommend this ride more!

Once we left the ride we were given a souvenir CD, containing a remixed single of the rides sound track, very cool. We also saw that the line had grown significantly, extending far beyond the ride lines, over two hours in wait! The Efteling has really done itself proud with this one!

Amsterdam

We’ve just finished up in Amsterdam & what a blast! Amsterdam has to be one of our favourite cities we’ve visited so far. It felt a bit like Venice except with better infrastructure (roads, trams etc) and a target market closer to our age group. We found that there was a lot to see and do including something’s that we’ll save for next time (including Anne Frank’s house & the Van Gogh art gallery). It was very easy to make your way around with just English and we found on the whole people to be very friendly and helpful.

Amsterdam used to have a tax based on the width of your house...this guy is winning...the thinest house in Amsterdam,

Amsterdam used to have a tax based on the width of your house…this guy is winning…the thinest house in Amsterdam,

The netherlands are pretty famous for their tulips!

The netherlands are pretty famous for their tulips!

Canal cruise Amsterdam

Canal cruise Amsterdam

Mike’s Bike Tours & Rentals

Cycling in Amsterdam was on my bucket list, it one of those quintessential things to do in Amsterdam. A city where the cyclists are king! It was hilariously good fun & incredibly efficient being such a flat city. We took a bike tour with Mike’s Awesome Bike Tours of Amsterdam who were good fun & really knew their way around. They also had some great tips about local markets and stores. They put us onto the market & Winkel that we talk about below.

Our tour bikes

Our tour bikes

Local Foods

It’s surprising how few Dutch themed restaurants are in the centre of Amsterdam, we only found one which was really overpriced, instead we found a strong Argentinian & steakhouse contingent of restaurants. We imagine that you’d find a normal run of the mill Dutch restaurant out in the more suburban areas of Amsterdam. So if you’re like us & you want to eat local on a budget, we recommend some of the following places:

Doe maar Noordermarkt

Offers a great selection of local produce & is located right next to Winkel (below) on Saturdays

Doe maar Noordermarkt - I didn't even know there were this many varieties of edible mushrooms!

Doe maar Noordermarkt – I didn’t even know there were this many varieties of edible mushrooms!

Doe maar Noordermarkt - so many cheeses!

Doe maar Noordermarkt – so many cheeses!

Febo is a Fast food chain here in the Netherlands that serves the classic dutch dishes of Kroquettes (Crumbed & Chips covered in mayonnaise. The dutch seem to be really into these two dishes, especially their chips – which they do really well, a good mix of crispy crust & soft potato centre…as for the mayonnaise, I think I’m a convert! The real highlight of Febo in particular though is the chance try food from a heated vending machine! It sounds gross but don’t knock it till you try it! A whole wall of each febo is dedicated to the vending machine of which is restocked from the restaurant behind. Put in your euros 1.60 Euro per Kroquette & I recommend the kroquette with peanuts in it, yum!

Herring Stalls

Another Netherland’s classic dish is the herring, which can be found in stalls throughout the city. The herring is served raw but marinated in salt and spices with a side of pickles & raw onion. It may sound a little much, I was personally anxious before trying it, but it is actually really delicious (especially for any sushi or gerkin fans out there).

Advertisement for herring

Advertisement for herring

Jenny just about to devour some raw herring

Jenny just about to devour some raw herring

This is no red herring, this is legit

This is no red herring, this is legit

Winkel

This café (pronounced ‘Vinkel’ – which just translated to ‘shop’) seems to be a hidden little secret of Amsterdam. We’d been told on our bike tour that we needed to go check this place out for their famous apple pie. When we arrived there was literally a line out the door and around the corner. Inside you realize that their apple pie is actually a big deal, that’s pretty much all people order here and for good reason, it was the most delicious apple pie I’ve ever had! To give you an idea of scale, apparently they make 140 pies per day on average, each of which get cut into about 8 pieces, so on average these guys are selling around 1120 pieces of apple pie a day, that is some popular apple pie! The other item on the menu of significance is their fresh mint tea with honey, so delious and freshing! Having both a slice of pie and the tea will set you back 6.5Euro, so worth it in my opinion.

Wikel (awesome apple pie & fresh mint tea) - there was a lul in the line just as we went to leave

Wikel (awesome apple pie & fresh mint tea) – there was a lul in the line just as we went to leave

The famous Winkel apple pie & fresh mint tea - next to the Doe maar Noordermarkt

The famous Winkel apple pie & fresh mint tea – next to the Doe maar Noordermarkt

Puccini

This chocolate shop sells an impressive array of store made chocolates. Many of the flavours on offer where new to me, based on the quality of the shop, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them were original. We personally tried the peppered chocolate, lemongrass chocolate & the Drambuie chocolate, all of which were delicious. We’re told that this shop is renowned within the international chocolate circles, so if you’re interested in the best chocolate that money can buy, this place is for you! Ironically the chocolate shop is also located directly across from a ‘coffee shop’ (that sells weed) so I also imagine that Puccini would be perfect for the munchies haha.

Amazing chocolates

Amazing chocolates

Red Light Secrets: Museum of Prostitution

Having decided not to go to a sex show in Amsterdam we felt like Red Light Secret, which boasted to give a behind the scenes look into the life of a prostitute, would provide a good alternative without the visual explicitness. In particular what attracted us to the museum was the promise to hear real life stories from local prositutes around how they got into the business, how they feel about it now & where they see themselves in the years to come. We were not disappointed, at only 8Euro each (normally 10 but the 2Euro discount is widely available from booking offices), the museum offered a good mix of class & fun. We found it interesting that the FAQ sections around the museum often painted prostitution in a reasonably positive light but many of the included stories from the women spoke reasonably negatively about the business (1 was tricked into it, another wasn’t proud of it and a 3rd didn’t like sleeping with so many guys therefore began to specialize as a dominatrix where sex was not required). Other highlights for me included the screens that give you an impression of what its like to stand in the windows & the confessional wall which provided a bit of a laugh. Overall, I was really impressed by the museum & would suggest it to anyone and in particular those for whom want an M-Rated Amsterdam Red Light District Experience.

We're thinking of upgrading our car - this is probably all we can afford at the moment...

We’re thinking of upgrading our car – this is probably all we can afford at the moment…