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June 26th 2016
Published: July 2nd 2016
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Cobblestones and suitcases made a lovely walk through Amsterdam in the early morning sun a little more awkward than it might otherwise have been! At 8am on Sunday morning the city was completely deserted as we made our way from Centraal Station, but we easily found our way to the lovely Hotel Estheréa and dropped our bags. To backtrack a little, the flight from Australia went well. We got some sleep and my newly broken tooth - more on that later - didn't bother me too much. Even our stop in Singapore was fun. We discovered a free foot and calf massage machine built for two and got the giggles while taking the plunge and putting our legs in. It must have looked so funny, not exactly one of the romantic wedding anniversary moments we imagined on this trip! Anyway, from the hotel it was a quick tram ride to museum square where we were meeting our tour guide for the day.

Poor Frank. His face when I mentioned I'd booked a 7-hour tour of the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum which started at 9.30 am on the day we arrived in Amsterdam, was priceless. It turned out that

it was a great plan though. Our guide, Tineke, expertly steered us to noteworthy spots in the Rijksmuseum before the crowds arrived. We couldn't believe that until recently, the amazing murals in the atrium had been painted over with white paint which, during the recent renovation, students slowly chipped away to reveal the art underneath. For my book club friends, a highlight for me was seeing the doll's house belonging to Petronella Dortman that we read about in "The Miniaturist". Wealthy Dutch commissioned these ornate houses as replicas of their own homes - complete with dolls representing the actual inhabitants, and details correct right down to the china in the little china cabinets and portraits on the walls. Apparently the doll's houses could cost almost as much as the real houses. They were not for children, but usually stood in entrance halls as a status symbol. Seeing The Nightwatchmen was reminiscent of the Mona Lisa - lots of cameras held high in the air, but luckily it was not as crowded as usual at the time we were there. From the musuem, our tour group strolled along museum square and onto a boat trip which explored the canals of Amsterdam. It was a great way to get our bearings and see the city - we drifted right past our hotel, too! After weeks of rain in the The Netherlands, the sun came out for us and we enjoyed a cup of coffee and one of the signature Dutch wafer biscuits filled with caramel that are for sale everywhere - "Stroopwafers". I'd also noticed a pile of them next to the coffee machine at Hotel Estheréa. Yum.

Lunch was a simple affair of soup and a sandwich at the Van Gogh musuem cafe, where we were led in through a side door - no queues, no hassle and lots of smiles and jokes from the friendly museum staff. Van Gogh seemed to be Tineke's passion as she became very animated when discussing Van Gogh and his life. This had advantages and disadvantages. The advantage was that we were spellbound by the little details she knew, that we never would have found out about just by wandering around the museum. So were an extra 50 people or so - no exaggeration - who followed her to every stop! Slight disadvantage. One hanger-on even asked Tineke if she could wait a

minute for his wife who had gone to the toilet. So funny! Luckily, we had a sound system which meant we could hear no matter where we stood. We just loved the Van Gogh museum. It seemed the perfect preparation for the bike tour Dorine was planning to take us on when we got to Eindhoven, which will take us to various places Van Gogh painted. We have been trying hard to practice our Dutch pronunciation of Van Gogh, but it just sounds as though we've swallowed frogs.

We were looking forward to a short nap before the night photography tour on bikes that I had booked for 7.30pm, but that wasn't to be. When we got back to the hotel, the unmistakeable pounding of loud music greeted us - and it got louder as we opened the door to our attic room. It was a street party on Singel and the street behind our hotel, and the music ranged from Zorba the Greek to some fairly serious heavy metal over an hour or so. Frank wasn't put off in his quest to be horizontal, but I gave up and went down to the beautiful cherry blossom bar

Night falls in AmsterdamNight falls in AmsterdamNight falls in Amsterdam

Quite happy with a few of my night photographs!
for a while before he eventually joined me. The chandelier in the bar is completely over the top, but wonderful, and the hotel has endless nooks and crannies where you can sit and read or plan your day. We enjoyed a drink and some bar snacks before heading off to meet Philippe, our guide for my photography tour. I am always frustrated when trying to take photos at night, and I'm not sure that after the tour my photos will be any better as I am not keen on lugging a tripod as well as all my other bits and pieces, but it was a great way to be shown around the city on a bike, and I did get some great hints. One of the best bits was actually coming out of it with a photo of Frank and I together! It was a great feeling to finally climb under the sheets at midnight after being on the move for two full days, and we slept like logs.

There was something just right about persistent rain falling as we walked to the Anne Frank Huis this morning - it made for a subdued, quiet atmosphere as, slightly

Anne Frank MontageAnne Frank MontageAnne Frank Montage

I couldn't do it better than this!
damp, we entered the museum and started climbing the stairs. It wasn't long before we'd spent 2 hours looking at all the displays and the amazing moving book case which hid the entrance to the rooms the family spent months hiding in. Frank and I loved all the displays and the movies and responses of people who had visited. One of my favourites was from a speech given by Emma Thompson:

“The only thing we have to remember is: all her would-haves are our real possibilities. All her would-haves are our opportunities. And the book’s a flame, a torch, we can light our own candles and take them and illuminate our hearts with the incandescence of her spirit.”

It was the perfect finish to our visit, and we thought and talked a lot about how inspiring we found it as we made our way back to Centraal station to catch the train to Eindhoven. We're off to visit the Hornung family for the next chapter in our big adventure!

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