Top 5 Things to Do in Amsterdam.

I’ve written about all of the things below in greater detail, but if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam in the near future, these are the condensed top 5 things i would recommend doing! (See all my writing on Amsterdam here.)

1. Albert Cuyp Market. If you want to see a local side of town, this – the oldest street market in the Netherlands – is it. The market is exploding in stalls of things to try – everything from frites stands (mmm!) to lingerie shops. We took a full morning to peruse the selection and mostly ate our way through, devouring a powder-sugar-covered waffle at Wally’s Wafels and gorging ourselves on local olives. The prices are unparalleled for such gourmet food! (The market runs Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm).

top 5 - market

2. A Bike Tour. Really, i’m sure any company will do you just fine; Mike’s Bikes was great for the youthful, edgy side of Amsterdam (if a little heavy on the information about weed and prostitution for people not looking for that sort of entertainment) but if you want to get the lay of the land hop on a bike and go. It is the local way of getting around, after all!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

3. The Van Gogh Museum. While the actual Van Gogh museum was undergoing renovations whilst we were in Amsterdam, the Hermitage Museum displayed the bulk of the collection in a special exhibit. Regardless of their housing, Van Gogh’s paintings come alive off the walls and force you to pay attention to their kinetic, vibrant energy. Though this is on the pricier end of Amsterdam museums, it is worth every cent!

vincent

4. Dam Square. Though this is certainly the touristy center, there are so many great little shops to peak in (and wonderful people-watching!).  As a connoisseur of cheesy souvenirs, i loved shopping in Dam Square Souvenirs which is full of beautiful – if pricey – wooden shoes and other lovely Holland-themed merchandise. The best part, though, is the enormous yellow wooden shoe outside. Free mega-tourist-photo-op!

top 5 - souvenirs

5. Eat. Anything, really, but especially the bread, cheese, sausage, and frites! The Albert Cuyp Market is definitely the place to eat your way through, but don’t let your gastronomical exploits end there. Our favorite restaurant was van Kerkwijk, in Amsterdam Centruum. The menu is recited by the wait staff, who are warm and friendly folk, and it’s a selection abrim in quirky combinations (like steak slathered in strawberry sauce and goat cheese – shockingly good!). Another great place was right next to our hotel, the Café Onder de Ooievaar – the cheese and sausage plate made for a sumptuous late-night snack!

top 5 - eat

Bon voyage!

Highly Honorable Mentions:

The Anne Frank House (it was a wee bit crowded for this claustrophobic, but still very powerful – book tickets online & try to go first thing in the morning, rather than in the afternoon!)

if you like my condensed travel reviews, you’d probably like my tripadvisor profile!

current jam: ‘shake it out’ florence + the machine.

best thing: magna carterrrrr!

 

Of Blossoms & Boats: Van Gogh at the Hermitage.

Refreshed from our wine-and-cheese induced sleep, Abby and i awoke in Amsterdam ready to brave the cold and wanting to explore. After a delicious breakfast at the hotel (have i mentioned the cappuccino machine?) we took a gander about the southern canal/De Pijp neighborhood, drinking in the quaint little bridges and houses stacked against each other.

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Some ten minutes away was our destination: The Hermitage Museum. Since the Van Gogh Museum is presently undergoing renovations, the bulk of their collection is temporarily housed here. I’d been waiting to see this exhibit really since my 12th-grade AP Art History class, when i’d first really studied Vincent.

It was sublime. Is there really any other word for visiting with Van Gogh’s work?

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Unfortunately, photography was strictly forbidden, so i have no photos to share of the actual exhibit. In some ways, i find restrictions like this liberating because it means i’m truly present with the art instead of constantly fiddling with the shutter speed on my Olympus.

Some of my favorite things we saw, though, were not the most famous members of the collection (like Wheat Field with Crows, though that was transcendent). There was a whole section devoted to Van Gogh’s study of Japanese prints, and his painted recreations of some of the prints in his own collection. To see how these pieces really shaped Van Gogh’s perspective as an artist in his formative years was really cool – especially the harsh angles and vibrant colors.

But lest we forget, the more famous works were also amazing to see. I hadn’t known that Almond Blossoms was painted for Vincent’s newborn nephew. Somehow, this idea that the blossoms were meant to celebrate new life made this work all the more endearing.

And the greens! Oh, the greens! I’ve always been enchanted by Bedroom at Arles­ and its quirky, incandescent spirit (my Art History teacher said once he always felt like the chairs were about to start dancing around the room). But it is even more lively in person – the dark patches outlining the bed and making up the floor are such rich tones of emerald that they illuminate the whole work. I was utterly intoxicated by the greens – the fishing boats at Saint-Marie series had me entranced.

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Bedroom in Arles, 1888.

almond-blossom

Almond Blossoms, 1890.

Fishing Boats at Sea, 1888. (I bought this one on a postcard!)

Fishing Boats at Sea, 1888. (I bought this one on a postcard!)

Some two hours later, we exited the gift shop (postcards in hand, of course) and made our way to Kerkestraat for the (aforewrittenabout) bike tour! Our afternoon was thus consumed by exquisite art and wheeling about town – what more could you want from a long weekend in Amsterdam, really?

That was really the bulk of our first day; the cold was too potent to spend too much time out with the sun going down. We returned to our new favorite bar/café, Onder de Ooivaar, for yet another round of wine and cheese. The next day promised a tour of the Anne Frank House, eating our way through the Albert Cuyp Market, and GIANT YELLOW wooden shoes!

current jam: ‘tout doucement’ feist.

best thing: ravioli.

of note: photos of van gogh’s paintings from here. 

Vivacity and Verve: The View from the Mountain

Any attraction that boasts of free admission or significant concessions for students has, undoubtedly, made its way onto my Bucket List for Edinburgh. There’s plenty of tight-budget-friendly places to see in the city, so with our sense of adventure in tact Nora and i set out to find the most fun for the most inexpensive fare.

Our first stop was  the Scottish National Gallery for no other reason, really, than it was free. Having once flirted with the idea of majoring in Art History, i have a particular affinity for art galleries and, most especially, one with (you-guessed-it) Vincent Van Gogh. When we stepped into the second-floor impressionist room, i went weak in the knees. On a blue wallpaper’d wall, encased in an ornate bronze-colored frame, were two works by Van Gogh. In living, breathing color. I hadn’t even known they were there.

It was sublime.

The Gallery, as it happens, is an exquisite museum. The collection boasts of works by Renoir, Monet, Raphael, Degas, Turner, and Singer Sargent (to name a few whom i love). The space is moveable, breathable, and does that near-impossible trick of making you feel not claustrophobic when in an art museum. Nora and i toddled about, admiring the neo-classical to the ancient and back again for over an hour. (I would love to show you pictures, but there’s no photography in the Gallery!).

We did, however, attempt to ensnare the beauty of Arthur’s Seat in photographic form the subsequent day.

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Arthur’s Seat, named such for the famous King, is an extinct volcano situated in the heart of Edinburgh. It promised to be an elusively sunny Scottish day, so we set out to hike its peak. With lungs as asthma-plagued as mine are, we had to take frequent stops along the trail – but these afforded us incredible opportunities to drink in the scene unfurling in front of us. The higher we scaled, the more of Edinburgh we could see. In our pink-cheeked, windblown state we were caught somewhere between awe and disbelief at the view.

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Can you spy Edinburgh castle? this is near the start of the trail!

About a third of the way up to the summit!

About a third of the way up to the summit!

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Salisbury Crags & the city from Arthur’s Seat!

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Standing on an extinct volcano.

Standing on an extinct volcano.

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Van Gogh’s ability to sculpt with paint is what, for me, makes his work have such life. The colors weave in this complicated dance that verges on the frantic. Van Gogh painted a breathing world, preserving in solitary images unyielding motion and music.

I felt, standing on the peak of Arthur’s Seat, like i was peering into a painting by Van Gogh. Like the tiny lines that bent and curled into the streets were veins in a living, heaving, singing city. Complicated intersections in the deep browns of the buildings and the painful, cold blue of the sea. Endless movement, preserved like a painting far away from the rocky ledge i stood on.

Adventure shot! Thanks, Nora, for this picture!

Adventure shot! Thanks, Nora, for this picture!

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It’s easy to see how Edinburgh, as a place, has ignited such passion in artists across its history. There’s something romantic, something ethereal about its wideness and complexity. It’s enchanting, in the close-knit closes and alleyways juxtaposed to the expansive monolith that is the mountains within the city limits. Enchanting, bizarre, beautiful, and moving.

Part of this quirk and verve to Edinburgh, i think, stems from the castle that marks its heart. Though the castle is far from a free adventure, it’s worth every cent – so to St Margaret’s chapel and Mons Meg we went exploring.

From the castle terrace!

From the castle terrace!

Alas, with all things, there had to come an end. Nora was back to her university early the next morning and i was left to sift through the mountain of reading i’d put off. It has been a whirlwind of color, of light, and of wonderful friendship shared in the fabric of this magical city.

And yet, even while buried in essay-writing, i’m still enchanted. Perhaps that’s the secret to Edinburgh: how the magic permeates, like the curling streets, into your veins. Making you and the city almost inextricable from one another.

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Princes Street at night.

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The Castle at night!

current jam: ‘below my feet’ mumford & sons

best thing: nutella!

Hometown Tourist Night Out: Wine & Design

So while i was internally wrangling with the metaphorical implications of turning twenty, i actually spent the day doing less-than-tortured festivities. Namely: painting an acrylic tree with a Van-Gogh-inspired backdrop with my new social event obsession, Wine & Design Chapel Hill.

(they gave me a free koozie (for my soda!) for my birthday!)

Wine & Design is, as i understand it, a quickly growing corporate art-making franchise wherein you can take a night out to “get your art buzz on.” You bring your own beverage (thus, the wine!) and an artist teaches you step-by-step how to paint the chosen work for the evening. We went for their “funky landscape” workshop and had a total blast!

the supplies provided for art-making!

Our artist, Arlie, was hilarious & a really wonderful teacher!

the painting progress over the evening…

(photo courtesy of the wine & design chapel hill/durham facebook page!)

It was such a treat to get back into painting. I haven’t really made any art since going to school, other than the semesterly tradition of découpaging the hell out of my notebooks and plastering my walls with postcard collages. There is something incredibly soothing about the physical motion of painting, the satisfaction of seeing a piece completed to its end. It’s also fun to make a less serious piece – like a tree – rather than always getting caught up in making something that matters. To me, what mattered was this cherished time with loved ones and having a blast swirling paint on a canvas.

my finished piece!

Though Wine & Design can be a little pricey, it is totally worth it. You’re not just paying for the painting instruction, materials, or work itself – you’re really treating yourself to a night out!

(For more of my hometown tourist series, click here!)

current jam: ‘she walks right through me’ alex day

best thing: chai tea & legal pads full of inked notes.

Tagged, You’re it.

As my blog has now been around for nearly a year (celebrations! confetti! ducklings!) i tend to get considerably more traffic from google searches than ever before. Fortunately for me, WordPress happens to be such a fancy-pantsy server that my stats page tells me every single search term that brings people to this blog.

And friends, some of them are real gems.

I wanted, then, to share a few of my favorites with you (and yes, i’m not making any of these up – and i’m presenting them to you in the exact wording my stats page tells me they were typed out as):

make love to a woman’s mind first (well, i can scarcely disagree, but i am desperately curious as to what exact post popped up at this…)

ask a teenager while they still know everything (i don’t claim to know everything, that would be preposterous! Just most things, like what’s good for me and all you could ever possibly have want to know about AFRICA)

occupy TARDIS (whoever you are, let’s be friends)

no i will never love you more than my computer (um, i’m a little concerned as to how, precisely, you came upon this blog with that particular phrase… uhh…)

221b TARDIS (again, be my friend? We can gush about Moffat together)

nonadult sex world (so maybe all of those claims on how i don’t make pornography are, in fact, total shams)

le petit prince sex (NO. JUST NO.)

sex shirt (whyyyy?)

scrubs intro + “sacred heart” + “internship here” (how did you make your way here, my 3 friends searching this term?)

witches boys history death (i have no words)

darwin as prospero mount holyoke (what on earth were you searching for?!)

mt holyoke college lesbian (might i direct you over to this post? it’s my most popular)

cause when you love somebody hard then you’ll love that way for life, you got all of my heart and i’ll never leave your side. i gave my word do love you all the way to the end so no matter what, i’ll be right here (…)

Anyways, these certainly always amuse me, so i thought i’d try and brighten your day, ducklings. They definitely make my googling endeavors look tame.

Til the next time!

(I still have no idea why SEX TARDIS VAN GOGH AFRICA LIZZIE SEX SEX SEX would ever lead you here! Bah!)

current jam: ‘blink’ chameleon circuit

best thing in my life right now: downton abbey. season 2.