DeenaByrne.com
Author.Traveler.Eater
IMG_1932.PNG

Blog

I think I read Marian Keyes' first book, Watermelon, about 13 years ago. The book was released in 1995, and I discovered it 9 years later.

I can't stop thinking about this photo she posted on Instagram last month. She just now translated this book - a book that was released 22 years ago - into Icelandic and released it last month.

It was a good reminder that fiction never goes out of style!

Amsterdammmm

Happy pre-Friday y’all! How very astute of you to recognise that my title is a complete rip-off from season two of “My dad wrote a porno!” Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism, isn’t it? If you didn’t get my reference, definitely get on and listen to that podcast. It’s pure adulterated joy 😉

Anyways, I recently went back to Amsterdam, and this visit confirmed what I suspected all along – that city is the tits. I’d been once before with my now-husband back in 2013, so this trip was different. We had less than three full days, and it was all about culture.

my parents + their prosecco in our teeny tiny steerage room

my parents + their prosecco in our teeny tiny steerage room

I met my parents in Vienna (blog here) and we took the overnight train that had the layover in Cologne. We wanted to maximize our time, and my husband recommended we take a train. I was game – he either spoke of this train as if it was glamour on wheels or I somehow mentally edited his words (likely the former) – and when I told my parents they were into it.

I joked that they had to bring their elbow-length gloves and top hats so we’d fit in with the locals, and we all let out obnoxious guffaws to signify our imagined wealth.

Well, color me surprised when we boarded to find our private cabin looked like an even more cramped version of how steerage crew slept on the Titanic. It was teeny, but the complementary mini prosecco bottles took the edge off. There’s also no dining car! Glamour on wheels it was not.

We boarded at about 8 pm in Vienna and were in Cologne by 6 am, and our “layover” was just over an hour until the train from Cologne to Amsterdam. There’s a gorgeous cathedral right outside the station, so we snapped some quick photos, grabbed a bite, and boarded the last leg of our trip.

Cathedral in Cologne

Cathedral in Cologne

The train from Cologne to Amsterdam is just under 3 hours, so we were in Holland before lunchtime. That train was much sleeker – a fine reward after sleeping on a flimsy cot and scaling a flimsier metal ladder (see photo above) to frequently relieve yourself of the gratuitously consumed prosecco.

Amsterdam is just adorable. It’s a small city – smaller than Boston, actually – and it’s very walkable. We stayed in my favorite neighborhood in the city, Jordaan. This village-y former Jewish ghetto of sorts is amazing – I’d liken it to the East Village in New York (before the post-hipster invasion) or Shoreditch in London (before the Essex invasion – no offense).

Canal in Jordaan

Canal in Jordaan

There’s tons of interesting history in those parts, but visually it’s also the prettiest part of Amsterdam. It’s a taxi driver’s worst nightmare, boasting the most narrow, cobblestone streets of the city. It was traditionally a working class neighborhood that attracted artists, quirky cafes, bars, and shops and a vibrant music scene. I feel very at home there.

We stayed in an Airbnb that was a stone’s throw from the Anne Frank House. I think they’ve updated the museum since I last visited, and it was incredibly well done. Book your tickets online and well in advance – our host gave us that advice and we were so grateful.

We did the Heineken Experience that night, which I’d done also with my husband on the first trip. It was alright, but it’s in a very touristy area and very out of the way from where we stayed. Also, like many brewery tours, they don’t actually brew the beer there anymore, so it’s a museum. You do get two free drink tokens for free Heineken at the end, but, meh. I’d say skip it unless you looove Heineken.

“Almond Blossom” by Van Gogh

“Almond Blossom” by Van Gogh

We went to the Van Gogh museum the next day, which seriously exceeded my expectations. I’d put that museum on par with MOMA or maybe Musee D’Orsay – it’s that good.

Everyone knows Van Gogh was mentally disturbed, cut off his ear, painted “The Starry Night” from a mental institution, etc, but it was fascinating seeing how his work evolved through the years. He used to paint grimy peasant photos long before he became known for splashy colors, daisies, and just overall beautiful impressionist works.

He also had tons of fascinating relationships. Most people know he was close to his brother/financier Theo, but he was also really social with other fellow artists and there are tons of his letters on display that give a ton of depth to his life. Also, they had my favorite Van Gogh painting – “Almond Blossom.” This was a series of paintings, and he apparently painted this one for his nephew. Adorable.

the only half-decent photo I got from the canal tour

the only half-decent photo I got from the canal tour

 

We had to high-tail it to the next stop on our culture trip – a canal tour – but I’d say leave at least 3 hours for this museum. The gift shop is not to be overlooked, too, but they could seriously stand to step it up with the ear paraphernalia. There was just one ear reference – a keychain that failed to mention it was from the Van Gogh museum! This is an off-color missed opportunity, if you ask me.

We then did the “Water Colors cruise” tour, which steers you through a few different art installations featuring works by local artists. We were unlucky and it rained like nonstop the night we’d booked to go, and since none of us snagged a window seat, our photos were all dotted with raindrops from the boat’s plastic cover. It was a shame, because I’m sure it would have been beautiful on a nicer night. In any event, I definitely recommend doing some version of a canal tour, as touristy as it sounds. It’s a great way to see the city.

All in all, it was a great culture trip! Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the hilarious museums in Jordaan. There’s a cheese museum with seriously unique specialty cheeses, and a tulip museum en route to Anne Frank. Tulips aren’t in season until Spring, but if I had one more day I’d definitely have done the cheese museum tour. Alas, I just got one quick photo of the fanciest flavors before boarding the plane back home. It’s definitely on my list for next time:

Lavender cheese on the left, pesto on the right

Lavender cheese on the left, pesto on the right