Brightoned Out, But So Glad I Went

I forced myself out of bed early this morning for two reasons: 1) to get a bit of work done so I wouldn’t have a daunting amount left after my outing; 2) to encourage me to get to sleep early…

My destination for today was Brighton proper. My host strongly recommended that even though it’s only a 3mi/5KM round trip on foot that I buy a £2.90 return ticket and go on the train to save my energy, which I think was very good advice. I headed out around 9:45 to take the 10:08 train, but I got in with plenty of time to catch the 9:59 even with having to stop to collect my previously purchased ticket.

That put me in Brighton just past 10:00 and I headed out of the station to my first destination of the day. There was plenty of signage and clues that I was heading to the touristy part of town.

The first touristy thing of interest that I saw was the Brighton Dome, an arts venue. It is part of the Royal Pavillon complex and is quite impressive from outside!

I walked around the Dome and got my first view of the Royal Pavillon. Keep reading for more details, but let’s just say that I was not expecting this in Brighton and am so happy my host and her decorator put it on my must-do list! There were even palm trees by it, adding to the exotic feel.

I wandered up North Street to find a second breakfast.

Then sat in front of the entrance to the Royal Pavillon to enjoy my last sausage roll and really good coffee from Greggs.

Then, it was time to enter what is, bar none, the most incredible building I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

Unfortunately, interior photography is not allowed in King George IV’s seaside pleasure palace. But the are tons of high resolution photographs on the palace’s website. Please head there now to at least look at photos of the banquet hall and its dragon chandelier. This palace was sold and completely stripped by Queen Victoria, who did not find it a suitable home for her family, but was bought by the city and carefully restored over the years to give an inkling of how sumptuous it was in the days of George IV. Spoiler: while the outside is of decidedly Indian influence, the interior decor is of Chinese influence!

I could have spent a day going through the palace as there were so many exquisite details to take in, but it was overrun by school children and hard to visit leisurely. 🙁 I think the music room was my favourite, but the dragon chandelier that is just two feet shorter than Miranda (!) was the most memorable feature.

Entrance to the palace is £12.50, or you can buy online a combination pass with the Brighton Museum for £15 (plus play an additional £2 for the palace audioguide if you want to get any real value out of your tickets). So the museum was my next stop.

It’s adjacent to the Dome.

The museum has a hodgepodge of exhibits, most of which are behind glass, so difficult to photograph. The building held  more interest, to be honest. Here are photos of a few things that caught my eye.

The tiles are gorgeous and have so much depth!

I enjoyed making a motif of Iranian-style tiles.

This turquoise colour is very traditional in Iran.

This pot looks like a beautiful work of art, but is a”stealth bomb.” The background of the images are of unspeakable wartime horrors.

This stack of crockery has a rod going all the way through it to hold it.

There was an exhibit about how Brighton was the place to come for a “dirty weekend.” This is very much England’s Sin City.

The mosaic floor in parts of the museum was a work of art.

This French-inspired bathing costume was the standard in Brighton for a long time.

I really liked these.

This one looks like a rainy day viewed through a window.

This one is deceptively simple. So many colours in it!

Frankly, at £5.20, I don’t think the museum is worth a detour unless you pair it with the Royal Pavillon and basically get in for half price.

I was ready for lunch when I came out of the museum and knew where to go, a little Japanese restaurant right in front of the Dome. Get this. I was thinking I wanted Asian noodles for lunch and was going to ask my host if she could recommend a place, but she beat me to it! It’s rather scary how well she’s gotten to know me! The restaurant is Pompoko and it was super busy, always a good sign. I went with their lunch special of udon noodles with prawns and squid. This picture is terrible, but if you squint, you can see how they cut the squid to make it more tender. This was crazy good!

I then meandered my way down to the water.

My destination was, of course, the tourist trap that is the Brighton Pier.

The pier is free to access, so I got to take it all in without spending a penny. The entire structure is owned by one company so prices are the same throughout all the shops. Not much was open today.

There are free deck chairs to use on the pier. I imagine these go very quickly in the hotter months!

At the end of the pier are a bunch of rides, some for kids, some for adults.

I learned while watching a programme recently that that tower at the back with a slide is called a helter-skelter.

I eventually reached the end of the pier. I’m looking towards France here.

Spot the annoying typo.

The last thing on my list was to walk through “The Lanes,” Brighton’s shopping district in a maze of narrow lanes not unlike the bazaar in Sarajevo.

On the way there, I paused for a gelato, surprising myself when I picked “sour cherry,” which was exactly that, with very tart fruit contrasting pleasantly with the smooth vanilla ice cream.

Brighton Square.

This block of flats does not suit the ambiance of the neighbourhood.

Most of the shops in The Lanes sell jewelry.

I didn’t linger long and decided that I was ready to go home after having a beer.

More pretty tile work at a hotel.

Another church made of flint.

This pub seemed welcoming.

I ordered a half pint of bitter and was offered a choice of four. I went with their darkest and strongest, Laine’s Best Bitter. So pretty! One of the options was an American pale ale, so I’m thinking that’s what I have to look for in North America.

I then meandered my way back to the train station.

But took a detour up a very steep hill to check out St. Nicholas’ Church.

I am fascinated by the use of the flint as a construction material. It is exquisite!

And here I am back at the Brighton train station, where there was a train only going to Hove leaving in two minutes. Talk about good timing with trains today!

I’m glad I went to Brighton for the day, but it’s definitely not a place I would care to return to and I’m happy I stayed in Hove. As I’d been warned, Brighton proper is very dirty, run down, and full of panhandlers. It’s also very tourist and gaudy. I can imagine that there are much nicer places to go for a seaside holiday in England. But the Royal Pavillon is worth the detour!

When I got into Hove, I had the bright idea of picking up my ticket for Gatwick tomorrow to save me a step. Well, I witnessed a distraught young girl have her money eaten by a machine. She said that there’s never anyone working at the Hove station and that when this has happened in the past, she was never able to get her money back. A nice man stepped in to buy her a ticket on his card before I could offer, so she was able to get home. But that sure validated my feelings of hopelessness the other night when I missed my stop!

I popped into Tesco to pick up a pizza and a small bottle of wine for dinner. One of the first things my host showed me in her kitchen was how to use the grill to heat up a pizza, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble doing that for my dinner.

Now, my host is the lovely Moira! I don’t like to say where I stay when I’m there, but I can finally give a shoutout to her and her  Airbnb listings. Coming home tonight, I marvelled that I’ve been living with her a full week and haven’t gone nuts yet! 🙂 Her home is unfussy, cosy, clean, and so welcoming. I could make meals at home if I wanted, watch telly in the lounge with her in the evening, and just live my normal routine. It says a lot that I felt comfortable leaving the door to my office open while I worked and didn’t feel the need to squirrel myself away to be as invisible as possible.

My European adventure has wound down. If I have time to grab a late lunch in Iceland tomorrow instead of just rushing through the airport, that will be icing on the proverbial cake! It’s been incredible and I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Now, it’s time to go pack. I’m told WOW Air is extremely strict and won’t let me on with my purse in addition to my backpack and suitcase, so I have to get everything packed the way it was when I came over here. Even though I actually have less than when I arrived, I’ve been struggling with the packing, so I really need to go spend some time on that. Then bed, because 5:30 is going to come really soon…

Shrewsbury Museum and Medieval Centre Self-Guided Walking Tour

I can’t believe I haven’t been out for almost a full week! Well, I have been going for daily walks with Puppy around the neighbourhood, but that’s been it. I had an unexpected burst of work that kept me very busy indeed! It wasn’t an unmanageable amount, but between that and Puppy and house duties, there wasn’t much time left except for an hour or two of Netflix in the evenings. I had the day off today, so I was able to head out to the Shrewsbury Museum, the only thing left on my to-do list for Shrewsbury proper.

Puppy and I had lunch, then I took her for a walk before settling her in her crate for her afternoon nap that meant that she’d barely know I was gone.

Spring is springing in my part of England. These are from the garden here.

I headed downtown by way of the route to the train station. Not sure if it’s a short cut, but it lets me do a loop. I like this row of cottages along a walk and bike path. They all have different coloured doors.

The museum is off High Street. It’s so strange to see here a bank I use in Mexico.

Market Square.

The Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery is in the old Music Hall.

Admission to the museum is £4.50 and well worth it! This museum is a trove of treasures! There is absolutely no way I can do justice to it as that would involve recounting 2,000 years worth of British history, for which I have an unfair advantage over most of you. So I’ll just share a few things that caught my eye.

You start in a very thorough exhibit about Roman Shrewsbury, starting in the Late Bronze Age and into the Iron Age to set some context. There was an exhibit inside a miniature “roundhouse” that explained how those people lived.

The ceiling:

Here’s what a roundhouse would have looked like.

The roof:

I learned in this exhibit that there are 70 hill forts in Shropshire, more than anywhere else in Britain, and that they had purposes beyond defence.

The Roman invasion was “a terrifying and shocking experience for the local people.” For some, life went on as before. Others took advantage of the situation and provided the soldiers with goods and services. New materials and technologies appeared. Think of what would happen in North America some four or five centuries later.

An interesting fact I learned is that the Romans introduced tombstones to Britain. Here are some Roman tombstones:

Here’s what a farming settlement might have looked like at the time. This was not a primitive society.

I saw some wonderful mosaics that reminded me of those I saw in Bulgaria.

One of the innovations the Romans brought was writing. “There is no evidence of the written word in Shropshire before the Romans arrived.” The soldiers who conquered the region would have been literate.

Wealthy Romans had all the comforts most of the developed world enjoys today, included glazed windows, painted walls, central heating, and running water. The underfloor heating was particularly ingenious. “Hot air from a furnace circulated under the floors and was sent up pipes built within the thickness of the wall and roof, something like a modern central heating radiator.”

Of course, the Roman period moved into the so-called Dark or Middle Ages. By 650 AD, the nearby Roman city of Wroxeter was abandoned. “What is certain is that bit by bit, the grand buildings of this once-fine city rotted and collapsed.” I hope to get a chance to visit the ruins of Wroxeter before leaving here.

Here is the most incredible artifact I saw today, a silver mirror that would have been held by a slave. It is “the finest Roman mirror found in Britain”!

The Shrewsbury Hoard:

I had fun playing with mosaic tiles.

Just a tiny bit of some of the Roman artifacts I saw. These are all jewellery or pieces used to tie togas and tunics.

I headed upstairs and found this signage rather confusing!

Into the medieval section.

I recognised this straight away, having spent quite some time poring over it when I was in university! It is the Great Domesday Book of 1086, a great survey undertaken by Willian the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest of 1066 to learn who owned what and its worth, all for taxation purposes. This segment is about Shrewsbury, whose townsfolk felt they were being overtaxed.

The medieval section has a timber frame ceiling.

Shrewsbury as it would have been in the 16th century.

This shows what the English Bridge would have looked like during the Middle Ages. It originally had two sections, with an island in the middle.

This was a fun game. There are magnets that you need to place in the correct spots to create a medieval town. I got to work!


It’s a real family!

Medieval tiles.

This did not go well.

I actually have real quill pens that I purchased when I went to Washington DC in 1997.

This screen by Shrewsbury Abbey played an episode of Cadfael.

There he is.

Medieval armour.

Next, I went into the exhibit about Tudor Shrewsbury, starting around the end of the 16th century. By this point the town’s economy was stagnant, the population was dropping, and buildings were in disrepair. The reformation of the church had left the abbey and friary buildings in ruins. But by the 1560s, there was a revival of the woollen cloth trade and the town began to prosper once more.

A bed owned by the Corbet family of the area.

The embroidery was exquisite and all done by volunteers according to traditional patterns.

Looking back to the medieval section. There were so many children running around that I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I would have liked. 🙁

Daniel Defoe, in his A Tour through the whole of the island of Great Britain, 1724-26, described Shrewsbury as “A town of mirth and gallantry.”

Then came a hodgepodge of exhibits where I learned a very surprising fact that I’m shocked I didn’t know: Shrewsbury is the birthplace of… Charles Darwin!

There was a very interesting bit about the natural history of the area and I got to hold a mammoth tooth!

I learned about the ceramics and porcelain trades here, made possible thanks to the good Shropshire clay.

Near the end of the regular exhibits, I saw a panel that said something I’d never been explicitly told, but knew implicitly, that “teenagers” are a very modern concept dating to the mid to late 20th century.

I also learned that the Victorians were mad about ferns and that led to some species becoming locally extinct!

“Trying to Find my Ancestors in a Cross Cultural Word,” is a portrait that “parodies passport photo-booth images and combines the artist’s own face and those of Victorian ethnic stereotypes.”

They combine to form this famous face. Amazing!

Finally, there was a special exhibit about British nursery rhymes.

I had never heard the “go to Spain” line of this classic nursery rhyme.

I love this!

There was another room upstairs, but I’m not sure what for. It did give me a great overview of the “miscellaneous room”and its ceiling:

And the exterior of the music hall.

There’s loads more to see at the Shrewsbury Museum, but that’s what I’ve got to share with y’all. Then, I was off to take a self-guided walking tour.

Back of Market Place (museum behind me).

The museum has a bunch of self-guided walking tour guides. I picked the top three that interested me the most. If I get through these, I’ll go back for more! They are really well done and detailed, so the £1 cost is very fair. I have maps at the bottom of the post to orient you once the walk recap is done.

The Medieval Centre brochure had this to say as an introduction: “Shrewsbury was an important town in medieval times. William the Conqueror put a strong baron, Roger de Montgomery, in charge of this lawless border region and the settlement was fortified as a strategic town to defend England against the Welsh. The Normans also reorganised the church and the importance of religion in daily life can be deduced from the remains of the Abbey, three friaries, and four parish churches in the town centre. Shrewsbury became an important market town and trade centre, attracting merchants who built substantial stone mansions in the 13th and 14th centuries and timber-framed buildings in the 15th century.”

The tour starts at the Music Hall, which incorporates Shrewsbury’s most intact 13th century stone house, Vaughan’s Mansion, owned by a leading fleece exporter.

From there, I walked back towards High Street, crossed it, and found myself in Grope Lane, which was referred to as long ago as 1324. It is one of the rare Grope Lanes that retained its name through the centuries. Its name came about for exactly the reason you think.

This is a good spot to see some of the old timber framing up close.

Grope Lane leads to Fish Street, from which you can climb the Bear Steps.

“The complex of buildings at the top form the core of medieval Shrewsbury. It was built and altered over many years and dendrochronology shows that the earliest timbers date from 1358.” So that answered a question, how they date the buildings.

This is the area where the medieval market would have been held.

I then headed to St. Mary’s Church, “the only great medieval church in Shrewsbury to have survived intact.” Its core dates to 1150.

I can relate (pun not intended) to this sign I passed on the way to my next stop.

What I’ve been calling the main pedestrian street is actually Pride Hill. In the Middle Ages it would have been lined with shops, just like today.

Next stop on my medieval Shrewsbury tour was the McDonald’s. Really.

Check out its basement! It would have been the cellar of a business on Pride Hill.

I circled back to the High Street, passed Grope Lane, and found myself at the Golden Cross Passage, which is typical of Shrewsbury’s shuts, or short cuts between two streets. The Golden Cross Pub has been dated to the late 15th century!

I emerged on the other side to take Milk Street and then turned on Wyle Cop to stop just after the Lion Hotel.

There, I could see two medieval timber-framed buildings, one of which was built in 1406.

The tour then took me through Barrack’s Passage.

These well-preserved buildings are 2 of the 32 surviving 15th century timber buildings in Shrewsbury.

From Barracks Passage, I descended Belmont Banks to get to the Town Wall.

Here’s a bit of the town wall.

There was no good vantage point, so it’s hard to show how high up the wall is. The wall was “terraced into the river bluff at the edge of the river flood plain. The whole wall was 3.2km long and was built between 1220 and 1250, on royal orders, following the successful attack on the town by Welsh forces. … The major part of the wall encircled the high ground and ran down to the river, where there were gatehouses on the two bridges. Much was destroyed in the 18th century and this is the best remaining section.”

I then retraced my steps and went down Beeches Lane to turn onto St. Julian’s Friars.

Instead of crossing this foot bridge, I went under it to the tow path.

These cottages are all that remain of the perimeter buildings of the Franciscan Friary founded in 1245.

I continued along the tow path to English Bridge.

Having been to Shrewsbury Abbey, the next stop, already, I didn’t go back since I’d been gone quite a while and needed to get home to Puppy. Instead, I continued to walk along the river.

These arches are part of the remains of a Dominican Friary.

It was then time to head back to the centre of town along St Mary’s Water Lane. It was a pretty steep climb.

The last stop of the tour is the castle. I’m undecided if I will go there because I’m not that interested in the military museum it houses.

“The castle was built within three or four years of the Norman Conquest [1066]. Its primary purpose was to dominate the town, to monitor and intimidate the population, and suppress rebellion. From here, the garrison could survey the whole town, including the approach through the neck of the meander, any movements on the river fords and hostile gatherings in the market place. Today, the inner bailey has stone curtain walls built in the 12th century on top of the original Norman ramparts. The crenulated parapets were originally medieval, though they have been repaired or replaced several times. The hall, with flanking circular towers, is mid-13th century.”

From this final stop, it was an easy one-mile walk home along the river.

Here’s a general overview of my afternoon:

And a more detailed map of some of the highlights of the walking tour.

Revisiting the Rijksmuseum

Work went super fast this morning and at noon, I had an 1.5 hours left to do. I was torn between finishing and then heading later to the Rijksmuseum, or going to the Rijksmuseum for a few hours as a break, then coming home to finish. The latter choice felt more logical as I would have a solid four hours to see the museum. I suspected I only needed to spend two hours there, but I didn’t know how bad the queue would be to get in. Since the job was easy and I’m so well rested these days, I could finish up at my leisure before a later dinner.

It was really cold today, with frost on the grass in the square outside my flat and at the park I cut across to get to the Museum Quarter. Rather pretty!

I wandered around the Museum Quarter for a bit and found a street lined with stores featuring expensive designers.

The Chanel store was rather pretty, faced with clear green glass tiles.

There are a bunch of food stands on the plaza between the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. I’ve been pricing burgers for a bit and the burger I got here wasn’t cheap at 6 euros, but it was decent value for Amsterdam and tasty. It got cold fast, though! 🙂

I went next door and got a cafe cortado, which came with little cookies exactly like I fell in love with at the Mediterranean place in Sarajevo, and which was just 2.10 euros! I would never have guessed I’d find the best value of coffee so far in Amsterdam right on the Museumplein.

The lineup to get into the Rijksmuseum was interminable, a sharp contrast to the day I took this picture:

I got into the special line for folks who don’t need to go to the ticket desk. It wasn’t nearly as long as the regular line and it moved much more quickly. Can’t say the same for the coat check line and I kicked myself for forgetting I could have gotten a locker instead.

Since I’d already done a fast tour of the Rijksmuseum, I had a much better and more efficient plan of attack for today. I first headed to the special ground floor exhibits. I had no trouble getting in a second time with my Museumkaart, but some folks with a different card were told they had to get a ticket since their card was not scannable. The ticket was free, but they could not jump the queue to get it. I was devastated for them.

Like in so many museums, you can’t use a flash at the Rijksmuseum, so I’m going to try to be discerning and not show too many blurry ones.

So The ground floor has exhibits from 1100 to 1600, as well as special exhibits, where I started.

The first special exhibit I visited was the model ships. These were built true to life at miniature scale in the 19th century, a time when the technology of shipbuilding was growing in leaps and bounds thanks to such inventions as the steam engine. These scale models could be used to explain innovations to a lay person and to aid in the building of the full size models.

This is the figurehead from the frigate Prins van Oranje. As you can see, it’s a man in full armour.

A lighthouse model:

I wasn’t that interested in the gun gallery (armoury), but I learned that “the Netherlands was once a leading centre for the production and trade of arms.” I have to say that some of the guns were works of art.

Then, I went to the pottery exhibit, one of my favourite parts of the whole museum. It’s actually broken into two parts, with other exhibits mixed in.

Blue and orange together make me happy.

This coffee and tea service shows that the application of enamel colours to porcelain was still a great challenge in the 1700s as evidenced by the fact that some of the pieces are more purple than pink.

This was an interesting object. It is a necklace made of four pieces of stovepipe. Surely meant as a concept and not something to wear!

The musical instruments were also works of art. They were mixed in with a few other exhibits as well.

Love this bat pin.

And the dragonfly pin. Lovely detail on the comb.

A group of violins.

The lute (I think) that has a face is a hoot!

One of the things that enchanted me on my first visit was the Magic Lantern exhibit. These were the earliest forms of modern projectors. Images on plates of glass were projected. When the plates were changed in rapid succession, you got a moving picture. Very cool! They date back to the mid-1600s!

Here are some magic lantern plates.

We got to see one in motion. The arms on this windmill appeared to be moving.

I then went into the Delftware (blue on white) exhibit, which had tiles and other decorative objects as well as practical items.

This is a roulette board.

This tile panel with a vase of flowers would have been fitted into a fireplace to give it interest when there was no fire burning.

I loved this dish with pomegranates and grapes because of the unusual colour choices the painter made. The grapes are orange and the pomegranates are blue and white.

This is a game box.

This is a beaker of ice glass, “an effect achieved by plunging the blown glass while still white-hot into cold water in order to produce cracks. When the glass is reheated and blown further, these cracks get bigger.”

There was a display of boxes.

Locks and keys:

There was an exhibit all about miniature silver things. Here are some mocked up in a dollhouse:

“Around 1700, porcelain vases of this size were extremely rare and prestigious.”

Coming back out of the model ships, I spotted this one. See the little figures on the deck? They are holograms! They were 3D and moving around. I’d never seen anything like it.

Next up was the exhibit about the Middle Ages, which I was not impressed with when I went through last time as it’s all religious art and objects. Yes, I know that was the theme of the day, but there was art that showed common life as well. So I rather blipped through this part of the museum.

Loved the colours on this painting:

A scene depicting the St. Elizabeth Day Flood.

The only known portrait of a black man in early European painting. He may have been been one of Charles the V’s archers, Christophie le More.

The ground floor of the Rijksmuseum has a picnic area for school groups and those with their own lunches. Look at that vaulted ceiling!

The Asian exhibit is tucked way in the back on its own. I don’t think people would know it’s there unless they studied the floor plan.

I loved the exhibit of kimonos.

This one was particularly unusual.

I was really impressed with this figure on my first visit. Look at the eyes!

I love Japanese pottery.

The museum has modern parts added to the old. So this would have been an exterior wall once upon a time.

Behind it was an exhibit of interesting photographs that did not photograph well. They were of collages of objects. The effect had a  3D texture that seemed innovative.

I would later see many more cabinets in this style. I think this is my favourite.

I headed up this back, almost secret, staircase to see the exhibits from 1700 to 1900.

There was a very cool light fixture that would “blossom” as it dropped down.

I wasn’t the only one who as mesmerised by it!

The staircase is really lovely. Shame its hidden away in a corner like that.

I watched the lights from the top for a bit.

Hope you can play this video!

There was more Asian pottery in the stairwell.

Next up was an exhibit of taxidermy about all the exotic critters Dutch explorers encountered.

Boa constrictor:

Capybara, an animal that is so exotic to me it might as well be a unicorn.

A llama.

So soft! I can now understand what all the fuss is about petting llamas!

Yes, that was allowed! 🙂

This entire hilarious sign is worth reading.

The museum has lost a lot of its period charm outside of what was once the main entrance, but you get the odd burst of it.

An Italian scene under umbrella pines.

A scene in the Rhine Valley. I can’t believe I remember that.

Pretty goblet.

This painting reminded me of the paint by numbers “style.”

I saw a couple more Van Goghs! This is Undergrowth:

One woman and her daughter came up to this one and said it must be Van Gogh. I knew it absolutely wasn’t, so I translated the sign for them (they only spoke French). The artist was, however, inspired by Van Gogh. The mother said that it was odd how the top is classical Dutch artwork, like dark like Rembrandt, and the bottom is Van Gogh. I explained that Van Gogh started in that darker style and then moved to the lighter, so this painting was rather like looking at the evolution of Van Gogh’s style. I hope she goes to the Van Gogh Museum!

Some wandering around later, I climbed up what had once been the entrance staircase to go see the exhibits from 1600 to 1700, including the Rembrandts and the Vermeers. There is beautiful stained glass in this part of the museum.

And more vaulted ceilings.

Looking out into the main hall of the museum where you don’t need a ticket. Yes, this is an interior space.

The hall is gorgeous. I’m glad I got this picture last time as there were too many people today to make such a shot possible!

This painting depicts a breech of the dam. I love how your attention is drawn to that bright red cape billowing in the wind and conveying the drama of the scene.

Now, a hodgepodge of stuff.

Another incredible cabinet. Pretty sure this was made from hundreds of tiny pieces of wood in different colours.

Not sure if these incredible items had a function.

This enamelled violin was just a decorative object and could not be played.

Just wow…

More wow.

I would love a four-poster bed with a canopy. 🙂

Another incredible cabinet.

The painter of this red ibis with an egg was my kind of woman. Her name was Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) and she was an artist and a naturalist. In 1699, when she was 52 and divorced, she and her youngest daughter sailed to Suriname!

Grey as it is, I really love the drama of this one.

Rembrandt’s famous Night Watch:

Vaulted ceiling in the great room holding the Rembrandts and the Vermeers.

Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. To be honest, I don’t remember learning about Night Watch in my art classes, but I definitely remember discussing The Milkmaid and how the milk being poured is the only sign of movement in the whole thing.

Another mosaic in the entrance hall floor.

This cheap crown was meant to be a gift for the King of Ardra on the west coast of Africa, but it never reached him.

Here is one of those box beds I saw at Rembrandt’s house, only his were proper cabinets with doors that shut.

A crib.

A map of the Iberian Peninsula. The bright blue lapis lazuli has faded to grey.

I loved these stained glass windows!

Her crooked eye is a lovely human detail.

Two oaks.

Another one of Rembrandt’s famous paintings.

Yet another magnificent linen cabinet. Just be grateful I’m not showing you them all!

William II, 14, and his bride, Mary Stuart, 9.

A hat with a bullet hole in it.

I was happy to see imperfect items on display.


A composition of exotic fruits.

A feast of turkey pie.

The olives are so life-like.

As is the fruit.

Next, I headed upstairs to the section about 1950 to 2000, which I missed on the first trip. This is a researched and imagined view of Moscow by an artist who had never been there.

I then had to go all the way back down the way I had come, cross the museum, and go all the way back up to the exhibit about 1900 to 1950.

Love this painting.

And these vases.

A war-themed chess set.

A numbered prison coat from the Lenzig-Pettighofen concentration camp in Austria.

I rather like this piece except for the chrome legs.

A pressed glass set from the 1930s in a style that never caught on, so not many were produced.

I was done, so I rode the elevator all the way back down. Here’s the main lobby, facing the entrance to go left to the Asian exhibits.

Behind me is just a small part of the ticket line. Imagine twice as many people (at least) waiting outside! It was three by this point, so, really, I think these people are wasting their money as the museum closes at five.

Looking towards the café.

Back out in the bitter cold and needling rain.

The Rijksmuseum is a truly incredible space. The layout definitely seemed a lot more logical on this trip than my first. I just don’t like how the 1st and 2nd floors are out of order when it comes to dates, although I surmise that it was done that way so that Vermeer and Rembrandt could have the Great Hall. This is an expensive museum (17.50 euros per adult), so I recommend spending at least three hours in it. I spent about five hours total in it and that was plenty for me. If you get a Museumkaart, you can go in multiple times.

There are a few more museums I’m interested in, but there’s nothing hugely pressing. I still have five days to fill and seven museums on my list, so  I am off to do some holiday closure research. 🙂

Also, I will have another post up in a few hours, a 2016 recap.

Tassenmuseum Hendrikje (Bags and Purses), Museum Willet-Holthuysen, and Rembrandt House Museum

I slept in a tad this morning and took it easy since I’ve been getting up early since I got here. I did a bit of my work for the day and set off late morning for the third museum in Amsterdam that I might have visited had I had to pay piecemeal for each entry: the Tassen Museum of Bags and Purses, the largest such museum in the world.

The sky was a strange colour as I stepped out of my flat.

I love this purple building at the end of my block, a good example of how a building can be colourful, but not garish.

Moped parking spaces.

What is that blinding thing in the sky?!

A museum devoted to cat stuff. Sadly closed today.

The Museum of Bags and Purses is in a canal building and the exhibits cover the history of bags from the 16th century to present day. The building housing the museum was built in 1664 for a former mayor of Amsterdam, Cornelis de Graeff, and restored as the museum in 2007.

I took about 50 billion pictures in this museum, but since everything was behind glass and I couldn’t use a flash, not many came out well. So I will show restraint. 🙂 I went through twice, so the pictures are going to be out of order. You enter the museum into a ground floor bag shop and then go up to the third floor to then work your way down.

Gaming purses.

Beaded bags were quite a luxury. They were first knit, then woven. Some have as many as 50,000 beads.

The need for sturdier bags made leather popular as the train travel age started.

Tortoiseshell was popular, but expensive and finicky. Advances in plastics made it possible to create replicas.

Snake skin with ivory clasp.

Prickly pear fibres and lace, dating back to 1789!

Chatelaines, which hung from a belt and then things like a thimble, watch, keys, sewing kit, etc. would hang from them.

Bags with silver frames were passed down from mother to daughter. The frame would be reused with a new bag.

Men’s leather bag. Bags for men fell out of favour as their clothing got pockets.

Very similar to chainmail.

Until recently, it was mandatory for Dutch schoolchildren to have a leather bag like these. Now, many use backpacks.

These were used before the leather bags. They held a tablet and stylus and served as a lap desk.

Novelty bags.

I like the stegosaurus look with the turquoise knobby bits.

All sorts of travelling cases.

These were popular as plastic became a common material.

Tulip bag.

I had to pay a 1.50 euro surcharge as they have a special exhibit about royal bags. I breezed through this on my first pass as it was crowded.

These belonged to Queen Elizabeth II.

I had kind of sort of thought to treat myself to a cream tea in their café, but it was closed today. I was told to help myself to free coffee or tea and cookies, though! Wow! Am I glad I didn’t get a coffee before going in and, of course, this rather makes up for the supplement I had to pay. 🙂

The café setting is extraordinary.

The crowd had gone through, so I went back to the top and started all over.

This 16th century bag had secret compartments. Intriguing.

Very pretty. Kind of looks like Mount Fuji?

Closeup of chatelaines with “stuff” on them.

Yup, Charlie Chaplin.

Very heavy cut steel bags.

See the teeny pencil?

Art Deco bags.


Peacock feather bags.

Lobster bag, LOL

Margaret Thatcher’s “Weapon.” Google it!

Gateau (cake) bag.

“Socks” bags after the Clintons’ cat. To the left of it is a picture of Hillary Clinton holding it.

Versace bag used by Madonna at the premiere of “Evita.”

Sunflower bag.

Love the budgies.

*Swoons* Love that snake head clasp!

This bag was held by a member of the Dutch royal family and we got to see how it was selected and dyed to match the dress.

This jewel was in a toilet stall!

And this one in another stall!

Wall hanging.

Amusing donations box.

I’m always attracted to bags with such bright colours (we’re in the shop now!).

The Tassen Museum of Bags and Purses was incredible. I am a real bag nut, but not in the sense of wanting expensive designer bags that I’m afraid to use. I love finding unique bags at thrift shops, especially well worn leather ones. I have little patience now for bags made of PVC that will age quickly. There were so many bags in the shop that I would have loved and not all were at terrifying prices. I would definitely consider this museum a place to shop for a nice bag and I think it would be lovely to have high tea in their café, although if you factor in the price of admission, it’s extremely pricey. Definitely something I’d consider if I was a Museumkaart owner living here full-time, as that would reduce the total cost immensely.

I didn’t get anywhere near the next museum on my list when I passed one that was right up my alley, but hadn’t been on the list of Museumkaart member museums I’d consulted. I’d figured out that that list was outdated since none of the admission prices were right. So I went in and asked if I could get in free. Yes! It is the Museum Willet-Holthuysen, which gives you the opportunity to wander all through a canal house that was willed to the city of Amsterdam for public use in the 19th century. I’m a bit of a voyeur in that I like to go through houses and see how they’re decorated, so I could not miss this!

You know straightaway that the family was rich because they had one one set of stairs but two leading up to the front door. But you enter the building through the basement door.

Looking down the basement hallways to the kitchen and the back of the house.

All of these items were crocheted, LOL!

Some of the kitchen wall tiles had interesting details.

Even the clock was crocheted!

The secondary kitchen, for messy chores.

The garden at the rear of the house.

Look towards the front of the house.

You then go up this magnificent staircase to the first floor of the house, with the public rooms.

The front door.

The house had a doorbell.

The women’s salon, where the owner, Louisa Holthuysen, received her guests.

The ballroom, where they had parties.

The stunning blue “club room,” where the husband, Abraham Willet, received his male friends.

Love that painting at the top.

The ceiling.

Love this painting too.

The dining room had a low ceiling because there is a pantry above, halfway between this floor and the next. The brochure said the pantry was not open to the public, but it was. Signage throughout the property indicates that they are constantly renovating it, so I guess the brochure is a tad outdated.

Now into the conservatory at the rear of the house.

Signage says this room needs a lot of work to return it to its former vibrancy.

Heading upstairs to the private rooms, I found the entrance to the pantry. This room would have held a lot of valuable items, so only the mistress of the house would have had a key and the room would have been regularly inventoried.

Heading up from the pantry.


This staircase would have led to the garret, which had the laundry facilities. To the left is Abraham’s library.

Can you see the door in the corner? It led to one of Louisa’s rooms. This way, they could go see each other without having to pass any servants.

My flat has a seat like this. Really like it. 🙂

Can you imagine sitting at that desk looking down to the garden?

There is another “secret” door in the library, but there was no mention of where it leads.

Stained glass in the hall.

Garish carpet in the “collection room.” Louise and Abraham were very well to do and did not have children. They spent their time collecting art and socializing.

The incredible wallpaper in the collection room.

The rest of the house was “modernised” by Louise and Abraham when they married, but this room kept the traditional dark wood Dutch furnishings from a hundred years prior.

Then, the bedroom.

The bed was actually two twin beds pushed together.

The wash area. Hot water had to be brought up from the basement.

Another secret door.

Chest in the hallway.

Abraham and Louisa. She inherited the house from her father. They married in their late thirties.

The final spaces exhibit some of Louisa and Abraham’s things.

Hat and umbrella stand (I think) by the visitor entrance.

The two entrances.

What an extraordinary treasure this museum was!

I headed towards my next destination and kept my eye out for food along the way. I’m really not into the whole holiday thing, but there are some decorations that I really enjoy. These are so pretty.


Drawbridge over a canal.

Chipotle-style burrito shop.

Back of the house, with the garden again.

Approaching Rembrandt Square. I went the opposite way of my next destination, but this area was my best bet for lunch.

Statue of Rembrandt with The Night Watch.


NOT New York style pizza, but it hit the spot!

This is a cinema.

I prefer the real kind, thank you very much (yes, this is candy sushi!).

There are so many wonderful cheese shops in Amsterdam.

I found a second-hand store where you pay by the weight. A tee-shirt is about 5 euros and a kilogram costs about 35 euros. They had really lovely stuff.

My final destination of the day was the Rembrandt House, which he owned before foreclosing and going bankrupt and in which he painted many of his masterpieces. Again, I’m not a fan of Rembrandt, so I wouldn’t have paid to do this, but I thought it would be interesting to see his studio and, of course, I like house tours.

Well… I was about to start in the museum when a staff member told me I had to check my purse. That was not going to happen! I’ve never been asked to check it before as it is not huge. I told her that I had all my valuables in it and would take care to not have it hit walls or anything. She sarcastically retorted that I don’t care about my stuff since the zipper was open! What business is it of hers if I choose to have my bag open somewhere that there is nobody around?! So that set a sour tone for the tour.

Then, employees hovered around me during my entire time in the museum. I thought I was imagining things, but one guy followed me almost all the way through and whenever I’d look up, I found him staring at me. Finally, I got told off for trying to take pictures (no flash) when literally every other customer was taking pictures and not being told to desist! All I can think is that because I didn’t pay for admission, I wasn’t considered a real guest?

So needless to say, I didn’t get much out of my visit because I was so distracted and I rather regret expending the energy of getting to the Rembrandt House. It is crazy expensive (12.50 euros) and quick to tour, so I don’t recommend anyone go unless they have a Museumkaart and/or are huge fans of Rembrandt.

At any rate, the audio guide was really good. The most interesting thing I learned is that people at the time slept in a sort of cabinet and that they reclined rather than laid flat.

When Rembrandt declared bankruptcy, an inventory of all his possessions was made. That combined with sketches he made of his home made it possible to furnish the restored space very realistically. It was interesting to see his collections room with things like seashells, exotic stuffed animals, and books. A few of his works are exhibited in the house, including those of four of the five senses, the first of his works that I actually rather like.

But, of course, the pièce de résistance was his studio. What struck me when I came into it was the light. It was a good reminder that I should place my own studio where it faces north to get that soft consistent light that is so perfect for a painting studio. There was someone there demonstrating how Rembrandt would have made his own paints and I got to smell that wonderful scent of linseed oil I love so much.

Upstairs from the main studio was another studio where Rembrandt’s students studied. It must have been cold up there in winter as there was no obvious source of heat the way there were two stoves in Rembrandt’s space.

Finally, there was a series of rooms with drawings and etchings made by some of Rembrandt’s students. I was tired by this point and ready to leave, so I rather breezed through this and didn’t even catch the artist’s name. I just wasn’t keen on his style.

It was mid-afternoon by this point and I was done. I asked Google Maps to get me home and decided I couldn’t justify a tram, so off I went.

Amsterdam is very damp so you see mossy footpaths all over the place.

I was afraid to ask the price of that cute Batman purse in case it was affordable!

While I knew that Maps was sending me in the right direction when I set off, I found myself walking longer than expected without having to turn. I realised that Maps had stopped navigating and that I was farther from home than when I’d started! This would happen three times before I figured out that because I was asking Maps to navigate to a landmark that was closed, it figured I was an idiot and didn’t mean to go there. Google’s idiocy never fails to astound me! And I was using the landmark because Maps doesn’t recognise my address. *sighs*

I put the app away in disgust and decided that even though I was really getting too close to home to make it worth taking a tram, I would. I passed the blumenmarkt on the way, a floating market selling all manner of flowers and bulbs.

There was a bit of a wait for a tram when I got to a stop, so I popped into the supermarket right there to get some dinner stuff (been shopping daily) and when I got out, the tram was just pulling up. It felt absolutely ridiculous to pay 4CAD to go about four stops or just shy of 2KM, but I was footsore (still breaking in my new boots) and really tired as I hadn’t sat down since I left except for the few minutes when I had my coffee. My tram driver was really sweet!

I got in and went straight work, then made a curry for dinner. The Patak sauces that I like that are such a luxury in Canada are super cheap here (but of course), so I’m working my way through all the flavours I haven’t tried yet. Why not? 🙂

This will be my last really full day out for a bit as I have larger quantities of work to do every day. But I should still be able to go out to do a museum every afternoon.

My Museumkaart has already paid for itself and I am 22 euros or 32CAD ahead!

Seeing the Highlights of the Rijksmuseum and a Very Special Dinner at Addis Ababa

When I got out of the Van Gogh Museum, the day had gone from almost balmy to freezing. There was a really bitter wind blowing. I was going to walk to another museum on my list a few kilometres away when I realised that the Rijksmuseum was almost right next door. It is a huge museum dedicated to fine arts and history of the Netherlands. It’s one of those museums that ideally needs a couple of days to take in.

Since my Museumkaart gives me unlimited entry, I thought that I might as well pop in, as long as the queue wasn’t too long, do a whirlwind tour, see two very important works, and then decide if I want to devote a whole day to it. The regular queue was super long, but I was able to just walk in with my Museumkaart. There are several entry points within the museum where the card was scanned.

Here’s the famous I amsterdam sign outside the Rijksmuseum:

The  museum itself is magnificent.

I did not take any pictures on this go around. To be honest, I should have found some lunch before going in so I was kind of intent on getting in, seeing what I wanted to see, and getting out. I was also rather tired by this point. The museum is a genuine labyrinth. The map and signage aren’t that helpful and no one I asked for directions could help. I joked on Facebook that I needed a search party! I also find that the distribution of the items is in an odd order. You start in the Middle Ages, jump to the 19th century, go back to the 17th century, and then jump ahead again to the 20th century!

There were two paintings I desperately wanted to see and I found them! The first was Vermeer’s The Milkmaid:

The other was Rembrandt’s The Night Watch:

I’m not really a huge fan of either artist, but these are such iconic works!

Admission to the Rijksmuseum is 17.50 euros, so two visits there will already eat into the cost of my Museumkaart! The museum would not have been on my list if I had to pay for my museum entries piecemeal and I’m glad I had a chance to scope it out and decide that it would be worth a day of my time. When I go back, I want to pay particular attention to model ships, pottery, musical instruments, and magic lantern slides. There  is also an out of the way Asian exhibit that was spectacular. So expect a much better Rijksmuseum write-up than this one, as long as my clients cooperate. 😉

Speaking of which, I came straight back home to have my leftover curry for a late lunch, write up my Van Gogh blog post, and then do an assignment due this evening. I was done by 6:30 and hungry. There are three Ethiopian restaurants within a one-minute walk of the flat (!!!), so I did some research as to which would be the best, Addis Ababa. Ethiopian is a favourite cuisine of mine and I haven’t had it in five and a half years!

I splurged and requested “an Ethiopian beer” and was brought this wonderfully caramelly nectar of the gods:

I picked the doro wat special, which came with all these sides. The spinach and cheese are what made it special. I normally don’t like cooked spinach, but dang was this stuff tasty! The “cottage cheese” was more like a Bulgarian sirene/non-salty Greek feta. Then, continuing clockwise, you have some spicy red lentils, lettuce and tomato, potato/carrot/cabbage, and non-spicy lentils. When I would eat Ethiopian food in Ottawa, I was still a vegetarian and my dinner would be those four dishes (no spinach or cheese) in larger portions. So these sides were very familiar to me.

I had doro watt in Lethbridge, but it was very different to what I was served tonight. It had been my first time eating an Ethiopian meat dish and was so long ago that I can’t even compare. This was whole drumsticks cooked in a slightly spicy berber sauce. It traditionally comes with hardboiled eggs, but I asked for none of those, of course, and got extra chicken!

I ignored the knife and fork and dug in using the injera (teff pancakes seen above) as scoops. I thought I must have looked like as slob, but I later learned that I looked like I knew what I was doing. The server was surprised that this was not my first, not my fifth, but likely my twentieth to thirtieth time eating this cuisine! What a wonderful end to a truly special day.