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.

The SHOES!

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.

Skylight.

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.

WHAT IS THAT???!!!

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.

Lunch!

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!

Walking Tour of Amsterdam

I slept really well last night! I’m so lucky to be staying in yet another place with true blackout blinds. I left home around nine since I had a walking tour booked for 10:30 and I hoped to be able to buy my Museumkaart at De Nieuwe Kerk beforehand as it was the best recommended place to get a Museumkaart (little to no lineup) and right on Dam Square, where my tour would start.

Google got me to Dam Square without any problems, but it seriously overestimated how long it would take. Here are some things I passed along the way:

Very expensive tacos:

A quintessential Amsterdam scene:

The work of a crazy person who drove an RV in downtown Amsterdam:

Houses leaning forward (I would later find out why):

And now, Dam Square:

And De Nieuwe Kerk:

Magna Plaza shopping centre:

And the Royal Palace:

I had almost 30 minutes to kill before De Nieuwe Kerk opened, so I wandered around a bit, sort of thinking of getting a coffee, but I was put off by the prices of 3 euros or more for a basic espresso. It was cool and damp, but I was comfortable. After I had almost circled back to De Nieuwe Kerk, I found a café that offered me an Americano for just 2 euros! I later learned that a coffee here is about 2.50 (compared to about 1.20 in Spain). So I did very well! It was still pricy and wouldn’t be a daily treat, but I was pleased. The clerk even assumed I’d want it to go. I had it black since milk was extra.

I continued my wanderings in the gloom.

The Royal Palace is included in my Museumkaart so I may squeeze it in.

The National Monument.

Another shopping centre. So pretty with all the lights.

 

De Nieuwe Kerk opened right on time and there was no lineup. My Museumkaart was just shy of 60 euros (almost 90CAD) and came with a really cute shopping bag that folds up into a pouch. Nice bonus! If I see all the museums on my list (not counting any of the possible extra ones I discovered on this tour), I will save 90 euros, or almost 140CAD! I really love this kind of card because it’s a one-time expenditure that forces me to get out so I maximise my value.

See the ship at the top of the Royal Palace? It symbolises the Dutch empire and its trading all over the world.

So that was the first thing of real note on my free Amsterdam walking tour with Marius. I picked this tour because it had the best reviews. The tour was a bit slow to start as people were really late showing up, long enough for me to realise that I was going to be cold if we spent a lot of time standing, just because the damp was seeking into my bones. But we finally set off. I will not be able to do justice to everything Marius told us as he was full of trivia, but I’ll do my best!

We headed first into the Red Light District and stopped outside Condomerie, which had a very festive Christmas tree in its window that should tell you everything about what the store sells.

We then went into an alley way and were directed to this plaque above a doorway, showing what would have been sold in this building in days gone by (this is apparently a roll of fabric, not rotten sausage).

These blue and white signs indicate that the home had collapsed in the muddy, unstable foundation and been rebuilt.

I noticed a store advertising all manner of magic mushrooms.

And then we went to see “the girls.” That was surreal, to say the least and I refused to ogle. It was interesting to learn about how prostitution works here. The ladies pay 150 euros per day to rent a window. This is double what they paid a few years ago because the government is trying to cut down on how many windows there are and so landlords jacked up the prices. Each woman is an independent contractor who pays taxes and has some benefits. I’ve known a range of prostitutes from the ones who are in the business to support a hard core drug habit to those who do it because they genuinely love it and find it an easy way to earn good money. So I definitely cannot generalise about the lives of these women. All I can say is that prostitution has always existed and so will likely always exist. The way to protect women is to empower them to do this job legally and safely, not to force them into back alleys.

On we continued.

This is the old church, as opposed to the “new” church at Dam Square.

An illegal sculpture that popped up one day.

The houses are crooked because the foundations are bad. There is now work being done to find the houses that are in really bad shape and about to collapse. It costs about 150,000 euros to secure them.

At the height of the tulip craze, a single flower was worth the price of a house!

We didn’t go in, but this is the entrance to a museum for a hidden Catholic church in an attic. Another one I may have to squeeze into my stay!

This house is crooked both to the front and to the side.

 

See that hook? Many of the houses slanting towards the front have them. They were used to bring goods up from boats on the canal. If the house had a straight façade, there would have been more risk of damage if an item moved in the wind.

Look at how high up the water comes!

I asked a few questions at this point.

  1. Do people routinely fall into the canals? Yes. They’re usually drunk.
  2. How deep is the water? 3 metres, 1 of mud, 1 of bicycles, and 1 of water.
  3. How dirty is the water? Not at all. It is renewed daily and only looks grungy because of the plant material. Any garbage floating on the canals is routinely cleaned up. (The canals do not smell at all!)

This is the oldest secular building in Amsterdam, the Waag (weighing place).

This was a hard place to stand, right where the Jews of Amsterdam were herded onto trains to be sent to concentration camps. Marius even showed us a period photo of the Waag surrounded by barbed wire.

Now looking towards what had been the Jewish ghetto. So many houses were left abandoned for decades until the 1970s, hence the more modern look to these buildings. There had been an attempt made to build a subway, which makes no sense for Amsterdam. The idea started a riot.

A skinny house (to save on taxes), but ornamented to show the owner had money.

Headquarters of the… Dutch East India Company.

Canal boats, even as modest as these, can go for 1 million euros or more. You pay for the spot, not the boat. The boat is worth nothing if you don’t have a place to park it. They have sewer, water, power, internet, etc.

This guy is going around looking for illegal parkers. Parking in Amsterdam is some of the most expensive in the world. Notice the three Xs? They are a symbol of Amsterdam. There is an urban legend that they stand for the great fires that prompted Amsterdam to be all rebuilt in brick, the Black Plague, and the flooding. But the use of the symbols actually predate the Black Plague.

A Banksy! At the University of Amsterdam.

There was another one here, but it was ordered covered up by this minister of education is apparently wants to jack up tuition prices.

Courtyard in the university.

A row of expensive homes, as signified by the fact that they are white and many have stairs leading up to the front door.

This cosy alley would have been very smelly back in the day. It is behind the rich houses.

Entrance to another hidden church. This is a residence for women only.

One of the last remaining wooden houses in Amsterdam.

Marius told me that Van Gogh liked to come here as he found it quiet and contemplative.

We did not go into this church.

But we did go into this one. It is not a museum so we popped in and out and were quiet the whole time. It was very beautiful. And warm. I was pretty cold by this point!

We then went into the lobby of the Amsterdam Museum, another one to add to my list…

Here’s those crosses again.

And Napoleon.

More of those occupational plaques, taken from torn down buildings.

“Woman riding a surfboard,” LOL.

“The dancing nun taking a selfie.” LOL!

Our tour ended shortly after this. Again, I have not done justice to how much information Marius shared. He was a wonderful guide, very warm and knowledgable about his city.

He directed me to an area with restaurants, which happened to be on the way home, so I headed that way. I thought I’d grab lunch and go to a museum, but I realised that I was done for the day as I’d already walked a ton. I haven’t broken in my new boots yet and so didn’t want to push their limits too much yet as they’ve been rubbing a bit since I don’t have the right socks to wear with them. Plus… work came in. Yes, after my clients told me not to expect anything, every single one of them bombarded me. Thankfully, it’s all easy work and will not ruin my weekend.

I investigated restaurants and prices were all above 10 euros. There are a number of Ethiopian restaurants around my house only open in the evenings that I really want to try, so I decided to go home and make a late lunch there instead since I had everything needed to throw together a curry. I mean, why pay for a meal out when I had a treat waiting for me?!

I got to this foreboding church…

…and cool house when…

… my ?@$%@% iPhone went from 40% battery capacity to dead. Amsterdam is not an easily city to get orientated in and there I was who knows where with no map or way to find my way home. I had a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself, that I could follow a number 1 tram back. I was too close to home to make it worth actually taking the tram, though.

That worked a treat and I got back to familiar territory very quickly, even if that route was a little less direct.

Amsterdam is a very dark, gloomy, and damp city, but there’s a vibe here that I wasn’t expecting. The city feels very much alive and its residents seem to be thriving. Most are friendly, even if the cyclists have no mercy, and being able to get served in English is a bonus. Dutch is really hard to pronounce, having a lot of guttural sounds, and there’s almost no point in trying.

Most food packaging at the grocery store has Dutch and French on it, which is awesome for me. Even though there are tons of words that look like English, I actually find Dutch food labels more intimidating than Bulgarian ones were because words that are not like English are not like anything I’ve seen and I can’t even make an educated guess. A good example is chicken, which is “kip” in Dutch. If there hadn’t been a picture of a chicken, I would have had no idea what was in the package. In Bulgaria, though, I would have seen пиле, sounded it out as “pile” (pi-lay) and thought, oh, that sounds almost like the French poulet (pou-lay) and made an educated (and correct!) guess. Or how about grapes, which are “druif” in Dutch versus “grozdov” in Bulgarian. The food available here is most like what I’d expect to find in a North American supermarket, with lots of foreign foods, and it’s easy to get things like unsweetened almond milk (my host picked up a carton for me!).

Tomorrow and Sunday will follow a similar pattern of an early morning of tourism (I have a time slot at nine both days!) and then coming home to do a little work. I’m actually rather glad for that because it’ll save me from burning myself out while I’m here.

A Quiet and Dreary Weekend in Málaga

It’s been a cold, wet, miserable weekend in Málaga. I’m actually rather grateful for it because I desperately need to get gradually more accustomed to cold, wet, miserable weather as that’ll be normal for Amsterdam and Yorkshire. I got two rather large orders, so I had an excuse to stay in both Saturday and Sunday and work. But I did manage to go exploring a tad to start getting a sense for Málaga!

So Saturday, I headed out in the mid afternoon, during a brief lull in the rain, with the main intention being to do some focused shoe shopping. It was at the El Corte Inglés department store that I realised what I need to buy is a good hiking-type boot, something that’s been on my shopping list for a few years (my last pair was the one I bought for the Chilkoot in 2010 and I’ve worn them through), but which I’ve been putting off because they’re a $400 to $500 investment in Canada. That is the only footwear that will take me from the moors of Yorkshire in England to a humid Mexican jungle by way of the rainy streets of Amsterdam, all with just a change of sock type and so a much better purchase than something that’s tailored to the English experience only. I found exactly what I want, but did not buy them because even at much less than I would pay in Canada, they were expensive and I wanted to check reviews of the brand, sleep on the idea, look for other brands, and also find a coat before committing to such an expense.

I then walked around the neighbourhood for a bit.

Here’s a church right by my flat:

I headed towards Centro and found some decent falafel for a very late lunch across from this scene:

It’s always a good sign when the falafel seller barely speaks the local language and asks you if you know English! I had falafel in the Balkans, but it was pretty disappointing, so this was my first truly satisfying version of the sandwich since that fabulous one I had on Baker Street in London almost six months ago!

I do not tire of European building façades!

There wasn’t much open and I was cold, so it was time to head in. I did find on the way one of those Chinese bazaar shops that had a lot of clothing and a coat that looked promising for about 40 euros. But I found a charity shop that I can scope out Monday morning before I commit to such an expenditure. I’ll be happier about the boot purchase if I don’t spend a ton on a coat that I won’t need when I move to the tropics six months from now!

Today, Sunday, I worked until about 1:30 since an attraction I wanted to visit was free from two onwards. I headed into Centro and was surprised by how much was open on a Sunday. Oh, right. Sunday before Christmas.

Another church:

A lively square. I liked the moon and star decorations. I might check out that Far West (Lejano Oeste) exhibit…

Another impressive church.

But not as impressive as this hospital!

I wandered through a warren of alleys filled with treasures.

Until I found Alcazaba of Málaga, the best preserved alcazaba (citadel or fortress) of Spain and which was built by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century. Entry was free after two and I was early, so I decided to look for a quick and cheap lunch, something that is very difficult to do in Spain.

In front of the fortress is an ancient Roman amphitheatre.

Like in Sofia, there are underground ruins covered by glass at the surface.

Found a street named after my truck. 😉

Puuuuuurty!

Got in some unexpected Cyrillic practice. Red book says All of Andalusia and the bottom one Malaga: Costa del Sol. Hey, don’t want to lose those skills! 😉

There was a proper tourist info kiosk across from this stand, so I stood in line for ages to get a city map. Soon as the person ahead of me left, the clerk yelled in English, “We’re closed! Go away!” before slamming down her window. It was 1:55 and the sign said she should be open till two so I wasn’t having it. As soon as she stepped out the door, I chastised her in Spanish about closing early and told her I just wanted a map. She apologised profusely and got me one. All that for nothing, though, since the map was surprisingly crappy!

I finally found a bakery with reasonably priced sandwiches compared to what everyone else was charging for the same thing and got serrano ham on a whole grain bun. What I really wanted was a slice of real pizza, but I’ve accepted that such things do not come to pass in Spain. I think it says a lot about the state of fast food in this country that the restaurant with the longest queue was Burger King! There were a few places I could have had a menú del día, though, at a very reasonable price, but I’m trying to keep the food budget thin this week since I suspect I’ll be eating out quite a bit in Amsterdam.

At any rate, it was almost 2:30 by the time I got back to the alcazaba.

I immediately knew I was in for a treat. Just look at that gorgeous stone and brick work!

Málaga feels very lush.

So many orange trees!

I started to climb above the city.

Looking down to the port.

The Ferris wheel I passed on the bus.

A colosseum.

Loved the marble “bath tub”!

Notice that this roof is cross-shaped.

These marble columns were unexpected.

Everywhere I looked, some exquisite detail.

Found an interior room with heavy wooden shutters.

And heavy wooden doors.

Mossy roof.

I must have stared at this ceiling for a whole minute.

A recessed bench.

There were several of these pools. Watch your step!

Another impressive ceiling.

I couldn’t figure out what they cooked in this giant oven (el horno)…

Until I found an informational panel that made me realise it’s a kiln.

Love this floor!

I liked these blue roof tiles. Nice contrast to the terracotta I normally see.

I was surprised when I eventually circled back to the entrance. Alcazaba de Málaga was like a labyrinth!

I went out and was told I could go into the amphitheatre…

…and that the Castillo de Gibralfaro (Gibralfaro castle), which towers over the alcazaba and dates back to the 14th century, was open and also free on Sunday afternoons. My research told me that if you can only do one, do the alcazaba as there is a lot more to see and it is a very long hike up to the castle if you don’t have a car. Up I went because I have this weird OCD type thing where I can’t not climb up to a fortress if I have the option to do so.

The climb was steep and tiring after all the exploring I’d done in the alcazaba.

But the views were worth the effort!

These didn’t photograph well at all. They were red and orange.

There was a small museum at the top, but nothing really photographed well. It gave the history of the area and the castle’s role in city defences. One of the more interesting facts I read was about how the Germans blocked access to Málaga’s port during WWI, demonstrating how vulnerable the city is.

There wasn’t much to see outside and both my knees were killing me by this point thanks to the dampness. I have no idea how I did this sort of day when I was heavier, to be honest.

Here’s that Ferris wheel again.

Interesting tree.

It was raining by this point and sections like these were slick!

Little did I know, I was heading into a dead end!

This marble threshold was unexpected.

Looking back up.

Here’s another super steep and slick section.

Málaga…

I was able to navigate myself home through a different route without a map, to my immense surprise.

Here’s the back of that church by the hospital.

I think I will investigate the Ferris wheel since I’m apparently obsessed by it!

Look who I found! Do you recognise him? He visited Spain in 1862 and had many kind things to say about Málaga.

I think I just found the Málagan equivalent of Mexican Tositilocos: baked potatoes with everything on them…

I’d earned a gelato by this point and found a shop with several dozen flavours. The clerk asked where I’m from and when I said Canada, she recommended the peanut butter. LOL! But she was right! I haven’t had peanut butter since the Balkans so, dang, this really hit the spot! (By the way, look at my hand — it’s been five whole years this week that I quit biting my nails!)

Yet another lovely church…

Interesting artwork on the side of it.

Finally, some pretty blue tiles against a yellow wall.

I definitely managed to get a taste of Málaga this weekend and I look forward to doing some proper exploring tomorrow, especially if the promised sunny weather materialises!

A Lovely Saturday Morning in Almería

I slept the sleep of the dead (my room is pitch black and dead quiet if the wind isn’t blowing!), waking up at just shy of 10 this morning. Well, there went my plans to get on an “early” (9:30) bus to town! But, hey, this is Spain and things move slowly and I wasn’t going to let myself be rushed by this change of plans. 🙂 I made the 10:30(ish) bus with the plan to get partway to town and then walk along the Malecón.

I keep forgetting to mention that I live near the university, with the presence of a university being another reason I like Almería as a potential Spanish home should I move here.

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I got off at the senior citizens home, which, like in French, is called a “home for those of the third age.”

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It was supposed to be sunny today and good Malecón walking weather. At least, it wasn’t windy and the temperature was comfortable!

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First stop was a shop to see if they had boots and a coat. Yes, but nothing I wanted. I need to shop in earnest for these items before I leave for Amsterdam as they will be much less expensive here, plus I’d rather land there with season appropriate clothes, never mind that I can actually describe to shopkeepers here what I want! There are a few used clothing stores that I am going to make a point to visit for the coat. And, yes, I should have no problem finding what I want here. I’m going to temps hovering above freezing so I’m not even looking for lined boots, just something leather that I can waterproof.

I had had only coffee at home and my tummy was growling when I came out of the store, so I went to the café right next door for sustenance. No complaints about breakfast in this part of Spain! 🙂 It was only 1.90 euros!

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View from breakfast.

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And then off I went towards downtown Almería.

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Here’s an example of how you can make an area look better than it is if you select the right camera angle. So rather ugly with those light posts:

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And rather paradisal without!

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Interesting apartment building.

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This “Indian” restaurant had a really varied menu! They do have Indian (Hindu) food on the right-most part of the menu, but they also have pasta, falafel, pizza, and chicken fingers.

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Love the name of this ice cream parlour/café.

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Looking back the way I came.

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The water was so clear!

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Can you see the lighthouse in the distance?

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How about now?

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Nearly there, I found some lovely flowers.

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At the “nautical club,” I found this interesting subterranean entrance.

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There’s another one.

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And another!

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This bridge leads to the “English Cable” (ore dock).

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On the yellow entrance, I got some answers! They are entrances to parking garages. Quite a lot of instructions for getting to your car between midnight and 7AM. You can only enter at that time through the blue and green entrances.

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I really like that brick bridge.

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Rather sudden stop for the railway line!

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Saddest forest I’ve ever seen… 🙂

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The English Cable from beneath it.

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Here’s the defunct Gran Hotel Almería.

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The name of it tickles my fancy since I’m a fan of the Spanish show “Gran Hotel” and have been frustrated to not find the last season with (Spanish) subtitles. I got through the first two seasons without any issue, but I’m still not at the point where I can handle Spanish-language audio without the aid of subtitles, which can be in Spanish. I’m just more of a visual person. Anyway, this was a reminder to go search again as I was left on a cliff hanger!

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The city was starting to be decorated for the holiday season.

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The art museum was open and I had time to visit the exhibit about fashion at the time of Queen Isabel I (late 15th, early 16th century — the time of Christopher Columbus). Entry was 3 euros.

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Can you believe this was a mere lady-in-waiting’s outfit?

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All the informational placards were in Spanish only and I learned a lot of new vocabulary! My dictionary app got quite a workout. Most of the clothes in the exhibit were made of silk and/or cotton.

This dress belonging to a sultana was my favourite of the entire exhibit. Just love the teal with the purple and lime green (same colour scheme as my Isla casita my last winter there!).

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More Moorish outfits.

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Armour with a magnificent cloak.

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More armour.

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I saw some original 16th century documents signed by Carlos I himself regarding repairs to the fortress of Alcazaba after the earthquake of 1522. And other document that let me see the signatures of the “Catholic kings.”

The next room in the exhibit had clothes related to the court of Isabel I.

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Why don’t we dress so beautifully anymore?!

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I could see myself in this “simple” lady-in-waiting’s dress.

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Queen Isabel’s coronation gown.

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I learned that Queen Isabel like bright colours, stiff fabrics like taffeta, and also favoured brocades.

The final room was about the world of Isabel.

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Love these knitted leggings. They seem to be in what I know as “point de sillon,” which is knit two, purl one.

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Isabel’s mourning (luto) gown.

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The dress she wore for her wedding to Ferdinand of Aragon.

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Her books of prayers (rezos — told you I was learning a lot!).

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I learned that the Catholic kings got control of Almería and forced out Muslims who would not convert.

Here’s Queen Isabel. Rather a shame they didn’t have a portrait of her in one of the dresses on display.

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Queen Isabel was very interesting! She was a woman ahead of her time who put forth the interests of women in a world governed by men. She introduced Spain to the Renaissance and to the spread of Christianity through art, politics, and fashion. The sign I’m translating from also says she was the first queen in history to be queen in her own right and not a consort, with all the powers of a male sovereign, but surely they mean that for Spain only.

There were many signs that claimed that she was all for the rights of Native Americans and prevented them from being treated like slaves, proclaiming them humans equal to Europeans, but I took that with a grain of salt…

Familiar looking armour:

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Spain was unified through the wedding of Isabel and Ferdinand, creating the strongest state in Europe at the time and the Spanish hegemony.

And here is Queen Isabel’s will… which spells out her defence of Native Americans. Wow!

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Incredible inventions of the 14th century included the compass (brújula) and the astrolabe.

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Finally in this museum, I saw a painting that made me think of early fall in Quebec when folks go apple picking (“aller aux pommes.”)

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Here’s the coronation gown in the context of the museum. Well placed! I also loved the period appropriate music that played softly.

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Exterior of the museum:

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I next head towards the central market to pick up some produce when I came across this wonderful little street market! It’s that time of year. There were so many lovely things for sale and prices were very reasonable.

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I saw these earrings marked just 2 euro and had to have them! The seller and I chatted for a bit since he was curious to know where I was from because he rarely sees non-Spanish tourists, especially in the off season. When I went to pay, he would only accept 1 euro!

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Since I had dinner out last night, I didn’t need lunch out and so decided to get an ice cream. I went with cappuccino flavour, which, as expected, tasted very similar to a Tim Hortons iced capp.

I continued on to the central market and it was much busier than last time! I wanted a few things to turn a chicken carcass into broth and looked for someone who would sell me only two stalks of celery.

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That was easily done and I also got a few other things from him since he had really nice produce, including grapes. My total was almost 5.50 euros and he would only accent 5, even with my having exact change! Have I mentioned recently just how lovely Almeríans are?!

I walked around a bit and saw something I haven’t seen in a very long time, romanesco, which I had discovered in Yukon of all places.

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I felt a little silly walking around with the end of my celery sticking out of my bag. The seller had offered to cut it off, but it adds so much flavour to broth that I declined. He thought I hadn’t understood him and had held up a knife to mimic doing it. So I told him my plan (yay for knowing “caldo de pollo”) and he went, “Ah! Of course!” But I took him up on his offer to cut the greens off the carrots.

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I popped into the Carrefour Market to get some soup noodles of some sort and stored my purchases in one of their little lockers (1 euro deposit).

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As it turns out, the edible polystyrene is called “prawn bread.” I picked up some Chinese noodles on the same shelf.

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I examined a full wall of “turrón,” which my dictionary informed me is nougat. Hard to resist!

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Especially the marzipan!

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My purchases were a bit heavy (I hadn’t brought the cart) and it was getting close to two, when everything closes, so I headed to a bus stop, where I had to wait 15 minutes. I made the mistake of riding home on a seat facing the wrong direction and got in feeling quite nauseated!

Here’s a map of my route today:

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I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable Saturday morning off! Back to the grindstone tomorrow. 🙂

A Drizzly Amble In Almería

I thought I was going to get the weekend off, but, of course, work came in, mostly because I’m the only person who usually works on weekends for that client and the client assumes I’m available! Because it is a holiday weekend in the U.S., I was told I had till Monday morning their time (evening my time) rather than their Sunday morning. They just about never have anything for me on my Monday because it’s still their Sunday and so I had thought to take Monday off. But since I got the extension and really needed a full day off I chose not to work today, Saturday, and then do the work on Sunday and Monday.

It was the first really cold night here. I went to bed in my thermals and added a second duvet to the bed. I was so comfortable I pretty much passed out at 11:30 and woke up at 8:00 this morning. I was in no rush to go anywhere. So I let the cat into the room and snuggled with her for almost a full hour while I checked my emails and Facebook on my iPad. She started to get fussy so I asked her if she was ready for breakfast. She promptly jumped off the bed and headed to the kitchen. But I was in no rush and was still lying there when she came back ten minutes later, jumped on me, got in my face, and yelled, “MEOW!!!”, which I’m pretty sure means, “I WANT BREAKFAST,” in cat.

I eventually got her sorted and made myself a nice breakfast of whole grain toast with hummus, sliced cherry tomatoes, and black olives, plus, of course, coffee. It was grey and drizzly, but I really wanted to go to town as this would be my first day since I got here that I’d have time to just amble aimlessly with no need to go back to work after. I did scratch my plans to get to about 3KM from downtown and walk along the malecón as the wind coming off the water was unpleasant, but figured I’d be okay a bit more inland.

It was almost 10:30 when I finally headed out. The buses run at the half hour on the weekends and the last Saturday bus had come around the hour and 45 minutes. Today, it came at just shy of 10:40.

With a sky this colour, a clearing was not likely!

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I got off at my usual stop and didn’t get very far before ducking into a café for a second breakfast. I wanted a pastry since I’d had a healthy first breakfast. 🙂 This pastry with dried apples wasn’t huge and was very tasty!

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The wind and rain let up by the time I got through the newspaper (not the one in the picture, as that just has sports coverage), so I headed towards the water.

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I’m still trying to figure out what this sign is trying to say…

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The courthouse.

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This pedestrian street was commissioned and built in 1894 under the reign of Alfonso XIII. They had to reroute traffic to accommodate it.

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This is the “cable inglés” (English cable), which was used to load ships with iron transported on trains. It is considered a work of art in steel construction and was built in Gustav Eiffel’s style.

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These ferries go to the African continent. Melilla is a Spanish community on the African continent. I am investigating whether a visit to the environs of Nador might be a compromise to going to Marrakech as it’s only about 50 euros to get to Nador from Almería.

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Shame these fountains aren’t working. I like the one with the sun.

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Ambling westward towards the old city.

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I loved how the flower boxes are themselves a work of art.

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I ended up going through that arch to find myself in the heart of the old city.

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Orange trees still awe me.

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I love the tile work I see all over Almería.

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Looking north to the fortress.

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“We want free women.”

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There are tons of play areas like these all over Almería.

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They have age limits. The ones I’ve seen in my neighbourhood are for ages 11 and under. The one above is for ages 7 and younger.

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A few play structures later, I found one for kids aged 9 and younger.

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I love these big trees.

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Coming back to Paseo de Almería, I found the Doña Pakyta art museum. It was free, but there was a 3 euro special exhibit. It was almost closing time, so I will come back to the special exhibit, but I had time to go upstairs check out the artwork.

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There were were a bunch of paintings belonging to the “Indalo” movement, based on a local cave painting. This group of artists was the first of the avant-garde movement after the Spanish Civil War.

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I really liked the rich texture of the oil paintings. I want to take up this pastime again when I get settled in Mexico. I think the colours there would really be inspiring!

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“Terraces of Almería.”

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I loved this floor that reminded me of a cross-stitch pattern.

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This painting was really interesting. Look at the contrast of the super realistic grapes with the crude nature of the rest of the painting.

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This is Place de la Concorde in Paris. So I’m guessing this, and not the Washington Monument, is what Almería is emulating.

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Cramped buildings, old men on a bench (literally the title of this piece!), and laundry: this is “my” Europe.

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“Almería, Joy of the Sea”

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I wandered around some more and found this church, where there was a wedding.

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I went around the back and found this graffiti-strewn alley.

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Just as I came out of the alley, an older couple ran to me and asked me a question, sounding very panicky. I had a moment of Sherlock Holmesian brilliance and made a deduction based on their attire. “Are you looking for the wedding?” I asked. “YES!” the lady replied. I told them the church was on the other side of the building where we were standing and if they went to “that” street and turned right, they’d see the fancy black car parked in front of the church. I got about a thousand thank yous before they rushed off. Amazing timing, no?!

It was almost one by this point and I was famished, so I figured it was time to go home and have lunch. I passed this amusingly named store on the way to the bus stop, a play on the Spanish word for “home” and the word “emporium.”

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And then I found… lunch. An American diner/UK café style restaurant with the kitchen open all day! I could not believe it!

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The translation effort on the menu was worth a laugh. I mean, “Ask for our English (carta?)”?! LOL

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I went for a burger and beer and… learned that burgers in Spain come with a fried egg! Good thing I’m not allergic and only have an intolerance to eggs! Thankfully, the egg came off easily and the flavour did not contaminate the meat, which was a real beef patty. There was also bacon and cheese. I haven’t had a real burger since Belgrade and dang did this one hit the spot! The fries were much better than they look.

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There was no sauce on the burger, though, so I asked for mustard and was brought this:

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I was nursing my beer and watching on TV the reports of Fidel Castro’s death when I was brought a piece of flan, that, of course, I had to politely decline. I requested a coffee instead (a “solo,” which is a single shot of espresso, no milk). The burger, beer, and dessert were a set price (8.50 euros) and coffee is extra, but the server told me that since I didn’t have dessert, they were not charging me for the coffee. I think this is a fairly standard decision since I often see menú del días that say, “and dessert OR coffee.”

As I was heading out, I heard the server speak English to some other customers! I have not heard English while out and about since I got here! It was really strange!

It was raining quite hard when I got out of the restaurant, so I just hurried to the bus stop. The electronic sign there told me my bus would be coming in 26 minutes, but one pulled up after 4 minutes after I arrived! I had to stand most of the way home.

Here’s a map showing some of my stops today:

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It was such a lovely day despite the weather. Finding lunch was such a bonus!