Free Manchester Walking Tour

Here are a couple of random bonus Amsterdam pics I forgot I took for my last Amsterdam post…

These cute cars are all over the city.

They can only go very slowly. I think they sound like a greater alternative to a scooter.

A sign outside Salsa Shop:

And part of Salsa Shop’s wall of deliciousness. There were probably 10 times as many bottles in the shop.

Okay, so on to Manchester.

The bed here is terrible so I’m shocked that I slept a solid six hours to 5AM. I then tried to go back to sleep for a few hours, but kept getting woken up by the other people in the building talking loudly as they went about their morning routine. Nothing I can fault anyone on; it’s what I expected. I was offered an air mattress to sleep on instead and I will try that tonight. I don’t have to be up tomorrow, so if should be able to get a little caught up on my sleep. I did have to be up today since I had booked a walking tour for 11.

So I got up around 8:30 and took my time with breakfast and coffee. That was pleasant, I have to say, and I’m glad I didn’t rush out the door. I was also glad that it wasn’t freezing in here at all, which I’d expected based on reviews. I did use two duvets, but slept under them in just a tee shirt and was comfortable. So, really, in the light of having had some sleep my dump was much homier than expected and I continue to have no regrets for having picked it.

Besides the price, the reason I picked this less than one-star accommodation was the proximity to public transport and ease of getting into Manchester. It was a straight shot on the train and short walk from the airport and a bus into Manchester can be taken about three blocks away. With the buses running every few minutes and the 5KM ride estimated to take 20 to 30 minutes, I left around 9:45. I had done my research ahead of time and learned that instead of buying a single fare for £2.90, I should buy a day pass for £4. In other cities I’ve visited, buying such a pass requires making at least three trips to be worth the purchase, but for Manchester, it’s a good deal on just a return trip!

Conveniently, the final stop on my route was about two blocks from where the Free Manchester Walking Tour started, at Sackville Gardens by the Alan Turing statue.

Manchester didn’t make much of an impression after I got off the bus, despite being full of these wonderful red brick buildings that I would learn were once warehouses for textiles.

I found Alan Turing‘s statue without any problems. If you do not know who Alan is, I am very sad. Please stop reading this blog and go watch the recent film The Imitation Game. It’s okay. I’ll wait. Can’t be bothered? 🙁 He was a brilliant mathematician who is pretty much the father of modern computing. He helped crack the Nazi Enigma code, which surely brought about an earlier end to WWII, saving thousands of lives. He was also gay at a time when being gay in the UK was illegal, was chemically castrated for his crime, and died young, presumably from suicide. He was a great man who deserved so much better. I wasn’t crazy about The Imitation Game (was a bit too familiar with the story to be wholly satisfied), but it revived interest in Alan and his work.


Why is Alan wearing a scarf? It’s a homeless initiative. Have an extra scarf? Drape it around Alan. Need a scarf? Alan should have one for you.

By the way, that statue is a disgrace and looks nothing like him!

These mosaics bring attention to import LGBT sites around Manchester.

I was super early early, so I found a café with Barcelona coffee prices (that’s a good thing after Amsterdam) and had a macchiato with cinnamon. Mmm.

When I got back to Alan’s statue, a crowd had start to gather and our host, Josh, soon showed up. Introductions were made and the tour started around 11:10. I’m just going to say here that Josh’s tour is one of the best I’ve been on and he was very interesting and funny, but my brain is so fried that I can barely remember anything he told us. 🙁

He started with a brief history of Manchester, separated into four epochs, from the Romans in AD 79, through the Middle Ages, during the Industrial Revolution, and then modern Manchester. His tour focuses on the latter two periods of Manchester’s history, but the intro helped to set the city into its historical context. I remember that “chester” means that there was a Roman fort in the environs and that the original name of the city was the Latin equivalent of the name of a mountain range in Wyoming for the exact same reason: Mamcium — Teton — breasts-shaped mountains.

He also told us a bunch of grandiose quotes about Manchester that betrayed how full of itself the city can be. There is quite a rivalry with Liverpool and to a lesser extent London. Much later in the tour, I asked if it’s true that Manchester is becoming a more affordable answer to London and Josh said that’s right and that one of the results is that he’s been priced out of downtown. He’s quite concerned about a new train link that will put London an hour away as that’s commuting distance.

One of our first stops was UMIST, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. I wish I could remember more than that because I know there was more, but my brain really is mush tonight.

We then learned a bit about Alan and the legend that the Apple logo originated with him (not true). There was also a plaque in the area saying that we were standing by an apple tree grown from a seed from one of Sir Isaac Newton’s apples, but there was not an apple tree to be seen.

Next, we went to the monument to Vimto, a drink I’d never heard of that was invented by a Quaker (I think) as an alternative to alcohol. It is apparently hugely popular in the Arab world.

Josh gave us a sample of the fizzy version of the drink, which was apparently a travesty. It smelled and tasted like cough syrup. Some Mancunians (residents of Manchester) on the tour said that the non-fizzy drink is nice diluted with hot water, but I don’t think it’d be to my taste.

We moved on to Orient house, which is the building with the scaffolding.

Josh told us how his friend Ben lived in this building in quite a grotty apartment that was very Manchester with its view to train arches and other things, but Ben was evicted with four weeks’ notice so that the building could be renovated and turned into luxury housing. I asked if Ben is homeless now. Nope. The story has a happy ending. Ben is living in a lovely new place that’s a bit more expensive. Why am I telling you this? Josh said Ben would get a kick out of seeing his story in my blog. 🙂

We moved on to the shores of the mighty Medlock River…

This is right by the building where Noel Gallagher of Oasis wrote the songs for “Definitely, Maybe.” Oh, that reminds me of something!

So Manchester was the first industrialised city in possibly the whole world, or at least in the UK. Its industry was textiles, primarily cotton. But the city went into decline in the early 20th century and industry pretty much ended after the 1940 Blitz. The city rather reinvented itself as an alternative music scene and was the home of that techno punk type music, with lots of raves and a  club scene. Totally not my thing, but it was interesting to see the contrast of this very classical looking city with its rather liberal attitudes. There’s quite a large gay scene here as well.

We walked along a canal that reminded me of Amsterdam.

To the heart of Manchester’s gay village. Josh told us how gay men would hang out at the Union Hotel and there were frequent raids while prostitutes hung out a few blocks away and were also frequently raided. They finally had the bright idea to hang out together and pretend to be a legitimate hetero couple when the police came knocking. It worked. LOL! But the owner was finally told that he couldn’t keep running his business that way and that something had to change. So he appended the word “New” to his establishment…

Manchester’s animal is the worker bee, which symbolises all that Manchester wants to be.

I love the pub names and Josh found it funny that we North Americans are so enchanted by this.

I am really distressed by how little I’m remembering. Sorry for the worst travel post ever. Josh’s tour deserves better!

This was a neat building in that every floor is in a different architectural style.

We went into Chinatown. The ratio of Chinese to non-Chinese here is the highest in the UK.

This was a neat building. It leads down to… a nuclear bunker. It was built during the Cold War for a whopping £4 million to house only 40 people. It was a classified and very top secret building that, really, was useless. There are tunnels leading out of it and British Telecom ran phone lines through them. A homeless person caused a fire down there that not only took out phone service in the area, but also the internet in part of Sweden. Josh is not sure how that happened but swore it’s true!

The city library.

The Midland Hotel. Hitler loved it and wanted it for Nazi headquarters after Germany won the war.

We took a break here as we’d been going for two whole hours that would have flown by had it not been so bloody cold and wet out. We stopped for a hot drink at a Cafe Nerro where I also splurged on a giant oatmeal raisin biscuit since I hadn’t realised the tour was so long and wasn’t going to make it to lunch. This is where I discovered my useless phone had dropped from 70% battery life to 9% despite having no apps open and being on Airplane Mode. I’m going to miss Siri, but I’m going to a better phone next… I had a Lightning cable on me, but no way to plug the phone in. Josh saved the day by offering me a wall charger! We were in the café just long enough to get my phone up to 52%, which got me home.

We continued on to Manchester Central, which is a convention centre, not a train station, and the site of the Peterloo Massacre. Please go read up on it, but the short of it was that a bunch of unarmed protesters for the reform of parliamentary representation were slaughtered in 1819.

This Hilton hotel is the tallest building in the area and howls when the wind blows.

We moved on to the Free Trade Hall, site of an important moment in the history of the suffragettes. It’s the only hall named after an idea rather than a person. Manchester was a bit late in getting parliamentary representation, so it was poorly supervised and taxed, allowing free trade and commerce to flourish.

Next door is the Royale Theatre, the oldest in the city.

Now, Manchester City Hall, which rather looks like Canada’s Parliament Buildings.

This is Albert Square and that’s Albert’s monument. Albert as in the consort of Queen Victoria, who did not attend the opening of the building. Her statue is somewhere else in the city and she apparently looks like Jabba the Hutt… which reminds me that except for that statue, there are no statues of women in Manchester! Within a few years, there will be one of a suffragette, though.

I correctly guess that the decoration at the top of the tower is a cotton ball.

Next we moved to Lincoln Square. What a good likeness of Abraham Lincoln this is! This statue represents Manchester’s link with the US during the US Civil War. Manchester was a procurer of slave cotton, but ultimately put an embargo on it and instead moved to non-slave, inferior cotton from the Middle East. This contributed to speeding up the collapse of the Confederate economy. This is in no way to say that Manchester brought about the end of the Civil War, but its actions did speak loudly.

We then went into the wonderfully warm Royal Exchange, which is now a theatre and café.

This board is where the stock prices were advertised. The numbers shown are from the last day of trading, which I believe was 1969.

I forgot to ask how the numbers got changed considering how high up this thing is, but I now see the railing, so I imagine there’s a catwalk behind it.

Right in the middle of the space is a theatre in the round for 755 people, with none of the seats being more than eight feet from the stage.

We finished our tour here, where we learned about the June 15th, 1996 IRA bombing. I learned that authorities got about a 90-minute warning that the bomb was going to go off and they found it, but it could not be diffused in time so they decided to let it explode. They evacuated about 75,000 to 80,000 people, which is an amazing feat. There were injuries and heaps of property damage and economic consequences, but no one was killed. This would be a watershed moment for a city in decline as the rebuilding efforts brought a new vitality to the city.

This is the corn exchange building.

The bomb detonated just about here.

I remember that bombing so clearly. It was the month that I graduated from high school and just weeks ahead of my last trip to Quebec City.

Thus ends Josh’s tour. One last time, do not judge it based on this post. 🙂

It was probably the weather, but Manchester didn’t make a huge impression on me. Museums are free, but I’m really museumed out and glad I have an excuse to stay home tomorrow.

After the tour, I headed back towards the Royal Exchange as I’d spotted a Barclay’s, where I was able to take out some more cash. You may wonder why I didn’t simply make a larger withdrawal yesterday and the short answer is it’s what I had in that account and I had to move money around to get more. 🙂

By this point, I was very wet, very cold, very tired, and getting grumpy, so it was time to find food and get home. I was disgusted by how many streets downtown did not have signage so my map was all but useless, plus it was disintegrating in the damp.

My original plan for the day, when I thought the tour was two hours long, was to have a cream tea after and then get a takeaway later for dinner. But the tour had run way over and it was three by the time we were done (four hours!). So it was time for a proper meal. I decided to splurge and get a full tea even if I knew that would be around £20. I’d done my research for the cream tea and wanted to try the Richmond Tea Rooms, which were conveniently right by Sackville Gardens and on the way to my bus.

I passed this mural on the way, which had a much better likeness of Alan.

I found the Richmond Tea Rooms without any trouble. They have an Alice-in-Wonderland over the top theme. Very cute! As expected, a full tea was over £20, but they had a “Hatter’s” tea for just £10.50 with sandwiches, a scone, and a pot of tea! I knew that would be plenty.

Service was super slow and I rather regretted going when I was tired, grumpy, and starting to get a headache, but I’m glad I stuck it out. The server asked if I had any dietary restrictions and offered to sub tomato and cheese for egg salad when I told her. This is what they brought me:

I had three small sandwiches with a bruschetta-type thing and also an onion and bell pepper tart that I was told had no egg in it, just cheese. SO good! The sandwiches were chicken, ham and butter, and tomato and cheese. Dessert was a huge raisin scone with clotted cream and jam. For tea, I picked their house blend. This was definitely plenty. It’s now four hours later and I’m only just starting to get peckish.

The Richmond Tea Rooms really put on a nice tea. The food was at least as good as at the Wolseley in London, but, of course, I didn’t have the same level of service.

It was past four and pitch dark when I got out of there. I went back to the area where I got off my bus only to see one with my number at a bus stop on the correct side of the way to head home. I didn’t bother rushing to it since I knew another would come along quickly. Sure enough, by the time I’d made my way to the bus stop at a leisurely pace that respected the traffic signals, another one was pulling up. It was very full, so I went upstairs, my first time riding in the top level of a double decker since Edinburgh!

Unlike in most other cities with bus services, Manchester’s buses don’t announce the stops, so I had to keep an eye out to make sure I didn’t get taken for a ride. I ended up missing my stop, but the next one wasn’t much further and I would have ended up walking the same amount anyway. I popped into Tesco to get something light for dinner, settling on some Pot Noodles that would just need water from the kettle and a huge salad.

Weather aside, it was a good day in Manchester. I’m glad I picked the walking tour as my only activity here as it gave me a good idea of what the city is all about.

A Tedious Travel Day

It’s been one of those travel days where every step was painful. Just a few of these annoyances would have been fine, but there was just one thing after another. What did not help is that I got zero sleep last night. I went to bed fairly early, dozed about an hour, and then was rudely woken by fireworks that did not stop until it was too late to go back to sleep. I was not impressed.

I finished preparing the house for my hosts, cuddled one of my charges, and headed out at about 7:30 or 7:45. It felt really weird to just leave like that without confirmation that my host had made his flight and would be home around noonish, but I emailed two days ago and haven’t heard back. They’re very laid back and were always slow to respond to my emails. So I’m sure everything’s fine, but I left the cats extra food and water just in case there is a delay. At some point, I have to say that I did my due diligence, have everything about departure in writing, and just let it go.

I headed out into a dark and bitter cold Amsterdam morning to catch a tram to a rail station that is much closer than Centraal. One came quickly and the conductor gave me a dirty look when I gave him my fare. I thought it was because it was a lot of small change, but he finally spit out that I had to get my ticket “in the back.” Well, that was news to me. This was my fourth tram ride and the first time that I could not buy at the front. Aaaaaanyway. The guy in the back was nice like my previous three tram drivers. He counted my change and thanked me for having it exact, so there’s that. 🙂

I only had to go three stops and had thought to walk, but they are stops that are quite far apart! I made it to the train station and all the ticket machines were for transport card holders only. A sign said that there was one somewhere that would sell a single fare, but that I had to find it myself. By the time I found the machine and bought a ticket (a painless process since you can do it all in English), I missed my train by literally 10 seconds, but it was only a 10-minute wait for the next one and then maybe 10 minutes at most to the airport. I was there by about 8:15.

I was flying with Flybe, a budget airline based out of the UK. I had checked in online, but did not have my boarding pass because I didn’t have access to a printer and their mobile app is UK only (dumb). It took almost an hour for a Flybe desk to open so that someone could check me in again and print me a boarding pass, and then I had to argue that I should not have to pay for that “service”! So that was rather a waste of leaving so early and I regretted not having had breakfast and coffee at home.

Next step was security, but guess what? Schipol doesn’t have one main security area. You have to go to the one assigned to your gate. And I did not have a gate number on my boarding pass and my gate was not showing up on the electronic billboards. *sighs*

I went to an information kiosk and a super sweet woman did some research and was able to find my gate number. Off I went to queue to scan my boarding pass so I could enter the secure area. Then, I queued for about 30 minutes to get to the head of the security line. Then, what happened in Málaga happened again and I found myself quite separated from my belongings, this time because no one could agree if I should keep my boots on or not. And I had volunteered to take them off from the get go and was told not to waste time…

I finally got cleared and reunited with my valuables, but my suitcase had been selected for secondary screening. My day just kept getting better!

After about five minutes, just enough time to get my boots back on and my electronics repacked, my suitcase got to the head of the queue. I was asked to open it. The guy lifted out a couple of my packing cubes, then thanked me and helped me zip the case closed again! So that could have gone a lot worse. Definitely the anxiety at the thought of having to repack was the worst bit.

Next stop, the passport control queue, which was about four times as long as the security queue because they were having trouble with their system. One woman asked me super politely if she could go ahead of me because she was about to miss her flight. She had also gotten to the airport way earlier than the recommended time. Of course I let her go!

The passport control woman flipped through my passport, sighed, and snapped, “When did you enter the EU?!” I said, “October, in Barcelona.” She then slammed my passport down and said, “You’ve overstayed by a month! That’s a 700 euro fine! Now, wait while I get a supervisor!” I knew I had most certainly not overstayed and told her, “My date is January 12th. I still have a week.” Her colleague in the next booth leaned over and asked what date I’d entered, then confirmed that I was correct. I can’t believe her computer system couldn’t tell her all of this. Oh, wait, it was apparently glitchy. And I guess she can’t do basic arithmetic. So that was pleasant, but, hey, I got a Netherlands exit stamp in my passport!

It was now just past ten and boarding was clear across the airport at 10:30. I knew I had to eat and the shortest lineup ended up being at McDonald’s, so that’s where I went. That wound up being a smart decision, believe it or not. A 4-euro children’s Happy Meal got me a small hamburger, cherry tomatoes, a bottle of water, and a fruit salad! That has to be the best deal at the airport, considering that just the water was about 2 euros at other places! But let’s not get into the price of coffee. At least, I got a full cup, with milk, for the price of an espresso everywhere else. Anyway, I got a reasonably healthy meal with a snack for the plane (the fruit) and water for 7 euros when 7 euros couldn’t even get me a sandwich and coffee at the café. Must keep in mind this Happy Meal trick for when I’m travelling in the US!

By the time I’d eaten and raced across what felt like half of the Netherlands, I made it to my gate only to have to get on a bus and drive across the other half of the Netherlands to get to our plane… where I discovered that my suitcase would not fit in the overhead bins despite fitting into the suitcase sizer. It’s only now that I realise that I could have stowed it under my seat and put my computer bag in the overhead bin, but all I could think at the moment was “Move out of the way! Move out of the way!” So I quickly opened my suitcase, pulled out my two large packing cubes, rezipped the suitcase, and shoved it into the overhead bin where it fit fine. I added my coat and then crammed my laptop bag, purse, and two packing cubes under my seat. I was really not proud of myself, feeling like one of those idiots who got on the plane with more than is allowed, but my bags had been cleared! I think that if a flight attendant had told me to switch the location of my bags, I would have been fine. But anyway, I had enough room in the end.

The flight was super quick, about an hour and I gained an hour, so I landed about 30 minutes later than I had first boarded the plane. Deplaning started shockingly quickly, so I moved into the aisle to let out my seat mate, who had not been impressed by my bag shuffle. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Wow. Thanks. I expected you to make me wait till you got yourself resorted!” No, I do try to be considerate in my lack of consideration…

I was able to take advantage of a small hold up in the queue to grab my suitcase from the overhead bin and bring it down to my seat so I could put my two packing cubes back in it. The packing cubes were a smart decision that I’m not regretting at all. I thought I’d be the last one off, but nope.

Next hurdle was UK passport control. A man passed out landing cards that we had to fill out before going to a counter. I didn’t really have much of a wait after that. The officer I went to was very thorough and I was utterly unprepared for his questions and didn’t have anything on hand to prove where I’m going, what funds I have, and that I have a return ticket. *sighs* I’m normally smarter than that, but I’ve been enjoying such lax procedures that I forgot that I was heading back into sterner territory. The first thing I was asked for was the return ticket and I had the email on my phone, but it hadn’t downloaded. I offered to boot up my laptop as I knew everything was there, but he said that if I could find an email with my host in Hebden Bridge detailing some plans, he’d let me go. I had that so he stamped me good to go. Very nice man, thank you!

Then, I needed to find an ATM, a SIM card, and the train station. I’d been told there was a Barclay’s ATM (no fee withdrawal) at the airport, but the man at information said that wasn’t true, so I decided to wait. He also told me I would be better off getting a SIM at my destination, that the free airport WiFi worked better nearer the train station (LOL), and that the train station was thataway. Which ended up being about a 10-minute walk. There, I was, indeed, able to get enough WiFi to get my walking directions from the train station to my studio. I had thought to take a cab, expecting gross weather, but I landed in SUN. So that was a huge plus to my day.

The train station had self-serve kiosks and I had no trouble buying a ticket for my destination, but it didn’t tell me what platform to go to or what train destination I had to check on the departures board. So I went to a station employee and started by… asking him if he spoke English!!!!!! That’s what no sleep does to my brain! What did not help the situation is that he was wearing a turban, so my enquiry could have been taken as racist. But instead of being insulted, he burst out laughing and asked me how long I’d been travelling. He told me where to go and then chased after me a moment later to let me know that my platform at changed. Another nice guy!

My train was on time and it was a fairly short trip to my station. I’d Google Streetviewed my route and knew how to get most of the way to my place. So I had a pleasant stroll until nearly the end where I had a few turns to make and the roads did not have signage. I just don’t get that as it makes it rather difficult to navigate. But anyway, I made it.

As expected, the place is a dump, but my room is clean and while I don’t have a fridge, I do have a microwave and kettle, so I can do breakfast and ready meals. Tesco (supermarket) is a block away if I want a small amount of cheese for a meal or whatever. I did a lot of work on finding my Manchester accommodation and I know I have a really good deal, so I’m willing to put up with a lot now that I have heat and internet. Speaking of internet…

I needed something to eat, so I headed off in search of the Tesco. As it turns out, I went in the wrong direction. Thankfully before I went too far, I passed two women out with a baby and I asked them for directions. They sorted me out. As it turned out, Tesco was on the High Street, so there were takeaway shops and places to buy SIM cards nearby. So first, I tried a few places advertising SIM cards before I found a vendor who could actually help me figure out plans and get me set up. SUPER nice man. My hero of the day! He got me on a Lycamobile package for £15 (free SIM) that has unlimited talk and text in the UK, 100 international minutes, and 4GB of data. I wanted the data since the data at the studio is crap. He didn’t take Visa, so I had to pay 5CAD for a withdrawal at the Tesco ABM (at least, they didn’t charge me a fee). Hope I can find a Barclay’s tomorrow!

Next stop was Tesco’s, where I got bread, peanut butter, and jam for my breakfasts, put a few other things, like washing up liquid (Can’t believe the studio doesn’t have that. I’m going to have to wash everything before I use it!). Grocery prices were depressingly low for a country that is apparently as expensive as England is. A jar of peanut butter that would have been $4 at home was $1 here, for example…

There was a chippy right next to Tesco, so I decided I’d earned a donair for takeaway. The cook was a super sweet guy and we had a nice chat while he made my food. He’s from Iran and wants to go to Bulgaria next year and Canada at some point! I gave him some tips. My donair ended up being amazing. The chicken was marinated in a slightly spicy sauce and I had asked for mango sauce (!) on it, so the pairing was wonderful. He gave me free salad too, usually a 50p up charge!

After my late lunch, it was time to see what I’d missed on the interwebs. Which is when I discovered that Lycamobile does not allow tethering. WTF???!!! Who cares what device I use my data on?! I spent some time doing research on how the tethering blocks are made and how to go around them. I paid for my data, so I really don’t see anything unethical about this. I finally figured out what I needed to do, but not how to do it. More Googling brought up a page in Russian that had some lines of Terminal code. I popped the text around the code into Google Translate, but what I got didn’t make much sense. So I painstakingly started to read it and there were enough words that looked like Bulgarian that I was able to make out that this was indeed the code I had to put in to get the tethering to work. I tried it and… it worked!!!! Soon as I master Spanish, I’m moving on to Russian! 😀

(Ooh, my Amsterdam host just checked in. All is good. Phew!)

I’ve decided to head into Manchester tomorrow even if that’ll mean a faster morning than I’d like, just so I can get a walking tour done straight away. That’s at 11:00 and I’m about 30 minutes from Manchester on a bus. It’s only 5KM to downtown, but there’s no sense walking there and then doing a walking tour on top of that. My knee is fine, by the way. Sore as hell if I bump it, but I’m not limping anymore. It is a very pretty shade of purple!

Manchester is considered the affordable London, so I’m looking forward to comparing the two. However, this isn’t really a tourist stop for me. So I’ll probably just do the walking tour, but who knows what wonders I’ll stumble across while doing that? 🙂

8PM and I’m off to bed. 9PM in Amsterdam and I didn’t sleep last night! BTW, all my devices were still on Belgrade time. Rather amazing that I flew across the whole of Europe two months ago and am still in the same time zone I was in three months ago!

An Amazing Couple of Weeks in Amsterdam

My job yesterday wound up taking a lot longer than I expected, so that combined with a late start meant I never did get out in the afternoon. Frankly, I was overdue for a pyjama day! It was a similar thing today, where I just couldn’t stand the thought of facing the crowds downtown. I decided to focus on preparing the house for my hosts, enjoying final cuddles with my charges, and beginning the packing process.

I did go for a walk around my neighbourhood, between rain showers. I could definitely live here. You get a lot of the same conveniences as downtown, but without the crowds, similar to the neighbourhood I lived in in London. I can understand why my hosts chose this location when they had the opportunity to live in a canal house for a time.

Since I’m trying to set the kitchen to rights, I didn’t want to cook today and so I looked for a nice lunch in the area. After much Googling, I realised that I wanted Mexican-y flavours. I passed a burrito shop on my way to the Rembrandt House and regretted not trying it out. Ever the optimist, I did a search for Mexican food in my neighbourhood, certain that my only options were the two I knew about and which are very expensive. Well, to my delight, the restaurant near Rembrandtplein, Salsa Shop, has recently opened a restaurant a kilometre from my flat! So that was my lunch decision made.

Well, I ended up having the absolute best Tex-Mex of my life in Amsterdam of all places. My burrito was made fresh to order with rice, black beans, seasoned chicken, spicy sweet corn, “pico de gallo”, cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. I then had a pick of a wide range of salsas to suit all palates and I went with their second spiciest, smokey pineapple. I splurged and added some chunky guacamole with homemade tortilla chips and a fresh Mexican-style limonada. Add in all the Cholula hot sauce I could ever want and I was in paradise. It was actually quite cheap by Amsterdam standards since my meal cost €14 (20CAD) and I had enough leftovers for dinner!

It’s been an amazing stay in Amsterdam, but I’m ready to move on. There is no way I could keep up this pace for much longer and work is about to pick up anyway. I’ll be in Manchester two full days and only plan for one of those to be a touristy day. Then, on to Hebden Bridge on Sunday and then to my sit on Monday, where I’ll be for a solid month. Once again, I have to say that I am so inordinately grateful to have had a chance to truly live in Amsterdam for two whole weeks and to have gotten to know my way around part of it. I really hope to be back one day!

Het Scheepvaartmuseum (Museum of Maritime History) and NEMO Science Centre

Well, I’m all museumed out. 😀 I have two days left here and two more museums on my list, but I’m ready to let them go. I have work to do tomorrow and Wednesday, I want to give the house a good polish as I’ll be leaving early on Thursday.

I definitely won’t be getting to Haarlem to visit the Ten Boom house because… I had a bad fall today and I’m not as ambulatory as I’d like. 🙁 I slipped on a slick surface while trying to avoid some of the billion out of control brats at the Museum of Maritime History and went down really hard. If it had been my bad knee, I know it would have dislocated. I just know that if I had let my health insurance lapse, it would have been worse, because that’s how things tend to go. As it is, I don’t think I need X-rays or medical treatment, but I may reassess in the morning. I’m RICEing (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) tonight. It was only about 4KM to get home from the museums and I ended up getting on a tram, which was a good move. I really banged it hard. 🙁

At any rate, off to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum! I can’t believe I almost skipped this one!

To get there, I decided to cut through the park near my flat, but did so on a different path and found an information placard about it. As it turns out, it is Vondelpark and basically Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park! It was created in 1834 as a place for riding and strolling. It is in an English landscape garden style meant to mimic natural landscape. The Vondelpark was designated a national monument in 1996.

I went down the street with the posh shops and noticed this shop name Stone Island that sells cold weather gear. LOL

I found myself at the front of the Rijksmuseum.

There was a magnificent house across the canal. I want to live in a house with a tower! 🙂

Here’s another interesting house I passed on my walk. I was going to do the museum of architecture, but, really, I’m museumed out. 🙂

So Anne Frank does have her own street!

I got to the Maritime History Museum with only a few wrong turns and barely any extra mileage, much better than when I was using Google Maps to navigate. It helps that Amsterdam does technically have a grid pattern and that street names are continuous rather than changing every few blocks.

I liked the tile and brick on this one.

I really looked forward to visiting the replica of an old ship!

The Maritime History Museum appears to be floating. The main entrance is around the side to the right, facing the picture. It is built over hundreds of Norwegian piles.

There’s the NEMO Science Centre nearby. I knew its shape was impressive, but not that impressive! More on NEMO later.

You enter the Maritime History Museum into a magnificent courtyard that is covered with a glass roof. There’s a desk for folks with a Museumkaart to sign in and get an admission bracelet, map, and instructions. Bit of a queue today, but better than at the ticket desk!

I went into the basement to stow my things in a locker. Loved the contrast of the teal with the red brick.

The basement was a bit of a maze.

The barcode on the bracelet is scanned at the entrance of the locker room and you are assigned a locker, which is locked and unlocked electronically.

To my surprise, I was really hungry by this point, so I checked out the café prices. They were better than at most museums I’d been to, so I scrapped my plans to have a late lunch after my tour and ordered food. My coffee came with a meringue that I will confess I ate. My problem is really more with the yolk of the egg than the white. To the left of the coffee is “coffee milk,” which is beige. I’ve since learned that it is evaporated milk, which is not sweet the way condensed milk is. I was grateful to see it as all the coffee drinks with milk were significantly marked up, but I got charged for a black coffee, and the portion was about four times as generous as expected. I went with the cheapest thing on the menu, a grilled cheese with ham, that had this really good melty white cheese and a side of ketchup. It was a lovely lunch in a beautiful café on a gorgeous day.:D

This museum has an audio tour, which I didn’t find as polished as at other museums. For one thing, the player never stopped nattering and would just repeat itself ad nauseum. The stops were also not well marked and it was rather a treasure hunt to find them. But I would never have gotten as much out of the museum as I did without it.

From the courtyard, you can go to the east, north, or west, with south being the exit. I started in the east, which has the actual exhibits.

I was inordinately amused that emergency in Dutch looks like calamity.

There was a big window on the first floor landing with a great view.

I started with the yacht models as I was still looking for stop number one of the audio tours.

Still looking for stop one, I moved to the next room, in which I spent the most time of my entire visit: the atlas room. It was pretty much my idea of heaven. Here is one of the nine volumes of the Atlas Mayor, which started in 1662, and was available in Dutch, French, German, Spanish, and Latin. Here, it is open to a city map of Amsterdam, dated 1649.

Someone told me the first stop for the audio tour was all the way back downstairs at the entrance to the East Wing, so down I went and then I had be directed to a rather well hidden audio point….

As it turned out, the atlases were the first room I was meant to visit. I learned that the Atlas Mayor is the pinnacle of Dutch cartography of the Golden Age and the result of two centuries of map-making and compiling atlases.

Some of the atlases on display are ancient. This map dates back to 1482. What was most fascinating was seeing the maps become more and more accurate, and especially seeing North America take shape.

The atlas above was scanned and I could flip through it. Entirely coincidental that I photographed a scan of the map above!

Just like with the iBooks app, you can literally flip pages. I spent a lot of time on this display. You could even email yourself your favourite maps.

England and Scotland, as understood in the late 1400s.

All the exhibits are dim and you have to press this little lightbulb to get enough light to read the text.

More volumes of the Atlas Mayor.

I then went back to the exhibit of yacht models. Notice that this one is on skates, for sailing on ice.

This is considered one of the finest in the collection for its craftsmanship and mahogany. I find it rather looks like a violin.

There is a third room that is not part of the official tour. It has a table set with china and the walls are lined with rows of cupboards. Curious, I opened one of the cupboards.

Ooh! Each cubby had a silver item.

I headed up to the second floor, admiring the construction of the building.

Next up was a maritime art gallery. To be honest, it started off as a lot of the same to me and I wasn’t really that keen to learn about the various battles, like the Battle of Gibraltar depicted in the scene below. I really was museumed out. 🙂

This one was stylistically interesting to me. Notice the sea monster?

Now, this was interesting because I’d never seen a pen painting before. It’s all done in pen and ink with perhaps a few brush strokes for sky and shadows.

Here’s another one, with a closeup on a whale:

Seascapes like these were in demand around 1650, when the Netherlands became a maritime superpower.

Notice how shiny this one is. That’s achieved with linseed oil. 🙂

I loved the design of the gallery. The paintings appeared to be floating over empty space, but it was just black mirrored flooring.

This was the first exhibit I’ve been to that explicitly talked about how the grey climate here contributed to the dark and subdued colours of classical Dutch painting. Let me tell you, two weeks in Amsterdam in winter and Rembrandt makes a lot more sense to me!

This one rather reminded me of my favourite Monet, with that little burst of light in the centre.

A very calm day with no wind. Can you find at least two clues that tell us that?


We then got to more modern paintings and my interest was piqued as there was more colour.

Next stop, navigational instruments, another spectacular room.

I learned all about astrolabes. I had no idea that they are so rare, that most were melted down, and that the ones still in existence were usually found in shipwrecks.

I learned that depth finders had a bit of wax at the end of them to collect sediment from the ocean floor to give further navigational information.

Next up, the naval decorations.

All the figureheads pointed towards this display, which was of rushing water, complete with sound. Standing in front of the display case, I really felt like I was on the prow of a ship cutting through the ocean.

I loved the variety of figureheads and their expressions.

Gritted teeth and scared eyes.

And just… LOL!

Like downstairs, there was a room off the official tour, this one with squashy armchairs and photo albums. I picked a chair at random and found that my photo album was about the Arctic in Norway.

The third floor is not on the floor plan, but there was nothing telling me not to go up, so I did. 🙂

I got a good view of the roof from above.

Now, it was time to head out to the ship!

This ship was overrun by disorderly brats who were shrieking. Mexican, Balkan, and Spanish children are so well behaved and orderly that this was a shock. I explored as best I could, but it really wasn’t as much fun as it should have been.

This is the orlop deck, which accommodated 200 sailors and soldiers crammed in around personal effects.

I headed up to the first level of the exterior deck and the captain’s quarters.

Guest quarters were a tad cramped.

Compared to the captain’s quarters. I could not stand up in this part of the ship, however.

I went down into the hold, where the shrieking of the demon spawn was echoing, so I hurried back up.

This ship dates back to 1900 and was an icebreaker.

I was able to view the Royal Barge in its own boathouse. It was built for King William I of the Netherlands between 1816 and 1818. He didn’t use it, but his successors did. It was last used at the silver wedding anniversary of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard in 1962.

Coming out of this exhibit is when I fell. 🙁

I went back in to visit the West Wing.

Even if I hadn’t been sore, my brain was about to explode, so I went very quickly through an exhibit about the Golden Age of the Netherlands and one about whaling.

We were able to go into this giant whale.

The final exhibit was a game that looked like a lot of fun and had a grown-up version, but it was overrun with kiddos, so I didn’t even try. I went all the way back to the basement to fetch my coat. Green dots are free lockers, red dots are occupied, flashing green dots have been opened by the scanner at the entrance. Neat system.

I was really sore, but still wanted to go check out NEMO.

I made it most of the way up this staircase, but took the elevator back down.

Amsterdam looked like a painting…

The lineup into the science centre was absurd. I’d done my research and knew that I would not spend much time there, so I decided to see if I could jump the queue with my Museumkaart. Yes!

The NEMO Science Centre is a giant interactive playground meant to teach kids about science. If you plan to visit Amsterdam with children, put this one on your list!

I didn’t bother going near any of the interactive stuff since it was all too busy, but I did catch a few interesting static exhibits. These wooden figures were meant to illustrate the structure of different crystals.

These are primitive batteries, but work more like capacitors.

There was a neat display of old technology, like this 1980s model of CD player.

There was a very graphic multi part sex exhibit. I love how Europeans are not prudes.

I liked the models demonstrating creative sexual positions.

And this exhibit where young and old could practice French kissing.

In an exhibit on more futuristic tech, I found this hat with solar panels woven into it. Can you imagine something like this in Mexico? I’d never have to worry about charging my phone!

There was an exhibit about how solar cars are becoming the norm in the Netherlands and there is an increasing number of charging stations.

I only stayed about 40minutes, longer than I expected I would! I was ready to get off my leg by this point, but I still took the time to capture a few more images of the building’s incredible exterior.

I walked along the water a bit towards Centraal Station, where I could get a tram straight home. I knew I wasn’t up to walking 4KM on that knee. 🙁

This friendly guy (gal?) came to say hello.

How did it get up there?! And why is it not strapped down better?!

I found a whole neighourhood of folks living on the water. By the way, I learned that some canal dwellings are houses on piles while others are boats. The boats are more expensive to live in because they have to be periodically hauled out of the water and their hauls scraped and repainted.

People have real addresses with post boxes.

I bet this person doesn’t come home drunk…

Interesting floating pagoda.

This is a hotel right near Centraal Station.

Back at Amsterdam Centraal.

I got in and got my knee on ice. I researched places nearby to go have dinner, but ultimately decided to just pick up a frozen pizza at the supermarket as well as a few other sundries. I’m glad I didn’t try to go any further than that. I was annoyed that they don’t accept credit cards and I had to give all my remaining cash, which was supposed to get me through to Thursday. So now, I have to make another withdrawal, which will cost me 5CAD. Should have gone out for dinner after all. *wry grin*

Accident notwithstanding, this was another great day of Amsterdam museums! I ended up viewing 257.04CAD worth of museums for just 87CAD. So I think I got my money’s worth out of the Museumkaart! 🙂 I do wish I had gone out of Amsterdam one day, but it just didn’t make sense to do so when I had so much here to keep me occupied. The Museumkaart really was a smart purchase as I’m not sure what I would have done with myself otherwise since work was so slow and I’m on a tight budget. I’m also glad I didn’t get a transportation card and so was motivated to walk as much as I did. I got to know my part of Amsterdam very well and saw things I wouldn’t have noticed from a tram. I have two days left and if my knee cooperates, I want to go explore a bit more of West Amsterdam, where I’m living, since it shouldn’t be too cold…

Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic)

Thankfully, the zombie apocalypse wound down around 2AM and I was able to get some sleep. When I awoke, I appeared to be the only survivor. Amsterdam was dead quiet… I had another slow morning and researched things that would be open today. Truth be told, I didn’t feel like going out into the cold drizzly rain, but I didn’t really have any good reason to stay home. Of the four things still on my list, two were open today and one was near Dam Square, so not too far away, and it opened at one. I really wasn’t keen on it, the Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic), but so many people told me I had to visit it and reviews online were incredibly positive. And so, off I went to find a hidden church buried within Amsterdam’s Red Light District. I do so love it here! 😀

There was so much garbage in the streets.

Lots of firecracker wrappers.

This huge one was right by my front door and is likely the one that exploded around 1:30 with a bang that made me certain the room was going to collapse and grateful that I hadn’t tried to go to sleep yet.

So many outside a Chinese restaurant!

I found the museum without any trouble. I might not have gone the most direct route, but I’m doing pretty well at navigating on my own now!

So this museum is about a “house church.” In the late 1500s, overt Catholicism was banned in Amsterdam as Protestantism took over. So people built churches in their homes. As long as people were discrete, authorities turned a blind eye. It wasn’t illegal to be Catholic — you could believe and practice anything you wanted in private — but you couldn’t openly display your faith.

This church in an attic dates back to 1663 and is one of the best preserved old houses on the canals. There are actually three houses within this building and the tour takes you from the cellar to the very top. You can see elements that date all the way back to the 17th century, although the church was restored to look as it would have in the mid-1800s. I hadn’t realised I was going to get to tour such an old house, so my curiosity was immediately piqued!

Like in many of Amsterdam’s museums, you get an audio guide. They’re not always free, but here they were.

The guides are available in a number of languages. Here, we see Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.

Model of the house.

Barrel for soapmaking found during an excavation of the house.

The museum entrance is actually in a building next to the old house. You start in its basement, climb up to the ground floor of the old house, work your way up to the attic, then go down to the cellar and back over to the newer building.

The floors are ancient, so guests have to wear shoe covers.

I was wearing my big boots, so I just went for the big covers.

Like with all my other tours, there’s no way I can remember everything I heard in the audio guide and this time, I don’t have any literature to help me recall details.

This was the front room of the more modest house.

Still pretty fancy! It was probably a living room, but there is evidence that it could have been a store at one point.

We now go into the entrance hall for the house.

Notice the “Dutch door.”

The entrance hall is impressive, but the rooms narrow and the ceilings lower as you go back into the house.

You could see right through some of the floors.

Here’s the 19th century kitchen.

Loved the unexpected skylight.

The tiles on the wall to the left have scenes with children.

Those by the fireplace have scenes with animals.

We’re now going into the room that would have been the kitchen for the larger house, called a “momkamer,” which, if I remember correctly is a sort of tavern. All of these items were recovered from an excavated “cesspool.”

There was a hilarious video about the cesspool. The scene previous to this one was a very graphic depiction of someone defecating.

We then had to go down then up some stairs.

And up a small and super awkward staircase.

Into the drawing room of the larger and grander home. By the way, the only real light in the whole museum comes through the windows, as would have been the case in olden times, with a few lights mimicking candles. So that’s why some of my pictures are so dark.

Here’s the stove in the drawing room. I like the green tiles.

Wall hangings were more interesting than plain plastered walls and provided warmth to the room.

There was a box bed in the corner.

A table with some chairs.

I learned that there are only two original 17th century staircases in the house and that guests are only permitted to use one set. This one that I had just come up.

A lot of skill would be needed to come out of that door onto that narrow ledge!

We then went into the parlour where the owner, who had a linen business, received his guests.

The room was meant to show off so everything was fancy, including the ceiling.

Symmetry was very important in traditional Dutch design. So this door doesn’t work or go anywhere. It just exists as a twin to the door on the other side of the room.

The dark lines on the floor match the pattern of the ceiling.

I continued to climb up. Here, we’re looking down to the entrance hall.

Another box bed, with an interior window with a shutter. We are now on the path to the entrance of the church.

There would be holy water in this basin to do whatever it is Catholics do with holy water before entering a church.

And the church. Wow.

Looking up at the organ. I can’t believe they could play music when they had to be “discrete.”

They had to go through several layers of floor to build the church. These metal ties were used to make up for cutting into supporting braces.

The altar.

Father God.

The pillars are wood painted to look like marble.

The church was originally painted yellow, but this mauvey colour dates from the mid-19th century. Here are some layers of original paint over the years.

Floor covering of woven rushes (made in England).

The pulpit is hidden in this pillar and folds out. There was a video about that. The mechanism is very intricate!

I found a staircase leading up to the organ. It would be easy to miss and I’m glad I spotted it as it leads to another staircase!

So here’s the organ.

This rope leads up to a pulley system that would have been used to bring the linens to the top of the house for storage.

Such narrow, twisty stairs!

Here I am at the very top of the house, in the attic.

This was my first time being all the way at the top of a house in Amsterdam. Quite a long ways down!

Here’s the rope from downstairs.

You can look up through glass-covered hole in the ceiling to see the pulley mechanism. It’s just above that platform.

There was another funny cartoon, this time about the workings of the pulley system.

I headed down into the sacristy, where the priest would dress for mass.

The dove symbolises Christ.

There was a small chapel for devotees of the Virgin Mary.

I headed down to the confessional.

The audio guide said this is a baptismal fount.

I don’t remember what this room was for other than it had a display of religious silver objects. Bits of original wallpaper were found during the restoration and then copied so they could recover all the walls.

This was the last priest of the house, Petrus Parmentier.

Looking down to the museum entrance across the alley.

Now, we’re in the priest’s house.

The priest worked here for, I think, seven years and paid rent for this space. The owner of the house left a provision in his will that the priest be allowed to keep using the space, but because of the debts on the property, he had to leave.

Now, I went down an almost ladder-like staircase to the 17th century kitchen!

This door opens into the alley.

This room was used until 1952. I really wish I had more information about what it was like in those days compared to now. You can cross this room into a pantry-type space. To the left of that door at the back is…

A toilet. “Flushed with a bucket of water.”

I went back up that staircase, down another, and then I was at the end of the tour.

There are some exhibits in what would have been the cellar of the house.

Looking up, you can see some of the original brick and one of the staircases.

Part of the original foundation.

Back in the entrance building, you can climb up to see a few more things.

The “Voices of Tolerance” is really just a place of contemplation. You can see the word spelled in several languages. I see both Russian and Serbo-Croatian. 🙂

I’ve heard about the “Miracle of Amsterdam” ad nauseum.

It was super cold when I came out and I just wanted to get back to my warm and cosy house, about 40 minutes away. I stopped to pick up a hot cone of Dutch “patates.” Very expensive and the ketchup was extra. But they were pretty tasty and warmed me up on my long walk. 🙂

I’ve passed several times a shop that sells halva, a confection usually made with sesame paste and honey that I adore, and today they were handing out free samples. I got to try pistachio and one other of my choice, which was espresso. I really wanted to treat myself to a piece since they had so many varieties, but a small piece was 10 euros and I knew that was highway robbery. I mean, I’ve been able to buy a very decent block of halva in Assinboia for about 5CAD or 3.50 euros for a few years now! So I just savoured my samples and went on my way.

I was really glad to get in around three, but even gladder that I went out. Turns out all the fuss about Our Lord in the Attic was warranted!