Brightoned Out, But So Glad I Went

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

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

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

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

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

I wandered up North Street to find a second breakfast.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s adjacent to the Dome.

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

The tiles are gorgeous and have so much depth!

I enjoyed making a motif of Iranian-style tiles.

This turquoise colour is very traditional in Iran.

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

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

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

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

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

I really liked these.

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

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

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

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

I then meandered my way down to the water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spot the annoying typo.

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

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

Brighton Square.

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

Most of the shops in The Lanes sell jewelry.

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

More pretty tile work at a hotel.

Another church made of flint.

This pub seemed welcoming.

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

I then meandered my way back to the train station.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Day in Lewes — a Castle, an Ancient House, Priory Ruins, a Great Pint, and the South Downs, Oh My!

Today, I decided to head to the nearby town of Lewes (pronounced just like Lewis) to visit its castle (and other sites) and get a chance to walk on the famous South Downs. I headed out around 9:30 this morning to catch a 10:08 train to Brighton and then the first train to Lewes. Since my Airbnb is right near the train station, I was very early, even after collecting my ticket, and on top of that my train to Brighton was delayed. So I headed down to the Barclay’s to do a withdrawal so I wouldn’t have to do that in Lewes.

Standing on the platform, I could look up the stairs to the locked gate onto the pedestrian bridge.

Not sure I would want to live somewhere called “Bad House”…

Brighton train station was quite impressive!

I didn’t have to wait for a train to Lewes so I ended up having a very quick trip. It was one stop to Brighton and then four or five to Lewes.

Looking out over Brighton from the train to Lewes.

I still can’t get over the daffodils in early March!

The Lewes train station was similar to Hove’s.

I headed uphill from the train station to find the High Street and the tourist information centre.

I liked the turquoise trim on this house.

The lady at the tourist information centre was super helpful. I asked her about walking on the South Downs if I had only an hour or two and she gave me a map, a leaflet, and excellent directions for what sounded like exactly the perfect walking option. I decided to start my day with the castle, though, and she sent me in direction of it.

This narrow street rather reminded me of a Shrewsbury shut.

From the High Street, there’s a sign saying to turn right for the castle. You do so and, boom, there’s its gate!

I bought a combination ticket for the castle and an old Tudor house for £12.50. The lady who sold me the ticket gave me directions to the house and then a route to another location that would let me do a nice circle back around to the High Street to find lunch after.

It is very, very, very late, so I’m not going to get into the very complicated history of this castle. It’s been built and rebuilt many times and has had many owners so it’s not really that old.


My first destination was the top of the barbican, over the entrance gate.

That “guy” scared the heck out of me when I came into the room!

I had fun trying to figure out how to use a medieval crane.

Ah… the famous chalk hills of Sussex, or the South Downs. I first learned about them when I was reading the Sherlock Holmes stories as this area is where he retired.

Shame it was so misty. I was tempted later in the day, when the sky cleared, to ask if I could come back up, but I was too tired and foot sore.

The castle is made of local flint.

Looking out over the bowling green, the lumpiest in England! Thomas Paine (Rights of Man) played there in the 18th century when he lived in Lewes!

Remains of an old cooking fireplace, when this part of the castle would have been indoors.

I headed inside to climb to the very top of the castle.

Looking out to Lewes prison.

It was surreal to be here! This isn’t even the most famous view of the chalk hills and I didn’t feel any need to go seek it out.

After the castle, I did the little attached museum. This tapestry was impressive.



Flint tools

This is apparently what a medieval felt hat would have looked like.

The floors in the upstairs of the museum was embarrassingly creaky!

After the museum, I continued down the High Street.

Little did I know I would be back to the Brewers Arms.

The 15th century bookstore, where I had to turn off the High Street.

I passed what looked like a pretty garden and was thrilled that it was open to the public.

My tour of this lovely garden done, I continued on, passing yet another lovely church.

My next destination of Anne of Cleves House. She was one of Henry VIII’s wives. She won this house in their divorce settlement, but never actually lived here although she might have visited. I have so much information about this house that I may come back and do a page about it when I’m not so knackered. There’s no way I can do it justice tonight. It’s a fine example of a Tudor manor, but it was much improved upon over the years and does not resemble its original form.

The entrance is the former great hall.

From there you can go right (left looking at this picture) into the east bedroom.

It was a really vast and voluminous space. Two ladies and a little girl were there and we had a chat about the history of building and how mind boggling it is that it took so long for Western society to start using insulation. We also had fun playing with those costumes!

This could serve as a chair, table, or chest!

The floor of the parlour was incredibly uneven and not level!

I find that expression hilarious.

Remember his thoughts on Shrewsbury?

This represents an avalanche in Lewes in the 19th century.


The tour of the house ends with the garden.

I found the Anne of Cleves House was very interesting to walk through. It smelled exactly as it should, so musty and old, and the exhibits were interesting. But I paid £1.50 extra for a leaflet that had pretty much the same information as on the walls and it was not laid out in a logical manner. I found that the museum could have done a better job with it and to help guests through the rather confusing layout.

more palm trees!

My last stop before a badly needed lunch was Priory Park, which is free to walk through.

From the priory, I had to go past the rail station to get back to the High Street. I passed one of the many “rail replacement” buses since there is a lot of work being done on the railways.

Exterior of Lewes train station.

I had lunch at the Brewers Arms pictured above. I went with the lunch special of sausages and mash with a pint of Harvey’s Best Bitter, a beer brewed right in Lewis. All was yummy. 🙂 I took my time with lunch since I was very tired by this point and wanted a rest before heading onto the South Downs.

After lunch,  I went down the High Street in the other direction towards the South Downs.

The High Street ends with a pedestrianised bit.

I was happy to find (very expensive) ice cream, to which I added a Flake!

Unfortunately, you have to book brewery tours eons in advance.

At the end of the High Street, I started up the very steel Chapel Road.

Not even all the way up, I already had amazing views of Lewes and the valley.

The walk on the South Downs takes you right by cows. That black one on the right had a shifty gaze.

I couldn’t believe how much this part of the South Downs looked like the rolling hills around Haven. And just like at home, the internet up with the cows was much better than down in the valley where the people live. *wry grin*

And the point of this gate is?

I descended into a valley full of sheep.

My walk leaflet mentioned this pond. Little did I know I would spend so much time here that it would be my final destination on the Downs!

It was full of frogs! I spent so much time watching them. I believe it’s mating season.

So cute!

I couldn’t believe the number of them there were, all around the pond.

One on the grass posed for me.

I was supposed to catch a 5PM train back to Hove and it was past 3:30 by this point, so it was time to go back.

But I couldn’t resist capturing one last cutie for posterity.

I headed straight back to the railway station, avoiding the High Street except for the pedestrianised bit.

I passed yet another church.

This was a rather lovely building. I like the rounded corner.

A clearish view of the chalk hills.

Somewhere along the day, I picked up a copy of The Big Issue. It is a very good publication that is sold by homeless people in the UK. They buy the magazines for £1.25 and then resell them for £2.50. So every copy they have is money the invested in their business. Please support a Big Issue seller if you come across one as the program provides gainful employment that contributes to some people getting off the streets .

The train station was a mess. Many trains were cancelled, included my 4:59 home. I was early, so I took the 4:41 into Brighton.

I then just barely made the train to Hove. Exhausted, I looked forward to popping into the Tesco by the station and then only have a short walk home. Well…

No one in my carriage got off at Hove with me and I was unable to get the door to open to let me off! I asked for help and people just laughed and said it was too late as we took off again! Thankfully, the next station wasn’t too far, but I was in a real pickle since UK public transportation in general does not look kindly on folks riding outside of their allotted tickets. I could get on a train back to Hove, but if an inspector requested to see my ticket, I could be in a lot of hot water. They really don’t care about sob stories and I’m pretty sure they make most of their money from fines.

I checked where I was and I was just a block from my road and then two kilometres away. The next train back was in an hour (!) so it made sense to just hoof it. Slightly problem, you have to scan your ticket to get out and I did not have a valid ticket for that station so I couldn’t get out. There was literally no legal way out of this jam since I couldn’t even buy new tickets since the machine was on the wrong side of the gate!

It was getting cold by this point and I was exhausted. Soon as I saw someone come through the wide handicapped gate, I squeezed through by her before they could close. Talk about a ridiculous predicament!

I was so foot sore by this point that I didn’t want to detour to get dinner. I figured I could have a bowl of cereal or maybe a slice of toast. Well, my host invited me to sit in the lounge by a proper fire with a friend of her’s and wine and eventually dinner materialised! Wow! I was inordinately grateful and that really helped make the train stupidity a footnote in my day instead of a spoiler of it.

I’m going to hit post on this as I’m starting to see double. Please pardon the typos. 😉

Shrewsbury Museum and Medieval Centre Self-Guided Walking Tour

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

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

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

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

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

Market Square.

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

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

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

The ceiling:

Here’s what a roundhouse would have looked like.

The roof:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shrewsbury Hoard:

I had fun playing with mosaic tiles.

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

I headed upstairs and found this signage rather confusing!

Into the medieval section.

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

The medieval section has a timber frame ceiling.

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

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

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


It’s a real family!

Medieval tiles.

This did not go well.

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

This screen by Shrewsbury Abbey played an episode of Cadfael.

There he is.

Medieval armour.

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

A bed owned by the Corbet family of the area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They combine to form this famous face. Amazing!

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

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

I love this!

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

And the exterior of the music hall.

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

Back of Market Place (museum behind me).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tour then took me through Barrack’s Passage.

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

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

Here’s a bit of the town wall.

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

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

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

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

I continued along the tow path to English Bridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a general overview of my afternoon:

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

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!

Museum Van Loon and the Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum)

For the last few days, I’ve been running on less sleep than I normally need, just because it’s been really high quality snoozing. But when I woke up at 7:30 this morning, about the time I’ve been getting up since I got here, I just wasn’t ready to be up. There was nothing pressing to do today and nothing opens until 10:00 anyway, so I rolled back over. Next thing I knew, it was 9:30!

I had a sloooooooow morning, enjoying my coffee and spending time with the cats. I’d already planned my itinerary for the day and I set off perhaps around 10:30 or even 11:00. My first destination was the Museum Van Loon. This is another canal house tour and I wasn’t sure I was that keen to go. But since it’s a period house that is still lived in, I felt it would be a different experience. And since Contessa enjoyed the last canal house tour, I knew I had at least one reader who would appreciate the write-up. 🙂

The museum was easy to get to. I’m starting to know my way around the main intersections and there are usually signposts telling tourists that attractions are thataway.


I passed a French bookshop with a clever name, Time Found. Obviously a reference to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

The exterior of the Van Loon home isn’t that impressive. The house was built in 1672 and has been in the Van Loon family for 400 years. It was opened to the public in 1973. The family inhabits the upper rooms, but still uses some of the lower rooms for special occasions.

It’s a very informal visit. They scanned my Museumkaart, gave me a very informative little booklet, and then told me to just wander around at my leisure.

You start in the entrance hall.

The house is unusual as this is the only staircase up. That is, there is no staircase for the servants. The handrail is made entirely of brass.

The first room I visited was the Blue Drawing Room, which had a lot of lovely pink furniture!

The Empire wood floor dates back to 1810, is in good condition, and is extremely rare.

This checkered pattern on the back of the chairs was unexpected and delighted me.

Next, I went into the dining room. The family still eats here on special occasions and also rents it out.

I was surprised by how much I liked the next room, the Red Drawing Room, since I’m not much of a fan of red.

These are the stairs down to the kitchen. I didn’t realise at this point that I was allowed to go down.

Now, we’re in the Garden Room. It was used as a bedroom and later as the family dining room.

Looking towards the Coach House.

I headed upstairs and was surprised by how rough the floors look.

Now, the sheep room, so called because of the wallpaper. It was a guest bedroom.

I love this design.

Next up is the Drakensteyn Room with its incredible wall hangings. They give the room its name as the hangings come from Castle Drakensteyn, the private mansion of H.R.H. Princess Beatrix.

Upstairs hall:

Here’s the Red Bedroom, with its interesting door. It “is smaller than the room on the other side of the landing, because of the hidden stairs behind the bed which lead up to what was formerly the servants’ quarters. In order for the two doors on the landing to face one another without compromising the symmetry of the rooms, a false door was put in… When the door is closed, it looks as if the door is directly opposite the chimneypiece. The real door, however, is next to it.”

See what they mean?

Now, the Bird Room, which served as a nursery.

I wonder where this door goes.

This room had some interesting info on the growth of Amsterdam. “Growing prosperity in the city of Amsterdam around the middle of the 17th century led to more demand for luxury carriages. Daniel Stalpaert was the first city planner of Amsterdam to add a street between Keizersgracht [which the Van Loon home faces] and Prinsengracht: The Kerkstraat. It was specifically designed to offer space for coach houses.” Remember this…

The wallpaper is what gives the room its name.

These modern glass doors between the landing and the hallway bewildered me.

I headed down to the kitchen.

The kitchen was as far away from the dining room as possible to prevent smells and heat from permeating the dining room. It didn’t matter that food was served cold.

This cupboard has mesh to keep air circulating so food would stay fresh and flies and other insects couldn’t get in. I think they’re called pie cupboards in the American South.

I went out into the garden.

Here’s the Coach House. The family only reacquired the coach house in 2012.

I kid you not, the building still smelled like horses.

Since I hadn’t really paid for my admission and this is a private house, I had decided that I would have a hot beverage in the coach house. There were several choices that included hot chocolate and mulled wine, but I went for a cappuccino.

Here’s that cat they don’t want let into the house. So friendly!

This is a garden layout. All the text has the names of plants.

Staircase leading back up.

I’m glad I visited the Museum Van Loon, but at 9 euros, I think it’s something that should only be on your list if you’re crazy about architecture or have a Museumkaart.

My next destination, the real one of the day, was the Museum of Dutch Resistance, a short distance away. I passed a particularly leaning house.

I’m glad I know they were built like that on purpose!

By the way, it was warmer today, above freezing, but very damp.

I found the museum without any trouble and was delighted that I knew I could get home again very directly without any help!

I’m really not sure how to go about with this museum write-up. This is a subject I know a lot about. I think I’m going to go with the idea that most people have some basic WWII/Holocaust history and just point out things in the exhibits that were of interest to me rather than try to set the context. If you want to know more, ask and I’ll answer and/or send you to the appropriate resources.

Let me just start off by saying that the museum is brilliantly put together. The layout looks chaotic at first glance, but is actually very logical and fluid. Everything is translated into English and the audio guide is fantastic. I can’t imagine any way the museum could have better presented the subject matter.

So Dutch resistance during WWII. After Germany conquered the Netherlands, the Dutch could collaborate, adapt, or resist. Of course, the latter are the most celebrated. I was surprised that there is no mention at all in the museum of two of who I think are the best known resistors, Miep Gies and Corrie Ten Boom, but I appreciated that I got to meet others.

The invasion of Holland was insidious. The Nazis came in gently and wore down the Dutch before their show of horror began. This explains in part why some people collaborated at first, because Holland was in the throes of economic crisis and the Nazis brought a measure of prosperity.

All through the museum, you are invited to reflect on what you would have done in that situation. I like to think I would have resisted, but I suspect I would have been an adapter. I sincerely doubt I would have been a collaborator.

Holland surrendered shortly after the bombing of Rotterdam (seen here) to prevent the loss of more civilians. Life quickly went back to normal. At the foreground, you see a man buying an ice cream.

“Ozo” (so there) became the rallying cry of the resistors. It actually meant “Orange will triumph” (Oranje zal overwinnen). Orange was the colour of the resistance.

The February Strike of 1941 was a turning point. By this time, sanctions against the Jews at begun. Starting with the trams, Amsterdam ground to a halt to protest the treatment of its Jews.

The Germans used a lot of propaganda and borrowed the letter V for victory from English. The resistance in turn took it to mean the Germans are drowning, as that word starts with a V in Dutch.

The identity card was introduced in 1941. “Every Dutch citizen age 15 and over must be in possession of such a card, with passport photo and fingerprint, and must carry it at all times. The data are recorded in a central registry. No other country in Europe has an identity card that is so technically and administratively complete.” This card gave the Germans more control over the Dutch and especially to counteract the resistance, but there was little protest against the card. Jews have a large J stamped onto their documents and have to wear a Star of David.

An order directing the person to report to a labour camp. Some people went, thinking it wouldn’t be that bad. Others went into hiding.

Examples of some possessions that would be taken to a labour camp.

Those who reported to go to a labour camp were first sent to the transit camp Westerbork to await orders to move on to other camps, like Auschwitz. Some people would write goodbye letters ahead of time. If they were called to leave, it would be without notice, so they would throw the letters out of cracks in the walls of trains and hope they were delivered. Most of these letters were very positive and hopeful in tone.

Of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands:

107,000 were deported, of with 5,500 survived and 101,500 died.

25,000 went into hiding, of which 18,000 survived and 7,000 died.

8,000 survived, but were sterilised or otherwise brutalised.

Survivor standing in front of a pile of bones.

As supply lines were cut off, a very complex rationing system came into being.

There were a lot of surrogate products for things like coffee and tobacco.

People got creative. This bicycle’s front wheel was replaced with a scooter wheel.

As the Allied forces marched into Europe, the Dutch expected to be liberated and defiance increased. Germany stopped playing the nice guy and switched to intimidation and violence.

When the Germans had invaded Holland, they released 300,000 (!) Dutch POWs as a measure of goodwill. In 1943, there was an announcement made that all of them would have to report back to labour camps as POWs. This led to a series of strikes. Now that the Netherlands as a whole had experienced the terror of Nazi Germany, resistance grew. This would be another turning point.

Personal effects of a man executed as an example. The Nazis thought he was a striker, but he had actually not been scheduled to work that day. That didn’t matter.

Hiking boots of a woman who escaped Holland by climbing the Pyrenees into Spain.

This razor concealed microfiches.

Going into hiding was no small feat as that meant papers had to be forged and food found.

This is a real door that once led to a hiding space.

Printing equipment for counterfeit documents.

People in the camps occupied themselves as they could. This was a chess game.

This little Christmas tree was made from a man’s bandages and the foil covering his medication.

Door of a cell in Weteringschans Prison.

As the war wound down, there was the Hunger Winter, when supplies were not coming in. This reminded me so much of the testimony of people who lived through the Sarajevo siege, about how all the trees and as much wood as could be gathered was burned for heat.

There was an interesting special exhibit just before the end about food in wartime. The Hunger Winter notwithstanding, the food situation in Holland during the occupation was not as bad as imagined because Holland was self-sufficient. People actually ate more healthily as they were getting more produce into their diets.

One of the recommendations was that people cook their vegetables for a shorter period of time to use less fuel and to preserve nutrients. People were strongly advised to not peel their potatoes, which was met with disgust. Personally, I think the peel is the best part of a potato!

20,000 people died during the Hunger Winter.

The final exhibit is about the liberation of Holland. To be brutally honest, I was really pissed off by this point that there had not yet been any mention of Canada specifically. We were just lumped in with “the Allies” and the US got a lot of individual mention, when they joined the war well after us, and only after they got attacked, and Canada did the bulk of the work in liberating Holland. I was shocked to see Canada so badly disrespected. At least, we got some mention in this final exhibit.

That was part of the Canadian flag at the time.

Destroyed bust of Hitler.

Collaborators were treated poorly, many executed without trial. Women had their head shaved.

The tour ended with this quote, “Asking yourself a question, that’s how resistance begins. And then ask that very question to someone else.”

There was another brief exhibit about Dutch colonialism, but that didn’t interest me.

I really recommend the Dutch Resistance Museum as a must see in Amsterdam. I think that it can serve equally well someone who has no knowledge of the subject as someone who is well versed in it.

I headed home into an afternoon that had become bitterly cold and passed on the Kerkstraat the entrance to the Van Loon coach house.

Couple more things of interest on my long walk home:

Where you learn to murder people?

It was another really lovely day in Amsterdam!  Very little will be open tomorrow, so I’ll probably stay in. There is a pair of museums I might do Monday and I would really like to head to Haarlem on Tuesday to visit the home of resistor Corrie Ten Boom, but I’m having a hard time coordinating with the museum’s holiday schedule. So that’s a big if. I still have plenty on my list to fill my last four days, but, really, at this point I’ve done what I wanted to do here and anything else is icing on the proverbial cake.

I’m off to make an extra special dinner to ring in the 2017. 🙂