April Squares: Over the Edge

I know a lot of people found the view through the glass floor at the top of the Calgary Tower disturbing – I apologise to those people, because they are not going to like today’s post much either! Here we are on the highest swing in Europe, Over the Edge, at the top of the A’DAM Tower in Amsterdam. If you’re not totally spooked, you can see more of the swing on my post about Amsterdam-Noord.

Linked to Becky’s #SquareTops challenge.

Amsterdam: museums


Amsterdam’s most famous museum, and the only one of the major museums we visited on our most recent trip, is the Rijksmuseum. How can I review that? I’m not sure I can – it’s so huge and varied – so I shall pick out one part that has special resonance for me. The library! Isn’t it magnificent?

The library was completed in 1881, when the design was considered innovative – the cast-iron and glass roof construction made it possible to read by daylight. It hasn’t changed much since, and now holds one kilometre of books on art history over four storeys, with another five kilometres in underground storage. I’m glad I don’t have to keep them tidy!

Museum of Bags and Purses

The Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassenmuseum Hendrikje) has a collection of over 5,000 items dating from the 16th century to the present day. A bonus – it’s housed in a building constructed in 1664 as the home of the Mayor of Amsterdam, and restored for the museum in 2007. Two of the rooms still have period features.


This museum dedicated to cats in art is also housed in a grand canal house, though not as fabulously renovated as the Tassenmusuem. It was founded by wealthy financier Bob Meijer in memory of his cat John Pierpoint Morgan III. (I wonder what name the cat answered to?)

On our last visit, I don’t remember the collection extending into the garden. Maybe it wasn’t open because the weather wasn’t suitable. This time, it was my favourite part and I amused myself finding as many black cats as I could (because our last cat, Sally, was black).

The bonus here was that we shared the museum with some real, live cats (one more alert than the other).

House of Bols

Before dinner one evening, we decided that our aperitif would be the House of Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience. An interactive, self-guided tour takes you through the history of this Dutch spirit and gives you information about how it is blended, including the chance to test your own nose. We met again the blue and white KLM canal houses (you might recall the large models on Museumplein from a previous post) of which our own collection numbers 56!

And finally, of course, it was cocktail time. Cheers!

This was my final thematic post about Amsterdam – the others were Canals; Parks and Gardens; and Decorative Buildings. And now for something completely different …

Amsterdam: decorative buildings

The decorative buildings of Amsterdam could be a huge list, but don’t worry – this is quite a short post with just a few of the things that caught my eye during our May visit.

The yellow building above is the Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum). We didn’t actually visit it this time – we’d been there in November, but late in the day when it was hard to get a good photograph, so I wanted a better picture of it in the sun. It dates from 1876 and served for several decades as a Jewish cultural centre and synagogue before refurbishment as the museum in 1999.

Café Hans en Grietje, above, is, perhaps, our favourite bar, and the magnificent red door is part of the Waag, the old weigh station, which is now also a café bar.

Speaking of magnificent doors, the building below appealed because of the two green doors at different levels on the turret. Then I noticed the other details such as the cat climbing the wall.

As on our previous visit, it certainly pays to keep your eyes upwards to spot such quirks. Here are a few more of my favourites.

So there you are – short and sweet! This is one of four thematic posts about our latest visit to Amsterdam. The others are about the canals, the parks and gardens and the museums.

Amsterdam: parks and gardens

Rijksmuseum and I Amsterdam sign from Museumplein

Amsterdam might be most famous for its canals, but it also has some very attractive parks, gardens and other open spaces.


At the head of Museumplein lies the Rijksmusuem and the iconic I Amsterdam sign which everyone wants to be photographed with – except us,  we didn’t bother waiting! Down the side are Amsterdam’s other top art museums (Van Gogh Museum and Stedlijk Musuem) with the Concertgebouw at the far end of its grassy expanse.

When we visited, there was also an exhibition of model canal houses. One of the examples below is the KLM building, significant because that airline gives out small blue and white china houses filled with Dutch gin to its business class passengers. As John often uses KLM to fly to China we have an excellent collection at home. The other example is Coster Diamonds, the only model where the real building can be seen behind it (on the right).


Vondelpark is very close to Museumplein, and is a great place to relax by its ponds, have a meal on a pretty terrace, or admire this proud Mama Duck and her brood of eight.

Hortus Botanicus

The Botanical Garden dates from 1638 and is the only space in this post that you have to pay to get into (9.50 Euros). NB, the flamingos are not in the garden but on the nearby Artisplein.



Begijnhof is  an enclosed 14th century courtyard of tiny houses and gardens. It was originally home to the Beguines, a Roman Catholic order of unmarried or widowed women who lived a religious vows without taking monastic vows. The last one died in 1971.


Westerpark is slightly out of the centre so maybe more popular with locals than tourists. We enjoyed a wander round – it has some quirky sculptures.

This is the second of four thematic posts about Amsterdam – see also Canals, Decorative Buildings and Museums.

Amsterdam: the canals

I’m sure in any game of word association, the first thing to spring to mind for Amsterdam would be “canals”. Here are a few of my favourite canal scenes, offered without commentary, from our most recent visit in May.

This was our eighth stay in the city, but it was different from the others in two ways. One, we had never been at this time of year so hadn’t experienced Amsterdam in warm sunshine before, and two, we weren’t alone – we were accompanied by our friends Valerie and Kenn. They had only made one half-day visit to Amsterdam many years ago, so naturally we were pleased it was looking its best for them.

As it doesn’t seem that long since I wrote up our last trip, I’ve decided to do shorter, thematic posts this time, of which this is the first. The others are:

#RoofSquares 1: Amsterdam edition

Becky at The Life of B likes a square go, oops, I mean a square challenge. I’ve never joined in before, but the theme for June intrigues me: Roofs. If you want to join in too, tag your post #RoofSquares and link to Becky’s post each day. You can also see what other people are posting in the comments. Interpret the theme as you please: the only rule is that your main image must be square.

I don’t have time to post daily, so I’m going to post every Friday instead. The roof detail above is from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. The building in its full, non-square, glory is below.

A walk round Utrecht

The second day trip we took from Amsterdam last year was to Utrecht. Again, it was an easy train journey to a lovely historic city, by far the oldest we’ve seen in the Netherlands – it dates back to a Roman Fort built around 50 AD.

Instead of a walking map as in Haarlem, this time we had a little booklet with photographs of the main sights, so I might do a better job at identifying the buildings we saw. To start with, here are the medieval city castles of Oudaen (c. 1276) and Drakenburg (11th C) which face each other across the Oudegracht. It was much later in the day when we got round to Drakenburg, probably the oldest brick house in Utrecht, but I’ve included all the pictures here.

The first Dutch department store, with the unlikely name of Winkel van Sinkel, dates from 1837 and has four huge classical Greek statues as pillars. Again, I’ve included a picture as we passed it in the morning and a shot from later in the day.

We were heading for the Dom, or cathedral, which wasn’t very difficult as you can see. Just look for the tower! Although, at this time it was trying to hide in the mist.

We were surprised when we got there to find a large open square, the Domplein, between the tower and the rest of the cathedral – it has been this way since the nave was destroyed by a tornado in 1674! We spent sometime looking around inside what was left of the church: this was December 1st, hence the nativity scene (by Dick Bruna – more of him later).

Next to the Dom is the Academiegebouw, richly decorated home of Utrecht University:

And next to that, is the entrance to the peaceful Pandhof:

We now had a choice before moving away from the Dom. We could either climb the tower or go underground, but we didn’t have time to do both. We decided we’d been up many cathedral towers so exploring underground was the better bet. Just time to have lunch and a warm up, before setting off on the tour!

DOMunder takes you underneath the Domplein through the huge pillar foundations of the cathedral where archaeological finds dating back to the Romans are displayed. An interactive flashlight brings history to life, including “experiencing” the destructive tornado of 1674. No photography was allowed, so do follow the link at the beginning of the paragraph if you want to know more. It’s very good, especially as an English-speaking guide was provided for us as the only non-Dutch people on the tour. This guide was the only person in the whole week we were in the Netherlands who mentioned Brexit to us – in disapproving tones: “So. You are still doing Brexit?”  I was quick to point out that we were from Scotland where over 60% of those who voted chose Remain, but it seemed to cut little ice.

After our tour, we resumed our walk. The house with the turret was built around 1400 for a canon of the Dom chapter but is now used by the university. The red and white house was built by order of Pope Adrian VI (1459-1529) who was born in Utrecht, but he never lived there. The statue is of him. The French Baroque black door is a former Mayor’s house, and the other two images in the gallery below are just pretty street scenes that I like.

Next stop, the park at Lepelenburg where Dick Bruna strikes again – John was rather taken with this urinal, but I wouldn’t let him use it!

Onwards! So many more lovely buildings – hover over the gallery for captions, or click on any picture for a slide show. I’m running out of words!

We’ve already come across Dick Bruna a couple of times. This well-loved children’s writer and illustrator was born in Utrecht in 1927, and died there in 2017. Outside the Conservatoire, the last building in the gallery above, we came face to face with Bruna and Miffy, his best known character. We’d already passed the Miffy Museum – I wish I’d taken my hat off for that photo, but it was COLD! I think the tributes are all rather sweet.

Home stretch now! The light was fading as we came back round to the Dom (where the tower had now emerged from the mist) and made our way to the station.

This was our last night in Amsterdam, but we’ll soon be back. Our friends that we travel with each May have only made one brief visit to Amsterdam. They saw some of our photos and suggested we went there together, and John and I could act as tour guides! I can’t wait – not least because in May I shouldn’t need my woolly hat …

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in South Shields, somewhere I knew well in childhood, where she discovers a Roman Fort.

Historic Haarlem

During our visit to Amsterdam last November, we took two trips outside the city. The first was to Haarlem, just 15 minutes away by train. As we left the station and walked towards the main square, we were already noticing lots of interesting historic and decorative buildings.

The square, Grote Markt, is the heart of the city  where we admired St Bavokerk, the 14th century Town Hall, and a statue to Laurens Coster who is believed by Haarlemmers to have a claim, along with Gutenberg, to be the inventor of moveable type.

There is a small Tourist Information Office in the Town Hall, so we headed there to pick up a walking map of the old town which we followed for the rest of the day. At first we passed mostly shops, some of which retained traditional signs such as this chemist (1849) and baker (1900).

Then we turned into residential areas, a higgledy-piggledy mix of narrow streets, small squares, churches and alms-houses.

Our steps then led us to 62 Groot Heiligland, formerly a poorhouse where the artist Frans Hals (1582-1666) spent his final years, and now a museum dedicated to him. We saw two interesting exhibitions, The Art of Laughter and A Global Table – both very good, but long over now so no point in me recommending them! Do you recognise Frans Hals’s friend in the bottom picture?

It seems our walk took us down to the canal after the museum. I really should write these trips up nearer the time – even with my map, I’m struggling to remember what all the buildings are, so much of the gallery below is not captioned.

A last hurrah for some more decorative features:

Then, in the faded light of late afternoon, we arrived back at Grote Markt from where we headed for the train.

With a few minutes to wait, we admired the art deco station, a national monument.

My Fitbit recorded 20,355 steps on this day, the second highest for our week in Amsterdam. The highest (almost 26,000) was the other day trip we did, to Utrecht. A post on that is coming soon – if I can remember it! In the meantime, this post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in the beautiful North Yorkshire town of Knaresborough.

Amsterdam Museum and Festival of Light

Lauren Ewing: Light Wave

On one of our evening strolls around Amsterdam, we came across this light sculpture which we discovered was part of an annual Light Festival. Best visited by canal boat, we booked up for a couple of nights later. We knew we were likely to get cold and wet in the evening so looked for somewhere dry and warm during the day, and decided to visit the Amsterdam Museum.

Until 1960, the building housing the museum was an orphanage. In one of the courtyards, shown above, you can see the cupboards that the children used to store their possessions, now filled with art. I wasn’t too taken with the main body of the museum which had been revamped since our last visit to provide (according to Lonely Planet) a “multi-media DNA exhibit, which breaks down Amsterdam’s 1000-year history into seven whiz-bang time periods”. Whiz-bang is not really me, and I also found the red and white timeline wall difficult to focus on.

The Civic Guard Gallery in the arcade next door was more interesting – you could both look down on it from inside the museum and enter (free of charge) from street level. On view are original group portraits, made between 1530 and 2007 by artists such as Bartholomeus van der Helst and Erwin Olaf, as well as Goliath, a 350-year-old wooden giant. From what I remember about the colourful carpet, I think each square represented a different country and we were able to find Scotland from the key.

We did, indeed, get very cold and wet on the way to the (open) boat, but fortunately the rain went off so we were “only” freezing cold during the 75 minute tour of the 35 light sculptures. Here’s a selection of my favourites – this first one is a general view of how busy the canal was, but it also shows one of the installations. Ai Weiwei’s Thinline (the red lights) ran the whole length of the route.

Ai Weiwei: Thinline

You might recognise some of the buildings in the next two images from an earlier post – the funny little roof-creatures outside the library, and NEMO Science Museum. The pyramid is Infinita by Cecil Balmond. In A necessary darkness, Rona Lee chose to invert the norm by projecting a lighthouse beaming out darkness onto NEMO’s wall.

Claudia Reh created a large projection, It was once drifting on the water, on the façade of the Hermitage Museum in collaboration with local primary school children. Myth by Ben Zamora is a grid of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines which light up in different combinations at different speeds.

Eye to eye by Driton Selmani represents a giant nazar amulet that protects people, animals, and objects from the evil eye. If you’ve been to Turkey, you are probably familiar with it – we have one hanging in our bathroom. Whole hole, by Wendel & de Wolf, was probably my favourite installation: it was exciting to be drawn through it into the tunnel.

Lifeline by Claes Meijer was interesting: it showed the waves of sound which a boat engine makes underwater, so changed as we passed it. Lynne Leegte’s Windows are probably self-explanatory!

Floating on a thousand memories (Lighting Design Academy) achieved its effect by reflecting small lights in the water and in mirrors on the water’s edge. The next sculpture is prettier than its title – The life of a slime mold. it’s an enlargement of the mucus fungus by Nicole Banowetz. Nice!

The final pairing is Citygazing: Amsterdam (VOUW) and Be the change that you want to see in the world by Bagus Pandega. The former is a giant light map of the city. The latter scrolls one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes – I think you can just make out see in the passing by. A good motto to live by.

My goodness, were we shivering when we got to this point! We were happy to find a cosy pizza restaurant and then head back to the warmth of our apartment.

This is my last post about Amsterdam itself – for the moment: we’ll be back again later in the year. However, we took a couple of day trips out of the city, so stay tuned for tours of Haarlem and Utrecht.


This is not real – but we’ll get to something almost as scary that is!

We’d never before had cause to visit Amsterdam-Noord, the area across the IJ River from the centre of the city, but since our last visit we had read about new attractions opening up there. And it’s so easy to get to – a free ferry from behind Central Station only takes about 5 minutes. Off we set!

First port of call was the EYE Film Institute. I confess we didn’t look at any of the exhibits or see any films, but it was a great coffee stop.

Our main purpose for visiting was the A’DAM Tower, seen in the background of the last photo above. Formerly the offices for Shell Oil, which has since moved elsewhere, the 22-storey building now houses electronic dance music companies. However, it has a café and a restaurant near the top and a Lookout on the roof with Europe’s highest swing, Over The Edge. We had to try that.

On arrival, we were asked to sit on the beam at the top of this post – safely set on the ground, of course! I think we made quite a good job of pretending to fall off. Then we took the lift to the roof – unfortunately, another dull, misty day, so the views weren’t great as you can see.

So – onto the swing then! This is the couple before us. I was a bit nervous at this point …

Over The Edge

Then it was our turn to get strapped in before the swing moved upwards and outwards to leave us dangling over the edge and moving gently back and forwards. Eep!

It wasn’t too bad! I felt quite secure, except that I didn’t like the sensation of slipping forward on the shiny metal seat when the swing went backwards, so I gripped the side bars very firmly all the way through. I’m glad I did it, but I felt I definitely deserved my beer and frites in the café downstairs. Spot the selfie in the model tower!

After lunch, we walked up river to NDSM-werf, a derelict shipyard turned arts community. If we thought we’d found quirky areas before, this time we surpassed ourselves! Graffiti everywhere:

We had coffee in Pllek, made out of old shipping containers. A lot nicer inside than out!

We decided that, given the frequent ferry service, this wouldn’t be a bad place to stay. There are choices! There’s a Doubletree and a Botel.

Or – there’s a crane! Yes, really – the Faralda Crane Hotel has just three rooms, so make sure you book well in advance 😉

Lots of other boats were berthed, mostly not functioning because it was out of season – I fancy the pancake boat next time, but maybe not the rusting submarine.

By this time, the light was fading and it was bitterly cold. Time to get the ferry back – it had been an absolutely brilliant day!

Ferry ride into the sunset