I reckon museum steps are worth double your regular everyday walking steps. The museum shuffle is a real killer and there are unlikely to be too many more steps made today.
Michael the Navigator charted our course for the day. It might sound as though we are Philistines but we are leaving out ART. We have both looked at an awful lot of pictures in an awful lot of galleries all over the world, and sometimes we are just arted out. I don't want to face the crowds in front of the Night Watch. I am not sure I can cope with the Van Gogh Museum. This time we are focussing on different experiences. We began by walking down past Rembrandtplein
Museum 1: Tassenmuseum (Bags and purses museum)
Oh. My. God. What a treasure of a Museum. Michael reacted rather the same way as he did when we went to the button shop in Newtown once. His brain fused and smoke started coming out his ears. The overwhelming preponderance of visitors were female, all of us agawp with the fabulous displays. Words cannot do it justice. We (until Michael retreated in shock and awe to a husband-seat) started on the top, fourth floor. These were the historic bags, some dating from the sixteenth century. There were many knitted beaded bags with intricate pictures. Some are called sablé work, as the beads are as small as grains of sand. One of the highlights of this kind of work was the unfinished bag. It still had the four very fine knitting needles with the stitches on, knitting in the round, with the large wooden spool holding the strung beads. Now I know what is involved in bead knitting, having done some myself. To knit these pictures, first you make a chart, then you string the beads in reverse order according to the chart (last bead on, first bead off) and then you knit each bead into a stitch using a special technique to lock it in place. Hoping you have not made a mistake because if you leave out a bead there is no way I know of yo get one back in there. Trust me, it is intricate. The scale of these beaded bag pictures was amazing. Then there were the bags designed to hold needlework, and I spied two tatting shuttles, one very large indeed compared with anything I have used. There were wooden school bags, like portable cabinets painted with Dutch scenes. These held all the school gear, but could be turned over and used as lap desks. There was so much more I can't begin to elaborate. The next floor down was 20th and 21st century. Metal mesh, like Oroton. Wicker baskets for lunch on the train. Ship wardrobes and hat boxes. Funky quirky, entertaining, glamorous. Feathers, ostrich leather, snakeskin, alligator, ivory, silver, you name it. There was the Kelly bag. There were Chanel bags. I am not generally a handbag person (purse-on?) but the array was boggling. Beautiful, and odd, useful and purely decorative. As a bonus, the house was interesting and beautiful in itself. Go the the website and look around. Go visit, the next time you are in Amsterdam. It is really a highlight of the trip. The shop was worth a visit too, with many handbags for sale. I resisted, but was sorely tempted by the cardboard "pimp your own handbag" designed for the museum. Go have a look. Très amusing. What would I have made?
From there we walked to our next museum,
Museum 2: Het Grachtenhuis, Museum of the Canals
Also in a beautiful canal house, this is also on the Herengracht Canal, on the Golden Bend. Again, the house itself is magnificent. The wealth of the early city was prodigious, it certainly shows. This was an audiovisual tour with audio headphones, well done, very informative, very high tech with laser imagery. One of my favourite rooms had an eye level frieze of canal houses all around the wall, like a streetscape. Set into many of these were peepholes, showing rooms inside those very houses - sometimes modern, sometimes historical. There was a room devoted to how these houses were built, and the planning of Amsterdam and its canals. The gift shop had many items, like necklaces, bowls, cufflinks and more in the shape of the map of canals. One room had original 17th century wall paintings. We noted the very wide floorboards. Those, plus the thousands of wooden pilings on which the city is built, must have deforested thousands and thousands of acres.
Onwards we went, and our next stop was
Museum 3: the museum of the Houseboat
Quite a different scale home from those we have just visited! This one is a real houseboat fitted out as a kind of museum. Small, but interesting. The whole houseboat phenomenon is interesting and you se a great variety of styles. I find the floating gardens quite fascinating too. Michael found it a head banging experience, quite literally.
Onwards, to our final museum for the day,
Museum 4: the museum of Amsterdam
We thought this one was going to be quite small, but the building is deceptively large. Huge. Another high-tech experience where you pick up a brochure in your language of choice. It has a Q-code on the front which you use to scan various things to see and/or hear whatever it is in your own language. Or to scan the gizmo that takes a picture of you wearing armour and a ruff.
There were laser displays and interactive press-button fun things. There were maps, and Rembrandt paintings. Finally we both rebelled and cried UNCLE! We are museumed out, totally. We barely made it to the museum café where Michael had a tuna sandwich and I had some hot Chocomel (!) and a Dutch pancake. Give me some simple sugar and carbohydrate NOW!
We returned via Kalverstraat, hoping to go to the Dam and Die Bijenkorf to buy an Amsterdam Pandora charm, but the square, and indeed the store itself had been evacuated owing to a bomb scare. It can wait. So we picked our way back towards our hotel, stopping at Newmarket to buy fish from the tiny fish shop, the fruit stall sold us potatoes, grapes, and two spears of the most enormous white asparagus we have ever seen, plus a few other goodies for our dinner tonight.
Time to sit and digest our experiences. What a day.