Holland: Amsterdam & Bussum

The instructions of Gijs, Annie’s second cousin, were good and after landing at Schiphol airport we caught the train to Bussum, 20 minutes East of Amsterdam, where Gijs & Florence Lamsvelt live.

Welcome to Holland!

Vintage poster.

They visited us in Sydney two years ago, just before Gijs retired as a judge on his 70th birthday. He has since missed the bench and is now doing pro bono work for victims of crime, sparring with his ex-colleagues in court. Florence is still involved with volunteering and has received the Queen’s medal for her work.

Gijs and Florence Lamsvelt's house in Bussum.

Gijs and Florence Lamsvelt’s house in Bussum.

Florence's excellent Nasi Goreng dinner.

Florence’s excellent Nasi Goreng dinner.

On our first day, Gijs took us to his yacht club, The Royal Dutch Sailing and Rowing Club, founded in 1847, a 100 years before I was born.

The Royal Dutch sail and rowing club.

The Royal Dutch sailing and rowing club.

A traditional sailing boat coming in to tie up.

A traditional sailing boat coming in to tie up.

Muiderslot (fort) opposite the yacht club.

Muiderslot (fort) opposite the yacht club.

Gijs recently sold his yacht Cordelia with which he has sailed the North Sea and crossed the English Channel many times. He and Florence also did a canal trip with Cordelia, from Holland to the South of France for 3 months in 2012. With the mast down, they travelled 2,200km and went through 524 locks on the canals!

Gijs's book cover.

Gijs’s book cover.

After the visit to his club, he showed us through Muiden, the old town next to the club and a suburb not far from Bussum. These parts used to get flooded before the Afsluitdijk (Cut off dyke) was built in the 1930’s. It is amazing to think that half of the Netherlands is reclaimed land (Polders), below sea level. For example, Schiphol airport, built on a reclaimed lake, is 4 metres below sea level.

Muiden street scene.

Muiden street scene.

Monday was a relaxing day with Gijs showing us Naarden Vesting, (a fort built to protect Amsterdam) with a quaint town built inside the fort, after the military moved out. This is a beautiful town, where evidently, wealthy divorcees tend to buy their boutique townhouses.

Muiden street scene.

Naarden Vesting street scene.

The following two days were devoted to exploring Amsterdam. There is so much to see in this city, so we walked a lot, to visit the Rijksmuseum where the Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer and others are on display. The red light district near the centre of Amsterdam offered some amazing scenery, not least the ladies on show in windows, next to a church!

Amsterdam Central Station.

Amsterdam Central Station – our arrival point each day.

The Rijks Museum.

The Rijksmuseum.

"Walletjies" the red light district.

“Walletjies” the red light district.

Typical Amsterdam canal.

Typical Amsterdam canal.

Amsterdam street scene.

Amsterdam street scene.

The highlight for us, was the Van Gogh Museum. I was overcome by similar emotions in Liverpool when I visited the Cavern Club. Vincent has been my favourite artist, since high school. We spent the whole morning to explore this vast museum of Van Gogh’s work, before visiting the “Concertgebouw” Amsterdam Concert Building.

The original Gerrit Rietveld designed museum of the 70's at the back with the turn of the century additions of in the front.

The original Gerrit Rietveld designed Van Gogh museum of the 70’s on the right with the turn of the century additions of Kisho Kurokawa on the left.

Interior of the Kurokawa designed entrance lobby.

Interior of the Kurokawa designed entrance lobby.

Me and Van.

Me and Van.

A walk to Rembrandt’s house brought us to the Ship’s museum on the harbour. There were many other sights, but enough of that.

Rembrandt's house.

Rembrandt’s house.

The house with the narrowest street frontage in Amsterdam: 1 metre wide!

Number 7, the house with the narrowest street frontage in Amsterdam: 1 metre wide!

On our second last day Gijs and Florence drove us across the Oostvaardersdijk (dyke) to Lelystad for lunch and across the Houtribdijk (dyke) to Enkhuizen to visit the Zuiderzee Museum. It is very interesting to drive across a dyke with the sea on one side, about 3 metres higher that the cattle grazing on the polders, (reclaimed land) on the other side. We finished the day on a liquid note at a lovely “Brown café” in Naarden Vesting.

Zuiderzee museum: Dirk, Annie, Florence & Gijs.

Zuiderzee museum: Dirk, Annie, Florence & Gijs.

Enkhuizen.

Enkhuizen.

And look: Uncle Dirk's cafe!

And look: Uncle Dirk’s cafe!

Dinner at Maarden Vesting.

Dinner at Naarden Vesting.

We got word that Michelle our daughter, arrived in Amsterdam with some friends for a music concert. We met with her for breakfast at a café in Amsterdam Central station with Gijs, who hadn’t seen her in 26 years. Then we took the train to Schiphol for our flight to London on Easyjet and our connecting flight to Singapore.

Gijs and Michelle.

Gijs and Michelle.

And finally, for those weekend 4-wheel drive warriors around the world: A parking garage for fairly average bicycles. Lycra and helmets optional.

And finally, for those weekend 4-wheel drive warriors around the world: A parking garage for fairly average bicycles. Lycra and helmets optional.

Michelle warned us to book a flight to Heathrow, but no, us cheapskates had to fly to Luton. This meant catching a bus to Heathrow with about three hours to spare. Problem was, the bus from Cambridge was about an hour late because of Friday afternoon traffic. We arrived at Heathrow terminal 5, an hour before our scheduled departure on British Airways flight BA11 to Singapore. The flight was overbooked, but Annie with her usual charm and a very helpful BA staff member, saw us upgraded from departure lounge/runway, to cattle class.

Full marks to BA, who showered us with wine all the way to Singapore, to drown out the 3 wailing babies in bassinets, 6 rows in front of us. No complaints, we remember those days, travelling with babies!

Next instalment: Getting to know Changi airport – Again!