K is for Katten Kabinet

There were a couple of things we had prioritised for Amsterdam, the popular Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum. We had heard (and seen yesterday) the big queues outside the Anne Frank museum so got there first thing to avoid wasting precious time. For some reason, at 10 past opening the line was already several hours long and worse than usual (according to a local travel guide who had thought he could skip the worst by coming early). I am very anti standing in line for hours and will do almost anything to avoid it (like trying to buy tickets online, which we had done yesterday but all the online tickets were already sold out) so we decided to post pone.

After a coffee stop next door we decided to move on to the markets that were taking place just down the street, in our favourite Jordaan region. The stalls were wonderful, crowding around in every direction and featuring every possible item, from fresh bread and cheese to beautiful handmade jewellry and prints (with everything else in between). We picked up a few things for dinner as well as some delicious fresh cranberries and dropped them off at home before moving on to catch a bus to the Van Gogh museum (which we had managed to get online tickets for).

Ah, the satisfaction of walking past endless lines and skipping queues for immediate entry is something I greatly enjoy so I savoured the moment as we entered the modern gallery and museum, dedicated to Van Gogh and his incredible art. The museum did not disappoint our high expectations as we spent a couple of hours going through each room and reading about the history behind a very talented but tortured artist. After a quick stop at the gift shop where I picked up a copy of my favourite print to bring home, we took a stroll through the the nearby park. It was fine and parks are always a nice break from crowded concrete spaces, but it was nothing incredibly special (and had the added bonus of cyclists everywhere).

After a ridiculously delicious toasted sandwich (seriously, how can something so simple taste so incredible?!) along with some dutch beer we found something I almost didn’t quite believe was real. On tripadvisor I had located a Cat museum. Yup. This KattenKabinet was something that seemed to good to be true so once we eventually found the tiny sign on the door and paid an entry fee we feasted our eyes on the most weird and wonderous collection of cat related goods. Paintings, prints, posters, sculptures, movies and even a pinball machine. No cat stone was left unturned. There were even a couple of living exhibits who happily let us shower them in cuddles. It was strange but in the best possible way. Why is there no cat museum in Auckland?? I think I could be up to the task.

After one more check and confirmation that the lines for Anne Frank were still ridiculously long (I am still disappointed that we didn’t get to visit) we went to relax in another cafe that featured a gorgeous friendly cat who was available for cuddles. After so long with only a rare sighting of a feline, today felt like we had somehow arrived in cat heaven. Cappuccinos always taste better when you are trying to share your seat with a gorgeous furry friend who doesn’t judge how bad your dutch is (awful just for the record). We realised we hadn’t tried a Dutch pancake so hat was our next delicious task, and covered in chocolate with fresh strawberries it was a good way to end the day.

Another beautiful day in Amsterdam where I only nearly died once thanks to a stubborn cyclist (seriously, the cyclists in Amsterdam terrify me) and another visit to the cheese shop to try something new for dinner. Amsterdam was great, the dutch were wonderful and the cats were cuddly. What more could an eager tourist ask for?

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1. My favourite non-feline character in Amsterdam was this tiny little boy in a suit at the markets, munching on a tomatoes and holding fresh flowers. I think my heart melted.
2. Delicious bread to later match with delicious cheese
3&4. Becoming quite the canal expert
5. Katten Kabinet. Cat Museum. Need I say more?
6. Cat pin ball machine
7. More canal goodness
8. Cafe cat!
9. Mmm pancakes.

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J is for Jordaan

I was reluctant to leave Bruges, the only thing that made the departure sweeter (quite literally) was the box of belgian truffles we purchased before leaving. Keeping the chocolate intake high, our trains to Amsterdam went by rather quickly. Before we knew it, we were in the Netherlands and trying to locate our accommodation for the next two nights.

We stupidly hadn’t bothered to download any maps or instructions as the place we were staying had emailed us a list of instructions that very clearly detailed how we would find them. Unfortunately, instructions are only helpful when they are correct, which ours were not. So after much grumpy wandering, trying to locate street signs and navigate our way amongst the canals, we managed to finally get help from some English speakers who pointed us in the right direction.

The place we were staying in was great, a little apartment in the Jordaan region sitting right beside a canal. The Jordaan region turned out yo be my favourite area of Amsterdam, quiet and peaceful with canals full of houseboats and streets lined with beautiful elegant houses covered in flowers.

We couldn’t have been happier, until we realised there was a cheese museum just up the road.We quickly located the museum, to find that it was mostly just a big cheese shop. This was even better than a cheese museum as we could try everything (and try everything we did). With our bellies quite full from all the cheese samples, we found a little cafe on a side street to grab a coffee and a little vegetarian pastry for some post cheese late lunch.

It turns out that the way we like to choose a cafe is by waiting until we find one with a cat inside. It worked quite well in Amsterdam, where the cat population seems significantly higher than in France. This cafe not only did amazing coffee, but also featured an extremely fat black cat who allowed us to pet him without any reciprocal affection whatsoever (he was lucky I was having so much cat withdrawals).

Amsterdam had an incredible atmosphere, and not just because of the smell of marijuana that was present pretty much everywhere (im surprised easily well we got used to it, at first I was a little weirded out). We walked alongside canals to see the tulip flower markets just as they were closing and then to the busy Rembrandt square where there is an amazing sculptural memorial with Rembrandt standing above life size figures from one of his most famous paintings.

The city of Amsterdam was buzzing with excitement and because the area we were staying was the older rather peaceful neighbourhood so it was fun to wander through the more touristy streets and shops. We also took a brief wander through the red light district, how could you go to Amsterdam and not? It was totally different to how I had expected it to be, but I am not quite sure why. It is hard to imagine what it is like seeing women selling themselves in windows and doorways and even harder to try and understand without knowing the context for this part of Amsterdam’s culture. It was interesting but I can’t say we spent long there haha.

We headed back to our little appartment, only stopping to pick up some beer and cheese (from the cheese museum!) to eat for dinner. I didn’t expect to fall in love with quirky little Amsterdam so quickly, but fall I did. Whats not to love about its beautiful canals lined with gorgeous tall houses, its cafe cats and its characteristic smell. It is hard to not feel happy in a city where it seems like everyone is having fun.

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1. Our first beautiful dutch canal (feat. bikes of course because there are more bikes than people)
2. CHEESE. I ate a lot.
3. More canals and bikes. You are gonna get real sick of them.
4. Cause when I go to tulip markets we all know what I really want…
5. Tulips of course!
6. Lions. Not era though 😦
7. Canals and bikes plus bird
8. Such an incredibly beautiful place, especially in the Jordaan area.