Saturday, January 5, 2013

Amsterdam Days 5 & 6: Van Gogh, Flea Markets and Flying Back

I'm back in the UK now, and on a train to Ipswich. I like how fast the trains go, it really makes you feel as if you're getting somewhere. I got back to London on Thursday morning, and have had barely enough time to watch four movies at the cinema before going off again for a nice visit with the rellies in Ipswich.

Okay, now that I've written that, the train is going slowly. Hmm. Where's the 'faster than fairies, fast than witches/Bridges and houses and hedges and ditches'?

Anyway, I have been a bit slack (I always seem to do this with the last few days of a holiday - I think 'I will write it all up as soon as I get home!' and then I go to four movies instead). I got up to my last full day in Amsterdam, which started earlier than any other because I had an exhibition to get to. So, I left the hostel at 10am, after a nice almost-pat of the cat, who was sitting with its back to me on the table.

The sun was out, and it was almost warm. Apparently the canals freeze over later in the winter and people skate everywhere, which was hard to believe with the sun shining slants of light past the tall houses and irregular rooftops and the water sliding dreamily by. I had to keep stopping to take photos, and by the time I got to the Van Gogh exhibition (held in the world's first Stock Exchange. I think.) I thought I'd have to queue. But no! I paid my money, collected my 3D glasses and descended, at the security guard's indication, down some stairs, past the ladies loos and into the exhibition.

This seemed somewhat strange, but after the first few paintings I forgot about everything else. The idea of the exhibition is to bring together 200 works by Van Gogh and present them digitally retouched so you see the original colours, rather than the faded versions of today. This means there aren't any actual Van Gogh paintings in the exhibition, but it's still amazing to see these paintings you know so well in their full vibrancy. Van Gogh used early synthetic paints which have faded pretty badly over time, so blues and reds sometimes don't come through. As well as the remastered paintings, some of the most famous works have been interpreted through 3D animation, which was pretty cool.

The final section of the exhibition was held in the vaults of the building, which explained the location in the basement. It showcased paintings now lost, whether through fire, Nazi repossession or burglary, presented in actual safes.

After some wandering around the streets and across the bridges (sometimes rather frenzied wandering, as I got later and more lost), I met TOWSR in the main square. There was a lion dance happening, complete with extremely loud ground-level fireworks and copious clouds of smoke, so we watched that for a while before going to find the flea markets.

I had very little money on me (I was determined not to change any more pounds to euros) but we had a good time admiring the wares and checking out the lego buildings of the old Jewish quarter. Last stop on our itinerary was the supermarket, then dinner and sleep. I had to leave at 7.15 the next morning.

It was still dark, and I realised as I walked to the bus stop that I didn't actually know what a bus stop looked like. Were they in the same place as the tram stops? I didn't think they shared stops. I ended up walking well past the invisible bus stop and on through Museumplein, which I hadn't seen properly and was actually quite nice. Finally I found a bus stop (just past the tram stop, and on top of the tram lines rather than on the road) and got on the next bus to the airport.

Schipol airport is a lot like a gigantic mall, with added check-in desks and holes in the floor through which you descend to the train station. On the plane, our pilot came out of the cockpit and told us he'd be flying the plane, and if anyone wanted to get off now they could. The flight was quick, into London's sixth airport Southend, customs even quicker and then I and my new plane-buddy got a train to Stratford. Of London airports, I think it's probably the quickest and easiest, bar City. And finally, home!

Well, actually, Stratford Westfield mall, Pitch Perfect (awesome) and then home.

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