It had to be our trip to Amsterdam - and it warrants a couple of posts. Firstly because it's such a wonderfully photogenic city and secondly because it was something of a pilgrimage for the two of us - but more about that in my next post.
This was my fourth visit to Amsterdam. There is something rather special about cities built in commune with their watery roots and I cannot count the number of times we turned a corner and wielded our respective 'piccy kits' (mine a point-and-shoot Nikon, hers a 'fully-optioned', rather hefty Canon SLR) in an attempt to capture 'a moment'.
With the exception of the 15 minute downpour walking from the Central Station to our hotel, we were blessed with four days of gorgeous weather. Crisp blue skies meant that a shared cone of chips generously dolloped with lush, luscious mayonnaise and a plate of bitteballen were best tackled outside, the latter with a local beer in hand.
It also meant A LOT of photos. Here are just a few of my absolute favourites.
We stayed at the Hampshire Eden just near Rembrandtplein - while the square itself was literally at our back door, this was the view from the front of the hotel.
I love that this photo looks like a painting - the curve of the canal, the buildings, bikes and boats lining the banks and a spire to aspire to in the distance.
There was something rather innocent about the dappled shade on the canal wall and the friends enjoying their moment in the sun, legs dangling childishly over the edge.
Begijnhof is a beautiful oasis tucked away in the heart of Amsterdam. Blink and you'd miss not just this entrance leading off Spui (we did) but also Amsterdam's oldest house (no 34), the 15th century Engelse Kerk (English Church - above) and the Begijnhof Chapel, a clandestine church where the Begijntjes worshipped in secret until 1795.
No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a wander through its infamous Red Light district. The scarlet-draped windows line the streets and canals around the Oude Kerk (Old Church) yet as night falls and the lights reflect off the water, it easy to forget the deals 'being done' and get caught up in how pretty it all looks.
Oude Kerk itself is rather lovely in a stark kind of way. Not for it the intimate spaces or crowded decoration of many of Europe's other places of worship. There's a feeling of spacious calm beneath the gothic arches and when you've had enough, an unassuming door off the nave leads to a cosy tea room and outdoor courtyard for some quiet enjoyment and a reflective cuppa.
If you are visiting Amsterdam, whether coming directly by train or by plane via Schipol Airport, you are likely to come through its Central Station. Intent on your destination, it's easy to miss the opportunity to turn around and admire the magnificent entrance to this fabulous city. True to form, we were dashing away from the station on our arrival but had the opportunity to appreciate it from our canal cruise the following day.
As our canal boat rounded a corner, the colour and light in this scene was breath-taking. I love how all the elements - the bridge, the boat, the terraced buildings and the leafy boughs of the tree - come together to create what for me is inherently Amsterdam.
Our canal cruise took us past the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) which was constructed in 1670 and is probably the most famous in Amsterdam. I didn't get a great photo of that bridge but as we drifted past it and turned right, this boat-load of 'locals' caught my eye and while not the Magere Brug, the typically Dutch bridge in the background gave me another moment in the sun to capture.
And last but not least, our photographic journey returns us to the 'back yard' of our stay, Rembrandtplein. It's a vibrant square lined with cafes, bars and restaurants and pays homage to Rembrandt van Rijn himself and his most famous painting, The Nightwatch. (Like I did last trip, you can see the real thing in the Rijksmuseum. It's enormous!)
So here endeth the armchair tour and I hope you've enjoyed it even half as much as I've enjoyed revisiting our trip in the writing of this post. Stay tuned for more next time, an alternative look at our sibling sojourn as a pilgrimage of 'all things Dutch'.