Westcord Art Hotel
Spaarndammerdijk,  302
Amsterdam 1013 ZX Netherlands

We caught our flight from the posh, marble-clad Zurich airport, ($180,000 watches, Sprungli treats and wifi delivered via concierge) - and on our KLM flight, D sat next to a splendid little man in a canary yellow sweater, who confessed he had always dreamt of visiting Wyoming. Our flight touched down and we staggered through the chaos and confusion that is the Amsterdam Airport.

 The trains were being rescheduled and disrupted, since the bombings in the train station in Brussels had occured two days earlier. After an hour of changed timetables and rerouted trains, we caught an express to Centraal station -  and finally emerged into the joy of that unique city:

The concierge at the Park Plaza Victoria pointed us, with kindness and genuine smiles, to the #22 bus, which was ready to whisk us away to the WestCord Art Hotel, where we gratefully checked in, bought our 72 hour bus passes and, after a quick freshen-up, headed out to explore.

A note on the hotel: The entire room was pleasant, modern, spotless and very cool (pod espresso maker, wallhung HiDev TV, etc) but  - this included possibly one of the finest hotel bath tubs ever:

So we found ourselves out and about in the city, finally peering down the alleyways and cobblestones of this fabeled place, gawking and laughing as we turned each corner:

More memories of Amsterdam:
The wonky old clock that chimes randomly, with off-kilter partial tunes
How cold the March wind is, as it blows across the sea outside the public library
The corner frite stand, by the University, where they sell piping hot paper cones of hot fries for 1 euro
The Delft shop in the old brick tower
The book store with the Van Gogh book for 5 euros, over by Rembrandtplatz
The scent of fresh pot burning on the Old Bridge at dusk
Pring flowers blooming in flower pots on all the cafe tables
The excellent donar shop three blocks from the Westcord Hotel: We hopped off the bus after dark, in the light rain, and feasted on hot, cooked to order donars, with crispy fresh salads - mmmmm

Our last day in Amsterdam, and we both have lists of things left to see and do. I found tickets to the Van Gogh Museum online, and D is off to the World Famous Amsterdam Street Market. It has been raining off and on, but we stuff ourselves with coffee cakes from the gas station across the street from the hotel, dose ourselves with the black coffee in our room and bundle up in our stunning new knit hats and scarves - surprisingly soft, warm. light and comfortable. Just the thing for a hike around rainy streets in 40 degree March rain.

 We catch the faithful #22 bus back to Centraal, and head off in separate directions, promising to meet later this afternoon in front of the Park Plaza Victoria.

I catch the #16 tram to Museumplein, where  the lines for the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art are already starting to form.

 I already have my tickets for the Van Gogh, so I hurry inside where the warm halls beckon.

The museum is on five small floors, and is chronological, with displays of Vincent's life and work entwined. The full museum collection is online here. I knew this was a sad story . And it was. Gorgeous. But terribly sad.

The rain started while I was wandering through the fields of flowers in Arles. And there was this farm, straight out my childhood:

And the story of the almond blossoms:

"The painting was a gift for his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo, who had just had a baby son, Vincent Willem. In the letter announcing the new arrival, Theo wrote: ‘As we told you, we’ll name him after you, and I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and as courageous as you.’ Unsurprisingly, it was this work that remained closest to the hearts of the Van Gogh family. Vincent Willem went on to found the Van Gogh Museum."

But now - it is raining, a cold steady rain, and I have no umbrella. I hurry down the canals, duck into an ATM, pop into a bookshop, catch the tram and rumble back toward the rendevouz point...
...but in the meantime...Dave has been roaming through the massive street market, gawking at the food and people and wares. He found another warm woolen hat, and almost bought some pickled mackerel on a whim...

but I am camped out in the warm splendour of the tea room at the Plaza, sipping freshly brewed Earl Grey, nibbling bisciuts, quietly watching the crowds roar by, all from the vantage point of my window-facing nook:

...And there he is, ready to gather up our shopping packages and be on our way to board the Viking Mani, waiting for us at the end of the pier...

The two impulses in travel are to get away from home, and the other is to pursue something - a landscape, people, an exotic place. Certainly finding a place that you like or discovering something unusual is a very sustaining thing in travel.  ` Paul Theroux