Dot writes: last weekend, from Saturday to Monday, we had a family trip to Amsterdam, as a last hoorah of our summer holidays before the boys went back to school on Tuesday.
We travelled over in the morning, had lunch in a pancake house by the Damrak, and visited the NEMO Science Museum, which was the highlight of the weekend for the children. It was sunny and hot. In the evening there was a thunderstorm without rain. We would have appreciated rain as the hotel room was without air conditioning and stiflingly warm. However, the hotel (Hotel Albus) was centrally located and very smart and attractively furnished.
We had booked a couple of attractions online in advance: the Rijksmuseum (I didn’t take photos there) and a canal boat tour. The rain arrived very violently as we were on our way to the tram stop to go to the museum and we ducked into a shop to buy brightly coloured umbrellas, but it stopped again and the rest of the day was dry. The Rijksmuseum is huge and we ran out of energy for looking at it before we’d even left the ground floor, but we enjoyed the displays of model ships, antique weaponry and musical instruments, the Asian annex with its Hindu statues and (especially interesting to the boys) more-than-life-size Japanese temple guardians with ferocious faces, and the medieval and renaissance paintings (only Ken really looked at those).
The boys became a little bored during the canal tour but were well-behaved and Ken and I enjoyed following the map and looking at the sights. After the tour Ken took the children back to the hotel and I had a solitary trip to the Pianola Museum. Again, I didn’t take photographs there, but it is a fascinating little place. The owner put on a pianola roll that had been recorded by the composer Grieg a year before his death. It was extraordinary to see the keys moving on the piano in front of me and think that, in a sense, they were being played by the hands of Grieg.
The boys were very excited by the prospect of hiring ‘tandrums’ (Hugh) or ‘tricycles’ (Frank). Sadly the hire shop had only one tandem (with one adult seat and one child seat), but we hired that and two other bikes and went for a ride to the Vondelpark. It was stressful navigating Amsterdam traffic – there are trams and cars as well as extremely determined and fierce Dutch cyclists – but the ride round the park was delightful, and we did also manage to find some quiet and pretty residential streets to explore. We returned the bikes before lunch and spent the early afternoon in the Nieuwe Kerk before collecting our luggage from the hotel and making our way to the airport.