Yesterday started off deliciously lazy. We slept, had a leisurely breakfast, rested on Melissa’s oh-so-comfy couches, and visited. By early afternoon we’d had quite enough of laziness and were ready for adventures. Ry and Melissa were at work and Ev and Kendra had other plans, so Mums, Pops and I headed out to do some exploring on our own.
We wandered at will, turning down this street and that alleyway, finding all sorts of lovely spots like The Begijnhof.
It was originally a Béguinage, a home for lay sisters of the Catholic Church. They were women who desired to serve God and made vows of chastity like nuns, but who lived in the world and were free to leave the facility at any time to get married.
Founded in the Middle Ages, The Begijnhof is the only inner courtyard in Amsterdam and has one of the oldest wooden houses in Holland. When the Protestants took over in the 1500’s, The Begijnhof was the only Roman Catholic Institution allowed to remain open, and became one of the few safe havens for Catholics in Holland.
Today the private courtyard is home to single women only, a quiet, safe and peaceful haven in the midst of Amsterdam.
Our next stop was the Bloemenmarkt – a floating flower market in the heart of Amsterdam. It looked much different than any of my previous visits. Gone were the lush flowers of summer and the berry-festooned garlands of autumn.
Instead the stalls were filled with evergreen wreaths and cotton pods and lined with bins and baskets full of gnarled bulbs that in the spring will turn into gorgeous tulips and amaryllis.
After a couple of hours wandering hither and thither Mums and Pops were ready for a coffee break in a warm cafe, so we bid farewell and I entered the Royal Palace which only recently reopened after extensive renovations.
It is rather a somber and austere edifice, but much has been done to bring warmth and color to the cavernous rooms and square lines.
My favorite bits were the lights. How lovely is this fixture against the cold gray marble?
Don’t these exquisite chandeliers do wonders in both brightening and warming this space?
It was a lovely day of discovery and by the time my palace tour was done, I too was ready for a rest. I found a corner cafe whose windows were filled with greenery and fairy lights. I couldn’t resist it. Inside the Cafe Kalkhoven Christmas was in full swing with lavishly decorated swags trimming window frames, mirrors and chandeliers. I found a seat on a plush, red-striped velvet bench, delighted at the ample people-watching opportunities my view of the tram station provided. I had a Kalkhoven toasted sandwich stuffed with old cheese (honestly, that’s what it’s called!), thinly sliced ham and a honey dressing. It was simple yet filling fare and at a mere 3.50 Euros suited the budget perfectly.
As dusk was falling I strode home, stopping briefly at an enticing little chocolate shop where I indulged in one cocoa-dusted truffle. Evan and Kendra made us scrumptious Rosemary Chicken for dinner then we got all dolled up and Ryan treated us to Handel’s Messiah in a gorgeous concert hall. Our seats were right behind the choir so we got to see the antics of the ancient conductor as he teetered precariously on stage, watch the mezzo-soprano and wonder if the seams on her skin-tight dress would hold when she hit the next high note, and observe the organist as he manipulated the massive pipe organ. It was glorious, inspiring, and loooooong. We all concurred that one complete Handel’s Messiah is more than enough for one lifetime. From here on out we are content with the highlights. 🙂
That night we fell into bed exhausted but happy and slept like logs.