Fiona MacCarthy


Photo Collection from a spring Break in this most delightfully friendly easy going capital. March 2014

A few days in Amsterdam

Inspired by a ferry that passes close to my home shuttling people back and forth from Newcastle to Amsterdam. Encouraged by a greater desire to travel and experience in Europe whilst earlier decades were in Africa and Asia, I booked a 4 days 4 night flights and hotel package leaving everything else to myself.

Museum meanderings

The Rijks Museum

A million pieces of Art it claims in its publicity but like the temple of 100,000 Buddhas in North east Burma I am reluctant to experiment my counting skills as an accountant. It is a classical museum in its own right setting out to deliver art to the people from near and afar. I would love to be here when it is shut just to savour for myself on my own, its many great delights without the hurried and harried tourists kow towing to the drum beat of tour guides. There is a balance between savouring art for oneself and sharing joys and knowledge with friends but this leads to bustle and hustle and noise. That is a price worth paying for the joys contained here. What I enjoyed most was the special collection of recently commissioned portraits of the Dutch King. Artists still seem to tip toe in their portrayals of royalty out of politeness fear (no way!) or national self respect.


Van Gogh and Felix Vallotton appearing whilst I was here but not for long.

The older Master did not inspire me other than for The Potato Eaters but the exhibition of Vallotton excited me in the dancing vibrancy and volcanic emotions temporarily tamed to canvas before eyeball and interest explodes again. A contrast made easier with the contrast with soulful dark Van Gogh. A personal observation only!


House of Bols

Came highly recommended and as directly across from VG and up a few steps it is a must in my opinion if you have taste buds and nasal senses that too, need exercise and lets not forget the colours upon the eyes because colour is not just for canvasses and clothes. Some 3 dozen flavours have survived centuries of development and production. Set your taste buds free here late in the day as early morning temptations may corrupt a less sane albeit conventional plan.

A “Gold Fashioned” 45ml Bols Genever, 15 ml Bols Dry Orange, 1 barspoon Cane sugar Syrup, 2 dashes Angastoura bitters and 1 dash Orange bitters. Simple!!


Stedelijk Museum

This made the biggest impact upon me for scale, for detail, for setting, for sheer splendour and for how human creativity can be expressed so creatively. There was less people and more space to appreciate and absorb so many superb displays.


Museum of Medieval torture

Ingenuity of human evil seeks weaknesses in human resistance to cooperate. Poor playing musicians even had special devices created for them locking their fingers into position on a trumpet shaped device attached to their mouth and head.  Humiliation a big part of torture when not intent on killing the person on receiving end.

What was missing was the cold, damp, isolation, screams of others and this was one place I would not like to be left alone to.


Anne Frank Home Jail and Museum

The touristy patient queues as we waited for opening. Booking recommended or get there real early to avoid a longer wait.

The flow of people into the house was controlled and there was always time and space to appreciate what one was seeing.  It was cramped and her family was more in number than we ever were at a time.

Several folk were visibly moved by the place in all its ghostly silence. It was upon leaving that I thought about the contrast of me leaving for freedom of touristy sightseeing and the rest of my life:  that Anne and her family had left to die in August 1944, the Allies had landed 2 months earlier in Normandy . So close to their freedom.

Anne Frank is as well-known as she is, not because of the diary alone but because a German did not destroy it maybe careless or pro-occupied, and  more pressing events of the time did not lose it and that it was found and kept (by their Helpers) until after the war when returned to Otto Frank (Anne’s father) who got it published.


Tropical Museum

A definite “must” if travelling outside Europe to strange and exotic places. And not just where the Dutch officially went but also where any Dutch person of the Colonial ere ventured. It is vast and detailed and enjoyable. For me it was recalling Asian travels and what is here was sadly lacking in many South East Asian Museums.

This is a museum to dip into rather than wade through on a single visit.


Museum of Bags and Purses

An absolute treasure trove of the history of bags and purses (male and yes predominately female) throughout the ages.

Some men may find this like an extension of the Torture museum. Their eyeball behaviour was evidence.



Random observations

•The bad news of this city is that some 60,000 bicycles get stolen per annum against which there are small businesses offering quick repair services. Not much else is bad.

•Diamonds: From 300 euro to 27,000 passed through my fingers and yes I liked them all, appreciating the subtle differences that mean my aspirations remain financially unsatisfied. All was explained at Gassan diamonds

•Whilst passing by outside the Heineken museum, observed a young couple he striding ahead towards the entrance with a vigour, she trailing slowly. I suggest couples on holiday set each other free for gender different pursuits as not all can be enjoyed equally together.

•Woman cycling with young child perched upon handlebars not too strange but her ability to keep a second bike in motion alongside her with her second arm that was impressive: Surely an Olympic sport for creative use of the simple bike

•A museum pass in advance would have been a good idea for me with my interest in museums and the min cards on display in most hotels carry price discounts which were a good back up plan.

•Police as “Polite” in Dutch: very visible presence whether on bike motorbike horse car van.

•Ice Bar:  Cold yes but cumbersome clothing and gloves combine with slowing mental thought as we laughed and drank. Extreme cold not good for humans

•Architecture; Splendidly amazing, beautifully preserved and maintained.




A very civilised city that conveys a sense of balance between life and work through the organisation of a living city, open tolerant and easy going people but with a  profound awareness of their own part in history.