Booked a couple of concerts this evening - not entirely sure what they are but they are at least in the Concertgebouw so free drinks and a guarantee of quality...15.vii - anxiety struck so I got onto the machines and bought travel cards and museum entries, as well as printing off a few tram/bus routes. Ready.


It’s going to be the hottest day of the century, we’re told; yesterday the Eurostar broke down in the tunnel, passengers stood by the side of the rails for three hours waiting for a replacement train. Fun. This morning Eurostar offered free transfer of trip/tickets either (or both) way. Not tempted. Stopped at Lille - no one got off. Heating up. Crosswords finished, papers read and disposed of, now we just want to arrive... Unfortunately we are behind a local train and therefore gently rolling along. We will be at least an hour late as a result. Red lights on track, local train still leading us and a large group of students getting swiftly pissed on v odd cocktails and bottles of champagne. The stamina...

Hundreds of windmills: I’m reminded that the first windmills were greeted with howls of outrage at their ugliness. I think that these are rather elegant in a Philippe Starck sort of way.

Eventually arrived: I left Sue surrounded by luggage and newspaper parcels, looking like the sort of heap we are all too familiar with in Cambridge. I attempted to trade in my pieces of paper for two week-long travel cards - I was given a number 460, the board told me that we were currently interviewing numbers 422/421. I had a minor fit with the woman i/c queues. My need was for two minutes at the counter and the average was taking eight minutes. It was hot. There, my excuses for having a gentle melt-down. Arrived at the flat and collapsed then shopped for basics (which curiously seems to have included a bottle of port and a cookie from a coffee shop) - strawberries, small delicious, local and bio-correct, butter, half milk etc. The shopping took an age since I could only half understand the product so had to ask, guess and then, at the automatic till, fail. I had completely forgotten that Maestro was the only acceptable card in shops. I hope that ATMs are more forgiving. The stairs are precipitous swirls of narrowness.

The streets are, according to the guide books, being slightly gentrified. Rubbish, they are heaving with beautiful young things, pavement cafés, drinks, ice cream parlours etc. It’s happened...Sue will probably make me remove this last photograph - it’s 21:00 and under a lamp(?) Sue is reading, in an undemonstrative way...

Happy birthday...

Couldn’t sleep so starting the day early with a sleeping pill and a Journo sentence. Out of the window is a peaceful urban scene, broken only by the occasional walkers’ distant guttural noises. Heat is no hindrance to sleep, adrenalin is though...I so love moving around cities, sleeping in new places, being awake.

Ought to have spent time on the smokeboat.com but speculate about how bearable people might be after an hour of passive and active smoking. Locking myself in the lavatory doesn’t appear to be an option. So toured about on the 14 tram, returning via v quiet metro to the Hermitage Museum and their a/c. Coffees, yoghurt and bracing oneself for a major cultural onslaught. Not at all, the Hermitage’s loans were beautifully judged, two items placed alongside each other exact illuminating aspects of the other in unexpected ways. A wonderfully well-curated show. We spent the whole day wandering around their three exhibitions as well as having a brilliant (umami avocado) lunch in their gardens.

Amsterdam Metro - clean quiet efficient...and the coloured lights that turn on when doors are open are splendid.

This pairing asked us to look at the Madonna of the Catholic and Protestant churches - guess which one is which. Mary and the Christ Child under the Apple Tree, Lucas Cranach The Elder, 1527-30 and Madonna dell Grazie, Lorenzo Lotto, 1542. There go the two huge clues...

Nani Venus, Roman, circa 150 BC - ‘wet drapery’ style.

Female Nude, Matisse, 1908 and the Kostenki Venus, 23,000 BC (late Palaeolithic, discovered to the south of central Russia).

St Lucas Painting Madonna with Child, 15th Century (part of his remit was to be the patron saint of artists).

Saint George fights the Dragon, Tintoretto, 1555-58 - intended for a church altar.

Amphoriskos or perfume flask: Allegory of the Power of Love, 1st Century AD. Cameo: Augustus, Alicia and young Nero, circa 50 AD. Cameo: Constantine the Great and the Tyche of Constantinople, 4th Century AD

This (above) is a video...

Kitchens, more or less how they were when the building house loads of old women.

Large Dish: Allegory of Time, Venice, 1580.

Umami Avocado - the soft-boiled egg was a delight, as were the many varied flavours (generated by things I’ve never \240heard of).

Another divinely warm day in the offing. Need to plan the day having spent its first few hours lounging around with the Saturday Telegraph and strong tea. Eventually got going, the transport is brilliant and arrives precisely when the t/table says.

Dam Square/cheese shop - we sampled many cheeses including one called (rather sinisterly) Baby Goat Cheese. The lavender cheese was rather good

We joined the Centruum masses this afternoon, it was a rude shock. However we needed to get to this oasis of peace and charm - Begjinhof: I followed the map carefully, I had no need to say that placename. How dreadful to have one of the nicest places to live only to find that this is exactly what you don’t want, at least don’t want to share.

Dam Square/cheese shop - we sampled many cheeses including one called (rather sinisterly) Baby Goat Cheese. The lavender cheese was rather good.

We walked around the bridges and canals looking for a café, a quietish café. Most of them could be smelt for several roads away, that delicious grassy smell that sort of hangs over Amsterdam, perhaps even defines the place. We settled for the Rembrandt café, a terrace with Rembrandt’s house and the reason for his strawberry nose perhaps. I had a small beer, my first beer for decades, and was surprised at its complexity of tastes. Might go out for another this evening...The wonder of this place was the low-tech solution they’d employed to run the ceiling fans - a third of the electricity used?

Another happy, sunny day in Amsterdam. Walked the length of Javastraat and we were accosted twice by v friendly, hugely talkative, locals. Coffee was excellent and we managed to source soft fruit and soya milk, breakfast is secured. Rest and starve and then out for lunch...

...beating Sweden in a v large monochrome

Wonderful, occasionally crowded, wander around the Van Gogh Museum. What treasures...No photographs allowed damn it (so included some on loan to the Rijksmuseum).

Richard Serra, Sight Point, 1972 - 1975

Above van Gogh’s exhibited in the Rijksmuseum, the two below are shown in the Stedelijk Museum.

Concertgebouw and an excellent concert, home by 10.30 then total collapse after a full day.

The Albert Cuyp market is a joy, though we had over-eaten at lunch so really just felt like sitting down: is it even possible to over do salads?

Old people, pregnant people, disabled people get to sit on the red chairs...and very odd bike lights.

The van Loon canal-side house...beautiful and with excellent coffee in the stables/garden. The cream house next door is owned by one of the Monégasque Princesses who manages to visit for a couple of months each year.

I only have a dozen or so damask table napkins, so a press like this might be considered (by some) over the top.

Closed down an age ago - one of my favourite coffee shops.

My street...

To Rijksmuseum for a full-ish day of looking and walking, it’s a v big building. Rembrandt double portrait (owned by Louvre and Rijksmuseum); Pieter de Hooch, 1629-83, domestic interiors/exteriors; house coats/dressing gowns of chintz from mid 18th Century.

The Night Watch is in a glass box so that we, the public, can watch whilst it’s scanned etc. Not too sure what is happening to it. Rather like the Night Watch re-interpretations...

Can’t resist a baroque pearl, especially 16th Century ones.

Floral Brooch, Johannes Steltman, 1953 - lots of diamonds...

Three vases - Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat, crystalline glaze, 1890-93; Emile Lenoble, drip glaze, 1910; Henri Simmen, salt glaze, 1910-15.

Bruegel Chair 3, Thomas Rietveld, 1927; Weissenhof Chair, Mike’s van dear Rohe, 1927; Arm Chair B35, Marcel Breuer, 1930; Arm Chair for Til Brugman, Gerrit Rietveld, 1925

Storage Cabinet No. 663, Wim Rietveld, 1953

Delft charger - 1750-75; Paco Rabanne, 1967, aluminium

Aircraft - FK 23 Bantam - Frits Koolhoven, 1918

Breakfast Service 1, Hendrik Petrus Berlage and Piet Zwart, 1924 - pressed glass

James Ensor: Intrigue, 1890

Charles Daubigny: Beach at Ebb Tide, 1850/78

Blue Macaw (huge): Meissen, c 1725

Bust of Caroline, Queen of England, 1738 - John Michael Rysbreck

Tea Service and Stand: Meissen 1725/30 - silver gilt stand

Looking up in the Rijksmuseum entrance, previously its courtyard.

Still Life with a Vase of Flowers and a Dead Frog: Jacob Marrel, 1634

The Threatened Swan: Jan Asselijn, 1650

A packed house for Isabelle van Keulen and Richard Brautigam playing Schumann, Fauré, Szymanowski and Franck.

Buy your lawns here - there are several ‘lawn’ shops round the corner from us. It’s a slow day today, lunch here then drift into town for a little light culture and a slice of apple pie. The odd photograph of grey bins is there because they take the place of wheelie bins and service the whole area. We take rubbish to them every other day and the rubbish is shot into a subterranean hole to be collected later on. Brilliant.

Fortunately we postponed departure so that clearing up could happen. The skies opened and rain pelted down. It would have been uncomfortable being a damp tourist.

Guru sandwich below and the vehicle above: brilliant, faultless public transport.

Maria Lassnig - a massive exhibition of an artist I’ve never heard of before. Stunning.

The Beanery, 1965 - Edward Kienholz (Barney’s Beanery, West Hollywood). Kirchner

1950’s shelf...

Supper, an instant feast - herrings, brown rolls, French butter and chopped onions, almond cakes and a matcha tea KitKat.

The end. Fin. Back home after a cursory tidy up and a hasty stuffing of my bag. The slope below is a grass slope outside the Stedelijk Museum and hovers over a brilliant, huge supermarket. The tram from our street stops immediately outside.

Perfectly ok journey back apart from the halt at Brussels owing to unresolved European god knows what... Tired though and feels as though we’ve been away for months. Amsterdam is significantly quieter, cleaner than either London or Cambridge. So there...