Little happened of note on Week 19, other than it being a short week due to Easter. Steph and I took the long weekend in Amsterdam. We had planned in advance to see two of the major attractions of Amsterdam, the limited time Vermeer exhibit, and the tulip festival.

Steph managed to get tickets to the Vermeer exhibit at the right times, as she was ready when the ticket sales opened. We had an evening ticket for Saturday on Easter weekend, which was perfect. I set up for us to go to Keukenhof on Easter, and we managed to get a small group tour that was biking through the flower fields on the way to Keukenhof.

We arrived in Amsterdam pretty late on Friday, with about a 30 minute walk through the center of the city to our hotel, near the museums. We got in and then headed out for the evening through the red light district and the main squares, just to see the city. The red light district especially was stupidly overcrowded, so much so that the entire street was taken up with pedestrians and it was one way walking traffic. We got out of there quickly, as neither of us like crowds. We found a lovely hotel bar that was cozy and had good drinks and relaxed there while talking over the rest of the trip.

The next morning we went to the National Maritime Museum, which had a number of great exhibits. The main exhibit was the Amsterdam, a ship replica of an old merchant vessel. They also had sections on navigational equipment, ship decorations, tapestries, ship models, and maps. We especially like the section on maps, and how the European understanding of what the world looked like slowly changed with the passage of time. They focussed on the shapes of different countries over the different iterations of maps. Japan’s shape was especially strange to start with, and nothing like what it actually is.

We walked the city for the afternoon, as the normal entry to the Rijksmuseum was sold out. We had tickets that gave us entry to the special exhibit for Vermeer, and then afterwards we could go around the rest of the museum. That particular detail of it being only after wasn’t on the ticket, but in a FAQ on the website. Our entry to the Vermeer exhibit was after the main museum had closed, and there were lots of guides ensuring that nobody from the special exhibit wandered from the prescribed section.

The Vermeer exhibit itself had most of his known paintings. It was amazing to compare his work over his lifetime, and see the props and rooms he painted several times. The details were exquisite and seeing them in person showed the layering and details in a clearer light than can be captured in a photo. We had missed the ‘girl with the pearl earring’ by a week, but the rest was still fantastic. Afterwards we got some great Eritrean food and called it a night.

Easter Sunday was another morning of wandering around Amsterdam. We went to a rubber ducky store where Steph found a tech diving rubber ducky, although it uses back mounted doubles instead of side mount. I insisted she get it. We also grabbed some freits at a small chip shop.

We headed to the train station where we met up with Hans for an amazing tour of the flower fields on bike, then a jaunt around Keukenhof. The bike ride was amazing, and the weather was pretty much perfect for it. Hans said that the tulips had started blooming only a few days earlier, and there were fields of orange and red tulips. It was a surreal sight. They also had many daffodils, from almost a orange gold color to a pale yellow. My favorite were fields of hyacinths in deep blue, purples, pinks, and whites, which smelled amazing.

The Keukenhof was full of flower beds that were arranged in all sorts of layouts. The place was a huge garden, with many different types of flowers mixed in all sorts of interesting arrangements. It was clear they took the timing of the blooms into account and layered them so that each bed had something interesting no matter the week. It was one of the most magical places I’ve been.

We had a lovely sunset bike ride back to the station and Hans herded our group back onto the train and back. I had a great time and would highly recommend the tour.

We took it easy that evening and just had a drink at a bar around the corner from our hotel before going to sleep. The trip back was uneventful, but I couldn’t help but notice the times involved. In theory it is about a 3.5 hour train ride, but the timing for the flight is 5 hours from the same Amsterdam Central station all told. We’ll have to tally up the costs, but even if the train is more expensive it might be worth it for the additional convenience of not switching transport, and time.