Since last time, I've been to the Rijksmuseum, gotten soaking wet, hung out in the Flying Pig Downtown Hostel a lot, found two guys in exactly the same situation as me and had a fantastic couple of nights out, and most recently find myself in another branch of the Flying Pig next to a (wet, cold, windy) beach!
The Rijksmuseum (above) is home to a lot of Rembrandt's work, including a rare self-portrait and 'The Night Watch', a proclaimed masterpiece from his detailed career. It's huge (20' tall, maybe?), the council in Amsterdam cut a good portion off the side of it, and has some interesting history behind it, such as when a man went a little crazy on it with a knife and slashed it up a bit a few years ago. Thankfully, the Rijksmuseum was a surprise in that I didn't know what exactly the 'Rijks' were, but according to a guy at the bar I'm sitting at, it means it's a royal museum. It's full of art from well-known artists and their students, some of it is breath-taking, specifically the still-life pictures they had on display - the reflections, the colour, the detail.. it's inspirational but makes you think why you should bother trying to paint when perfection is already on the wall.
After this, I went back to my room to relax, because the weather was just like an English winter, wet, windy, cold and dark, and I needed to get up early to check out and get the shuttle bus to the beach hostel, 40km out from Amsterdam. Then I found that it was just like Amsterdam, just not so dark and wet - it is, however, on a beach, but (there's always a but), it's cordoned off because quicksand is forming on it, so they're putting a million (or so) tonnes of extra sand on top. I managed to get some good pictures from a balcony though.
I'm only in Noordwijk (where the beach hostel is located) until tomorrow morning before going back to Amsterdam, but I found a bus to Leiden where more shops and sight-seeing can be had. My first stop inside the (small) city was Oudt Leyden, one of the first (or maybe the first!) pancake-houses in the Netherlands, started in 1907. I've had one pancake experience in the Netherlands so far and it wasn't great, but, I had hopes.. and these were met with this Apfelstrudel (no prizes for guessing what it means):
Which quickly turned into this:
Inside the pancake-house was a sign that read "Toiletten", beneath this it says "Lavatory", just in case you didn't understand what the first meant.
In Leiden, there's the usual FreeRecordStore (the Dutch equivalent of Zavii/HMV, but a lot smaller), Claire's, McDonalds, Hema and coffee-shops, but there's a lot of individuality in between, not least the windmills.
And more beautiful architecture that adorns the streets of the Netherlands. Don't forget to click the images, as they all enlargen.
The open market that intertwines with the canals and streets features a lot of food stalls from fruit and veg to nuts and fish, as well as all the usual clothes, shoes and bakery stalls too. I managed to find some huge chilis (suitable for cooking later on) and came across too many tempting smells.
Here's a few pictures of the canals as well.
In Leiden I managed to get lost yet again, but eventually found the Museum of Antiquities, basically a place where they shoved a load of historical pieces into, including a lot of Egyptian figures, pottery, mummies and a cast of the Rosetta stone. Here you can use the Museumkaart to gain entry, rather than pay the €9 entry - there are also another four museums in Leiden in which you can use the card, helpful for making use of the card. I returned to the beach hostel shortly after (I only had time to go around for half an hour before it closed at 17:00).