Wire mesh globe light in Amsterdam shop, with the city's 17th-century buildings reflected in the glass.
What can I tell you about Amsterdam? Such a charming city, with beautiful art and architecture, great style, friendly people and good food! Before last week, I hadn't been there in 20 years. As you might expect, it's changed - mostly for the better, I think.
Shall I tell you about the lovely hotel that's comprised of 25 restored 17th-and-18th-century canal houses put together? Or about the historic restaurant in the Jordaan we found by chance, where we were the only non-Dutch people there (always a good sign) for dinner?
Or perhaps you'd like to hear about a superb six-course meal in an Italian restaurant, where we had a private dining room overlooking the kitchen and could watch the chefs' preparations? We were bombarded with attention until the last course, when they seemed to forget about us - and suddenly all that heat from the kitchen rose to the top, making the temperature stifling! I couldn't wait to leave (we'd been there over three hours)!
Or what about the art, oh the art! Rembrandt's Night Watch and his other stunning chiaroscuro paintings at the Rijks Museum show such incredible interplay of light and dark. The lines were too long for the Van Gogh Museum, but we did see the magnificent brocades, satins, furs and uniforms from Czar Nicolas and the Russian aristocracy at the Hermitage Amsterdam.
Then there was the fantastic World Press Photo exhibition at the Oude Kerk, the oldest church in Amsterdam. And an exhibit of abstract landscape photographs at the Huis Marseille Foundation for Photography. It's in a beautiful canal house, complete with a library (containing a huge ornate stove, original to the house), a landscaped garden centered with a statue of Mercury and even a little studio beyond the garden.
Double Dutch bicycle chained to a bridge railing, Amsterdam.
The Foam Museum of Photography also had several ongoing exhibits, including Massimo Vitali's World Press Photo prize-winning beach series and Guy Tillim's extraordinary documentary photos of once-grand cities and buildings in Africa, reduced to ruin.
The Anne Frank House was as emotionally moving as ever; by visiting late in the day, we avoided the crowds. We walked miles and miles along the canals and stopped in little shops and galleries. A canal boat ride, Pia Jane Bijkerk's book signing at Spui Square and a visit to the textile-laden Westerstraat Market in Jordaan were all punctuated with shooting photos. And we ate way too many stroopwaffles!
We also peered at property listings in estate agents' windows. Yes, we like Amsterdam so much, there's a chance we'll live there post-Paris. Check back later for more photos from our little adventure in Amsterdam.
Red geraniums and bicycles on a canal bridge.
Canal at 10:05 p.m. June 28, 2009.