As I sip my morning coffee in Bombay, back to the sights, sounds and smells of India, it seems strange to think last weekend I was in Europe!
It was a brilliant impromptu trip with many wonderful moments. Lucky me, last Saturday a friend had time to show me slices of ‘her’ Amsterdam that I’d be unlikely to explore on my own…
While originally from Japan, she’s called Holland home for 30 years – lured by her love of Western classical music and art.
Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam for a library lunch
What a marvellous idea to have lunch on the top floor of the Openbare Bibliotheek Asmterdam (OBA) in Oosterdokseiland, just east of the station. Fresh juices, wide range of salad options, fish, meat, Asian stir fries, crisp oven fired pizzas, coffees, teas and more, V&D La Place delivered on yum food with a fabulous view of central Amsterdam.
So in addition to satiating my appetite for food, it was a joy to see 10 floors of books, CDs and more! The library boasts of 28,500 m2, 1200 seats, 600 Internet-connected computers and a staff of 200. There is also an auditorium, an exhibition room, the Library Museum, the Gerard Reve Museum and 2000 parking spaces for bicycles (this IS Amsterdam after all!).
Highlight for me was the delightful mouse house in the children’s section. While most of the pics didn’t turn out (dratted reflection of the glass), it is well worth going to see.
Here are only a few images of the remarkable mouse house…
And yes – the view is fabulous even though they had already shut the outdoor café section.
New music conservatory for another view
We then went next door to wander the halls of the new music conservatory.
I had a flood of memories of years of music classes… sitting on the steps of the School of Music at the University of Manitoba waiting for my piano lessons… hearing the strains of music, rehearsals, chatting with guitarist Rodrigo Munoz – aka Papa Mambo before he was known for his group which 20 years later remains the latin pulse of Winnipeg…
Somehow the feel of a serious music school is the same anywhere in the world… the languages of music transcend borders even if the expression is opera, jazz or punk rock. I’m always in awe of those who listen to music’s call and devote their lives to bringing joy, sorrow and more to us mere spectators – the audience.
With posters announcing all sorts of interesting workshops, concerts and programmes… I could have spent a week just absorbing all the musical education on offer… including one that certainly appealed to the ‘Indian’ side of my nature.
And the view was an interesting perspective on old and new Amsterdam. To my right were all the gorgeous old buildings, well-preserved to the delight of tourists and locals alike. To my left emerged a new skyline of modern buildings and train lines… the box like structures to be found as easily in North America as Europe…
Old music conservatory transformed
In contrast with the sparkling glass building of the new conservatory, our next stop was the Conservatorium Hotel, designed by the Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel as the Rijkspostspaarbank in the Museum Quarter at the end of the 19th century.
As we strolled through this gorgeous hotel, my friend shared her insights into its earlier incarnation as the Sweelinck Conservatorium (1978-2008), consisting of three musical institutes.
At a ‘mere’ 450 Euros / night, it isn’t within my budget, but for those who can afford it, what a privilege to stay in a piece of Amsterdam’s history.
We rejoined our other friends as they finished their afternoon at the Rijks Museum to a boisterous band heralding the opening of the skating rink. Yup – winter was officially welcomed to Europe! Such a contrast to the balmy breeze of Bombay…
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