In the port of Amsterdam

The earworm of that iconic song from " Jacques Brel is Alive and Well ..." stays with me as we descend into Schipol Airport for our visit to Amsterdam. We are incredibly fortunate to have one of our daughters living and working there. She is considerate enough to live in a two bedroom, two storey apartment in the busy downtown Jourdan area. This is our second visit in two years and this time, I am determined to get in some sketching.
Traveling light, I chose my tiny Winsor & Newton palette featuring 12 cakes and a tiny travel brush - red sable, no less. These accompanied by a couple of fine line pens and a charcoal pencil.
The view from my daughter's rear window overlooks a courtyard formed by three other houses, each built in the traditional Amsterdam style - most tracing their history back to the 17th century. Gillian's house is four storeys tall with many narrow stairs.

Bong headquarters

The front windows overlook the busy Haarlemmerstract with its constant tourists, apparently reckless cyclists, scooters and cars. The narrow street makes for interesting walking with one eye on the uneven cobbles and the other for a flying cyclist. This street, and others, are home to the "brown" cafes where coffee is the least of the customers' interest - the pungent odour of cannabis announces their presence.

With frequent rain showers, sketching has to be completed quickly and I left the paintwork until I returned to the apartment, or found a convenient pub. This quick sketch shows the Koepel Kirk, built in 1668, now a conference centre. It is a magnificent, round Lutheran temple and is built on the supposed spot where Jan Hus was martyred. At his execution he said: "There, where I die, a great bird will rise up".. The cupola is topped by a large swan.



Did I mention bicycles?

The Jourdan is divided into many sections by the beautiful canals, which dominate the life of the area and sweep in a great curve from one end of the district to the other. Each canal is crossed by several hump-backed bridges which pose the only gradients that cyclists face. None-the-less, they attack them with verve and swerve. The railings along each bridge, indeed railings everywhere, are festooned with bikes carefully locked.

A bridge over the Keisergracht

A week's stay was insufficient to capture many of the sights. A return visit, as long as our daughter remains working from this beautiful city, is in the cards.


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