Eating and Art in Amsterdam

Ciao Readers!

Today we go back to one of my favorite topics – the art of Van Gogh, with some yummy food thrown in for good measure. Despite catching colds and being rained on for several days, we ate well and overloaded on art while in Amsterdam. Being from land-locked, non-cosmopolitan New Mexico, any opportunity to eat interesting foods (and any from the sea) is a welcome opportunity. And any chance to see great works of art, another score. Instead of going on about everything we saw and did, I wanted to focus on two highlights – our “Rijsttafel” (rice table) dinner and the Munch/Van Gogh comparative exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum.

Rijsttafel – Since Indonesia was a Dutch colony for about 300 years, it’s no surprise that the Dutch gained an affinity for Indonesian food.  However, while the “rice table” is made up of a grand sampling of Indonesian dishes, this way of presenting them is uniquely Dutch.  It was created as a way for Dutch folks to sample dishes from islands all around Indonesia at the same time. And lucky for us! I lost track of how many dishes came out (you can count for yourself, below), but they were each unique and yummy (or at least interesting) in their own way. Some dishes reminded us more of Thai food (chicken in peanut sauce), while others had more of an Indian flare (curried goat).  They all had some level of heat (an added bonus for us chile-loving New Mexicans) and next to the meal in Rouen, it was the second-grandest feast of our trip – Yum!!!

Munch/Van Gogh Exhibit –  Man, I really have a hard time wrapping my brain around how I went from being someone without a passport to someone who has been to the Van Gogh Museum 4 times in the past 8 years!!!  Since I’ve gone on about Van Gogh in several posts, I’ll stick to the unique exhibit we just happened to catch during its final week in Amsterdam –  “Munch: Van Gogh.”  The exhibit focussed on the parallels between the two artists, who, while painting about the same time and some of the same subject matter, never actually met. One really cool thing was there was a TON of paintings on loan from the Munch Museum in Oslo, including one of the iconic “The Scream“-s (though since it’s done in crayon, I guess it’s not technically a “painting”).  The other cool things was, in addition to the hundreds of Van Gogh’s usually at the museum, they had many more on loan from around the world (including one from the Kröller-Müller Museum we’d been to the day before).  It was such an overload of amazing art that they actually had Stendhal syndrome boxes you could close yourself in to calm down!  All in all, between the Kröller-Müller Museum, the usual Van Gogh’s on exhibit and the on-loan Van Gogh’s, I think we saw almost 300 Van Gogh’s on this trip!!!

Pictures of Amsterdam, the rice table, a Munch/Van Gogh self portrait comparison (the one picture Steve was able to take before being reprimanded – unlike the Kröller-Müller, no photos allowed), and some seafood thrown in for good measure….enjoy:

 

Ode to Van Gogh (and the Orsay)

Ciao Readers!

I was trying to decide whether to do a separate post on the Orsay Museum in Paris and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and realized it’s all about Van Gogh to me, so I’ve decided to combine the two (plus I have no pictures from inside the VG museum).  I’m not sure I can articulate the reasons why, but Van Gogh is my all-time favorite artist.  His paintings just speak to me.  I like him so much I have waited in line for an hour in Albuquerque to see a single tiny Van Gogh on temporary display, and have been to the Orsay twice and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam three times (well, to be accurate, on this trip the Van Gogh Museum was temporarily housed in the Hermitage Museum as the actual museum is undergoing renovation).  So, do you get how much I dig him?  I even brought back a puzzle from the VG museum so I could continue to enjoy the experience!  (If you’d like to read more about Van Gogh, who failed to sell a single painting while alive and committed suicide in 1890, here’s a link.)

Before we get to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, though, we need to take a trip to the Orsay in Paris (Musée d’Orsay to be precise).  Not only because it has a decent Van Gogh collection itself, but because to my mind it is one of the nicest museums in the world (well, the parts of the world I’ve seen).  Why is the Orsay so great, you ask?  I’ll tell you.  First off, it’s beautiful.  Take a look from the outside, and then inside from the 2nd floor balcony:

the orsayinside orsay

The Orsay used to be a massive train station (complete with fancy hotel) that became obsolete back in the 1930’s (though the hotel remained open) and was scheduled for demolition back in the 1970’s.  However, some bright person(s) in the French Museum Directorate had the idea to collect all of the art from the 1800’s displayed throughout the city and house it here (keeping the restaurant from the fancy hotel and adding a casual cafe to boot).  Great idea!  The Orsay opened as a museum in 1986, with the beautiful clock from the train station remaining as the focal point of the museum….

orsayclock2paris through orsay clock

Not only is the museum beautiful, but it is well-arranged and the art is well-lit (often by natural light).  This stands in stark contrast to some of the museums here in Florence (especially the Uffizi), where you have to squint to see the art in extremely low light.  In addition to being wonderful to look at on its own, its art collection is the largest in the world focusing on impressionism and post-impressionism – my two favorite art periods!  Here you can find masterpieces by many familiar names, including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, Seurat, Gauguin, Rodin, Whistler and, of course, Van Gogh.  I can’t say enough about what a worthwhile experience a day at the Orsay is.

As this time the “no photos” signs were very pronounced, and I didn’t want to risk getting kicked out, I can only share a picture of me and two of the Van Goghs taken here in 2008 (this was shortly after I unwittingly had my head nearly shaved at a salon in Barcelona):

hope and vangogh

As for the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, it is what its name implies – the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings anywhere (he was Dutch after all).  The actual museum, which is under renovation, is a modern marvel and not only houses Van Gogh, but some impressionist and post-impressionist paintings of his friends and contemporaries (for example, Gauguin, who lived with Van Gogh for a bit until Vincent chased him with a razor blade).  While not everything is on display at the temporary location, the Hermitage Museum, we were pleasantly surprised at what a nice job they did basically recreating the Van Gogh section of the actual museum.  We walked the entire museum very slowly (only partly because of my toe), and then just for good measure went back to re-admire some of our favorites (including works inspired by Japanese paintings).  If you like Van Gogh, or think you might, I would definitely put this museum on any “must see” list!

Thanks for coming along on the museum tours!

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