Amsterdam Journal Day 6: Queens and Canal Tours

Last day! Unreal how quickly time passes when you’re enjoying yourself. And when jet lag keeps you awake night after night.

Nick’s work was done today so once more I had companionship for my jaunt through the city. The plan was to see the Catherine the Great exhibit at Amsterdam’s annex of the Hermitage and so we opted for a fairly quick breakfast at Bagels and Beans.

I went there the day I visited the Rembrandt museum; it’s situated right across from a flea market that’s been there in some form or another, for hundreds of years. Its current incarnation is basically a shabby collection of cheaply made hippie clothing and tourist tschotchkes with the occasional spread of garage sale junk.

In case you forgot your stoner clothes.

Despite its unpoetic name (and strong sulfur smell – what is it that makes places in Amsterdam smell like farts?) I liked Bagels and Beans. Casual, friendly service, affordable bagel sandwiches. We fortified with bagels and lox, then continued on to The Hermitage. The building isn’t exactly as impressive as the one in St. Petersburg. The museum was established inside a former home for indigent old women and looks fairly institutional.

One cool aspect of it leftover from its days as a home was its kitchen. Dating from 1725, its main feature is a row of huge brick cauldrons they used for cooking mass amounts of something stewy. They things are so tall, they were three-step wooden step stools next to them so the kitchen staff could get high enough to stir their contents.

When you gotta make enough gruel to feed an army.

The Catherine the Great exhibit was a good one, despite its centerpiece being only a copy of her diamond-encrusted crown.

I suppose security for the real thing would have to be insane, but it’s always cooler to see the actual artifact. Like Cleopatra, Catherine wasn’t exactly a great beauty; oval face, thin lips, biggish nose – a stop on the audio tour even had a quote by her saying people often told her she was ugly. Also like Cleopatra, she didn’t let her looks hold her back and used her charisma and intelligence to hold her own with the other monarchs of the world and to rule an entire nation.

Not every girl is besties with Voltaire.

Having little use for her weakling tsar husband, she seized power and began working her way through a series of lovers. She had two sons by men decidedly not her husband, but no one gave her any grief about it, and she routinely gifted her paramours with things like jewels and palaces. It’s incredible that within such a macho culture, a woman was able to do all she did, but then and now, she’s a hero to the Russian people.

Along with the Catherine exhibit, The Hermitage had an exhibit of Japanese outsider art that was both disturbing and phenomenal.

The power of outsider art is in my view, two-fold: its obsessiveness and its lack of self-consciousness. The two make for some really creative expressions.

By mid-afternoon our dogs were barking, so we mixed things up with a canal tour. We hopped an Uber to the boat dock which confirmed that driving in Amsterdam is nuts. The driver clearly didn’t want to take us exactly where we wanted to go, since he encouraged us to hop out blocks away from our destination. We should have listened to him, because TripAdvisor steered us to the middle of the Red Light district where there was nary a boat in sight. (Maybe auto-correct thought we’d asked for an “anal” as opposed to a “canal” tour?)

Anyway, we walked all the way back to the main docking area and caught an hour-long tour on a small open boat. The skipper was an Amsterdam native with a wry sense of humor. (Upon asking if English was OK for him to speak to everyone there, he quipped that we being from California, probably spoke Spanish.) The weather was cool, breezy and overcast, and the ride took us through the old city and among the three newer canals that date to the 17th century.

My favorite part of the tour was seeing all the houseboats along the canals. I could totally see living like that. There are some really beautiful little places, all equipped with cute little tugboats to travel around the city in.

Space age houseboat.

My second favorite part was coming across this boat full of people in their 60′s who were tooling around the Amstel in big, lazy circles singing at the top of their lungs. Clearly they were having a ball. At the sight of them the driver said, “And here I bring you to the part of Amsterdam where the idiots come.”

Other cool boat-related sights: a group of people having a picnic in a small boat with their dog watching the passing boat traffic; a guy steering his small craft with one hand and sipping a glass of wine with the other; a group of college kids jammed into a tiny boat sunk so low in the water, their shoulders hovered mere inches above it. Remarkable? Nope, just another day in Amsterdam.

It was after three when we got done with the boat tour and despite our flagging energy, we were determined to make it to a craft brewery called Brouwerij’t ij. The place was 3 km away and so we tried (and failed) to find an Uber. We then tried hiring a bike taxi but the guy wanted 25 euros. We ended up walking and it turned out to be a classic Nick “it’s not really that far” kind of walk. Meaning at the end you basically want to fall on your face and never get up.

The trek did let us see a different side of Amsterdam; a more real side. It took us through regular neighborhoods – perhaps a little on the low-rent side – that were much quieter than the center of town. Streets where you don’t risk death by bicyclist at every turn. Finally in the distance, we saw it: the windmill! That’s the main reason we wanted to visit this brewery, that it was set within a windmill. As it turned out, the tasting room was more to the side of rather than inside the windmill. Oh well, it was still cool.

We were starving by then, and partook of some brewery snacks: sausages, raw beef sausages and cheese along with our beer. Once again, the beer was really too mild in taste for us. What they call an IPA I’d call a mild ale. Their higher ABV offerings were better, but still anemic by US standards. Even so, it’s cool to see the American craft beer scene taking over the world.

Soft cheese, raw beef sausage (don't hate) and incredible grilled sausage.

Though we managed to stay awake long enough to sample the beer and sausages, by 4:30 we were beat. We grabbed an Uber back to the hotel (another good experience. Overall, barring one grouchy dude in a Mercedes, the Uber drivers were nice people and the average fare was around 5 euros) and slept until 8.

We very nearly blew off our last night in Amsterdam, being so utterly wiped out, but we forced ourselves to get up for one last long walk. We headed to a fish n chips place called The Chippy, again in a non-tourist part of town. Cool joint, blah food. Nick fared OK with a chicken curry meat pie, but their chef was apparently allergic to salt, and my fish n chips’ main flavor was a slight tinge of grease. Around 10 we walked slowly back to the hotel, absorbing everything we could in architecture and atmosphere along the way.

Call a cop. Someone stole the back half of this car.

Is this really a sight anyone needs to see?

Amsterdam, you definitely make an impression. Quirky, diverse, raunchy and historic, you’re one of Europe’s most interesting cities. Wish we’d gotten to know each other sooner.

Amsterdam Journal Day 5: Napoleon, New Shirts and Nutella

I write now with what’s left of my energy after six hours of walking and only four hours of sleep.

Jet lag hit hard last night again and I didn’t get any sleep until around 4 am. Unwise as it is, once I’d had breakfast with Nick (A hopelessly burned pancake. They apologized but didn’t offer to take it off the bill.) and seen him off to work, I crashed out again – or tried to – until 12:45. Housekeeping here at the hard-boiled hotel sounds like an eight-limbed one man band, which doesn’t make for great sleep.

Despite the noise, I could have slept all day, but forced myself up and out and through the steady, chilling drizzle to the Royal Palace. It was modest as royal palaces go, a squarish building with a ring of tourable rooms.

Absolutely miniscule by the usual palace standards.

What I learned there was that Amsterdam was built up and controlled by merchants until Napoleon’s brother, Louis Napoleon (What must that be like, being the brother of the conqueror of the free world? Probably like being Donnie Wahlberg.) was planted on the throne as a puppet king with a penchant for Empire furnishings.

One day he'll be a REAL boy.

Along with learning how Louis Napoleon magically transformed a civic hall into his own private beach house, the Palace’s main takeaway right now is an exhibit of official portraits, among which were these awful paintings of pin-headed women.

The nobles weren't a very good-looking bunch.

The Royal Palace thoroughly explored, I took a quick eclair break (and found these HUGE tubs of Nutella. Why don’t we have those in the ‘States?)

11 pounds of Nutella. Sounds about right.

…and then went to H&M to fill out the gaps in my travel wardrobe. Somehow, I managed to under pack and set myself up for going two days without a clean shirt. The only solution? Wasting valuable tourist time shopping for something cheap and comfortable.

H&M are certainly cheap, hence why I chose them. The problem was, everything they had that looked remotely like something I’d wear only came in small and extra small. Clearly all the other fat Americans beat this fat American to the punch. I finally dug up a couple of things I hope fit me. I also sprang for an umbrella. One of those lame cheapie ones you get from a tschotchke shop. Hope it lasts one more day.

Shopping left me with little more than an hour to see the Amsterdam Museum so I hustled up the road and bought me a ticket to four floors of fairly interesting Amsterdam trivia. The most interesting factoid I brought with me was that the city’s built on hundreds—nay, thousands—of pilings. That would explain the bendy architecture I suppose? The most interesting artifact I saw was this:

The Red Light district would no doubt find a secondary use for it.

No, it’s not a sex aid. Maids used it to spray water so they could clean high-reaching windows.

Walking around both the Royal Palace and the Amsterdam Museum, I couldn’t help thinking how the Dutch are still so relaxed, even in this era of International terrorism. In neither place were bags searched or people made to relinquish them. And unlike the U.S., there were no metal detectors or any other kind of obvious security measures. Clearly, despite what happened recently in Brussels, they’re retaining their social optimism. Maybe it’s the elephants?

Five pm signaled the end of the day for me and the start of the dinner search. By then my legs were complaining and my back was being a total asshole so I should have just grabbed the nearest thing and had done with it. Instead, I walked up and down and all around, still looking for the perfect gem. I never found it.

As anti-tapas as I am, I got stuck at a tapas place around the corner from the hotel. It was called Joselito, named after the winsome Andalucian film and singing star-turned drug and gun runner.

From before his smuggling days.

I ordered bread with tomato, endive salad and meatballs. The salad and meatballs were unremarkable but edible; the bread weirdly enough, was nothing but wet raw tomatoes smashed onto untoasted brown bread.

It was a soggy and bland as it sounds.

Now I’m in for the night and listening to some weirdo screaming his head off a couple of doors down. Wtf?? Sounds like a cross between someone who’s had too many magic mushrooms and a hysterical sports fan.

Amsterdam Day 4: How to Die a Penniless Artist

Before I begin, I forgot to post this before – one of the typical oddities I like to discover in strange cities: an ash tray awning.

Such concern for ashes I've never seen.

OK. Another day on my own. First on the solitary agenda, the Rembrandt House. Rembrandt bought the house for 13,000 guilders back in the day when the average person only earned 300 guilders a year. He paid for it though. Or rather, he didn’t. He financed the house and a number of years into the loan he defaulted and the house and everything in it was repossessed. D’oh!

The HOA hated this billboard.

Today the multistory house is a museum with rooms recreated as close as they can get to the way they were when Rembrandt owned it. The rooms were small by our standards and the doors low. Rembrandt had a fascinating collection of exotic items he used as references, a print shop, and a nice airy studio. Once again I was floored by the idiocy of tourists as they had be repeatedly told not to sit on the fragile 16th century chairs.

Rembrandt's cheeky fireplace and endangered furniture.

Rembrandt's portrait busts and stuffed alligator.

Poor Rembrandt. Just another example of a genius dying broke and being given a pauper’s burial. (His remains were actually destroyed and anonymously disposed of.)

After the Rembrandt House I’d wanted to hit the Anne Frank house but the GPS let me down again as I wasted time trying to find my way to Rembrandt Square. I grabbed a bagel and a latte near an impromptu craft market so’s to avoid wasting more time with lunch, and at long last ran across my objective. At least it was worth the trouble. The square was dominated by an imposing (and flattering – it’s decidedly svelte) statue of the painter surrounded by–among other things–the men of his famous Night Watch.

Rembrandt and his posse.

At four o’clock it was too late to get to Anne Frank at my direction-challenged snail’s pace so I opted for the Museum of Bags and Purses, which was just around the corner. This was a quirky kind of thing, a nice change of pace from all the heavy-duty history. Many of the exhibits were unphotographable thanks to dim lighting (to protect the fabrics and other materials) but I did get a few pictures such as this weird goat skin pouch worn on a belt from the 16th century:

Looks like a wearable goiter.

these cool Lucite bags:

This cute little mouse bag:

And this purse based on the work of artist James Jean.

Now I just need to find the shoe museum.

Evening dinner report – cloudy with a chance of Indian Food.

Amsterdam Journal Day 3.5: Stamppot!!

Every day presents a new dinner dilemma. How not to waste another great opportunity for savory excellence?

The evening bore witness to even more walking as we sought out traditional Dutch cuisine. We found it at a little alleyway joint near the Amsterdam museum called Tomaz. The specialty there is a bowl full of stodge called “Stamppot,” a mixture of Dutch beef stew, cabbage and mashed potatoes. It was definitely flavorful, although I prefer the Polish version of the dish (bigos.)

Stamppot

Bigos

Beer tourism was on the dessert menu and we went to a couple of different places hoping to try the local craft offerings. The first was disappointing—a place called Hoppy Days that billed itself as a beer bar, but then had only three beers total, all Italian beers with no flavor.

No molto benne.

We next went to Bierproeflokaal in de Wildeman, where the situation was better but where a couple of chain smokers nearly overwhelmed us with clouds of (for once) cigarette smoke. In that case, inside seating was better for our health.

Like chimneys they were.

Is that beer? I can't see through the smoke.

Late night for us old timers – out till 10 pm. Whooo!!
Of course, we paid the price for drinking that much beer. Jet lag set in with a vengeance and we were both awake from around 2:30 on.

Amsterdam Journal Day 3: Checks Yourself Before you Rijks Yourself

Rain! It was pouring this morning. Coming from the land of constant sun, we had no umbrellas and had to borrow one from the hotel. We walked to a little place called Omelegg, a rustic little bistro. Guess what they specialize in? I ate an omelette with Dutch spicy bacon (which it wasn’t), mushrooms and farmer’s cheese while 1920′s music played (“If you knew Susie like I know Susie…”) and Nick had a local dish called Shakira? Skapscrunch? Cap’n Crunch? (Shakshuka! I had to look it up.) It’s eggs in some kind of spicy tomato sauce.

Omelegg's rustic interior

An omelette and Nick's Shakalaka

After breakfast, Nick had to hang with the guys at Guerrilla Games so I caught a taxi to the Rijkmuseum (15 euros for a 2 mile ride! Geezus.) and on the way me and the cab driver got down to Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.” Once again, I’m in a musical time warp. The driver told me two things: that it shouldn’t be raining in August, and he’s sick of almost hitting people on bikes playing Pokemon GO.

He dropped me at the Rijkmuseum - drove right up onto the sidewalk to let me out since the city was unwise and didn’t build a drop-off lane. It was still quiet at 9 am, and once again my early-birdness was rewarded. When I left a few hours later, the line wrapped around the inside and went right out the door.

Fools! That'll show you to sleep in.

The Rijksmuseum (pronounced “Wrecks-museum) is a great but overwhelming place. If you start out carefully examining every display, by the end you’ll be staggering past artistic masterpieces like one of the city’s highly medicated street musicians. I paced myself by focusing on my favorites–detailed Northern Renaissance portraits and medieval wooden sculptures. The latter can be pretty creepy, but you can’t help but bow down to the skill needed to make them. Oh, and speaking of creepy, they had some interesting reliquaries…

St. Thekla, the patron saint of googly eyes.

St. Vitus, patron saint of small washtubs.

St. Frederick, patron saint of metal headgear.

…and some hilarious paintings of the Virgin and Child.

Six-pack Jesus, I'm so far away without you.

Air quotes Jesus.

Jesus eating peanuts.

Aside from various images of Messianic hilarity, another unlooked-for benefit of visiting the museum was being exposed yet again to a visitor with horrendous body odor. This guy made the one from the day before smell like a metric foot-ton of lavender sachets. I swear, it was hard to see the artwork when this guy was in the room because his stench permeated galleries 20 by 20 foot with 12 foot ceilings. I did all I could to avoid him, but somehow he kept finding me and announcing his presence with the eye-watering sour smell of decay.

I needed a literal breather so I went to the park that sits between the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum and had a mediocre latte from one of the little stands along the path. It’s a great place to people watch and pass the time if you don’t mind dive-bombing pigeons and being engulfed by pot smoke.

Not wanting a contact high, I went and stood in line at the MoCo (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) to see its inaugural Banksy/Warhol exhibit. The museum’s inside a gorgeous old villa and honestly, I was more impressed with the building than the art show. I like Warhol, but his work can be absorbed as quickly as a Campbell’s soup can (which I guess was his intention. Warhol was about surfaces, not depth.) and Banksy’s occasionally amusing, but makes ugly art. Ah well. Now I can say I’ve been there.

Still prefer Andy over Banksy.

Banksy takeover.

I wrapped up the museum marathon with the Design museum. As usual, the modern collection made me yawn, but the design side was pretty interesting, especially a special exhibit they have going now of the Amsterdam School. This was a creative movement from the 1920s that echoed the nouveau/arts and crafts movement I love so much. Lots of beautiful stained glass, organic furnishings, beautiful fluid textiles, etc.

Beautiful. 1920's bronze and wooden clocks.

Scary. Fake fur vagina coffin.

Three museums was all my phone could stand so I hoofed it back to the hotel on aching feet. The stupid GPS wouldn’t update in real time and believe me, I suffered before I finally ran into the hotel. At least I didn’t get into a taxi right around the corner from it and look like a weirdo like I did in Munich.

Stupid, high-maintenance Americans.

Amsterdam Journal Day 2: It’s pronounced “Van Hoe-gh”

Did you know Van Gogh is pronounced “Van Hoe-gh?” Like, with as much phlegm at both ends as you can possibly muster? I didn’t know that until today.

We walked to the Van Gogh–pardon me–Van Hoe-gh Museum and I’m amazed we made it alive. The bikes are out of control in Amsterdam. Thousands of bike riders all zooming along, whipping past pedestrians and one another, staring at their phones, indifferent to traffic rules. It’s like L.A. traffic without the pollution.

They are NOT kidding.

We managed not to get run over and made it to the museum at opening time. Little travel tip – don’t go late to the Van Gogh museum. By the time we left around noon, the line to get in was absolutely ridiculous.

I hate to admit it, but overall I was a little disappointed in the museum. Not that the paintings aren’t great to see, but the museum itself is a little ho-hum. On top of that, it offers a stupid multi-media tour thing on smart phones which means 80% of the visitors stand around in zombie-like groups blocking the paintings but not looking at them. Instead, they’re looking at those blasted phone tours. Worse than this though? The merchandising. Museums need to keep the doors open of course, but I’d say they more than jumped the shark at the Van Gogh. Dog harnesses? Snack foods? Ugh.

Dog water tastes better out of a Starry Night bowl.

Who knew abject poverty could be so delicious?

Post-Van Hoe-gh, we took a waffle break at a little cafe in the park nearby. Fresh stroopwafel and a Belgian waffle with Nutella. Mm mm! Oh, btw, I learned just today that the Netherlands and Belgium were once a single country. Duh. Guess I should have paid attention in high school history class.

Our next stop was the House of Bols to go on a genever tour. Genever being the precursor of gin and a Dutch invention, it’s a pretty big deal in Amsterdam. At HoB you get to test your sense of taste and smell (smelling all the different Bols tinctures) and at the end you get a genever-based cocktail. Mine had little edible ball bearings in it.

Smells like a passion fruit baster.

Drinking tours seemed like a good idea after that, so we next walked to the Heineken Experience. We’d hoped it’d be like the Guinness Experience in Dublin, but it wasn’t. It was definitely related–probably created by the same exhibit company–but only distantly, sort of like a less-accomplished second cousin. There was no tour guide and you had to take yourself through the exhibits. A big chunk of those were sports-related too, since Heineken’s been a FIFA sponsor for 20 years. Snore.

We did get to continue testing our olfactory sensitivity there though, thanks to this one visitor who had the worst B.O.! Seriously, we had to keep dodging away from him whenever he’d come near because this dude reeked. How can you carry a cloud of stench that intense around you and not know it? Aside from that, the worst part of the experience came at the end. when we were supposed to get to try different kinds of Heineken, including rare types we’ve never seen, and all they offered us was….Heineken. Nick was seriously mad about that. He sulked for a good ten minutes.

Mad, mad, mad!

Lunch was several hours late by then, so we started back toward the hotel looking for some grub. We were too tired to be all that picky so we stopped at a little pancake place and had bacon and ham & cheese pancakes with this molasses-y syrup. Good stuff. The pancakes are kind of eggy like a crepe, and the syrup works well with the savory ingredients. That place proved another thing people everywhere have in common – hipster servers are always more interested in talking to each other than serving the customers.

Late afternoon, time for another nap!

We got back up and went out again around 8 o’clock to look for some dinner. Fortunately, this time of year there’s a lot of daylight left in the evening. It doesn’t really get dark until around 10, so we had plenty of time to find the perfect restaurant. Good thing too, because we did it again—drove ourselves nuts trying to find the ultimate dining experience. We even sat down in a little Italian place and then left when it seemed they would take too long/the service wasn’t great.

We walked and walked and finally I accidentally looked to my left down an alley and eureka! I spotted a brewery, the Winkel en Brouwerij de Prael. They had food too, so we ordered a flight of beers, a charcuterie platter with Dutch beer cheese balls, brown bread and sliced meat, then the house milk stout and double IPA.

Yay! Meat, fried cheese and beer!

Service was again uneven. The servers were friendly, but didn’t think to bring us napkins or utensils and we had to keep stopping them to ask for stuff. They also gave us the wrong check (much lower than ours) but we were too honest to take advantage of it.

Our last stop was a small bar on a corner with around eight tables and a six seater bar. A friendly old bartender poured us some genever (mine was some kind of fruit variety) and Nick a beer too, and we sat and soaked in the atmosphere for a little while before going back to the hotel.

Goooood stuff.

Amsterdam Journal Day 1: Fancy cabs and Fetishes

So after thirty years of waiting and many times passing through Schipol airport, I finally get to visit the storied city of Amsterdam.

We landed at 9 a.m. on a warm, humid Sunday and caught a cab – one of the “fancy cabs” you’re not supposed to take. Ours was a Tesla with futuristic pop-out door handles. For such an ultra-modern car, its radio was incredibly out of date. “Summer Lovin’” from Grease was playing when we first got in.

Oh-ooh-oh those summer nights.

This led to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” Chalk up another surreal European arrival on par with the Minsk one set to Smashmouth.

It was 50 Euros for that fancy couple-mile drive to the Renaissance Hotel Amsterdam in the city center. The hotel’s pretty good, aside from the lobby constantly smelling like hard-boiled eggs. It’s near the canals and a mile or two from all the museums. Our room was miraculously ready at ten in the morning, which encouraged me to throw myself onto the bed while my husband Nick and his friend went out for some sight-seeing. When I regained consciousness, Nick and I headed out again to ooh and aah at all the beautiful architecture and shudder at the tons of trash littering the streets.

Like rabbit-shaped dildoes and the smell of pot smoke, it's everywhere.

Such a beautiful place, and people treat it like a garbage dump. It reminds me of when I went to Paris, how the streets were covered in dog dookie. Ah Paris, the city of romance… Well in my book, nothing kills romance faster than slipping on a fresh crap.

Anyway, we found ourselves in the docklands and stopped at the Delirium cafe for a beer. The bartender was kind of a wiseguy, but he did steer us toward some pretty good local beers (ironically done in an “American” craft style). We sipped under scudding clouds, watching boats drift by.

Hello Amsterdam. Let's get to know one another.

Beers imbibed, we set off looking for food, walking down narrow streets among tall, leaning brick buildings. This vertiginous architecture is apparently done on purpose. The three and four-story homes are very narrow and don’t come with furniture-accommodating staircases, so hundreds of years ago Amsterdam-ites (Amsterdamians?) slapped sturdy beams with hooks on them onto the tops of the houses to use as hoisting mechanisms.

This allowed them to lift their furnishings to the top floors without breaking any windows. Despite its totally practical nature, the bending, swaying buildings have got to add to the psychedelic experience so many weed-smoking visitors have when they come here.

No, the builders were not smoking weed.

Anyway, looking for food, we ended up in the Red Light district, which was swarming with tourists, despite its many signs featuring people performing live sex acts. You can almost hear the third graders now: “Dad, what’s a banana show?” (That I get. What I want to know is what the hell’s a “writing show?” A naked woman sitting at a laptop and staring glumly into space?)

Naked people on parade.

Of course the legal prostitution is the other most-anticipated feature of Amsterdam and people can’t wait to see the prostitutes in the windows. Funny thing is, it’s actually the opposite of sexy. Sure, they’re there, but most of them aren’t trying very hard to be alluring. You pass by and all you see are a bunch of bored girls in lingerie, chit-chatting with one another or looking at their phones. Nothing sexier than watching someone play Angry Birds in a thong.

I could mainline that peanut sauce.

We walked the length of the main Red Light street but decided a live sex act was unlikely to do much for hunger pangs so we went to an Indonesian restaurant where they serve Rijsttafel, a kind of Indonesian tapas with things like coconut rice, chicken satay and fried fish. Satay seems to be huge here, btw. Almost every restaurant, no matter what they served, seemed to throw a little satay on the menu.

It was ten pm by the time we were done but the streets were still thronged with people. It happened to be the last day of Pride so there were all kinds of colorful types out and about, but we didn’t get to enjoy the scene. Jet lag crept up on us and forced us back to our egg-scented hotel.

Disney Sketch Crawl #3

It was pretty hot at the Magic Kingdom today and I can use that as an excuse I suppose, for not doing very well. =/

Or maybe I’m just grumpy right now because of it and I’ll like these more later. In any case, I only managed three drawings in four hours and since the park was packed, I had to spend money every time in order to claim a seat in the shade.

Can't see the Matterhorn for the trees?

Zocalo Restaurant. Suffered through a bad Mexican salad for this one.

Plaza Restaurant, Main Street. I like the tree.

Disney Sketch Crawl #2

Well, I should be on my fourth Disney sketch crawl by now, but various projects have kept me from braving the traffic down to Anaheim. I finally did it though, and yesterday I chose California Adventure for subject matter. Once again, I’m not entranced with any of these, but as Dory from Finding Nemo is wont to say – “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

Ramone's Body Art, Radiator Springs

Hollywood and Sunset

Paradise Pier

Eureka Gold and Timber Co.

Sketch Crawl – Disneyland

Well, this year I checked one more big thing off my bucket list – getting an annual pass to Disneyland! For 20 or so years I’ve wanted to have the luxury of going to Disneyland and sketching, but was only ever there for a day or two during vacations when I really wanted to take part in all the attractions. Recently, I moved to SoCal and finally it makes sense for me to buy a pass. My plan is to go once a month and spend a day sketching, and my first attempt at executing that plan happened last Wednesday.

What I learned from this first visit was that:
1) Disneyland = sensory overload
2) It’s very easy to get distracted by fun things and not want to draw
3) You can easily waste all of your drawing time walking around trying to choose from literally millions of subjects

In four hours I only got four sort-of drawings done and I’m not happy with any of them. My goal was to avoid line drawing and focus solely on light and shade, but as you can see, I eventually fell back on what’s easier. Should’ve slapped my own drawing hand.

Tom Sawyer Island

Fantasyland

Hyperspace Mountain

Hyperspace Mt, value study


Exacerbating my disappointment in my own efforts was a fantastic exhibit on Main Street of some of the most brilliant pre-construction concept drawings. Called Drawing Disneyland: The Early Years – Imagineers Who Helped Bring Walt’s Dream To Life, it features some incredibly talented illustrators. If you’re over at the Magic Kingdom, you really owe it to yourself not to miss it.