Saturday, July 28, 2018

Amsterdam Light Festival 2017-2018, Maritime Museum and Dinner at Spingaren

Last winter season, sometime in December (2017), I think between Christmas and New Years, Dutchman and I went to visit good old Amsterdam. We wanted to check out the yearly Light Festival.

Amsterdam Light Festival 2017-2018.

Dinner at  Spingaren.

We have been to an Amsterdam Light Festival a few years ago and that went down really good for us, hence this second visit, after which we planned to have dinner at this restaurant located on the main canals of Amsterdam Centrum. We call this the grachtengordel where the majority of the 17th-century gable buildings are located.

So we went to Amsterdam with the car and parked it outside the city center at the P&R Zeeburg in IJburg, a relatively new neighbourhood in the Northeast of the city. Parking fees in Amsterdam Centrum are crazily outrageous, it is going now at 7.50 Euros per hour (!!!), and thanks to the P&R parking, it is by far the most cost-effective and efficient way to travel by car to the city at 8 Euros only for 24 hours (price may change in time). From the P&R in Zeeburg, we took the tram to Amsterdam Centraal Station which was less than 10 minutes. Not bad at all.

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The "Scheepvaart Museum" (National Maritime Museum) in Amsterdam.

We kicked off our evening at the National Maritime Museum (Dutch: Scheepvaart Museum) which was the starting point I believe of the Light Festival. Entrance is free for the evening and I think for the duration of the festival. The building is beautiful and very imposing, it was well lighted from the outside but the inside was more spectacular than I have expected. They have decorated the ceiling of the inner courtyard with lights resembling like stars. The whole ambiance felt like you are under a very clear starry night!

Before the trip, I read about a pop-up restaurant exclusively catering only for the holiday season in the museum, and I wanted to book for dinner on the date we have appointed for our visit to Amsterdam but they were sold out. So part of my reason to visit was the curiosity about this pop-up restaurant. Indeed when we visited, there was dinner going on with a live classical quartet playing in the background.

The pop-up restaurant in the National Maritime Museum (Scheepvaart Museum).

Adjacent to the dinner happening is this bar with a very comfy lounge area. No reservations needed except for you to buy a drink. So Dutchman and I took a seat in one of the lounge sofas and ordered something to drink. We settled in with the diners as our view and the magical starry night above. It was quite romantic even with the large space.

I realised I didn't miss anything special at all with the pop-up restaurant. Maybe the food? But here we are, also enjoying the ambiance of the place with just our drinks.

We proceeded to check out the maritime's dock and saw a replica of the great VOC ship. On the other side of the jetty is the exhibition of the Dutch Royal Family's city boat called "Gouden Koets te water" (literally "Golden carriage on water"). It is officially the royal boat of the family which has transported them for years within the country during official events. The golden boat is not anymore used and has been given to the museum for historical display. So we checked the little boat first before the ship.

The Dutch Royal Family's official boat is now on display at the museum. This boat is super stunning. It's all painted in white and accented with bright gold.

The VOC ship (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, in English: United Dutch East India Company), on the other hand, is the crown of the Dutch Golden Age years. The years of colonisation and discovery when Europeans went out to seek far unknown lands to extend their power, influence, financial gain and posterity which are now the Americas, Asia, and South Pacific. The Dutch played a major global role in this and went on to establish numerous trading posts all over the world with the help of the VOC ship.

Trivia: Did you know that the VOC was the first multinational and publicly listed company in the whole world?

The Dutch traded spices, as well as Chinese porcelain, among many other items.

Inside the ship and the view from the upper deck.

After the VOC ship inspection, we crossed the canals to check out the rest of the Light Festival. We did not have a map so we followed the red line, which I believe was one of the art objects of the festival. The red line was basically the route of the Light Festival.

Perhaps the best way to experience the Amsterdam Light Festival was on one of the many boat cruise tours. Most of the artworks were stationed on the water and can only be seen up close with a boat. Although Dutchman and I are not residents of Amsterdam, we feel very much at home (a bit of a local) in the city. We both have worked in Amsterdam for years so you tend to take a part of the city with you wherever you go. Having said that, we did not really like doing the Amsterdam Light Festival boat cruise. It's just too touristy for us! I mean, I can see the Dutchman rolling his eyes just by the mention of it, lol.

So we agreed to walk and follow the red line, and these are some of the light and sound art objects we saw along the way:

One of the many drawbridges in Amsterdam. They are always lighted up in the winter season.

The "Whole Hole" by Vendel and De Wolf.

I found this artwork really stunning and mesmerising. Perhaps one of the most popular and most photographed art light work in the festival. The lights are moving, as if sucking anything that goes into it, like sucking the boats in.

The Thorbeckeplein near Rembrandt Square on the Herengracht.

The "Life Line" by Claes Meijer.

This was a very interesting mix of sound and light artwork. If you make enough noises under the water, the lines produce waves. So when captains of boats pass by, they give some marine pressure and the lights move. Really cool. Even when you clap and scream, the lines move!

These were like floating box houses on the canals executed in perspective drawing. Too bad I didn't get the title of this artwork and its artist's name.

"Windows" by Lynne Leegte. They seem to be floating windows.

Street winter lights are very popular in the Netherlands. In the winter they are everywhere in the country, in many cities, towns and even little villages. They help light up the dark winter months and cheer up the mood of everyone.

The "Life of a Slime Mold" by Nicole Banowetz. The artwork changes into different colours.

City Gazing by VOUW. The lights are supposed to be a map of Amsterdam!

Our verdict for the Light Festival? Mwah. I guess we had too high of an expectation, perhaps something to do with our previous visit that went down really well. So we are not sure if we are going again next time. Maybe, who knows? It will probably depend on our mood, so we shall see.

We did like the idea of walking around the city. Dutchman and I love to walk so that was something we really enjoyed. It was cold yet the walking kept us warm.

You can find all the light and sound artwork here: Amsterdam Light Festival 2017-2018 artworks

After the Light Festival, we walked to Spingaren Restaurant, which was, incidentally located along the route as well, specifically on Herengracht. So this was quite nice and very handy for us.

Yours truly, quite hungry here after the long walk in the cold.

I have read about the restaurant somewhere (I forget where already) and quite liked the interior, but I also learned about its interesting booking and discounting policy. You can reserve dinner slots (start time only) and each dinner slot has a corresponding discount. The earlier and later you book, the higher your discount will be. It sounds like a very interesting concept that works well for early and late diners.

This is in the middle part of the restaurant just after the bar area. The vertical garden wall makes me excited as I am going to have one at home very soon.

So here is our very nice dinner:

We had a shared starter of a charcuterie platter (this was a combi of 3 dried sausages I believe), some pickled cauliflower, cornichons and olive tapenade. We loved this to bits.

Then we moved on to the main course which is some steak (I cannot remember the name anymore, glad I took a picture though, haha) accompanied with an onion and fries. This was just so good. Both of us ordered the same but I had the barbecue port sauce (I think) while Dutchman chose the butter (or was it bearnaise).

Dessert was a shared creme brulee, their own version with chocolate ice cream, and then we had some coffee of course. Their creme brulee is not a favourite for me but it was good enough.

The bar area has a little counter shop where the restaurant sells some of the food they serve such as dried sausages and other gourmet items.

We really enjoyed the food here and we highly recommend the restaurant. Great place if you want to eat early or late because you get a discount! But make sure you reserve your dinner slot online first.

And our last stop before going back to collect the car at the P&R in Zeeburg is the Amsterdam Centraal Station of course. We are taking the metro tram underground but thought we will take a quick look at the lobby as I am sure it will be decked with lights. Surely, it was.

The lobby of Amsterdam Centraal Station (December 2017).

Travel Period: December 2017
Destination: Amsterdam Centrum, Amsterdam (North Holland), the Netherlands

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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