Amsterdam - Museum Van Loon & Café Lanskroon

A portrait in one of the bedrooms of the canal house, Museum Van Loon, in Amsterdam.

It rains and it's okay. That's my new travel mantra. Inclement weather can be such a bother when you're exploring a new place. I always hope for blue skies and moderate temperatures when I set out on a trip and, for the most part, I've been extraordinarily lucky weather-wise. My luck caught up to me last fall in Amsterdam where I had several chilly, rainy, generally miserable to be outside kinda days. Ultimately the rain slowed me down some, but it also gave me the opportunity to put my Amsterdam Museumkaart to good use. In just one day I visited three small museums that I probably would have missed otherwise.

A rainy view into the lovely gardens of Museum Van Loon in Amsterdam.
An elegant, light-filled sitting room in Amsterdam's Museum Van Loon.

My first stop was the seriously lovely Museum Van Loon. This well preserved Canal House was built in 1672 by William Van Loon, one of the founders of the Dutch East-India Company. It's a gorgeous home full of period furniture and lots of tall windows that fill each room with light, even on a gray day. Conveniently, the Van Loon house sits on the Keizersgracht, or the Emperor’s Canal. It's one of the widest canals in Amsterdam and houses several Museumkart eligible museums.

One of many beautiful rooms at the Museum Van Loon in Amsterdam.
A rainy day in Amsterdam is the perfect excuse to explore some of the city's smaller museums, like Museum Van Loon.
A statue marks the year 1578 in the garden of Museum Van Loon.

After Museum Van Loon I stopped into another historical Canal House, Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis. It's not quite as charming as the airy Van Loon complex, but still a nice way to spend an hour. The home has a beautiful little library and very nice gardens. There was a couple taking wedding photos inside, which made touring a few of the rooms a bit awkward.

My last museum stop of the morning was FOAM, Photography Museum Amsterdam. I almost didn't visit -- I was starting to get a little hungry. But I'm so glad I decided to stop and tour the collection. I was thrilled to learn that FOAM had just opened the traveling exhibit, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer. If you're not familiar with Maier's work and story I encourage you to check her out.

In a nutshell, Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for most of her life while producing an astonishing output (100,000 to 150,000 negatives!) of street photography in her free time. She was extremely secretive about her work which was only recently discovered by a third party. In 2007 John Maloof won a haul of negatives in a storage unit auction and has worked since then to develop, curate, and promote Maier's photographs. After enjoying the exhibit I was delighted to discover Maloof's documentary Finding Vivian Maier was available on demand to watch on my flight home.

The perfect afternoon pick me up in Amsterdam, an espresso and stroopwaffel at Lanskroon.
One of the cafe's resident cats patrols Lanskroon in Amsterdam.

After museum hopping all morning, plus a stop at the Spui Book Market, I needed a pick-me-up. Pint size cafe Lanskroon was just the place. I had a to wait a few minutes for a seat, and my treats, before I settling in to warm up. The cozy shop offers a wide variety of sweets, including pies and cakes, but I chose a traditional Dutch treat, the stroopwaffel. Roughly translated to syrup waffle, a stroopwaffel is two thin, wafer-y cookies that sandwich a layer of syrup or some other sweet gooey substance. I ordered the coffee caramel stroopwaffel (they also have a honey-filled option) which was oh so nice paired with an espresso. If I did it all over again (and I would, happily) I might get a latte and do like the Dutch, setting my cookie on top of the coffee to warm up the filling.

An espresso pick-me-up at Lanskroon in Amsterdam.
A special treat on a rainy day, coffee caramel stroopwaffel from Amsterdam's Lanskroon cafe.
Entrance to the lovely Lanskroon cafe found right in the heart of Amsterdam's city center.


Prague - Cafe de Paris

A walk through the colorful streets of Prague.

Sometimes I feel like I'll never get caught up blogging about my travels. I love being able to share my photos and experiences, especially as processing the images and writing about what I did allows me live it all over again. Still, I have never been a fast writer, putting words to paper (or web page) will probably always be slow going for me. What I'm trying to say is that the events pictured here happened a while ago. I was in Prague last fall and I'm just now back from 12 days in Paris. I ate and enjoyed steak frites in both cities. First at Cafe de Paris in Prague, then at Le Relais de l'Entrecôte in Paris.

A foggy view up a fall hill in Prague.
Through a shop window.

At Cafe de Paris there's only one thing to order, Steak Entrecôte. You can start with some foie gras or onion soup, but the set menu of salad, bread, steak, and fries is more than enough for the average human. Out first is a generous salad, nicely dressed in a mustard-y vinaigrette, a small plate of sliced baguette on the side. Then, in no time at all, two platters arrive. Steak and fries served in abundance. Your waiter will portion both precisely onto your plate.

A very pretty salad.
Steak Entrecôte and Frites

Periodically he'll swing by to refill your plate with more steak, more fries, and most importantly, more sauce. It's a lot of food. The beef and fries are good, not great-the beef just a touch chewy, the fries a bit too crisp. Their real task is to serve as vehicles for the secret (as my waiter made sure to inform me) sauce. Rich with butter and loaded with shallots and herbs, it could make an old shoe palatable.

A bubbly bottle of cranberry juice to go with my meal.
I bet I know what they'll order.

It's a comfortable little restaurant. The dining room is intimate yet modern with smartly dressed waiters in waist coats and bow ties. I arrived to an empty restaurant just after opening, around noon, but the small space filled up quickly. By the time I was done every table was full and there was a group waiting. Bring cash! I had read that it was a cash only restaurant during my research, but it completely slipped my mind until I arrived and, thankfully, saw the sign on the door. So I wandered around for a good twenty minutes hunting down an atm to fund my meal.

Mmmm saucey steak and frites
A second serving

Stuffed and happy I headed back out into a foggy Prague to check out the view and library at Strahov Monastery. A few photos for now, I'll leave the rest for a future entry.

A tram in Prague.
Mint & snakes
Good morning.
arches + babies
tram tracks
Books in Strahov Monastery's Theological Hall
The grand Philosophical Hall at the Strahov Monastery
The epic view from Strahov Monastery, hindered a bit by the fog.
From the top of the hill.

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