Amsterdam.

The flight from Southend Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol is surprisingly quick. Barely have you got comfortable in the seat with your book open, and easyjet have given up trying to sell you bacon rolls, and you’re about to land again.

We stayed in an Airbnb place in the Emmastraat area of Amsterdam, a 4th floor single room flat alongside a canal and a couple of very nice bars, the city centre being a 20 min tram ride, or a 45 min stroll though Vondlepark, away.

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The Rijksmuseum was still closed when we visited, and the Van Gogh Museum had relocated the paintings to the Hermitage instead. There is a 2-4h queue for tickets at the Hermitage in the day time, but you can buy tickets at the at the Van Gogh Museum with next to no queue and walk right in to the exhibition at the Hermitage. It’s well worth the 15 euros or so for entry.
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The flower market is a bit subdued at the moment because of the cold. Blubs and seeds are available to buy, but there were very few fresh flowers.

The public library is excellent, really really excellent. It has a very nice restaurant on the top floor too. Good freshly cooked food and wonderful cakes. They can make a half-decent cup of Tea too.
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Also worth seeing at the botanic gardens, a well welcome warm stop on a cold snowy day and the Van Loon canal house museum – the coach house in the garden makes for a very impressive shed.

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Three days wasn’t enough time to really see as much as we wanted, will definitely go back when the weather improves and the other museums are open again.

Valance House Museum

Yesterday I visited Valance House Museum for the fist time since it reopened in June 2010 following an extensive 2 year refurbishment. I’d been a frequent visitor before the closure, especially when I was trying to track down the whereabouts of the whale bones that give Whalebone Lane its name.
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The museum is greatly improved since I was last there, the displays are more cohesive and themed, it is no longer a rather disparate collection of rooms. It’s a shame the¬†Fanshawe family portraits are no longer displayed on the main staircase, and the Chemists’ Shop is now just a small collection of bottles and pill packets.

The gains definite out weigh the losses, The Dagenham Idol has returned to its proper home, the fishing history of Barking is explored and the early history of the Dagenham is investigated in separate galleries.

The whale bones now have a permanent home, in a glass case on the ground floor, bringing to an end my sporadic search for them. They look rather worse of wear, and could be pretty easily mistaken for some well worm-eaten wood.

A new annex building houses the gift-shop and cafe (two Teas and a slice of Cake for £2.60 Рnot bad at all) and the local history archives.

I spent an interesting couple of hours, it was well worth a visit. I’ll be going back soon.

Diamond Geezer visited last year. He enjoyed it too.