Royal Artis Zoo – again

If you’re a loyal reader of this blog then you may remember that we covered the Royal Artis Zoo in Amsterdam quite a few months ago. However, as we all know, animals never give the same show twice and as my mum was over for a visit (her first!) we decided to spend a very sunny afternoon at the zoo.

I’d heard a story from someone else about the lions killing and eating a heron that dared to enter their enclosure. And this visit, I experienced it first hand.


As we approached the lion enclosure we heard a loud squawk and then saw a female lion pouncing on something and roar the other lions away. A quick bite and shake later, and it was bye-bye birdy. As you can see from the picture above, the lion got stuck in straight away. Sadly, the bird’s mate stayed around afterwards, watching the scene out of reach on the top of some trees.


One of the many other, surviving herons which stalk the zoo. I expect the keepers don’t mind when the lions take a swipe at them – population control and all that. (Note: this heron isn’t the one who kept watch from the tree tops.)

The other herons had their own feeding time and continued the work of the food chain. Here they are hanging around, waiting to pounce while the penguins were fed:


Here are some other good shots from the day, including two of the elephants – my favourites. The baby is called Mumba. So adorable.

SAM_0191 SAM_0232

The gardens there are still in bloom, making it a beautiful place to simply sit and relax.


Lastly, another of my favourites – the prairie dog. So funny, especially when they make their high-pitched squeak, as it sets the others off. As you can see in the photo below, they’re not really dogs, they’re rodents.


I want one.


Didn’t It Rain – Hugh Laurie

View of the stage

View of the stage

A while ago I wrote a post about Het Concertgebouw, the concern hall in Amsterdam, and mentioned that we had tickets to see Hugh Laurie in June. As you may have noticed, we’re currently in the month of June, and last Monday was the concert.Although very excited, I was a little concerned about how good it was going to be. We’ve heard him perform on television and knew that he doesn’t have the best singing voice (as a lot of mainstream, best-selling artists don’t).

Hugh himself addressed the reason for my concern right at the beginning of the show – what is an actor doing singing on stage? What followed was an enthusiastic explanation of his love for blues and jazz, which set the tone for the rest of the performance. We also both felt that his singing was better than anticipated – evidence of practise making perfect?


I think he was also trying to qualify how exactly he has ended up in this position. He must know that many people who buy tickets to these shows do so merely because he is involved and I would imagine this makes him all the more eager to explain his love of music and the talents of the other performers involved because it wasn’t just Hugh on his lonesome.



He recorded the album of the tour and performs with a band, The Copper Bottom Band, and two fantastic singers – Sister Jean McClain and Gabby Moreno. His appreciation of their musical talents was also evident throughout the night – always ready to applause their performances and repeat their names to encourage further applause. Not that he needed to – it was evident to everyone there that they were a talented lot.

As they made their way through the last few songs of the set, Hugh encourage the audience to get on their feet and most people leapt (not literally) at the opportunity. There was an awkward period when a cluster of people gathered near the edge of the stage by Hugh and his piano and continually took picture of him whilst he was playing. That definitely would’ve put me off, but I expect they weren’t the first to do it, nor will they be the last.

I'm pretty certain this was a mid-song florish in time for the next big beat

Check out the monogrammed stool and Union Flag cushion. Nice.

In rather standard fashion (as we’ve come to observe) the Dutchies found Hugh particularly hilarious. Now, I’m not saying he’s unamusing, but there’s something about how English people can manipulate language and timing that foreigners (Europeans in particular) find much funnier than other native speakers. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, in fact these kinds of reactions have led Callum and me to feel we have the comic talents of a successful stand-up, which is definitely not the case. (Only one of us does…)

Dad dancing. But a rich, talented, funny, successful dad. So you can forgive him.

Dad dancing. But a rich, talented, funny, successful dad. So you can forgive him.

Throughout the performance the slightly crazed, middle-aged groupies seated in the front row next to Hugh’s piano handed him, and occasionally the singers, flowers and cards. By the end of the night he had quite a haul, but I think his night was made when these were lobbed on stage:

Slippers in the shape of clogs? Score.

Slippers in the shape of clogs? Score.

Overall, it was a brilliant show; I downloaded the album from iTunes the next day. There were only 2 negatives – one: that the position of Hugh’s piano made it difficult to see him when sat down – especially for me, as I am a short-arse. Two: we had to wait 20-25 for Hugh and the band to appear, after the warm-up act had been on. That’s just not cool. To make it up to me, Hugh, you can invite me round for tea the next time Stephen Fry is there. Thanks.


Best Cinema in the World…?

The Tuschinski Theatre in Amsterdam is as beautiful as it is easy to pronounce.


Widely regarded* as the best cinema in the world, the venue takes you back to the birth of commercial cinema. The stunning architecture is not limited to the main auditorium but coats every surface inside and out in a blend of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Amsterdam School. This confluence of tastes is born of lethargy: the first architect failed to finish and was ultimately fired, leaving Tuschinski himself and others to finish up with eclectic results.




During the war, the theatre was renamed ‘Tivoli’ to, you know, like, ‘hide’ it from the Nazi’s (?!?).



The labyrinthic corridors, recesses and confusion are no accident; the design was for privacy, and the original finish accommodated, amongst other things: a Japanese tea room, a cabaret, and a Moorish suite. The foyer is designed to feel like one has stepped into an illusion, appropriate for a cinema, and the slowly changing colour of the ceiling certainly helps.



At the turn of this century, the entire cinema was expensively and gently renovated. This appears to have had a lot of local support, in particular by KLM who flew the foyer carpet back to Morocco for renovations with the original thread at a supposed freight cost of £90,000; one 40th of the cost to build the theatre in the 1920s.

*I know at least two people who agree. CNN have never heard of it though, and they shortlist these uglies instead.

Het Concertgebouw

We’ve been to a couple of short concerts at the Concertgebouw (in English, literally, ‘concert building’) in Amsterdam, but only in the small hall.

The above photo is a shot of the main hall.

When we heard that Hugh Laurie was coming to Amsterdam to perform in the Concertgebouw, we immediately decided we had to go. Hailing from the UK, we had heard of Hugh Laurie long before House (and before the cameo on Friends that many Americans think was his “breakout” role)… maybe Stephen Fry will be sitting in the audience watching?? (You never know.)


The tickets arrived today! Now we just have to wait 2 months and a day to see Hugh Laurie and the band…


The top two photos are taken from

Het Scheepvaartmuseum- The Maritime History Museum

The Maritime History Museum is housed in a quite spectacular building- possibly the most striking museum space in Amsterdam, although the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijke might wade into such a debate.


Much of the building is set aside as courtyard space; a relic from its industrial past. This is now topped with a very modern, compass-inspired roof that marries old and new seamlessly, almost as if this was the original design.


The exhibits are rather minimalist. This suits the building perfectly, but rather retracts from its potential as a museum.


The exhibits feel quite contrived to portray the might and dominance of colonial Dutch trading and warfare. There is very little apology about the atrocities (think profiteering from slavery and warfare) that such power was built upon, which rather glamorizes the era.


Outside, there is a striking Dutch ship. This looks impressive in a picture, but does feel very much like the replica it is once inside.


Overall, worth a visit. But Amsterdam is blessed with 50 or so museums, some of which should be prioritized above the Maritime History Museum.

Museum Willet-Holthuysen


TripAdvisor places The Willet-Holthuysen Museum at #59 of 239 attractions in Amsterdam, which sounds about fair.


It is satisfying to enter one of the beautiful canal houses, which are normally so tantalizingly out of reach, and the view onto the canal offers a new perspective.


This particular abode formally belonged to the Willet-Holthuysen whom, childless and wealthy, donated their house to the city upon Louisa’s demise in the 1895. It is disappointing to learn that much of the house is a recreation rather than a preservation, however.


If you have a museumkart, then this is well worth a visit, and is conveniently located on the Herengracht for a quick foray. Otherwise, the €8 entrance fee might smart, and could be better spent on an Amstel on the Amstel.

Artis Royal Zoo

One of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam (second most popular according to the adverts) is the zoo. Surprisingly big for a zoo in the middle of rather small capital city, it’s very easy to spend a whole day there. Here are some highlights from the two visits we’ve had there…

When one of the animals has a wee, you have to take a picture. It’s practically a law.

We were lucky for our first visit, there were lots of baby animals there, including Simba

The red ruffed lemur monkeys are free to get pretty close to you

There’s also a large aquarium, which is one of the places you can visit on Museumnacht.

Awesome starfish

Our camera battery died before we could take any pictures of Mumba, the baby elephant, so here’s one we took from the Artis website:

“Don’t talk in rank, it’s against regulations”

The butterfly house is pretty big, with lots of different types of flutterbys to keep you interested in the humid temperatures

That’s quite a tongue you’ve got there

This isn’t a man in a gorilla suit, but it really looks like it

Always a favourite, we spent some time watching the penguins…

Penguin boyband

There’s also quiet spaces in the zoo, including picnic spaces and gardens.

Ahh…. zen

The Home of Coffee

Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam.

In the 17th centuary, traders of the wildly successful Dutch East India Company (VOC) brought back a single specimen of Coffea arabica. Coffee and the Europeans have relied on each other ever since. To take coffee to the USA, however, a Norse siren and a Moby Dick character were needed. But that’s a story for another time.

But I didn’t know all that when I visited, so I here are other pictures:

ENORMOUS cycad. There is a specimen there that is over 300 years old. Maybe this is it?

One very, very naughty tree.

Now you stay in there and think about what you did.