This whole trip started forming itself in my head when I came across this photo on the front of the L.A. Times Travel section in November last year.

There was something so magical about it. I've always wanted to go to Amsterdam, and though this is actually Leiden, I decided this was the time.

Needless to say, I thought a quick detour to Leiden on the road to Amsterdam would be a good idea...so, although I didn't have the photo with me I was looking for the spot I remembered as we walked around the canals, and when I got home and looked at my photos...

There it is! The funny thing is that the boats are in the same locations as in the winter scene. They must have regular spots they rent from the city.

What I particularly like about Leiden, is that the canals are so close to level with the sidewalks...it makes them seem easily accessible.

The Times Hotel was our destination in Amsterdam...although not a luxurious hotel the location was perfect, the people were helpful, and our room was wonderful, with the canal view I'd requested, and abundant light.

I enjoyed the way the blue on the wall brings out the blue in the mural of Frans Hals painting, "Banquet of the Officers of the Calivermen Civic Guard".

The bathroom was tiny, but so outweighed by the three beautiful windows overlooking the Herengracht canal.

The Times Hotel Lounge above...

My favorite place for coffee in the morning, a few blocks south on the Herengracht...

The view from inside...

The first day there we got our bearings by walking down every appealing street and canal we came across. We were lucky to have the most perfect weather while we were in Amsterdam.

One thing we noticed was how extraordinarily clean all the windows are. The old glass gives off such beautiful reflections.

Also, the amount of glass relative to the amount of solid wall is striking.

There's a wide variety of window sizes and shapes...

At the top of almost every building you can see a hook. This is what's used for both interior construction and furniture moving, as the doors are so narrow. The windows are designed to come out of their frames for just this purpose.

This window is divided so that only a third of it can open, but the pattern of the panes creates a more pleasing pattern than when a window is cut in half across the center.

Most of the stairs run along side the buildings as the first floors are set high off the streets, and many steps have to fit in, without taking up too much of the sidewalk. This one is running the other direction and as a result the stairs are very shallow. At the end of the day we saw many people using their landing as a front porch, somewhere to relax with a glass of wine.

Amsterdam must be an excellent climate for roses, as there are many growing up the brick walls. They look particularly good on the charcoal painted facades...

On our second day in Amsterdam we rented bikes. Everybody gets around that way...the bikes create a second layer around most of the metal railings.

A pair of birds who'd built a nest on a tire platform...

We took off for the museum district, where the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum are. The Rijksmuseum has been under construction for a number of years, and probably will be for several more, but they've kept it partially open, and there are highlights of the collection to be seen...iconic Vermeers, Rembrandts, Hals, and others.

This is quite an amazing display shelf.

I was unfamiliar with this artist, Jan Toorop (1858-1928). This is aptly named, "The Sea".

Going to the Van Gogh museum was a real pleasure, especially because I saw pieces I was unfamiliar with, like these two drawings from 1890, the year he took his life.

And this painting from 1890 as well, "Farmhouse".

There is something so endearing about this self portrait from 1887.

Later that day we biked around the canals and stopped at this antique store, d'Eglantier Antiquites on the Egelantiersgracht canal.

These tiny pots were used for medicine.

Frozen Fountain is a store on the Prisengracht canal, that is, along with Droog, the place to go for contemporary design in Amsterdam. There's an article in today's NY Times about it. A few things of interest there:

The colored cords are to hang pendant lighting.

This chair looks as though it's made from melting wax...it's actually fairly durable, but not for comfort! The imperfection of it's form would make it a dramatic accent against a dark wall. It's designed by Maarten Baas.

This umbrella from Droog might be useful in an urban environment, such as a roof garden, giving a dappled light.

Striped awnings and roller blinds are very popular in Amsterdam. These belong to a store in the "Nine Streets" area, a grid of 3 parallel streets that cross between the four main canals in the west part of the city.

We found these pierced Moroccan fixtures at a store called Fanous Ramadan, also in the Nine Street area. The simplicity of the pierced designs without a pattern make them very modern.

This was the show at Galerie De Witte Voet, on Kerkstraat, a ceramics gallery.

"A Circular Shift" by Rod Bugg

While we were in the gallery we met the artist, Anne Ausloos, who made this installation titled "Earth Reflections", out of clay from different places.

From the back room and a previous show, by Japanese ceramic artist Satoru Hoshino.

My favorite dinner was at Restaurant De Belhamel. I was so happy to get a table next to the water. The restaurant is located at the top of the Herengracht where it meets the Brouwersgracht. As if that wasn't enough the food was delicious too!

After dinner we couldn't go inside until the sun set. Everything was glowing.

On our last day in Amsterdam we visited the Anne Frank house. It's so simple and so powerful.

Hard to describe, but the family feels so present...the actual spaces, the actual pictures Anne placed on the wall, just as she left them.

Also, we went to the Hermitage to see a show called "Matisse to Malevich". It was a wonderful selection of paintings, from a period I really love. Here are some of my favorite pieces from the show...I picked less familiar ones, as some incredible, but already well known, pieces were on view.

Albert Marquet, "Port of Hamburg", 1908

Henri Matisse "Bouquet (Arum Lilies)", 1912

"Square in a Town in Provence", 1910, by Auguste Chabaud (1882-1955)

"Spring" by Kees van Dongen", 1908

This last painting from the Hermitage show, by Andre Derain, "Harbour", 1905, is a bridge to the last June travel post, as it looks like the harbor of Nice with the old town in the background.