A bustling Amsterdam

I was in Amsterdam last week, criss-crossed the whole city and tried to do some sketching. I found it extremely difficult to sketch in Amsterdam. I struggled to zoom out the busyness of the city and capture only the essential in a scene. The canals are filled with boathouses and with sightseeing boats, the streets with bicycles and people and cars and trees obscuring the narrow houses. And I sometimes feared for my life as, standing on a spot with a sketchbook in hand, doesn’t mean you’re in a safe spot. I had to jump aside many a time, from the urgent ringing of a bicycle bell, just to hear the clang of the tram behind me, which had me scuffling quickly left, directly in front of some service truck, fleeing to the right, of course on the toes of some nose-ringed stranger and apologizing back onto one of the many black garbage bags on the sidewalk. That would have me slog shakily into the nearest  coffee shop or bookstore.

An interesting city, with a heartbeat of its own. I’ve come to recognize many of the gables of the buildings, as we have them in SA as well. We ate kroket and patatje and drank our blond beers with a lemon slice. I enjoyed koffie verkeerd in the company of Rembrandt and Van Gogh and had my dry cleaning delivered to one of the other many Van Wijks there in Amsterdam. I saw the seductive silhouet of Madame in the window of her “Walletjies” apartment and quickly put my hand over Hartman’s eyes. A busy time. A busy city. I now revel once again in the quiet of my home back here on the banks of the Loire.

So here are some efforts, drawn on site in pen or pencil in my handmade sketchbook and moleskine and finished at the hotel with a wash of watercolour. For some pictures(more interesting and much nicer than the sketches!) you can go to Myfrenchkitchen.

…many bridges, many canals, many boats, many trees, many…

 …and more…

…giant amaryllus…

…bulbs, bulbs and bulbs…

…in the way of the tram…

Foire aux vins(Wine fair)

September/October is time for Foire aux vins in France. Time to refill those empty spaces in the wine cellar. Try out new wines, restock on old favourites. I enjoy a good red wine. But most of all, I enjoy the grapes. My favourites being Muscat(dark) and Chasselas(green). So I’ll have the grapes now and save the wine for later.

…let there be wine…

Sabre à champagne – a tradition dating from the Napolean empire. Coming back from a battle, the cavalry would pay tribute to victory, vigour, virility and of course…women, by opening up bottles of champagne with theatrical flaunt and flare. The cold bottle is held at the bottom and with a swift movement of the sable from bottom to the neck, the “cork is popped” right under the rim. A clean chop, leaving no shattered glass.

(Edit: I just realized how crooked this sword looks with the completely “off” shadow under the blade! Yes,  I confess. I held the sword in my hand and thus cheated on “seeing” the shadow on the surface…now that says a lot for competence…and I didn’t have a single sip!)

…”en garde!”..

Some fancy bottle openers are available today. The most efficient and quickest still remains the “couteau de sommelier“, which is the all-in-one every “garcon” (waiter) walks around with in his pocket.

And how about a decanter for aged wines to separate from their deposits, or a carafe for a young wine to “breathe”

…”1 2 3 breathe!, 1 2 3 breathe”…

I did intend to do more sketches showing the fun of the Foire aux vins, but laziness got the better of me. I think I’ll just stick to finishing the grapes I’ve sketched and open a Pomerol with dinner tonight.

Sketches done in pen and watercolour on Fabriano artistico block, 22×29, 5cm.