A Travellerspoint blog

The Grand Finale!

rain 12 °C

Sunday, 27 April 2014
Sofitel The Grand
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Yesterday was the official last day of our cruise, but today is the official last day of our vacation. And in case I forgot to mention it yesterday, I definitely think that cruising from Brussels to Amsterdam is the way to go: Amsterdam makes a great grand finale to the vacation…if we’d done it the other way, I think the rest of the trip wouldn’t have been able to compare to the grandeur of Keukenhof Gardens, King’s Day (did I remember to mention yesterday was the first King’s Day ever? They’ve always had queens before…I am definitely suffering travel fatigue.), the canal cruise, and the Rijksmuseum. And today, we put the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae: the Van Gogh Museum and the floating flower market!

We started our day with our transfer from the riverboat to the Sofitel hotel, which is right smack dab in the middle of the central portion of Amsterdam. We trooped from the buses to the hotel with Joeri (turns out I’ve been spelling his name wrong all week!), one of the Tauck guides. We were supposed to have a hospitality room waiting for us, since our rooms wouldn’t be ready until the afternoon. Apparently, though, nobody told the hotel because they were clearly flummoxed as to what to do with us. And Joeri was NOT happy about that! They marched us into one conference room where they couldn’t get the lights on, then realized that must not be correct and paraded us down the hall to another one. Our only question before setting out for our adventures was, “Where’s the bathroom?” The one they sent us to was LOCKED! So we simply sashayed across their totally glamorous lobby (yes, I think Beautiful People stay here) and asked the concierge where the public restroom was. He replied that we had one around the corner from our hospitality room. Sadly, we had to break his little heart and tell him that it was locked. We almost got a spit take!

The demands of nature attended to, we set out for Dam Square, which is pretty much the Amsterdam equivalent of Times Square. Our goal was a department store whose name translates to “The Beehive” (sorry, I can’t remember the Dutch…like I said, I’ve got travel fatigue verging on travel fugue), which is the store the girls at the Pandora store had told us about for office supplies. It was tres chic, that’s for sure, with lots of high end stuff like Ferragamo and Longchamps. Sadly, their office supply selection focused primarily on the brand Paper Chase, which I can get at home, so for perhaps the first time in recorded memory, I left a stationery department without purchasing a single item! (I told you, I’m not well.)

From there, we decided to set out for the Van Gogh Museum, where we had tickets for timed entry at 1:00 pm (it was now about 11:30). And it was fortunate that we did. We experienced…navigational difficulties…we’ll call it. Our plan had been to walk to the museum, which we were informed was about 10 minutes from our hotel, have lunch in the café, then tour the museum as scheduled. It was 12:30 before we found the Van Gogh museum, which we are attributing to rain and a slightly iffy map. We still had time to put the lunch plan into action, but the line was of BIBLICAL proportions, and they wouldn’t let us into the museum through the timed entry line until our scheduled time. So, we wandered down the street to a restaurant (it was pissing rain, and the opportunity to stay dry was quite attractive) and sat down, but nobody came to wait on us. We made an executive decision and left, then went back up the street to a little sandwich stand and had sandwiches (tuna for me, ham and cheese for Julie) and shared a waffle with Nutella (oh how I’ve missed it—NONE on the ship!) for dessert. By then, it was three minutes to one, and so we sauntered up the street to the timed entry line and got to jump the line of BIBLICAL proportions and go right in! (Thankfully, I had gone online on the ship Friday night and bought those tickets, because I don’t think I would have waited in a line that long if they were giving away free boob jobs at the front of it!)

Interestingly, the Van Gogh museum was the first one we visited that has metal detectors and bag check, but the screener simply waved us through—we must have honest, non-art-vandalizing, non-terrorist-looking faces! I wish you could have seen the artworks, because they were as wonderful as you would imagine. But, unlike the Rijksmuseum, there is a strict no-photography policy—the Rijksmuseum would let you take pictures without a flash. And the docents/guards were enforcing it, too: one woman tried to sneak a picture of the explanation beside one of the paintings and the guard busted her. You know, of course, that I was not-so-secretly cheering! What did we see: irises, haystacks, several self-portraits, one of the potato eaters, almond blossoms, parts of his Japanese series, Van Gogh’s actual palette, his easel, some of his paints, and his perspective frame. If you want to know more, come visit me because I bought the museum guide and another book about Van Gogh—I will happily show them to you!

There was a REALLY interesting exhibit that talked about the color shifts that have occurred in Van Gogh’s paintings due to oxidation or photodegradation of pigments and dyes that he used, particularly the red ones. Consequently, many of his paintings that now appear blue were actually purple when he painted them (think “Irises” as a prime example). Now you KNOW I’m not going to leave that alone, so when Julie and I hit the gift shop, I looked for a book that talked about the chemistry of all of this. I didn’t find one, and was almost resigned to the disappointment, but when we came OUT of the gift shop, having paid for our purchases, I saw a sign that said, “Visit our bookshop on Level 3.” Since this entailed going back through the security screen, I ran back into the gift shop and asked a clerk if there was such a book. There was. So we went back through security and took the elevator to Level 3 (which is actually the 4th floor, since the ground floor is zero in Europe). I asked the clerk in the bookshop about such a book, and she pointed to a monster of a book. Sadly, I knew there was no room in my luggage for such a weighty tome, and I remarked as much to her.

“Oh, but we ship! Just take this book downstairs and they’ll ship it home for you.”

“You mean I don’t have to pay for it here?”

“No, you can pay for it downstairs and pay for the shipping there, as well.”

So I simply walked out of the bookstore, back down the elevator, back through security, and back into the gift shop, thus proving that the guard’s belief in my honest face was justified, because I could have simply kept walking right out the door with that book. And it was not cheap! But, as my friend Robin says, character is what you do when no one is looking, and I took the book back up to the shipping desk. I explained that I wanted to pay for the book and the shipping. (Can you guess where this is going?)

“I do not think you can pay for that book here. But let me get my boss.”

Boss: “I am so sorry, but this book is not in our system, so you cannot pay for it here. You must pay for it upstairs.”

“Can I pay for the shipping up there, too?”

“No, they do not know how to do that. You must bring the book down here for shipping. I am very sorry.” (And she really was apologetic.) This was the point where Julie retired the field and told me she’d wait for me in the café. (For your reference purposes: gift shop = outside security; café = inside security; bookshop = inside security.)

The supervisor escorted me upstairs (thereby bypassing the third security screen), where I paid for the book. Then I went back downstairs with the book and my receipt, exited security, and went back to the gift shop and paid for my shipping. Then I went back through security—this whole process having become a farce at this point—and met Julie in the café, where we shared a lovely pastry they called a profiterole cake. I’m going to have to hunt down that recipe, because it was YUM-O! And Julie says to tell you that only Pepsi products are available at the Van Gogh museum, which is sorely disappointing. And by the way, the already-well-traveled book will arrive in Delaware in two weeks.

Having adopted a slightly better map mid-trip, our return from the museum to the hotel took the as-promised 10 minutes, not including our significant stop in the middle: the floating flower market, or Bloemenmarkt. These are bulb, plant, and flower stalls that are actually housed in house boats (or would it be store boats?) along one of the canals. They had hundreds of different types of tulip bulbs, amaryllis bulbs, cut tulips, flower and vegetable seeds, cacti, and grow-your-own marijuana kits (seriously!). It was a flea market-like atmosphere but with bulbs, not junk. We didn’t buy anything because of a) the aforementioned space problem and b) we weren’t sure if the bulbs were agriculturally certified for export. (I know there are rules, I just don’t know what they are.)

From the Bloemenmarkt, we started walking toward the hotel to drop off the rest of the days haul, with the intention of wandering the Red Light district for a couple of hours. Then, in an act of serendipity that proves God is a woman and She takes care of her own, I glanced over and saw it: a STATIONERY STORE! (And even better—across the corner was a Waterstone’s bookstore—Nirvana!) I got some really cool new highlighters, but was trying to behave so I didn’t buy any of the wonky A4 sized paper (really, it would kill them to switch to 8 ½ by 11?). We made it to the hotel, where we had to be led to our room (this hotel used to be either a palace or a prison…we can’t remember which, and it is majorly confusing). By the time we got in our room, we decided we were too pooped to hit the Red Light district, so we went downstairs and got a recommendation from the concierge for dinner. He sent us to an Indonesian “rice table” restaurant, which is a type of cuisine apparently very popular here in Amsterdam. The best way I can describe it is Indonesian tapas. And it was all good: chicken satay kebobs, shrimp kebobs, hard-boiled eggs in a curry sauce, a whole cooked mackerel in sauce, pineapple and mango in peanut sauce (way better than it sounds) beef curry, green beans and corn (spicy!), and some condiments, like papadum crackers. It was all delicious—well done concierge! For that, and for your high speed internet that is actually high speed, we forgive you for the fact that you gave us a room with one king-sized bed and that we need GPS to find our room!

So here we are, watching “CSI” on some English-language channel—and are grateful to be watching something besides CNN International—and hoping this hotel room will quit rocking! Bags have been weight-redistributed, and I am sure that I will briefly regret all the books I bought, since I put them in my carry-on so my suitcase won’t be over weight. Not that I don’t trust Jeremy’s calibrated lift, but I’ve added more stuff since yesterday! It has been a fabulous trip—we met lots of nice people (even if they do walk slow), saw lots of amazing sites, ate way too much great food, and even enjoyed the atypical stretch of dry weather. But now it’s time to come home, and I think we’re both ready—my cabinet installers are coming on Thursday, so I have something to look forward to. Thanks for following along on our travels—hope you enjoyed your trip!

Love from Amsterdam….

Posted by hidburch 12:01 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam flower_market van_gogh_museum bloemenmarkt Comments (0)

Oh. My. God.

semi-overcast 15 °C

Saturday, 26 April 2014
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

It is fortunate for my peeps that I am typing this, because I am virtually struck speechless by the wonderfulness of this entire day! Today’s itinerary: Keukenhof Gardens, Amsterdam canal boat ride, and Rijksmuseum. I will try to do each element as much justice as I can, but it will be challenging in the extreme!

Keukenhof Gardens, which translates as “The Kitchen Garden,” was begun in 1949 as a way for Dutch bulb growers to showcase their products. (Interesting, gratis factoids about Dutch agricuIture: The Netherlands is the world’s second leading agricultural exporter, behind the United States. It is responsible for 80% of all bulbs, 70% of cut flowers, and 50% of potted plants, as well as 1/3 of all tomatoes and 1/5 of all apples.) Keukenhof Gardens is only open for two months out of the year (this year from March 30th to May 20th) and it is ALL ABOUT TULIPS. (Okay, they allow in other bulbous plants, like daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, and amaryllis, but tulips are the dominant species.) According to the little book I bought (of course), it takes a staff of 30 gardeners three months to plant the over 7 million bulbs, all by hand. And there are no carry-overs from last year: the plantscape is dug up and destroyed each summer and replanted again starting in September. To ensure that there is a constant parade of blooms for the two months that the garden is open, the gardeners use a method that they literally call “lasagna gardening:” they plant the bulbs in three layers, with the bulbs that take the longest to flower going in at the bottom, and those that flower the quickest at the top. Et voila: constant bloom for two months!

This is the part where I would typically have a description of the day’s adventures. I will try, but this is where there are no words. It is pretty much something that must be seen to be believed. We boarded the motorcoaches this morning at 8:00 am, which actually put us at the garden before it officially opened at 9:00 am (TOTALLY a Burch family standard time move…I approve.). The ever-efficient Tauck guides handed us our garden tickets and turned us loose. Nine o’clock must be a soft opening time, because they let us in the gardens as soon as we got there, which totally accommodated The Plan. Per The Plan, we walked all the way to the back of the gardens, where the model windmill is located, so that we could get a look at and take pictures of the tulip fields—long, uninterrupted swathes of one color of tulips. Breath-taking! From there, we power-toured our way through the gardens (we only had 2 ½ hours total, and per The Plan we allocated 45 minutes for shopping). And when I say power-toured, I mean pushing old ladies and Japanese tourists out of the way power-touring! It was crowded when it opened, and progressed to mayhem as the clock ticked nearer to noon. Ay-yi-yi! However, there was simply too much good stuff to see: tulips of every color and variation, including double blooms, pointed blooms, striped/variegated blooms, fringed blooms, and the color combinations were stunning and sometimes surprising: deep purple planted next to coral orange; snow white interspersed with blood red; yellow and purple; purple striped with white next to white striped with purple. The combinations are too many to name. Everywhere you looked were thousands of tulips. Or sometimes daffodils, or hyacinths. And then there were the pavilions. In one of them was a special show of orchids. I went in a little jaded, having been to the orchid spectacular at Longwood Gardens. This one was just as awe-inspiring—while the Longwood show has exemplars of more (and more unusual) species, this one had simply thousands of orchids, arranged on multiple levels. There were also some bromeliads, including anthuriums. In another pavilion, they had a show of spring flowers, including traditional bulb flowers, hydrangeas, lilacs, and azaleas. In a third pavilion, there were little tableaus that featured flowers in some fashion. Several of them were scenic backdrops of Amsterdam or other locations in The Netherlands, and when photographed in front of them, you look like you are actually there! All of them were adorable. I promise I will put up pictures when I get back to the Land of High-Speed Internet.

It was getting to be about 10:30, so we started pushing our way through the crowd back to the location marked “Bulb Information” on the map, figuring that would be the place to order bulbs. Not so much. Instead, they had exactly what they advertised: information about how to get a bulb from a seed, and how to plant them. For some reason, none of the staffers we passed could tell us how to get to where the bulb selling actually transpires, beyond, “It’s back that way.” So we went “back that way.” So we fought our way through the throng to the bulb sale, which was surprisingly uncrowded. It was pretty neat, too: they had a huge pictorial catalog of varietals to choose from (now THAT was overwhelming—how do you choose which of over a hundred varieties of tulips that you like best?), and it also included daffodils, hyacinths, etc. Fortunately, they also had “collections” (assortments) that were grouped by them—that did make the shopping somewhat easier. I was very disciplined in my bulb shopping—the landscaping crew in my development generally cuts down anything they didn’t plant, so no bulbs for me! Julie will basically be starting her own bulb farm next fall, however! (So if she calls you about helping her with her gardening, you have two choices: RUN or pack a lunch!) It was getting to be about 5 minutes until 11:00, so we powered our way back to the main gift shop—this would be where I literally pushed a couple of old ladies out of my way, since walking four wide across a three-foot sidewalk seemed to them to be the height of fun. Ugh. Anyway, we made it back to the gift shop and I was able to pick up a couple of books and some postcards, but sadly no 2015 calendar for my office. Guess I’ll have to stick with another Longwood calendar.

We made it back to the bus with about 5 minutes to spare, which was needed since literally hundreds of buses had shown up after we arrived. The Tauck directors were standing in the road with signs directing us! From there, it was back to the ship for lunch (spaghetti in the Bistro Bar or lamb in the main dining room…the proof will be left to the reader as to which one I chose).

Shortly after lunch, we boarded open-air canal boats for our ride to the Rijksmuseum. Why no motorcoaches, you may be wondering? Well, it turns out that today is King’s Day in Amsterdam. The streets (and waterways!) are THRONGED with people drinking, dancing, and celebrating the first King’s Day since The Netherlands became a constitutional monarchy—prior to this, they’ve always had queens and celebrated Queen’s Day. As a result of the legally-sanctioned anarchy of the day, many of the streets around the city center were closed to traffic, so we went via the water. This turned out to be an absolute blast. I am trying to think of a way to adequately describe this party to you. The best I’ve come up with is Mardi Gras crossed with a drunken frat party crossed with an LSU tailgate and on boats! We passed boat after boat after boat, jam-packed (well beyond their Coast Guard safe occupancy limit) with people wearing all manner of weird orange shirts, leis, boas, and hats, listening to music, drinking, dancing, and smoking. And maybe a few of those cigarettes could possibly be purchased legally in the United States, if you get my drift.

The Tauck directors were REALLY nervous about this part of the itinerary, afraid we would not be able to make it to the Rijksmuseum because of boat traffic on the canals. We were much more sanguine about it, especially since they gave us dessert while we sailed. We were all having a jolly good time waving to all the crazy people on boats we passed, and even on the streets and bridges. And they were all so drunk they waved back! (And by the way, did you know that you can pump up the bass on the stereo system on a boat so that it rocks the other boats around it, just like a car? Hell, some of these boats even had a DJ! And there seemed to be no qualms about drinking and boating—in the States, the jails would be stacked three deep after what I witnessed this afternoon.)

The canal boat company had assured Tauck that they could get us to the Rijksmuseum using the “back canals,” and they were as good as their word: we docked right across the street from the museum at 5 minutes to 3:00, and our appointed tour time was 3:00 pm. They divided us up into groups and sent us out with expert museum guides. Our guide’s name was Pauline and she was FASCINATING! She took us directly to the good stuff, the Dutch Old Masters on the third floor of the museum. None of this messing around looking at Egyptian artifacts or Victorian furniture! After being closed for 10 years (10 years!) for renovation, the Rijksmuseum reopened last year. Supposedly, Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” is the only painting still in its original location, but what a location: at one end of a long hall filled with paintings from the Old Masters like Vermeer, Hals, and Rembrandt himself. And it is a HUGE painting. In fact, it used to be even bigger, but when it was too big to get through the door of where it was to be originally hung, and they cut off some of the sides to get it to fit! One interesting thing Pauline told us is that there are only something like 30 Vermeers known to exist because Vermeer had a regular job working for the city of Delft and could paint as a hobby. Rembrandt and Hals, on the other hand, were “bread painters”—they painted to pay the bills—so their output was much more prolific. Hals could paint to order, say if you wanted to be taller or skinny, he was happy to oblige. Rembrandt, on the other hand, would only paint you as you truly appeared, and would typically depict you as a biblical personality. For example, he painted himself as St. Paul, and his son Titus as St. Francis of Assissi. She also taught us quite a lot about the symbolism in Old Dutch Masters—for example, a small stove in the corner or depths of a painting meant the subject was loved or in love, since a stove gives warmth. (Don’t ask me to explain it—as every English teacher I ever had will tell you, I have an inherent mistrust of symbolism.) I’m not much for Old Masters, but Pauline’s explanations really helped bring the paintings to life!

After the tour, it was a whirlwind spin through the gift shop (and that was a pity, since it was truly an excellent one), then back on the boats for our return to the ship. It was at that point that we became a party barge, too: out came wine, kegs of beer, Coke, chips, cookies, peanuts! They were prepared for boat gridlock, but it never materialized—we made it back to the ship by 5:45 and were ready for the Captain’s farewell toast at 6:30!

After dinner, Julie and I finished up our packing. I was concerned that my suitcase was a little…um..weighty because of all the books I purchased, so I walked up to reception to ask Jeremy, our wonderful cruise director, if he had a luggage scale. No, he didn’t not, but he is a calibrated lifted! He came down to our cabin and pronounced us both under the 50 lb limit. (Regardless, I’ve got the books where I can get to them easily if I have to pull them out and put them in my carryon at the airport…a girl has to be prepared!)

Tomorrow we will be transferred to our hotel around 9:30, then Julie and I have tickets to the Van Gogh museum. Should be lots more wonderful art tomorrow, and I can take as long as I want at the gift shop! Love to all from Party Central!

Posted by hidburch 13:32 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam keukenhof_gardens rijksmuseum king's_day Comments (0)

It's Dutch Colonial Williamsburg!

sunny 16 °C

Friday, 25 April 2014
Enkhuizen/Hoorn, The Netherlands

Today was another split day. We set sail late last night across the Ijsselmeer, a VERY large lake similar in size to one of the Great Lakes and sailed all night, including through a pretty spectacular thunderstorm. This morning about 8:30, the captain gave us the alert that we were about to sail through the Hourtribdijk Aqueduct. This is a pretty famous aqueduct, and you all have probably seen pictures of it without knowing the name. You see, it’s the aqueduct where the ships sail OVER the road! There’s a lock set into the dike, and the road runs perpendicular to the lock and under the road. FR-EEEEEAKY! It was quite breezy on the sun deck, but the view was definitely worth it! Think of the engineering required to keep all of that working…awesome!

After subverting all the first law of civil engineering (water runs downhill), we docked in the quaint town of Enkhuizen, in the province of North Holland. Here’s an interesting factoid for you: Holland is actually only two provinces in the country of the Netherlands: North Holland and South Holland. However, this includes the three largest cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, so most people associate their conception of what is Dutch with these two provinces: windmills, canals, cheese, etc. Anyway, our target for the morning was the open-air Zeiderzeemuseum. It’s a fascinating museum, and the best way I can think to describe it is sort of a Dutch version of Colonial Williamsburg. They have houses, shops, farm buildings, schools, and a church, all of which are original buildings that were saved and moved to the site of the museum in Enkhuizen. They represent various periods in Dutch history, from the late 1800s to the early 20th century, as well as various regions of Holland (NOT the Netherlands). There are craftspeople in the “town”, such as a basket maker and a blacksmith, and they do demonstrations. There is also an apothecary and a baker, as well as an example of a Dutch school with a room representing the early 1900s and one from the 1930s. There are also houses belonging to typical residents, including a “poor widow” who sells flour and kerosene and takes in laundry to support herself, as well as a married couple, the husband of whom was a fisherman who was injured in a boating accident. And just like Williamsburg, and even Plymouth Plantation, the reenactors know only their time period and don’t break character to answer questions. They also have assigned roles. We had a very knowledgeable guide named Yvonne, and several interesting things she told us included:

The clotheslines…they are made of plied rope (two strands twisted together). Rather than clothespins, the rope is untwisted slightly and the edges of the garment are tucked into the twist. This method of fastening works in any kind of breeze, which is important since it was REALLY friggin’ windy today. (You’ll understand when you see my hair in the pictures…it ain’t pretty.)

The roofs are both thatched and tiled. The thatched side is toward the sea, since it can weather the wind better. The tiled side is needed to collect rainwater for drinking, since the water in the omni-present canals is brackish. If there has been no rain for a while and salt from the sea air has crystallized on the roof tiles, there are two rain barrels: one for the first little bit of rain needed to wash the salt off the roof, and the second for the potable water. AND there’s a diverter “trough” between the two! Ingenious!

The trusses or main beams of the house are anchored on the outside of the brick walls (always brick…there are few stones in Holland, while bricks can be manufactured) with large iron brackets. This helps keep the trusses in place as the homes, which are built upon land reclaimed from the sea, settle as the earth compacts beneath them.

Sheep are used to maintain the dikes. Yes, they do a good job of keeping the grass mowed, but their feet (which are daintier than cows) do an excellent job of tamping down the earth of the dike to ensure structural integrity.

I could have spent all day at this fascinating museum (I didn’t even get to the gift shop, and I desperately wanted a book to take home), but we had to cut our visit short because it was time to head back to the ship so we could set sail for Hoorn, our mooring for the rest of the afternoon. Lunch today was one of the best so far: spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, and tiny little ebelskivar pancakes for dessert. This is a classical Dutch dessert, and there’s actually a word for it, poffertjes, but if you have the ebelskivar pan from Williams-Sonoma, you can experience them for yourself. Or you could buy me the special ebelskivar iron, and I could make them for you. Regardless of where you get your pancake fix, there were also French fries. I know, French fries don’t go with spaghetti, but they were for some main dish that involved meat and sauce that I had no interest in. Maybe Dutch stew?

After lunch, it was back up the gangplank and onto the motorcoaches for our afternoon outing: a cheese-making farm and a museum with a functioning windmill! On the way to these locations, we actually passed through tulip fields, and I can promise you (and later show you…this Internet is too sketchy to try to post many pictures) that it looks just like the pictures you see: long rows of tulips blooming in color-segregated blocks. Yoeli, our guide, told us that very few of the flowers are actually used—they are grown for the bulbs. But riddle me this, Batman (and maybe this question will get answered tomorrow at Keukenhopf Gardens): to get the flower in the first place, didn’t you have to start with a bulb?? Inquiring minds want to know.

Our first was the cheese-making farm. Well, more accurately it’s a diary farm that also makes cheese. And there were cows. One hundred of them. And they forgot to use their RightGuard this morning, that’s for sure. The farmers, Ari and Corey (the spellings are a phonetic best-guess), are an older couple, and he deals with the cows and she makes the cheese. He utilizes a robotic milking machine, and the cows have been trained (with food coercion) to enter it every eight hours. Each cow has an RFID tag, and if that cow has not been in the milking machine in the last eight hours, the machine dispenses food, then uses laser telemetry to hook Bessie up to the automated milker. Each cow takes about 4-6 minutes to milk, depending on the yield. There is also a robotic manure-cleaning machine that I think needs to be made to work a little harder. Yuck is all I will say about that.

We also got to see the baby calves. On Ari’s farm, the babies are separated from their mothers after 24 hours and are all kept in a special barn, segregated by age group. There was one set of female twin calves, and Ari said that those two calves will remain bonded for life—they will go to the milking machine together, graze together, etc. Apparently, though, if the twins are fraternal (one boy, one girl), that girl calf is of no use because the presence of the male fetus deprives her of the right hormones, and she never develops ovaries. Consequently, she is sent with the male calves to the beef farm to be fattened up and converted to Big Macs.

After tromping through the barns (I’ve never had to check the “I have been in the presence of livestock box” on my customs declaration form before…wonder what’s going to happen?), we went to the cheese-making operation, which is pretty much Corey’s exclusive domain. Using fresh, unpasteurized milk (ergo, no treats for you’uns, as it’s illegal to import unpasteurized cheese products), she heats it, stirs it, adds the rennet and whatever else (maybe some derivative of yogurt bacteria? She spoke English, but I never could understand what she was trying to tell me about how to get different varieties of cheese…and yes, I asked. By the way, Ari didn’t speak English, so Yoeli, the Dutch tour director, had to do simultaneous translation for us!) The whey is drained off after the curds coagulate, then the curds are cut repeatedly until the texture resembles cottage cheese. The curds are packed into a form, then pressed to remove excess moisture. She coats the outside of the cheeses with wax, then the cheese is left to age: 3 weeks for a small cheese, and up to 6 weeks for a larger size. Corey told us that it takes 10 liters of milk to make 1 kg of cheese! Oh, she did explain the difference between Gouda (pronounced “Gow-da,” like “Cow-da,” over her) and Edom: same recipe, different fat content. Gouda is (I think) 24% fat content in the milk, while Edom is 14%. Or maybe it was solids content… anyway, they are fromage kissing cousins.

After sampling the cheese, it was back on the bus for our trip to the Museum-molen, or the Windmill Museum. This museum features a trio of the traditional “Dutch” windmills (you know, the ones you immediately associate with Holland if you see a picture), one of which is still operational and set up for tours. Windmills were originally built to provide the mechanical power necessary (generated by the turning blades) to turn an Archimedian screw that was used to remove water from the polder. (And as near as we are able to tell, a polder is basically the Dutch term for a plot of land enclosed by a dike and from which the water has been removed to reclaim the land.) Since large portions of Holland are several meters below sea level, and given the first law of civil engineering (the second is that water plus dirt equals mud), water removal is an ongoing need. One mill is capable of displacing water about 1.5 meters (or, as we engineers say, the head is about 1.5 meters). If you need to move the water a greater distance, you just build another windmill in series with the first. This is called a windmill trace, by the way, in case this is a Final Jeopardy question some day. And, after displacing the water, the rotational mechanical energy of the mill can be used to grind wheat or other grains to make flour. Also, the direction of the blades is reversible so that it can be tasked to catch the wind, no matter which way it’s blowing. Nifty, hunh? And just like a lighthouse keeper, the miller lives IN the mill!

Then it was back to the ship. We had time to walk around the little town of Hoorn, but we had to do it quickly: all the shops closed around 6:00 pm. We did find one little ticky-tacky tourist shop still open, but it was perfect for what we were looking for: orange accessories to help celebrate King’s Day tomorrow. I picked up a lovely orange crown headband, and Julie got an orange flower lei. We saw Dutch people walking around with similar items, so I think we’ll blend in to what has been promised to be a helluva party. (I’m picturing Mardi Gras with Dutch accents! Hope there are no beads to be won…) I did feel badly, because I bought a magnet and in the course of doing so knocked a little ceramic magnet to the floor, where of course it broke. I apologized to the shopkeeper, who told me that breaking things is good luck in Holland. I offered to pay for it, and even introduced him to the expression, “You break it, you bought it,” but he wouldn’t let me pay him for it. I hope he does a booming business in orange leis and tiaras tomorrow!

We had a lovely dinner with our new friends Stephanie and Ann (you know, our future selves), including cherries jubilee flambéed right in front of us for dessert, then it was back to the room to rest up. Tomorrow is the grand finale: Keukenhopf Gardens and the Rijksmuseum in the midst of the King’s Day chaos in Amsterdam. This oughtta be an interesting experience!

Love from Hoorn…

Posted by hidburch 14:37 Archived in Netherlands Tagged windmill cows cheese hoorn enkhuizen zeiderzeemuseum museum-molen Comments (0)

The Japanese Tourists Followed Us to Holland!

sunny 18 °C

Thursday, 24 April 2014
Kroller-Muller Museum/Arnhem, The Netherlands

Those of you who have been with this enterprise from the very beginning (way back in the Paris days, before I had become sophisticated and adopted the blogging format, rather than mass emails) may remember my comments about the preponderance of Japanese tourists in Paris and Australia. (Interestingly, I do not recall this issue arising in Ireland or on the Christmas Market Cruise. I totally understand the lack of them at the Christmas markets, but I’m going to have to think a little bit more as to why they were not so in evidence in Dublin…) Regardless, they’re BAAAAACCCCCKKKKK!

We started out the morning in Nijmegen, which is in the Netherlands, but almost at the German border. From there, we boarded motorcoaches for our choice of destinations: either the Kroller Muller Museum or a tour of the battlefields around Arnhem. (For those of you who are military history buffs, which I most assuredly am not, this is apparently the site of the infamous “Bridge Too Far.” There’s also a movie with that title, and Mel suggests you watch it. I have no opinion either way. You are all adults and free to do as you wish.)

Have I told you about the poker chip system yet? It’s actually the relatively easy and painless way Tauck uses to break the big group up into manageable groups for things like boarding buses and tours with local guides. They put out dishes of different colored poker chips, with the number of different colors corresponding to the number of sub-groups they need to have. You grab a chip for yourself and through it in the champagne bucket (yep, they are using a champagne bucket). When all of the chips for a particular color are gone, that group is full. You can use the system to either be with your new friends by grabbing chips for your entire group at once, or you can avoid people—for instance, I have observed some spouses picking different colors! Anyway, blue has been good to Julie and me, so we’ve stuck with it all week.

So we boarded the blue and red bus for the ride to the De Hoge Veluwe National Park, in the midst of which is situated the Kroller-Muller Museum. This museum is similar in provenance to both the Isabella Stewart Gardner and Barnes Museums: Helene Muller, a rich heiress, married Anton Kroller. Anton, using money he won in the Belgian lottery(!) bought into Daddy’s steel and mining concern, where he quickly increased shareholder (i.e. the family) value. Poor Helene simply did not know how to spend all that money (and her diamond shoes were too tight, too), so she started collecting art, specifically Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, and more specifically Vincent Van Gogh at the behest of a Svengali-like art history teacher named H.P. Bremmer. The resulting museum was a protracted and collaborative effort to build a home for her magnificent collection. Hers is the second largest collection of Van Gogh in the world, second only to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, containing more than 90 paintings and 180 drawings. What differentiates this collection from the Gardner and Barnes collections is that the curators have the authority to add selectively to the collection; for example, paintings by artists Helene enjoyed but perhaps couldn’t afford during her life time. Also, I don’t think there are any funny rules about stuff having to be left in exactly the same place, because the museum catalog indicates that they bring in special exhibits, etc.

We arrived at the museum to discover two things: it was school field trip day, and that a large portion of the population of Tokyo (or maybe Osaka…frankly, I didn’t ask) was on holiday at THIS museum. It was like the Christiana Mall at Christmas, people—pushing, shoving, elbowing…and that was the little blue-haired ladies! And just like at the Louvre, they were taking selfies in front of all the paintings—I think I managed to avoid any Japanese tourist photo bombs, but it required stealth and patience! Avoiding the Dutch school children who were on some kind of an art scavenger hunt was more challenging. Frankly, this was one of those days that had me wishing for a do-it-yourself tubal ligation kit.

We ended up with a docent named Sandra who very clearly Knew Her Schtuff. She managed to lead us on a tour of the museum whilst dodging the crowds. Audibility was abetted by these little devices that Tauck gives us, called Voxs. They are basically a closed-circuit microphone system—we wear the receivers and an ear piece (not unlike a TV news anchor man), while Sandra and the other guides wear a transmitter and a lapel microphone. They work surprisingly well and facilitate situations just like this, when locations are crowded and noisy. So, despite the crush of people, we could hear Sandra just fine. She guided us the history of Helene’s acquisitions, as well as the historical and artistic significance of the pieces. We saw Van Gogh (of course), Monet, a Cezanne, Renoir, a lovely artist by the name of Isaac Israel, as well as several pointillists, including Paul Signac, who was new to me. I really liked his work, but sadly, the gift shop was out of the book about him. The Cubists were well-represented, with several Picasso paintings and a sculpture, some Gris, and a Bracque or two. I also found a couple of Mondrians that I particularly liked. One interesting factoid that I managed to retain (hey, you try listening, walking, photographing, and dodging and weaving among Japanese tourists—there is simply no bandwith or hands left to take notes!) was that Van Gogh signed all his paintings “Vincent” because the French (where he lived and to whom he was trying to sell his work) could not pronounce Van Gogh correctly. The best Dutch phonetic pronunciation I can come up with is “Van Gochk” with the “chk” sort like how Achmed the Dead Terrorist says his own name—lots of pleghm. And of course we ended our visit at the gift shop, which didn’t have the Signac book, but I did get a little book about the history of the museum and one about “The Essential Van Gogh.” You are welcome to borrow them if you wish to enhance your appreciation of art!

We did a quick tour of the sculpture garden outside the museum, where rumor has it that there was a Rodin in there somewhere, but we didn’t spot it and we had to haul buns to claim our good bus seat. About that bus seat—we have determined the optimal spot on the bus: the two seats immediately behind the back door on the right hand side. This allows us to both board and disembark the bus expeditiously, which is saying something when dealing with the geriatric crew. The effect of this seat choice is exponential, because if you get off the bus first, you get on the ship first, you get exchange your shore pass for your room keys first, and you can beat them to dinner, too! And for those of you who’ve been with me since the Australia excursion, it is the QANTAS boarding protocol all over again!

We caught up with the ship in Arnhem, to which it had sailed after we got off. Applying the rapid entry/exit protocol, we made it off the bus and onto the ship first, which allowed us to hit lunch in the Lido Bar first. Hot dogs were promised for lunch. What was served bore a passing resemblance to a hot dog, in that it was a tubular sausage of some sort, but it was definitely NOT a hot dog. We will give them an E for effort, but I ended up eating salad and fruit. Julie says the chicken Caesar wrap in the main dining room was delish. Live and learn.

After lunch, we set out for a self-guided shopping tour of downtown Arnhem. Julie found a lovely new bracelet, but more importantly, I got the name of an apparently awesome office supply store in Amsterdam from the two sweet little clerks! Cha-ching! (Am I the only person I know who considers foreign office supplies good souvenirs?) I found a cute cookie cutter at a kitchen store that had an EXTENSIVE assortment of gorgeous china, then we hit absolute what we thought was pay dirt but turned out to be a dry hole: a store called Cook & Book that sold…you guessed it…cookbooks. I recognized the DUTCH LANGUAGE versions of many baking books I already own, but found nothing in English. (Again, local baking cookbooks = excellent Heidi souvenirs. I hope you people are writing all this stuff down.) We also found the Hokie Pokie diner, and a comic book shop that had Smurf books in English (don’t ask).

It was starting to sprinkle a bit, so we headed back to the ship in time to listen to our pre-dinner entertainment: an amazing trio of classical musicians called La Strada. Two violinists and a guitarist played a selection of classical pieces, Gerswhin, and even some gypsy tunes. They were magnificent! After that, it was time for dinner, which was actually REALLY good tonight: shrimp cocktail, butternut squash soup, beef tenderloin, and brownies with ice cream for dessert. I give it four stars.

Tomorrow we are going to have a really Dutch experience: we are touring a cheese farm and an old-fashioned windmill! Wonder if I can scare up some wooden shoes for a photo op…

Love from Arnhem.

Oh my goodness! I can’t believe I almost forgot to tell you about my sleuthing work. Remember I told you about seeing the captain and the blonde who works the front desk having dinner in Veere? Well, this morning she was giving out the shore passes, and I noticed that she had a wedding ring on (as does the captain). Using my highly-cultivated deductive reasoning skills, I concluded that perhaps they are married to each other! So, and Julie can’t believe I did this, I asked Jeremy, the cruise director if they are, and he confirmed it. So no scandal at all…not sure if I’m happy at the happy ending, or disappointed at the lack of scandal!

Posted by hidburch 22:49 Archived in Netherlands Tagged van_gogh arnhem kroller_muller Comments (0)

Delft: How a Girl and Her Money Were Soon Parted

sunny 20 °C

Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Delft/Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Today was one of the tour days that I’ve particularly looking forward to: the tour of the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory in Delft. But it was just like Christmas Eve: the tour was in the afternoon, so I had to wait through an excruciating morning of sailing to Pappendrecht (where the ship would drop us off and go into dry-dock for the propeller to be repaired). The waiting was made easier by the fact that we got to sleep in this morning—that’s right, no wake-up call for us this morning! (I’m all for getting up and going when on vacation—in fact, I don’t consider it a vacation well-spent unless I come home tireder than when I left—but it still is nice to sleep in every once in a while when you’re on vacation.) Then, Yenner, one of the Tauck guides, gave a very interesting and informative lecture about the history of the European Union. Since you weren’t here with me to be thusly enlightened, I took notes:

The current European Union (EU) had its conception in May 1950, when, wanting to contain German’s economy and thereby prevent future imperialism on its part, Churchill, Shuman, Monnet, Adenauer, and De Gaulle began negotiating a joining of the French and German economies in a trade zone. They figured that by linking the economies of these two traditional enemies, future wars could be forestalled since they would damage the economy of both nations, sort of like economic mutually assured destruction. This pact, which focused almost exclusively on the coal and steel industries, was formalized in the 1951 Treaty of Paris. This alliance was soon joined by Italy and the Benelux countries. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the European Community or Common Market, and extended the offer of membership to the entire European community. In 1973, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Ireland joined the EC, followed by Greece (1981—and I think we can all agree that might not have been the best move), and Portugal and Spain (1986). The former East Germany joined by default when the two Germanies were reunited in 1990, then in 1993 the Treaty of Maastricht (did I tell you we had lunch in the room where this Treaty was signed? It was at the fancy chateau.) formalized the European Union as we know it today. In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined, and in 2004, the following countries, many of them former Easter Bloc countries, joined: Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, and Slovenia. In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined, and Croatia came on board in 2013.

How does one become a member of the EU, you ask? Fortunately for you, I know the answer! The Copenhagen Criteria were established in 1993, and include:

1. Geographic criteria (the country must be in Europe, which excluded Morocco when they tried to join)
2. Political and legislative criteria (the country must be a democracy or free republic)
3. Economic criteria (the country must have a developed, mature, and robust economy)
4. The country must accept the obligations of membership (basically, agree to play by the rules)

It is important to note that the EU is distinct from the euro zone—countries can be members of the EU and not use the euro as their currency. For example, Switzerland participates in the EU, but maintains their own Swiss franc as currency, while Great Britain uses the British pound. Only 17 of the 28 member countries meet the criteria established to be in the euro zone. These are: must have a central bank; must have a budgetary deficit less than 3% of GDP (this is the one Greece lied about, by a lot…did nobody audit their books??) and national debt less than 60% of GDP; and meet targets for inflation, interest and exchange rates. Being on the euro is a good thing for the citizenry: estimates are that the euro saves European travelers alone over €10B/year in currency exchange fees alone. (And it really IS convenient when you’re traveling in Europe. One of the other passengers came up with the best analogy: imagine you had to exchange your money when you went from state to state in the United States…what a mess!)

It is ALSO important to understand that this is different than the Schengen Agreement, which allows for unfettered travel (no stopping at the border and showing your passport, no travel visas required, no impediments to working in a country to which you are not native) between member nations. There are currently 25 member nations in the Schengen zone. (This is, for example, why I don’t have stamps from Switzerland, Austria, or Slovakia in my passport—I traveled to those countries from another Schengen member country.)

There are several key institutions within the EU. The European Parliament consists of 762 members who are elected by their home countries, with membership being allocated by population, though each country has a minimum of six members. These members are separate from the elected local and national officials in a member country. The EU is headquartered in Brussels, but the EU Parliament meets in Salzburg, Austria. Next up is the European Council, which consists of the heads of state of the member countries; they officially lead the EU. The Council of Ministers consists of legislative and executive members, and they meet by area of specialty (agriculture meets with agriculture, education with education, etc.). The EU also runs the European Court of Justice, headquartered in Luxemburg, which is chartered to adjudicate litigation between countries, or countries and companies if there is a trade dispute. Last up is the European Central Bank, which is located in Frankfurt and is responsible for the euro currency (printing it and setting policy).

The EU flag is a field of blue with twelve gold stars, not because there are twelve member countries (there are 28), but because the twelve represents a perfect number (as in 12 months in a year, 12 disciples, 12 signs of the zodiac, etc.). The motto is “Unity through Diversity” and the anthem is the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, more commonly known as the “Ode to Joy.”

That’s probably about all you need, or more likely want, to know about the EU, but I will leave you with these little factoids: countries cannot be ejected from the EU, but the 2009 Lisbon Treaty established what is essentially a two-year arbitration process if a member wants to withdraw from the EU. And, prior to this year, any member nation had the right to block any piece of legislation it wanted to. Now, they are changing to a majority-rule approach, although if I understood Yenner correctly, it won’t be a simple majority, but rather a super-majority.

And that’s enough of that.

So, after lunch (don’t ask…I ate fruit and cheese), we motor-coached to the town of Delft, and more specifically to the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory, or De Porceleyne Fles. We were split up into two groups of 40 or so each (apparently I was not the only one who was so excited about going to the Delft Factory!) and assigned a Delft employee tour guide. Ours was Miriam (that’s not how she spelled it, but it is how she pronounced it) and she was a HOOT! The first thing we did was see a movie about the history of Royal Delft. It is based on blue-and-white porcelain objects and formulations brought to the Netherlands by Marco Polo. Originally, there were about 28 porcelain factories in the town of Delft, but now only Royal Delft survives—and it’s called Royal because it has a warrant from the ruling family of Nassau-Orange here in the Netherlands. There are a couple of different lines: the original stuff, which is made and painted entirely by hand, and the lesser-expensive Westraven line, for which the forms are made by hand but the decorations are machine-printed and transferred onto the porcelain just like an iron-on patch. And in case you want to know the difference, turn it over: the authentic, legitimate, expen$ive stuff will have a specific maker’s mark on the bottom. It is three symbols: a small, simple bottle over the entwined cursive initials TJ (the founder’s initials, and I could tell you what they represent if I had the book I bought with me, but I had it shipped home with the items I bought, since it was flat-rate shipping—less to carry!), and the word “Delft” written in script. On either side of this maker’s mark will be the initials of the master painter who painted it, and a two-letter code representing the year in which it was produced. If it doesn’t have all of that, it’s not the hand-painted stuff. Also, if you look at the image very carefully, you can see locations where the master painter put his brush down on the image, while the coloration on the transfer items is much more uniform. Furthermore, if there’s a scratch of some sort through this maker’s mark, it’s a factory second.

After the history video, we watched a second video showing the steps in the manufacturing process. A liquid dispersion of kaolinite and other clays (the exact formulation is a trade secret) is poured into a plaster mold. It is left to set for a while (the time depends on the size of the piece) so that moisture in the slip is absorbed into the plaster mold, and the clay forms a skin next to the mold wall. The remaining liquid slip is poured out, then the mold is opened. The leather-hard form is allowed to air-dry, then it is bisqued, or fired in the kiln, to about 1250 °C. After firing, the master painting lays a stencil of the design he has created (and until recently, all the master painters were “he”)—the stencil contains many fine holes, through which the painter taps graphite to outline the image he has created. The stencil is removed, then the famous blue glaze is applied. For my chemistry friends, it’s exactly what you’d expect: cobalt oxide. However, it looks black when it is applied, and shading is obtained by diluting the color with water. After the pattern has been completely painted, the item is fired again, which oxidizes the cobalt in the glaze to the magnificent blue you are so familiar with. The item is examined for flaws, then is packaged for sale. (Editor’s comment: the videos were pretty cute, because they were set up like you were moving through time in a time machine, and the manufacturing video had props that popped up at appropriate times.)

We got to see a master painter at work, working on a scenic plate design—there are floral designs and scenic ones. Then we got a tour through their own little museum, where they had a huge (at least 12’x12’) copy of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” done entirely on porcelain tiles. Miriam said it took two artists eleven months to do, and that if we wanted one, there’s a bit of a waiting period (told you she was funny!). They also had the “zero” number of all their limited edition items, such as their Christmas plates and bells (2014’s feature a squirrel, if you want to order yours now), and they said that the “1” numbers in the editions are given to the Royal family. After that, we walked through the factory itself and got to see the in-process work, including the green pieces drying, objects being fired, and the painted stuff before it is refired. It was much smaller than I thought it would be, and looks very much like a large pottery class!

And of course the tour ended in the gift shop! (No fools, they!) I don’t mind telling you, I was a little daunted. I had several people I wanted to buy Delft items for, and the gift shop was chock-a-block full of beautiful things: vases of all sizes and shapes, plates, Christmas bells, trinket boxes, little dishes, tea cups, these special flower vases with a hole for each stem (Voila! Instant flower arrangement!), their more art-deco pieces done by Dutch designers, and even little bottles they called tear bottles but that look like ring holders. How to choose? And how to choose quickly, because we only had about 45 minutes to shop, pay, ship, and get back on the bus. However, you’re talking to the woman who bought a house in three hours, so buying porcelain under pressure should have been a cinch. And I will tell you that the problem became much less daunting because the list of which was drastically reduced upon seeing the prices! So if you end up with a souvenir from Delft, that’s some serious love from me, more-so even than when I make homemade, REAL buttercream frosting for your birthday cake. If you don’t get a Delft souvenir, well, you’ll know where you stand. Suffice it to say, I got the things I wanted and got them paid for and shipping arranged and made it back on the bus with about five minutes to spare. And that’s where the girl and her money were quickly parted—but at least I got my VAT tax refunded since my haul is being shipped! (As I always tell you, if shopping were an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist.)

From the factory, it was a very short ride into the city of Delft, where we were dropped off at the Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, which is not to be confused with the Oude Kerk, or Old Church. (Creative naming, yes?) to explore for about an hour or so. Ysofia gave us a short intro walk, then turned us loose. We hit the Old Church first, memorable because it contains the tomb of Johannes Vermeer, the “Girl with the Pearl Earring” guy. There were some lovely stained glass windows, a huge pipe organ, and lots of neat crypts with bas relief panels in the floor. But, beyond seeing Vermeer’s tomb, if you’ve seen one Gothic church, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Then we cruised some of the tourist shops, including a cheese shop with Dutch cheeses packaged for transport home (no…just…no) and several other shops selling Delft porcelain. We also found Julie’s Holy of Holies: a jewelry shop selling charms for her charm bracelet. She found an absolutely adorable wind mill charm—the vanes actually spin! And can I just say that the sales guy was a total BABE—should have gotten a picture of him, since he was definitely scenic!

We had about 15 minutes until bus pick-up, and unfortunately, I used 5 of them waiting to use the public WC, aka toilet, which cost me €, but was totally worth it because it was impeccably clean. That is one thing about public toilets in Europe: they may charge you a little bit, but you can clearly see what your money is getting you!

With 10 minutes left, we power-toured the Nieuwe Kerk (mind you, the differentiation between old and new is pretty minimal in that the Nieuwe Kerk is still pretty damned old: it was built in 1500 versus 1240 for the Ould Kerk). Again, lovely stained glass, including a very modern window that dates from the 1950s. It is also famous for containing the crypt of the Dutch royal family, and the tomb of King Wilhelm the Silent, also known as William of Orange, the first Dutch king of the House of Orange. We hit all the highlights and made it back to the bus boarding zone with three minutes to spare!

From there, it was a brief ride to Rotterdam—the ship’s prop was quickly repaired and it was able to sail here to meet us. We’ll be anchored here until midnight or so, then we’ll sail to Nijmegan, where the shore excursions are “art” or “war”. War is a guided tour of the battlefields around Arnhem, while Art is a tour of the Kroller Muller Museum, a huge van Gogh museum located inside De Hoge Veluwe National Park. The Dutch guy I work with, Erik, told me before I went that this is a great museum to visit, so I’m excited about our chance to see it tomorrow. Hopefully a girl and more of her money won’t be soon parted there, but I wouldn’t bet on it—you know how I love a good gift shop! Love from Rotterdam…

Posted by hidburch 13:23 Archived in Netherlands Tagged rotterdam european_union delft porcelain Comments (0)

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