The Hague

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

At 9 a.m. the bus pulled up to the dock, we identified our luggage to be loaded on the bus,

Our hotel

Our hotel

eight couples boarded the bus to drive us to our next adventure, The Hague. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at our hotel, the Grand Hotel Amrath Kurhaus. We were not in The Hague, but in a seaside resort of Scheveningen. Luggage was unloaded, but rooms were not available, so the luggage was put into storage. We climbed back on the bus and headed into The Hague.

While Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is where all government buildings are. After we had driven past a few of the government buildings, we began a walking tour that brought us to the Mauritshuis, an art museum of Dutch Golden Age paintings. We were given one hour to explore the floors and find the gems. Fortunately, we were also given a guide to tell us where to find the Vermeer paintings and other notable artists.

On the left: Vermeer's painting of The Girls with the Pearl Earring From the top: The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius The View of Delft by Vermeer The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

On the left: Vermeer’s painting of The Girls with the Pearl Earring
From the top:
The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius
The View of Delft by Vermeer
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

We returned to the hotel as the guide’s duties were about to end. We were given keys to our rooms along with a few suggestions for the following day on our own. At this point, we were starving! First order of business, find lunch! We were told there were many restaurants along the boardwalk behind the hotel. So that’s where we headed.

Translation for the name: Pancake House. These were not your mother's pancakes.

Translation for the name: Pancake House.These were not your mother’s pancakes.

Did I mention, we were STARVING, but it was nearly three o’clock, so we didn’t want to eat too much. We split the pancakes. First up, a savory bacon pancake, followed by a banana and chocolate ice cream pancake. These pancakes were more like a crepe than a breakfast pancake. They were gone in no time, so we were off exploring the boardwalk.

Soon we came upon some curious metal figures. I learned that an American, Tom Otterness created these Fairy Tale Sculptures by the Sea.

Top is the boardwalk. Followed by: The Herring Eater, The Lion and the Mouse, See No Evil, and I am standing by Angry Momma

Top is the boardwalk.
Followed by: The Herring Eater, The Lion and the Mouse, See No Evil, and I am standing by Angry Momma

It was fun to see if we could figure out what fairy tale each one represented. I’m not sure where Angry Momma fits in.:-) The guide told us to walk to their shopping street for fun shops. I’m afraid we didn’t find any fun shops to browse in. My feet were killing me so we headed back to the hotel. We’d been walking for several hours, so I was ready to rest up before looking for dinner.

The hotel was a beehive of activity when we arrived. People were swarming everywhere! We found out that the president of Indonesia was about to arrive and there was a dinner set up in the ballroom. I was a little surprised that we weren’t asked for IDs as we made our way to the elevator.

It was great to sit back and relax as we planned our next adventure. Suddenly something moved at the window startling me.

As you can tell, we didn't have much of a view, so the movement behind the curtain was unnerving. There was a pair, one at each window peering in.

As you can tell, we didn’t have much of a view, so the movement behind the curtain was unnerving. There was a pair, one at each window peering in.

Slowly I pulled back the mesh curtains to reveal a pair of peeping Toms, or perhaps they were just begging for a bite.

Now hunger was beginning to set in, so what do you do in a new city? You ask Google for the best restaurants near the hotel. Trip Advisor had ten to choose from. We picked Roccos Pizza Trattoria. My husband wrote the directions down and we set out to find it. After walking the wrong way too long, we finally found this restaurant, but it was after 8:00. Once again we were starving. It was just the kind of place we like to discover. I had a great view into the kitchen. It was interesting to watch the pizzas being assembled.

My husband had a veggie pizza. It had cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, onions, artichokes, and even green beans. He loved it. I had the prosciutto pizza. The prosciutto slices were added to the pizza after the crust, sauce, and cheese were baked.

My husband had a veggie pizza. It had cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, onions, artichokes, and even green beans. He loved it.
I had the prosciutto pizza. The prosciutto slices were added to the pizza after the crust, sauce, and cheese were baked.

We each took half a pizza back to the hotel. Fortunately, we had a mini-fridge in the room and I had some ziplock baggies. This would be our dinner the next night too. (We did not feed our friends who were staring at us through the window.)

In the morning we purchased tram tickets that would bring us to The Hague. Our goal was to find the Escher Museum, which we did without getting lost first. It was interesting to explore the work of M. C. Escher.

A few examples of prints by M. C. Escher.

A few examples of prints by M. C. Escher.

Once we left the museum, we got back on the tram and headed to Delft. Unfortunately, we had no guide to explain what we were seeing. We walked and walked, enjoying the sites, snapping a photo here and there.

A few buildings of Delft and a scenic canal.

A few buildings of Delft and a scenic canal.

This bench made me laugh. We need more of them in the world.

This bench made me laugh. We need more of them in the world.

Eventually we found our way back to the tram. One more stop before we were back to our hotel, the Peace Palace. We could only stand at the gate to view the palace, but there is a free visitors center near the gate with video to take you through the history of this building. Andrew Carnegie donated most of the money to build this after World War I.

The Peace Palace was opened in 1913. The eternal flame was installed in 1999. It is surrounded by stones from each of the countries that are part of the Peace Palace.

The Peace Palace was opened in 1913.
The eternal flame was installed in 1999. It is surrounded by stones from 196 countries.

It’s been a long day and we are leaving the hotel at 4:30 a.m. to catch our flight back home, so we were grateful to eat our cold pizza in the room and get a few hours of sleep. We had a wonderful trip, but it was nice to finally land in our own bed.

Thanks for traveling with me these past few weeks. It was fun to relive the days as I put together the collages of pictures.

 

 

Celebrate Green!

celebrate new

Shades of green

Shades of green

Stop! Look! Have you noticed all the shades of green that surround you? Look at the greens I discovered in my backyard. Can you see the silver-blue, yellow, black, forest , emerald, variegated, soft green? Green has exploded in my yard. I celebrate all the wondrous shades of green that the rains of this past week have brought.

Side note: Green happens to be my favorite color.:-)

Walls of green create a haven to savor and celebrate.

Walls of green create a haven to savor and celebrate.

Finally, Tulips!

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

A free morning had us up early to explore the town of Arnhem. We had a mission: we needed batteries and I wanted to visit a grocery store to pick up some Dutch cocoa. Armed with a map, we headed out. Unfortunately it was a Monday morning. Shops in the Netherlands have a late start opening on Monday. This gave us plenty of time to peer into windows and wander aimlessly. We did find both items on the shopping list.

The afternoon found us immersed in a World War II battle. Arnhem was part of a military plan called Operation Market Garden. It involved massive air and land troops. Bridges were to be controlled or destroyed. It did not go according to plan.

At the top of an escalator, I had to laugh at the sign for the restrooms. The John Frost bridge in Arnhem and the war cemetery

At the top of an escalator, I had to laugh at the sign for the restrooms.
The John Frost bridge in Arnhem and the war cemetery

We toured a museum with many war artifacts. In the basement you experience the sights and sounds of the battle. This media display gives you the sense of a battle, and it is not something you want to ever experience in real life. After the museum visit, we were taken to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Another very sobering experience, especially when you read the ages of all the men who did not survive this battle. It was a day to step back into history and know that it should never be repeated.

The next two days were filled with color and joy. Why do so many people travel to the Netherlands in the spring? One word: tulips! We had the opportunity to visit a working tulip farm. At the farm we learned that the tulips in the field were for bulb production and those grown in the greenhouse were for fresh cut flowers. Only bulbs grown in sandy soil can be imported to the U.S. This farm is on clay-like soil, therefore no bulbs could be sold to us. They can export to many other countries who don’t have the soil restriction on the bulbs. It was fascinating to learn of all that goes into bulb and flower production.

The bulbs are placed between the nets in the field to make harvesting easier.

The bulbs are placed between the nets in the field to make harvesting easier. The other three pictures show the process of going from bulb to being bundled for fresh flower sales.

Buildings in Hoorn

Buildings in Hoorn

After lunch, we were given a walking tour of Hoorn which ended at a home visit for coffee and treats. At first I wondered if the home visit would be awkward, but the kindness of the host pushed those thoughts away. It was interesting to visit a local home and talk with the owners. About ten of us went to a retired couple’s apartment. We were given a tour of the apartment along with some great snacks. We could ask questions of their life and they were interested in ours too. The apartment wasn’t so different from those in the States. It’s fun to get a peek into other’s lives and realize that we are not so                                                                                                 different.

Finally, it is the last day on the boat, and we are back in Amsterdam ready to tour Keukenhof Gardens. This is the eagerly awaited highlight of the trip. Our timing was perfect and we had the most beautiful day to explore the 70 acres of plants. Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses, and many other bulbs were in full bloom. The Gardens are only open for about eight weeks in the spring. They report that 70 million bulbs are planted, and I believe it! I wish you could enjoy the scent of the paths that were lined in hyacinths. Here is a tiny glimpse into the beauty of these gardens.

These tulips were in a pavilion. Every single one is a tulip, but they don't look like tulips.

These tulips were in a pavilion. Every single one is a tulip, but they don’t look like tulips.

IMG_2135

I took over 100 photos at the gardens, so this is just a glimpse of the beauty.

I took over 100 photos at the gardens, so this is just a glimpse of the beauty.

If you love flowers, this is a place that needs to be on your bucket list. Pictures just don’t do it justice. Go see it!

The river portion of our trip is over, but we still have two more days in the Netherlands. We have signed up for the optional tour in The Hague. Next week, I will conclude this travelogue with sights from The Hague.

 

 

 

More Sights from River Cruise

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Day 5 had us docked in Ghent, Belguim, but we were not going to see this city. We hopped on the tour bus to travel to Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is considered one of the best preserved medieval cities. A walking tour (on cobblestones, of course – ouch!) took us through the back streets of this old city. The guide pointing out various buildings of importance. It’s a little tricky to navigate because there are many canals that run through the city. We ended in the city center to be released on our own for several hours.

Buildings and canals of Bruges.

Buildings and canals of Bruges.

It was near 11 o’clock, so we were hungry and ready for lunch. Just one problem, restaurants don’t open until noon. We solved the hunger problem by sharing a basket of frites (french fries) from a street vendor. When in Belgium, one eats them the Belgian way, with mayonnaise instead of ketchup. Don’t say “eww:, unless you’ve tried it. I am not a fan of mayo, but this is one time mayo wins out. The other condition I require is that the fries be piping hot. You cannot eat fries with mayo that have been sitting under a heat lamp.

This may look like a collection of rusty tools, but they are actually chocolate. I found this an odd way to present chocolate.

This may look like a collection of rusty tools, but they are actually chocolate. I found this an odd way to present chocolate.

We wandered the streets popping in and out of chocolate shops before we had to meet the guide. On the return to the bus lot, we walked past the Beguinage, where single and widowed woman lived together and prayed, but now is a monastery for Benedictine sisters. The field in front of the building is filled with daffodils and jonquils.

As we continued our journey towards the bus, the guide offered three stories related to the lake and bridge we were to cross. Only one story was true. I will share the “true” story. The lake is called Minnewaterpark or the Lake of Love. It is a tale of a tragic romance of Minna and her warrior love, Stromberg. Minna ran away when her father arranged her marriage to another, she loved Stromberg. Stromberg found her in the forest where she died of exhaustion in his arms. So when you walk over the bridge with your loved one, it will become eternal love.

On the bridge of love, view of Minnewaterpark, and the white buildings are the Beguinage with the field of flowers.

On the bridge of love, view of Minnewaterpark, and the white buildings are the Beguinage with the field of flowers.

It was a long day with lots of walking, but this is a city not to miss, if you should find yourself in Belgium.

During the night we left Belgium and found ourselves back in the Netherlands, the province of Zeeland. Here in 1953, there was a devastating flood which killed 1,836 people. The Delta Water Works was developed to prevent another disaster from ever occurring. It is amazing how this was developed.

The top pictures were from the Delta waterworks museum. The building is actually a caisson that was used to close the dike breeches from the flood. Veere has a lovely little harbor on a canal. I am entranced by church bell towers.

The top pictures were from the Delta waterworks museum. The building is actually a caisson that was used to close the dike breeches from the flood.
Veere has a lovely little harbor on a canal. I am entranced by church bell towers.

 

 

Veere was a small, quaint town where we had time to wander about before returning to our boat so we could sail into Rotterdam. Rotterdam was not a place for touring, but just a stop for dinner with a Shanty Choir of men to board and deliver a fun concert of sailing songs. They sang their hearts out for a glass of beer at the end. Hopefully they received more than that glass of beer. It was an entertaining evening.

Stay tuned for the continuation of this ten day cruise.

Kinderdijk, Antwerp, Brussels

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Through the night, the boat glides along. In the morning we are anchored in Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here is the greatest concentration of working windmills in the country. These windmills date back to 1740. Families still live in many of the windmills.

We were able to go into one. I can’t imagine living in it. Ladders, not stairs, brings you up and down. The space is very cramped. No thank you to living in and maintaining a windmill. However, they are awesome to see.

kinderdijk

The water was a perfect canvas for reflections.

Another night of sailing on the river and/or canals brought us into Belgium. It was a rainy morning as we began our walking tour of Antwerp. First stop brought us to Het Steen, Antwerp’s oldest building. It looks like a castle, but it was never used as a castle. Currently it is used as museum for shipping. At the entrance is a statue of a giant, Lange Wapper, who terrorized the citizens of Antwerp. Statues of the Virgin Mary look down at you from various corners. Apparently there was less tax if you included this on your home. The rain quit by the time we had finished our walking tour.

Sights from Antwerp, Belgium.

Sights from Antwerp, Belgium.

After a quick lunch, we were on the bus headed for Brussels. It was an hour to rest up for the next walking tour. Most of the walking is done on uneven cobblestones. It makes one appreciate smooth sidewalks at home.

The first stop was to snap a picture of the Atomium. This strange structure was build in 1958, created for the Expo ’58. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside to explore. Perhaps one day I will make it back and check out the inside spheres. We then made our way to the Grand Place, a square surrounded by the town hall and guild houses. The guide took us to see Manneken Pis, one of Brussels most famosus sights. Then we were free to wander the streets for over an hour. The waffles were tempting, but we resisted. The chocolate shops were also enticing, but all we did was inhale the fumes of fine Belgian chocolates before we boarded the bus to return to our boat.

Sights from Brussels.

Sights from Brussels.

It had been a long day with miles of walking on cobblestones. Next up Bruges, Belgium.

Celebrate Now

celebrate newLast summer, my husband and I seized the opportunity to take a river cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium with my father-in-law and his girlfriend. Visions of windmills, tulips, and other spring blossoms danced in our minds for eight long months. Finally the day arrived and we were off on an adventure.

For the last two weeks, we have been discovering the beauty of the Netherlands and Belgium in the springtime. Our timing was perfect! The tulips in the fields were blooming to create swaths of color. These flowers are only allowed to bloom for four days. Then the heads are cut so the bulb receives all the nutrients.

IMG_2099 (1)

This type of adventure is what I dreamed of in my retirement. I celebrate the point in my life where I am able to sample what the world has to offer in all seasons. For thirty-two years my vacations were dictated by the school calendar. Now, I am free to explore new lands in seasons beyond summer. I wonder what’s next.

Travelogue (part 1)

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

The last two weeks are now just a distant memory, but as I revisit the photos, I remember.

I remember leaving home in the late afternoon, one flight to Atlanta (only 1.5 hours), but the next flight is 8.5 hours to Amsterdam. Sleep does not come during the night hours. I discover the noise cancelling headphone’s batteries are dead.😦

Weary bodies exit the plane rolling the luggage along to find our way through immigration, then to locate the person who provides transportation to the riverboat. Soon we load our belonging and bodies into a van and the adventure begins.

Greeted warmly on the dock, we learn that lunch is still being served in the lounge and a walking tour of Amsterdam leaves in thirty minutes. Exhausted as we are, we will not miss either opportunity.

The guide takes us into Amsterdam where we learn about the architecture of the buildings. We see the first coffee shop. (Side note: coffee is not the product people go to the “coffee shop” for.)IMG_2092

We stroll the streets along the canals getting our first glimpse of tulips. Bicycles are everywhere! These bikes are old, rusty and many had flat tires. Many are probably discarded as the owner didn’t bother to return for them.

I remember the body beginning to protest the lack of sleep as we finished the final moments of this walking tour. Gratefully the bus is waiting to take us back to the ship.

I remember how good the shower felt and the call of the bed as we prepared for the first briefing of the schedule and dinner. I looked around the crowded room, wondering who would be new friends by the end of the trip.

After dinner, the body said, “Enough is enough, put me to bed.” So I did. Of course, during the night the body said, “Get up, you’ve been asleep long enough.” I rolled over and said, “Let me sleep.”

IMG_2093

Buildings along the canals, on the canal boat, and tulips

The next morning there was another walking tour plus a canal cruise. This time we visited another part of Amsterdam. We were also given the opportunity to sample herring. I respectfully declined (as did most of the other members of our tour group). Back to the boat for lunch and an afternoon on your own.

We passed by the Anne Frank house, unfortunately we were not able to enter. The line circled the block.

We passed by the Anne Frank house, unfortunately we were not able to enter. The line circled the block.

 

 

 

 

We have been to Amsterdam many times, so this time we opted to rest up during the afternoon. We knew busy days were ahead of us. I remember the relief of sinking back into the bed during the afternoon.

During the night the riverboat glides away from Amsterdam to begin the journey . . . (to be continued next week):-)