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Archive for the ‘Haarlem, The Netherlands’ Category

1-Rijks-Museum.Mike

Rijks Museum

What drew us to our recent visit to The Netherlands, besides tulips, was its world-class museums. On our “Bucket List” of great museums to visit were the Rijks and the Van Gogh, as well as the Mauritshuis in The Hague. The Rijks and Van Gogh were both conveniently located in Amsterdam’s Museumplein, a large, park-like square surrounded by museums that also included gardens and a large water feature and just a short tram ride from our hotel. Using the tram is the best way to travel around Amsterdam and see the sights at the same time. Tram tickets can be bought for 1,2 or 3 days at most major hotels and allowed unlimited rides.

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Amsterdam Tram

 

 

In anticipation of exploring the museums, we bought museum passes which enabled us to skip any lines, although we found out by doing some research beforehand, that tickets for the Van Gogh and Anne Frank House were available on-line only.

The Rijks Museum

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The Little Street by Johannes Vermeer

The first museum we visited was the Rijks that housed a collection of the Great Dutch Masters which included our favorite – Johannes Vermeer. We had heard that there could be long lines, but when we arrived at mid-morning on a weekday in April, we walked right in. (When we returned to the Museumplein a few days later on the weekend, the queue at the Rijks was very long.) After looking at the museum map, which gave us a floor plan and highlights of the collection, we made a bee-line to the four Vermeer paintings in the permanent collection: Woman Reading a Letter, The Milkmaid, The Love Letter, and The Little Street. The Little Street was our favorite and we brought home a print to remind us of this great painting and iconic museum.

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The Nightwatch

Mike was eager to see Rembrandt’s Nightwatch which wasn’t hard to find since it took up an entire wall and had its own museum security detail stationed nearby. It was amazing to stand in front of this great painting. A picture doesn’t do it justice.

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Delftware

We wandered the galleries, enjoying the display of Delftware, and came across an impressive ship model that caught Mike’s eye.  After a few hours in the museum and a visit to its gift shop, we strolled around the Museumplein, where I stopped to rest a bit near the fountain. Then we hopped back on the tram.

The Van Gogh Museum

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Van Gogh Museum

We had purchased on-line tickets for the Van Gogh Museum for 10:30 AM on a Saturday morning. This is the only way tickets are sold, so if you plan on visiting the Van Gogh, make sure you buy your rickets in advance. (We saw a few disappointed visitors who walked up to the ticket window at the Van Gogh, only to be turned away.) This museum was modern, bright and airy and consisted of two buildings — the main building which houses the permanent collection and the exhibition wing which where temporary exhibitions are displayed. Photography is not allowed at this museum, a disappointment, but also a blessing, since it allowed us to take the time to view Van Gogh’s paintings up close and personal, and not through a camera’s eye.

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Almond Blossoms

The permanent collection of Van Gogh’s works was impressive with 200 paintings and numerous drawings arranged chronologically, depicting the various periods of the painter’s life. We enjoyed the range of Vincent Van Gogh’s works, from the dark and gloomy “The Potato Eaters” to his glorious “Sunflowers” and “The Bedroom.” I was especially taken with the Van Gogh & Japan exhibit which highlights the Japanese influence on Van Gogh’s paintings. I loved his “Almond Blossoms” and took home a journal covered with this print as well as a pillow cover.

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Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Mike and I really liked the Van Gogh painting called ”Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.”  We liked it so much that we bought a large poster and also a large postcard that we keep on our computer desk where it reminds of this visit to the Van Gogh Museum as well as the diverse talent of Vincent Van Gogh.

 

The Mauritshuis

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Mauritshuis

After 5 days in Amsterdam, we moved to the small city of Haarlem, 12 miles away,  to experience Holland outside of Amsterdam. We took a short train ride from Haarlem to the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague.

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Haarlem Train Station

It took only 45 minutes plus a short walk to the Mauritshuis where we knew the famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was on display. While we had seen “Girl” at the Frick Collection in New York a few years ago, we were excited to view some of Vermeer’s other paintings that are part of the permanent collection at The Mauritshuis. We weren’t disappointed. We saw “Diana and Her Nymphs,” a painting very unlike all the Vermeers we were familiar with, and  “View of Delft” which was fabulous. After meandering through other galleries where we admired several magnificent Steen paintings as well those of other Dutch Masters, we found ourselves drawn back to the “View of Delft” and decided we had to take a print of it home. Next trip, I’m going to bring an empty suitcase along.

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View of Delft

Vermeer Centrum

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Nightwatch in tiles at Royal Delft

The next day we boarded a train bound for Delft to visit the Vermeer Centrum. (Train travel in Europe is clean, reliable, and economical.) We had heard the criticism that all the paintings here were reproductions, but we found that the experience of touring the Centrum was not disappointing. Where else could we get to see full-size images of all of Vermeer’s paintings as well as an in-depth look into his life?  It was well worth the trip as was our tour of the Royal Delft showroom and factory, a 20-minute walk away. We were delighted to find during our tour, Royal Delft’s version of Rembrandt’s “Nightwatch” and Vermeer’s “The Little Street.”

Anne Frank House

9-Anne-Frank-HouseLast, but high on my wish list, was the Anne Frank House. Buying tickets wasn’t easy — they were available only on-line 2 months prior to a desired date. I had almost given up hope until I realized, just by playing with a few dates, that the closer I got to the date of our visit, the greater the availability of tickets. I felt lucky when I managed to get 2 tickets for the day before we were to fly home.

It was a rainy day as we waited in line at our scheduled entrance time but time passed quickly as we struck up a conversation with a couple from Texas. Once we were inside and started the tour, though, there was very little talking and only in hushed tones. Climbing the narrow stairs to the top floor and walking through the mostly empty rooms that had some of Anne Frank’s mementos was a chilling experience.

10-Anne-Frank-StatueI left with a feeling of melancholy and great sadness to know that Anne Frank survived two years in those rooms, only to be discovered, arrested, and killed  months before the end of the war. Who betrayed the Frank family? It seems that, even all these years later, nobody knows the answer the that question.

Our exploration of these museums gave us an insight into the history and art that The Netherlands has to offer its visitors, as well as memories (and mementos) we’ll treasure.

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2-Chute.-Tulip-Time-at-Keuk

Keukenhof

Holland and Belgium were high on our Master Bucket List, so Angelina and I combined a trip to both countries in April to coincide with “tulip time” in Holland. Since the tulip season only lasts for eight weeks, from mid-March through mid-May, we figured that the last two weeks of April would be ideal to see the best of the annual Tulipmania and we were right.

1-Chute.-Bed-of-tulipsThe absolute best way to experience Holland’s premiere flower species is a visit to Keukenhof, “kitchen garden” in Dutch, well known for its annual public tulip extravaganza. While we are not crazy about bus rides, we booked a half-day bus tour from Amsterdam that included skip-the-line admission and let someone else drive. The weather was sunny and the hour’s drive through the Dutch countryside past tulip fields in bloom was the perfect start to the visit. At 32 hectares (79 acres), Keukenhof is a huge garden featuring over 7 million early, regular and late blooming flowering bulbs — 800 varieties of tulips plus crocus and daffodils. In addition to this flower power, Keukenhof has 6 pavilions featuring elegant arrangements, changing displays of cut flowers as well as events, lectures and other activities.

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Keukenhof Pavilion Bridal Display

We picked a perfect day with perfect weather to visit this tulip paradise at peak bloom. It was spectacular! The only drawback was the crowd. The annual attendance easily tops 1 million and it felt like most of them were there that day. But we expected this and it did not diminish our enjoyment of this magnificent display of Dutch floriculture. We arrived shortly after noon and roamed on-our-own through the garden. We meandered along winding paths with bed after bed of gorgeous tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. We stopped in several pavilions, each featuring impressive displays and arrangements. We finished in the gift shop, of course, for a souvenir to remind us of this great garden.

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While it’s not possible to absorb the entire Keukenhof experience in one day, our tour gave us three hours in the garden and that was enough. The return ride to Amsterdam was pleasant and we made it back in time for dinner. It was a very good day and a stress-free way to visit Kueukenhof.

To see more of Holland, we spent 3 days in Haarlem, a smaller city only a short distance from Amsterdam where we planned to take trains to Delft and The Hague. It was in Haarlem on a Sunday afternoon while out for a walk that we noticed a commotion a few blocks away from our hotel. When we got closer we discovered the Bloemencorso, Dutch for “flower parade,” parked in Haarlem city center.

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Dragon Float

The parade, an annual event and a very big deal in Holland, had started the day before near Keukenhof and went for 26 miles through other Dutch cities ending in Haarlem where the floats and decorated vehicles remained on display but only for one day — the day we were there. How’s that for serendipity!

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Rembrandt Float

These floats were constructed with bulb flowers only — tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and croci. Some floats even featured bulbs only in the design. These floats were amazing! The quality and imagination, not to mention the hours of tedious handwork, were a testament to the pride that the Dutch have for their famous flowers.

Bulb Float

All Bulbs

Equally amazing were the train rides we took to Delft on one day and The Hague on another. We enjoy train travel in Europe because they’re clean, fast, reliable and an inexpensive way to take side trips. The routes to both cities took us past tulip fields in bloom, row after row of  tulips — rainbows stretching to the horizon. Another unplanned bonus to our trip.

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Tulip Fields

Holland and Belgium were everything we had expected them to be and combining them into one trip was fairly simple. We chose to travel within the two countries by auto and that allowed us the flexibility to wander at will, always a good thing for us. More about this to come.

Time stands still for us when we’re away and this trip was no exception. We are already reviewing the Master Bucket List, eager to start planning our next adventure in 2019.

Tulipmania only lasts for 8 weeks. If you want to experience Tulip Time next year, Keukenhof is scheduled to open on March 21 and close on May 19 in 2019.

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