Thursday, June 5, 2008

Trip Blog 15




Letter No. 15

A Day in The Hague

Hello All,

First thing we have to comment on is the weather. Adelle remembers that on our first trip to The Netherlands she wrote home that “you needn’t bring sun screen to a country that has stores that sell only umbrellas”. In fact, we think we put it into our book as one of the laws of traveling!

Our day in The Hague is a good example of why. It didn’t just rain, it poured. For hours. In great volume. But Adelle cleaned out the closet and found our umbrellas and we persevered. A walk to the main street, a bus ride to the tram to the central station and then a short ride on a different tram to the Mauritshuis Museum, also known as the Royal Portrait Collection because the original collector was a prince. The beautiful building itself was originally designed and built by a Count of Nassau whose family name was Maurits. We want to point that out especially to our friends in Nassau County on Long Island, who may never have realized that Nassau is a Dutch name.

The collection includes samples of all the most famous Flemish and Dutch painters – and a lot of work done by not so well known but seemingly (to untrained eyes like ours) equally talented others. There can be none among you who hasn’t seen a picture of the Vermeer painting called “The Girl With the Pearl Earring”…but that’s just one of the gems in this museum. There were pictures by Hals, Rembrandt, Memling, van Dyck, Rubens, Breugal and everyone else. A special exhibit showed the work of a painter named Coorte who painted only fruits and vegetables on tiny, exquisite canvasses. It was wonderful.

At the door of the museum were two huge racks full of umbrellas, and when we arrived, we added ours, but by the time we finally left about one thirty or so, we didn’t need it because it was no longer raining. Just a sky totally covered with clouds threatening to pour any minute. But we walked around a bit. We walked through the Netherlands Parliament building complex and were duly impressed. Then we stopped at the tourist office, learned that there was an old part of town nearby, and The Hague’s largest church, and decided to go there. But the “old city” was not very impressive. Some old buildings but mostly very commercial new retail stores like there are in any downtown. And the church had a sign that reported it was open only for public occasions! Religion is not big here. So we called a halt to the walking around, and, as agreed, we called our friend Dick to tell him that we were about to get onto the tram going into the eastern part of the city—a direction further away from the campground. The plan was for him to meet us at the tram stop, and he did. Just as we got off the tram, he appeared across the street.

We enjoyed our afternoon with Dick, his friend and her 14 week old miniature Doberman puppy. Talk about cute! Ron was able to post blog 13 from Dick’s computer, we drank coffee and caught up on the news. We decided on an earlier than usual dinner so that we could make the long journey back to the campground before it got dark, and Dick made and served dinner at six. Delicious, of course. It is one of our core beliefs that all the van den Berg “boys” of a certain generation are wonderful cooks.

In fact, the main ingredient in both dinner at Maartje’s and dinner at Dick’s was something very special….white asparagus served with chopped hard boiled eggs, ham and smoked salmon. No green taste at all to these asperges, just slightly sweet and delicious. There is an “asperge” season and we were lucky enough to be here for it! Actually, it’s been new herring, white asparagus and strawberry season, and we have taken advantage of it all. We’d need more time to do it justice though. Two people just can’t try everything…we can’t eat as fast as we can buy!

We were surprised and pleased to find that Dick lived on the same tram line that we needed to take to get back to the campground. So, after dinner, we walked back to the tram and began the journey back to the beach. Got back to a very different scene. It was Sunday, and most of the campers had gone back to work. There was no rain that night, but the wind was very strong. It howled all night – and in the morning we were back to cold pouring rain! We moved the thirty miles or so back to Amsterdam, because we have another person coming to look at the RV. We’ll see what this brings.

Stay tuned. Till then, bye.

Adelle & Ron

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