I was woken by Kirsten at about 8am, and got up to watch the snow outside. Ahh, springtime in Holland. Back to sleep for a few more hours and then we were outside for a walk. We went to the Panorama Mesdag, which is a massive (120m wide) panoramic painting of Scheveningen, painted by Hendrik Willem Mesdag in 1881. It really gives you a feeling of being there, a glimpse of life over a century ago. The fact that I had stood on the same spot in reality the day before helped. The rest of the museum housed many other paintings by Mesdag (a few of which I really liked) and a number of panoramic photographs.
Next we walked, through the rain, over to Binnenhof (Parliament) to meet Marjolein. We made sure that we did not walk through the main arches as this is unlucky, although this tradition is possibly of Michel’s invention.
Next stop was the Mauritshuis, a museum that is chock full of Rembrandts and Vermeers. We spent a few hours going through the many rooms. The recently famous Vermeer “Girl with a pearl earring” was on display, but my pick of the day would have to be Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson”.
We went for lunch at a deli that Michel assures us is where the Queen gets her krokets. The brootje kroket was pretty tasty, it is true, but I am not sure it was royally tasty. The deli sells meats, and I noticed that lamb chops were €38/kg. Sure they were leg chops but that is ten times the price back home. Guess I won’t be eating a lot of lamb here.
We went through these medieval streets browsing expensive shops and occasionally looking at a gallery. Chris will be pleased to know that many of the gentlemen’s outfitters featured a good selection of pink shirts.
A stop at the supermarket for supplies before coming back to Michel’s for a traditional Dutch dinner. They slaved away for some time, eventually returning with a big pot of Andijvie Stamppot, which is basically a dish of mashed potato with chopped endives in it. Endives are a kind of bitter leafy herb sort of like cabbage crossed with rocket. It was a very filling meal and soon we were relaxing in the loungeroom with some more tasty beers.
Michel put on a DVD documentary about Andre Hazes, who is a recently deceased Dutch folk singer/serious drinker. His funeral was held at a packed Ajax stadium and his memory is cherished by millions of Dutch people. The music doesn’t really do a lot for me, perhaps because I don’t understand the lyrics but I suspect perhaps not. The highlight of the DVD is when we see Andre at his creative best, using a rhyming dictionary to write a song. Please use the feedback/comments link below to flame me.
The next day we woke earlier, to a lack of snow and a bit of sunshine, raising the temperature to a ‘warm’ 9°C. We headed out to Het Palais Lange Voorhout, one of the Royal Family’s many palaces, which is currently being used as a museum to MC Escher who is definitely my favourite artist. I first encountered his work in 1986 when my teacher, Mr Hilliard, taught me about tesselations. So almost 20 years led us to this moment. Three floors of Escher! Oh my!
I have the pleasure to report that pretty much every one of my favourites was there and many more. The others were as happy as I to stay and savour the works and we spent a few hours. The last, um, exhibit, was a Virtual Reality Escher experience. This was the first time I had donned the goggles since the mid-90s, when VR was taking over the world. Unlike my previous experiences, the VR was excellent. The screens were high enough resolution and there was no visible aliasing, although there was a lot of ghosting when I moved quickly. Head movements were perfectly matched by the display. Apart from price, the only thing that stopped me going out and buying some that day was the weight. You get a sore neck after a while.
What a great start to the day! We then had lunch before catching the train to Delft, a picturesque and historic city to the south. Vermeer was from Delft, although the city is probably best known for its white and blue porcelain. Although a bit touristic the medieval centre is beautiful and the main square, dominated by the 14th Century Nieuw Kirk (New Church) is a sight to see. As it was Sunday all the shops were closed, ad we were a bit sick of walking by this stage so we found a nice cafe to sit in for a while. After a few tasty ones, Michel and Marjolein introduced me to borrelhapjes, tasty fried pub treats. One of the items is bitterballen, which are basically kroket nuggets. Happy with this discovery.
Back to Den Haag and the girls prepared a tasty Dutch style spaghetti bolognese. We all fell asleep full and happy.