They don’t call them the Low Countries for nothing

…As my mother said obscurely when I visited Brussels in early December, some 16 years ago. She meant that, whatever the temperature at home, assume it’ll be colder there. She was right then and it holds true now. Yesterday, the wind was startlingly icy and none of us was quite warm enough. Although fortunately, I had picked up a cardigan that was lying on a chair in the drawing room, at the last minute when I was leaving the house on Monday, and decided to bring it, so was able to put that on.

we explored Delft, which we like very much, and visited the Vermeer centre and Prinsenhof museum. Although Vermeer lived in Delft, the city owns none of his paintings, but it’s a very good exhibition all the same. It has reproductions of them all, explaining how he used different techniques and effects and comparing and contrasting each of them, it was interesting and effective.

just as importantly, we had very good pancakes for lunch (that is, the three friends I was with).  Mine was a mushroom pancake with ham, cheese and tomato. For dinner, we went to a fish restaurant which was superb. The Dutch are hearty eaters (they cycle a lot, are sporty and shiver in the cold wind, they burn off all their food) so we only had one course.  Mine was sea bass fillets (I’d only have one at home, but managed both the fillets I was given) with a dried tomato sauce and it was perfectly cooked.  I was one of five this time, none of them being the ones I’d had lunch with, which works out very nicely on these holidays. We team up in groups quite naturally and feel no obligation always to stick with the same people, but no one has to be alone unless they want to go off for a wander.

The hotel is very good, family run not a chain, and it serves excellent coffee at breakfast. So many places don’t and there’s no excuse nowadays. I like to eat what the locals do, so have been eating bread and cheese for breakfast and am enjoying it, especially the one with caraway seeds.

Last night, I still felt quite sociable when we got back after dinner, so suggested a nightcap and went to the bar to ask for it.  A group of men was propping up the bar, watching football, and we chatted. Well, that is, I was chatted up by a charming young man.  Young enough, anyway, maybe 40 and just flirting enough to be a pleasure without any concern that he’d be difficult to get rid of, you know. I asked advice on local drinks, so was told that jenever was good but might keep me awake. I know of jenever (it can be spelt genever, but is pronounced like the city, neither the guttural Dutch g nor the j pronounced as y) but expected it to be more like gin. It’s actually like schnapps, it’s strong but very good. Although I also had black coffee, it didn’t keep me awake at all and I slept extremely well. You’re offered room temperature or cold, young or old. I asked the difference and was told old was stronger, so chose young – of course I’ll try the alternative another evening. I’ll also add (coming over defensive here) that five of us had shared a single bottle of wine, so I didnt drink much overall.

The New Church, which is only new in comparison to the Old Church, is at one end of the main square in Delft. Both of them are visible from my bedroom window. The town is crisscrossed with canals, it’s built on a number of islands linked by bridges. It’s delightful. I didn’t bring a camera again, so won’t take a lot of photos with my phone, but will show you a few snaps when I have time. Off out shortly. See you later.

5 comments on “They don’t call them the Low Countries for nothing

  1. Rog

    I used to travel to Holland several times a year on business and often had a genever or two to keep the cold away. I was often chatted up by 40 year old charming blokes.
    One year I couldn’t return because Schippol was under3 feet of snow so made my way back on the train via Delft to the Hook where I boarded a ferry with ice all over its superstructure. It was the Herald of Frer Enterprise.

  2. Z Post author

    It’s all lovely, except today’s weather. Of course, we aren’t getting much-needed rain back in Earsham, but there’s plenty here.

    Blimey, Rog.

    Off out early today, no time to blog at present. Perhaps later.


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