We arrived in Amsterdam last Tuesday , having taken a fairly early flight from Norwich airport, and headed for the Van Gogh museum. Having heard many times that he only sold one major picture in his lifetime, I hoped we would at last be told which, but it wasn’t mentioned, though I did find out later in the week. The paintings were fabulous, of course, and included many I didn’t know existed, he was very prolific. I liked the picture of cherry blossom that he painted for his baby nephew, Theo’s son – which isn’t to suggest I didn’t like many others as well. He had a bit of a thing about potatoes, I must say.
Most of our party headed off for an early lunch, but I spent a couple of hours in the galleries and only then went for lunch. I had a broodje kaas, which rather more prosaically translates as a cheese sandwich, and beer. Because I was on holiday. Then, because I still had time in hand and it was warm and sunny, I went outside for a stroll around, and spotted a supermarket. Since the one thing I was determined to take home was salty liquorice, I headed straight for it. But there was a problem. Salt is zout and sweet is zoet, but I didn’t know that then and the two words were so similar I couldn’t remember how to spell a word I could pronounce. I was in a quandary, darlings, we’d have all been so disappointed if I’d taken home the wrong thing.
Fortunately, one variety was labelled in English, so that was the one I bought, four 600g bags of it. When I got back on the coach, I handed it round and made a few converts.
That was about it for the day, we had booked dinner at our hotel in Delft and were ready for a rest and a bath beforehand. My friend had hurt her back and was unable to come, so I had a room to myself, which I celebrated by taking all my clothes off and walking around naked for a while, leaving clothes scattered everywhere. Then I had my bath, dressed and tidied up, because I never leave a hotel room untidy as it’s so rude to the chambermaid.
The next day, we were being shown round Delft by our Dutch guide, Sylvie who was, unsurprisingly, tall, slender and very pretty. Nearly everyone in Holland is tall, slender and pretty, most of them blonde as well. It’s a pleasure to be nearly run over by them – bikes are quiet and have the right of way. It looked sunny from my window, but my weather app warned of cold, so I popped out briefly after breakfast – and then went upstairs and put on a cardigan. It was indeed very cold, startlingly so. All the same, we loved walking around Delft, everyone thought it was delightful. Our hotel was only a quarter of a mile from the main square, which was good for going out for dinner too.
Vermeer lived and worked in Delft but, after he died, his paintings were sold elsewhere and the city owns none of them. There is a museum, however which, though all the images are reproductions, is well worth a visit, particularly if you use the audio guide, which is very interesting. It doesn’t describe what you see, but facts about him and how and what he painted.
Later, we went to the Prinsenhof museum, one of the approved Delft potteries (where all the china is hand made and decorated – it’s allowed to be called hand painted if there’s a single brushstroke, but this was the real thing) and then most of us headed for a cup of tea. I’d had a pannenkoek for lunch, which I don’t need to translate – actually, written Dutch and English have a lot in common, except when you’re completely bemused by a random word. It was delicious and I’m resolved to make them. I do make savoury pancakes, but always with a sauce.
A group of us went out to a fish restaurant that evening and it was really lovely. Portions are large, we could only manage a single course. My fish was perfectly cooked, two large fillets of sea bass on a bed of vegetables. When I got back, it seemed too early to go to bed so I suggested a nightcap. Strong black coffee for me, but maybe a little something extra…there were three men watching football on the television behind the bar, they made way for me and chatted in a friendly way, especially the most good looking of them, who was charming. We got on very well, I asked what he’d recommend to drink and he suggested genever, as long as I didn’t expect to sleep much. I hadn’t slept much the previous night, so had a tot.
It wasn’t what I was expecting, which had been gin. I was asked if I’d like it chilled or room temperature, old or young. Chilled, I decided, and what was the difference? Old is stronger. I chose young. As so often on the Continent, the drink is poured rather than measured, and is generous. It’s more like schnapps or perhaps vodka than I thought it would be, strong and very good. One is supposed to down it in one go, but I wouldn’t do that. And darlings, I slept like a top, whatever that means. Very soundly. It was lovely.
The next day, we headed off to The Hague.