Our flight from LAX to Amsterdam was uneventful once we took off after a 2 hour delay. We had just taxied to the runway when the pilot taxied back to a repair area because the spoilers were not acting properly in his tests on the runway. This was repaired in about an hour, but then the truck which provided the electricity to restart the engines broke down. This did not seem like a good way to start the the trip, but it was to be one of the very few problems we encountered.
Our first few nights we stayed in De Bilt, a suburb of Utrecht, the Netherlands. From there we drove to the Hoge Veluwe, a large national park. It was a bit too early for the rhododendron and heather(yes, they have heather there)but the Kroller-Muller museum is a great museum for art and sculpture.
We also saw a new museum they had built since the last time
we were there- Museum Onder(Under) which showed what goes on under the
earth! The centerpiece-on the ceiling overhead- was a complete preserved root system
of a 135 year old tree.
The personal highlight in this area was a visit with Albert
Veldhuis and his family in Barneveldt. Albert is a 5th cousin, once removed,
whom I 'met' on the Internet while doing research on my ancestry on my
mother's side. When he found out we were going to come to the Netherlands,
he invited us to have dinner and spend an evening with them. It was a delightful
visit, getting to know relatives I didn't even know I had a few months
before the trip.
Our next stop was at Den Haag, where we stayed at the beach suburb of
From there we visited the flower gardens at Keukenhof, a
70 acre park filled with 6 million bulbs, mostly tulips and hyacinths,
but other varieties as well. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was without
a doubt the most impressive garden we have ever seen.
From the Hague, we drove to Bruges and enjoyed this wonderful little
city caught in a time warp when in the 1400's its busy harbor silted up.
This happened with such drastic and sudden effect that it wasn't redone
to suit other industry, so things stayed much as they were at that time.
We enjoyed a general museum there, a lace museum and a canal boat ride.
From Bruges we drove through the Belgian countryside and then the French countryside
to the busy city of Rouen to a hotel with a room overlooking the Seine.
We only went to one museum there, the Museum of Fine Arts, and enjoyed
a special exhibition of Impressionist works. We did, however, visit all
4 of the major cathedrals there, and enjoyed the a capella singing in one
by a group of men and a concert by a group of singers from the Isle of
Wight at the largest, the Notre Dame Cathedral. Especially moving was their singing of Haydn's "The Heavens are Telling" in that setting.
One day we drove from Rouen down the Seine valley and enjoyed two abbeys,
but especially Jumieges Abbey, now spectacular ruins. On our drive from
Rouen to Paris we stopped at Monet's home and gardens at Giverny. It was
a beautiful sunny day and the gardens there as well as on the grounds of
the American Museum there were beautiful.
Thanks to Ann's navigation, we
made the drive into Paris to drop off our car without a single wrong turn.
In Paris we stayed at a hotel on rue Cler, an area with a wine shop,
two cheese shops, a number of bakeries, a Chinese take-out(quite unlike
the American variety), a number of vegetable shops, and many more. We ate
a few meals from these stores in our hotel room as well as some meals
from restaurants in the area. We spent most of one day at the Louvre and
another day at 4 other museums, of which our favorites were the Rodin museum
and Musee' d'Orsay. On another day we saw Notre Dame again with huge crowds
of people, and Saint Chapelle with fewer. We enjoyed the impressive stained
glass at both. Of course we took a boat ride on the Seine.
From Paris we took a train to Basel, where we left our luggage at the
ship for our Rhine cruise and spent a few hours in the city, especially
at the 12th century Munster. In spite of the gray weather, the Rhine cruise
was very interesting. We were surprised by the number of locks (9 the first
day) and the size and the amount of drop(the locks were in the 40 foot
range!) in the level of the river. The castles and vineyards, especially
between Mainz and Coblenz, were interesting to see again. We enjoyed the
stops in Strassbourg, Boppard and Cologne and walked around each of those
cities a bit. The meals aboard ship were excellent and we were fortunate
to have very interesting people at our table-one couple from North Carolina
and one from South Africa, which made for very interesting table conversation.
The ship went as far as Dusseldorf, where we boarded a bus for the trip
In Amsterdam we visited the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the
Amsterdam Historical Museum. We also took a number of walks which took
us to the flower market, the shopping area of Kalverstraat, and along the
many canals of Amsterdam.
A highlight for me was the time-a total of about 8 hours over two days - I spent in the study room of the Rijksmuseum looking at drawings and watercolors of the artists of the Hague School. You may bring into this study room only pencils(not pens) and paper to take notes. They place a half-inch felt pad and an easel on the table in front of you and bring out a box of 15-20 matted drawings or watercolors. They open the box and transfer the works from the box to its cover and you may then look at the drawings one at a time, place them on the easel if you wish, and then return them to the box. All of this is under close watch by one of the 4 or 5 people who work there. When you finish with a box, they close it, take it away and bring another box of the same artist or another you may have requested and go through the same process. Although Vincent Van Gogh is not considered to be of the Hague School, early in his career he did take some art lessons from Anton Mauve, one of its most famous members. So I was dumbfounded when one day I saw a pencil drawing of a man fishing with a net which was signed VINCENT. It obviously has not been authenticated as one of his works, but was labeled, Vincent Van Gogh (?), with the question mark, so it may not have been his work, but at least some people think it was. And I saw itand handled it. It was Saturday so no curator was around to tell me the history of the piece, but I was impressed. Ann spent one of those days riding a canal boat with an all-day ticket.
Our flight home at the end of 3 1/2 weeks was long but uneventful and
although we enjoyed the trip immensely, we were happy to be home in La