Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Packing, packing, packing!!

Today (July 30) we have really started our going home packing!! Dad spent a lot of the day, fitting everything into our 1 bag, 2 suitcases, and one bike box. We have to fit everything we needed for a year (but got rid of our runners, and some clothes that weighed about 6 kilograms in total) into those four pieces of luggage, and 1 bag that we shipped (plus the backpacks which we are taking with us, which will have our computers and things like that.

Still more blogs from our trip to come, but we're heading to Schiphol and flying home today!

Monday, 30 July 2012

3 in 1

Today (July 27) we went for a long bike ride, it was about 30 kilometers and took us 4 hours total including all of our stops and things like that. We went to 3 castles, they were newer castles, probably around 200 years old each.

One of them is now a hotel (Hotel Lake Vuurge), one was the recent queens palace (Paleis Soestdijk), but now that she has died, the Netherlands doesn't know what to do with it. The last one (Kasteel Groenveld) is a museum now, but is getting renovated for a conference, but we could still go into it.

As an added bonus, we also biked down to Amersfoort later on for Happy Hour at Van Gogh Frites!

We also stayed up for the olympic opening ceremonies,  the best part of the show for me was with Mr. Bean in the Orchestra, he pretty much only had one key to play which he could do with one hand. So first he got out his phone, and started doing something on it, next he sneezed, and since his backpack was just a few inches away, he had to get an umbrella to play the key while he reached for his backpack, to blow his nose. After that he started daydreaming that he was in a race across a beach, in his daydream he was falling behind, he saw a car, so he went and got into it, then at the line he got out, tripped the guy in first and won the race.
This here on the left, is a bar and a bike combined, you can rent it for a party, and it has 10 seats, all with pedals to move the "bike." all of the seats are made facing into the table because it is also a bar where you can drink beer while you ride, the owner of this bar/bike is the one who drives, and doesn't have to pedal!! and  guess he isn't allowed to get drunk with the people renting his bike. The dangerous part is that none of the seats have backs, so people can fall off if they get too drunk!!

Daddy wants to get one for the next Pez party!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Vermeer's Delft

While we were in Delft we spent some time at the Vermeer Centre Delft. Johannes Vermeer (Oct 31/1632 - Dec. 15, 1675) is an artist that was born, lived and died in Delft and so he is always associated with the city.  He was a member of the St. Luke's Guild and the Vermeer Centre today is housed in the St.. Luke's Guild House.

The house where Vermeer was born is now a cafe. When he was 9 years old, he moved with his family to the Mechelen Inn, which is also still standing but with another use. Vermeer's father was a inn-keeper and art dealer, so the young Vermeer grew up surrounded by art and artists.

He converted to Catholicism to marry Catharina Thins and lived with her wealthy mother - Maria Thins. The house where they lived together on the Oud Delft canal is now the site of a church.  It is very close to the Nieuw Kerk where Johannes and his sister were baptized. Johannes and Catharina had 15 children together, 4 of whom died at young ages. Johannes himself died at the age of 43 leaving Catharina with 11 children and a mountain of debts. He is buried in the Oud Kerk near the main Markt.

Artistically, Vermeer had a remarkably small oeuvre. It is thought that he only painted 40 - 60 paintings during his career and only 37 of them survive, although there is some dispute as to the authenticity of some of them. There are 5 Biblical scenes, 2 landscapes and the rest are "tronies", paintings of a certain type (ie peasant women, old man etc). Many of his paintings show women or groups in small intimate indoor scenes.

The Vermeer Centre doesn't have any actual paintings but they have copies of 37 that are the actual size with descriptions and locations.  We have seen several of the originals at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Gemmentemuseum, Den Haag but "the Girl with the Pearl Earring" is on loan in Japan during renovations at the Mauritshuis Museum at the Hague.

Vermeer is best known for his amazing use of light and the fact that he used a relatively small palette of colours to achieve spectacular results. The remainder of the centre concentrated on his use of light and colour and all the emblems of love that are contained in Vermeer's work.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Clothes - Everything Must Go!

On Saturday we went to the recycling place to drop of all of our running shoes and some of our old clothes that we are tired of after a year or else that are fairly worn out. All in all, we got rid of about 6 kilograms!! At the recycling place there are different sections, like the paper goes in a dolphin, and also the clothes go in a dolphin (a different dolphin), then the shoes go in a frog. Those animals got very full after we were done!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Holy Twelve!

It's July 26 today, which means you might hear my screaming even across an ocean because it's Zachary's 12th birthday! That is, if your hearing's recovered from my screaming when Jacob turned 10 a few weeks back! What can we say except that we're so happy and proud of our big guy! It really does seem like only yesterday that our family was turned upside down with his arrival, and we couldn't be more blessed.
Zachary, you're one of the two coolest boys we know. You and Jacob have made these 15 months of travel the most terrific experience we could ever have imagined, and getting to share the adventure with you has been an amazing gift to us. Keep on being so awesome!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

CRAZY cheeses

When we were in Delft we saw a cheese shop and it had every imaginable kind of cheese like green pesto cheese, and red pesto cheese, and a lot of smoked cheese, and many more. and they were all very good.

I thought the green pesto cheese was the craziest but I thought  the smoked cheese with chili and spices was really good.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

No Delft Blues Here!

We spent today (July 17) touring the western town of Delft. Like Brugge, it's just an incredibly beautiful small town/city, perfect for walking and wandering. Delft is the hometown of the famous painter Johannes Vermeer, of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" fame. It's also home to the famous Delft Blue earthenware. And of course, what would a Dutch city be without a series of beautiful canals?
Two kerks dominate the town centre - the Oude Kerk behind the boys (1240 AD) and the Nieuw Kerk (1380s). Again, Pisa's not the only town with a leaning tower, just the one with the best PR firm. The Oude Kerk's tower leans rather scarily over the canal! Inside the Oude Kerk is the gravestone and mausoleum of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, one of the pioneers of microscopes and seeing the incredible world previously unseen.
Another very famous person buried in Delft, with a mausoleum in the Nieuw Kerk, is Prince William of Orange, who led the rebellion against the Spaniards ruling the Netherlands. This was part of the 80 years war, and we saw a good bit of it detailed at the Prinsenhof Museum. At the Prinsehof itself was St. Agatha's Convent, where William was murdered by a Catholic. Those are the bullet holes from the assassin's (Balthazar Gerrard) pistols there from July 10, 1584.
At least the Dutch are more original with their souvenirs than some other places we've been to on this trip. Looks like they've raided the town's attics to collect old strap-on ice skates on the left, and the giant clog on the right can double as a bobsled!
Also found this rather cool cheese shop on the main Markt. All sorts of pretty exotic cheeses, including green pesto and red pesto cheese, smoked cheese with chili, and all sorts of goat and sheep cheese. The boys tried some samples, then tried the old "dine and dash" routine with a cartload of cheese!

Monday, 23 July 2012

300 Sights on a Bike!

Wow, it's our 300th blog post - let's go biking!
By now, you know that we adore the cycling scene and scenery around this part of the Netherlands. Except for the constant strong SW wind and the regular but random rain of course! Riding by the big local park in Hoogland, we came across a big equestrian tournament one weekend. By now we've shown you lots of sheep, horses, ponies, etc. Here are some other sights in our part of the world seen while out on the bike.
You'll certainly find birds of all sorts around, due to multitude of canals and marshes in the area. It's rather bird-heaven in that way, so lots of herons about too. With all the fields too and hence small mammals, there are lots of predator birds flying about too. Oh yeah our street "Kraailand" means "Crowland."
Also a few more exotic birds roaming about. On the right some folks have built a big platform for storks, and they were feeding their babies while we watched. On the right is a big emu - don't think they're native here!
You'll certainly see rail tracks and have to stop for trains quite often riding around the Netherlands. The trains here are really efficient and extremely frequent. We've seen very few freight trains but lots and lots of passenger trains. Definitely do NOT even remotely consider running the lights or barriers, for these things FLY!

And even though you're in a country where bike paths and directions are supremely well-marked, if you're riding with Eric, sooner or later you're going to see him riding in loops very quizzically. After leading you on for about 30 km more than you've bargained for, he'll eventually admit that he's not completely sure where the heck we are. As a redeeming feature, though, that will usually be followed up by coffee, apple pie, and good laughs!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A Petting Zoo Tour

Today (July 16) we were planning to go to Delft, but since it is Monday, for some reason all of the museums were closed. It's like Wednesdays in St. Petersburg! Instead we went for 2/3 of a triathlon, first we biked 6 kilometres, then walked for 5 kilometres, and then took the 6 kilometres ride back home.

There were a lot of animals on our walk, including a donkey, LOTS of sheep, horses, a pony, and also a LOT of cows! there were also a few birds, including a Heron.

 Look, there are even stations for charging up your electric bike scattered throughout the Netherlands!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Openlucht Museum

One of the really cool museums we went to in the Netherlands is the Openlucht (Open Air) Museum in Arnhem (the ultimate objective of the famous paratroop battle "Operation Market Garden" in WW2). For those of you in Vancouver, it's like Burnaby Village museum at Deer Lake, only MUCH bigger. It is on many hectares, and buildings from all periods of Dutch history from the past 500+ years are relocated and exhibited here. It's really well-done, and is actually celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.


You can walk all throughout from building to building, or you can take the historic trams from stop to stop. In one row of tenement houses, they built up one apartment as it might look in the 1970s, another as it would be in the 1800s during the industrial age, and another as it might be for the tenement nurse. The newest buildings focused on the immigrant experience over the past sixty years - really neat.
There are also, naturally, lots of windmills. But also cool portable dessert stands Popperjes (little waffle-like treats), a cheese factory, a rebuilt train station, even part of a fishing village.
The other really impressive part was the "Holland-Rama." The theatre is on a flight simulator type platform, and you are rotated and tilted all over inside to see different aspects of Dutch history.
Gratuitous Windmill Pic!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Ridiculous Dutch Weather

Today we were going to go to some big dunes (Soestduinen) about 7 km from home. It began to rain so we turned around and headed home but then the rain stoped so we turned around then it started to go back but it started again so we finally decided to just go home and have some hot chocolate. It's been like that every day here!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Beautiful Brugge

Brugge (in Flemish it's Brugge, in French it's Bruges, but we're in Flanders so Brugge it is!) lies in the heart of west Flanders, and it really is an amazingly beautiful medieval town. It's also the perfect size for walking, at least when it wasn't pouring rain! For cycling fans, Brugge is of course the start point of the Ronde van Vlaanderan (Tour of Flanders) classic the first Sunday every April. That's the belfry there on the left at Grote Markt (Big Market), the main central square where the race begins. The family climbed the belfry Saturday morning and saw/heard the carillons playing - I'm guessing they charge extra for earplugs!
Brugge's central town is crisscrossed by canals, some leading all the way to Gent and other major towns. The numerous canals and cobbled streets are a great way to spend some time logging up your pedometer.
Brugge is just loaded with beautiful buildings. My ECSS conference venue was the Oud Sint-Jan hospital (see previous post). The shot on the left is from the central courtyard terrace, with Notre Dame rising up in the background. It's one of the tallest brick churches in Europe. On the right is Stadhuis (town hall), where we had an "exclusive" reception Thursday night by the mayor before the terrific meal within the ancient stone walls I wrote about earlier.
It was quite a surprise to bump into Phil Sullivan, my colleague at Brock and also my department Chair, at ECSS. I was afraid that he was sent as a bounty hunter to end my sabbatical and haul me back to Brock in handcuffs or frozen in carbonate like Han Solo!
We never did get around to a canal tour in Amsterdam, but we did get lucky with the weather (constantly switching from warm bright sun to rain and back) during our Brugge boat tour. I saw my Aussie friend Aaron Coutts in line for a boat tour in his shorts and flip-flops as it started to pour rain, and joked later with him whether he got a discount for doing bailing duty!
More gratuitous canal scenery on the left. On the right we're outside the basilica where the "Relic of the Holy Blood" is kept. It's located right next to the Stadhuis.