This week the husband and I took a short holiday in The Netherlands. It is somewhere I’d never given much thought to as when perusing Easyjet destinations I tend to gravitate towards those that promise sunshine. But last year a friend moved to Amsterdam and issued an open invitation for us to stay. I’ve always enjoyed seeing friends in different places and have one girlfriend I’ve never seen in the same place twice (Kota Kinnabalu, Jakarta, Bath and London) so Amsterdam it would be.   

It was by accident I selected Easter weekend (I tend to think in terms of whether or not we have the boys with us only) but this meant that by booking a single days annual leave we could have a five day holiday. Rather than stick to Amsterdam we decided to also visit Delft.   

A big part of the appeal of visiting Delft for me was that it is the setting for Girl with a pearl earring; a rare example of a film I believe does justice to the book. In Girl with a pearl earring we follow Greet as she becomes a maid in the house of the artist Johannes Vermeer and through her experience his work comes to life.   

I’m a fan of Vermeer’s work but was relatively unfamiliar with it as he produced so little. I’ve seen at least half a dozen Van Gogh’s as I’ve visited galleries on my travels but I still managed to not see a Vermeer before leaving The Netherlands. We did however, see a fascinating exhibition of to scale reproductions in the order in which they’d been painted.    

I was quite pleased to point out Woman with a pearl necklace to the husband as it seems he cannot let a reference to Girl with a pearl earring go by without referencing pearl necklaces, something I find rather tedious in its immaturity.   

Delft was charming. There is a real eclecticism to the architectural style once you look beyond the tall slimness that unifies the buildings. The New Church in particular appealed to us with its multitiered tower.
Delft New Church
Compared to Amsterdam, the relationship between the canal and the street was more intimate. The water was always open and near. We were surprised at the perilous parking as mere inches from car tyres the paving suddenly dropped away to the waters edge. On our boat trip we had the opportunity to ask a local how many cars met with a watery death each year. ‘Two to three’ we were cheerfully informed and it is always a cause for a good laugh!

Amsterdam’s famous floating flower market lacked impact for me. Encased in plastic, there was little to suggest a connection to the water. Instead it felt isolated. Throughout the city, the graceful bridges lifted you above the canals. The roads with their regular trams are what connects the city together whereas in Delft the roads fit around the canals.

Of course Amsterdam is known for a couple of other things but despite the coffee shops (if you just want coffee you want a cafe or a bar it seemed) and ladies behind the red velvet curtains it’s quite a conservative place. While the cafe culture of daytime drinking was in evidence, that beer was quite possibly one of the many 0% options.

I guess I thought The Netherlands would share similarities with Cambodia (where spliffs were on the menu in many of the restaurants I visited) but the counter culture was subtle; integrated yes but not significant. We had a couple of good meals in the red light district and while I might be reluctant to take my stepsons to them, it didn’t feel like an especially novel part of the city. I forgot several times that the area was supposedly notorious. 

While the weather left something to be desired, we had a great time and The Netherlands is high on our list for somewhere to revisit with the kids. The rain put us off visiting the Keukenhof Gardens (although we saw some lovely tulip fields from the train) and I hope to make that trip as a family. I certainly think Amsterdam is one of the most family friendly cities I’ve visited!
4/12/2012 05:08:43 am

I've been to Amsterdam a couple of times now, but we preferred Utrecht (the only other sizeable town I've visited in the Netherlands). Delft sounds interesting :)


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