Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sand, castle and art

“I’m almost 90 years old, and you have knee trouble. I think it’s time we go back,” Piet said. We had just walked in the cold air from a parking lot all the way on a path and then on sand to view a Dutch innovation; The Sand Motor.

Piet and I stood on a new Dutch land, created by a huge project that began in 2011.

Piet looks through binoculars at the Sandmotor

About 21.5 million cubic meters of sand through the use of ships, latest technological equipment was dredged up to protect the coast area near Kijkduin in South Holland.

But now it is nature’s turn to complete the rest. Through wind and waves and ocean currents the sand will be distributed along the coast to make room for more recreational activities.

As stated on a sign at the beginning of the site: “The shape of sand motor will change in the course of twenty years. Eventually, the sand will be completely dispersed across the new dunes and the beach.”

It was awesome to see how man and nature work together, and great to see the beginnings of such a project.

The Dutch works wonders with water distribution and dykes that open and close to accommodate rising water and boat traffic. And now, with engineering and innovational skills, they are working on the ocean and land.

But there I was admiring the magnificent project, and I couldn’t help but see the billions of tiny sea shells on the sand just waiting for my greedy hands and pockets.

“Isn’t it funny how particular you get when the shells are so plentiful?” I asked Piet, as I searched for the perfect and prettiest.

After we walked back off the sand and on to the path, into the cold wind, and back in the car, we found the restaurant, Haagshe Beek (beek means small stream). I had gebakje (cake), from the baking company,  Maison Kelder, known for its hazel nut cake. It’s known in the area.  The restaurant was a warm place that surprised us by being full of people. It seems out of the way, but people will find the most cozy corners in this country.

The next stop was the town, Maassluis, a small town with a seventeenth century harbor that was mainly used for fishing boats. Here we found old, brick buildings, walkways over bridges and nice shops along both sides of the canal, and dykes that open and close.

The old harbor town of Maassluis; an old fishing harbor

We were hungry by then and found the Frans Vouk’s Koffe Shop. I thought I was ordering a pancake with banana topping, but I didn’t complain when a pineapple laced pancake was delivered to me. I learned later I thought I ordered banana, but there again…my misinterpretation of the language afforded another learning situation, as ananas means pineapple and banana is banaan.

Onward we went over the highways and byways to Kasteel Van Rhoon. This castle, built in 1199, is now used as a cultural center, where various musical events take place and important art exhibits.

We were there to see the work of Germaine Sanders: www.germainesanders.nl.

Germain Sanders, artist

Germaine’s work was displayed at the top room of the castle. Many works of hers were displayed along the walls. They are pen and ink drawings, with such detail that you have to stand and study each piece. What drives that kind of patience is a mystery to me.

This artist is one who uses both the left and right sides of her brain. She is an architect with emphasis on engineering, and has taught subjects in college, but now she sketches, sells her work, and has a school that emphasizes creativity.

“I take people outside to draw on what they see.” She explained that in the busy world, we don’t really stop to really look at what is before us. “I want people to really see for themselves, and then draw what they see.” She went further to say, it’s not the result of the art made by the student, but what the student experiences by seeing.

I found many pieces I could easily live with; but right now I don’t have four walls or a ceiling, but I’ll take back the memory with me.

Inside the Kasteel Van Rhoon; ready for a party

After looking around at Kasteel Van Rhoon we traveled onward to Piet’s good friend, Lenie, and had dinner in her lovely apartment in  Lisse, in the town of the famous Keukenhof garden.

When I said goodbye to Lenie, and later to Piet, I knew it would be for the last time during this journey. Piet was most generous with the long time he spent with me touring his beautiful country. I enjoyed all of it, and especially learning so much from him and loving his humor.

On the grounds of Kasteel Van Rhoon

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful time today

Wow! What a great day.

I got back to my hotel late after a long day, and I’m anxious to tell you all about it. So watch  for tomorrow’s blog.

P.S. re: Toostje Van Dyke

I made a mistake a few stories back about Toostje Van Dyke. I said she didn’t speak Dutch. I meant that she doesn’t speak English. This made me search my brain for the right words to string together to make a Dutch sentence. She had a good laugh at my stumbling, but somehow we made it work. I stayed with her for two months back in 1988.

Staring at purple tulips

Didn’t go far today, as I waited for a phone call that didn’t come. So I walked up to the Kurhaus to mosey around and do some light shopping.

Before that, however, I walked to a restaurant for lunch, and got a sliced egg sandwich on a brown roll.

 

On the way back to the hotel, I couldn’t resist looking inside a store that said SALE. Who could pass that up? I didn’t buy anything but I did meet a nice lady who has lived in the U.S. She lived in Washington and New York, around thirty years ago. I can see why she had been offered many modeling jobs, as she is still a beauty.

 

So, after visiting the Kurhaus and walking around the neighborhood a bit, I sat inside my room, perused the internet, read all about the oscar show from USA Today, and stared at the purple tulips I have in my room.

 

Now, I’m going back soon to read on my ebook, for I have over one hundred books to read.

Taking it nice and easy. Tomorrow will be a busy day, beginning at 10 a.m. when Piet will pick me up to take me to see more of Holland. I’ll write about that tomorrow.

The beach and Dutch customs/just a few

Hello from Kijkduin.

 

Moe and Joe (left foot, right foot) and bus number twenty-three took me to another North Sea beach called Kijkduin. It was cold but there were some die-hards walking near the shoreline, and along the dunes. I stayed back and admired them until I found a restaurant that was warm and cozy inside.

Brrrr, it's cold but isn't it pretty? The Kijkduin beach on the North sea.

There are many restaurants that are open year around, and the one I chose, Ketje’s Mix, was full of people eating and drinking.

Everyone walked in with coats, scarves, gloves and boots, but took them off inside where it was relaxing after being in the brisk wind.

I know there are millions upon millions of tiny sea shells down on the sand, because I have picked many up from other years, so today, I didn’t make the trip down to the shore. Instead, I looked down and found a few in the sand near the tall grass. That was enough to make my day.

Then, I don’t remember this is the past, but I noticed that the boardwalk near the restaurants and shops is laid down firmly with sand and those little sea shells. Nice touch.

While I’m at it and on the last week of my Holland adventure, I thought it a good time to mention some Dutch expressions heard everyday.

The sound by making the ‘j’ sound like an ‘h’ is je, je, (as in the word head) similar to, the American sarcasm, “yeah, right”.

“So”, is heard when someone has accomplished something. I heard that today when a cold looking elderly lady and a gentleman struggled to get a seat and settled down before the bus lunged forward.

“Lekker” means that is really delicious. I hear that often since most of my meals are taken in restaurants.

“Doei” sounds like dooey. It’s an informal way to sing-song good bye.

I may need help with this one; when someone is displease with something, but not worthy of a long complaint, a simple word that sounds like, ‘now’.

It’s a custom to take flowers to a host, and that is so easy in Holland, for there are many flower stands/stalls and shops and flowers are plentiful.

Okay – let’s go to the subject of kissing.

When the Dutch greet, or say goodbye, many folks kiss first on one cheek then the other one; but that doesn’t end the greeting, for they then go back and kiss the first cheek again.

It takes a long time to greet in Holland, but it’s fun.

I remember when living in Costa Rica how people kissed even in business transactions. I was in a travel agents office, and when most people shake hands, there the manager kissed first and got to know me later. That was a normal way of doing business.

 

I love to learn about the customs in other countries and I feel they are a blessing to us. I never want to judge another culture’s traditions, for that would be the same as making fun of their family. I appreciate the same in return for the customs and traditions that have developed over the years in America.

A sweet shop in Kijkduin

The dolls were in a window. They are dressed in typical Scheveningen clothing. I saw two women dressed just like this the other day. I was without my camera. The one and very few times I left without it.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering the cold and the hungry edited

It’s cold.

“How cold is it ?” – a la Johnny Carson to his audiences’ question: It’s so cold you’d have to jump-start a reindeer.

So today, even though it’s really cold there are things to see and do, so I bundled up and went off to the southern part of Den Haag to give my regards to Toosje Van Dyke who is in the hospital.

Toosje, age 85, is a family friend and former neighbor of the Diephof’s. The families’  friendship goes way back to the beginning of WWII when the Van Dykes had several children and the Diephof’s had two: Wim and his sister, Poppy.

I cannot help but think how both families, and the entire country of The Netherlands, suffered during the cold winter, when there was no food, and no heat and limited water.

The Dutch burned their furniture for warmth and to warm up any food they might have acquired somehow. Some folks in desperation, burned asphalt to make a fire for cooking.

It was a rough time, and getting to see Toosje, those years were on my mind, as I walked nearly two miles from the tram to get to the hospital. I was cold but I would be capable of getting warm soon, and food was no problem.

The story of Wim and his family’s survival during the worst time, is in my book, “Too Close to the Sun.”

I took a bus to the central station and looked for a sign that would give the number of the tram I needed to get to Wateringen, where the hospital is located. The station is undergoing extensive remodeling, so one must take the responsibility, search and ask questions about what mode of transportation would get you to your destination.

I saw that tram 17 would go to Wateringen, and that was verified by the nice tram driver. It was a long ride, and on the marque, that announces the stop never showed Waterlingen.

Soon the tram driver stopped, turned and told me we were in Wateringen.

There was nothing around; no town, no stores, no station. “Where do I go to get here?”

I showed her a card with the address, but she didn’t know. So I got off and asked two women walking my way.

All transaction was in Dutch. The older one was the mother and she began to explain, but when the daughter spoke up, the mother slapped her hand and said, ‘nay’.

So both of us paid attention to the mother. She told me to walk that way, turn left over the bridge, keep going to the end, then go over a blue bridge on your right, then go straight and the hospital would be on the left.

The daughter got a word in: “See the church? It’s across the street from the church.”

I walked with them as far as the first bridge, working my legs has fast as I could to keep up, not with the daughter, but with the elderly mother, who appeared to have motors in her legs, as she walked fast.

Their friendly directions were great and I arrived at the hospital.

“I’m here to see Toosje Van Dyke,” I told the receptionist. But she saw only two people with that name, but the wrong first name. She took me to a lunch room full of residents, and pointed to one woman, but I had to say it wasn’t her. The next room with a different first name no one answered the door. I was about to give up, but went back to the receptionist again, and told her the family had given this place as where Toosje was living.

“I’ll call sister and ask her for help.” The nun took me to the second room and we went inside where a woman looked hopeful up at me; hopeful for a visitor, but no, that wasn’t her either.

“Let’s go back downstairs. Maybe she is here only temporary,” the nun said.

She asked the receptionist for the list of temporary patients and there, right on the list, was Toosje’s name and room number.

The nun took me to Toosje’s room and left me there to visit.

Toosje’s memory is excellent. She remembers practically every time we were together. That is in The Hague and in Colorado where she visited us.

Toosje’s humor is as good as ever; she managed to make fun of my bad Dutch and the big boots I was wearing. She doesn’t speak English, so I had to find the words somehow to express myself. I could understand most of what she said.

Toosje, for many years, took care of Walter and Poppy’s children, who are now parents and grandparents. She is someone the family has treasured throughout the years.

I didn’t stay long as I had to be in Den Haag soon after.

I went outside into the cold and jump started the reindeer; actually, it was bus number thirty.

 

 

 

Museums: do they really want your donation?

After a disappointment, the situated was rectified and so far it’s smooth sailing.

This story began when Will and I lived in Scheveningen.  We visited the former Naval Vessel Mercuur, a Ship Museum at the Scheveningen Harbor.

Will was impressed with the museum that is run totally by volunteer labor and donations; so impressed that he told the commander he would donate copies of his father’s navy papers.

That would be nice, the commander said, but why not donate the real thing? Will said he thought that would be okay and he would certainly send them on when we got back to the states and after he would have an opportunity to look around for the papers and the pension book.

Will became too ill, and I got very busy working and taking care of him, that we just didn’t take care of the donation in a timely way, even though we both talked about doing it.

However, Will died in 2002 and I was living in Costa Rica from 2003 to 2005, and during that time, I took a trip to Holland and asked again if the commander would like the papers. He affirmed that they would be welcomed into the museum.

So when I got back to the states and found the paper work, I had my friend Ellen Korstanje translate the material for me so I would know what I was offering the museum.

After that, a Dutch woman inThe Hague, who is a sister, of my friend in Costa Rica, took the papers, that I had mailed to her,  to the ship museum. She and her husband presented them to the commander. They took photos of the transaction and sent them to me. Meanwhile, the commander answered my letter verifying that the paper work was received with pleasure, and thanked me for the donation.

Today I walked in the freezing cold wind all the way to the Harbor and to the ship. I wanted to see how the papers were being used and to get a photo.

This was the second trip; the ship was closed the first time. I saw a ramp that goes up to the ship that looked closed, but to the side was another smaller boat, with a ramp that appeared to be open.

Museumschip Mercuur in the Scheveningen Harbour

“Hello?” “ Permission to come aboard.” “Hello…is anyone here?” Silence. I continued to walk down the steep and shaky ramp and into the ship. Still no one was around. So I went up narrow stairs until I could see the deck.

About that time a man came around the corner and looked surprised to see me. I was equally surprised. I tried in my best Dutch (which is very bad Dutch) to explain that I wanted to see how my husbands’, father’s papers were being displayed in the ship.

He told me to go ahead and go anywhere inside the ship and take all the photos I want.

“You must pay my colleague.” he added, completely putting aside what I had asked him.

As I ventured on through the ship, looking inside windows at dummies during the duty in the various rooms, and then an elderly woman showed up completely dressed in a navy uniform.

“We’re you in the navy?” I asked. “No”, she said. That was about all we understood each other from then on until I left. I kept running into her and whenever I asked her a question about the ship, she didn’t know the answer. I gave up.

Then another man who had paint splattered all over him, appeared and asked me if he could help me. I told him the story about the donation and that I want to see the display. 

“That doesn’t sound familiar to me, but I’ll explain all about the ship to you.” So he went over the whole history, the ship originated in the U.S., it was a mine sweeper for the U.S. Navy in The Netherlands. After WWII, the Mercuur assisted in searching and destroying sea mines in the Dutch harbors.

I listened politely and then asked again about the papers.

“I’ll go and ask the commander.” After a few minutes he came back and said the commander doesn’t remember anything about it.

“I need to speak to him. Please tell him I’m here and I’d like to ask him about my donation.”

He came back with the commander, and I explained the whole situation to him, and he said, “ what was his name?”

“Diephof.”

“Oh, I think I remember now, wait here and I’ll go see what I can find.”

He was gone for about fifteen minutes and then returned with a note that had the name Diephof on it.

“We are building a shelf to put the papers on,” the commander said.

“Oh, well that’s nice. When you finish will you let me know?”

“Yes, put your email here and I’ll send you a note when it is finished.”

The above conversation was all in Dutch…believe it or not! Nearly everyone I encounter with very few exceptions speak English. He did not.

So, I left feeling a little bit better, but I wasn’t fooled. It doesn’t take eight years to build a shelf!

Note to all museums:  If you do not want a donation, say so. Do not accept anything and then stash it away. I personally would rather not give it to someone who doesn’t want it.

This is the second time this has happened to me, and I’ve learned my lesson. The first time in another museum, took years to see my donation put into a glass case, while a more important item was stolen before it was even displayed. Shame.

Thinking out loud

I came back to the hotel yesterday evening, tired from walking, getting on and off the trams and buses. Trying to locate this and that, purchasing shampoo, and other ‘stuff’. Oh, and I found a store with used CD’s and DVD’s and for one euro I got a movie, “The Private Life of Henry VIII”. I’ll watch that later today.

I’m thinking….

Getting back to yesterday, I was so tired that when I decided to climb into bed, I just put my coat, packages, camera and purse on the floor.

This morning, I left it all and went down to the breakfast room. Usually the maid knocks on the door to clean the room and make the bed. Or she waits until I leave. But this morning, after breakfast, I went to the room to find her  there. The bed all made and the bathroom clean, and all the ‘stuff’ off the floor. I was embarrassed to say the least. I’m the person who would clean up a house before a house keeper comes to clean.

But she put me at ease and told me I had the only room available to clean and so she went ahead, thinking I wouldn’t mind. Of course I didn’t, really. I love being spoiled this way. And then she told me a bit about her life. She is a young woman and only four years in Holland from Lithuania. She said her dreams of a new life in Holland hasn’t come true yet. She has a degree in interior design, but, like many, she has a million excuses why she hasn’t pursued her dream of working in her field of study. I tried to assure her that when the time is right, she’ll know it. Meanwhile, she has a job, and that is a giant  first step.

This all brought me to my own condition. I have had so much fun on this long journey, and learned a lot, have great notes and photos for my book, but my biggest concern right now is, what will I do when I return back to the U.S. in seven weeks? I will need to find a room, generate some income, and work on my book.

I’ll need to practice some of my preaching, and know that it will all come into place. For me, the right time begins when I put my foot down on U.S. territory.

More memories

Memories popped up when I was in the Centrum of The Hague today. Some memories were of my time in The Hague alone, and some with Will and those from the stories he told me about the years during WWII.

This photo is the Passage, where Wim and his friends walked under to get to their ballroom dance lessons.

 

The next two photos are of the Binnenhof, the complex of stone buildings, and one of them is where the queen holds her annual speech -the great hall. The complex is also made up of the Dutch parliament – since 1446, a tower is known as the little tower and then the Mauritshuis museum, which has been the office of the Prime Minister since 1982. I wanted to see the Mauritshuis Museum, as the famous painting, “The Girl With the Pearl Earring” rests inside this museum. However, due to some massive construction in the same area, the museum was closed.

There are more old buildings in the Binnenhof, that have stood in place for eight centuries. A larger modern building – which has been built since the first time I was in The Hague alone, houses the House of Representatives.The courtyard is open to the public and a gold fountain adorns the square.

 

This photo is the entrance to the Binnenhof courtyard.

 

The small lake on the side of the Binnenhof was featured in my book, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII. Wim and his friend hid inside an underground shelter, during the bombing of Rotterdam. When they crawled out of the shelter with many other men, women, children and dogs, they saw the lake shimmering in reflection from the fires and smoke from the bombing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top floor of this restaurant was reserved for the members of the American Woman’s Club, back in 1999 where we and our spouses got the best view of Queen Beatrix going to the Binnenhof Ridderzal  in her gilded carriage. Every year on the third Tuesday of September the Queen delivers a speech and the Minister of Finance presents the Budget to the House of Representatives. The Indonesian food was good, too.

 

Couldn’t resist the Jamin candy store. Jamin is a famous candy store in the Netherlands.

Cornelis Jamin was born in 1850 in Boxmeer. He moved to Rotterdam, where he started a street trading of candy and after ten years, he had two sugar factories: one in the Red Sand and the Crooswijkse Quay. And again three years later, in 1883, the Netherlands had its first Jamin store.

I had to purchase some candy for the memories. You choose what you want and put it into a cone shaped bag. There are the well known and loved salty licorice is unique in flavor, but not my favorite…just too salty for me.

 

Another sweet treat are the stroopwafels – they are round cookies with honey and  are big enough to put on top of a cup of tea to warm. I saw a man in the center of town making them and other sweet items right on the street. Stroopwafels are now available in World Market, but before this, I used to order them from the Dutch mail order company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Haagsbluf restaurant uses a typical word that Will had described to me. The Hague had a reputation – deserved or not – I’m not convinced, but nonetheless, a dessert made of egg whites and sugar, and is so simple, with such simple ingredients, that it is a bluff for a real dessert; just like those snobby people in The Hague.

Amsterdam and a gift

Dorry and I did a “a lady’s, let’s do lunch today”, and it was lovely to see her one more time before I leave Holland.

Dorry hosted me, along with her partner, Paul Boes in their beautiful Arnhem home three weeks ago.

We agreed then that we would get together for lunch, so that was the plan today.

I met Dorry in the sky scraper where she works on the twenty-third floor in Amsterdam.

She works for Arcadis; an international company that provides consultancy, design, water, environment and buildings. Dorry’s talents are used in the communication department. That seems to me, an appropriate niche for Dorry, for she was a key person in the Arcadis company’s art collection. More about that later.

When I met Dorry on the main floor, and with my badge to open the gate, I followed her for lunch in the same building. The restaurant has many choices: warm dishes, a la carte, sandwiches, and more. We both chose the fish dish that was delicious.

Dorry is involved in a huge project with her work and I felt fortunate to get her all to myself for a one hour lunch. After lunch we went to the twenty fourth floor where Arcadis’ main office is located, and then to her office  on the twenty-third floor.

Many pieces of the artwork I mentioned are on the walls in prominent display.

When the hour was up, Dorry gave me a gift. It is the book, “Kunst collectie Arcadis art collection.”

The book has photos of the major works of art in the Arcadis collection. It is said in the book, that the company has a goal to find a balance a between the company’s economic activity and the commitment to enriching the culture.

A few years ago, a committee was formed to to build the criteria of art and to purchase the collection. My friend Dorry is listed as one of the authors of the book she gifted me, and she was also responsible for the composition of it.

Dorry standing where clocks give the time in various parts of the world.

She was also a key person in the choice of artwork for the company.

Earlier in the day I got a train from Den Haag to Amsterdam, following Dorry’s description of what the building where she works looks like, to give me a help in locating the building.

That was easy; however, I was a bit early so I sat in a coffee shop looking up at the building that I would soon enter.

The building on the left is Dorry's office on the 23rd floor

After saying goodbye to Dorry, I joined a crowded city center in Amsterdam and walked around the town, viewing what the city is famous for. You cannot miss seeing the ‘coffee shops’ where cannabis openly sold.

 

Typical street in Amsterdam

 

 

 

 

I got on a “Hop on Hop off bus, that would be the last trip for the day, so I couldn’t hop off until the very end, but that was okay, as I really just wanted to get an over view over what makes the city so attractive to a huge number of tourists. This was my third trip to Amsterdam on previous years.

I find a possible answer, besides the coffee shops and the red-light district, are the old buildings, canals, boats, sculptures: that all add to make the city unique. The voice guide provided names of famous people and the houses where they lived.

I won’t go back to Amsterdam; it’s just too busy for me, and today was cold. So cold that when I finally got back to my warm hotel room, I took a hot bath.

I will cherish the reason I went to Amsterdam and the lovely book Dorry gave me. It’s priceless.

 

A row of houses in The Hague I found while on my way back to my hotel