A Year Later: Still Pining for The Hague, Netherlands, and Maybe a Tulip or Two.

A Year Later: Still Pining for The Hague, Netherlands, and Maybe a Tulip or Two.

Last September, I was fortunate enough to visit The Netherlands, specifically the city of The Hague with my oldest son. He presented at an international scientific conference as a college student on some research he had conducted over the previous two years. I was able to go with him on my first trip to Europe!  It was a fast trip, but one that left me wanting more. I would like to return to Holland, as well as take more trips with my son.

We found the city of Den Haag easy to get around, clean, filled with busy yet polite people, and beautiful to look at. Here are some shots of the streets of Den Haag (The Hague). There are many types of architecture which meant that there was always something interesting to look at during our daily adventures.

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We did a lot of walking, riding the buses and trams, and sightseeing in between his conference obligations. All presenters also had to volunteer time at this conference. Having been both a conference presenter and volunteer myself, I know what an obligation this can be. So, the first morning there, I made my way to one of the many museums in The Hague to occupy my time while my son was busy volunteering. I felt comfortable walking from our hotel – a quaint room in an old mansion – now a Best Western affiliate in a residential section of the city, to this particular museum.

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Given it was our first day, I was not all that sure of using the public transportation by myself.  As we found out later, the public trams and buses were safe, reliable, clean, and easy to use since we had purchased passes that allowed unlimited rides to anywhere in the area we were staying and even to Delft, a mere 30 minutes away, and the beach, Scheveningen – on the North Sea, which was even closer.

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Delft, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016
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Scheveningen, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016

The beach was deserted the day we visited, but you could imagine how popular it would be on a hot summer day! We got to see this seagull trying to eat a tennis ball! He did get it in his mouth, too! I wonder if it smelled like fish?

 

 

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Some of our the most memorable places include those off the beaten track, such as the trek we took a year ago tomorrow to visit three windmills in the Dutch countryside. It was an adventure well worth it!

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Trips to the conference venue continued intermittently throughout the week, with us being able to explore different routes around the city. We walked where and when we could, somewhat afraid to ride a bike in this face paced, yet professional appearing city. There were advantages to walking in that we could take in all the new surroundings have to offer and easily return to a place, if desired, later in the trip. In a few short days we found a two restaurants we liked enough to return to twice, tried two grocery stores, bought some fancy dutch chocolate – although I think the STAM chocolatiers (also, Dutch) in Ames, Iowa are just as good and much less pretentious, stuck our toes in the North Sea, travelled the trams like we were pros – except for the one time we got on going the wrong way,  gawked at artwork by some of the most famous Dutch Masters, wandered into the countryside armed only with a map and an accurate inner compass that my young companion has always had, felt reverent in some ancient kerks (churches), and luckily were not run over by any bicyclists!

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Yes, there was a lot to like about Den Haag. I am drawn to go back in the future. It is a place that is both old and new, with a glistening city centre bordered by centuries old parliament buildings and churches. There are museums for art lovers, bistros and music for those to love the culture of food, as well as a sense of a history of sustainable living with the bicyclists, solar panels, windmills, canals systems, and dikes. I guess I am just attracted to a place that functions to uphold peace and justice on an international level. The architecture draws me in as well, since old seems revered and appreciated, while the need for new is recognized. Somehow, it all worked together!  Until the future arrives, Den Haag, I bid you adieu but will continue to admire you from afar.

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This is my third post on Den Haag. You can visit my other posts  here and here.

 

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International Museum Day

International Museum Day

This morning, reading my morning social media feed provided a moment of serendipity. One of the posts reminded me that it was International Museum Day. Just recently, after assigning my writer’s circle students to write on a the events of a specific day in history, one completed the work for the date of May 18th, informitng me of International Museum Day. It was the first I’d heard of this designation and now, it had popped up again, only a couple of weeks later!

I’ve been fornuate to have been able to visit some wonderful museums. My travels include several international museums as well some closer to home.  I think my fascination with museums stems from an 8th grade field trip to the Toronto Science Center.  The other attractant that draws me to museums is that I love information!

Some of the museums recommended to visit in the United States are the following:

  • Franklin Institute – Philadelphia PA
  • The Air and Space Museum in San Diego, California
  • The Smithsonian Institution Museums in Washington, D.C.
    • The Air and Space Museum is a favorite and one I have been to several times in my life, sharing it with my parents, my husband, and my boys – all on separate occasions. If you like space flight and airplanes, it is the place to go!
    • The Natural History Museum is also a favorite of mine, having much to offer my curiosity about science and our natural world.
  • Also in Washington, D.C., is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We took our teen boys to this museum in the summer of 2015. It is a sad and serious place that loudly reviberates the atrocities that humans can commit against each other. I would d like to say it should not be missed, but it is not for everyone. It might be too emotionally draining and definitely not something I would do with young children.
  • Being from Rochester, New York, a trip to the George Eastman Museum (and House) is necessary to for any visiting photographer or local resident fascinated with the lore of the Eastman Kodak Company.
  • Also in Rochester is the The Strong – National Museum of Play. This is what I would deem a pre-eminent children’s museum. It has something for everyone and probably bears repeat visits or membership if you are a local family in that region. I’ve been to other children’s museums around the country, including Madison, WI and even volunteered in our local children’s museum in La Crosse, WI, but nothing has ever surpassed The Strong! Of course their numerous and generous endowments allow this museum to continue to be top notch. One cannot reasonable expect other children’s museum to compete without simlar funding.
  • Philadelphia is filled with museums, and the Franklin Institute, mentioned above is filled with interesting exhibits.  One must visit Independence Mall, which has numerous museum like venues but is run by the National Park Service. Gettysburg is another place I would highly suggest visiting that has several museums or museum like exhibits.

Internationally, the following museums are interesting –

There is more about my visits to these Dutch museums in an earlier post on the Dutch artist, Vermeer.

As you can tell, I think museums are great places to visit. If you are able, start going to a few local museums with your children.  If they are exposed early to museums, they will develop an ability to appreciate the exhibits and time spent learning about our world!

Happy International Museum Day!

 

Fascinated with Vermeer

Fascinated with Vermeer

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One thing I have realized as I have aged is that I have a creative soul. My past should have included more art history and art classes in high school and even at the college I attended as a young nursing student, which boasts one of the best fine art schools in the country!

Shortly before it was decided that I would travel to The Netherlands last September, I began reading The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier. This story, fictional of course, is based on a famous painting by the Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer. I devoured the book. So you can imagine my excitement when I found that Vermeer’s masterpiece is housed in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, the exact city where we would be staying for five nights.

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Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, Netherlands, September 2016

Den Haag, The Nederlands, or The Hague in Holland, which more Americans might call it, could be an art lover’s destination!  The Hague is known as the International City of Peace and Justice. There are a multitude of museums curated with every taste in mind.  Picasso and Rembrandt pieces are also found at the Maruitshuis Museum. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist famous for his tessellation’s has his own museum where many recognizable pieces can be found. While Van Gogh, and even a Frank Lloyd Wright piece, were noted at the Gemeente Museum, their current focus was on Mondrian & De Stijl. Never having seen so many masterpieces at once, I was mesmerized. But, nothing captured my anticipation than the possibility of seeing Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (TedEd video on this artwork) at the Mauritshuis. It didn’t disappoint.  Vermeer’s technique using of light to highlight the mysterious girl in the painting is captivating. And then, there is the nearly 400 year mystery of who the girl in the painting represented. Was she a real person?

My fascination with Vermeer didn’t end after seeing the painting. On we went, the following day, to the City of Delft, where Vermeer lived and worked. He is one of the city’s most prominent historical figures. Easily reached by a 30 minute inter-city bus ride, Delft is a quaint mix of centuries old buildings, new shops, canals, and bistros.  Vermeer lies buried in Oude Kerk or the Old Church in the city of Delft. It was built in 1246. The stained glass was replaced around WWII but is still beautiful as the windows surround a wooden ceiling.  On the floor, you will see Vermeer’s final resting place marked with an embossed stone, amongst other grave markers.Unfortunately, you can walk on the grave markers, as they are mostly flat, being part of the floor itself. Some of them are very worn.  I did not feel comfortable taking a photo of his grave, but think the beauty of the ceiling is captured in the photo below.

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Despite our trip being six months ago, I remain fascinated with Vermeer and actually, all things Dutch. There is much to see in The Netherlands and I hope to be able to go back one day. In the meantime, I provided myself with my own art history lesson to feed my creative soul.