Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Crushed Mice for the New King: two unusual weeks in The Netherlands

Crushed Mice for the New King: two unusual weeks in The Netherlands

Old Jun 30th, 2013, 12:34 PM
  #41  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It was a great day, if you think getting up at 5:30 AM is fun.(Jim did not, and opted to sleep, followed by late breakfast with the innkeeper, a trip to The Heineken Experience, and then the Albert Cuyp Market)

The rest of us left Broek at 6:15 with John R driving our van, and drove off in rain, wind and cold! We hit a mess of traffic on the A10, and there was construction. I can't tell you how happy I was since I didn't have to drive, in fact, I didn't even have to "back seat drive" as I usually do with Jim.

We arrived at Aalsmeer Flower Auction Visitors Entrance at 7:30 AM. By then the auction had been going for a couple of hours! It was utterly fascinating to see how it's done, from the vantage point of a walkway up high above the fray. It is well organized for visitors, so one can see the wholesalers on one side with vast trolleys of flowers of one kind,or another, from all over the world; then one can see, on the other side, the separate areas of each distributor, where each trolley or part-trolley of their purchase is brought and delivered by little power carts hooked to their trolley. (Think golf carts hooked to hay wagons.) (That's not quite the right picture, but I think it helps a little)

We were also able to view the huge arena seating where the buyers were arrayed each with a lap-top computer used to bid on the various lots of flowers shown on a huge video screen in front. The centerpiece of the screen is the giant clock, which twirls around as each bid is recognized and automatically posted. Gone are the days when the trolleys of flowers were pulled across in front of the buyers, who probably used to raise their hands as they do on trading floors, screaming at one another in some unintelligible language. (Actually I have no idea how they "used to" do it.)

At the end of the long walkway, there was, guess what, a cafeteria. We all needed a shot of caffeine by now, so it was a welcome sight. I also discovered a very delicious smoothie, which I bought and drank, and looked for all over Holland thereafter.

Tangent: The smoothie was called "INNOCENT" pure fruit smoothie,(mine was strawberry & banana) on which was also printed "buy me, save a bee." They come from Innocent drinks, Ladbroke Grove, London, and the label further says:

"Thousands of employees were needed to make this smoothie. We are not exaggerating, we're talking about the bees, our busiest team members. Without them, there would be no pollination, no fruit, and definitely no smoothies. But please don't send them emails to thank them (their tiny fingers are too sticky to handle a keyboard); instead you should buy this smoothie. Because for every smoothie sold, we help fund projects to save the bees in your country."

Could you resist that?

Back to story:

Although we all said we would probably not go back, I think we all agreed it was well worth the ungodly early hour we had to get up to do it. Even the driver was enthusiastic and positive.

From there we drove on to Keukenhof, which is quite near by especially if you are going by car.

Another reason we kept the van for the second day was to be able to drive some of the Bloemenroute, which was really fun. It is hard to describe the sight of masses and masses of (mostly) tulips of varying colors on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see.

By now, Ed was driving, and how he managed to keep his cool with 6 people oohing, aahing, shouting directions, while also yelling "Oh, look over there" every two minutes, I will never know. I don't think even NY taxi drivers are subject to such distractions. What a guy! His wife is lucky. Well, he's lucky too, she's a gem.

In fact, while I'm on the subject, all the guys are lucky and all the gals are lucky. This is a great crew to be with. Easygoing travelers, every one.

So, Keukenhof is also one of life's smile-making marvels to behold. Everyone should go there at least once in a lifetime, if at all possible. It was a joy to walk around, oohing and aahing again and again at the glorious arrays of color. This is the place where a picture is really worth a thousand words.

Suffice it to say that we loved it all, we got lost several times, we had a decent lunch in their cafeteria,(and I bought an elegant shawl embroidered very discreetly with tulips!)

There are lots of things for kids to do there, including just run around. Even though it was a cold day, the rain had stopped earlier, and the sun had come out, and I think everyone I saw had a smile on their face.

The ride home was uneventful. We were all tired so we stayed in our little town for dinner once again, and this time went to the local restaurant called The White Swan. We liked this better than the Three Nuts, and I recall that I had a delicious salad with Serrano ham and goat's cheese, while Jim had pork chops with gorgonzola sauce, and mashed potatoes, with which we both drank a Chilean Chardonnay. Don't know what others had, but the cost came to about $75 per couple all in.

Tomorrow we are off to The Hague!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 01:53 PM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
taconic - we never got to the flower auction, but you make me wish that we had.

however we have been to Keuchenhof twice, with 10 years or so in between trips, and I'd be very happy to go again, perhaps in a few more years time. The first time I hadn't really been interested in tulips, but since that visit, I've started to grow quite a few [ok call it quite a few hundred] in my garden. since the 2nd visit last year, due to the wonderful exhibit of orchids that we saw, I've become interested in them. it really is the loveliest place and the surrounding fields are if anything even more beautiful with their almost random strips of fierce colour and pastel shades.

thanks for reminding me!
annhig is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 02:31 PM
  #43  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am so sorry we went to Keuchenhof and were too early for the tulips. They were due to bloom in a matter of a week-maybe 10 days. Darn.... Oh well, that just means we'll have to go there again sometime.

Taconic, we rented a van one time, gosh probably 20 years ago. This was in Germany. There were four of us, but German friends rode along for the sights and that made six of us. Very comfy way to travel. Parking can be an issue though.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 02:42 PM
  #44  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
I am so sorry we went to Keuchenhof and were too early for the tulips. They were due to bloom in a matter of a week-maybe 10 days. Darn.... Oh well, that just means we'll have to go there again sometime.>>

simpson, I'm sorry too. they are wonderful. i think that in any other year you might have been lucky, but this year has been so cold that many plants and flowers have been delayed.
annhig is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 04:57 PM
  #45  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,440
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Still reading, taconictraveler! Your shawl sounds lovely!
Florida1 is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 07:31 PM
  #46  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, followers. Yes, keukenhof is a staggering experience. Tulips are my second favorite flower in the world, next to tree peonies. Especially parrot tulips, which take my breath away.
Lucky you Annhig, I no longer have room to grow them!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2013, 05:29 AM
  #47  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Oh, yes, Florida, it is even prettier than I described. If I remember, I'll bring it to Boston GTG
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 1st, 2013, 05:30 AM
  #48  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
taconic - what a shame you can't grow tulips any more. Not even a pot or two? we had some pink frilly ones this year in blue glazed pots - they were fabulous.
annhig is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2013, 07:12 AM
  #49  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well, Ann, I am slowly finding room for a few favorites in my mostly-patio garden. A few tulips may slip in one of these days. I miss my big garden on the farm, but we love living in a townhouse in the village as we get older.

Now let's get this trip report done!

THE HAGUE
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 4th, 2013, 07:53 AM
  #50  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Sorry, didn't mean to do that.

We took the train from Amsterdam to The Hague with lots of help from the guys in handling luggage. (one of the nice things about traveling with a "bevy") Trip is easy, about 43 minutes.

Raining when we arrived, we just decided to take a cab to the hotel.

Which reminds me to tell you that there are wonderful van/taxis which I saw for the first time in Amsterdam, which hold 8 people, and are still the size of an American Dodge Caravan.

We stayed at a great small hotel called "Het Paleis" on a shopping street near the palace and the King's Horse park, on a shopping street usually closed to traffic.

It was the perfect location I thought, since there were restaurants all up and down the street, as well as interesting shops. I can recommend this hotel to anyone. Not cheap, probably around E 200 or a little more, but nice size room, really helpful staff, gorgeous breakfast room (breakfast was extra, and pricey, but irresistable!)

We all separated, wandering off to get lunch, which we found down the street: "Of the Moment" (however you say that in Dutch) where we had very good quiche and salad.

Our afternoon was spent at the Gemeente Museum (sp?) where I had never been, but where the best 100 paintings of the elegant Maurits House are being shown while that building is being enlarged with a new wing.

I love the Maurits haus, and were sorry not to show it to our friends, but the Gemeente Museum proved to be a super find.
We took a tram out toward the beaches at Scheveningen to this Art Deco gem, which was a beautiful ride in itself. The Hague seems to be filled with tree lined streets and parks, making it seem so much more quiet and calm than Amsterdam. It was a pleasant change.

My friend's son-in-law, who lives in the Hague, had offered to take us thru the Mauritshaus collection and comment on the paintings. This proved to be fascinating, as he is extremely knowledgeable about the collection, and has quite a collection of paintings himself, at home. (more about that later)
He is also very knowledgeable about European History, which we Americans are woefully lacking. We were well informed about the details of Calvinist thought in 17th C Dutch painting, including all the symbols of "life is short" "go out in the world and do good", the cycle of life reminders in the still lifes, etc.

When the church no longer underwrote painting and the arts, art became more "of the people" and more common daily events were portrayed. Charles was able to point out examples of all of these things, and the history surrounding many of the paintings, all of which was a great boon to us.

He was kind enough to make the tour long enough for good information, and short enough for our attention spans.

Hint: if you go to this museum while the Mauritshaus collection is still there, be aware that there is a separate Mauritshaus Museum shop there also, which is much the better one. It has always ranked high in my list of great museum shops, and not to be missed.

This museum has many many interesting things, and well worth a visit on its own.

Then back to the hotel for a nap, in preparation for one of the highlights of our trip: dinner at the home of the aforementioned tour guide and his wife, a lovely couple who have often visited my friend, a retired Dutch diplomat, who lives near us at home, and more or less known to all 8 of us.

Friend's daughter was brave enough to invite us all to dinner in her very lovely town house. It was a marvelous treat to have a typical Dutch dinner, which she and her daughter prepared and served, including those fat white asparagus, wrapped in delicious thin prosciuto-like ham. I could go on and on about this lovely home, full of books, and paintings and all sorts of marvelous oddities, but I know you would all be jealous, so I will just say we were incredibly fortunate and grateful to have such a nice invitation.

It gave us a chance for excellent discussions about politics, education, the state of the Dutch economy, world relations, you name it.

And here is where each couple were given an elegantly wrapped gift to cap off the evening. As she handed them to us upon leaving, our hostess said, "we are giving you crushed mice in honor of our new King."

You can imagine the comments and the rolling of eyes that ensued, until she explained that they are named something like "maustjes," are thus called "mice" and are really various kinds of sprinkles you put on ice cream or other desserts!

Actually, the memorial tins, a limited edition with photos of Queen Beatrix and King Willem Alexander, will probably be worth a fortune in 100 years. So I guess I'll keep mine!

So despite a very rainy day in The Hague, for us all it was a bright and memorable one!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 5th, 2013, 06:57 AM
  #51  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So, I'm hoping that one of you Dutch experts will explain what these crused mice really are.

Tulips ruined my surprise a long way back up this thread, but I'd love to know the real Dutch name, and what it means, and whether the "anise" explanation is correct.
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2013, 12:10 PM
  #52  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Just to finish this somewhat boring (to me) report, let me say that our second day in The Hague was also quite interesting, though cold and somewhat rainy. Jim and I took a walk around the Binnenhof, to the flea market, and the walking streets now surrounding the "French" (Walloon) church, which was, sadly, not open.

Our hosts from the previous night came to pick us all up and take us to the Panorama!!

Now, I had heard about this many times, and I thought it was just another tourist destination, to be strictly avoided.

May I say I DO get tired of being so wrong!

It proved to be absolutely fascinating: a 360 degree view of the beaches and town of Scheveningen in the late 19th Century, or around then. It is back lit only by the sun, and it seems it is all under a huge round dome, so on a dull day, the beach looks dull, and sunnier on a sunny day.

We all loved it, and the museum created by its painter, a man called Mesdaq. The rest of the museum is also full of his paintings, and he is quite accomplished.
I heartily recommend this museum.

We were then driven to the Museum of the Town of Scheveningen, which we were told is hardly ever visited by non-Dutch tourists. It, too, proved to be unusually interesting, as it depicted actual scenes of Dutch life among the fishing families of the area.
If any of you know the Tenement Museum in NYC, it is much like that.

We all separated for our last afternoon, to follow our own interests. Jim and I took this opportunity to take the tram to Delft, which was certainly a breeze. We barely had much time to look around the lovely area around the church, when the rains came, the church was closed anyhow, so we ducked into the Delft pottery museum, which was pretty good. - then hopped a tram back up to The Hague.

Our last dinner was to be an an Indonesian restaurant. We ended up at BLAUW, which was very good food, but a little too posh for me, and because of being crowded, offered poor service, for this newly opened outpost of a famous Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam.

We had had recommendations from two different Dutch friends to try other authentic Indonesian restaurants (the only name I remember is "DiDong") which I think would have been much more authentic. The food was very very good however.

We bid fond farewell to two couples that evening, as they were leaving very early in the AM for the airport.

Later that morning we had breakfast with the last couple left, as their flight was later in the day.
Our dear friend came to pick us up for our continuing week down in the more southern part of Holland.

We drove with him to their village near Den Bosch, a lovely city more toward the South. Sadly, his wife's mother had had a serious fall, and she was off at the hospital looking to her 95 year old mother's needs.
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2013, 01:10 PM
  #53  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Lucky you, getting to stay on a bit longer!

Still here, reading along!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2013, 01:34 PM
  #54  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,440
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The panorama and the museum of the town of Scheveningen sound interesting! I'll make a list of these things for when we get to Holland. And I do hope to see the shawl in October!
Florida1 is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 05:13 AM
  #55  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
not boring at all. though the Netherlands really isn't very far from us [give or take the entire south of England] it's not a place we've been to much, even when we lived in SE england as it was much easier to get to France or Belgium.

but we loved the area around Delft when we visited last year and Maastricht too. I just wish it wasn't such a b...ger to get to.
annhig is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 09:11 AM
  #56  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,835
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So great you went to see Panorama Mesdag. I went there with my son, then 11, and I'll never forget the look on his face as we mounted the last steps and suddenly were in another world. Interesting too the painters who have contributed to it: Breitner among others.
menachem is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 09:39 AM
  #57  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes, Menachem, that's a good way of describing it: you really enter another world!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 09:41 AM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Sounds like a must see the next time we are heading to AMS.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2013, 03:36 PM
  #59  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We had a quiet couple of days "at home" with our friends, which was great, as it was rainy and the Laundry was calling, calling, calling.
(some of you may know that my JIM does laundry all over the world, at least anywhere in the world that he has been. I, on the other hand, would be happy not to see a washing machine in any country)

So, wash he did. I read guide books,, then we had lunch at home, and then a trip in to the city of Den Bosch ('s Hertogenbosch, for the exacting among us, but it's so hard to spell and harder to say that apparently everyone calls it "den Bosch")

It's quite a nice city, and I'll bet very few people visit it, unfortunately!

There is a lovely church/cathedral, really quite striking, plus many many very fine shops, and some charming old streets.

As is probably the case in many regional cities in the Netherlands, there are some very fine restaurants. In fact there is a whole street of restaurants, all with outdoor tables, something like that street off the Grand Place in Brussels, if any of you know it.

Dining outdoors was not to be with the chill and the spitting rain, but we had a nice small meal in one of the many bistros. not terribly exceptional, but perfectly adequate.

The next day we went to MAASTRICHT, where we had been about 30 years ago, so stay tuned Annhig! - and anyone else!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jul 8th, 2013, 12:58 AM
  #60  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
still here, Taconic.

sorry we missed Den Bosch on our last trip - that street of restaurants sounds like my sort of place.
annhig is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -