01 September, 2014

The Voorschoten Venture



On my way to somewhere.
This was a true bike quest day.

You can imagine my delight when Wikipedia revealed there was a castle within biking distance (20 minutes).

I set out for the Kasteel Duivenvoorde (I cannot pronounce this to save my life) underneath misty skies. I pedaled slowly through pastures, next to tractors, and past resting horses.

When I arrived at what was supposed to be an entrance, all I saw in front of me was a large locked gate. To the right was a V-shaped walk-in door that swung back to let you in, then forward to let you out.

What was I supposed to do with my bike?

I loitered on the driveway for a few minutes, alone in the vast expanse of swamps, fields, and trees. Could I wedge the bike through the V-door? Will the gatekeeper come and unlock the gate soon? Is there a latch I'm not pulling correctly?

Gingerbread garden house.
A Dutchman zipped up on his bicycle. I slowly asked him, "Does the gate ever open?" He shook his head, "No," and proceeded to lift his entire bike over his head. He stepped right into the V-door, then left out of it, hopped back onto his bike, and disappeared down the drive.


I should have asked him to lift my bike over the fence...but I hesitated, and by the time I realized that was the best idea, he was gone.

Princess and the Frog bridge.

I pretended like I could lift my bike over my head, too, for about 5 seconds.

I finally just decided to lean the bike up against the side of the fence in the grass, and hope for the best upon my return.

The cows and sheep called out to me as I walked silently down the pavement toward more trees. The canals along the driveway were bright green with the reflections of the trees and light. I passed a gravel parking lot where I think I was supposed to buy a ticket to walk the grounds...but I didn't.

Bayou boathouse.
I passed a maintenance barn and garden house. Not a soul in sight. I took a right turn to the boathouse and went down the path that may have said, "Verboden."

I walked toward a large field of freshly mowed grass and looked out at the farms in the distance. As I turned back around, there it was: the Kasteel Duivenvoorde.

Canoe on the moat.
This castle is not particularly significant for any reason, except that it is a castle - and those are always worth my time. I didn't go inside, or on a tour, or see anyone else the entire hour I was inside the gates.

Narnia bus stop.

I had this nagging feeling that I wasn't supposed to be there, sneaking around with a camera...which made me love it even more.

It was simply my castle for that hour, and I was enjoying my extensive grounds.

Need to live on this street, STAT!
I may have gotten a little bit lost in neighborhoods on my way back to Wassenaar.

But being a little lost just makes you that much more satisfied when you finally make it back home.

Thanks to the rain and my bicycle for a great week!

The Day in Den Haag

The Hague has always been a little bit elusive to me. It's really close to everywhere I've been in Holland, but it just seems like I can't ever figure out what I should do there, so I haven't felt comfortable just "going for it."

But this year, one of the coaches at the volleyball camp recommended going to the Mauritshuis. He was like, "Do you like museums?" And I was like, "It depends..."

The Mauritshuis.

Then he told me that the Mauritshuis had the Vermeer painting of "Girl with a Pearl Earring." Okay, Den Haag, I see you, I see you.

This route took me on a new bus in an area of Wassenaar that I didn't even know existed, and dropped me off at the edge of the center. I felt confident striding down the boulevards in my museum outfit (you know, to look more artistic, you should always wear black, and a dress is nice touch, too), and got in the line already forming outside the Mauritshuis.

One of the brighter pieces:
"Vase of Flowers in a Window"
by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder
Dutch art is interesting, and definitely different than anything I've seen in France. They used a lot of bright colors, but only on the subjects of focus. All of the backgrounds were very dark browns, greens, blues, and blacks. Maybe this was a technique used to make the subjects "pop" more, but it gave me a sense of every subject having to come out of darkness and into the light. Not something I would put on a wall, but I'm also a sunny person, so that's okay.

However, "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is: stunning. Again, the dark background, but the way Vermeer teases with the light in the paint is incredible. You really do just stand there and stare back, wondering what the girl is thinking, hoping, and going to say. It is thought that great art speaks to us; but really, it just looks back at us silently.

Great art is the art that captures our attention, makes us look again, and encourages us to want to know more.

"View of Delft" also by Johannes Vermeer
The Dutch artists loved painting flowers and outdoor scenes, and all of the paintings are available in various forms in the actually reasonably priced museum gift shop on the lower level. To the right of the exit from the Mauritshuis, is some kind of castle complex, and that was cool to walk around, too.

My favorite restaurant from this trip was De Twee Heeren Bar Bistro in the center. It might have helped that I was their only indoor customer and got to ask as many questions as I wanted.

Everything. Was. So. Good.

I ordered their organic hamburger (as one of the maybe 10 hamburgers I will eat all year). Amazing. The red wine. Fantastic. The hot chocolate. Delicious. The desserts. Perfect.
Add to that a great interior, peaceful postcard writing, and fun people watching and I was sold. I kept their card and will be back someday.

It's all about the museum dress. (Thanks, Lindsay!)


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