Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A beautiful Dutch day

I used to listen to The Overnightscape, a podcast by a native New Yorker who recounted his daily adventures in Manhattan.  One of his staples was a search for the Beautiful Breakfast, involving stops at a half-dozen neighborhood eateries to pick up various components.

Similarly, a delightful day among the Dutch involves some roaming to find the right components, but it’s terrific when it comes together.

First the day should begin without rain.  especially without cold rain.  A hot breakfast, coffee in the window, watching the boats chug by on the Maas.


You can already tell it’s Saturday.

A drive across the countryside is nice.  Once I get out of the city, the landscape opens up, flat as a tabletop, dotted with red farmhouses and autumn trees. 

A latte at a roadside rest stop is a bonus: the Dutch tend towards full-service restaurants along the highways, tablecloths and waiters with aprons who know how to make strong coffee.

IMG_0227A visit to the Kunsthal.  This is  one of my favorite art museums in the Netherlands: they always have wonderful themed exhibits by modern artists.  Visiting the eclectic skyline and waterways of Rotterdam is a bonus.

So are the huge bunny sculptures next to the museum.

This winter, the museum is featuring a large assembly of paintings by Edvard Munch.  I want to write about this in detail alter, but it’s worth a visit – many of his best-known works, but a wide array of lesser-known paintings that really show his breadth and evolution as an artist.

r-heiner-altmeppen-aA parallel exhibit brings together an international collection of realist works, paintings and sculptures grouped around eight theme areas.  These are really quite remarkable, and I want to do a separate post on the exhibit as well.

Dinner at the New York Hotel Café.  This is housed along the waterfront in one of the old passenger terminals: it’s all wood, art glass, and model ships, with the bustling harbor outside the windows and afternoon tea inside.


The sunsets against the port are filled with light and contrast;  and the city lights set off the old and new bridges in the opposite direction.


A city fireboat pulled into the harbor, turning on its water cannons.  Logically, it was probably just a training exercise, or maybe a chance to clean the pipes and valves.

But, impractically, it was actually done to entertain the Queen, who was attending a reception for the opening of the new ‘Tallest Building on the Waterfront’.  She popped out with the Mayor, waved to the crowd, disappeared into her limo, and sped off.

Way cool.  My three immediate impressions were how casual it all seemed (we were all just across the street, maybe six meters away), how tiny she was (is this a job requirement for Queens?), and how perfectly coiffed all her hair was.

A radio host back in Seattle used to have a segment called “Brush with Greatness”, where ordinary people could call in and tell how close they’d gotten to meeting Famous People.  I have to admit, it’s still a small thrill to be able to say that I’ve seen the Queen.

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