Back in the Netherlands we needed a little time to prepare the van after it had been tucked up in a shed for two and a half months. There was also some time to be tourists – doing what we love to do!
It was extremely cold when we arrived in mid-January, especially in contrast to the extreme heat of a Queensland summer. Fortunately we had both been able to find warm coats to wear before leaving Australia.
It was strange to be wearing so many layers and scrunching over frosty grass but rather nice for a change.
The canals in Pijnacker where we staying with our daughter and her partner, were nearly frozen over. The previous year you could skate on the canals but this year they only froze partially so only the ducks were able to skate.
After we had been there a week we woke up one morning to find the whole world was white. The miracle of snow! I hadn’t seen snow like this for 35 years and was excited as a child.
Our daughter and my husband built their first snowman together which was a great thrill.
The snow was a great start for our daughter, her partner and a group of friends to go on a skiing holiday in Austria. While they enjoyed the abundant snow we babysat our grandcat who treated us with disdain although she did climb in my lap twice for a short time.
On their return we went on a great walking tour of The Hague on the suggestion of other friends of Hannah and Pieter’s. This tour wasn’t any old walking tour – it was a Dutch beer tour!
Each bar we visited there was a tasting and a short talk from one of the staff. Some of the beers were delicious, some tasted too strong but it was such a great experience as we not only learnt a lot about local beers and visited some really good bars but also got to know The Hague a little better.
We also had a wonderful day out at a fabulous private modern art museum -Museum Voorlinden, in Wassenaar, very close to The Hague. The museum building is a work of art in itself, with huge glass walls and large airy galleries.
There are so interesting exhibits including the Swimming Pool by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich. At first glance this piece looks just like any other small swimming pool but as you peer in you realise there are people walking along the bottom under the water. There are stairs hidden at the side which you can go down and end up “under water”. Very novel.
One of my favourites was the hyper-realistic Couple under an Umbrella by Australian sculptor Ron Mueck. It is a massive silicone sculpture of an older couple sunbaking on the beach. Every detail – each wrinkle, quirky toenail, skin blemish, stray hair is perfectly realised and the figures were massive.
Another curious work that is a great favourite with photographers Is the tiny elf sized lift (or elevator). This would come up just a little bit higher than the man’s big toe in the Couple Under an Umbrella exhibit.
The doors to the lift open and close and the lift disappears to an unknown destination in a building that does not have any storeys. Who uses it we wondered? Fairies? Mice? Peggoty from the “Borrowers” books or a modern-day Alice in Wonderland?
Before we took off on our next European adventure we had a wonderful day at De Haar Castle, near Utrecht.
There has been a castle on the site since the 1390s but its current restoration was built in 1892 with Rothschild Family money.
It looks just like a fairy castle and has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor are open to the public.
The kitchen can also be viewed. It was for that period, very modern and we could still see the large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace.
On display are many works from the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several Flemish tapestries and religious paintings.
We left Pijnacker on a rainy day on 10 February feeling that there was always so much to see and so little time – wherever you travel.