07 November 2011

Stories from Haarlem

Posted in Talking about . . .

There have been too many wonderful experiences to relate them all, but here are three . . .

Alex, the poffertjes queen

I was taking Alex and Rob (my daughter and her partner) through the Albert Cuyp Straat markets, and Alex was craving poffertjes. Poffertjes are Dutch treats like tiny, puffy pikelets (flapjacks in South Africa) and are generally sold from street stalls. However, eagle-eye-Alex spotted a café advertising poffertjes, so in we went. We had coffee and poffertjes – a warming and welcome treat on a cold, drizzly day – and when Alex went in to pay the bill, she got chatting to the woman who owns the café. With her usual charm, Alex soon had a handwritten, secret recipe for poffertjes and detailed directions about where she might purchase a cast-iron poffertje pan!

Poffertjes with butter and icing sugar – mmm… Warm treats (gotta luv the earmuffs!) Poffertjes queens

From Left to Right: Poffertjes with butter and icing sugar – mmm…, Warm treats (gotta luv the earmuffs!), Poffertjes queens

Kate and the RWC final

We had been following the RWC – sometimes via Skype and Kate’s television in London – and BDH watched the New Zealand-Australia match at a huge Australian pub in Amsterdam. When it came time for the final, we found an Irish pub in Haarlem that was showing it live! Kate was staying with us that weekend, so it seemed only right to go to the pub for breakfast - early enough to get good seats in front of one of the screens. It was great fun – there were lots of Kiwi supporters and French supporters with flags and t-shirts and other nationalistic regalia. To my utter frustration, my camera went dead after breakfast so I couldn’t capture the excitement when the place was crowded and the game was on! After the game, a couple of Kiwis went off on bikes with full-sized NZ flags attached and waving in the breeze – missed that sight, too. Grrr.. . . However, I got Kate onto my bike and she proved to be quite adept at it, and we had a great weekend with all kinds of larfs.

Breakfast before the game Kateonabike – looking good! Kate and BDH and larfs

From Left to Right: Breakfast before the game, Kateonabike – looking good!, Kate and BDH and larfs

Rotterdam with Judith

One Saturday, we went to afternoon tea with Denny and Helma Borsboom to celebrate their 7-year old son’s birthday. Denny is the young Dutch academic who is hosting Brian at the University of Amsterdam. Kick (their son) doesn’t speak English, so I was speaking to him in Afrikaans (which he seemed to understand with a bit of help from Helma) and Brian didn’t get to speak directly to him at all. Afterwards, he told his parents that he felt sorry for us because there was obviously something wrong with me, and Brian was clearly retarded!

At the birthday party, I met Helma’s sister, Judith, who is an artist and lives in Rotterdam. She invited me to Rotterdam for the day. I caught a train (only took about 45 minutes) and Judith met me on her bike. I rented a bike for the day from the municipal bicycle-rental place and we rode around Rotterdam for a few hours. She took me to a marvellous bakery for coffee and cake, and then to the famous Boijmans Van Beuningen art museum. The collection covers the period from the 1500s to the present time and is considered to be one of the finest collections of paintings and drawings in the world.

What a treat! The first delight was the coatcheck in the museum. It consists of a series of coathangers on pulleys - you pull down a hanger by pulling on a red handle attached to a rope, put your coat onto the hanger, pull the other end of the rope so that your coat goes way up in the air, lock the rope in place, and walk away with the key!

There are many masterpieces in the collection and too many favourites to mention, but I was particularly struck by the bronze sculpture of Degas’ Little Ballerina. The Belgian ballerina Marie van Goethem was 14 years old when she modelled for Degas. The original sculpture was made of wax and was so realistic with its real hair and shoes that it caused a scandal at the Impressionist exhibition in 1881. Degas never exhibited a sculpture again. After his death twenty five bronze casts were made of the sculpture and this is one of them. It is quite enchanting.

One of the most intriguing pictures is the portrait of Edward James (benefactor of both Dali and Magritte) painted by Magritte. Note the realistic mirror-image of the book compared with the unrealistic mirror-image of the man. There is also a fascinating sculpture of a man peering into the room through a hole in the floor! If you go up close, you can look down into the space below and there is a life-size figure standing on top of piled-up boxes in a room below - I gather that this space is actually the staff cloakroom!

Judith and Bikes at Rotterdam Station Coat Check

Judith and Bikes at Rotterdam Station, the whimsical Coat Check at the Boijmans Van Beuningen art museum

Portrait of Edward James Degas bronze Cattelan sculpture

From Left to Right: Portrait of Edward James, Degas bronze, Cattelan sculpture

There are lots more stories to tell and I'll put them together in bunches to send you - like the delights of Brouwers Gebak, or the red light district in Amsterdam, or our dining out experiences . . .

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