To The Hague, via Vermeer’s hometown of Delft

It’s finally time for the penultimate installment of our August road trip in Europe. Having spent the morning in Bruges, our next port of call was Delft, across the border in Holland. It was my first time in Holland, and Delft had long been on my list of places to visit on account of my admiration for Vermeer and for the book and filmĀ Girl with a Pearl Earring. As it turned out, Vermeer was not much in evidence on a cursory wander around Delft, but the proliferation of canals and bikes proved to be a good warm-up act for Amsterdam, which we’d be visiting in a few days’ time.

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Apart from Vermeer, the other thing Delft is famous for is its blue and white porcelain – Delft Blue – and it was fun to have a look around this shop. I bought a tile with an Amsterdam buildings design, along with a Christmas tree ornament (this has become the thing I buy when I like a place, because it’s such fun decorating the Christmas tree each year with reminders of where we’ve been).

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We had time for a short potter around some of the residential streets. I loved the Himalayan prayer flags slung across the front door of this house.

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After that, we hopped back in the car for the short drive to The Hague. We stayed in the delightful Hotel Excelsior, the owner of which was the absolute epitome of charm and friendliness. I’d definitely stay there again next time. It was just about the only hotel I could find which had free parking, so that was a bonus. It was just on the street, but the owner told us it was pretty much the only free parking left in The Hague! We actually left the car there for the whole weekend while we took the train to Amsterdam (more on that in a separate post).

Our main reason for visiting The Hague was to see some friends who’ve recently moved there, and their dinner venue choice – the pier in theĀ Scheveningen area of The Hague – did not disappoint. This was our amazing view over dinner at a great little burger joint half way down the pier. Not pictured: the stark naked man who emerged from the sea when we were eating our meal!

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The sun was setting as we made our way off the pier to get the tram into the historic centre for cocktails.

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I hadn’t even considered the fact that The Hague is by the sea, so it was a nice bonus. I couldn’t even remember the last time I saw the sea, and there’s nothing like bracing sea air.

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This isn’t anyone I know, but I think the person standing there in silhouette definitely adds something to this picture!

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Our route to the city centre took us past beautifully proportioned floodlit houses reflected in the canal.

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Next day, before leaving for Amsterdam, I was really excited to be able to visit the Mauritshuis, arguably one of the most famous art galleries in Europe (if not the world). It sits right alongside the Parliament buildings (the little turreted bit immediately adjacent to it is apparently the Prime Minister’s office! I want it for my office!).

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I visited the gallery on my own while Lee went off to explore the city centre, and spent an enjoyable hour or so perusing the collection. It’s renowned for its comprehensive collection of Dutch art, the most famous of which is the amazing Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer (and some other Vermeer works, too). It was even more stunning in real life, and a whole lot better than the marginally underwhelming Mona Lisa.

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The other really famous piece in the gallery is The Goldfinch by Fabritius, but the whole place is teeming with the likes of Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens, Brueghel, Holbein, etc. I’m no expert on art history, but I’d highly recommend a visit if you have even the most passing interest in it. (The gift shop was pretty great too.)

The next and final installment of this series will be on Amsterdam, although goodness only knows when I’m going to get time to write that up!

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