Monday, October 22, 2012

While the river-bank weeps to the old willow tree*

After a leisurely breakfast on our third day the itinerary was to go caching in mainland Europe for the first time. It was a bit drizzly so it took some time for the GPS to pick up satellites:

(Doesn't the picture make the bridge look high?)

We'd only taken the details of one cache, and it was a straightforward find, but not an easy retrieve. The office workers having a cigarette break on the overlooking balcony might have thought we were a bit strange lying down on the wet road, so we lurked around the corner till they'd gone in. Then it was a quick grab and sign (no travel bugs, unfortunately) then on to the Hermitage museum to see the Van Gogh exhibition. Sadly they didn't allow photography because there was a gorgeous version of 'Irises' which I could have stood and looked at for ages. In fact I could sit in my own sitting room for hours and gaze at it hanging on the wall and never tire of it.

It was wonderful to be able to get really close (but keep your hands behind your back so it's clear you're not going to touch it or the gallery guards get touchy!). At art college we were taught that when painting watercolours you paint the foreground before the background because the paint is transparent, but that with gouache and oils and other opaque colours you do the background first then overpaint the detailed foreground. This 'Irises' is done the other way; the subject was painted first (the flowers were originally more purple, apparently, but the red has faded away just leaving the blue) then the yellow background swirled on afterwards.

When we were paintinged out  we went for lunch at the Luxembourg, where the waiter offered to take a photo of us together "as long as you're partners and it's all right being seen together!"

 (I don't remember being quite so out-of-focus at the time!)

Then we took a canal tour, first going past the multi-storey bike park (where there are spaces for about 2500 cycles)

and then the most extraordinary pink-wrapped building

before being shown the best unemployment scheme I've ever come across; the creation of the 'Amsterdam'. It would have been nice to have gone round it and see what they'd done inside.

 There were interesting views when you peeped under the bridges

When the tour finished it was time to get to the restaurant for dinner, although it was early; but there was still time to admire the scenery on the way.

This everning we'd booked to eat at the Bouchon du centre, a quirky little place we'd read about, so decided to try it. It seats a maximum of 24 people, and the whole shebang is a one-woman enterprise. She's front-of-house, cook and waitress all in one, and it all functions in the one room; she serves diners whilst cooking more meals. You need to get there early - she starts serving at 6 and likes to be done by 8 so she can have a quiet evening. There's a limited menu and just a choice of three wines, house red, white or rosé. Oh, and cash only. We had a really good meal: the welcome is warm and natural, and the food delicious. The wine was more than adequate and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable.

The stroll back afterwards gave more images of this watery city;

It's a slightly crazy place! Do I want to go back? Yes, I think so. It's offbeat and very intriguing. And why do the Dutch lishp when they shpeak English but not when they speak Dutch (which seems to involve a lot of throat-clearing)?

*And I've even provided a link to the title!


Trouty said...

What a lovely trip, Jan.
I do envy you. My gallivanting days are over but I hope that you and Ned will continue and keep us all informed.