Molens van Kinderdijk or the Windmills of Kinderdijk, the Netherlands. Click photos to view detail.
In nearly two weeks in the Netherlands, we watched kite-surfing from a windy beach beneath giant grey clouds. We walked along narrow canals accented with yellow and white water lilies. We fed swans and their teenagers, as well as ducks. We watched a coot add twigs to her nest, then escort her chirping babies for an awkward swim. We hiked trails dotted with windmills. We browsed fruit and vegetable stalls in market squares and brocantes set up along little canals. We traced Johannes Vermeer's illustrious path in Delft and learned more about his light-filled paintings that still capture the world's imagination. We wandered cobble-stoned streets and narrow passageways. We marveled at the grand 17th-century architecture and symbolism of churches, old and new.
We met and photographed off-the-chart talented musicians at the Delft Jazz Festival. We exchanged stories and laughter at dinner with long-time friends in a quay-side restaurant in Alblasserdam and shared a delicious lunch at Bussia in Amsterdam with the lovely Pia Jane Bijkerk. My husband went bird-watching and through happenstance, I met an accomplished jewelry designer, with an airy atelier enhanced with a magnificent Art Deco table and Fortuny lamps (more in an upcoming post). I purchased a vintage Delft pottery pitcher at an antique shop and an exquisite covered basket over 100 years old at a brocante. I left behind a pair of shoes, so my small bag jammed with two-weeks'-worth-of-clothes could accommodate the treasure.
At another brocante I bought a seven-foot wide canvas geological world map in English, Spanish and Dutch. It was quite the kerfuffle transporting the rolled-up map in cars and onto a train back to Paris! We ate yummy caramel stroopwaffles and Dutch fries with mayonnaise and struck up conversations with strangers. We rode trains and walked and walked for miles. We read maps and explored unfamiliar neighbourhoods. We talked to estate agents and friends about specific areas. We had amazing dinners at charming restaurants, in contrast with lunch at an outdoor cafe where three bees buzzing about my head eventually chased me away.
We went to Amsterdam, Utrecht, Delft, Leiden and Rotterdam, as well as smaller places including Haarlem, Amstelveen and Zandvoort. We went to another beach town with roundabouts and design much like an English seaside town. I took over 1,200 photographs, from grand architecture and historic buildings to portraits of my friends' five-year-old daughter to first-day-of-school festivities at a technical college to concerts and quirky sights along the way.
Through it all, I felt totally peaceful, at ease and at home, even though I speak hardly a word of Dutch. In less than six months, it will be home, both literally and figuratively. Not sure where yet, but I am confident the right place will present itself. And I can't wait!
Tall grasses and reeds lining the canals were blowing in high winds.
Windmills line the banks of intersecting canals.
Check back soon for more photos from the Netherlands.