A Week in Beautiful Delft
Part of: The Great European Road Trip
Well, Amiens (France) and Tournai (Belgium) were fairly disappointing aside from their cathedrals, but we are now in Delft, a beautiful town near The Hague in South Holland. We're having such a fantastic time here and I really don't think we could have chosen a better place to wind up our European tour. We are here for a full week (Sunday to Sunday) and then we'll spend our last three nights in a modern airport hotel in Amsterdam (only 45 minutes from here).
First of all, the unparalleled use of English in the Netherlands makes it feel like we're halfway home already. Absolutely everyone we've met in the Netherlands speaks fully fluent English, something we'd really been looking forward to! There are English books in the bookstores, English channels on TV, and English movies with Dutch subtitles playing at the cinema! Magnificent! We've already seen two movies at our local cinema: The Dark Knight, which was very good, and Indiana Jones, which I'm very sad to say was not very good.
But all the English language and American culture doesn't take away from the Dutch culture and the feeling that we are definitely still in a foreign country. The Dutch language is still everywhere and, unlike in a tourist mecca like Rome, English doesn't seem like a concession to foreigners but actually a voluntary part of the culture. The English-language books and movies are not here for us, but because the locals understand and enjoy them. And it's not uncommon to hear an all-Dutch conversation sprinkled with English phrases. And many of them speak a couple other languages besides. The Dutch seem to pride themselves on being cosmopolitan, and they are!
Johannes Vermeer, who painted *Girl with a Pearl Earring*, lived and died in Delft. His gravestone is in the Oude Kerk.
View from our window. We get to watch canal boats go by, along with the occasional inflatable raft or kayak! We'll definitely be taking a boat ride before we leave. Also seen here is the obligatory horse and carriage ride, which goes by a few times a day. It's a little more special-looking here since it goes along the canals instead of busy modern streets.
Unfortunately our room does not have air conditioning, and although we haven't been too hot, I have suffered pretty badly from the undying love mosquitoes have for me. The feeling is decidedly not mutual, as I seem to be much more allergic to European mosquitoes than their American counterparts and each bite becomes a welt significantly larger than a quarter.
There's not much room for parking outside, but we were able to park long enough to unload our stuff. Parallel parking canalside poses more risks than usual - a slight miscalculation and we could have been very wet! After unloading David moved the car to the main parking garage, which was sparkling clean and brightly lit. Impressive.
We haven't done too much since we arrived, but it has been really wonderful to relax and just live here for awhile. It's like having a proper vacation after months of aggressive sightseeing! We're getting a few last-minute things arranged for our trip home, I've gotten caught up on some website business, but mostly we just read books, surf the Web (our connection is very fast here), watch movies, and wander around the lovely city. Good times.
The streets of the Old Town are paved in brick, full of bicycles, and lined with all kinds of interesting shops and restaurants. Most of the streets run alongside canals, which are crossed by little arched bridges with white railings.
From our hotel it is a short and very flat walk along the canal and over a bridge to the main square (Markt), which has the historic town hall (Stadhuis) and the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk, built in the 1400s) and is surrounded by restaurants specializing in pannenkoeken and stores selling pretty "Delft Blue" porcelain. And wooden shoes and tulip bulbs, of course.
We have had some delicious food here so far. On the first day we had dinner at a Mexican place on the main square called La Cantina. It wasn't as good as the one in Amsterdam (which we hope to be visiting next week), but still delicious.
I had a highly unusual dish they called a chimichanga: a flour tortilla topped with melted cheese and filled with spicy ground beef, a banana, raisins and walnuts! It was really weird and really good. David had a combination of a taco and enchilada.
We also had a decent Italian dinner outside on the square. But mostly we've been eating at Dutch restaurants, where the menus center around pannenkoeken (pancakes), sandwiches and salads.
I had a Hawäi Panenkoek, which of course has ham, cheese and pineapple. And butter and kiwi. (Butter shows up in unexpected places over here - they especially like to put it on ham and cheese sandwiches in France. Yuck!) It was fantastic. Dutch pancakes are unlike French crepes or American pancakes. They are very eggy, with not much flour. Very tasty. We returned to this place today and I tried a sweet version of the pancake, with apple slices baked in. Also delish.
On our first visit David had this "Italian Hamburger," which he loved. And at lunch today he tried a Tasty Mexican Sandwich, which was a corn roll filled with thin slices of chicken breast, cheese, guacamole, and figs! Very inventive, this place. They won the title of "Best Sandwich in the Netherlands" in 2008 and many other years.
In other news, it's a good thing we chose to fly out of Amsterdam instead of Frankfurt, as Lufthansa workers have just gone on strike! Phew. Also, the war criminal Radovan Karadzic arrived in The Hague this morning and will have a hearing there tomorrow. It's pretty fun to have such big news only 10 miles away, and we were already thinking about a day trip there tomorrow!