Musical Holiday Journal
. .After a light breakfast, we took the train from Brussels Central
Station to the Central Station in Amsterdam - a little under three
hours. . .
It was a pleasant
and relaxing trip. We arrived in time to catch the next train
from Amsterdam to Haarlem within a few minutes - perfect timing.
The weather in Haarlem this afternoon is cool and blustery - our
room is at the top of the gable in
Hotel Amadeus. It is quaint and clean with a slant ceiling,
soft fluffy beds and a view of the Grote Markt (or grand market
We unloaded our
bags, and headed down to the "delicatessen" section
of Vroom & Dreesmann (a major department store) on Grote Hout
Straat for a quick (takeaway) lunch - they have a buffet restaurant
upstairs. On our way back to the hotel to unpack and settle in,
we stopped at St. Bavo's (the Grote Kerk built in 1313) to see
what time the organ concert would be. After our chores, we went
out to the organ concert at the old gothic style church - quite
an instrument filled the entire end of the church and went all
the way up to the ceiling. The church itself showed consistent
remanufacture with an eclectic collection of stained glass - 13th
Century forward to modern. The organ was built and installed by
Christian Muller in 1738 and Mozart was known to have played and
written music for it. The church had excellent acoustics for an
organ concert and indeed they hold concerts during the summer
season on Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons.
Since this is essentially
a bit of travel with the purpose of relaxation and hearing some
good music, we feel no urgency to visit this or that tourist attraction.
There is some satisfaction in knowing that we now live in Europe
and can stop here at any time we wish and always at our leisure.
After our concert, we wandered around town - down to the canal
(Spaarne), through a restaurant strip, residential area, past
Hals Museum, in and out of shops along the way. It's a fairly
clean central village area here. We picked up a bag of tasty and
perfectly done frites with curry sauce and fresh chopped onion
on them as another little snack.
We had discovered
that the local dinner hour is "6 pm sharp!" and restaurants
that serve tourists are open as much as two hours later (unlike
Belgium's 8-ish hours) We're accustomed to Spanish time
and normally eat dinner around 10pm. So, we made a point of getting
out early enough and went to a Thai (read that "owned by
Thai and cooking Indonesian") place whose menu looked quite
interesting - varied, several options in each category. The sate
appetizer was tender and tasty, the spring rolls were chewy and
unappealing, the shrimp soup and beef salad were truly "hot"
spicy (only for those who enjoy Thai red pepper) and excellent
in execution. Then phad poui sien was full flavored and gently
seasoned and offered an occasional crunch of fresh bean sprout.
The beef with green beans was good of its kind but in no way remarkable.
The staff was the least friendly Thai we've ever encountered.
Now back to the
room to recover from another travel day, sipping Triple Orange
This organ was known to be played by Handel and Mozart
Morning took us
to the breakfast room - orange juice, white rolls and slice whole
grain/sesame bread, rusks, cereals, a variety of yogurts, ham
slices, edam slices, milk, tea and coffee - very good coffee.
Then, out for a town walk - shop window browsing, canals, bridges,
photo ops - just a leisure pace - more antique stores than expected
- wide selection of Asian, north African
and southern European restaurant options (too few menus in English-poor
business practice), clean canals lined with the usual canal houses
(old and new), frequent bridges, bicycles, residential neighborhoods,
a church steeple - white and tall (never found the church), a
good Indonesian shopping basket in a small shop, a stop at the
grocery store for salads, breads and cheese. Back to the room
to rest the feet - these stones are tough.
Off again on a
discover walk - way south of the hotel and to the Frans Hals Museum
(formerly the Old Men's Home). Here they have a good small art
collection representing painters from the area dating from the
15th-19th century, also some old furnishings, glass and pottery
collections and silver from the 18th century. Of note was Berckhyde's
1696 oil painting of the Grote Markt (before the organ was installed)
and a Van der Heyden (thinking of Andre back in Napa - nice surprise)
- overall a well organized and displayed collection. The interior
courtyard has an expansive feel with a central globe sundial,
arbors with restful benches set at the counter of four corners,
a pleasant stop. Admission is 10 Florins or about $4.
Still later and
a bit further out, we stopped for coffee and a dessert in a place
where pigeons browsed the floor for scraps, spoons were sticky,
and the atmosphere was thick. Then we took a slow journey down
a street with lots of foliage, arbors, roses, hollyhocks, honeysuckle,
pansies, lavender - just lovely. More walking, past the St. Bavo's
cathedral, back to the Grote Markt and a stop at the Doria for
a Flutje and a Palm beer before retiring for the evening.
Painted before Christian Muller's organ was installed
late breakfast (9:30) and off to the train for our Rotterdam mission
(about 90 minutes each way). It is to see the Pieter Breughel
(or the Elder's) collection of authenticated drawings and etchings
- 57 pieces. Just out of the Rotterdam Central station, we see
tall glass and steel buildings, gangs hanging out, it seems dirty
for a city that calls itself the "Cultural Capitol of Holland".
The street up to the Museum Park is lined with Chinese restaurants
(and their gangs). The street is stylized like old Holland in
places - a few old row houses here and there but the area is drab
and lifeless after the WWII destruction - too bad.
The exhibit at
Boijmans was well done - great pieces from all areas of Breughel
work, perfect lighting, the "Tower of Babel" oil. It
has a nice late 18th to 20th century collection with Rubens, Jordaens
and Van Eyck featured, but the museum itself is under construction
(as all of Europe seems to be). It is planning a major exhibit
of Bosch later this year that may be worth another visit. Admission
is 12.50 guilders or about $6.
A comfortable train
ride took us back to our hotel in Haarlem and a snack of pindas
(peanuts) and an aperitif to get us in the mood for an early dinner.
The evening took us to Popocatepetl - yes, Mexican food (on the
Tex-Mex side - sauce from Laredo TX) - a fair quality meal of
fajitas, chips and bland guacamole - just off from what the general
idea is in the US and a long way from the real thing. They serve
an excellent margarita, it's a loud and popular place with cute
After dinner, a
walk back to our room. We settled in with an after dinner liqueur
and watched some TV - Happy Bastille Day!
See this and other great artwork at artchive.com
email check and a long walk along the Spaarne to the north side
of town and Werfstraat to see another of our musical highpoints.
The Haarlem Organ Museum was started in 1956 by the Kunkels family
with the intent of rebuilding the gigantic 112 key Marenghi/Frei
dance organ. They now have 10 organs and do concerts on Sundays
for anyone who is interested. Sitting and sipping a Heineken and
listening to the melodious charms of "De Rosalinda".
This is a fascinating collection of "calliopes" or mechanical
"orgels" from Belgium, France and Holland - elaborate
punch cards - even got to look inside at the mechanism! The place
feels like being in a beer garden, but the space is a sky lit
It houses a dozen
organs and features its largest (very art deco style) at the end
of the room. There's one that looks like it came from a funeral
home (or a bordello) made of dark polished wood, red velvet, and
a bronze statuette of a lady - others are more Italianate and
colorful - all varnished and polished and looking great. There
seems to be a regular crowd here that gathers to visit and entertain
their dogs. Very interesting and a nice break for a Sunday mid-day.
Our walk back to
the Haarlem Central Station took us back through a newer and very
nice residential area, then past a verdant park (Frans Hals Park)
at the bend of the Spaarne River. We took the train to Amsterdam.
. . .A little after
10 pm and we're on the train heading back to Haarlem. There is
dark sky behind us and a broad sunset ahead. The flatness of this
country is so blatant when the entire horizon is at sunset - not
even a small hill to break the line. It was warm all day - truly
summer with clear skies. The horde of tourists in Amsterdam makes
Haarlem look tiny and quiet.
Haarlem Organ Museum
It's a very warm
and sunny day. We rose late for breakfast and then went down to
have a good browse of the large market on the square. To our good
fortune, there was a nice tapestry piece for our ratty old couch,
also some nice Javanese prints to make shirts or pillows. Aside
from that, we took a casual stroll around some streets that were
new to us and some that were familiar, back to the room, recycle
the water bottles and get some sodas and fruits for lunch. We
did our packing and got our tickets together for travel home,
then went out for an evening walk over to the Spaarne and into
Global Hemp Museum before heading off to dinner at Trattoria
da Caruso. A charming interior, but ... The "salade caprese"
of basil on tomato slices with slabs of mozzarella (not italian)
was fresh and nice as were the mushrooms sautéed in olive oil
and garlic, hot (pizza dough) rolls with garlic butter. A Barbera
d'Alba worked well with these and we were anticipating something
good with the "Tris Pastas de Chef" selection of 3 different
pastas. These were mediocre - perhaps a bad choice on our part
brought out the chef's dried and pasty leftovers. We stopped at
that, ordered a grappa and a vecchio romagna and called it a night.
Final packing to do, some Napoleon to finish and an early train
Our room was at the top and our view was from the arched window
Early rise (7:30),
early breakfast (8:15), and early train to Amsterdam Central (8:55)
to catch the 9:23 train back to Brussels. A bit slow headed and
drowsy from the rhythm of the rails, expect to arrive at Brussels
Central station a little after 11 am. More passengers on this
train than the one we came in on, perhaps more to do in Brussels.
fine place to stay and visit