Tourist in my own country

Instead of going to Barcelona again in April I had Monica over here for a few days. Weather-predictions warned for rain and cold weather and seeing that April usually has no idea what it wants, I had Monica at least prepare for some cold rainy days.

And that turned out to be completely unnecessary: we had terrific weather while she was here! I drove to Schiphol on Thursday and waited and waited for her to arrive at terminal 3 (turned out she waited and waited at terminal 1, but I found out my error just in time :) ). Driving through the province of North Holland and over the Afsluitdijk: the ‘closure dike’. A bit of a different route in hope of finding some flower fields, but unfortunately because of the late spring we only found the one. We stopped in Groningen to have a dinner at a tapas-restaurant (there are so many tapas restaurants in Groningen you’d think you’re in Barcelona, really!) before finally arriving back home again.

The next day we started with a lovely walk along the canal of Assen. Over time I’ve sent Monica many photos of my walks around here and she really wanted to see the canal for herself. A relaxed way to start her stay over here.

Walking went so well that as it turned out we had to wait for the bus for a long time to enter the center of Assen in the afternoon we decided to walk into town and then visit the commercial center. We visited the Maya monument at the end of the canal (which is there for the Maya-exposition in the museum), we sat at a terrace for a bit of sun and ate a big pancake in the Pancake-ship of Assen.

Saturday we visited Groningen, again with fantastic weather. Shortly after our arrival we discovered De Frietwinkel for a superb introduction to Dutch ‘French fries’. We visited the Noorderlicht gallery where currently there’s an exposition of Ruben Terlou’s journey along the Yangtze river in China. We took another terrace today for a while and after visiting the food&fish market we ended the afternoon in a New Orleans Jazz Cafe where a houseband was playing (though not much Jazz). In the evening we did some home cooking of our own listening to a selection of vinyl albums and mixing Gin-Tonics. Who needs Jamie Oliver? ;)

On Sunday morning it was time for Monica to meet the family as we had coffee at my parents house and my brother and sister-in-law came over too with my little niece. It all went perfectly well and I think all in all I was a heck of a lot more nervous then Monica was.

In the afternoon we visited the Maya-exposition in the Drents Museum. As a great part of the exposition is from Guatemala (just like Monica), my intention was to test Monica’s knowledge a bit, but as all texts were both in Dutch and English and Monica could simply read out all the texts that failed completely. It is a great exposition with many beautiful pieces. Some fantastically detailed small items and a few impressive lage items. Including the story of the Maya’s believe of the human origins the exposition does very well to tell about the Maya’s beliefs, traditions and history.

Also in the Drents Museum is an exposition of the ‘Dutch Godfather of Blues’ Harry Muskee, also known as Cuby, the Dutch musician who with the band Cuby & The Blizzards brought the blues to the Netherlands. With personal items, many photos and cover-sleeves of all the albums, lots of stories and quotes it gives an insight in the blues and life of Harry. There are also many headphones to listen to Cuby’s blues as you have to hear it to experience it.

We were lucky to have a live band tell and play the story of the blues actually on the spot there. It wasn’t specifically Cuby as they started with the old blues that started in the 19th century on the cotton fields and slowly worked their way to modern blues. As a bit of audience participation various visitors were invited to play some of the instruments from the band for a song which caused a quite a bit of hilarity.

We left the band to play and walked the Museum gardens a bit. The museum has a public garden over the roof of the modern hall and that makes for a nice scenery, especially when the weather is that good.

In the evening we headed back to Groningen to have another tapas-dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. After that -driving back home- I saw the clear star-filled sky. I’ve always wanted to show Monica a really starry sky as we’ve been struggling to see 8 or 9 stars on a clear night in Barcelona, so after a quick stop at home to grab my camera we drove on to a parking area near the Gasterse Duinen, well out of the city, away from the villages and with no other light than what the tiny moon gave us, hidden behind the trees. And that meant a full view to the stars.

Monday started with a road-trip all the way from northern Assen to Lisse, in the middle to the west side of the Netherlands and more or less halfway between Amsterdam and The Hague. Why Lisse of all places you ask? Because that is where you find the Keukenhof Gardens. We just missed that last year so there was no way we were going to miss it now.

Again the weather was absolutely gorgeous and after a long drive it’s fantastic to walk through the flower-filled gardens of the Keukenhof. The view to the flowerfields on the side was a bit of a downer as there weren’t many flowers blooming just yet, but inside the Keukenhof the many gardens were lush. Absolutely gorgeous!

I’ll have to step up my game in my own garden a bit now :) After seeing more tulips than is good for me, stacks of hyacinths, daffodils and many more flowers that I can’t even name by the end of the afternoon we had seen enough.

Being so close to Rotterdam and having already seen Amsterdam in 2014, we decided to pay Rotterdam a visit in the evening. For the ease of finding back the car at the end of the day I parked near the train station and we immediately got a good view to the grand design of the Central Station and a good connection to the public transport to boot! Took a metro from there to see some of the sights in Rotterdam and two metrostations further found ourselves at the Cube-houses from where you can also find the Markthallen, another fantastic great piece of modern architecture.

There is obviously a lot more to see in Rotterdam, but unfortunately we didn’t have to much time left in the day. After a short break at the harbor we walked to the Willemsbrug for some photos and both being used to walking  fair lengths we walked to the Erasmusbrug for a few more photos.

We were on a roll now and from the Erasmusbrug we now walked all the way to the Euromast. All in all maybe not incredibly far, but after a day of walking the Keukenhof it feels like a long, long way :)

Once we reached the Euromast it started to rain a bit, so we hurried inside and made our way up to the first floor. You get a good view over the city from there and I was able to shoot some panoramas and views over Rotterdam. Then into the round circling elevator that would take us up to 185 meters for an enormous view over all of Rotterdam. It’s a shame it was cloudy and starting to get darker, but the view definitely was impressive. Should be awesome on a clear day! After a long day and a loooong drive home, it was finally time to call it a day.

Tuesday arrived much sooner than I liked. It’s the last day that Monica’s here, so we we decided to take it easy. A nice slow day doing a last bits of shopping, making a last delicious lunch together, listening to a few more albums and finally, reluctantly packing Monica’s suitcase for the way back home and trying to add a few kilograms of Dutch cheeses and chocolate in there somewhere together with new boots and shoes :) We decided to take the train to Schiphol: a relaxed ride to get to the airport where we spent the last bit of time together before I watched her go through customs and headed back home myself. On my way back the news mentioned the arrest of a possible terrorist on the Schiphol airport, but luckily this had no effect on Monica’s travels as she had left just before. Back home I awaited news of Monica’s arrival back to her house before finally diving into bed and by now I’m already busy looking at a good opportunity to head back to Barcelona :) Gracias Monica, it was absolutely fantastic to have you here with me! Te amo…

Click any of the images or click here for the full set.