Category Archives: soup


Last Hurrah in Amsterdam

Today dawned cool and cloudy, the kind of weather that makes it hard to tell what time of day it is. But we forged on to Centraal Station, where we scoped out tomorrow’s train and then found our tram for the Hermitage Amsterdam.

This Hermitage is related to THE Hermitage, of Russian fame, which for many years has been lending exhibits from Russia to this location and others. However, the Board here decided after the Ukraine invasion that they could no longer support this partnership:

Russia’s attack on Ukraine made this aloofness no longer tenable. The Board and Supervisory Board therefore decided on Thursday, March 3, 2022 to sever ties with the State Hermitage Museum. The museum on the Amstel is now reflecting on its long-term future. 

Well, good for them, I say!

The current exhibit is called Rembrandt and his Contemporaries and focuses on “history paintings,” which are often religious in nature. The show includes only two actual Rembrandts, though they are both stellar, one a gorgeous painting of Minerva (likely modelled on his Rembrandt’s wife Saskia),

and the other a jewel of a small portrait done in grisaille. The others are paintings by teachers, students and friends including Jan Steen (who adds a necessary robust humor to the proceedings)

and Carel Fabritius, he of the Goldfinch (and the one who died far too early when an arms store in Delft blew up).

The show was interesting enough, and we had to marvel at the founders of the Leiden collection, who have more money than you can imagine and over twenty years have collected lots and lots of paintings from the Golden Age of Dutch art. Very kind of them to share it all with us!

Time for lunch, and a kind woman in the elegant museum cafe that seemed to feature only coffee and cake recommended that we try a “brown cafe” just around the corner. These are traditional cafes that are called brown I think because of all the pipe smoke over the centuries. With pea soup (me) and cheese toast (Alison),

we enjoyed a warming lunch while perched on the upstairs level of the small bustling cafe. I particularly noticed this family group, with the parents featuring zipper motifs on their clothing!

We contemplated visiting the Dutch Resistance Museum, but a combination of museum legs and our need to pack up for tomorrow’s train led us to regretfully turn back home. Next time!


Back to the Rijks

Today was another trip to the Rijks, which a person could visit every day for a year without growing tired (see also The National Gallery London, the National Gallery DC, the British Museum, the Met, the Prado, etc. etc.). We had a little easier time finding our way this time and enjoyed this monument to frites with mayonnaise.

We made a very quick visit to the Vermeer one more time, slipping by the pictures we could easily see in DC and NYC. This photo shows how crowded the galleries could get,

but they have timed it so well that you had to wait only moments before finding yourself right in front of these marvelous, glowing paintings.

We had booked a private tour of highlights, which was well done by our guide Fedor, who moved quickly, answered our questions, and obviously enjoyed showing off the museum. He told us that if you looked at each object for only 10 seconds, it would take you some huge amount of time which I’ve now forgotten to see it all! But he did well by the Averkamp, pointing out the numerous details of daily life;

the self-portrait of Rembrandt as a wild young man;

and the Cuypers art history library which of course, being librarians, we had to see. (Imagine running up and down the circular stairs every day!)

He ended with the Van Gogh, which in Dutch is of course so very throaty that I didn’t know what he was talking about until we got to the painting, and he reminded us that the man had eyes of two different colors.

Lunch was again at the cafe, where I loved my pumpkin dal with coconut (of which this is one of a zillion recipes you can find online).

We exited through the gift shop and trammed our way home.

Dinner was to have been uneventful, BUT as I hurried towards the restaurant (our old fave from a few nights ago) I tripped on a stone and fell flat down on my hands and knees!! OMG!! Two very nice young men not only helped me up but also procured ice for my wounds. I hobbled into the restaurant, bloodied but unbowed, and enjoyed delicious sea bass and wine and frites to make me feel better.

Alison and I were both in shock but enjoyed our dinner and walked home without incident. Damn you, foot drop!!


Hanging out with Hals

This morning we took the train to Haarlem to visit the Frans Hals museum. It is breathtakingly easy and efficient to travel by train in this country, and it made me want to hang my head in shame at the state of US train service. Everything here is done virtually or with a credit card, and the resulting ticket is simply scanned as you enter the station and/or again as you leave. We never did clap eyes on a conductor, and we didn’t need to. It took us approximately 30 minutes to buy a ticket, find our platform and sit back as we were whisked along to Haarlem.

I admired these tiles in the Haarlem train station, echoes of an earlier time. The first celebrates the first 100 years of the railroad, and the second is the sign for the first class waiting room. Find out more about this Art Nouveau station here.

It was cold and blustery today, so we huddled down in our coats and hoods and walked along the streets to our destination. We saw some interesting storefronts,

including this inviting cheese shop (with cheese, wine, bread and charcuterie, what else could you need?),

but we didn’t stop.

Finally at the Hals (yes, a nice flower shop owner pointed us in the right direction), we started out with a very well designed film about the man, his times, his subjects and his techniques. He’s well known for his lively group portraits of militia men, whom Hals painted as individuals rather than a dull lot of wealthy men wearing lots of black and looking stern. This museum has the most of these militia paintings, and they’re quite impressive as a group.

We aso saw the Regentesses group portrait, which our History of Western Art lecturer covered in great detail, drawing special attention to their hands and posture.

Of course, his ordinary characters are the most appealing portraits, at least to 21st century eyes. Several of these are at the Rijks, with the Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen being perhaps the best known and most loved.

Also on view was a fancy Poppenhuis, or dollhouse, which was of particular interest to me because one of the beds was covered by a tiny (scale of 1 to 10) palampore, a type of chintz made in India for the export market, including the US, and often quilted. #quiltsareeverywhere

We liked the gently curved back streets of Haarlem

and found our way to a small restaurant that served a most delicious mustard and cream soup (recipes, anyone? here’s one and here’s another one) and assorted small sandwiches, the perfect lunch.

A short stroll took us to St. Bavo,

a former Catholic cathedral turned Reformed Protestant church, with its stunning fan-vaulted ceiling

and enormous organ that was played by Mozart when he was young.

The three model ships hanging from the ceiling recall the country’s shipping history, as does a memorial nearby to hydraulic engineers.

Among the carvings, we appreciated (?) this one showing a man biting a pillar.

Find out what the heck that is all about here.

We also enjoyed the pelican lectern, which as Rick Steves points out was made by someone who had probably never seen a pelican, shaped as it is like an eagle.

The cathedral was so filled with stories and iconography that we could have lingered longer, but instead exited through the gift shop and headed back through the Haarlem streets to the station, which we had no trouble finding!

On the way home, we stopped at Centraal Station to pick up some delicious carrot cake to have with tea at home. Dinner consisted of little pies from the market. So nice to warm up dinner rather than actually cooking…