Monday 5 September 2022

Travelling again

It’s almost two years since I stopped writing my blog.  There was just so much a person could write about the uncertainty of the pandemic, the lack of social interaction, the constant stress of watching every sneeze and cough. (I am fully vaccinated – I had Covid in October 2021 – I have had worse colds but I was a bit grim for a few days.  I had it again in February 2022 and my symptoms were so mild that had I not had to test for another reason, I wouldn’t have known I had had it. Others were not so fortunate.)

We have started travelling again – Amsterdam and S-’Hertogenbosch in June – for the wonderful International Vocal Competition – Opera – Oratorio. It is a lovely town: we had beautiful weather and such talent.  We attended the finals and also two Master Classes.  Opera-goers are assured of great performances in the years to come if these winners are examples.

I have been to Amsterdam several times – a very walkable city and almost every teenager in Europe seemed to be there. Apparently it has something to do with different attitudes to smoking noxious stuff…..

The Rijksmuseum is always a joy but The Nightwatch is a disaster to try and view. It has been the subject of a mammoth restoration and conservation project – you can see it on the Museum’s website and it is still ongoing.  The picture on the website is deceptive – the photograph below, even though of poor quality gives you an impression of what viewing it is really like. For reasons I can understand, it is behind thick sheets of glass. What I can’t understand is why they didn’t do something about the reflections of the windows at the other end of the gallery, let alone the people viewing it, as well as the thick lines joining the panes of glass.  In the photograph they show as white and you can see the reflection of the windows in the middle. It is on a par with viewing the Mona Lisa these days.

We did spend a few lovely hours at the Mauritshuis in The Hague: a feast of Rembrandt and Vermeer. The famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is there – not my favourite Vermeer but catches the imagination. It must do because the gift shop sells about a hundred different items with her image.  I understand the earrings, I usually buy a fridge magnet (we are running out of space) I can even deal with the tote bag, perhaps a Covid mask is of the moment, but a cat dressed as her on a T-shirt, an apron, a set of kitchen towels, socks – yuck. 


New since our last visit was the Dutch Holocaust Memorial of Names, which Polish-American architect, Daniel Libeskind’s studio designed. It commemorates 102,000 Dutch victims of the Holocaust, predominantly Jews but also Roma and Sinti people.  Each name is inscribed on a brick with about a 100 left blank for those who have never been identified.  As with all his work it is deceptively simple and very powerful.  There were people checking lists and looking for names. 

Having read all the reports of chaos at UK airports we had an untroubled journey, our luggage arrived: Schipol however is another matter – piles of suitcases, delayed and cancelled flights, KLM were cancelling flights at the last moment and not taking any further bookings for some weeks – chaos.  We stayed at an airport hotel the night before so we could walk across – just as well, protesting farmers blocked some of the roads. We checked in three hours early (at 5 am) for our flight and the queues started outside the airport. So lucky to be travelling again though.

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