A walk among the dunes

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As we were leaving Amsterdam on the Wednesday it started to rain, and when it rains in the Netherlands it really rains! It continued for the rest of the evening, which meant we didn’t hang around long to watch the start of the Haarlem Jazz festival that evening. (It was OK the next evening, though). The next morning seemed a little mixed but my son and I decided to risk it and took the bus to the Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland, an area of sand dunes to the west of Haarlem .

The Connexxion, line 81 bus for Zandvoort from Haarlem train station took about 20 minutes to reach the Visitor Centre. There’s a number of marked walking and cycling trails that start from there. As we weren’t sure about the weather we decided to follow the green trail

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The dunes are the nearest you’ll come to hills in this part of the Netherlands!

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After a short while we came to Het Wed, a freshwater lake popular for swimming. There’s a good stretch of sand too and toilet and showering facilities. I reckon it would be a popular spot for families on a sunny day. But as it was cool and overcast only a few hardy souls were braving the water.

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Het Wed
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We carried on, taking a short diversion off the green route to climb up to a viewpoint, where we could just make out the sea in the distance..

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On our way back to the Visitor Centre we passed some memorial stones. We stopped to take a closer look.

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During the Nazi occupation members of the Resistance captured by the Nazis were taken to the dunes to be executed and were buried there. In May 1945, after the occupiers had retreated a search of the dunes found 422 bodies in 45 locations. After they were identified the bodies were reburied and the granite headstones have been placed above their graves. 347 of the victims, inlcuding Hannie Schaft , the “Girl with the Red Hair”, are buried in Erebegraafplaats Bloemendaal, a cemetery in the dunes. The rest are buried in nine graves which are marked by the gravestones which record how many murdered resistance members are buried in the immediate vicinity. We passed two of them. We stopped for a short while to pay our respects and placed a small stone on top of the headstone.

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This stone tells that 92 people are buried in the vicinity

Moving on we saw some wild ponies having a snack. Ponies, deer, highland cattle and bison roam in parts of the reserve.

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We were quite lucky. Although it was overcast we had some sunny spells and there was only one, very brief, heavy downpour. By the time we’d taken our cagoules out of our backpack and put them on it had passed over!

I could have spent longer wandering around the dunes and next time we’re in Haarlem if the weather is good enough I’d like to walk the longer blue route trail which goes over to the sea shore and also pay my respects at the cemetery and some of the other monuments.

Louise Bourgeois in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

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Spider (1996)

If you’re scared of spiders, it’s probably best if you keep away from the Rijksmuseum Gardens at the moment! For the last few years there’s been an exhibition of works by a noted sculptor in the gardens, and this year they have works on display by Louise Bourgeois, who is well known for her bronze sculptures of giant spiders,

When we’d looked around the Tassel Museum we wandered along the canals, grabbed a bite to eat and then made our way to the Rijksmuseum. We expected that there would be an exhibition in the gardens and we knew we’d have time to have a look before we got the train back to Haarlem. And, unlike the main part of the museum, entry is free! We hadn’t checked out what was on but as soon as we spotted the first sculpture, we knew who the artist was! Luckily spiders don’t scare me, as several of the arachnid monsters are on display! !

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Crouching spider (2005)

The gardens themselves are very attractive and popular on a sunny day – and the sun kept breaking through the cloud while we were there.

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Louise Bourgeois grew up in a suburb of Paris, in a family of antique tapestry dealers and restorers. In 1938, following her marriage to the American art historian Robert Goldwater, she emigrated to the United States. It took a long while before her work was acknowledged, as it was quite different from the type of art popular in America at the time. and she only started to become popular in the 1970s when she was in her 60’s.

Her work often represents aspects of her life. the spiders, for example, are influenced by her protective mother who, although she didn’t spin webs, was a weaver and by the familie’s tapestry repair business.

I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bask into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it

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Spider couple (2003)

This was probably the only one of the 12 sculptures on display I wasn’t so keen on. It rather reminded me of the monsters that used to appear in Doctor Who in the 1970’s – perhaps that’s why!

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In and Out #2 (1995-6)

This was the earliest work on display. It’s quite different from the others and rather like the works of Brancusi. It’s apparently meant to be a self portrait of the artist surrounded by her 3 children.

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Quarantania (1947-53)
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Welcoming Hands (1996)

This rather moving group of bronze sculptures displayed on rough stone pedestals, represent friendship and solidarity. They were originally displayed in New York on a site with a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where immigrants first arrived in America, although they are now normally sited in the Tuilleries in Paris. Their message has a contemporary resonance with all the movement of people trying to escape war and poverty, looking for a better life. Some people show friendship and solidarity to them. Sadly, in these cruel times, too many don’t.

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This sculpture of a child’s hand was particularly touching (emotionally, that is, of course)

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Fountain (1999)
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These two high-gloss aluminium sculptures of Untitled (2004), hanging from the branches of the great wingnut tree, refer to her father’s habit of storing chairs by hanging them on roof beams in the attic of their home

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Inside the museum entrance atrium there were four seats in the form of giant eyes

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Source: https://www.azquotes.com/author/18216-Louise_Bourgeois

The Tassen Museum

Well, I never thought I’d ever visit a museum dedicated to bags and purses, but that’s what we did after we’d been to Foam. My wife had been before on a solo trip to see our daughter earlier this year, had enjoyed it and said that I’d find it interesting. It’s on the Herengracht, just a short walk from Foam, so we made our way over there.

The museum was founded to display a private collection of bags owned by Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo. Originally it was in Amstelveen, a suburb south of Amsterdam, but moved to it’s present location in a rather grand 17th-century canal house that had previously been the residence of the Mayor of Amsterdam in 2007.

The collection is shown on the top two floors of the house with elegant tea rooms and temporary exhibitions on the first floor. So visitors start by climbing to the top floor and working their way down.

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Modern stained glass window in the ground floor ceiling

My wife was right, I did find it interesting and enjoyed the visit. It was really a social history revealed by showing how handbags and the like (including bags used by men) evolved since medieval times. Right back then, both women and men kept their money and odds and ends in a leather bag on their belt – the oldest item in thecollection is a sixteenth century men’s bag made of goat leather with a metal frame.

the oldest exhibit

Over time men started to keep their stuff in pockets in their clothing while women tended to keep their’s in bags, the design which evolved over the years. For a while chatelaines, a series of chains hanging from the belt with hooks to hold small purses, scissors, sewing equipment and other items were fashionable, and their were quite a few examples of these in the collection.

From the 17th century to the late 19th century, women used pockets too. But these were seperate from clothing. They were hung from the waist under clothing which had slits in them so the pockets could be reached. This is how Lucy Lockett could lose her pocket! These went out of fashion with the advent of high waisted dresses in the Georgian period, leading to the development of the handbag.

Men continued to use bags, of course (I have several myself!), but they tended to be for specialised purposes – and there were examples of these, including tobacco pouches, gamblers’ bags and doctor’s bags, in the collection.

I found the top floor, with the earlier items, the most interesting. The floor below had a large display of bags from the 20th century, including expensive examples by designers and bags previously owned by celebrities including Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor and Hilary Clinton. They even had one from a certain Prime Minister, whose name I can’t bring myself to mention.

It’s amazing how many different styles of bag there have been, some of them quite vulgar! A surprising range of materials have been used to make them too from bamboo, beads, feathers, perspex, bottle tops, plastic cables and the skins of various animals including crocodiles, stingrays, leopards, and armadillos. Some of the animal skin bags being particularly horrible in that they included heads, legs, tails and other body parts as decoration.

If I hadn’t been encouraged by my wife, I’d never had thought of visiting the museum. But I found it fascinating and worth taking the time out to have a look around even for those of us with no interest whatsoever in fashion for the insights into social history. .

Foam Amsterdam

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The second full day of our break in the Netherlands we left our son to spend the day with his sister and then took the train into Amsterdam – a 20 minute journey. I wanted to visit the Foam photographic museum, which is on the “Golden Bend” section of the Keizersgracht . It was a warm day, if overcast, so we decided we’d walk along the canal, which I always enjoy. It was surprisingly quiet – there weren’t as many people and, particularly, bicycles, around as during previous visits as can be seen in the photos I shot.

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Foam is one of two photographic museums in Amsterdam. The other one, Huis Marseille, which we visited the last time we were in the Netherlands at Christmas, is also on the Keizergracht, and we passed it on our way to Foam.

There were four exhibitions showing in the museum. The main one was Silver Lake Drive a retrospective of the work of Alex Prager, an American photographer and film maker from Los Angeles. The exhibition included large scale prints and a number of films, in some cases photographs being stills from the films. Rather like Cindy Sherman, she creates scenarios but, rather than featuring herself, as Sherman does, she uses actors, models and extras. The scenarios are influenced by film noir, thriller, melodrama and crime fiction, but also have a surreal quality. Some of them were clearly influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock such as The Birds and North by North West.

The style of the photographs, with bright vibrant colours, was very similar to that of Martin Parr and there were similarities too in the way the photographs capture people in action, although Alex Prager’s scenes are staged whereas Martin Parr’s photographs are of real people, sometimes caught unawares but sometimes posed.

Crowd #1 from the series Long Week-end (2010)

Her compositions were interesting and often taken from unusual angles, like this one, looking upwards from floor level and with the figures positioned at the edges of the photo.

I hadn’t come across her work before so this was a good discovery!

Another of the exhibitions featured the work of a British visual artist Dominic Hawgood. In Casting Out the Self he

visualises the effect of the drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which he personally experienced as a transfer into the digital realm. (Foam website)

The works in this exhibition weren’t photographs as such but 3 dimensional objects and digital projections, a number of them including a statue of the Buddha. I had mixed feelings about this exhibition, but I did like one of the installations which included a circle of smaller reflective silver spheres surrounding a larger one, illuminated by UV light (A statue of the Buddha was also included in the installation)

On the top floor Morpher III (1989) by the French artist, Kévin Bray was an abstract multimedia work centred on a digital film in which he created a surreal, imaginary landscape.

I wasn’t so sure about this one at first, but once I’d worked out what was going on after watching the film a couple of times I found it quite engaging.

So, overall an interesting visit. Some of the works a little challenging and not to my taste but I certainly enjoyed the Alex Prager exhibition.

Teylers Museum

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During our previous visits to Haarlem, we’ve passed the entrance to the Teylers Museum, which stands on the Spaarn embankment, many times, but I’d never visited.

Open to the public since 1784, it was the first museum in the Netherlands. It was founded after the death of Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778) a successful silk merchant and financier who had a wide range of interests in the arts and sciences. In his will, Teyler left two million guilders (roughly 80 million euros) to establish a foundation, to promote theology, the sciences, and the arts.  In 1779, the Foundation’s first directors commissioned the young architect Leendert Viervant to design a ‘Books and Art Room’ behind the Foundation House (Fundatiehuis, where Pieter Teyler had lived). The result was the Oval Room, which is still the heart of the museum, although the premises have been expanded considerably since then. In fact, it’s rather like the Tardis. It doesn’t look so big from the outside but once you’re inside there’s a whole series of interconnected rooms and a whole new extension which, from the outside, you wouldn’t know were there.

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By Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Link

It’s quite an amazing place. In many ways it’s an old fashioned museum with lots of exhibits, including fossils, minerals, coins and scientific instruments, many in glass display cases. There’s also two galleries of paintings and a large collection of drawings and prints by artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, and  Rembrandt. The building itself is also fascinating. We spent a couple of hours looking round but there’s really too much to see during one visit.

Visitors are provided with an audio guide which provides information on selected exhibits by entering a number. For this summer the audio guide also includes an introductory tour, a “radio play” based on Napoleon’s visit to the museum in 1811 which focused on the history of the museum and key exhibits.

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We followed the “Napoleon tour”, which took about half an hour, and then had a more detailed look around, concentrating on particular areas of interest.

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Just a few of the large collection of fossils
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Humanoid skulls and bones
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Fluorescent minerals
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The large electrostatic generator. They had smaller examples to see as well.

The Oval room was one of the highlights. Originally this was the whole museum! It’s lit only by natural light that comes in through the skylights – so it’s probably best to visit on a bright summer’s day!

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It was difficult to get a shot that really shows off the room, so I resorted to embedding a picture from Wikipedia which was taken from the balcony, which isn’t accessible to the public.

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By Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Link (source: Wikipedia)

A painting in one of the art galleries shows what the room looked like in 1800, with the large electrostatic generator in the centre.

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A large horseshoe magnet supporting 100 kg
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An early electric battery
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An astronomical globe

The two art galleries were also lit by natural light

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The collection mainly features works from the Dutch Romantic School and the later Hague School and Amsterdam Impressionists.

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Wintergezicht met Schaatsers (1864) by Johan Barthold Jongkind
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De Molen (1899) by Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch
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Twee dienstboden op een Amsterdamse brug bij avond (1890) George Hendrik Breitner
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Trommelslaagster (c 1908) by Isaac Israels

Like many other galleries and museums in the Netherlands there was a temporary exhibition marking 250 years since the death of Rembrandt. It featured prints by the master and some of his contemporaries.

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As usual, I was bowled over by the beauty and the amazing detail of Rembrandt’s tiny prints. One of them had been blown up and covered the whole of one wall. Even on such a large scale the detail was amazing.

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And this was the real thing, which, even though it is the largest of his landscape prints, was not even as big as an A3 sheet of paper

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The newest part of the museum, an exhibition hall and a cafe, were built in 1996 and are airy, cantilevered spaces on two sides of a “secret” courtyard / garden.

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It was time for some refreshment!

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the Dutch know how to make mint tea!

We’d spent more than a couple of hours in the museum so had a last look around before returning our audio guides and leaving the building to meet up with our son and daughter, who’s been spending some time together.

Teylers is an excellent museum and I suspect we’ll be paying a visit another time when we next visit Haarlem.

Back to Haarlem

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Last week we were back in Haarlem, to visit our daughter while taking a few days break. As usual, we managed to pack a lot into the week – spending some time exploring the small, historic city, watching some live music acts (the Haarlem Jazz Festival started towards the end of our little holiday), taking in some art in Amsterdam and even managing a short walk on the dunes.

We caught the plane from Manchester. Unfortunately there was a dealy which meant we were sat on the plane for over an hour and a half before it took off. Not the greatest experience, but it could have been worse. So we arrived in Haarlem a couple of hours late. It’s quite easy to get to the city by catching the Number 300 bis that runs from Schipol airport to the train station in Haarlem, a 40 minute journey with buses about every 10 minutes during the daytime. We’d rented a house a few minutes walk from the station, so after picking up the keys we were soon settled in.

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The next morning we spent the morning wandering around Haarlem. The Single canal was just a couple of minutes walk from our little house. The canal was built as part of the city defences and the northern section zig zags – a defensive arrangement. The city walls used to stand on an embankment to the south of this section of the canal but they were dismantled many years ago as the city expanded northwards and a park created where they used to stand. We followed the path along the canal bank through the park.

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We spent the rest of the morning mooching around the pleasant streets in the city centre before grabbing a bite to eat in the cafe on the top floor of the Hudson Bay department store

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from where there are good views over the city.

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The building that the Hudson Bay store occupies was built in the 1930’s for the Vroom en Dreesman store. It’s architecture is modernist in style with Amsterdam School and Art Deco influences. It’s something of a Marmite building – you either love it or hate it – I fall into the former camp! V and D went bust in 2015 and the building was unoccupied the first time we visited Haarlem, but it was taken over by Hudson Bay (a Canadian company) who opened there in 2018.

There are some rather nice stained glass windows in the stairwell and on some of the floors

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After we’d eaten we wandered through the shopping streets down to the Spaarn and made our way to the Tyler’s Museum. Our visit there warrants its own post so to finish this one, here’s a few photos I took around the town (some taken later in the week).

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A Coniston Round

Last Friday I managed to get out again for a walk. This time I decided to go up to Coniston with the intention of climbing Dow Crag and then on to the Old Man of Coniston. I ended up walking a little further than that!

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I parked up in the village and then cut across the fields to join the Walna Crag road just after the old quarry car park.

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I crossed the old pack horse bridge after which the path started to steepen

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My first objective over to the right!

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Dow Crag is at the end of a ridge with two other peaks – Brown Pike and Buck Pike. As I started up towards the first of these there were great views over to nearby fells and valleys – last time I was up here just over 12 months ago I couldn’t see a thing as the fells were covered in low cloud.

I carried on, reaching the top of the pass turning right to start climbing up towards the ridge. Looking west to the Duddon estuary

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The Duddon Valley

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The Scafells over to the northeast. They would soon be shrouded in cloud.

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I carried on along the path towards Buck Pike. Although the east side of the ridge consists of steep, rocky crags that plummet down to the bottom of the valley, the west side is a much gentler slope, so the walking wasn’t difficult .

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Looking across to the Old Man

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and down to Coniston Water

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As I climbed up to Buck Pike, looking down I had a view of Blind Tarn. It got its name as it has no apparent inflow or outflow

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Dow Crag ahead.

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Unlike during my last walk up here, I could see the rocky crags, a favourite haunt of rock climbers. But none were evident.

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Looking down one of the gullies

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The summit of Dow Crag is crowned with a pyramid of rocks. Despite my dislike of heights I clambered up carefully, gritting my teeth and being careful not to get too close to the edge – I’m no crag rat!

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Looking down I could see Goat’s Water, the large tarn in the valley below

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I’d seen a few people as I’d made my way up from Coniston following the same route as me. Some had passed me and raced ahead while with others, walking at a similar pace and occasionally stopping to take in the view (an excuse for a rest?) we kept overtaking each other. As I reached Dow Crag a large party were coming up from the other direction.

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After a brief break for a bite to eat I carried on. The path initially descends to Goats Hawse before climbing up to The Old Man. Last time I’d descended down into the valley and then back to Coniston but this time I carried on climbing. There were plenty of people coming down the other way, most taking the path down to Goat’s Water.

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Looking back to Dow Crag from the hawse

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and down to Goat’s Water

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Climbing the path up the Old Man from the Hawse – I could see a lot of people ahead.

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It was very busy on the summit. The route up to the Old Man from Coniston is very popular. It wasn’t as crowded as when I’d climbed Snowdon a few weeks ago – there isn’t a train! – but there were plenty of people who’d made it to the top.

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I stopped for a while to take in the view and snap a few photos. The weather was improving as the cloud that had been threatening was clearing.

Looking down to Coniston and Coniston Water

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Copper Mine Valley

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Down to Low Water

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The cloud hadn’t cleared from the Scafells

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Dow Crag

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Looking along Brim Fell and the path to Swirl How

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My original plan had been to descend down the “tourist path” to Coniston and have a brew in a cafe, but with the weather being so good and the fells looking so inviting, I decided to carry on along the ridge over Brim Fell to Swirl How and then descend down via Lever’s Water.

I didn’t have to walk too far from the summit to get away from the crowds. Very few people were straying this way or coming from the opposite direction.

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Looking down to Lever’s water

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and, on the other side of the ridge, down to Seathwaite Tarn.

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It had taken less than an hour to reach the summit.

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Time to take in the views!

The cloud had cleared from the Scafells by now.

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Looking over Lingmoor and Little Langdale (where I’d walked the previous week) towards the Helvelyn range and the Fairfield Horseshoe.

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Looking back along the ridge to Brim Fell and the Old Man

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and then there was Weatherlam, the last fell on the ridge.

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I didn’t quite have the summit to myself, but almost. I chatted to another, younger, walker who had been following the same route as myself and there were a couple of other walkers taking various routes. But it was very peaceful compared to the Old Man.

With the weather so good – it’s rare to get such a good day in the Lakes – it looked very inviting, so another change of plan. I had to descend down the “Prison Band” which is a slightly tricky route, to Swirl Hawse and had then intended to follow the path down to Lever’s Water and then down Coppermine Valley back to Coniston. Instead, I decided to carry on and tackle Wetherlam to complete the round.

Loooking towards Little Langdale , Pike o’ Blisco and the Langdale Pikes from the hawse

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Onwards and upwards to Wetherlam

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I passed a mother with her two young sons coming up the Prison Band as I was descending and an older couple with their dog coming from Wetherlam and when I reached the summit I met the young man who I’d been talking to on Swirl How. But that was it.

Here a a few photos of the views from the summit of Wetherlam. They just got better as the day went on!

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Looking across to the Old Man

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I took the path heading southwards along the ridge of the fell which descends fairly gradually towards the Yewdale fells, turning down Hole Rake to Coppermine Valley and then back to Coniston. It’s a fair walk, about two and a half miles to the village

There were outstanding views to Coniston Water

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The path down Coppermine Valley

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Looking back up the valley towards the fells.

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By the time I made it back to the village, all the cafes had closed for the day. The pubs were open, of course, but were very busy with lots of people sitting outside enjoying the sunshine.

It had been probably the longest walk I’d done for a long. I gone a lot further than I’d originally intended, but when the going is good, the good keep going! And I’d thoroughly enjoyed it.

And I hadn’t quite finished. When I’m in Coniston I have to go and have a look at the lake. Especially on such a sunny evening.

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