SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — For many folks when they think of visiting Holland their thoughts go right to Amsterdam. And with good reason.
You could take numerous trips to the capital of the Netherlands and see something wonderful and different each time. But save a day or two in your busy schedule to explore outside the city’s limits, and the travel pay-off is big.
Just about a half hour’s drive from the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is Delft. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it. In my mind, that’s even more reason to go. It’s got all the things folks tend to love about Amsterdam – canals, bridges and bikes – just with a lot less people. Things move to a relaxing, slower beat here. The official, native language is Dutch, but many people also speak English. Many restaurants offer English menus, so travelers shouldn’t worry much about a language barrier.
Delft has an artistic side, rooted deep in its history. Delft Blue earthenware is something many people have seen at some point on a shelf or in a magazine or museum, but they don’t know much about the history of the pottery. It goes back the 17th century. At the height of its popularity there were 33 factories in Delft. Established in 1653, Royal Delft is the only one remaining. A team of eight master painters are responsible for all of the hand-painted pieces. Becoming a master painter takes time, commitment and talent, requiring eight to 10 years of training. Take a tour and you’ll get to see painters at work. They make it look incredibly easy.
As amazing as Delft Pottery is, Delft’s claim to fame is tied to the painting of Johannes Vermeer. A lifelong resident of Delft, it’s amazing how little is actually known about him, but that hasn’t stopped the city from embracing him and his paintings. The Vermeer Center has a mock studio that explains how he experimented with light and made his paints. It also displays reproductions of all his known paintings in chronological order, making it really easy for even the novice art enthusiast to see similarities from one painting to the next.
None of Vermeer’s original paintings are still in Delft. But luckily you don’t have to go far to see one. In about 20 minutes by car and less than 10 by train you’ll arrive in The Hague, home to the famous Mauritshuis. After a two year renovation it re-opened its doors this summer. It has a small collection, only about 800 works, but it’s typically referred to as one of the best collections of Dutch and Flemish paintings in the world. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of the museum’s most recognized paintings. If you were lucky, you may have seen her at the de Young Museum a little over a year ago on a rare tour while the renovation was underway. If you missed her, even more reason to go see her in the reinvented 17th century palace she calls home. Other well-known pieces on display include The Goldfinch by Fabritius, The Bull by Potter and The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt.
Dana’s trip to Holland was organized by the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.
Dana’s weekends spent exploring the San Francisco Bay Area outnumber those at home in wine country, but her favorite trips require a passport and typically a destination with warm sand and blue water. Along with travel, Dana writes about food, wine and anything fun. Find her on Twitter @drebmann
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