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Exploring the Netherlands: Delft & Utrecht


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After a day of train travel on the Intercity trains, we arrived from Bruges to Delft. The Intercity trains plusses are they run frequently and are cheap; the minuses are most have nowhere to store luggage, they're crowded, and they don't go very far so you have to change trains a lot. They got us where we were going but it wasn't the most pleasant experience having to juggle our bags with all the people. Unfortunately, these two cities just aren't well connected so there aren't any better options. Ah, the joys of travel!

DELFT

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View from our hotel sun deck.

Delft is a small city known for the Delft Blue pottery and for being the home of Johannes Vermeer. Alas, there aren't any museums with Vermeer's work as there are only 34 paintings left and they are all elsewhere. We should see some at the Rijksmuseum when we are in Amsterdam. But there are other things to enjoy!

There are a number of small restaurant-filled squares. Our favorite, Beestenmarkt, was fortunately right around the corner from our hotel. It was chilly in the evenings but they have heat lamps and blankets so we were fine!
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The other main square is Markt Square, which is dominated at one end by the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and at the other by the Stadhuis (City Hall).
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On Saturday, there is actually still a market there so we had fun browsing before we left for Utrecht.
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There was also a fabulous flower and vegetable market around the corner from our hotel!
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It's a cute town to walk around and small enough to see it all easily, though after being spoiled in Bruges not as nice because it's not as intact. Oh, and the canals were filled with duckweed so they were a very special shade of green haha!
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Fun fact: The tower of the Old Church leans precipitously over its canal! When they added the smaller towers at the corners, they built them straight so there is a slight weird bend to the top of it!
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The Royal Delft
Of course, we visited the last remaining Royal Delft factory, the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles. In the 17th century there were around 32 factories producing Royal Delftware but this is the only one that survived. The visit was interesting. There is a museum with very old pieces that trace the history and development from the earliest Chinese influences through the modern pieces produced today. You also tour the factory and see the pieces in progress.
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Some of my favorite things to see, however, were the building pieces produced for homes and gardens.
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Molen de Roos
The absolute coolest place we visited was this historic windmill. It is the only remaining mill of the 18 mills that ran in Delft. It was in bad shape until it was "adopted" by a volunteer organization that raised funds to save it and still operate it today. In 2012, they raised the whole thing, all 1100 tons, one meter to build the train tunnel underneath and then lowered it again!

Today it operates as an organic flour mill selling the product to locals and local bakeries. In the past, it milled grains for beer and animal feed as well as flour. You can climb steep ladders all the way to the top of the mill to see its inner workings and at one level there is a platform to go outside and see the blades turning and a great city view!
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We spent three nights in Delft, which in hindsight is probably one too many but we enjoyed the lazy pace.

VACATION VS. FULL TIME TRAVEL

Maybe now is a good time to talk about how it feels to be back on the road as a tourist on vacation from home. As the Thai would say, it's "same, same but different". It's definitely easier after all our years on the road to get back to the pace we like - slow and steady. We still spend some days curled up in our room reading, only venturing out for coffee and a meal. And we still never plan too much into any one day. We like to sit in cafes and watch the world go by as much or more than we like visiting museums. We've always been that way and we haven't changed just because we're on "vacation". We've given ourselves enough time in each place not to feel rushed and that makes a world of difference.

All of our experience with logistics helps us keep our cool as we move from place to place. Can I just say, we are expert at packing and unpacking in any room we find ourselves in! And navigating new places is a breeze. One huge difference is we are staying exclusively in hotels except for our house boat in Amsterdam. It's been liberating in a way not to have to worry about how we'll make coffee, whether there is a good pan and a sharp knife, or whether we can wash dishes and clothes. And it's been fun to be able to experience historic hotels in the center of the city. Of course, it's more expensive and we eat all our meals out, although breakfast is often included, generous, and delicious. But that means we get to focus on experiencing the local food culture more and that's been wonderful. Like these Dutch pancakes we had in Delft.
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In hindsight, we've also planned a really good variety of experiences. A week in Copenhagen, a cruise, time with a car to get out into Denmark and Sweden, back to the cities (Bruges, Delft, and Utrecht) and public transport, and then another car to explore North Holland (coming in a future blog), ending with city time in Amsterdam. Just when we get a little tired of one thing, we change it up for something else. We didn't really have that luxury as much when we were full-timers - the cost was usually prohibitive.

And it's nice to know we have a home to go back to when we're done. We've been gone long enough we miss it, our friends, and our dog, and that seems just the right amount of time!

UTRECHT

Having said all that, Utrecht is a city where we sort of wish we had been full-timers. We could easily have spent a month there. It's a vibrant, big city - fourth largest in The Netherlands - filled with restaurants, shopping, squares, and markets. It has an energy and a vibe we really enjoyed. There aren't a ton of touristy things to do there so you can just enjoy the city. And as usual in a place we are just "living" and not "touring", I didn't take a lot of photos but here are a few.
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As a bigger city, the canals in the center are much longer and they have a lower level that used to be used for warehouses but now have been converted to restaurants and shops. It's different and fun to sit by the water and watch all the boats go by.
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I wanted to have a house so that I could buy flowers at this market that popped up right outside our hotel. It's Dahlia season and they had the most gorgeous displays along with garden plants.
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But I have no pictures of our favorite wine bar, the square in front of our hotel we spent most evenings before bed, or the many cafes that line the canals at which we had coffee and beer. We spent four nights there and easily could have spent many more just finding our favorite spots.

But as much as we liked South Holland, North Holland was calling. On the spur of the moment we decided to rent a car after exploring public transport to the places we wanted to go and so glad we did. Next up so stay tuned!

Posted by mrb430 10:15 Archived in Netherlands

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