Highlights of Holland with a friend

Daniel Den Hoed clinic, Rotterdam
Daniel Den Hoed clinic, Rotterdam. Photo: Wikifrits, Public Domain

Madelon is welcomed back to the Familiehuis Daniel den Hoed in Rotterdam with hugs and smiles after our few days in Maastricht. It’s been her home since early April and her treatment only finished a week ago. Her empathy is infectious and both staff and residents are happy to see her smile.

The Daniel den Hoed Foundation raises money for scientific research at the Erasmus MC Cancer Institute. The Familiehuis is a social welfare facility where families of cancer patients can stay close to the Institute and hospital. Each resident has their own spacious apartment and shares communal kitchens, dining and lounge areas while undergoing postoperative treatment.

The current facility was opened in May 2021 and is a major achievement of the Netherlands Health Service. Since 1992, the Roparun Foundation has organised an annual non-stop relay race from Rotterdam to Paris (530km) to raise funds for cancer charities. They now extend this to walking and cycling events. 

Surprise Day 1 – Delft

Madelon arranged a trip to the Delft Porcelain Factory with a two-hour workshop for us to learn how to decorate a tile of our choice that will be fired and sent on to us. What better way of understanding the craftsmanship and skill that goes into every Delft blue porcelain creation. Delft porcelain is more difficult to make than Spanish Lladro or English Royal Doulton because of the quality of the local clay.

A canal trip is next on our agenda. These provide local students with income from acting as guides. Delft is the centre for water management studies. Its connection by canal to the Port of Rotterdam made it the source and destination of exports and imports of the Dutch East India Company for centuries.

They learned water management the hard way. The canal water was used to make both beer and soap. But poor control of effluents makes for soapy beer!

Window Tax

Like all Dutch cities, Delft is full of bicycles. Every year many are pulled out of the canal. Where else does a student dispose of their bike when they graduate?

The Dutch alternative to the poll tax was a window tax. Every homeowner wants a door and windows opening onto the canal. But fail to pay your window tax and one was boarded up. One house doesn’t have a door. It’s at the rear where there’s only one kitchen window. Is that tax evasion?

Surprise Day 2 – Den Haag (The Hague)

It’s one of the most famous places in the Netherlands. The Peace Palace houses the International  Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration

 Outside there is a Peace Tree where visitors post their own message. Mine is “Peace, Harmony and Health for all Mankind.”  Madelon’s is “When there’s Peace in your heart, there’s Peace in the World.”

They won’t let Madelon in. She has her Dutch passport and driving licence copies on her phone, but not originals. I have my original UK passport but the tour is in Dutch. I tell the guide we’ve come from Spain to get my EU citizenship back.

A gentleman approaches and addresses me in perfect Queen’s English. He is José Luis Rodriguez de … y …, a Spanish diplomat who is based in their Embassy in Berlin, but here on holiday. We had a long chat during the tour and exchanged business cards. He tells me how easy it would be for me to get Spanish citizenship.

Holland’s National Gallery

Self-portrait by Rembrandt
Self-portrait by Rembrandt. Photo Mike Phillips, used with permission

A brisk walk takes us to the Mauritshuis, Holland’s equivalent of the National  Gallery. It was built in the 17th century, close to the Dutch Houses of Parliament, and named after Johan Maurits, a nephew of William of Orange. William became King William III of England from 1689 to 1702 through marriage to Mary, daughter of King James II. Mary became Queen Mary II but only lived to the age of 32, dying of smallpox.

Now I have seen the originals of Rembrandt, Hans Holbein, Jan Steen and Vermeer’s famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” that originally sold for the equivalent of 26 euros due to its dirty condition.

Time for refreshment

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We’re feeling peckish and find the only Spanish Tapas Bar in The Hague. Time for a glass of wine. I’m impressed that every Embassy in this area displays the Ukrainian flag as well as its own. Our days in Holland are numbered but I have yet to see the busy trading port of Rotterdam by boat and Madelon wants to hold a party in the Familiehuis to say thank you to staff, residents, family and friends. There’s more to come folks!