A string of train journeys brought us back to Haarlem, our European home away from home. Now the full circle closes as we head home to Canberra tomorrow.
We saw these paintings of poppies hanging side by side at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They are by Daubigny, Monet and Van Gogh, respectively. They were in a special exhibition, “Impressions of Landscape”, showing the links between the work of these three great artists. It was if their lives, journeys and creative spirits circled and wove around each other.
In France, we had visited Monet’s garden and then saw his artwork in Paris. We visited Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh painted the house of Daubigny, who had inspired him. In the museum we realised that Monet followed Daubigny’s example of cruising on a studio boat down the Seine to capture the landscape from that vantage point. And we saw paintings that revealed that Monet had spent time in Holland on returning to the continent after seeking refuge in England in war time.
It was if the lives and works of these three artists wove through our own European journey. We had started and finished in Haarlem and followed the Rhine, the Rhône, the Seine and then, ten weeks later, returned to the Dutch canals. We now have a greater appreciation of the stories of these three and their passion for the beauty of the world and the struggles of its common folk.
We have house sat several times for our friends Rosmarie and Rinze Marten and so Haarlem felt like a second home now to the point where we are quite adept at avoiding collisions with bicycles. We lapped up the opportunity to revisit favourite spots and discover new gems. For the first few days, we played tourist guides for Howard and Joan, who came with us after that amazing cruise down the Seine. We did a much more modest cruise around Haarlem's canals, visited Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands—a museum of a museum—and joy of joys, ate simple meals at home.
Later, we furthered friendships forged on earlier visits. Peter and Berry, who we met through birding circles, hosted us for a weekend in Middenmeer. One local museum they took us to educated us about the origin of Dutch auctions and another about the Viking heritage of the area. And we spotted some birds along the way, new ones for our list, no less.
Lilian, now an artist-in-residence at the botanic garden in Leiden, carries that same flame of love for the natural world. How we established our friendship with her and her partner, Stephen, on our first trip to Haarlem is a story in itself.
We finally felt justified in dragging winter clothes around for a couple of months of glorious warm sunny days. Thinking ourselves intrepid, we set out for the beach at Zandvoort one cold, windy day. We were not alone. The beach was peppered with people taking the salt air. But we soon retreated to a cafe overlooking the waves for hot chocolate. Wet snow a few days later convinced us that hot potato frietjes, Dutch-style, were called for.
On 9 November we had planned to focus on packing. That preoccupation was trumped by the US presidential election count. It played out on the television surrounded by our mess of clothing and memorabilia strewn over the lounge room floor. Gloom descended on our mundane task and even the skies dripped tears.
Our winter clothes were consigned to the bottom of the bags again and we set off for Bangkok. Warmth! Liz, Kieran, Blake and Louis, once our neighbours in Canberra, moved here nine months ago. Their home is an oasis where we are catching up with them and our jet lag. We have intentionally dropped our tourist masks and are vegging out in preparation for going home. Looking at our dairies, we know we will need to hit the ground running very soon.
So we went to a local book fair and brought our wares home to read. Blake and Louis took us to the park where we spotted Asian Water Monitors and Siamese Catfish. (I actually saw a new bird, a Snowy Egret, which somehow made its way here from the Americas.) We had a lazy lunch with Liz and Kieran’s new friends around a pool while the boys splashed for hours.
Tomorrow we fly to Singapore to connect with the greatly anticipated new direct service from there to Canberra. Thank you for following us on our three-month journey and reading our epistles.
We appreciate it and appreciate you! ❤️
With our love,
Chris and Geoff