Perhaps it was the weather, but Utrecht felt like a great place to wander around in. The streets were wide and clean and there were wonderful shop windows and cheery cafes everywhere, and all kinds of modified bicycles parked along the canals. The air was misty, the light made everything look red and a bit watercolourish.
We were enjoying ourselves as we walked, chatting, perhaps a bit too loudly, until a cyclist zipped past us shouting something nasty-sounding. Some amused passers-by smiled at us and said, "Bee-lip, Bee-lip." That didn't sound Dutch, so I assumed they were just making the sound of a bicycle bell. We were to get more abuse from cyclists, but I soon got used to it and came to expect the grunts and barks as extensions of the whooshing sounds the bicycles made as they passed.
All things Miffy (almost)
After checking out the Centraal Museum, we crossed the street to Dick Bruna Huis, where Miffy was the main draw. I learnt, however, that he did much more than Miffy. I really liked the book covers and especially the little black bear logo.
We then went on a hunt for the Shroeder House by Rietveld, only to find it fully booked for visits. At least the lady was kind enough to show us a video about the house. As we left Shroeder House, I suddenly realised that it was late and that we had to check in to our hotel (more like a guest house) in Amsterdam before six. This got me into a bit of a panic. Fortunately, we managed to call the hotel and they said it was all right to check in after six, we just may have to wait a little for someone to let us in.
On the way back to the train station, we started another hunt, this time for Miffy Square and then the Miffy traffic light.
Some time in Amsterdam
It was raining when we got to Amsterdam. We checked in to Hotel Misc Eatdrinksleep (yes, that's its name) before heading out for dinner with Sandie's friends, Marisa and Jorge, at a restaurant where all the waiters and waitresses were very good looking. I don't remember much about the food, except that Jorge said we had to try the prawn croquet, which turned out to be pretty good indeed.
When we got down from our room for breakfast in the morning, Pepijn (who together with Rachel were our hosts) was painstakingly slicing fruit, precisely positioning pieces of strawberry, kiwi and pineapple on a plate for every guest. There was also cereal, ham, three types of cheese, freshly baked bread, croissant, bacon and perfectly fried eggs - quite a spread.
Rachel - to whom I had spoken when I rang from Utrecht the day before - came to our table and suggested that, since the weather was going to be good, she could arrange for us to take a boat ride. "One sunny day," she said. It was tempting, but we were going to the Hague that day.
"Would be nice to actually spend some time in Amsterdam," she said, smiling.
For our trip to the Hague, and after that to Delft, we bought special 'fall' tickets that gave us unlimited first class rail travel for €22.50 per person. As a result of this, we made sure we were in the first class carriage whenever we got on a train - even if it meant we had to run the entire length of the platform to get there. Just to get our money's worth.
In the Mauritshuis, Sandie got to spend time with her Vermeer. I still prefer Rembrandt. I also discovered Hendrick Avercamp, who was deaf and mute. His winter scenes reminded me of Lowry.
Escher in Het Palais was delightful. As a kid I used to be impressed by his tessellations and logically impossible stairs, but going through the collection, I saw his landscape work - all done around 1928 to 1933 - for the first time and found them even more appealing.
We also made a stop in Delft. It was a lovely town, but we didn't have time to do more than eat ice-cream and waffle in the main square before we had to leave. On our way back (in the first class carriage of course), I tried to take a picture of Sandie, who said, "I don't look good when I don't smile."
Glass box tactics
Back in Amsterdam, we took Joseph to see some action as he's never been to the red light district. I think the girls were more excited than we were. But as long as they were walking with us, they weren't going to see anything interesting, so they changed tactics and walked five paces behind us.
As soon as they did that, the next woman in a glass box started posing and pouting for Joseph and with her index finger made the universal gesture for 'come over'. After a while, it started getting boring and besides, Sandie and Joseph had a 'curfew', so we said our goodbyes in the glow of the red neon lights and went our respective ways.