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I didn’t make any plans for my last day of vacation. I wanted a cushion day in case I needed more time to see what I planned to see. Well, I didn’t need any more time, so I had to decide where to go on a whim. Since it was a Sunday, I started at church.

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I went all the way out to The Hague so that I could attend a service in English!

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But the Netherlands Temple is in The Hague too, so I didn’t mind the trip down so I could go see it (Amsterdam to The Hague is about 45 minutes on the train).

Temple Grounds:
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And after church I went a little further on the train to Rotterdam.

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Rotterdam felt completely different from the rest of the Netherlands, and I’m so glad I went! Rotterdam was bombed by the Nazis in WWII, so the architecture is much more modern than that in Amsterdam.

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This shopping center was delightfully mid-century. I don’t have a lot of photos of it, but it was like time travelling back 65 years and going to the mall!

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And check out this really cool modern architecture! My guidebook named these buildings “the pencil” and “the UFO”

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This weirdly-shaped building provides shelter for a market, and actually contains apartment homes:

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And here’s what it looks like from beneath:

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These are apartment homes too!

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And I walked along the riverfront

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Parade of Flags:

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and more weird buildings:

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Rotterdam was cool. I didn’t do anything other than walk around and take photos, but I had a great time. It was so different from the other 8 days of my vacation; such a colorful end!

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And it really is the end. Back to Amsterdam for a little dinner, and left for the airport early the next morning!

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We’ve been home for a few months now, but how fun is it that American Girl’s new travel outfit features an Amsterdam-like city?

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and this Seattle backdrop?

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This trip was amazing. Longer than my usual vacation, full of beautiful weather, beautiful landscapes, beautiful art. And it was just the beginning of my fantastic summer! 3 trips to Disney World (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekends) and a trip to New York that I’ll tell you about soon (I brought Caroline dressed in Caroline clothes and she looked adorable!) But now it’s time for the weather to cool down and for tourists to get off my island, which isn’t so bad either.

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The eighth day of my vacation was another day to explore Amsterdam. I started my day with some pancakes in a building that used to hold a grand carousel! Now it just has a little one:

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I continued on to the Tropenmuseum (In English, Museum of the Tropics). The museum has an intriguing history. It opened in 1871 (and has been in its current building since 1926) to showcase artifacts from Dutch colonial holdings. Sounds like a promising collection, but I didn’t find it very engaging. Maybe because there were parts that weren’t in English. The most enlightening exhibit was a photograph collection from Aleppo, Syria.

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Next stop, the Dutch Resistance Museum. This one was quite engaging, teaching that the Dutch are not Nazis, and sort of apologizing for things that happened during WWII.

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The resistance museum was a nice prologue for the Big Daddy of all Amsterdam attractions, the Anne Frank House.

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Even with a time-reserved ticket, I waited in line with tons of other tourists to walk where Anne Frank and her family hid for more than two years. I’ve read Anne’s diary and seen several different films, so I don’t think I learned anything I didn’t know. But I’ve been in the Secret Annex!

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And in the evening, I wandered the streets and canals behind my hotel, with the guidance of another audio tour. Vacation is coming to a close–just one more whole day!

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Sorry to leave you hanging for a few weeks, but it’s time for me to tell you more about vacation. On this 7th day, I left Haarlem for Amsterdam. I checked out in the morning, dropped my luggage at the hotel, then followed an audio tour of the city.

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The tour pointed out many highlights, like Dam Square

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and this hidden church. Catholicism was illegal for quite a while, so the churches had to be pretty inconspicuous. This one is sandwiched between retail shops.

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I paused the tour to check out the Amsterdam Museum.

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then continued the tour to the Begijnhof

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and the flower market

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The tour ended at the museumplein, where I paused briefly before a museum-packed afternoon.

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By museum-packed, I mean that I visited three art museums. First the Rijksmuseum, a grand collection of the Dutch masters, like Frans Hals

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Jan Steen

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Rembrandt

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and more Vermeer!

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This angry swan, painted by Jan Asselijn, is quite eye-catching

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Beyond remarkable paintings, the Rijksmuseum has a gorgeous library

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and a couple dollhouses!

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Upstairs, the collection gets more modern.

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And if you look closely at this one, you’ll find another dolly sighting!

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I explored the Rijksmuseum pretty thoroughly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed a lot; it’s huge!

Next stop, the Van Gogh museum! The museum did not allow photography, but I snuck a photo in the lobby!

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And the final stop of the day was Stedelijk Museum of modern art.

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It had pieces by Andy Warhol,

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Chagall,

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and Piet Mondrian. This is a well-known Mondrian:

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but he also painted all of the paintings on these walls. I had no idea he had such a range.

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I stopped for dinner on the way back to the hotel, but this was a full, exhausting day. I loved the art. In fact, when people ask me now what I saw when I went to the Netherlands, I say “canals and art.” Both were beautiful.

Thursday was a day to explore more charming Dutch villages. We started in the harbor town of Hoorn.

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You can tell it’s a harbor town because there’s a boat on the steeple.

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The main attraction in Hoorn is the Westfries Museum. Tons of artifacts from the Dutch Golden Age, a time of great trade and art and life.

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Hey look, dollies!

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And it’s always fun to see historical paintings of places you visit. Here is the main square in Hoorn:

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And for whatever reason, there is a dodo outside the museum. I took a photo, of course.

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After the museum we rode a few more stops on the train to Enkhuizen.

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And the main attraction in Enkhuizen is the Zuiderzee living history museum. The museum was founded in the 1930s, when the sea was diked off, in an effort to preserve pre-dike ways of life.

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There are all sorts of exhibits, like the barber,

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the sailmaker,

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the butcher,

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and my favorite, the pharmacy!

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I found this living history museum a little lacking in life. Most of the staff was either at lunch, or speaking Dutch.

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Once we had poked around enough of the museum, we grabbed a ferry back to the train station. Back at the hotel just in time for dinner.

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A few final photos. In the “you don’t see that every day” category, Goats in a Boat.

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and a little taste of home at the train station!

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Are you ready to hear about another beautiful day in the Netherlands?

On Wednesday we took a train to Amsterdam, then transferred to a bus to Edam. I had read that Edam has a cheese market on Wednesdays, but discovered it’s only a big deal in July and August. And we were there in June. The market was just a few stalls selling produce.

But don’t worry, Edam was still a beautiful town worth visiting. We started our day at the Edam museum, located in the oldest house in Edam.

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And then we walked around the village. Gorgeous.

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I strolled by adorable homes…

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…and was a bit surprised to see that most of them had cows in their backyard!

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I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s not like cheese grows on trees!

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From Edam we got on another bus to Marken, a charming fishing village. A bit sleepy, but amazing.

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Then we headed back to Haarlem. Here’s a nice photo of the church that dominates the main square.

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Dinner was Indonesian food. Did you know that Indonesia is a former Dutch colony?

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And as I was walking back toward the church, I noticed that it sold ice cream! All hail the church of Ice Cream, in the name of frosty treats, amen.

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We woke up on day 4 in Delft. With a few hours before museums opened, we explored more on foot.

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Then we took a short train ride to the Hague to visit the Mauritshuis Gallery. Beautiful building.

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Ceiling art:

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We saw more beautiful Flemish paintings:

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And this one is from an unknown Dutch artist, possibly Jan Mostaert. Joseph explaining the dreams of the baker and the cupbearer:

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This one is a Rembrandt portrait! Anatomy lesson of Dr Nicholas Tulp:

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Besides Rembrandt, we saw some works of other Dutch masters, like Jan Steen.

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And, of course, Vermeer. Here is his View of Delft:

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Do you see any similarities to my views of Delft from this morning?

This is one of his earliest paintings:

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And his most famous!

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Vermeer was the best part of the Mauritshuis, but I also liked these paintings of Brazil in the 17th century:

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And this really big painting of a cow:

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After all the beautiful paintings, it was back to Delft for a quick visit to the Prinsenhof.

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At the Prinsenhof we learned all about William of Orange, who was responsible for the Protestant revolution in the Netherlands, leading the crusade against Catholic Spain. He was assassinated in the Prinsenhof. You can still see the bullet holes.

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Then we picked up our luggage and boarded a train to our next hotel. It was in Haarlem, near the train station. Haarlem is super-close to Amsterdam, but accommodations are way cheaper there.

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With nothing planned in Haarlem, and favorable weather, we headed to the beach! Welcome to Zandvoort.

In 1910:

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In 2017:

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Relaxed for a while, then had dinner with really slow service, and returned to the hotel just as the sun was setting. Beautiful day!

On the third day we left Belgium and headed to the Netherlands. Our first stop was Delft. After checking into the hotel, we took a fairly long walk.

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The destination was the Royal Delft factory. We took a tour to learn all about how the famous pottery is made.

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The tour was part factory, part museum.

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And of course, the shop!

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After looking at plates we couldn’t afford, we did more exploring.

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^That’s where the first Dutch bible was printed in 1477. I don’t think they served sandwiches back then.

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We went into the Vermeer house and learned all about the artist. They had copies of all of his paintings, and exhibits on lighting techniques and historical pigments. It provided great context for paintings we would see later in the trip.

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Ended the day with dinner; a very large pancake with cheese and bacon!

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