Plans and Preparations for Our Journey – Part 2 (The Low Countries)

Jane and windmill

Jane in Leiden

Thanks to so many people for the feedback and support on the first instalment of our Plans and Preparations.

It’s less than two weeks now until Craig and I set off from Dundee, and all of a sudden it is dawning on me that there is no going back. The experience so far in the planning of the journey, and pulling together the content of the website with Craig, has been a positive one for me personally. For the first time in almost two years I have been doing something which I have really wanted to do, celebrating Jane’s memory in a positive way.

Just sometimes you feel as if you may have taken on too much, and you just want to shrink back into the darkness again. Then you receive all the kind messages from friends and family, and from people you don’t know, all of whom have been touched by Jane’s story, and want to help. And you realise that what we are doing is worthwhile, and you’re inspired again to get on with the planning.

So here is what we are planning for the next stage of our journey.

Day 3

We arrive off the ferry at Zeebrugge early on the morning of Friday 6 September.

Bruges

Bruges

We will be met there by an old friend Johan Van Renterghem, a lawyer from Ghent who we’ve known for nearly 20 years.

Johan will be our guide for the next two days, and will drive us from Bruges to Amsterdam.

I think this stage of our journey is going to be one of the most poignant.

Bruges is where we will spend the Friday.

It’s a city trapped in time, preserved as if in a fairy tale, and Jane was entranced by it when we visited in 2005.

Day 4

We will travel north on the Saturday, 7 September.

We spent a week in Leiden in the Summer of 2008, the city where Rembrandt was born. From there we toured Holland.

Jane and Dad bridge

Graeme and Jane in Leiden, 2008

One of my fondest memories from that holiday, was an hour spent with Jane in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, where the Dutch Royal Collection of Paintings is housed. Jane and I walked round, viewing the paintings, every room full of masterpieces.

And we wandered into one room.

The only other person in the room was a Japanese tourist, who was standing in front of a painting, with his glasses held aloft, clearly looking intently at whatever painting this was. He walked away, out of the room. And Jane and I were left alone with “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” by Vermeer. We laughed. We couldn’t believe that here we were, just the two of us with one of the most well known paintings in the World. And we stood and admired this little painting, cracked with age, for several minutes, before someone else came in, and then we left.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring - Vermeer

The Girl with the Pearl Earring – Vermeer

The Mauritshuis is closed at the moment for renovation, and “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” is on a World tour. In some ways I would have liked to have said hello to her again. But then I don’t need to go back to keep that precious memory alive. It will never leave me.

We’re staying overnight in Delft, the birthplace of Vermeer, with its beautiful main square, towering cathedral and its canals.

Day 5

On the Sunday, 8 September, we’ll spend the day in Amsterdam.

Jane, Craig and I spent a weekend there in January 2011.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Rijksmuseum again, recently reopened after major renovation.

But there’s one story I’ll leave you with. In August 2008, we had a day trip to Amsterdam from Leiden, and we took in all the usual tourist sites. And of course, we found ourselves at the entrance to the Wall, the famous Red Light District, where the ladies sit or stand in windows, in full view of passersby. And I was hesitant about going any further. After all I had my 19 year old daughter with me, and I was supposed to be a responsible parent.

And Jane just blurted out “For Goodness sake Dad, I do life drawing every Thursday. I’ve seen my fair share of fat naked women.”

And so we ventured in.

Jane and Isla in Delft

Jane and Isla in Delft

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