Den Haag: The mean streets of The Hague

Our friends Ron and Barry live in Den Haag (The Hague) in the The Netherlands. Ron is a Canadian who I met when I was working in London in 1992. Being an American, I could work in England for 6 months, being a Canadian with British grandparents, Ron stayed forever. Or at least until he and Barry (who hails from South Africa) moved to Den Haag about a year ago.

I had only been to The Netherlands once before. It was a sunny weekend in March of 1995 and I only saw Amsterdam. So it was nice on this trip to see something in addition to Amsterdam. I still  want to go to Delft and Haarlam and a few other places, but Den Haag was a great place to start. I think it is a totally charming city and their neighorhood in the old part of town is just surrounded by musuems, shops and restaurants and is just a cobblestone’s throw from the Parliament. And it was nice and quiet. I could live here.

Our pictures are a little lackluster, but here they are.

John’s idea of Heaven: Piet Oudolf’s Garden

While we were in The Netherlands, John’s number one priority was to go see landscape designer Piet Oudolf’s garden. Oudolf is the world master of informal landscapes. He uses lots of grasses against a backdrop of shaped hedges to provide structure to garden in any season.  In early October with most plants past their seasonal prime the garden was beautiful with even the dying plants adding beautiful shape and color. Oudolf has also worked miracles at the Lurie Garden in Millenium Park in Chicago as well as the plantings on New York City’s High Line.

Oudolf’s wife Anja runs a nursery on the property and made John’s day by spending time chatting with him. She was beautiful and friendly. John’s only disappointment was not being able to buy anything to take back to the US.

The Art and Business of Making Books

During our short stay in Antwerp we had a few hours to go to a museum before heading off to catch our train for The Hague. I was tempted to go to one of the art museums in town when I noticed in my guidebook a blurb for the Plantin-Moretus Museum.

Christopher Plantin (c. 1520-1589) was a French bookbinder who in 1546 came to Antwerp to set up his own printing workshop. It became one of the most influential publishing houses in Europe during the late Renaissance, producing Bibles, maps, scientific books and much else. The museum consists essentially of the printing workshop and home of Plantin and his heirs. It contains a large collecdtion of rare and precious books, and displays of their illustrations. The processes of hot-metal type setting and letterpress printing are also explained. Plantin gave his name to a typeface still widely used today.

I am so glad I stumbled across this paragraph and John agreed it sounded like a good idea to spend our last few hours there. Everything about it was interesting. The story of a family of book makers who were in business for over 300 years. The story of bookmaking during those same 300 years with a great audio guide explaining the whole process from typesetting to proofreading, to printing, to sales and distribution. It also showed how the hosue and workshop evolved over time. And of course there was an amazing collection of manuscripts and books on display aas well as big beautiful library rooms that would make any book lover a little weak in the knees. John took all the pictures shown here but  a Google image search comes up with some pretty great pictures.

It is not surprising that the house museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This one is not to be missed if you are in Antwerp, or even Belgium, it is a reason to put Antwerp on your itinerary.


I really liked the city of Antwerp. It is a great blend of old and new. Lots of cultural stuff, lots of shopping. We even had really good Italian food for dinner. The cathedral there is pretty spectacular. Even on a dark cloudy day the interior was bright. Plus it is filled with Rubens and other amazing paintings that until recently were housed in museums.