Camping at Katwijk Aan See, NetherlandsWe visited the Netherlands in late April and camped in a small town, Katwijk Aan See. When first we began our planning we thought we would rent a room in Amsterdam and explore from there, but found that the prices were exorbitant and so opted for a camping site instead. Getting to Katwijk Aan See was very easy with the trains and buses operating frequently.

The campground, Noordduinen, was very neat and tidy and supplied excellent service. The bathrooms and showers were kept very clean, the administration office charged phones and tablets upon request at no extra cost (though there is power available at each pitch for a cost), there was a General Store, and a restaurant and leisure facility, and it was a small walk to the town centre and the beach.

Beer at Katwijk Aan See, NetherlandsBeer at Katwijk Aan See, NetherlandsBeer at Katwijk Aan See, Netherlands

During our stay we visited the Kuekenhof utilising a shuttle bus from the campsite and walked the town on Konigsdag. We also took a day out to visit Amsterdam where we were going to do Sandemans New Europe Cycling Tour, but unfortunately there was no English guide available that day. Instead we walked the city for a while and visited the Rijks Museum.

The Singel Bridge at the Paleissatraat in Amsterdam by George Hendrik Breitner: Rijks Museum, AmsterdamThe Rijks is by far one of the best art museums I have visited. It is four story building with vast halls (some of which are art unto themselves since the building was restored over the previous decade), and while there were a great many pieces on display it never felt cluttered or too much. Different periods of time and art are separated into rooms sequentially numbered to enable ease of progression throughout: 1100-1600, 1600-1650, 1650-1700, 1700-1800, 1900-1950, 1950-2000. The Rijks is highly selective with regard to the pieces on display, and they have taken great care with regards to the presentation, often linking art by theme across a period. A great example of this is Rembrandt’s Nachtwacht (possibly their most famous piece) displayed in a room at the end of a long gallery. One the walls of the Nachtwacht room are other examples of the genre of painting from the period and allows the viewer to appreciate how different Rembrandt’s is.

Along with the paintings the Rijks also has some excellent sculpture, furnishings and clothing, ship models, and an armoury. The armoury was a delight with some excellent examples of the art associated with weaponry and armour. Their display contains hundreds of swords of various design and an impressive array of firearms. The intricacy of the work on these arms is incredible and serves to remind that there was a time when artisans worked tirelessly to create these pieces rather than mass-produce for war.

Rijks Museum, AmsterdamRijks Museum, Amsterdam

Weeping and Captive caryatids: Remorse and Penance by Artus Quellinus I; Rijks Museum, AmsterdamGuided tours are available for the Rijks at a small cost and I found it to be incredibly informative, especially when the guide used their tablet to show us x-rays of some of the art. When you visit the Rijks one of the first things you will notice is a queue near one entry with a sign informing you that ‘waiting in line is part of the Rijks experience’. To the other side of road from this line is an express entry for those who have pre-purchased tickets (which can done from a store next to the nearby canal for a few Euros more).

The Kuekenhof and Rijks museum, and being fortunate enough to be there for Konigsdag, made this trip to the Netherlands a joy and I’m glad to have visited. 


Other Netherlands Articles:

A Day at The Kuekenhof




Madrid, SpainAfter our Vaughan Town experience we returned to Madrid for a week. We were tired and quite sick with a bad cold and so the first night we stayed in a hotel, resting. On the Saturday we moved to Empajores where we had booked a room on AirBnB that was quite central to what we wanted to experience in Madrid, but still spent most of the day resting and trying to get healthy for the party that night.

At Vaughan Town we had become fast friends with Soledad, a wonderful Interior Designer, who had invited us to her home for a dinner party. The party was attended by a quite a few of our new friends and we also met some of Soledad’s. That night we ate beautiful food, drank excellent wine and enjoyed the company of wonderful people. We also learned that Spanish women are brilliant dancers as we all danced the night away.

Madrid, SpainMadrid, Spain

On the Sunday, there was a street market 50 metres from where we were staying that our new friends had told us was great to visit. The Market stretched up Calle de Ribera de Curtidores to the Plaza Cascorro and filled out several side streets down to Puerta de Toledo. The market offered a range of wares from souvenirs to clothes to homewares with people flowing in every direction.

Madrid is home to the exceptional Museo National Del Prado. The Prado is one of the most densely populated galleries I have been to with almost every wall covered. There were a number of special exhibits including ‘La Biblioteca del Greco’ a reconstruction of Greco’s personal library and includes several books annotated by Greco as well a letter and five paintings. Another was ‘Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist’ and featured four of his Eucharist tapestries commissioned by Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, the elder daughter of Philip II and Elizabeth of Valois, alongside six modelli (sketched panels for the tapestries) and same oil sketches. The modelli have been restored and the restoration notes also form part of the exhibit. The exhibit that thrilled me the most though was ‘The Furias: Political Allegory & Artistic Challenge’ which presented a number of pieces of Tityus (whose liver was pecked at by vultures), Tantalus (who served up his son at a banquet of the gods), Sisyphus (punished for revealing Zeus’ infidelities), and Ixion (who seduced Hera). The Furies, and Graeco-Roman mythology, were a popular source of inspiration for artists and this exhibit displayed some exquisite pieces that can be used to compare the theme as interpreted over the centuries and artistic movements. The rest of the Prado is literally packed with art covering eight centuries and dozens of different artistic movements as well as art from different regions of Europe. The Prado has art by Greco, Goya, Raphael, Rembrandt, Tiziano and more, and provides for a sensory overload. To truly appreciate the Prado, you need to visit several times and take it slow. We went through it in a day and were completely overloaded by the experience.

Toledo, SpainOn Tuesday we went to Toledo with another friend who had to travel there for work, and spent a morning walking the cobblestoned streets trying to find various museums and galleries. Toledo is a maze with dozens of switchbacks and alleys creating a maddening experience when you want something specific that isn’t immediately around the central cathedral due to the amount of construction and road blocks throughout the city. The most frustrating thing with trying to navigate Toledo was the tourism office and the poor service provided. They were unable to provide accurate information regarding any of the locations we wanted to visit. Toledo is a beautiful walled city, and according to the guide books has much to offer, and it is unfortunate that we weren’t able to visit more of it.

On Wednesday we caught up with another of our new friends and meandered the streets of Madrid with her, delighting in her company and that of the city.

We met another friend, Vicent, that evening for a home cooked meal and authentic Flamenco show featuring Juan Ramírez,  It was an impressive performance with singing, guitar, and dancing culminating in Juan Ramírez’s impassioned dance of such rapidity and precision that I felt sure the stage would collapse from the effort. Watch the video at the bottom of the article to enjoy some of the show for yourselves (Juan Ramírez starts half way through).

Madrid was a fun place to visit, and I look forward to exploring it further when in better health, but the true reason I enjoy the city, and actually Spain as a whole, is the people. In Spain I have met many wonderful and warm people that it is easy to enjoy.

Other stories from Spain:

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Australia FlagVaughan Town

Australia FlagYecla - Our Month Living in Spain

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Yecla - Nuestro Mes de la vida en España

Australia FlagYecla - Gastronomy

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Yecla - Gastronomía

Australia FlagYecla - Working without a Common Language

Spain Flag Yecla -Voluntariado



Yecla - Working without a common language

Spain FlagClick Here for Spanish Language Version

An Olive Orchard, Yecla, SpainWhile we were in Yecla we worked with a local Organic Association. We worked mostly with Jesús, a few days with Paco and one afternoon with Elie.

Jesús is a retired criminalista and a talented carpenter who owns a country house near the Sierra Salinas. Our second day in Yecla we were met by Paco and Jesús and driven to the country house. Jesús and Paco could not speak English and we were furiously typing on our phones to understand what we were doing and where we were going. Jesús and Paco shook their heads, I assume in bewilderment over how this would ever work not being able to even communicate.

An Olive Orchard, Yecla, SpainSoon we found ourselves pulling into a house where we connected a trailer and loaded bags of worm humus (lombris). We then drove further on and stopped next to a field of olive trees. We disembarked and unloaded the trailer. Paco proceeded to fill buckets with the soil and gave us each one and showed us what to do with it: pour it evenly around the base of the tree approximately one metre from the base but not beyond the reach of the branches. We did this for 70 trees gradually working out a rhythm that had Paco continuously pouring soil into bucket while the three of us made rings. It worked so well that Paco ended up telling us to take smoke breaks to slow us down. Once complete we went to Jesús’ country house and while Paco prepared lunch, fertilised another 30 trees.

After lunch, Jesús asked us philosophical questions, in Spanish, which we had to answer, in Spanish. He asked Rina “What is liberty?” This is a difficult question of most people but we sat a while and discussed it in our poor Spanish. He asked of me “What is it to love a woman?” Once more a difficult question but he accepted my answer once Rina confirmed it to be my truth.

Another day we were greeted by Paco and Jesús and revisited the country house to plant Garbanzo (Chick Peas). Rina and I planted the seeds while Paco and Jesús loaded olive branches into the trailer. It was an excellent day that left us wanting rain so that our seeds could grow. There was a little rain but we don’t know if it was enough. We had lunch with Paco and Jesús again, and once more had a philosophical discussion.

Elie met us one afternoon after lunch and we accompanied him to his orchard where he is building his home and also uses to educate his class about organic gardening. With Elie we planted a field of tomato seedlings, covered them in plastic and a fine mesh to protect them against the cool spring nights and ran irrigation for when it was needed.

Planting Tomatoes, Yecla, SpainPlanting Tomatoes, Yecla, Spain

The best work experience we had during our time in Yecla though was with Jesús on Elie’s house.

Working on the house, Yecla, SpainOur first day on this project we had no idea what was wanted of us. Paco had walked us to the house to meet Jesús. At the house there was a lot of toing and froing as we assembled our tools. We had no idea what the Spanish word for the tools were but helped as best we could. We had a jig saw, clamps, hammers, drills, wood panels and beams, varnish and brushes, chisels and more.

The first day was the most difficult due to the limited language we shared. Thankfully Jesús was incredibly patient with us, often times trying to help us make the connection between words, objects and actions. Each day brought improvement in our understanding of what was required and what we could do. Whether it was measuring and cutting panels, cutting and assembling frames, drilling concrete, or varnishing, we improved and on the final day of work, we had installed the wood panel ceiling and the job was complete.

Installing a ceiling, Yecla, SpainInstalling a ceiling, Yecla, SpainInstalling a ceiling, Yecla, Spain

That day, looking on our completed work, Jesús told us that he was glad for our help, efficiency and initiative. I have rarely felt as proud as that day with this man, our friend and foreman, giving us thanks.

Other stories from Spain:

Australia FlagGranada

Australia FlagVaughan Town

Australia FlagYecla - Our Month Living in Spain

Spain Flag

Yecla - Nuestro Mes de la vida en España

Australia FlagYecla - Gastronomy

Spain Flag

Yecla - Gastronomía

Australia FlagMadrid



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