Riding the Brontë Bus to Haworth in Search of Wuthering Heights

My host is the one who clued me into the fact that I’m right near “Brontë country.” Now, I don’t pretend to be a huge fan of the Brontës as I’ve never been able to get through any of their works, but I’ve always thought that Wuthering Heights had to be one of the most evocative English book titles ever and have a vague general familiarity with the works of Charlotte and Emily. I don’t know much about Anne, however.

It felt wrong to leave the area without going to Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived from childhood to their deaths, if it was as close by as I’d been told. But with public transportation being so frustrating to sort out in the UK, I kept on putting it off. Well, the other day, as I was walking home from the village, I saw a bus pass in front of my house marked “Brontë bus.” Intrigued, I made a note of the number and the company and headed off to Google.

As it turned out, that bus going in the other direction would take me straight to Haworth in just under a half hour! The stop is literally in front of my house. Talk about convenient!

I thought I’d have the day off, but a small job came in late last night that I could only have if I got the files to my clients by about 8AM their time, which was my late afternoon. So I got up way too early based on the time I went to bed and got it out fast enough to be on “schedule” to grab the 11:15 bus.

Soon we were climbing high up above the valley to give me my first taste of Yorkshire moors. They rather look like a damper version of home…

The road was super narrow and twisty, especially as we meandered through the town of Oxenhope and took super tight turns. The idea of driving in the UK in general, especially something as big as a bus, boggles and frankly intimidates me.  I had a spark of genius last week that was too late to implement here, but that I will investigate it in my next stop, Shrewsbury — I’m going to learn to drive on the left properly, with a driving instructor in a car clearly marked learner. I hope the rates are comparable to here, where I could have have five one-hour lessons for just £55.

At any rate, here’s a rather lovely bus stop in Oxenhope:

I’d bought a day return ticket to Haworth and back (£4.20) and this is where the driver dropped me and told me to get back on to go home.

I understood why when I realised I was at the bottom of the steep Main Street that leads up to the parsonage that was the Brontë home.

I bet Main Street hasn’t really changed that much.

I’m always so happy to see a burst of colour in a rather drab world.

My friend Croft must be a very important man in this country. Every town seems to have a street named after him. 😉

This is the infamous Black Bull pub, right in front of the church, where Branwell Brontë, the only brother, likely drank himself to death.

Here’s the church.

Back of the church, by the cemetery that is between the church and the parsonage.

Looking towards the parsonage on the left. To the right is a school built by Patrick Brontë (the father) for the children of Haworth.   Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne all taught here and Charlotte’s wedding reception was held here in 1854.

Standing by the parsonage looking back to the church.

I decided to have lunch before touring the museum and heading out to “Wuthering Heights,” the place that inspired the locale of the novel. Almost everything in the village was closed today, but I had looked at the menus of places that were open and the Fleece Inn had the most appealing menu as well as reasonable prices. This was going to be a treat meal, out of the “special excursions” rather than “food” budget, so I focused on getting an experience rather than the cheapest meal.

A sign on the wall offering the chance to sample three local craft beers for the price of a pint caught my attention. I selected these beauties, a lager, stout, and bitter. I find it amusing that folks that don’t really know beer would expect the stout and bitter to be super strong tasting, but they were actually smoother than the lager. All three were delicious, but I think I’m really a bitters person!

I ordered the bacon, brie, and cranberry sandwich on ciabatta, which came with a salad. The soup of the day was leek, so I had to try that! The server goofed and brought me a full portion instead of the half that comes with a sandwich, but I knew I’d be working it off. Everything was so yummy! I love that thick-cut British bacon. The meal was only £14 or 23CAD! The soup was a pricy add-on since I had to pay for the full portion at £4 rather than the add-on price of £2, but it wasn’t worth quibbling over. And, of course, you don’t need to tip. I was really surprised by this bill since the beers were only £3.30. Cheapest pint I’ve had yet!

It was almost one when I was done with lunch and I wanted to at least attempt the hike to “Wuthering Heights,” which is about 10KM round trip. With nightfall being around five and the hike expected to take about three hours given the terrain, I had a half hour to get through the museum. I knew that would be plenty and also that the museum is really pricey at £8.50. That’s actually great for locals as you can use the ticket for readmission over the next year, but it sucks for someone who is just travelling through!

Standing in the garden at the front of the parsonage.

The front door of the parsonage is the entrance of the museum. That extension on the right was added after the Brontës.

Throughout the museum, you can see the costumes that were used in the Sally Wainwright production of “To Walk Invisible” about the Brontë siblings. Considering how much a fan I am of her series “Happy Valley” and that one of the stars (Charlie Murphy) and my favourite character of that series is in “To Walk Invisible,” I’m going to hunt down a copy!

So this is “the dining table at which Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were written, making it one of the “most significant literary artefacts of the 19th century.” Wow! You can’t see the marks of daily use, like ink stains, from that distance, unfortunately.

Next up is Mr. Brontë’s study, where he carried out parish business and gave his children lessons. Emily and Anne were the main players of the cabinet piano.

The front hall finally cleared enough for me to photograph its “pretty dove-coloured tint, as per a description of the parsonage by a family friend of the Brontës.

Now on to the kitchen, which was demolished during the renovations to add the extension. It has been restored with period appropriate furnishings, including the range.

After the Brontë sisters’ mother died, their Aunt Branwell took over as the female head of household. After she died, Emily acted as housekeeper and Charlotte and Anne went away to work as governesses. “Baking bread or ironing allowed Emily the mental freedom to focus on her writing and she was always happiest at home.” I can really identify with that. Even when I’m travelling, I need to be able to be “domestic” to feel complete.

The next room I visited on the ground floor was the study of Charlotte’s husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had come in 1844 to help Patrick curate the church. The room was originally a storeroom that was only accessible from outside. Charlotte decorated the room in grey and green, a fashionable colour combination in the 1850s.

The marriage was short, but happy. Charlotte died within a year of marriage when she was pregnant. Now’s a good time to point out that I was disappointed that the museum glossed over the sad facts of their lives and especially that their home, with its non-potable water supply, played a role in the sisters dying so young. I also found that the museum only catered to people who know the Brontë history really well as there is very little context given as to who is who. Several people told me there was an event going on for “Branwell” with the assumption being that I would know who that was, but I had to piece it together for myself.

I then headed upstairs to the bedrooms.

I love the story behind this clock, that Mr. Brontë would lock his front door at 9PM every night and call to his daughters in the dining room not to stay up too late. Then, he would come wind up the clock.

A portrait of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. They had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who died when they were 11 and 10 respectively when they died of complications of typhus they contracted while at school.

Looking down to the front hall.

Looking up, we can see the entrance to “Charlotte’s room” (at an angle), flanked by the children’s study on the left and the servant’s room on the right.

The Brontës normally had one servant, who had quite a cosy room.

I used quotation marks above for Charlotte’s room because it was originally that of the parents. When Mrs. Brontë died in 1821, her sister Elizabeth Branwell took over. Charlotte didn’t get this room until she married Arthur Bell Nicholls… and it was here that she died. The room is filled with Charlotte’s effects.

I thought it was odd that this costume was in a box when the others weren’t but now I realise that that’s just because there’s no way to keep it away from curious fingers the way there was downstairs with only a small sliver of the rooms being available to walk through.

I loved her collection of shoes! Some are very dainty and barely worn, showing that they were for special occasions.

She bought these moccasins on a trip to the beach.

Her writing desk, spectacles, and quill cutter, which is what made her impossibly teeny handwriting possible.

Next, I went to Mr. Brontë’s bedroom. He moved here after his wife died. It was furnished from replicas thanks to a drawing by Branwell, who was often kept in this room under his father’s supervision because of his alcoholism. He died here in 1848 at age 31.

With the crowd thinning out, I was able to peek into the children’s study, where Emily may have slept. It is so small because room was taken from it to enlarge Charlotte’s room.

The little red arrows point to faint pencil marks on the walls that were likely made by the sisters.

Branwell’s studio was very messy! I was impressed that it was portrayed so realistically.

From his study, we move into the extension, which has a lot more background information. If you’re really into the Brontës and want to get more information about the parsonage, you can virtually visit the rooms on the Brontë Parsonage Museum website.

I learned about the Clergy Daughters’ School in Cowan Bridge, where Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Emily went. The school regime was harsh and the two elder girls were sent home in ill health in 1825 and died soon thereafter. “Charlotte’s sense of loss stayed with her for the rest of her life, and she later immortalized Cowan Bridge as the infamous Lowood School in her novel Jane Eyre.”

Charlotte’s writing really was teeny!

That’s a fragment from her “Roe Head journal.” There were a lot of interesting artefacts in that case, including an accounts book for the family where she worked as a governess that showed her final payout before leaving the job.

Here is a trunk that Charlotte bought in Brussels, where she was trying to improve her language skills.

Patrick Branwell outlived all his children and lived to the surprising age of 84, in 1861, five years after Charlotte died. As I wrote above, Branwell died in 1848, aged 31. Emily and Anne became ill soon thereafter. Emily died three months after her brother from tuberculosis, aged 30. Anne tried a sea cure and went to Scarborough with Charlotte and a family friend, only to die there on 28th May, 1849, age 29. “To spare her father the anguish of another family funeral, Charlotte had her sister buried in Scarborough, then she returned to Haworth alone.” In 1854, Charlotte accepted Nicholls’ proposal and they married, but she died on 31st March 1855 in the early stages of pregnancy. Nicholls took care of his father-in-law for six years at the parsonage.

Here is Branwell’s drawing of death visiting him in his father’s room. He called it “A Parody.”

It was then time to head off to “Wuthering Heights.” It was 1:30, sunset was at five, and I was told to allow 3.5 hours, which meant three hours for me. That only gave me 30 minutes of wiggle room. So I was hyper aware of distances and times as I walked and hiked as I did not want to be out on the moor in the dark!

The walk starts behind the parsonage. I got so lucky with the weather!

A look back at the parsonage and the gift shop.

I immediately felt at ease with the landscape. It was really not that different from my experience hiking in the Highlands, which I remember in vivid detail thanks to my journal. Most of this is private land and there are rights of way for walkers. Follow the path and close any gate you open.

Sheep here instead of “hairy coos.”

Remember that structure out on the lake. It’ll be worth an exclamation point later.

Status report on my boots about a mile in.

The sky looked ominous, but I didn’t get so much as a spatter of rain. The path was very mucky, though.

This man overtook me just before the waterfall. I was jealous of his trekking poles, seriously overdressed, but surefooted.

Charlotte wrote this about the waterfall on 29th November, 1854

“We set off, not intending to go far; but though wild and cloudy it was fine in the morning; when we got about half-a-mile on the moors, Arthur suggested the idea of the waterfall; after the melted snow, he said it would be fine. I had often wished to see it in its winter power, so we walked on. It was fine indeed; a perfect torrent racing over the rocks, white and beautiful!”

There obviously hasn’t been much rain this winter!

I then headed over this bridge, knowing that I would soon need to check the time.

I’d just come down so of course I had to go up.

Looking back down to the bridge.

Left towards “Wuthering Heights,” right back to the parsonage. The sky worried me. I was adding two miles to my trek if I went left. According to my clock, I had time. It takes me about 20 minutes to walk a mile in rough terrain, so if I wasn’t at the end of the trail in that time, I would turn back.

This lovely stone path did not last.

On the other side of this wall was was… muck.

This is a “stile.” I was bemused by the “please close the gate” sign seeing as there is no obvious “closed” position.

Oh, this was going to be fun.

I soon was hiking in what was more like a very shallow river.

I stepped into one puddle and ended up in water up past my ankles. Incredibly enough, while my jeans got soaked through, my boots didn’t. They earned their keep!

There’s the end of the trail at the distance. Can you see the building on top of the hill?


It had taken 20 minutes to get to this point, so it was time to turn around. I’m glad that I know my limits and speeds so well when hiking that I can make smart decisions. I wasn’t that disappointed since I knew that I’d just get more of this and this was more than I ever imagined seeing!

So I headed back in the muck.

In case there’s any doubt that I was doing some serious hiking. 😉

So much GREEN! This is where I wasn’t sure which direction to go as there was no obvious path. I felt like I was in a video game looking for the exit and trying to avoid obstacles. I spent way too much time and energy in this pasture trying to figure out how to keep moving towards Haworth. The hike is meant to be a loop and I didn’t want to go back the way I’d come.

Ah, the exit.

Which had a swimming pool at the bottom. Total real life video game. 😀

I made it around!

I have rarely in my life been so happy to see a proper road!

The sheep here are dyed, presumably to identify their owners.

Had a nice chat with this handsome fellow.

Remember that structure in the lake from earlier?! I was a bit shocked to find myself so far from it on the opposite side.

I ended up in a place called Stanbury. Huh. A nice lady confirmed that I just had to keep going straight to get to Haworth but that “it’s really far.” I knew I had about two miles to go so while I was definitely off the trail, I wasn’t out of my way.

Everything was going swimmingly to about a mile from Haworth as I’d been going downhill for ages, then I had to climb back up much of that distance. This staircase was fun. I particularly liked the barbed wire handrail.

I was shocked when I got to this intersection because on the way out, I’d had a brief section off the moor and on the road along the fork at the top. I really had done a perfect circle!

I was at the end of my strength so I just made my way straight to the bus stop. I had just enough time to check the time on my phone (40 minutes to the bus, gah) when my phone died. I thought on the way in to get a cream tea if I had such a long bus wait, but I hadn’t seen any tea shops or cafés open and I was way too foot sore to go exploring. So I sat on a bench across the street to wait.

This bus from another company went by. The Quebec ambulance yellow colour caught my eye.

I spent my time just watching the traffic (trying to “normalise” the driving on the left traffic patterns) and shivering as the temperature went from comfortable to frigid as the sun set. A lovely police community support officer who looked just like my favourite character on “Happy Valley” passed me and stopped to ask if I was okay. Nothing that a warm bus and a hot shower at home wouldn’t cure. And maybe a view ibuprofen tablets…

Final status report on my boots. The need a good cleaning once they dry and a coating or two of wax!

The bus finally arrived and it was crowded. Thankfully, I got one of the last seats and no more older people came on so I didn’t have to give it up. It was super dark and I knew there was no way I would recognise when to ask to get off. What I normally do in such circumstances is track my route on my phone. I finally found out what’s wrong with the stupid thing, its battery is on the point of failing, and I’ve discovered that I can sometimes revive it after its shut down. After we got through Oxenhope, across the moor, and started to head down, I tried to turn it on and it came to life. It conked out again promptly, but lasted just long enough to make up for a lot of its recent idiocy by doing so just as my stop was coming up. I was going to go tell the driver my stop when a lady signalled to get off. Based on what I’d seen on the map, she would either be the stop before mine, if there was one, or my stop. As it turned out, it was my stop!

I was so glad to have nothing more to do to get home than to cross the street and go down the stairs. I promptly hopped into a hot shower and fresh clothes.

It was an incredible day in Brontë country. I had perfect weather for it, learned a lot, and got some fresh air and exercise. I now feel that I’ve done all the touristy stuff I needed to do here and am ready to move on to my next location.

A Jaunt to Halifax

Just when I thought work was going into a lull, it picked up again. 2016 was all about travel, but 2017 needs to be a bit more work focused. So I’m glad there isn’t too much around here to distract me, just enough to give me a change of scenery if I need it. I haven’t been able to take a full day off, but a half day to run into Halifax was doable. I got up super early compared to what my schedule has been and was able to do three hours of work by 10:30 so that even with a stop at Barclay’s, I was on the 10:47 bus. I was pleased that a day rider is just £4 considering that a single into Halifax is £3.

Halifax was a centre of woollen manufacture from the 15th century onward. There’s really not much there from a touristy point of view, which was confirmed when I stopped in at the visitor centre behind the bus station (it’s in the library). I was irked to learn that the one thing I had planned to do was closed today, which I had not noticed on their website. Augh.

Like everywhere else I’ve seen in the area, Halifax is a modern town fitted into Victorian buildings. Even new construction has to fit into this aesthetic. I’m a fan of the programme “Grand Designs,” so I know how much work it takes to get planning permission to build in a more modern style pretty much anywhere into the UK.

Halifax’s shopping core is compact and has the expected assortment of shops.

I found the Borough Market, dating back to the Victorian era. It had a surprisingly Mexican feel to it.

Here’s a bit of the exterior of the market.

I love pub names…

Just a regular old bank. I am pleased that this architectural style isn’t something I’m used to yet.

Here’s another side of the market.

Halifax town hall.

I decided to go to my closed destination as I suspected there would be enough to do outdoors to make the one-mile trek there worthwhile. First, I stopped for lunch at a decent and very reasonably priced Chinese buffet restaurant. I tried some new things, like Mongolian style beef and duck. I was really impressed by the variety and quality of the food, especially the abundance of veggies and fruits. Then, off I went across the North Bridge.

On the other side, I saw my friend Vicki’s dream car. Can you spot it?

How about now?

Double decker buses aren’t exclusive to London.

I started to climb high above Halifax along a busy motorway. The walk was pedestrian friendly, but not obvious. I would sometimes take what I thought was a footpath and then have to double back to try a different approach as the roadway split many times and I’d find myself on the wrong side with no place to cross.

It had been sunny when I arrived, but the promised rain was rolling in and it was getting colder.

I spotted a church on a hill.

I love this billboard’s message.

The city quickly gave way to a rural landscape filled with sheep.

See the sheep looking straight at me? It was a little unnerving.

And voilà, Shibden Hall!

The earliest parts of this home date all the way back to the 1420s and it was heavily renovated by Anne Lister in the early 1800s to be more like what a proper Tudor home should be. Anne Lister is considered the “first modern lesbian.” I didn’t think I’d heard of her, but now I’m pretty sure I saw a Sue Perkins thing where she talks about her. Yup, I sure did.

I arrived at the West Terraces. From a plaque: “The West Terraces were constructed, along with the South Terrace, by John Harper as part of the improvements he designed for Anne Lister in 1836. Surrounded by mature trees, the Terraces are cut into the natural slope of the landscape and have stone retaining walls.” They held an orchard with all sorts of fruits with different growing seasons so there could be fruit throughout much of the year.

Anne had this Gothic tower added to the house and it became her library.

The gate at the back of the house was open, so I thought surely it would be okay to have a poke around…

I love the giant stone toadstools.

Well, just as I was heading back to wards the gate, a guy came out of the house to tell me they are closed. I apologised and said I was just trying to see as much of the exterior as I could since I hadn’t realised they were closed on Fridays. He sighed and said that he was waiting for a school group to come back, so why didn’t I come in and have a peek at the interior? Just a peek, though! What a nice guy!!!!

He led me into a hallway with dark wood panelled walls and a low ceiling. I was able to see a fairly standard Victorian kitchen. He then told me I could go look at the most interesting room in the house, to him anyway, a formal sitting room off the main hall. It had much higher ceilings. He explained that the original 1420 stuff is all there, but basically buried by Anne’s renovations. He showed me how the old beams were covered with planks to make them seem bigger and how one of the reasons for the lower ceilings was to make the rooms easier to heat. This is where he told me all that stuff about Anne Lister that I recounted above and that the house is only a museum now and there are no residents.

Obviously, he was doing me a huge favour and I didn’t want to take advantage, so I thanked him and headed out. It sucks that I didn’t get to see the whole property, but at least I didn’t go all the way out there for nothing. Some people are so kind!

It was almost two when I got back into Halifax and I was surprisingly rather footsore and tired. I blame all the hills and stairs in this area. It’s really not hard to get a good amount of exercise even when walking a short distance. I thought of maybe getting a coffee, but went down to the bus station to see when my next bus home would be. Well, there was one right there about to pull out, so I decided to get on.

The ride home was a bit faster than the ride in had been since there wasn’t as much traffic, but it was still almost 40 minutes. I didn’t see anything on either ride that I felt I need to go back out and explore.

I can’t believe I have less than a week left here! This time next week, I’ll be back in Manchester and on my way to my next assignment!

Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic)

Thankfully, the zombie apocalypse wound down around 2AM and I was able to get some sleep. When I awoke, I appeared to be the only survivor. Amsterdam was dead quiet… I had another slow morning and researched things that would be open today. Truth be told, I didn’t feel like going out into the cold drizzly rain, but I didn’t really have any good reason to stay home. Of the four things still on my list, two were open today and one was near Dam Square, so not too far away, and it opened at one. I really wasn’t keen on it, the Museum Ons’Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic), but so many people told me I had to visit it and reviews online were incredibly positive. And so, off I went to find a hidden church buried within Amsterdam’s Red Light District. I do so love it here! 😀

There was so much garbage in the streets.

Lots of firecracker wrappers.

This huge one was right by my front door and is likely the one that exploded around 1:30 with a bang that made me certain the room was going to collapse and grateful that I hadn’t tried to go to sleep yet.

So many outside a Chinese restaurant!

I found the museum without any trouble. I might not have gone the most direct route, but I’m doing pretty well at navigating on my own now!

So this museum is about a “house church.” In the late 1500s, overt Catholicism was banned in Amsterdam as Protestantism took over. So people built churches in their homes. As long as people were discrete, authorities turned a blind eye. It wasn’t illegal to be Catholic — you could believe and practice anything you wanted in private — but you couldn’t openly display your faith.

This church in an attic dates back to 1663 and is one of the best preserved old houses on the canals. There are actually three houses within this building and the tour takes you from the cellar to the very top. You can see elements that date all the way back to the 17th century, although the church was restored to look as it would have in the mid-1800s. I hadn’t realised I was going to get to tour such an old house, so my curiosity was immediately piqued!

Like in many of Amsterdam’s museums, you get an audio guide. They’re not always free, but here they were.

The guides are available in a number of languages. Here, we see Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.

Model of the house.

Barrel for soapmaking found during an excavation of the house.

The museum entrance is actually in a building next to the old house. You start in its basement, climb up to the ground floor of the old house, work your way up to the attic, then go down to the cellar and back over to the newer building.

The floors are ancient, so guests have to wear shoe covers.

I was wearing my big boots, so I just went for the big covers.

Like with all my other tours, there’s no way I can remember everything I heard in the audio guide and this time, I don’t have any literature to help me recall details.

This was the front room of the more modest house.

Still pretty fancy! It was probably a living room, but there is evidence that it could have been a store at one point.

We now go into the entrance hall for the house.

Notice the “Dutch door.”

The entrance hall is impressive, but the rooms narrow and the ceilings lower as you go back into the house.

You could see right through some of the floors.

Here’s the 19th century kitchen.

Loved the unexpected skylight.

The tiles on the wall to the left have scenes with children.

Those by the fireplace have scenes with animals.

We’re now going into the room that would have been the kitchen for the larger house, called a “momkamer,” which, if I remember correctly is a sort of tavern. All of these items were recovered from an excavated “cesspool.”

There was a hilarious video about the cesspool. The scene previous to this one was a very graphic depiction of someone defecating.

We then had to go down then up some stairs.

And up a small and super awkward staircase.

Into the drawing room of the larger and grander home. By the way, the only real light in the whole museum comes through the windows, as would have been the case in olden times, with a few lights mimicking candles. So that’s why some of my pictures are so dark.

Here’s the stove in the drawing room. I like the green tiles.

Wall hangings were more interesting than plain plastered walls and provided warmth to the room.

There was a box bed in the corner.

A table with some chairs.

I learned that there are only two original 17th century staircases in the house and that guests are only permitted to use one set. This one that I had just come up.

A lot of skill would be needed to come out of that door onto that narrow ledge!

We then went into the parlour where the owner, who had a linen business, received his guests.

The room was meant to show off so everything was fancy, including the ceiling.

Symmetry was very important in traditional Dutch design. So this door doesn’t work or go anywhere. It just exists as a twin to the door on the other side of the room.

The dark lines on the floor match the pattern of the ceiling.

I continued to climb up. Here, we’re looking down to the entrance hall.

Another box bed, with an interior window with a shutter. We are now on the path to the entrance of the church.

There would be holy water in this basin to do whatever it is Catholics do with holy water before entering a church.

And the church. Wow.

Looking up at the organ. I can’t believe they could play music when they had to be “discrete.”

They had to go through several layers of floor to build the church. These metal ties were used to make up for cutting into supporting braces.

The altar.

Father God.

The pillars are wood painted to look like marble.

The church was originally painted yellow, but this mauvey colour dates from the mid-19th century. Here are some layers of original paint over the years.

Floor covering of woven rushes (made in England).

The pulpit is hidden in this pillar and folds out. There was a video about that. The mechanism is very intricate!

I found a staircase leading up to the organ. It would be easy to miss and I’m glad I spotted it as it leads to another staircase!

So here’s the organ.

This rope leads up to a pulley system that would have been used to bring the linens to the top of the house for storage.

Such narrow, twisty stairs!

Here I am at the very top of the house, in the attic.

This was my first time being all the way at the top of a house in Amsterdam. Quite a long ways down!

Here’s the rope from downstairs.

You can look up through glass-covered hole in the ceiling to see the pulley mechanism. It’s just above that platform.

There was another funny cartoon, this time about the workings of the pulley system.

I headed down into the sacristy, where the priest would dress for mass.

The dove symbolises Christ.

There was a small chapel for devotees of the Virgin Mary.

I headed down to the confessional.

The audio guide said this is a baptismal fount.

I don’t remember what this room was for other than it had a display of religious silver objects. Bits of original wallpaper were found during the restoration and then copied so they could recover all the walls.

This was the last priest of the house, Petrus Parmentier.

Looking down to the museum entrance across the alley.

Now, we’re in the priest’s house.

The priest worked here for, I think, seven years and paid rent for this space. The owner of the house left a provision in his will that the priest be allowed to keep using the space, but because of the debts on the property, he had to leave.

Now, I went down an almost ladder-like staircase to the 17th century kitchen!

This door opens into the alley.

This room was used until 1952. I really wish I had more information about what it was like in those days compared to now. You can cross this room into a pantry-type space. To the left of that door at the back is…

A toilet. “Flushed with a bucket of water.”

I went back up that staircase, down another, and then I was at the end of the tour.

There are some exhibits in what would have been the cellar of the house.

Looking up, you can see some of the original brick and one of the staircases.

Part of the original foundation.

Back in the entrance building, you can climb up to see a few more things.

The “Voices of Tolerance” is really just a place of contemplation. You can see the word spelled in several languages. I see both Russian and Serbo-Croatian. 🙂

I’ve heard about the “Miracle of Amsterdam” ad nauseum.

It was super cold when I came out and I just wanted to get back to my warm and cosy house, about 40 minutes away. I stopped to pick up a hot cone of Dutch “patates.” Very expensive and the ketchup was extra. But they were pretty tasty and warmed me up on my long walk. 🙂

I’ve passed several times a shop that sells halva, a confection usually made with sesame paste and honey that I adore, and today they were handing out free samples. I got to try pistachio and one other of my choice, which was espresso. I really wanted to treat myself to a piece since they had so many varieties, but a small piece was 10 euros and I knew that was highway robbery. I mean, I’ve been able to buy a very decent block of halva in Assinboia for about 5CAD or 3.50 euros for a few years now! So I just savoured my samples and went on my way.

I was really glad to get in around three, but even gladder that I went out. Turns out all the fuss about Our Lord in the Attic was warranted!

Museum Van Loon and the Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum)

For the last few days, I’ve been running on less sleep than I normally need, just because it’s been really high quality snoozing. But when I woke up at 7:30 this morning, about the time I’ve been getting up since I got here, I just wasn’t ready to be up. There was nothing pressing to do today and nothing opens until 10:00 anyway, so I rolled back over. Next thing I knew, it was 9:30!

I had a sloooooooow morning, enjoying my coffee and spending time with the cats. I’d already planned my itinerary for the day and I set off perhaps around 10:30 or even 11:00. My first destination was the Museum Van Loon. This is another canal house tour and I wasn’t sure I was that keen to go. But since it’s a period house that is still lived in, I felt it would be a different experience. And since Contessa enjoyed the last canal house tour, I knew I had at least one reader who would appreciate the write-up. 🙂

The museum was easy to get to. I’m starting to know my way around the main intersections and there are usually signposts telling tourists that attractions are thataway.


I passed a French bookshop with a clever name, Time Found. Obviously a reference to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

The exterior of the Van Loon home isn’t that impressive. The house was built in 1672 and has been in the Van Loon family for 400 years. It was opened to the public in 1973. The family inhabits the upper rooms, but still uses some of the lower rooms for special occasions.

It’s a very informal visit. They scanned my Museumkaart, gave me a very informative little booklet, and then told me to just wander around at my leisure.

You start in the entrance hall.

The house is unusual as this is the only staircase up. That is, there is no staircase for the servants. The handrail is made entirely of brass.

The first room I visited was the Blue Drawing Room, which had a lot of lovely pink furniture!

The Empire wood floor dates back to 1810, is in good condition, and is extremely rare.

This checkered pattern on the back of the chairs was unexpected and delighted me.

Next, I went into the dining room. The family still eats here on special occasions and also rents it out.

I was surprised by how much I liked the next room, the Red Drawing Room, since I’m not much of a fan of red.

These are the stairs down to the kitchen. I didn’t realise at this point that I was allowed to go down.

Now, we’re in the Garden Room. It was used as a bedroom and later as the family dining room.

Looking towards the Coach House.

I headed upstairs and was surprised by how rough the floors look.

Now, the sheep room, so called because of the wallpaper. It was a guest bedroom.

I love this design.

Next up is the Drakensteyn Room with its incredible wall hangings. They give the room its name as the hangings come from Castle Drakensteyn, the private mansion of H.R.H. Princess Beatrix.

Upstairs hall:

Here’s the Red Bedroom, with its interesting door. It “is smaller than the room on the other side of the landing, because of the hidden stairs behind the bed which lead up to what was formerly the servants’ quarters. In order for the two doors on the landing to face one another without compromising the symmetry of the rooms, a false door was put in… When the door is closed, it looks as if the door is directly opposite the chimneypiece. The real door, however, is next to it.”

See what they mean?

Now, the Bird Room, which served as a nursery.

I wonder where this door goes.

This room had some interesting info on the growth of Amsterdam. “Growing prosperity in the city of Amsterdam around the middle of the 17th century led to more demand for luxury carriages. Daniel Stalpaert was the first city planner of Amsterdam to add a street between Keizersgracht [which the Van Loon home faces] and Prinsengracht: The Kerkstraat. It was specifically designed to offer space for coach houses.” Remember this…

The wallpaper is what gives the room its name.

These modern glass doors between the landing and the hallway bewildered me.

I headed down to the kitchen.

The kitchen was as far away from the dining room as possible to prevent smells and heat from permeating the dining room. It didn’t matter that food was served cold.

This cupboard has mesh to keep air circulating so food would stay fresh and flies and other insects couldn’t get in. I think they’re called pie cupboards in the American South.

I went out into the garden.

Here’s the Coach House. The family only reacquired the coach house in 2012.

I kid you not, the building still smelled like horses.

Since I hadn’t really paid for my admission and this is a private house, I had decided that I would have a hot beverage in the coach house. There were several choices that included hot chocolate and mulled wine, but I went for a cappuccino.

Here’s that cat they don’t want let into the house. So friendly!

This is a garden layout. All the text has the names of plants.

Staircase leading back up.

I’m glad I visited the Museum Van Loon, but at 9 euros, I think it’s something that should only be on your list if you’re crazy about architecture or have a Museumkaart.

My next destination, the real one of the day, was the Museum of Dutch Resistance, a short distance away. I passed a particularly leaning house.

I’m glad I know they were built like that on purpose!

By the way, it was warmer today, above freezing, but very damp.

I found the museum without any trouble and was delighted that I knew I could get home again very directly without any help!

I’m really not sure how to go about with this museum write-up. This is a subject I know a lot about. I think I’m going to go with the idea that most people have some basic WWII/Holocaust history and just point out things in the exhibits that were of interest to me rather than try to set the context. If you want to know more, ask and I’ll answer and/or send you to the appropriate resources.

Let me just start off by saying that the museum is brilliantly put together. The layout looks chaotic at first glance, but is actually very logical and fluid. Everything is translated into English and the audio guide is fantastic. I can’t imagine any way the museum could have better presented the subject matter.

So Dutch resistance during WWII. After Germany conquered the Netherlands, the Dutch could collaborate, adapt, or resist. Of course, the latter are the most celebrated. I was surprised that there is no mention at all in the museum of two of who I think are the best known resistors, Miep Gies and Corrie Ten Boom, but I appreciated that I got to meet others.

The invasion of Holland was insidious. The Nazis came in gently and wore down the Dutch before their show of horror began. This explains in part why some people collaborated at first, because Holland was in the throes of economic crisis and the Nazis brought a measure of prosperity.

All through the museum, you are invited to reflect on what you would have done in that situation. I like to think I would have resisted, but I suspect I would have been an adapter. I sincerely doubt I would have been a collaborator.

Holland surrendered shortly after the bombing of Rotterdam (seen here) to prevent the loss of more civilians. Life quickly went back to normal. At the foreground, you see a man buying an ice cream.

“Ozo” (so there) became the rallying cry of the resistors. It actually meant “Orange will triumph” (Oranje zal overwinnen). Orange was the colour of the resistance.

The February Strike of 1941 was a turning point. By this time, sanctions against the Jews at begun. Starting with the trams, Amsterdam ground to a halt to protest the treatment of its Jews.

The Germans used a lot of propaganda and borrowed the letter V for victory from English. The resistance in turn took it to mean the Germans are drowning, as that word starts with a V in Dutch.

The identity card was introduced in 1941. “Every Dutch citizen age 15 and over must be in possession of such a card, with passport photo and fingerprint, and must carry it at all times. The data are recorded in a central registry. No other country in Europe has an identity card that is so technically and administratively complete.” This card gave the Germans more control over the Dutch and especially to counteract the resistance, but there was little protest against the card. Jews have a large J stamped onto their documents and have to wear a Star of David.

An order directing the person to report to a labour camp. Some people went, thinking it wouldn’t be that bad. Others went into hiding.

Examples of some possessions that would be taken to a labour camp.

Those who reported to go to a labour camp were first sent to the transit camp Westerbork to await orders to move on to other camps, like Auschwitz. Some people would write goodbye letters ahead of time. If they were called to leave, it would be without notice, so they would throw the letters out of cracks in the walls of trains and hope they were delivered. Most of these letters were very positive and hopeful in tone.

Of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands:

107,000 were deported, of with 5,500 survived and 101,500 died.

25,000 went into hiding, of which 18,000 survived and 7,000 died.

8,000 survived, but were sterilised or otherwise brutalised.

Survivor standing in front of a pile of bones.

As supply lines were cut off, a very complex rationing system came into being.

There were a lot of surrogate products for things like coffee and tobacco.

People got creative. This bicycle’s front wheel was replaced with a scooter wheel.

As the Allied forces marched into Europe, the Dutch expected to be liberated and defiance increased. Germany stopped playing the nice guy and switched to intimidation and violence.

When the Germans had invaded Holland, they released 300,000 (!) Dutch POWs as a measure of goodwill. In 1943, there was an announcement made that all of them would have to report back to labour camps as POWs. This led to a series of strikes. Now that the Netherlands as a whole had experienced the terror of Nazi Germany, resistance grew. This would be another turning point.

Personal effects of a man executed as an example. The Nazis thought he was a striker, but he had actually not been scheduled to work that day. That didn’t matter.

Hiking boots of a woman who escaped Holland by climbing the Pyrenees into Spain.

This razor concealed microfiches.

Going into hiding was no small feat as that meant papers had to be forged and food found.

This is a real door that once led to a hiding space.

Printing equipment for counterfeit documents.

People in the camps occupied themselves as they could. This was a chess game.

This little Christmas tree was made from a man’s bandages and the foil covering his medication.

Door of a cell in Weteringschans Prison.

As the war wound down, there was the Hunger Winter, when supplies were not coming in. This reminded me so much of the testimony of people who lived through the Sarajevo siege, about how all the trees and as much wood as could be gathered was burned for heat.

There was an interesting special exhibit just before the end about food in wartime. The Hunger Winter notwithstanding, the food situation in Holland during the occupation was not as bad as imagined because Holland was self-sufficient. People actually ate more healthily as they were getting more produce into their diets.

One of the recommendations was that people cook their vegetables for a shorter period of time to use less fuel and to preserve nutrients. People were strongly advised to not peel their potatoes, which was met with disgust. Personally, I think the peel is the best part of a potato!

20,000 people died during the Hunger Winter.

The final exhibit is about the liberation of Holland. To be brutally honest, I was really pissed off by this point that there had not yet been any mention of Canada specifically. We were just lumped in with “the Allies” and the US got a lot of individual mention, when they joined the war well after us, and only after they got attacked, and Canada did the bulk of the work in liberating Holland. I was shocked to see Canada so badly disrespected. At least, we got some mention in this final exhibit.

That was part of the Canadian flag at the time.

Destroyed bust of Hitler.

Collaborators were treated poorly, many executed without trial. Women had their head shaved.

The tour ended with this quote, “Asking yourself a question, that’s how resistance begins. And then ask that very question to someone else.”

There was another brief exhibit about Dutch colonialism, but that didn’t interest me.

I really recommend the Dutch Resistance Museum as a must see in Amsterdam. I think that it can serve equally well someone who has no knowledge of the subject as someone who is well versed in it.

I headed home into an afternoon that had become bitterly cold and passed on the Kerkstraat the entrance to the Van Loon coach house.

Couple more things of interest on my long walk home:

Where you learn to murder people?

It was another really lovely day in Amsterdam!  Very little will be open tomorrow, so I’ll probably stay in. There is a pair of museums I might do Monday and I would really like to head to Haarlem on Tuesday to visit the home of resistor Corrie Ten Boom, but I’m having a hard time coordinating with the museum’s holiday schedule. So that’s a big if. I still have plenty on my list to fill my last four days, but, really, at this point I’ve done what I wanted to do here and anything else is icing on the proverbial cake.

I’m off to make an extra special dinner to ring in the 2017. 🙂

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam

One of my orders for today never showed up (not a huge surprise with that client) and another one was mostly blank air — that I still get paid for in full. So I was done for the day by noon! Woohoo! I decided to head to Chinatown for lunch and then visit the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Other than doing a proper tour of the Rijksmuseum, that would cover me for all the major Amsterdam Museums in case work really did end up pouring in. Spoiler: I really won’t have time to go out the next two days. And with the weather being as close to freezing and as foggy as it was today, I don’t think I would have made it out had I not had my Museumkaart as motivation, so yay for it!

Downtown Amsterdam has these neat electronic billboards with a switch that you can press to bring up a city map. I did that when the map suddenly switched to this amazing advert for “Sherlock,” whose next season I am ridiculously excited about being able to watch in real time (one episode here in Amsterdam, one in Hebden Bridge, and one at the cinema in Halifax!). This was very effective advertising and I actually caught several as I headed towards Dam Square.

For some stupid reason, I cannot stop using Google Maps even though it is a waste of space on my phone, so I ended up wandering around the Red Light District/Chinatown in circles trying to find the restaurant I was headed to. So yay for some extra sightseeing, if I want to be positive. But the app finally got deleted! Good riddance to rubbish taking up precious space on my phone.

You know how folks seem to think that French looks and sounds all pretty? Let me just say that the translation of that text is not lovely!

I found the New Season Chinese restaurant that had good reviews and was listed as a favourite by locals as well as considered “cheap eats” by Amsterdam standards. I really wanted some meat (trying to eat vegetarian at home to respect my vegan hosts), so I ordered a chicken and veggie stir fry with udon noodles and added very spicy red chile paste. SO good!

The server spoke perfect English and was very friendly, making me feel very welcome. She was quick with my drink order (beer, of course, since it’s practically the same price as anything else) and checked up on me. 13 euros total, which, believe me, is a good price for a sit down lunch with a beer in the parts of Amsterdam that I’ve been!

I then doubled back to Dam Square, which was VERY busy.

I have no idea how people find their bicycles!

Lots of people and pigeons in front of the Royal Palace. Darth Vader was playing a lament, presumably to Princess Leia. RIP.

One of the most amazing things that has come out of this great European adventure was seeing this sign and being able to giggle at the fact that I could recognise that they dropped the ball with the Russian! For those who are curious, the first word of the second line should be the second word of the first line, ie. in the big letters. “Welcome” is two words in Russian, so they basically have the Russian as “WEL (new line) come to…”

There was a very long queue to get into the Royal Palace. As I got closer to the ticket booth, a security card called out to anyone with a ticket or membership card of some type to go to him. I figured I qualified, so I did that and was able to not only get ahead of about two dozen people, but snag one of the last free audio guide players! The benefits of the Museumkaart aren’t just monetary!

The reception area was very busy, so I was surprised that there was barely any wait at the coat check.

I’m surprised by how much I love these monochromatic and rather posh Christmas decorations, considering how I tend to prefer bright colours and rougher textures.

The following is verbatim from several informational placards in the lobby area.

“The Royal Palace was built in the 17th century as the Town Hall of Amsterdam, after a design by Jacob van Campen. Its paintings and sculptures were made by some of the most distinguished artists of the time and allude to the city’s influence and prosperity in the Dutch Golden Age.

“In 1808, Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, became King of Holland and converted the Town Hall into a Palace. The superb collection of Empire furniture, clocks, and chandeliers date from that period. The collection of Empire furniture is one of the best preserved and most complete collections in the world.”

“The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is one of three Places used by the Dutch Monarchy, notably for State Visits, Award Ceremonies, New Year’s Receptions, and other official functions. The building plays a role in royal marriages and in the abdication and investiture of the Monarch. When the Palace is not in use by the Royal House, it is open to the public.”

The tour was too fast paced and crowded to take notes, so I unfortunately have to rely on memory for everything the audio guide told us as there is very little actual signage within the palace. You also cannot use a flash, so most of my pictures are terrible. I’m going to include a few to show just how magnificent the building is, but, really, I cannot do justice to it. Do know that the building was embellished and turned into royal apartments during a two-year period at the start of the 19th century.

I started my tour in the last room because it wasn’t too crowded. This is the Tribune, where sentences were carried out in view of spectators in Dam Square.

There are three scenes portrayed in marble. This one is from the story of judge who would take both eyes of a rapist found guilty. One day, his son came before him and so the judge’s sentence was that his son lose only one eye and he, the judge, would lose an eye of his own.

This story was memorable. Two women are fighting over a child and there is a dead child at their feet. The judge has to decide who is the real mother of the child. So he rules that the living child will be cut in half. At this ruling, one of the women relinquishes her claim on the child, identifying her as the real mother.

Looking up to the Proclamation Chamber:

If you’re surprised that these snakes caught my eye, you haven’t been reading my blog for long.

The doors into the tribunal were also works of art:

This is the lectern where the sentence would be read.

People in Dam Square would look through these grates to see justice carried out.

Lady Justice is blind.

I then headed upstairs to the main part of the palace and all the public rooms available to view.

You enter into the magnificent Citizen’s Hall, which was meant to represent the World. It was originally a public space, then became a reception hall for the monarch. There are maps on the floor and the room is anchored by Atlas. Like in all the rooms, the audio guide explained the original purpose of the room when the building was the town hall, then the royal purpose, and finally, the modern purpose. You could also listen to optional audio about various objections. So, really, that was a lot of information to remember!

I could see Nova Scotia and Acadia (New Brunswick) on this map.

From this room, halls lead to the north and south galleries. The space is confusing to get around, but the audio guide does a good job of getting folks from one room to the next in a logical fashion. I got misplaced at one point, but a very helpful security guard got me sorted.

At this point, I was being bombarded with information, so I’m just going to give the name of each room and a picture or two. They all started to look alike and, frankly, I can’t remember which room with the word magistrate was once a queen’s apartments or the difference between the different treasuries!

Magistrate’s Chamber:

Little hallway space leading to the next room (I liked the floor).

Bust of the monarch Louis Napoleon (I think that was his name…).

Commissioners of Petty Affairs, where small things like neighbourly disputes were settled. I do remember that if you swore in this room, you had to pay one guilder!

Treasury Extraordinary:

This is the first room I encountered that has a bed. Get this. It’s actually a bedroom when the palace is closed to the public and has visitors. Can you imagine trying to relax in this room???!!! It was at this moment that it truly sunk in that I was not in a museum, but in a working building.

We exited into the South Gallery.

The Secretary’s Office:

Here’s the Treasury Ordinary, which is another bedroom:

Then the Burgomasters’ Cabinet:

And the Burgomasters’ Chamber:

I found myself in the Balcony Room/Proclamation Gallery looking down to the Tribune. This room leads to a balcony overlooking Dam Square where the Royal Family will present children, kiss at weddings, and do other such things, just like we see at Buckingham Palace in the UK.

Next up was the very cheerily named Execution Chamber, where the condemned would be brought up from the tribune to pray before being executed. After the building became a palace, it was a reception room for the Queen.

Next up, the City Council Chamber. This is where the modern monarch abdicates and the successor has his or her inauguration. Abdications and inaugurations? I’m not up on the protocols of the Netherlands royal family either, but it is quite different from that of the UK.

Then, I got lost on the way to the next room and found the Insurance Chamber, where I learned that insurance rates in Amsterdam were so low that people came from all over to buy their insurance.

Then, the Bankruptcy Chamber, where Rembrandt’s bankruptcy was processed (these two rooms appear to be mirror images of each other):

I made my way back to the Citizen’s Hall and a staff member directed me to my next destination, the Orphan’s Chamber, where the lives of children with only one or no parents were administered. Orphanages were also run from this room, which is now a bedroom for state functions. I’m trying to imagine myself as a guest sitting at that table writing a blog post…

Then, the Chamber of Accounts, whose bed actually looks comfy:

I can almost imagine curling up on that sofa. Almost.

The Chamber of the Magistrates Extraordinary:

That concluded my tour. I headed back out to Dam Square through these heavy doors. The wind was bitter and needling rain that threatened to turn to snow stung me.

One last glimpse before braving the weather.

The famous balcony:

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is a breathtaking space, especially its Citizen’s Hall, and I learned a lot about the administration of Amsterdam during three periods of history. It’s definitely a must-see!

Fancy lamp post base on Dam Square

I stopped at the large Albert Heijn behind the Royal Palace to get some groceries and was rather overwhelmed by all the offerings and how Dutch can look so much like French and English in many regards, but not where it matters, like on ingredient lists! I was hoping to get sushi for dinner, but this store only had large plates of it.

Tired of throngs, I decided to try to make my home home through quieter streets and maybe even find the Albert Heijn where I got sushi over the weekend. Well, I made my way there with no detours! They had the smaller plates of sushi (yay!) and I was able to get home without any problems, although I didn’t take the exact same route I took on Sunday. It’s amazing to be getting somewhat orientated in such a confusing layout of a city. Once again, I am so very grateful to have the chance to truly live in Amsterdam in a proper home in a non-tourist area.