Among the Old Masters we have found a new one: Bernard.
Fine art is just one of his loves, alongside opera, classical music and more. We would also venture that he likes writing, as he's very good at it.
So when we asked for a report on some of the trips he and his partner Mercedes have booked through Abbotts, Bernard obliged with a detailed and engrossing report from their European adventures from spring earlier this year, starting with a visit to Amsterdam…
'We began by flying from our home in Sevilla to Amsterdam. Julian arranged for us to be picked up and taken to the beautiful Hotel des Indes in The Hague.
On our first full day we went for a walk around the centre of the city and revisited the superb Mauritshuis Museum. This is a beautiful building in itself, constructed around the middle of the Seventeenth Century according to plans drawn up by the distinguished architect, Jacob van Campen, for Johan Maurits, the Count of Nassau-Siegen.
The building is situated next to the Binnenhof, which, we understand, is the seat of the Dutch Government and overlooks a beautiful lake. The Museum houses a splendid collection of predominantly Dutch paintings of the Seventeenth Century, which includes Vermeer's delightful "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and his famous "View of Delft", Rembrandt's" The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp", "Simeon's Song of Praise" and one of his numerous Self-Portraits as well as works by Hals, Steen and Ruisdael and the impressive "Bull" by Paulus Potter.
The following day, we took the tram to Scheveningen, a seaside place situated very near The Hague. I had been there some 60 years ago, but it was hardly recognisable, as the only building I could remember (a rather beautiful hotel) had been completely surrounded by tall blocks, presumably of holiday flats.
After a brief walk along the promenade, we decided to take the tram to Delft, whose characteristics are more to our taste. A delightful walk along the canal-lined streets of this largely unspoilt medieval city was topped with a pleasant lunch and a visit to one of the shops specialising in Delft Pottery, where we added a couple of pieces to our collection.
The day after, we carried out the visit that was the main reason for our return. Julian had arranged for us to be taken to Keukenhof, the wonderful garden situated in Lisse (pictured above and below). We had been looking forward to this visit for many years, but the real thing even exceeded our expectations.
We were there for four hours, but even so we only saw a part of the park and could only enter one of the four indoor pavillions. It was full of wonderful plants, especially orchids. In the outdoor gardens we were able to delight in millions of bulbs, hyacinths, daffodils, tulips etc. and a beautiful lake with an ornamental fountain. We were so impressed that we hope to return there next spring.
From Keukenhof, we were taken to the Hotel de l'Europe, where we had enjoyed an excellent week the previous year. The highlights of the stay there were revisits to the Hermitage and Rijksmuseum and a splendid concert of Bach's "Magnificat" and Brahms' Symphony No.1 at the magnificent Concertgebouw.
At the Amsterdam Hermitage they put on temporary exhibitions largely composed of paintings brought from the Saint Petersburg Hermitage. On this occasion we went to an exhibition of Spanish Art, including works by El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo and Zurbarán.
The following day we revisited the Rijksmuseum (pictured page top), a wonderful monumental place built towards the end of the Nineteenth Century in a sort of mixture of neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance style according to plans drawn up by the architect Pierre Cuypers.
We took the opportunity to enjoy some of our favourite Dutch works, such as Rembrandt's famous "Night Watch" and "Titus dressed as a Monk", Vermeer's "The Milkmaid" and "The Little Street", Ruisdael's "The Mill at Wuk BU Duurstede", Frans Hals' "The Merry Drinker" and "Portrait of a Man with Ring and Touchstone" by Werner van den Valckert.
Another highlight of this stay in Amsterdam was lunch at a splendid fish restaurant called "The Seafood Bar" where all the fresh fish is on display.'
From Amsterdam, Bernard and Mercedes' next stop was Berlin, where we will pick up with them for the next instalment, soon...