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TravelIF you like the Tulip Festival, you'll the love Holland Art Cities

IF you like the Tulip Festival, you'll the love Holland Art Cities

IF you like the Tulip Festival, you'll the love Holland Art Cities

In the fall of 1945, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands presented Ottawa with 100,000 tulip bulbs. The gift was in appreciation of the safe haven that members of Holland’s exiled royal family received during the Second World War in Ottawa; and in recognition of the role which Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands. While being hosted at Government House in Ottawa, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth to Princess Margriet. Her hospital room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital was declared “Dutch soil” and the flag of the Netherlands flew on Parliament’s Peace Tower. Since then, Ottawa’s Tulip Festival has grown and celebrated the tulip as a symbol of peace and friendship and has created an even stronger international bond between Canada and the Netherlands. If you enjoy the activities around Ottawa’s Tulip Festival, consider taking a trip to where it all started: Holland. In Holland, you can experience one of the most unique and exciting cultural destinations that showcases more art and culture per square mile than any other country on earth. The Dutch call it Holland Art Cities and it is worth the trip.

Through to the end of 2010, the top ten museums in Holland’s four largest cities (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) have joined forces to put together an unprecedented art spectacle. This Holland Arts Cities Tour will also have special events to promote the grand opening of the new Hermitage Amsterdam and the re-opening of the Stedelijk Museum.

In February, I decided to take in the preview of the Holland Art Cities Tour and it certainly lived up to its advance billing. Upon arrival in Amsterdam, I took a very relaxed, guided city walk through one of the most picturesque neighborhoods — ‘The Jordaan’. A memorable stop on our walking tour was a visit to the Anne Frank Museum and the house where she hid from the Nazis (www.annefrank.org).

The first thing you’ll notice about Amsterdam is the “bike culture.” Everyone has a bicycle. The transportation infrastructure provides bike lanes throughout the city. The city’s trams also work like a charm. Both the trams and buses effortlessly maneuver around the city’s extensive canal system.

Next up was a visit to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam where we saw ‘The Masterpieces,’ which is the crème de la crème of the Rijksmuseum collection. Plan to spend two to three hours here. The museum is exceptionally well laid out and the staff are very friendly and attentive. There is wonderful information on the history of Rembrandt and the other great Dutch painters, whose influence stretched beyond Europe and into the far reaches of the world, including Czarist Russia, Italy and the Asian sub-continent.

It is a short walk from the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum. The ‘Van Gogh and the Colours of the Night’ exhibition was wonderful. I recommend you rent one of the audio pieces and do the tour with this headset. It takes about two hours to do it right. The audio provides both an overview of the exhibition and the historical context for Van Gogh, his art and his influence. Both the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum have gift shops that are reasonably priced and worth visiting. Afterwards, it was off to a canal cruise to discover Amsterdam by boat. These cruises are very popular and reasonably priced. They serve beverages some delicious, season-appropriate beverages (we needed a hot rum and coco — to get the winter chill out).

Next up was our preview of the new Amsterdam Hermitage. This project was brought together by a consortium of private groups and is an absolutely spectacular museum in the heart of Amsterdam. Displaying original works from the Hermitage St. Petersburg (on loan) and other related exhibits, its opening has created quite a stir in the art world and is well worth the visit. Next, we headed by tram over to the Stedelijk Museum at The Nieuwe Kerk and visited their exhibition titled “Holy Inspiration: Religion and

Spirituality in Modern Art.” Nieuwe Kirk is a Cathedral that is no longer active as a church but is now used to house modern art exhibits. Some of the modern art stretches the limits and challenges the very construct of religion. Thus, it provided for a very “unique” experience — one I am not sure I fully absorbed.

A short 40 minute drive from Amsterdam is the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague were you can find the exhibition, ‘XXth Century.’ If you prefer more contemporary art like this, the Photomuseum and the exhibition of ‘Man Ray’, may be more to your liking. The Hague, like Amsterdam is a port city. Nearby is the town of Scheveningen, a beautiful port town with exceptional views of the North Sea. If you go, check out the ‘Harbour Club’ restaurant. They have great seafood dishes in a wonderful setting in the harbor.

A short 40 minute drive from Amsterdam is the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague were you can find the exhibition, ‘XXth Century.’ If you prefer more contemporary art like this, the Photomuseum and the exhibition of ‘Man Ray’, may be more to your liking. The Hague, like Amsterdam is a port city. Nearby is the town of Scheveningen, a beautiful port town with exceptional views of the North Sea. If you go, check out the ‘Harbour Club’ restaurant. They have great seafood dishes in a wonderful setting in the harbor.

We then got a sneak preview of the exhibition ‘Flowers’ from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. Again, using the audio tour really enhanced the enjoyement and brought meaning to the content of the beautiful and meticulously detailed paintings of flowers by the Dutch masters.

Princess Juliana would be pleased to see how art has further linked our two countries after her gift of tulips.

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