This morning we knew we would not need alarm clocks because the same jet-lagged sleep happens to us every year – in bed super early, awake super early. This morning I was awake by 0430hrs and Ma and Pa were already awake. We decided to get up and leisurely get ready for breakfast (served at 0700hrs) and the day exploring Delft. The breakfast served by our hotel was delightful and everything we would ever need – strong coffee, Dutch pancakes and fresh, buttery croissants. We finished by about 0745hrs and hit the town.
Because we were up and about so early, we had a lot of the old town to ourselves as well as beautiful early morning light. It’s definitely autumn in Delft as there is a chill in the air, but the sun is still warm.
Delft is such an adorable town. Around every corner is another canal, another flowered storefront, another cafe.
As 0900hrs neared, the city started to come alive with bicycle traffic picking up, and people whipping through the streets on their velocipeds, taking kids to school, heading to school, or heading to work.
The first thing that we wanted to see this morning was the Oude Kerk, or Old Church. The Oude Kerk is a large, brick, pre-Reformation structure with construction beginning in 1239 and lasting 400 years. One of the biggest draws of the church is it is the final resting place of Delft’s native son, Johannes Vermeer (remember, of Girl with the Pearl Earring fame). Apparently Vermeer died very poor and left his wife with a lot of debt, but she still wanted to bury him in the Oude Kerk, so they originally buried him vertically. Later, when Delft decided that Vermeer was in fact, a big deal, they dug him up and gave him a proper burial.
I found the Oude Kerk to be less than impressive – sparse and underwhelming.
The next thing we (mostly I) wanted to do was a canal boat tour. I love boat tours because it’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective and you usually learn a bit from the tour guide.
The first boat tour left at 1100hrs and we had not spent a lot of time in the Oude Kerk, so we had more time to kill. By this time we were gingerly dodging cyclists left and right. The cyclist culture here is quite different from what I’m used to in the Lower Mainland (either super aggressive Vancouver cyclists, or scabby homeless people who you know damn well didn’t pay for that bike that they’re riding around that residential neighbourhood).
In order to pass more time, we went to the market square and grabbed a delicious coffee at a cute little shop called Bagels and Beans. We sipped our drinks and watched vendors set up their stalls for the day in the square.
We finished up and settled up and slowly walked towards the boat moorage. I just couldn’t get enough photos of canals, bikes on canals, tree-lined canals.
We got to the boat, paid our tickets and climbed aboard, a 45 minute jaunt through the canal system. Our tour guide’s name was Ellen and she was graduating from the University of Delft in Engineering and Policy. Delft is actually a university town as 1 out of 5 residents in the city are students. We passed by beautiful buildings of brick facade, windows and shutters and learned that many of them were actually student housing. It made me think fondly of some of my lodging when I attended the University of British Columbia – damp, partially-carpeted hovels barely legal suites boasting hot plates and 30 year old microwaves, deep in the heart of Point Grey.
Other fun facts we learned from Ellen:
• Many of the canals are lined with ropes. Why? Not to help people who have drunkenly fallen into the canals, but to assist cats that fall in.
• The residents of Delft used to be charged more taxes if you have more windows in your front facade. Many wealthy people would install more windows to show off how rich they are.
• Students who graduate from Engineering often have their bicycles tossed into the canal by fellow students as a way of signifying that they will be making more money and can therefore afford a car. The city fishes out 300-400 bikes every year and resells them to make money for the city.
After the tour was over and I had shot enough smouldering glares to the dumb old men who talked/laughed through the English part of the tour, we found we were a bit peckish. Ma wanted to try and restaurant we had read about in Lonely Planet called Kek, which offers up fresh and healthy fare. This place was everything that a hipster would love – lots of kitsch, lots of avocado on the menu, and lots of young people with questionable fashion. I ended up having a BLTA and a delightful blood orange lemonade.
Our afternoon plan was to head to the Royal Delft Factory and do the tour, followed by copious coin dropping at the gift shop. The only problem is that we were losing steam so by the time we got a cab there, saw two huge tour busses in front, we decided to forego the tour and instead go straight to the gift shop. The shop was an enormous 2-room operation, filled wall to wall and ceiling to floor with white and blue porcelain. Ma and I both picked out a few items, paid, and the PAID for them to be shipped back home to Canada, as we didn’t want to haul around delicate porcelain items for the rest of our trip.
We discovered that the factory had an adorable little cafe that served Delft Blue’s own beer called Delft Brew, so of course we had to try some (it was pretty good!).
We headed back to our hotel for a siesta as we were all pretty low on energy. An hour later we headed literally across the canal from our hotel to the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) to check it out as well. This church was built in 1351, so not so much ‘new church’ as it is ‘newer than the Old Church’.
The church again was underwhelming, but its claim to fame is that it is the final resting place of William of Orange, who is seen as the father of the nation. The tomb is quite garish and ugly, but the people decide they couldn’t have a plain burial for the Founder of the Netherlands, unlike all the chumps buried in the floor.
After we spent maybe 15 minutes in the church, we hit the square again to revisit the cheese shop we popped into yesterday. The shop keep was so eager and flirtatious that I couldn’t even say no to all the goat cheese samples he was offering me, and I HATE goat cheese. After learning that you can bring the cheese back to Canada and it can be unrefridgerated for a month, we bought a couple of wheels of Gouda and went and found a brasserie that has Grolsh on tap, where we ate, drank, and headed home to bed, in a valiant attempt to stay up past 2100hrs.