Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Hieronymus Bosch retrospective

January 30, 2016
Statue of Hieronymus Bosch in Den Bosch

Statue of Hieronymus Bosch in Den Bosch

One of our favorite places to take visitors is the charming Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, locally known as the much-easier-to-pronounce Den Bosch. This year is HUGE for Den Bosch, as it celebrates the virtual return of its native son, famed medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, who died 500 years ago. Though the city isn’t fortunate enough to own any of the artist’s paintings, this year it will present the largest retrospective of Bosch’s work ever, with all the pieces on loan from several leading museums. “Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of a Genius,” displaying 20 paintings and 19 drawings, runs from Feb. 13 to May 8 at Het Noordbrabants Museum. In addition, seven other museums in the province of North Brabant will present complementary shows. Timed tickets are already on sale, and the museum has expanded its opening hours.

Saint John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch

Saint John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch

But, wait, there’s more. In its elegant baroque center and along its small canal system, Den Bosch is pulling out all stops for visitors, with special events throughout the year, including nightly light shows on the market square, projected 3-D images of diabolical Bosch characters, themed tours of the canals, and rare climbs outside Saint John’s Cathedral, which is covered with fantastical gargoyles and sculptures. I hope to do one of those climbs myself, as soon as they’re available. Can’t wait!

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Den Bosch is a secret Dutch treat

February 6, 2015

Lina and I spent last Saturday researching and photographing a story about ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Say whuh? I know, the name is so crazy that even the Dutch use the colloquial Den Bosch. Phew. Den Bosch is one of those off-the-beaten- path towns popular with Dutch day-trippers and virtually unknown by the average tourist. In short, our kind of place! An amazing bonus: it was sunny! Cold, yes, but the rare blue skies made up for it.

Eetbar Dit in Den Bosch

Eetbar Dit in Den Bosch

Den Bosch is only half an hour north of us, so will be one of our go-to spots for houseguests. I’d visited before, but it had been a decade. Its medieval town center remains a beauty, but a recent bonus is that hip and trendy food and shopping spots have opened, most notably Eetbar Dit, Mariapaviljoen (a medically themed hoot), Nom Nom wine bar, some cool vintage shops and a bunch of funky “concept stores” on Verwersstraat and Vughterstraat streets. (I hate the term “concept store,” but the Dutch use it often. Basically it’s a “lifestyle store” and usually cutting-edge contemporary.)

The Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

The Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

The other exciting Den Bosch additions are the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, in praise of Den Bosch’s famous native son, whose 500th “death-day” they’re honoring in big ways all of 2016; and the new contemporary art museum, The Stedelijk, not associated with the one of the same name in Amsterdam. It focuses on jewelry and glass and has an outstanding gift shop, down to its walls and displays of wavy wood.

That’s enough for now — the details are going in my article, for an American Auto Club travel magazine. But for you, dear blog reader, a short list of things you gotta do there:

The famous Bossche Bol

The famous Bossche Bol

Treat yourself to a famed ”Bossche Bol,” a puff pastry filled with fresh whipped cream and dipped in dark chocolate.

Take a canal tour (March to October). The canals here are special because they’re below the buildings and you’ll ride through tunnels, some with artful arches.

Visit the Stedelijk and the adjacent Noordbrabants Museum, and also the Bosch center. Make sure you’re at the latter on the hour to see the astronomical clock in action.

St. John's cathedral

St. John’s cathedral

Visit the city’s pride and joy, St. John’s Cathedral, one of the best known churches in the Netherlands. It was built between 1380 and 1530 and shows off 600 statues inside and out. Just gorgeous. If you’re up for climbing 218 steps, take a tour of the bell tower for a stellar view of the city.

Along with those helpful hints, do the usual: Shop. Bop. Eat. Drink. Eet smakelijk en proost!

Visit Baja Peninsula on historic yacht

January 24, 2015

If I were to take cruises, they would be on small ships, like the one I wrote about for the In Transit section of the New York Times. This one comes with its own history, as well. I also really want to go to the Baja Peninsula, which now is even farther away from me geographically, so who knows when that will happen. Here’s my ditty, which ran Jan. 23:

The Westward yacht first launched in 1924 (photo AdventureSmith Explorations)

The Westward yacht first launched in 1924 (photo AdventureSmith Explorations)

Small-ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations has added a historic yacht to its inventory of ships exploring the Baja Peninsula. A new 10-day Baja adventure will be based aboard the 86-foot, historic eight-guest adventure yacht Westward, launched in 1924 as the flagship of the Alaska Coast Hunting and Cruising Co.

Westward Voyages in the Sea of Cortez spends seven days in January and February cruising in the Sea of Cortez, with three days watching gray whales based from Kuyimita Tent Camp adjacent to San Ignacio Lagoon Whale Sanctuary. Each stateroom in the non-air-conditioned ship has three portholes that open, and guests and crew gather on the 17-by-14-foot shaded back deck for meals and conversation.  Westward is listed with the US National Register of Historic Places and remains powered by its original Atlas-Imperial diesel engine. Modeled after a salmon cannery tender, the ship served a noteworthy clientele of hunters and fishermen for nearly 20 years, including Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and John Wayne. During World War II, it served as a patrol boat off the California coast before returning to the Pacific Northwest. The per person double rate for the Westward trip is $5,750.

AdventureSmith runs other Baja cruise programs on ships for up to 84 guests. Additional options include two eight-day whale watching cruises from January to March on a variety of small ships. Rates are from $2,995 per person, double, aboard the 84-guest Safari Endeavor and $5,990 per person, double, aboard the 62-guest National Geographic Sea Lion and Sea Bird. Additional cruise programs for up to 15 days are also offered in this region.

Carlton Ward frames Florida’s wild side

March 22, 2014
An Ogeechee tupelo tree on an island in the Suwannee River (photo Cartlon Ward)

An Ogeechee tupelo tree on an island in the Suwannee River (photo Cartlon Ward)

One of my favorite nature photographers, eighth-generation Floridian Carlton Ward Jr., recently opened his first public gallery. Hooray!

The Carlton Ward Gallery in Tampa, where Carlton is based, displays about 30 of his award-winning fine-art prints from assignments and adventures around the state. Carlton is known for his striking environmental photographs, which have been seen in Smithsonian, National Geographic, and other publications. Now you can see them up close and personal, in frames!

When I visited the gallery, photo locations included the Everglades, Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay, Florida cowboys, and his most recent project, the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Carlton brings out the best of Florida, and is quite the intrepid adventurer. You’d have to be to get the shots he does.

For the Wildlife Corridor project, in 2012, Ward and two scientists trekked 1,000 miles from the Everglades to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia to document the state of wildlife habitats, watersheds, and ranches. “The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition” book and DVD also are available at the gallery.

Here are the basics: Carlton Ward Gallery, 1525 West Swann Ave. (in Hyde Park), Tampa. 813-251-0257, http://www.carltonward.com

St. Croix gets under your skin

January 18, 2013

Sitting here in North Carolina on this dreary, wet, chilly evening makes me yearn for St. Croix, where we were a few weeks ago. We chose the lesser-known US Virgin Island because it has so much variety, which means we were going nonstop to see everything, but that’s us. Below is the story I wrote for the Boston Globe, along with photographer Lina’s favorite photos. I couldn’t believe the paper didn’t use one of the iconic sugar mill. We spent more than an hour there shooting. And so it goes. I received several notes of appreciation from Crucians, who are so proud of their island.

By Diane  Daniel

Ruins of a sugar mill near Cane Bay

Ruins of a sugar mill near Cane Bay

CHRISTIANSTED, St. Croix — Even before I was able to see daylight’s gift a sea shimmering in a crayon box of blues from turquoise to midnight my hands told me I’d made it to the Caribbean the night before, their rough, wrinkled winter skin showing just a hint of the smoothness to come.

My partner, Lina, and I decided to visit the largest of the US Virgin Islands (84 square miles) because it offered a little bit of everything: plentiful beaches, green hills, lively town centers, and historic sites. St. Croix has the reputation of being the poor relation to glitzier St. Thomas and lusher St. John, but we found a rich culture here, born of the island’s Danish past, its once-mighty sugar trade, and its cordial Crucians, as the native islanders are called. Add to that pristine islands to visit, water sports, and even a rain forest to explore and you can see why we were hard-pressed to squeeze everything into a week’s stay last month.

A rooster wanders the grounds of Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted, built in 1738

A rooster wanders the grounds of Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted

We based ourselves in a centrally located, budget-friendly waterfront apartment along “condo row” in Christiansted, the larger and more tourist-driven of the island’s two towns. With hens and roosters wandering all over, the countryside never felt out of reach. Our street, lined with palm trees and a rainbow of bougainvilleas, also led to working-class neighborhoods and public-housing developments, daily reminders of the poverty here. We never felt unwelcome or unsafe, but for those who prefer more upscale and tropical settings, mid-level to pricey beachfront resorts and villas cover the island.

Strike up a conversation with a local or a fellow tourist and you’ll immediately be asked, “Have you been to Buck Island yet?” Put St. Croix’s jewel on top of your list. Surrounding the uninhabited island, a 30-minute boat ride from Christiansted, lies the underwater Buck Island Reef National Monument, a protected reef system that includes a short marked trail. While some of the coral is in tough shape, the clear water nonetheless offers the area’s best snorkeling. Unless you have access to a private boat, you’ll need to use one of the National Park Service’s six concessionaires. Unfortunately, no outfitter allows enough opportunity to also experience the island’s hiking trails.

A sailboat departs Turtle Beach at Buck Island

A sailboat departs Buck Island

After an hour in the water, we climbed back aboard and compared notes. I sought out Oliver Martin, 15, from Marion, Pa., who, with his dad, were the only people near me when I witnessed a heart-stopping sight.

“I knew it was a shark right away,” Oliver said proudly. “It had that fin on top. I was a little nervous, but not too much.”

I agreed. With the help of a deckhand, we concluded it was a lemon shark, probably about 5 feet long. We also were treated to sightings of a large school of shiny blue tang, iridescent parrotfish, long-bodied trumpetfish, and camouflaged Nassau grouper. Apparently I was the only one to see a barracuda flash its teeth.

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Lincoln heads up new attractions in Washington

December 3, 2012

What’s new in DC? Funny you should ask.

201212_01c_Washington DC_Lincoln

The original pistol that John Wilkes Booth used to murder President Abraham Lincoln is on display in Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was shot (you can even see the gun!), has expanded just in time to keep up with the demand thanks to the new Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln.” The boringly named Center for Education and Leadership is actually an interesting exhibit across the street that covers the fallout after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. A highlight is the tower of tomes surrounded by a spiral staircase winding down to the gift shop.

Over at the Newseum, up through Jan. 27 is a fascinating exhibit called “Every Four Years: Presidential Campaigns and the Press.” (And aren’t you glad ours is over for another four?) Highlights are the microphone from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” and Tina Fey’s “Sarah Palin” costume.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the newest feature on the Mall

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the newest feature on the Mall

Of course you know that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the newest feature on the Mall and our 395th national park. But you don’t have much longer to see the controversially truncated “I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness” quote that remains in the stone. According to the park ranger I spoke with there, it’s due to be replaced with its unedited version by MLK Day 2013, which is Jan. 21.

At the National Zoo, “Elephant Trails,” is a breeding, education, and research program to help scientists care for elephants in zoos and save them in the wild that also is expanding visitors’ viewing opportunities.

In Columbia Heights,the renowned Howard Theatre reopened after a 32-year hiatus, featuring expanded seating, state-of-the-art acoustics,and a gleaming 1910 facade.

Old Salem, N.C., a Moravian miracle

January 23, 2011

Friendly gunsmith demonstrates how he makes muzzleloaders

What does Wachovia Bank have to do with the Moravians? Funny you should ask…

While touring Old Salem, a history museum/attraction and a neighborhood in Winston-Salem, NC, last week, we learned the answer. Salem (which later joined with Winston) was settled by Moravians, a German-speaking religious sect, in 1766. They came from Pennsylvania to build on a 100,000-acre tract called Wachau, meaning stream and meadow.

When William Lemly decided to move his tiny bank from Salem to next-door Winston in 1879, he needed a new name. Voila: Wachovia, the English form of Wachau. Of course Wachovia will soon be but a banking memory when Wells Fargo finishes its takeover, but that’s another story.

Here’s what I most enjoyed about Old Salem, which re-creates life in the 18th and 19th centuries:

Home Moravian Church constructed in 1800

The whole area has a nice feel because the town, and Salem Academy and College, have grown around Old Salem, which makes it seem more authentic.

Several acres of gardens focus on heirloom plants, impressive when you have a tight budget and staff. Originally, each lot in the community of 300 Moravians included a garden. In the spring and fall, they grew cabbage, lettuce, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower; in summer, squash, okra, peppers, cucumbers, beans and peas. I can’t say it looked great in the dead of winter, but spring is around the corner!

The St. Philips complex includes the restores 19th-century church for black worshippers. Apparently the country’s largest community of black Moravians lives in Winston-Salem. The congregation now has a bigger, newer church, but still worships here on fifth Sundays and during special events. The brick church, from 1861, is the oldest standing African American church in NC. These days, a large number of Moravians internationally are black, with many congregations in Africa due to a long history of mission work.

God's Acre, burial ground of the Moravian Church since 1770

God’s Acre, a 1770 burial ground, is still in use. The evangelical Moravians organize their cemeteries in large squares reserved for “choir” groups within the congregation, and even today are separated by gender instead of family unit. No comment on that.

For folks who need more modern-day action, yes there are gift shops, dining options, and costumed interpreters playing such roles as gunsmith, pharmacist, potter, tailor, tinsmith, and baker.

The 1858 Coffee Pot marks the northern end of the historic district

The 1858 Coffee Pot was once used to advertise a tinsmith business and now graces the northern end of the historic district. That’s a lot of coffee.

The newish Visitor Center is quite impressive. Open since 2003, it contains a couple shops, very nicely done illustrated timelines, an auditorium, and a ticket area. We remarked that the woman handing us tickets and maps explained the layout and attractions to us as if we were the first people she’d ever shared this information with instead of the 2 millionth. Quite remarkable! She helped set the tone for a lovely day of yore.

Happy Dutch-American Friendship Day!

April 19, 2010

A salute to Dutch-American Friendship Day

Wessel loves his Dutch-themed days, so I’ve given over today’s blog posting to my favorite Dutch citizen (I think the Quincy connection is very cool!):

Today is Dutch-American Friendship Day, which commemorates that on April 19, 1782, John Adams was admitted by the States General of the Dutch Republic as Minister of the United States of America, thus obtaining the second diplomatic recognition of the United States as an independent nation (France preceded in 1777). It was also the day that the house Adams had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague was to become the first American Embassy in the world. A treaty of commerce and friendship was signed and Adams negotiated a loan of five million guilders for war supplies. In the years after, Adams arranged three additional loans. Let’s just say that money talks.

Birthplace of U.S. President John Adams, in Quincy, Mass., is operated by the National Park Service (photo Wikipedia)

Adams had strong ties with the Netherlands. His sons, John Quincy and Charles Adams enrolled at the University of Leiden in 1781. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized that these were the Adamses, the US presidents from Quincy, Mass. Quincy is where Diane lived for years before we moved to Durham, NC. So we’re doing our part to continue a tradition of centuries of Dutch-American relationships.

To Amsterdam from Russia with love

February 6, 2010

The Hermitage Amsterdam is housed in the Amstelhof on the Amstel River

Let’s just agree to put aside, shall we, the hookers and hash. The Amsterdam you don’t hear as much about is filled with beautiful historic buildings, great restaurants and cafes, funky design shops, and world-class art museums. That’s what the city is to us.

Most museumgoers associate Amsterdam with the world-class Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. But now there’s a third art attraction pulling in the crowds. Last summer, the Netherlands capital opened the Hermitage Amsterdam, a branch of the renowned State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (where I hope to some day go). This Hermitage is run by a local foundation and independently financed.

The 17th-century Amstelhof was formerly used as a state-run home for the elderly

Wessel and I had the chance to visit in November. The weather was dreary but the place was packed. Everything about it is magnificent, from its setting along the bustling Amstel River to its location in the Amstelhof, a 17th-century building formerly used as a state-run home for the elderly.

The restored 107,000-square-foot building holds rotating and permanent exhibit space, a restaurant, outdoor terrace, courtyard, auditorium, children’s wing, and gift shops.

Church Hall with a view of the river

Our favorite spot (and everyone else’s, it seemed) was the Church Hall, a grand gathering area with large windows overlooking the Amstel. A smattering of comfy chairs faces the windows and they’re always filled.

The exhibit we saw, the inaugural (it ended Jan. 31) naturally focused on Russia, specifically on the Russian Court. The pageantry, polish, and pearls were lovely, but I’m much more interested in the upcoming show, opening March 6 (through Sept. 17). Called “Matisse to Malevich: Pioneers of Modern Art from the Hermitage,” the 75-piece modern-art showstopper is expected to draw huge crowds. The Hermitage has one of the world’s finest collections of early-20th-century French masters and famed Russian painters, so this will be a blockbuster. Most of the works in this show are usually on permanent display in Russia.

Metal fence with camellia blossoms near the back side of the museum

We’ll be back in Amsterdam in April, and will gladly fight the crowds to see this collection. On this trip, it will (hopefully) be warm enough to rest up in the courtyard, admiring the Hermitage from the outside

Admission for adults is a stiff $22, but that’s Europe for you.

Happy Dutch-American Heritage Day!

November 16, 2009
200911_21_heritage day

A salute to Dutch-American relations

Today’s blog post is written by the most famous Dutch writer Diane knows: her husband, Wessel.

Not that you would know (even I didn’t until recently), but this day was instituted in 1991 to celebrate the bilateral relations between the Netherlands and the United States. Nov. 16 was selected because on that day in 1776, Dutch forces on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius returned the salute of a small American warship “Andrew Doria,” thereby making the Netherlands the first country to officially salute the flag of the newly independent United States.

In 2005, Diane and Wessel sealed US-Dutch relationship with a kiss

On Oct. 30, 2004, Diane and Wessel sealed their US-Dutch partnership with a kiss (mimicking kissing-Dutch ceramics)

The day is celebrated in parts of the US with a large Dutch community, such as Michigan and the Hudson Valley, New York.  Alas, no such tradition exists in North Carolina. But Diane and I recently had our own personal Dutch-American anniversary, which dates back only five years.  On Oct. 30, 2004, we were married in the presence of Dutch and American family, friends, and flags. Liefde is love.