Wednesday 19 June 2024

Trafalgar Tour Day #3

 June 18th.  Cloudy with the promise of rain.

We had an early start this morning.   Luggage had to be placed outside the door by 6:30 and we were all to meet in the lobby by 7:15.  Our Lady Late was late again!

But once all assembled and loaded we set off for Aalsmeer, out towards the airport where FloraHolland is located.  Enormous is not sufficient to describe the size of this operation.   Apparently it was once all manual and a Dutch Auction conducted in front of a clock with bids placed by raising and lowering hand held paddles.  Nowadays everything is computerised and it is positively amazing.

The floor area is the size of 250 football fields.  Around 2700 employees coordinate all the inwards goods, purchases, sorting, forwarding and anything else associated with the trade in flowers.   Nearly 50 million flowers are traded each day.

Visitors to the centre can walk along a gantry style cat walk above this well choreographed ballet of carts, flowers, people, and packages.      I was disappointed we weren’t told to download the app before arrival as this would have given a point by point commentary on the whole process.  However along the walkway were information boards and besides, the sheer drama below was entrancing.   At places it felt like watching a model railway from above.   Some carts were automated and followed grooved tracks in the floor but others were driven every which way by drivers who had a headset and a scanner and knew just where to go to collect a “bucket” and where to take it so it could be sent off for freight.

Tulip season is over but there were many other flowers, roses, lavender, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, lilies and many more.   I saw kalanchoe and other potted plants also.

Even outside there were interesting photo spots.

The building itself is vast and is linked by long air bridge type structures to other vast buildings so that purchasing, forwarding etc is one smooth operation

There was a lot of walking - almost 3000 steps in total just that alone - but it was so very very interesting.

Then back on the coach and we set off for Den Haag.  On the way the Tour Conductor gave us a short history of the Dutch Royal Family and I was interested that her comparisons were all with Spain, Denmark, and other European countries.  There was no mention of the English Royals.   The Netherlands ties are definitely in Europe!

We stopped at The Peace Palace which appears to be the local name for The International Courts of Justice and The Permanent Court of Arbitration.   I learned that this was actually established in 1920 as part of the League of Nations and was funded in a large part by Andrew Carnegie.   We only had a photo stop so didn’t get to see inside but it is a spectacular building and I was interested to see the actual place where some famous cases have been heard.

Next stop was the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory.   Established in 1653, the staff including the local guide are all extremely proud of their product.  If I understood correctly the white clay necessary to produce the Blue Delft ware is imported from England but all pieces are hand painted in Delft.

We had a thorough but speedy tour through the factory seeing first the museum area,

Then the guide showed us with some pride the porcelain made for the Royal family,

All the painting is done in black with a cobalt oxide pigment which changes to blue on the second firing.

Which makes this Delft Tile reproduction of The Night Watch even more amazing.

Tiles are a feature in Dutch homes, protecting wooden areas from the heat of fires and Delft originally started as a tile maker and then moved into  porcelain .

Fashion being fickle there have been efforts to keep modern and much was made of the Miffy products.

Then we saw where the clay is prepared,

where the moulds are prepared and dried and given an initial firing, 

where the painting is done 

As the work is painted in black and only changes to the shades of blue colouring after firing, there is great skill in knowing how much of the pigment and the water to mix to achieve the delicate shading.  It takes 8 to 10 years to become a master painter and the apprentices are in a studio upstairs and only get to paint on small pieces as if there’s a mistake it must be thrown out and that is costly.

We were then guided through to the showroom where many assistants hovered around and we learned just how costly a piece of Delft really is!  I don’t see anything that was less than 3 digits except for teeny weeny earrings and they were 2 digits!

Back on the coach we drove to Rotterdam.   Five days after WWII began, this city was bombed and only two buildings survived that barrage.   The guide told us that they immediately began the rebuilding and the rubble was used to fill in canals so that now Rotterdam has less canals than Amsterdam.   Even with that, the streets are narrow and difficult for a coach to navigate.   

In the rain we drove around on a city sight seeing.  Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and we certainly saw why.   Again the architecture is amazing and edgy.   One bridge we went over is called the Swan and indeed is the suspension is shaped much like a Swan.   Eventually we ended up at Markthal - a truly breathtaking building.   It is semicircular in profile but a half cylinder in size and it looked to me like it was  three floors deep. 

The ground floor is completely taken up with food stalls/stores with food from pretty well every country in the world.  On the floor below is a large Albert Heinz supermarket and a coin payment public toilet.

Escalators went to a floor below but I didn’t go down that far.  What made an impression was the paintings on the ceilings of food, fruit, vegetables and also bugs and insects from all over the globe.

The outside of the building is apartments.   And across the square is a building nicknamed The Pencil, which is again apartments.   

Next to this is the famous Cubic Apartments.   I’m not sure how one could live in something at quite such an angle and I didn’t have time to visit the one apartment which is a museum.   

Our guide did tell us that pictures need to be hung with four screws!

I walked down through an outdoor market for a couple of blocks and found what is nicknamed The Gutter.  I can see why that name has stuck.   

We needed to be back at the coach by 3:15 so I didn’t wander in anything but a direct line from Markthal so I wouldn’t get lost.  Besides which it was raining and I didn’t fancy getting soaked either.   We were held up in departing as Lady Late had decided to go shopping in earnest and was 15 minutes late back, laden with packages and soaked through.   Our Tour Conductor was not happy.   

Once again tonight we are in a Bilderberg Hotel, and one strange thing is that the keys have a four digit number with the third digit denoting  level and the fourth digit being the room number.   It seemed to throughly confuse most and then to add further confusion one elevator goes to certain floors and the other to the remaining floors.  Out of forty tour members how many do you think got that wrong??   We have Sri Lankan, Indian, Filipino, South African, Canadian, Australian, American, New Zealand and Lady Late who tells us she is from The East but judging by accent I’d take that as originally Eastern Europe!

I am grateful for an early night as tomorrow is yet another early start.   


Clare-Aimetu said...

Again a day packed full of adventure. I think Delft pottery is very eye catching, such an impact with just two colours. We find European hotels all vary with access and have come across strange corridors and lifts

Leonore Winterer said...

Another interesting day for you. Both the flower shipping center and the porcelain factory are very impressive, and the architecture in Rotterdam sure is...something! I don't usually enjoy modern architecture very much, but I think if it's all new and not the odd modern building amongst antique ones, it's less weird?