Monday, September 5, 2011

Het Loo Palace and Utrecht

Traci arrived Saturday morning, August 27th to spend a week with us in The Netherlands.  It was SO FUN to have her here!  She is standing in front of a giant "Energy Wheel" which is the human version of the kind you usually see in hampster cages. 

We decided immediately that this would be a day to spend in the country.  Our destination was Het Loo Palace near Apeldoorn.

The first buildings we saw were so ornate that we thought these were the palace.  Actually - this was the stable for the royal horses.  They also had carriages and cars that were formerly used to transport the royal family.

Pretty nice digs for horses - don't you think?

We arrived just as the stable masters were bringing the horses out for their daily grooming.

This beauty received a nice shower by his handler.

After glancing through the building at the carriages and automobiles we walked up a very long, tree-lined path to the palace complex.  Now we could see the splendor we expected.

All of these buildings were part of the palace complex.  This palace has been used by the House of Orange since 1680.  It originally was a hunting lodge, then was enlarged and made more palatial as the needs changed.  It became the favorite country residence of many Dutch kings and queens.

The gardens were magnificent.

Many of the areas were groomed in pretty designs as seen here.  Some were like a gigantic maze.

I thought this pear tree growing flat against the wall was quite unique.

It would be interesting to know how many gardeners are required to keep this huge area groomed and beautiful.  There was an upper garden, a sunken lower garden, and two side gardens - a total of 1,606 acres!

We chuckled at this statue of Eve tempting Adam with the apple.  (A gold one, for royalty.)

I was delighted to meet Neptune in my meanderings.

Elder Beckstrand preferred Diana, Goddess of the hunt.

More of the lovely area behind the palace.

Sadly, we could only take pictures of the outside of the building.  Cameras weren't allowed with flashes on, and my camera wasn't powerful enough to get the inside views without a flash. 

It was a lovely setting and we enjoyed seeing it with our lovely daughter!

Our next stop was the De Haar Castle in Utrecht.  It was originally built in the 12th century but had been demolished and rebuilt several times before being restored in the 1890's.  It was a little too 'prettied' up for me - I can't imagine it looked this glitzy in the 1300's.

A side view.

This was the main gate into the complex.  Very decorative - but probably not authentic to the era it is supposed to represent.

At least it had a moat and a real drawbridge.  That went a little way towards making it more authentic.

We left the castle and drove into Utrecht to look around.  This huge church is in the center of the old city.

We were particularly interested in the Oudergracht canal.  It was dug deep and lined with high walls to protect the city from flooding.  The high walls made it impossible to load or unload canal boats at street level, so the canal was lined with wharves.

Each of the homes and businesses along the canal had cellars giving onto these brick wharves, which opened out onto the canal.  This enabled the owners to go out their basement door and unload products delivered in boats on the canal.
Apparently this construction is not only unique in the Netherlands, but also in Europe.

Domkerk tower is prominent in the old city square.

We walked through this arch to reach Domplein - or Dom Square.  The building of a large square in the center town is a common European custom.  Only foot traffic is allowed here.  As you can see from the umbrella - it was a rainy day. 

This cute couple stopped and asked me to take their photo on this very PINK bike.  The young man was a little embarrassed to be seen riding about town on a pink girl's bike but they seemed to be having a good time in spite of it.
This was our first time to visit Utrecht and we found it to be charming.  (Alby Jackson was born here, which made it of particular interest to us.)  Since Traci was running on 30 hours without sleep we took her back to Amsterdam and let her get a good night's sleep to alleviate her jet lag.  Tomorrow is another day!

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