Monday, May 28, 2007

Karyn's Picks and Pans: Delft

My next assignment is to do a travel guide of Delft (so I've been told), so I know I'm going to get sick of writing about it. Unfortunately, brevity is not my forte (even if it is the soul of wit).

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Delft's Market Square - Town Hall

* Delft Porcelain - Before you buy, you should know that most of it is now made in China. There are only 3 places in Delft that actually produce the pottery from start to finish…most stores sell pottery that was shipped over from China and hand painted in Delft. It is priced accordingly. Whatever you do, DO NOT buy your Delft at the 2 major factories in town. They overcharge, because that's where the tour busses drop off the passengers, and the tour companies have a special partnership with them. Go to any of the other stores in town (particularly on the market square), and look around. We bought the variety of Delft that was only hand painted there. The store was in the market square, and it was called "Genuine Delft Blue" or something like that. It was next to the "Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles" (Royal Delft), which is the store based from one of the local factories. Anyway, the lady at this store was super super nice, and the stuff was reasonably priced. She is friends with some of the painters of the products she sells, and she has a good variety.

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If you're buying gifts, make sure to get something that is particularly useful, like candlesticks or a cheese plane (for those who like paper thin slices of cheese).

* Vermeer - Aside from porcelain, Delft is primarily known for Johannes Vermeer, the painter of the very famous "Girl with a Pearl Earring," which was recently further immortalized in novel and film (she's all over the Delft pottery too…I bought a trinket box with her painted on the lid in Delft blue). To see his real paintings, you need to go somewhere other than Delft (our girl with the pearl is in nearby Den Haag), but they do have the brand spanking new Vermeer Center, which is an interactive museum that tells you more about his work and his life. It's so spanking new that they're not even done building it yet…we got in for half price because the construction workers were still assembling things. It was noisy and smelly. But it looks like it's going to be a very cool place when it's's not your average art museum. The Vermeer Center is located in the building that once housed the Painters' Guild, of which Vermeer was a member.

You can also see his grave at the Oude Kerk (Old Church). It's very unremarkable though, for as much fame as Vermeer has brought to this small city. It's just a square with his name engraved on it, but the church has it specially marked so you can find it. It's a neat old church anyway, and certainly worth exploring.

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The equally creatively named New Church is located in the market square, and I'm sure that's also worth looking at, but we didn't go in…we just enjoyed the sound of its carillon music as we roamed the town.

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* Leonidas Lunch-Tearoom - If Leonidas sounds familiar, it's because it's the name of a world-famous Belgian chocolate manufacturer. And thusly, this has the chocolate shop next door, and is run by the same company. You can eat anywhere your heart desires here. If you want to eat out on the sidewalk, you may do that. You can eat inside too (which we did, because it was pretty chilly that day). Or you can eat out back in their beautiful little garden, which I kind of wish we had done. Ask for an English menu…they aren't widely accessible. They had a lot of tasty looking items. I got the "Luxe Mushroom Soup," which was "luxe" because it also came with a giant baguette sandwich that was slathered in baked mushrooms and herbed cream cheese (as if the mushroom soup alone didn't satisfy my mushroom cravings...not that I particularly crave mushrooms or anything). I had way more food than I was capable of eating (more than any mere mortal is capable of eating, really). But it was delicious. And cheap too…under 7 euros. Sue and I ordered the unlimited tea for two, but only managed to get through one teapot before we called it quits. I wish I had ordered what Sue did. She got the brie French roll, and everything came disassembled on her plate so she had to put it together. It was bread, brie, raw ham, some herbs, and herbed cream cheese. It all looked very very good, and she really enjoyed it. Lori just got the cheese French roll, but she really liked it. Lindsey got the tomato soup and the tuna mousse on toast. I really liked the atmosphere of this place…and judging by a Google search, it seems to be a fairly popular choice in Delft. It's close to the market square too…just off of it.

* Super Markt - That's the name of this place...pretty simple. It's on the market square, and we stopped there to grab drinks for the road. The reason why I'm writing about it is because the guy running the place was really nice. I pointed out to Lindsey and Lori that they might want to pick up a tin of stroopwafels to take home, since I know their sister really likes them (I brought home a package once for Thanksgiving 2005…it was instantly inhaled…I think Lisa had 2 of them). They said that they didn't remember what stroopwafels tasted like. Well, the guy working there just happened to have an open package of them sitting on the counter, so he gave one to each of us. Really very kind of him to do so. And because of that, I want to give his store a little plug. If you need a drink, an ice cream bar, or some candy…get it there. Heck, mention stroopwafels while you're there and see if he'll offer you one.

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