North Sea Jazz and Amersfoort

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Monday, July 19, 2004

Hi everybody!
In the middle of July we had a busy weekend when we traveled to the North Sea Jazz Festival on Friday night and took a day trip to Amersfoort on Saturday. Here's a little bit about our "adventures."

Since 1976 the North Sea Jazz Festival has been a 3 day festival held in Den Haag (The Hague). There are over 16 stages of performers in the Netherlands Congress Center (so inside, not out) with over 200 acts over 3 days. It's a little expensive and we weren't sure what to expect, so we only bought tix for Friday. We saw Elvis Costello and the Metropole Orchestra (Elvis was ok, the Metropole Orchestra was great), Buddy Guy (his usual amazing self), Angie Stone (really fun) and some really great jazz by people who we didn't know, but might really be famous. We're not jazz aficionados, so we only recognize the mainstream names. But, in case any of you ARE jazz aficionados, here's who we saw: Kenny Wheeler & Fred Hersch (piano/trumpet duo), Andy Bey Quartet, and Joe Lovano Quartet featuring Hank Jones (sax/piano - recorded with Coltrane - these guys were the best jazz we heard).

The music was really amazing. Everywhere that we walked there was music playing. But the crowds were really awful. The doors opened at 6:30 and the first main stage events were at 7:00. At 8:00-8:30, EVERYBODY was trying to get from the act they had just seen to another act and it was really a huge traffic jam and horrible to get from one place to the next. Later, as the performance times became more staggered, the traffic was not AS bad, but it was still very crowded and people were very intent on getting to the next stage so it really wasn't very pleasant from that perspective. We heard that next year the festival is moving to a bigger venue in Rotterdam. It won't have the same "by the sea" atmosphere, but it does seem that the festival has outgrown it's current location.

The music continued until 2:00 a.m. We left around 1:30 and were home by 2:30 a.m.

We recently bought two folding bikes that we can take apart and put in the car. So we decided to drive to Den Haag early and take the bikes with us. It is about 2 miles from the festival site to the beachside resort of Schevingen and we arrived 1.5 hours before doors opened, so we decided to ride our folding bikes to the beach. It was a really pleasant ride along side a small forest, through the little town of Schevingen, to the beach. At the beach there were a whole lot of really interesting sculptures and lots of restaurants right on the beach. The beach is really big and Schevingen is very famous with the Dutch as THE seaside resort to visit. Unfortunately for us, shortly after we arrived it started POURING RAIN! So, back to Den Haag we biked - getting back in time to put the bikes back in the car and arrive at the venue a few minutes early.

This summer has actually been very cool and rainy up untiol the beginning of August. Last year was beautiful, warm and sunny, from mid-April .... but not this year! We've rarely been out without raingear and have not worn shorts and t-shirts at all (except Chris when he goes running) till this last weekend.

On Saturday, after sleeping in a bit from the night before, we decided to take a day trip to the town of Amersfoort. Amersfoort is interesting because many parts of it's old walls still exist. A first defensive wall, made out of brick, was finished around 1300. Soon after, the need for enlargement of the city appeared and around 1380 the start of a new wall took place, which was finished around 1450. The Koppelpoort is part of this newer wall. While we were their, somebody opened up the Koppelpoort for some kids to see how the poort was opened and closed to prevent invaders from entering the city from the river. There are two huge wooden wheels that people stand on and walk (sorta like a big version of hamster wheels!) which raise and lower the gate. The kids were allowed to get on the wheels and lower the gate a few inches. From their screaches, it must have been a bit scary.

After the second wall was built, the first wall was demolished and in its place the Muurhuizen (wallhouses) were built. The front wall of the houses is founded on top of the citywall foundations.

Also in Amersfoort an old men's home has been preserved from 1907. It is a large room with spaces for 22 men. Each man had a small bed, a table and chair, and a chest for his belongings. The museum is called a "living" museum because it is staffed by actors in character/period clothing who speak as if they were living in 1907. You can ask them questions about their lives and they will tell you what it's like to live there, how much things cost, etc.,. They don't know anything about TVs or euros or anything modern. And they only speak Dutch as people in that era who were of that social class would never have learned English. Luckily one of the actors found another visitor who could translate for us! It was a lot of fun -- and probably more so if you understand the language that is being used!

Chris' parents have been visiting the last several days. During their visit we went back to Gent, Belgium (see May 4) and Melanie and Martha went back to Amsersfoort while Chris and his dad went to the local watch show. We also went for a couple of boat rides, ate a some nice restaurants, and pretty much just relaxed. Had the usual (for THIS summer) ok weather -- lots of rain and unseasonably cool.

Chris and Melanie

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