Delft. For some, the name of this city conjures visions of expensive blue and white porcelain. Others may think of windmills and dikes or paintings by Vermeer. You can find those things, but this lovely and laid back town offers so much more. To us it’s a wonderful place to decompress, with meandering canals, inviting cafes, and imposing architecture.
The main square is wonderful place to wander. The ornate town hall at one end faces the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) at the other. Even though it’s usually pretty busy, this is one of my favorite areas. Cafes, cheese shops, souvenir shops, and stores selling Delft porcelain of all grades are plentiful and varied. It’s the center of the city and on Thursdays the square is turned into a weekly market. There are more than 150 stalls selling everything from fresh produce and local cheeses, to all manner of household items and clothing. The antique and vintage market is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from April through October. On Thursdays, it’s located along the canals. On Saturdays, the market is bigger (including a book market) and spills into the main square. If you are looking for traditional Delftware, you are likely to find something to your taste here. You can find old hardware, artifacts, stained-glass panels, porcelain, posters, coins, stamps, antique kitchen items, and more. Language is rarely a problem since it seems like most residents of Delft speak English. They often start out by saying, “I only speak a little English.” This usually means they are superbly fluent.
One of the reasons for this particular visit was a bit unusual. We celebrated our 30th anniversary recently and wanted to give ourselves a little “something extra.” During a past visit to Delft, we had passed a costume shop that displayed wonderful historical looking photographs taken of people in traditional old-world attire. Since we are William and Mary, how about dressing up and having a photo session as the original William of Orange and his queen, Mary? The shop, run by the charming Barbara van Gelder, is called “Something Extra.” She came up with this idea several years ago. She liked the concept of period photographs but many of the studios that offered anything close to her idea, usually lacked quality costumes and accessories. She was determined to only use the finest fabrics and accoutrements so her subjects would really look like someone from the past. She designed the outfits to fit a wide range of body types. She picked out everything for both me and Bill and dressed us from head to toe. We all had a great time. Barbara loves her work and she really makes it a fun experience.
After some indoor shots, she asked if we might like to walk across the street and have our picture taken in front of the canal bridge. Most of the streets and canals in Delft look like they came straight out of the pages of a history book and she thought they would make a perfect backdrop for us. My biggest hurdle was managing to walk the 30 or so steps in a tapestry dress that felt like it weighed about 20 pounds. She posed us at the bridge and began taking pictures. In the blink of an eye, a throng of Asian tourists surrounded us and iPhones and cameras began snapping away. One lady grabbed my arm as she smiled for her traveling companion who was rapidly filling his memory card with images as he repeated, “take picture? Okay?” The clicking from all the cameras began to sound like a swarm of crickets. I empathized with some of the costumed street performers I see everywhere in Europe, but heck, they at least get paid to have their picture taken! Barbara quickly got us back to the shop as we reluctantly re-emerged into the 21st Century. It was a wonderful experience and Barbara is a great photographer. She does take walk-ins but only if she is not in a photo session. You can contact her at her website or send her a message on Facebook at “Something Extra.” Make your appointment to step back in time and live like royalty, even if it’s only for a few fleeting minutes.
In our next post, we’ll talk a little about food in Delft. We’ll taste some artisan chocolate, find the best Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table), and figure out what exactly is a stroopwafel anyway?
Tot de volgende keer! (Until next time!)