Very princely gardens

I’m breaking the rules of chronology and time-travelling today to share the lovely events that immediately preceded Pieter’s and my trip to the Efteling.

On Friday, we made the drive up to Groningen for a very special occasion … Pieter’s graduation ceremony! The day was spent in celebratory style, with drinks and dinner hosted by Pieter’s parents for fifteen or so of his closest friends – all male. My exchange student self, circa-2010, would have been filled with pride by the sight: Canadian, non-male, non-initiated Soph mingling like the best of them.

This should convey my elation nicely.

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Of course, being excited enough about this little accomplishment to write about it on a blog pretty much negates any cool points I might have earned, imagined or otherwise.
Also, I spent an inordinate amount of time singing the praises of maple syrup to a group of guys who simply could not be convinced of the merits of swapping spongy bread and cheese for a plateful of pancakes and syrup. Not even when I brought up the possibility of bacon. Such are the very real challenges of diplomacy.

But anyway. The evening was a roaring success, and everyone left the restaurant (a Cuban/Caribbean place called Hemingway’s) full and jolly. While some of the boys headed out for a night on the town, we headed back to our gorgeous hotel.

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Pieter’s parents treated us to a night’s stay at the Prinsenhof Hotel – a gorgeous and luxurious boutique hotel hidden within the Prinsentuin (Princes’ garden), a skip and a throw away from the good ol’ Martini Tower.

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According to the website, each of the 34 rooms available is unique. Ours had a gorgeous view on the gardens and a loft with a monster of a tub, complete with a slew of deliciously scented products. In our hurry to get out to explore the city the next morning, I regretfully neglected to steal those … ahem. Not that I would ever do that.

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According to the website, the Prinsenhof itself dates back to the fifteenth century, when it used to belong to the ‘Brethren of the Communal Life’. The building that now functions as the hotel was once their church. You wouldn’t immediately recognize it from the modern decor, but a few tell-tale signs are just interspersed throughout, making for a lovely contrast.

The breakfast room

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After a leisurely breakfast and a stroll around the grounds, we set off for the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum (ten imaginary dollars to the non-Dutch person who can figure out how to pronounce that). The museum houses a huge collection of ship- and sailing-related paraphernalia, dating back to medieval times. Parts of the building itself date back to the year 1200 and even earlier. My favourite part of the whole tour was a film showing a digital reconstruction of Groningen over 500 years ago. I know the city well enough to have been able to recognize a lot of the areas the video took us through, which was something of a thrill.

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Even though I’ve spent nine months of my life living in Groningen, I’d never even noticed this building – in spite of the fact that it’s a two minute walk from the market! Every time I visit Groningen, I love it even more. I may be a Leidener in theory now, but my heart continues to belong to that great Northern city. As they say up there: Er gaat niks boven Groningen. Nothing tops Groningen!

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