Friday, March 4th 2016 – Day 2 (S’Hertogenbosch, Vught)
A good night’s sleep and we woke to decidedly inclement weather, unfortunately. However, breakfast was in the dry of the hotel undercroft. It was a fairly impressive buffet, though it did come with the semi-compulsory egg that is a feature of everywhere I’ve ever stayed in the Netherlands. And yet no one has ever been able to explain it to me as to just why there are always eggs! I like eggs, but I can go a day or three without one… Anyway after breakfast we stepped out to the Tourist formation office just round the corner from the hotel and hunted down some brochures to see what else we could do in Den Bosch as we had late timed tickets for the main event at Het Noordbrabants Museum museum.
As it turned out there was quite a lot to do in yet another Burgundian stronghold (after our December trip to Bruges). We started by pottering down to the water, where the boats on the Binnendieze would be running a little later in the season, but even if we couldn’t do a trip now we did find some pretty weird things in and around the water.
From there we made our way towards one of the surviving town gates, swinging by the Zwanenbroedershuis, but it was closed as there was a play rehearsal going on! This was a pity as it looks interesting from but it was raining harder by now so we decided that we would first try and find a hot drink. The road alongside the Cathedral proved fruitful for our purposes and we huddled inside for a while with rum-loaded hot chocolates before deciding we’d better make an effort.
The Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre was our next port of call. It was dry, it contained a lot of replicas of Bosch’s work, and it also had other exhibitions, in this instance a rather odd but fascinating crowd-sourced piece where people had been asked to send works in as if they were some sort of giant postcards.
The building itself is rather fine too with a lot of unexpected decorative detail, a painstaking and brilliant reconstruction of an astronomical clock, and a tower that affords excellent panoramic views over the flat landscape around the town. Even in the rain it looked like an 18th century painting, as opposed to the spectacular weirdness of the Bosch works.
We managed to nosily dive into the church next door but there was little in the way of information about it so we settled in to what appeared to be the centre café (but which turned out to be the brasserie of the Hotel JB), which morphs into the centre along a fairly strange corridor! We settled for a light lunch (the inevitable friets and krokket with a beer) and waited to see if the rain might deign to stop.
It was easing after we finished so we followed on the of walks round the historic town centre before heading to the museum. The exhibition was brilliant with all bar a handful of the surviving works gathered together in one place. You have to wonder about exactly where the inspiration for some of the stranger beasties depicted came from – personally I have a suspicion ergotism may have had something to do with it, though clearly I could be wrong. Let’s put it this way – I wouldn’t want to spend too much time in Heironymus Bosch’s head.
The audio guides provided were very good with plenty of extra information if you wanted it, and I’d soon been in there for a couple of hours without realising it, if you discount “museum back” which always seems to result from walking very slowly round exhibits, especially when you have to peer round tall Dutch people to see the detail. It did suffer slightly from that “big exhibition” overcrowding that always goes with the territory for any show of this nature, though it’s fair to say it was far better than the Vikings at the British Museum the previous year, because at least I didn’t feel I wanted to kill anyone before we were done!
They were showing signs of getting ready to shut up shop for the day when we emerged and the queue for the cloakroom was horrendous, but we eventually got our things back and stepped out into the dusk, blinking in confusion at reality.
A swift dive into the Gerry Weber shop on the market square saw me buying some work clothes (having realised that I probably couldn’t work in the city wearing the jeans and casual tops of the previous 7 years) and then it was back to the hotel to clean up, change and arrange a cab to take us to Vught and De Heer Kochen for dinner.
Back when I was working in this part of the world, on a contract for Shell, I ended up staying at the Van der Valk hotel in Vught after the hotel that was closer finally annoyed me so badly with their dreadful breakfasts, non-working gym equipment and general attitude that I started making my own arrangements. I’d eaten at De Heer Kochen a couple of times as a result and expected good things from it, even after almost 10 years.
I was not disappointed. They produced several splendid dishes, starting with scallops that tasted even better than they looked (and that looked incredible).
This was followed by sole, equally beautiful to look at and to taste.
The main was venison, it being winter and as far as I’m concerned a lovely choice in a winter as cold as this one seemed determined to be.
It was accompanied by some properly crispy thrice fried friets that were worth the extra charge, even if we probably didn’t really need them! We didn’t really need the glorious bread and butter either but it didn’t stop us!
The option to have cheese instead of dessert was a good one as far as we were concerned, and we duly took it.
That was the perfect way to end a very good meal. We had them round us up a taxi and headed to the hotel. We had climbing to do in the morning!