Travel Sketching: The Netherlands

 Houses along the Canal, Amsterdam (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

Houses along the Canal, Amsterdam (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

It has been 33 years since we last visited Amsterdam. We took a canal cruise and found many changes, yet no change at all. Cruising the canals of Amsterdam, the façade of the narrow homes seemed the same, the Oude Kerk still rang its bells from its towering steeple and the line to Anne Frank’s house was still long, but somehow you discern an underlying transformation in its character. I sensed much of the Dutch-ness (if there is such a word) is gone.
 Swans and Tulips, Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, The Netherlands (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

Swans and Tulips, Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, The Netherlands (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

On the way over to Lisse, we saw never-ending fields of flowers in various colors. What are typical sceneries in Asia of squares of rice paddies, in many parts of Europe of vineyards, and corn and wheat fields in the US, in The Netherlands are large flower beds. The gardens of Keukenhof were a riot of color with tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other flowering bulbs. I've never seen so many varieties and colors of tulips. I love the pinks and the dark purples (almost black) ones. There are quiet areas also, with sweeping green grass to rest your eyes from the explosion of color and ancient tall trees just starting to grow their leafy canopies. And then there are the water features, little streams running through the gardens, fountains and a large pond ruled by several graceful swans like these in my sketch.

 Bicycle - Delft (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

Bicycle - Delft (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

I wanted to chronicle the ever-present bicycle in The Netherlands in my watercolor journal. Bicycles are the main means of transportation and you see them everywhere. Bikes can be a challenge and a hazard for those who, like us, are not used to sharing the road with them. I spotted this bike sitting by a house in Delft, a town famous for its blue and white ceramic wares, and the setting was just screaming to be sketched. 

 No. 1 Tram - Den Haag (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

No. 1 Tram - Den Haag (Illustration by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan)

Den Haag is both new and old. While there are a lot of modern buildings, the old ones are holding on, which makes for a nice balance. I sketched Tram #1 because it was the one that we took often. It passes by some of the important areas and sites in Den Haag including Scheveningen, the International Court of Justice, Mauritshuis Museum and the Centrum, where the main attractions of the city are close by including the Binnehof (beautifully set on a lake and home to the Parliament), the Paleis Noordeinde, one of the palaces of the Dutch royal family, and shopping. It also took us to the town of Delft, made popular by the book and movie based on the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s painting, “Girl with the Pearl Earring.”


 Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan

Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan

Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan is a retired corporate director of accounting, payroll and compensation at OfficeMax (formerly Boise Cascade Office Products). An alumnus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, she now devotes her time to volunteer work and her travels, art, food, quilting and needle arts, which she writes about in her blogs, Finding Art and Ang Kusina ni Lola Alfonsa.


More articles from Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan:

Travel Sketching In The Holy Land
June 3, 2014
Why sketching can better preserve travel memories than souvenir pictures

Sketching Jordan
July 29, 2014
Sketching allows you to embrace the tastes, smells and sounds around you.

The Happy Home Cook: Beef Ampalaya And Shrimp Ampalaya
April 14, 2015
Despite its taste, ampalaya (bitter melon) is good for you. Here are two Filipino classic recipes which use this popular backyard vegetable.