On the trail of Van Gogh - Eindhoven to Neunen

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June 28th 2016
Published: July 3rd 2016
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Great minds think alike. In my research on Eindhoven I had flagged a visit to Piet Hein Eek, and one of Dorine's first suggestions after picking us up from the train in Eindhoven yesterday was that we eat there for lunch today. He is one of the pioneers of using reclaimed materials to build furniture and artwork and has been doing it since around 1990 when he graduated from design school. It's fitting that he has set up his studio and factory in one of the old Phillips buildings left vacant in Eindhoven since the company moved its headquarters to Amsterdam. The restaurant, shop and gallery are set up around the factory and offices and it's all terribly hip and cool but lovely and warm at the same time. Our lunch was fabulous - I ate Flammkuchen, which is actually a dish from near the border of France and The Netherlands - with white asparagus and smoked salmon. It's similar to but better than pizza, with a thin, flaky base. Fantastic. We saw the white asparagus from the window of the train and apparently we just sneaked in a taste as the season finishes on June 28th. It is not allowed to be sold after that!

Fred and Dorine live in a wonderful suburb about 15 minutes bike ride from the centre of Eindhoven. The only way I can describe it is to say it's like living on Bay Road Sandringham, with Red Hill out your back gate! Last night we went on a long walk through the woods behind the house (and through the mud, as it's been raining here for weeks!), and passed fields with cows and horses, a pond with ducks and gypsies in the distance. There are long bike paths through the paddocks which connect cities - we rode on one this afternoon to get to Nuenen. Oh, and bikes have right of way here. I'm not kidding! Cars have to wait for the bikes and so do pedestrians most of the time. Despite the fairly constant rain, Fred and Dorine's house is light and airy and it looks out onto a beautiful green garden with hydrangeas in bloom. Their place is unusual because it stands alone - most homes in the Netherlands seem to be row houses, even in the nicest suburbs.

After a bit of necessity shopping and a quick look in the Dutch store Sissyboy which has become a bit of a joke thanks to Frank, we went home and met Fred to start our bike ride to Nuenen, one of the towns Van Gogh lived in and painted in his earlier works. Although rain was forecast, we decided to just do as we had planned and hope for the best. It was a beautiful ride along the canal, past drifts of waterlilies and the university rowing club which is in a gorgeous designer building! We chatted and enjoyed periods of sunshine along the way before arriving at the Vincent Centre in Nuenen. The Vincent trail is very well organised, with posts at each point of interest where you can press a button and hear excerpts from his letters to his brother Theo. These gave context to the things we looked at, and we loved seeing the exact buildings we had seen paintings of in the Van Gogh museum. The bronzes in the park were also lovely - of Vincent himself, and of the famous Potato Eaters! After a few posts, we decided it was time for a well-earned drink, and sat in a lovely beer garden overlooking the park. Then it was back on the bikes for a view of our very first windmill, a highlight for me! We cycled past all of the posts on the trail and learned quite a few things on the way, but we were all ready for dinner by the time we locked up the bikes outside restaurant Olijv, which Dorine had booked for us.

What a surprise and what a delight it was for all of us! As we were all going to be dressed for a long cycle, Dorine had decided not to book the restaurant with the Michelin star in town, and we were very glad she didn't! The set menu at Olijv was spectacular, 6 courses, with all sorts of special extras for just 40 euros! I had my first awful taste of jetlag narcolepsy because we sat enjoying our food for so long, but everyone indulged me nodding off for a few seconds then re-joining the conversation as though nothing had happened. We took our time over dinner because it gets dark so late here at the moment, and our plan was to ride back to Eindhoven along the "Starry Night" path. It is a well-kept secret which was designed by Daan Roosegaarde. The bike path is illuminated with patterns based on Van Gogh's painting "A Starry Night". The designs are coated with special paint that uses energy gathered during the day to glow after dark. Look at this video link if you are interested, we just loved it http://www.dezeen.com/2014/11/12/daan-roosegaarde-van-gogh-bicycle-path-glowing-patterns-nuenen-netherlands/ . We were stopped on the way by a very jolly group of people in a maxi taxi who were also looking for the start of the path. Luckily Dorine had done her homework and knew exactly where to go, but it was quite well hidden! I put up with ribbing from my friends about wearing a beanie in Summer (I prefer to be warm than tough like the Dutchies), and while we had a few drops of rain at the very end of our ride, apparently we got home literally 5 minutes before a torrential downpour. I wouldn't know, because I was asleep fully dressed the minute my head hit the pillow.

Additional photos below
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Just so I don't forget how to spell Flammkuchen!
The iconic Piet Hein Eek EmblemThe iconic Piet Hein Eek Emblem
The iconic Piet Hein Eek Emblem

Kate, that tea towel I sent you has hot pink Piets all over it!
Great coloursGreat colours
Great colours

We thought of the Stefanous house here, and how well some of the Piet Hein Eek style would fit in!

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