Vacation ‘23 Day 4: Leiden

In the Hortus

We woke up to our alarm at 9:15. Both of us were pretty groggy. SMS had been in “peak dream,” which involved planting native plants with his Dad.


I had added breakfast to our hotel stay. In addition to a delicious buffet, there was an à la carte menu which meant that I had my first Dutch pancake. Yum! It can either be described as a thinner American pancake or a slightly thicker crepe made with pancake batter. I think the latter is more accurate. Anyway, it was delicious and I’m glad I got to have one!

Marekirk, which we passed several times walking to and from our hotel

Then, we set out to explore Leiden, which is such a cute town! We want to rent an apartment here for a few months. When? Well, probably a retirement dream but still, it goes to show how much we love it!

First, we climbed up the ramparts of the Leiden castle, de Burcht. As “climbs” go, this was pretty minimal. It was billed as having a great view of the city, which was true-ish. It would definitely be true in the Winter when the leaves have fallen from the trees. But it was still cool to check out.

Next, we went to the street market that is on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It spans about five blocks and is super cool. It would be a great place to put together an A+ picnic. Our appetites have been a little off plus we just ate breakfast, so we just looked with our eyes. But it was a really nice market. And it is amazing how much cheaper food is here. In particular, the cheese prices are excellent.

Hanging with our main man, Clusius!

After the market, we headed over to the Hortus bontanicus. It is linked to Leiden University. Although the heat was already building, we spent almost an hour wandering through the gardens although we were very strategic about seeking shade.

We went into a renovated greenhouse that used to be heated with a coal furnace underneath the giant lily pond. The heating system worked so well that the lilies have been blooming for years. It was quite warm inside. It was worth it! There were also several large butterflies flitting around.

Loved by many, but not me

We decided to revive our decidedly not butterfly selves by going to the cafe. There, I had my first food fail of the trip. Bitterballen are on many menus as an appetizer/snack. They’re fried and considered by many to be a tasty treat. Well…not me. It was a texture issue. I was expecting a meatball/thicker croquette filling and instead, it was really slimy. This made me think of the pink slime from McDonald’s hamburger scandal days. We figured out that it is supposed to be fried stew, which does make sense but it was over for me. Guess I’m not a bitterballen babe.

We went back to our hotel for a rest. It has been hot on this trip which is overall a good thing (blue skies) but can be slightly draining in the early afternoon. So hanging out in the AC and resting a bit has been key.

Leiden jars, aka early batteries!

But then, it was time for science! We went to the Rijksmuseum Boorhaave, named after a 17th century physician/botanist/scientist who was The Man in his day.

Keep “working” honey!

There was a temporary exhibit on the Dutch microscopist van Leeuwenhoek, who used teeny, tiny single lens microscopes to examine water droplets and other cool micro-worlds. There was a portrait of him looking at something small while his wife watched beside him. His wife, who by the way, worked a full time job so he could look at things all day and tell people how to draw them. Sheesh.

Leiden jar charge control

The permanent museum went through about 4 centuries of science, with a particular, although not exclusive, focus on medicine. There was also a significant focus on Dutch scientific leaders. It was really well done. I was very happy that there was a small focus on electricity, which meant we saw a four jar Leiden jar battery. Hooray! I was worried it was only in Haarlem, where there are 25 jars placed together! For our battery, there was a small dial with numerical measurements as well as descriptors that said (translated) “Can move needle” or “Small animal kill.”

There was also an area of future discovery, which had a lot of cool things including a robot dog!

On the way out, there was a children’s area. I took advantage of the opportunity to create a new headshot.

We headed back towards our hotel, hoping to eat a nearby restaurant with a terrace on the canal. No luck. Fully booked! So, we ate a Persian restaurant that was quite delicious. We ordered baba ganoush, hummus, and half a chicken that came with the most delicious dill and bean rice.

Then we walked along the canals since the evening was absolutely beautiful. The temperature was perfect and so many people had set up outside tables to hang out during the sunset and afterwards. It was absolutely delightful.

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