Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Netherlands in Person and Through Books by Mary Louise Sanchez

My husband and I recently returned from a month long European adventure which started in the Netherlands where the tulips were in full bloom at the Keukenhof Gardens in Leiden. I read the history of tulips before we went and it made me appreciate the Dutch people's love affair with the tulip all the more.

Visiting the Anne Frank House was definitely on my bucket list too, even though we couldn't get a reservation from the states. The stars must have been aligned the day and time we went to the Anne Frank House because the line was short and we were privileged to visit. At the house we bought a graphic novel about Anne Frank for our grandchildren to get some background knowledge about her life so they can appreciate reading her diary.

In preparation for the trip, I read a wonderful children's historical fiction book set in Amsterdam during WWII by Monica Hesse called, The Girl in the Blue Coat. This is definitely a story of the ultimate of friendships between two girls and I recommend it highly.

As we were exploring the Netherlands on the train, I saw some cows by a canal. I laughed when I saw them because I was reminded of the picture book, The Cow Who Fell in the Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky and illustrated by Peter Spier.

I'm not the only one who equates a place with a book or story. Here's a tourist at a windmill site, reenacting the story of the boy who put his finger in the dike to save his town.

Books, especially historical fiction, certainly play a big part in my preparation for a trip, and I'm always inspired to read more when I return. I have seen paintings by the Flemish artist, Nicolaes Maes, at the Denver Art Museum in past years. But after visiting Rembrandt's house in Amsterdam, where Maes was one of his students, and seeing one of Maes' paintings in Cologne, Germany, I want to learn more about this 17th century Flemish artist,  because my maternal grandmother's maiden name was Maes (from New Mexico of Hispanic heritage) and my paternal great-grandmother was also a Maes (from New Mexico of Hispanic heritage).

Amsterdam bookstore 2016
Family lore has always said our family had Dutch roots and every one of my maternal aunts and uncles has at least one child who is blonde. I want to know more about the connection of Spain and the Netherlands and started looking  at various indexes of books about Spain's presence in the Netherlands in an Amsterdam bookstore. The Dutch Revolt against the Catholic Spaniards was in 1568 and my ancestors were in present day New Mexico in 1598. Is there a connection to my family?

What books helped you learn about places you've traveled to? What books were you inspired to read after your visits?


  1. Mary Louise, that sounds like a wonderful trip! How sobering and inspiring to visit Anne Frank's house! Books are one of my favorite travel souvenirs, too. I'm also awed that you know your family history so far back. I'd love to hear more of the Dutch-Spanish connection and how that brought your family to New Mexico.There are many people in my city and region (SE South Dakota/NW Iowa) with a Dutch heritage. One small town has a big tulip festival every May. It's fun to watch the street cleaners, historical costumes, and beautiful tulips.

    Deb Watley

  2. I do know my family history getting from Mexico to New Mexico (New Spain) but really want to learn how the Dutch play into my history. I may have to check census records in your area to see if they share my grandmothers' Flemish names.

  3. Boy! You made use of that European trip, Mary Louise... such an interesting blog

  4. Hello Mary.We may be cousins.I too have been intrigued with the Spanish /Dutch connection of the Maes surname.I was wondering if you found any connections. I do have theories but the strongest is the Spanish Netherlands was part of the Spanish Army and their citizens were subjects to military conscription . please contact me for further discussion