Audrey Hepburn pilgrimage Arnhem

A few days ago, Mr Esther, my mini-me daughter (although not so mini anymore at 15 and only 1 cm shorter than me) and I took a day trip to the city of Arnhem, in the east of The Netherlands, not far from the German border. Mini-me had never been there and was curious to see the city. I was last there with Suzy a few years ago, it’s not such a terribly interesting city to me, but this time I suddenly thought of a new reason to go, one I had never really thought of before.

It’s no secret that I am an Audrey Hepburn fan and Audrey actually lived in Arnhem as a teenager during the Second World War. I’ve been rewatching some Audrey movie highlights recently and it suddenly, and for the first time, occured to me to go in search of where she actually lived during the war, when she looked like this (also pictured: her Dutch mother who was divorced from her English father, source of pictures here).

I once visited her grave in Tolochenaz, Switzerland (near Geneva) back in 2002, 9 years after she died…

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… so why not also visit the places she lived in during her youth? I have several books on Audrey Hepburn, I consulted the biography by Barry Paris for info on where she lived.

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Sure enough, her movements within The Netherlands were documented in that book and so we did a little Audrey Hepburn pilgrimage on the side while we were in Arnhem.

For the last years of the war, 1942-1945 , Audrey and her mother went to live in Velp, a small town that is right next to Arnhem. They lived with Audrey’s maternal grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, in a villa called Villa Beukenhof on the Rozendaalselaan 32 in Velp.

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The Baron’s villa doesn’t exist anymore, there is now a new building on the spot where the old villa stood called “De Nieuwe Beukenhof” (“the new Beukenhof”) which houses apartments for the elderly.

After passing through Velp we drove on to Arnhem. We walked through the centre and not too far off from the station we passed by Jansbinnensingel 8A, which is the second address Audrey lived at in Arnhem. The book isn’t quite clear on when exactly Audrey moved there, but it must have been around 1941, I think. An article in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant (a good, serious paper here), which also describes an Audrey pilgrmage in and around Arnhem, says she moved there in 1940.

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Jansbinnensingel 8A (here we always state the house number after the street name) is a store now with apartments above it, I’m not sure if it also was a store during the war.

There is a little gold plaque commemorating Audrey Hepburn, which looks to be beside the other arch-shaped door (7c as someone with a marker wrote on the plaque?), so maybe what is now 7c was then 8A? Or was the plaque only placed there because there’s no actual room to do so right next to door 8A?

AH Arnhem Jansbinnensingel3

In any case, the plaque isn’t quite correct as Audrey didn’t live there from December 1939, she lived at another address then (more about that later). When the war ended in May 1945 she did return to this address from Velp for a few months, according to the book, before moving to and around Amsterdam to further her hopes for a career in ballet there.

According to the book, Audrey and her mother moved to a house on Sickeslaan 7 in Arnhem in December 1939.

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The house is a terraced house, situated a little outside the centre (we drove by there on our way home) in the Sonsbeek area in Arnhem.

Near the front door there is an “official monument” badge (shimmering at the bottom left of the little window next to the front door); is this because it was once Audrey’s home or because the houses are a special pre-war build in general? The house was apparently just sold this year, see here for a view inside! How cool would that be, to say you live in Audrey Hepburn’s old house? I also notice that the monument badge is there in my picture but not in the picture of the sale website. Looks like the house has only recently been declared a monument and now Mr Esther, who is researching this as I tell him what I’m writing about, tells me the monument was indeed declared for a block of houses and not specifically only for Audrey’s house.

From Sickeszlaan (as it’s spelled correctly) we drove on to another nearby part of Arnhem, a little park square called the Burgemeestersplein (“Mayor’s square”) which houses a bust of Audrey Hepburn that was unveiled there in 1994.

I don’t think it looks that much like her and the plaque underneath is not very legible. It’s easier to read in this picture than it is when you are standing there.

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Still, it was nice to see this little tribute to Audrey.

As we drove on home I remembered we had missed finding the newly named Audrey Hepburnplein (Plein = Square; apparently it was named that in 2017) somewhere in the centre of Arnhem. I looked it up on Google Maps and going by the location, I figured we must have walked there. So, we just now checked Mr Esther’s pictures and sure enough, we were there, in front of the big church that was playing a beautiful Glockenspiel mixed with orchestral music (filmed a video as we walked there)

From the church we walked on to what is apparently the Audrey Hepburnplein. I remember noticing the movie theatre there, but it didn’t occur to me to look to the street name sign! The sign is visible in Mr Esther’s pictures, though.

So, I guess we really did have the full Audrey Hepburn in Arnhem experience after all. 🙂

Recently a new book was published about Audrey’s war years in Arnhem called “Dutch Girl”, which I think I’m going to get myself as a gift. Do I really need another book on Audrey Hepburn, I thought, when I first heard about it a month or two ago? It could at the very least answer the timeline and location questions that were raised for me during this little pligrimage. So yes, now I’m thinking, that I do indeed need to get this book after all.

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The good things in life

Let me start with the bad things in life. Specifically Boris Johnson as new prime minister of the UK and a Burqa-ban which has come into effect today in The Netherlands are upsetting me and so, for my own sanity, I keep my news intake to a minimum right now. Instead, I try to focus on the good things in life. For instance: my summer holiday started on Wednesday, the technique of using baking powder to clean my two pairs of  Birkenstock slippers sorta worked (I walk on them all day every day in the summer, I kid you not), today Mr Esther, my daughter and I will go on a day trip to a city near the German border, and tomorrow I am going to meet my ex-coworker’s two week old baby girl! When we exchanged chat messages earlier this week, she said she was very low on bibs for the baby, so I got her these (that 5th item is a shirt and not a bib)…

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It’s always good to focus on babies over politics. 🙂

What also makes me happy is the new Picard trailer. I think I have watched it 10 times already. I love Jean-Luc Picard (and Patrick Stewart as well) and I so very much wish for leaders like him in the real world!

I can hardly wait for this in 2020!

Next up: as I love Roman Holiday so very much, I had to watch last weekend’s Hallmark movie Rome in Love, which was about an unknown actress getting ready to film a Roman Holiday remake and she herself falls in love with an American journalist in Rome. Kinda meta, I know. I watched the movie, it was OK, but had nowhere near the charm of Roman Holiday, which I just needed to watch again for the zillionth time. That movie is always the best pick-me-up movie! It got me back to zipping through some Audrey Hepburn movies again and boy was she good and gorgeous! The last movie she did was a small role as an angel in the Steven Spielberg movie Always. I re-watched her scenes in that and was struck by this image of her in the movie at one point…

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The humanity and kindness in her face in that sunset light is just breathtaking.

And there are more goodies to be focused on! On Guylty’s blog the other day she was asking about ‘other gods’ we like besides Richard. In the comments section I mentioned the other (male) gods present in folders on my computer…

I have several side attractions: Colin Firth, Gregory Peck, Hugh Jackman, but I also have some David Bowie, Keanu Reeves, Pierce Brosnan, Simon Baker, James Stewart, Lucas Bryant (yeah, not known), Richard Chamberlain and Viggo Mortensen folders. However those folders are tiny compared to my Richard Armitage folder. Just did a check, I think the largest folder after Richard is Colin Firth with some 400 items. Richard’s folder has 3000 items… 🙂

This triggered me to check out what my more recent actor-crush, Lucas Bryant, has been up to. He’s been pretty quiet of late, not many new roles to speak of, but I did find out that he’s been doing a few M.A.R.V.E.L. Agents of Shield episodes recently. I don’t watch that show but have watched (parts of) the 3 episodes he’s in last night and boy, did he look fine! The camera sure does like him in close-up.

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Last but not least, I watched the newest Suits episode this morning (season 9, episode 3) and in it there was a Louis Litt dream sequence which was so funny! Louis is a judge and a lawyer in that dream and the jury turns out to be made up out of 12 Harveys!

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Gabriel Macht, who plays Harvey on Suits, directed this episode and I wonder if this court scene was the funniest thing he has ever directed and how much fun did he have embodying those 12 Harveys? The eye-scratching middle finger and the one where he holds a cat like that (cats are Louis’s obsession, not Harvey’s!) are the highlights for me. All of Louis’s insecurities, especially with regards to Harvey, are on display here and that just cracks me up. Rick Hoffman as Louis remains a highlight of this show. Oh heck, here’s the whole scene…

I’m so glad there are also so many joys in this world. 🙂

Audrey’s 90th!

Today would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 90th birthday! She was born on May 4th, 1929 and died of cancer, way too young, at the age of 63 on January 20th, 1993. I was introduced to her via Roman Holiday in my teens (which to date still is pretty much my favourite movie) and have loved her ever since. Yes, I have Audrey memorabilia in my house, although that link doesn’t show the big Roman Holiday poster in my bedroom (with an apron hanging on it), or the calendar I once bought on a visit to Rome in 2010 and can’t bear to throw out, or Audrey Hepburn on a tin card in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, positioned between pictures of my children when they were little.

I will forever regret not trying to get a glimpse of her at a UNICEF event she attended in The Netherlands not too far from where I lived, a year or two before she died. She was a lovely actress and a warm humanitarian, who has touched my heart in many ways.

To celebrate Audrey Hepburn’s 90th birthday, here’s a Roman Holiday fan video to help convince you to see that movie if you haven’t ever done so already…

… and here are some lovely Audrey Hepburn pictures…

… and this link to the Audrey Hepburn Fund, where her sons continue her legacy of helping the less fortunate children in this world.

I have loved her for most of my life and she will live on in my heart forever, I hope. Happy Birthday, dear Audrey!

Women’s Day & birthday

A little late as the day is nearing its end, but Happy International Women’s Day anway! A few fun things I came across on my Twitter timeline today…

And because I really like Sandi Toksvig, I’m sharing this one as well. I know it made me laugh…

I’m also partial to this Audrey Hepburn quote on women…

This following clip feels very apt, especially in light of new micro-manager drama that came to light at work. For some reason he mostly seems to piss off the women and this is how the women are reacting…

This Richard E. Grant tweet made me smile…

… just like this one from Hugh Jackman…

… which reminded me of this tweet from Richard Armitage last year. Extra poignant in light of how ill his mum must have been at the time…

But today is also the birthday of my favourite feminist in the world: Mr Esther! Keeping it low-key, the man is a little tired, but he’s looking awfully cute today in a new dark blue bathing robe I got him and his new reading glasses.

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Happy birthday to Mr E. and happy International Women’s Day to all! Off to get yummy Chinese takeaway now, to celebrate. It’s getting late and we’re hungry…

More fangirling in London!

Well, not only fangirling, we mostly did touristy stuff… As I already blogged about in my previous post, my 15 year old son and I were in London this past weekend and what a lovely time we had!

We went inside Tower Bridge and walked on the glass floor there, looking down!

My son was fearless about that and while I did do it briefly, I found it scary. But I did it – yay me! We also saw the engine room…

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… and when we finished our tour, we were greeted by a cannon salute across the river!

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OK, so the salute wasn’t for us but for the Queen’s 91st birthday. Still, we felt honoured. 🙂

We passed through Westminster…

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… and went on to Portobello Road in Notting Hill…

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… which was also a bit of fangirling for me as it reminded me of the lovely movie Notting Hill. The Notthing Hill thing was a spontaneous idea; if I had thought of it sooner, I would have researched it better and would have fangirled my way to Hugh Grant’s front door from that movie.

That evening my son and I went to see The Lion King musical, which we both very much enjoyed (we had a good view from the front row of the Grand Circle)…

While we were walking to the theatre, we passed by Covent Garden and walked by a street artist/comedian getting ready to do his thing. The street artist looked straight at my son and in his microphone announced “Ah, there we have Justin Bieber”! I had to laugh and the whole crowd turned to look at my son as we scurried along and my son turned beet-red! He has been compared to a younger Justin Bieber before and he hates it… I know I’m probably an awful mother but I have ribbed him about this incident regularly and in hindsight he now also has started seeing some of the humour in it.  He still insists he looks nothing like Bieber, though. 🙂

We shopped a bit in Oxford Street and also met up with fellow Richard Armitage fan Hariclea from the Opera is Magic blog on Saturday afternoon! We met at “Fortnum and Mason” and had ice cream ‘coupes’ at the ice cream parlour on the first floor! Beautiful, delicious, filled our stomachs right up! So much so, that my son felt a little sick there for a moment! Luckily he recovered quickly. It’s always a delight to see Hari and it was so much fun that I forgot to take pictures of our beautiful ice cream creations! The only picture I took was of two teacups priced at £145,- while waiting for Hari…

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Hari and I may have mentioned Richard Armitage a few times in passing but didn’t get too carried away in the presence of my son. That evening, as Hari went off to the theatre, my son and I went to see the Scarlett Johannson scifi movie Ghost in the Shell in a Leicester Square theatre with a truly huge screen. The movie was not the greatest scifi movie I’d ever seen, but it was quite fun and had nice visual effects.

We spent our Sunday on Hampstead Heath. We walked there for a bit, my son even climbed a tree…

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… we got up to Kenwood House (also a Notting Hill film location, by the way!)…

… and treated ourselves to some delicious scones (this had been something my son had particularly wished for).

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Later that afternoon we made our way back to the airport and flew home again. But I didn’t leave London without some specific fangirl items!

I’ve bought a DVD of a Gregory Peck movie I came across that I have always wanted to see but have never been able to…

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I’m not that much into Westerns but, come on, it’s Gregory Peck, my first real teenage fangirl crush!

At Kenwood House I bought the book Belle that accompanies the excellent movie of the same name, about a black young lady who lived as a lady and not as a servant in Kenwood House in the 18th century. She was also featured in a painting that was painted at the time but alas that painting is not at Kenwood anymore and is now somewhere in Scotland. I had seen the film, I now saw the book and grabbed it for myself…

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And, I did some more Jane Eyre fangirling when, in a bookstore, I happend upon a book with this title…

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I immediately recognized it as the first sentence from the last chapter of Jane Eyre and just had to have it, especially considering we will be visiting writer Charlotte Brontë’s house this coming summer.

Last but not least, there was Audrey Hepburn fangirling as well! I came across this POP doll of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s  and just couldn’t let it go…

So, yes, London is a great place to fangirl; it makes me feel greedy when I see all these goodies together even though they all didn’t cost that much. London is also a great place to spend time with my son! He picked out pretty much all our activities (Portobello Road and meeing Hari were my picks, the rest were his) and I loved that one-on-one time with him. I think that, except for my snoring at night, he enjoyed his time with me as well. We’ll definitely be back!