The Dutch imagination has always been expansive, looking beyond the borders of its own small territory to acquire perspective and influence of global dimensions.  The Golden Age in Dutch history (17th c.) established The Netherlands as a dominant force in world trade, commerce, science and the arts.  
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Replica of Dutch East Indies merchant ship
Our  three week stay in Amsterdam reveals that the Dutch still regard themselves in a privileged position within the EU and in the global community, with strong ties to foreign places and exotic cultures.   They maintain a fascination for the new and different that is as genuine as the cabinet of curiosities we viewed in the Tropen Museum with its multiple drawers containing labelled samples of minerals, plants, spices, feathers and animal skeletons brought back from voyages to far off shores during the 1600s.  

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Vendor at the market
When Robert, who was born in The Netherlands, speaks his mother tongue, Amsterdammers listen carefully to his accent and intonation.  They clearly understand him, answer his questions politely and then invariably remark, "You speak excellent Dutch, sir, but I can tell that you've been away for a while."   This line, as intended, prompts a brief life history from Robert, an account that traces his emigration to Canada at the age of 18, his career as an art dealer and his path to retirement on a farm in Argentina.  On a day of touring around Amsterdam, the tale gets told many times (and gets better with each repetition. )  Mention Argentina in this city,  and Dutch faces instantly light up.   

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The heir to the Dutch throne,  Prince Willem-Alexander married  Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in Amsterdam on February 2, 2002.   Princess Maxima hails from Argentina, from a wealthy Buenos Aires family of Basque/Italian heritage.  She has captured the attention of the popular press and appears in the Dutch newspapers almost every day attending official functions, enjoying family gatherings, opening a new arts centre or christening a new ship in the harbour.  Her inclusion in the Dutch Royal Family has sparked a wave of interest in things Argentine and on this trip we note a string of newly-opened steak grill restaurants in Amsterdam with names like La Pampa,  Gaucho, and El Rancho.  

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Maxima is featured in De Telegraph
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The Argentine connection also has business interests in San Rafael.  Princess Maxima is producing and marketing  a line of wine under the label 1830 which is elaborated by Bombal y Aldao bodega, the winery that offers a buy-your-own-barrel program.  1830 is the year that Finca los Alamos was established, and that's where the grapes for this wine are grown and harvested - a vineyard right in our own backyard.   

The more one travels, the more foreign threads are woven into the fabric of your own personal history.  The traces of other lives and past events become a part of you.   We take a walk along the canals of Amsterdam and end up buying cheese, fish and flowers at the same open-air market where Robert's grandmother used to shop.  

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

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