Friday, 31 August 2018

Enjoying Haarlem

Friday 25 May saw my husband I en route from Dubai to Amsterdam. I always try to book a window seat to enjoy any views below. On this occasion, I was rather startled when I opened the window shade.
Another aircraft was also spotted in the distance, going in the opposite direction.

On landing, we progressed through immigration smoothly and easily found our connecting bus to Haarlem. 30 mins later we were dragging our suitcases across the cobblestones of the old town to find our incredibly central accommodation. Several texts were then sent allowing us to rendezvous with our travelling companions of the next 2 funfilled weeks.

After catching up on all our news and arguing as to who had the steepest set of steps to climb to their room, we set off exploring. We quickly learnt that cyclists have right of way and their numbers were unbelievably numerous.

St Bavo Church, dominated the Town Square. The following day we were able to enjoy a choral concert here, whilst gazing at its internal beauty. Note the beautifully parked bicycles.

Jayne, Laurel and I are members of the Hungry Hikers walking group, so we soon found a tiny courtyard where we were served delicious food by a very friendly, photo bombing waiter.

This happened to be the first sunny, warm weekend of Europe's long winter.  We quickly discovered what this meant to the locals.

At about 9pm Frank and I returned to our accommodation. This was the scene immediately below our room.

The markets, Saturday afternoon.

Our first set of stairs.

Our view and welcome bottle of wine.

Perfect location but the room did have one or two negatives, but that is just part of travel. Because of the happy locals relaxing in the square until quite late, we had to keep the windows closed. Given the very warm conditions we would have much preferred to have had them open. It seemed that no sooner had this noise abated than we were disturbed by the arrival at 5am of the workers setting up the markets.

Our accommodation had just 4 rooms to rent on 2 floors, with the ground floor being an attached cafe, where our free breakfast was to be served. Alas, not until 10 am. We took the option of a pre-packed breakfast left in a small refrigerator on our landing. This allowed us to be off exploring by 8 am.

5 am

6 am, 7 am, 9.30am. Unfortunately this weekend the markets weren't food produce but comic books. They certainly drew the crowds.

8 am - off exploring.

The view as we arrived back in the town square.

9.30 and the tables for breakfast just being set up. Defintely different to Oz. 
The last of the 3 pics is at midday.

After touching base with our friends we decided to find the CHOCOLATE CAFE! Decadent bliss. You select your flavour of chocolate on a stick. A hot milk is provided and at your table you dunk the stick until the chocolate melts. Yum!

The others met us about 1pm and we wandered through the weekend food stalls, set up away from the main square. The hand made pies got top marks.

Afternoon canal view as we walked to the train station to journey to the coast, North Sea and Zandvoort.

We were stunned by our 1st view of the beach. Summer had arrived! There were literally thousands of sunseekers for as far as the eye could see. Definitely over five kilometres. None of us had experienced crowds like this before and the other thing that was mind boggling, was that the majority had arrived by bicycle.

The 'beach huts' stretched for a good kilometre or more as well.

We walked to about a kilometre before Bloemendaal aan Zee, [4kms] and caught a bus to take us back to Haarlem. Just as well we chose this stop, as the crowds waiting at Bloemendaal aan Zee stop were endless.

Cyclist viewed from our crowded bus.

Sunday morning Frank and I again walked along the banks of the beautiful canals. This gorgeous bird caught my eye. What amazing feet he has.

Midday saw us all back at the station to take the train into Amsterdam, where our cruiseboat and home for the next two weeks awaited us.

Perhaps by now you have guessed that I was totally captivated by this beautiful old city  and coastal beach. What a brilliant start to our European holiday. 

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