Now for Part 2 of our whirlwind week of travel!
We had the hot, mediterranean weather and ancient sites in Greece…so then we did a complete 180 and went to the Netherlands for cool, rainy weather and Dutch quaintness.
We arrived back home from Athens on Thursday afternoon and collapsed for the rest of the day. Randolph squeezed in a 1/2 day of work on Friday morning before we headed out for a couple days in the Netherlands. My inspiration for this trip was the tulip fields in Holland that I’ve been wanting to see for years. Info I read online recommended spending a day in Haarlem first and driving south from there to see the flowers, so that’s what we did.
Haarlem is slightly to the east of Amsterdam and is more or less the larger city’s mini-me, minus the obnoxious hoards of tourists.
We headed out Friday after lunch. The drive was pretty uneventful for the most part, until we were driving through the Netherlands. The way GoogleMaps took us went along a rural route for a little while. The roads were lined with pastures full of fluffy sheep, and a rainstorm with crazy flashes of lightening made for a very epic drive through the Dutch countryside.
We arrived Friday evening and dropped our stuff off at our Airbnb before heading out for a late dinner. We had gotten used to eating on the later side (in Greece dinner is usually after 8 pm) but that was clearly not the norm in Haarlem – it was around 8:45 and the city felt pretty dead, despite being a Friday night. It was creeping Randolph out.
We had a lovely dinner at Subliem, an organic restaurant that serves killer garlic bread, complete with Dutch beer.
On Saturday morning we first headed toward the brunch location I had previously researched, Anne & Max. Along the way we walked through the main square and discovered that there was a carnival going on (a Kermis, in Dutch). I had my eye on the ferris wheel, but the cool, windy, rainy weather dashed my hopes of a ride.
Anne & Max was excellent – I would recommend it if anyone happens to find them self in Haarlem. We ordered coffees and their “breakfast for two” which would have been more aptly named “breakfast for four.” It was a giant platter of assorted breads, jam, butter, homemade nutella, avocado (I’ve missed it so much since TX!), manchego cheese (one of my favorites!), yogurt with fruit, an oeuf en cocotte with salmon and spinach, and fresh orange juice. We saved the croissants and some cheese and had them for lunch the next day.
Our first stop after eating was the Grote Kerk or St. Bavokerk (built in 1479). You might recognize that name from the cathedral we visited in Ghent. St. Bavo was Belgian and is the patron saint of both Ghent and Haarlem (both Dutch speaking cities, despite being in different countries).
This was my favorite cathedral interior so far. Unlike most cathedrals (which tend to be dark and dreary), it was filled with natural light and was very light and airy feeling. Adding to its awesomeness was its showpiece – the enormous, beautiful organ, which was played on by Handel, Mozart, and Mendelssohn. There was a concert going on later that afternoon and the organist was warming up, so we got to hear it in action. It is a very nice sounding instrument with some floor-shaking pedal tones (how could a bassoonist not love that??). And it is also very intricately decorated, with angels playing a variety of instruments.
Despite its age, it is still a very beloved landmark, with this vibrant stained glass window (called Peace & Harmony) having been added in 2009 as a work of art by a local glass artist Michel van Overbeeke.
We walked back through the carnival again and into some of the shops. I absolutely loved all of the shops and restaurants in Haarlem! Everything there was like the trendy, hipstery places in the US – except that it wasn’t trying to be trendy. That’s just Dutch style. Clearly, the Dutch are the original cool kids!
We wandered our way in to several home stores that were loaded with amazing one-of-a-kind rustic and vintage pieces. It was like interior design heaven! Konigstraat was a hotbed of awesome shops.
The Dutch are also big fans of what they refer to as “concept stores.” They are essentially a trendy clothing store, trendy home store and trendy cafe…all rolled into one. I loved them! Our favorites were Sissy Boy and Homestock.
Our one museum experience in Haarlem was at the Frans Hals Museum. It is a showcase of Dutch artwork, and National Geographic recommended it as a good starting point before heading south to see the tulips. It was filled with lots of (slightly odd) portraits of Dutch people. Randolph fit in perfectly with the “slightly odd” nature of them:
They also had some tulip displays for the season and a cool historic Dutch pharmacy set-up to showcase the beautiful blue and white delftware jars. The delftware and the long ceramic smoking pipes that were shown in some paintings were very familiar to me from when I did a little early-American archaeology the year I was at Bard. The early settlers of Eastern NY were Dutch (I could provide an entire history lesson here, but I’ll refrain from boring everyone…), so delftware and bits of ceramic pipe (compliments of the Dutch) were not uncommon during our excavation. I have gotten excited over many a tiny piece of delftware and I found it very fascinating to be able to put that information together with the original source of those artifacts! OK, I’m done nerding out, now…
Next we walked over to de Adriaan, the famous windmill in Haarlem. These days it’s just decorative, but it was the only windmill on the trip that we got to see up close (although there were cooler ones the next day as we drove through the countryside).
We had a small late lunch at De Kippenhal (ie “The Chicken Hall”). It was another small and delightfully hip restaurant. The food was simple but good. I had avocado toast (had to get my fill of avocado while I could!) and Randolph had Korean chicken buns. It looked like it would be a good place for dinner, and they had a full bar, as well.
By this point we were ready to do a little shopping. We wanted to get a small souvenir and also some wine and cheese. We had planned on having a picnic among the tulips the following day, but a rain storm and the crowds of tulip tourists made that impossible. Our wine and Dutch cheese wound up coming home with us instead. The wine is very good, and the cheese will be tasted tonight!
We also went back to one of the interiors stores we had been in earlier because we had seen a piece of decor we liked. It was a starfish on a stand – not exactly something that screams “Haarlem”, but it is a memory of the unique interior design style we loved so much there. And another great addition to our big living room shelf of decor/souvenirs!
At this point we were getting tired and it was raining on and off, so we got some coffee and chilled out a bit until dinner.
For dinner, we went to Woodstone Pizza. I always know that Randolph will never say no to pizza, and this was a well reviewed restaurant. We both enjoyed it a lot (and so does everyone else in the city, judging by the hour long wait).
Sunday started out more promising than the previous day, weather wise. The skies were blue and full of sunlight.
I had done research and found a restaurant outside of Haarlem, Buitenplaats Plantage, that I really wanted to check out for breakfast, along the way to the tulips. As we were driving from Haarlem to the restaurant we drove through an amazing little suburb of Haarlem. It was the happiest, cutest, quaintest little neighborhood, with little canals running through it alongside the street. Continuing the “what neighborhood would you live in” game from in Athens – this would be our neighborhood. I wish I had taken a picture, but I was distracted by using GoogleMaps. It’s an adorable little neighborhood located just south of Haarlem in Heemstede (click here to see it in Google Streetview).
The restaurant turned out to be a great find. It was, as I like to say, a very “hippy crunchy granola” sort of place. Their website describes it as “world food and garden” and it was in what appeared to be a former greenhouse. It was quite large and we were the first people to arrive, shortly after they had opened for the day. It was a hodge-podge of mod furniture, with some chairs having soft sheepskin on them for cushion. There was a tree growing out of a tabletop, and a large indoor firepit. They also had a sizable patio with hammocks and long stone benches with big cushions. I imagine it would be a pretty spectacular place to hang out in the evening (I saw bottles of wine and scotch there, too). We didn’t get anything terribly fancy – Randolph had avocado toast with a poached egg (again with the avocado!) and I had a manchego cheese sandwich. Both were simple but delicious, and definitely made with good ingredients. The restaurant also happened to be right next to a sizable tulip field, so we got our first look at the tulips!
After we finished eating we took some more photos of the fields next to the restaurant. There were storm clouds rolling in quickly so we hopped back in the car to find more fields.
We continued down south along the road that the restaurant is on, on the hunt for more good tulip fields. We were, unfortunately, a bit on the early side for prime tulip viewing. There were many fields with small sections of tulips blooming, and lots more not yet blooming. We did quite a bit of driving to try to find the best fields – I was determined to find better fields! There were also quite a few fields with daffodils and hyacinths, too.
There is a large garden in this area called Keukenhof. They are world famous and are a guaranteed way to see lots of flowers, but that wasn’t really what we were looking to do. It’s nice looking, but we really didn’t want to spend 16€ each to see carefully cultivated flower beds, we wanted to see the actual fields with rows and rows of color.
Our quest accidentally took us out of the tulip area and into sheep area. While it wasn’t what we were looking for, it was actually a very enjoyable detour. There were endless green pastures dotted with tiny towns and canals and windmills.
It looks like Randolph will have a long weekend in late May. We don’t know yet what our next trip will be, but we’re looking forward to it anyway!