Last week I was at a bit of a loose end as to what to do as I was only working at the weekend, so I looked at Megabus tickets and thought why not go to Holland? I have some good friends living in various parts of the country and so I let them know Miss W was landing and off I went.
I went to Amsterdam a few years ago and felt quite underwhelmed by a city that I had always wanted to visit. It was nice enough but after the beauty of canals in Venice I was quite disappointed. I think also the fact that it rained the whole time I was there did not help my impression of it. Despite not having the best experience in Amsterdam I still wanted to go back and see other parts of Holland.
So after a long bus ride next to a girl who decided to curl up and take up a substantial part of my seat, I arrived in Amsterdam at 9am last Monday morning. I initially went off to Naarden-Bussum to see an older lady who was friends with my mum’s godfather, who was also my granddad’s cousin (yes, yes, long tenuous connection!). She is a very elegant octogenarian who until very recently cycled everywhere. I spent a lovely rainy afternoon with her reminiscing about her past.
From there I headed to Utrecht, where I stayed with a travelling friend I met in San Diego. Miss Fox is British but has been in Holland for a few years now where she runs her own food business. She is one of the coolest people I met on my travels, she has such a great no BS attitude and a great love of food and travel. Her and her partner and mute cat were so welcoming, I totally felt at home.
Utrecht is a very picturesque city with that traditional Dutch feel of canals, bikes etc. The day I spent there I went up the Dom tower (a must) and went to the Dom Kerk next door.
After that Miss Fox and I headed to a pancake house where I had a huge pancake with two different fillings, one side was cheese with crystallised ginger and the other side was apple with cinnamon. Now, Miss W loves ginger, but this was a HUGE pile of ginger and was slightly too syrupy. As Miss Fox pointed out a lot of “cinnamon” nowadays is actually cassia which is from the same family and has a stronger taste. The issue is that cassia can actually be toxic if ingested in large quantities. I now try to buy real cinnamon as I am quite partial to sprinkling it liberally all over everything I eat!
One of the things I noticed on this trip that I hadn’t in Amsterdam, was how Dutch people don’t seem to have curtains. They leave their windows bare and display objects on the windowsill for passers-by to see. It was really fun seeing what each house looked like on the inside and seeing their displays. Here is one I particularly liked. I even saw a sign in a student house in Delft that offered tours of the house for €11!
After Utrecht I headed to Den Haag (The Hague) where I went to stay with Patricia, a very good friend from the Dominican Republic who I met at salsa lessons a few years ago in London. She and her husband moved to Holland about a year ago for his job. They now have an adorable baby. We went to Delft together and had lunch on a canal boat. One of the foods that Miss Fox recommended to me was bitterballen. They’re these little croquette type balls with a beef ragu mix, very tasty.
After that we headed back into Den Haag for a stroll around the centre. When Miss W travels the aim is definitely not to try and rush around seeing all the sights. I like to walk around, eat in lovely places, pop into shops, talk to people and watch the world go by, so I didn’t do much in Den Haag, mostly hang out with my friend.
After Den Haag I went to Rotterdam. I’m not quite sure why I had this image of Rotterdam as a small quaint town… it’s actually pretty big and by far seems to be the grittiest place in the Netherlands. It has a very urban feel as a lot of the old buildings were destroyed during WWII and have been replaced with very modern structures. Again, in Rotterdam I mostly took it easy and didn’t rush to see much. I may have missed stuff but had a really good time with some random people that were staying in the same hostel as I was.
In the afternoon I headed to the park and lay down in the grass. It was full of families and young people having barbeques, listening to music, sailing… it was so nice just to relax and take it easy.
In the evening we wanted to visit the Euromast tower but before that we ended up in a small bruin café, a typical Dutch bar – the name, brown cafe comes from the cosy wooden interiors and the nicotine stained walls. It was full of character and interesting people. The owner, René was a half French half Dutch man with a load of stories to tell. It was great to meet some local people here. He asked us to leave a souvenir in his bar, and I left a train ticket from the UK and told him a little story to go with it.
The night time view from the Euromast tower was amazing and was a great end to my Dutch adventure. Sometimes the best nights happen when you least expect it.