We had made a day trip to Haarlem while we were staying in Amsterdam that first week. It was cold and blustery. This time it was very different.
The weather really improved this week and we had three great days in and around Haarlem. One just fair.
One great thing about Holland is that it's very boat friendly. In Haarlem,like many of the cities we've vsited, we tied up right in the middle of the old city center.
We've written before about the use of bicycles in Holland; everybody had one. If you need to ferry your kids around and you don't like putting them on a kid seat behind you, then the bike truck is for you!
It was just a 5 minute walk into the Grote Markt area and the beautiful walkways and small streets.
The weather the next couple of days was great and we used the opportunity to revisit the Kennemerduinen Nature Preserve and the town of Bloemendaal aan Zee, a beach side area of dunes that we had visited when we had a car but, as usual, it was raining. What a difference the weather makes. The road into the beach was packed with cars, scooters, bicycles and walkers; people in cars must have been waiting for hours! We just rode right past on our bikes and spent the afternoon cruising around the beaches and dunes.
The Grote Kerk van St. Bavo in Haarlem features one of the most stunning church organs in Holland, a Muller that was constructed in 1738. It's over 90 ft. high and has more than 5000 pipes. Both Handel and Mozart played it, the latter when he was only 10. We really wanted to hear it but had missed an organ concert by one day. Luckily, Sunday evening the church was featuring a Church of England Evensong service (even though it's a Dutch Reformed church) so we got as dressed up as we could under the circumstances and paid a visit. What a magnificent instrument! There's nothing quite like that last sustained note from a huge church organ in a large gothic church.
Monday the weather deteriorated a bit but since we were so close, we decided to make a quick trip to IKEA to pick up some things we had forgotten on our earlier forays.
They have both train and bus stops right outside the store entrance so it was easy to get there.
Tuesday morning it was off again up the Spaarne River and down 8 km of the Nordzeekanaal with its ships a tugs and up the Zaan river in the direction of Alkmaar.
One interesting note for you chocolate lovers- we were traveling though Zaandam and Zaanstadt and kept smelling the odor of cooking chocolate. We discovered that this is the center of the lovely bean for Holland. We saw huge barges of the beans being unloaded into silos and passed this site. Those tanks are loaded with chocolate!
On to Alkmaar, home of Hollands largest outdoor cheese market.