This morning we bid goodbye to lovely Almere as we headed to Haarlem on the start of our journey back to England. It’s been nice spending a little time with Ron and Sheila. It was not without a bit of drama because just before we left Ron took Tjebbe for a walk. Whilst he was out walking, Tjebbe bolted whilst Ron was chatting. Ron went out searching and eventually found Tjebbe. During the week when I was walking Tjebbe he bolted on me and I spent about 30 minutes trying to find him. I even enlisted some of the locals to help find him. Once I found him I kept him on the lead every time I walked him from then on. The last thing I wanted to do was lose someone else’s dog.
On our way south from Almere to Haarlem, we took the highways and skirted around Amsterdam.
Today it was stinking hot as we headed into town. People imagine how nice it is riding a motorcycle on a sunny day but there are days when it’s not fun. If you’re wearing all the gear you really cook, especially when stopped at lights. If you just wear t-shirts you suffer sun and wind burn. Also if you come off not wearing gear it’s not much fun either, trust me. Luckily we have Airmesh jackets with a zip out liner which allows the air to flow through the mesh. Even so when the winds hot it’s still hot on the bike. The only answer is to keep hydrated and get where you’re going to find a place to cool down.
When we arrived in Haarlem today it was almost impossible to get into the city through the series of one way streets which ring the centre. Parking stations on the four sides of the central city keep the centre clear of traffic. Eventually we gave up and parked the bike near the Japenkerk Microbrewery and walked into town.
The Grote Markt was packed with people enjoying the sun in the various cafe’s and restaurants which ring the public square. We visited the Tourist Information Bureau (the VVV as it’s known here) to pick up a brochure and a map.
Around the Grote Markt are the City Hall which dates from medieval times and the newish St Bavo’s Cathedral. Finding a table in any of the restaurants surrounding the square was almost impossible and we walked past a few before we found a vacant table. Nearby the tourist info we found a pizza bar for a spot of lunch.
Once we’d eaten our very average pizzas it was time to hit the road and we started our tour of Haarlem visiting St Bavo’s Cathedral. The cathedral was commenced in 1895 and completed in 1930, replacing the smaller St Joseph’s church as the main religious building. The Cathedral was designed by Joseph Cuypers, the son of Pierre Cuypers the architect of Oudenbosch Cathedral.
Wandering around the city we discovered lots of beautiful old buildings, many built with that typical Dutch Shipstern facade with their windows filled with flower boxes. Our original plans for Haarlem was to visit Corrie ten Boom huis Museum, however we weren’t able to quite get our times right as it is closed on Sundays. Instead we just had a look around. Maybe next time we can visit it.
Around the city we passed many of the canals and watched the tour barges chugging along the waterways packed with tourists. The cost of tours around Haarlem is around €12 and after taking many canal tours we find it’s a great way to see the city.
Quite by mistake we wandered into the red light district. It wasn’t like the big one in Amsterdam. It was just a single street of white buildings with large windows for the ladies to sit in and red wooden shutters. At the front of the buildings red lights signified their occupants profession. The streets which surrounded it were pretty rundown with dingy bars and decrepit buildings.
After almost circumnavigating the whole central city we had worked up a decent thirst so headed back to the Japenkerk Microbrewery. The brewery has about 80 beers on tap and makes some really nice beer.
The square in front of the brewery was packed with every square inch coved in people soaking up the sun. Luckily we were able to find a table just as a guitarist was setting up so we grabbed a drink and settled in. The musician settled into a song list which took us back to Sunday sessions at the Observer Hotel in Sydney. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon listening to a singer playing “American Pie” whist enjoying a cold beer.
The guitarist played all the good old rock n roll standards and we all sang along. It was great to be out doing bugger all and just relaxing. When he finished it was time for us to head back to our hotel.
We have booked a place in a small town in the middle of all the places we wanted to visit to make it easier, we dropped our gear off earlier as our room was not ready.
Tomorrow we are going to Texel to explore a bit.