Goose

Goose

Barge on the River Spaarne, Haarlem

Barge on the River Spaarne, Haarlem

Don’t you love it when you travel to a foreign country and it actually looks and feels exotic and different from your accustomed surroundings?  When I was in Haarlem I felt immediately that I was in Europe.  The houses, buildings, canals, narrow stone streets, doors and windows, sidewalk cafes — everything exuded Old World charm.

Spring in Holland was at least a month behind Seattle’s, and though I was looking for tulips, I saw only snowdrops and crocuses and a few yellow daffodils.  I had planned on renting a bike and touring the countryside near Haarlem, but it was too cold (reached freezing overnight) so I spent my 1-1/2 days there simply walking.  And that was a delightful way to spend my time.  The AirBnB home where I stayed was a 45-minute walk along the River Spaarne from central Haarlem.

Haarlem, like much of the Netherlands, is flat, densely populated, and cosmopolitan.  It is a very walkable city, crisscrossed by canals and the river which are lined, wall to wall, with old gabled homes and buildings, houseboats, and little cafes.  The public transportation on trains and buses is a marvel — clean, on time, and affordable.  I was so taken with the biking culture here that I will devote my next post to bicycles.

Let me share some of the sights and delights of Haarlem with you here:

Rooftop view of Haarlem with Grote Kerk dominating the city's center square

Rooftop view of Haarlem with Grote Kerk dominating the city’s center square

Rooftop view of Haarlem from the 6th floor cafeteria in the V&D Department Store

Rooftop view of Haarlem from the 6th floor cafeteria in the V&D Department Store

Lovely old canal houses along the River Spaarne

Lovely old canal houses along the River Spaarne

Shabby chic -- rustic table and chairs on a canal barge, Haarlem

Shabby chic — rustic table and chairs on a canal barge, Haarlem

River reflections

River reflections

De Adrianne windmill in Haarlem; notice the short rail track from the water to the mill.

De Adriaan windmill in Haarlem; notice the short rail track from the water to the mill.

Cut tulips brighten a window

Cut tulips brighten a window

Bridges and arches over the canals; notice all the bikes on the bridge.

Bridges and arches over the canals; notice all the bikes on the bridge.

I loved seeing "Stinke" cheese spread at the Grote Market

I loved seeing “Stinke” cheese spread at the Grote Market

Butcher stall at the Grote Market in the central square

Butcher stall at the Grote Market in the central square

McDonalds sign.  "Chain stores abort vacation vision." -- Alexandra Horowitz

McDonald’s sign. “Chain stores abort vacation vision.” — Alexandra Horowitz

Even the crows are different from the ones at home in Seattle.

Even the crows are different from the ones at home in Seattle.

Flowers grace a houseboat along the canal, Haarlem

Flowers grace a houseboat along the canal, Haarlem

Door of alms house, Haarlem.  (Wealthy merchants charitably funded homes for widows and poor women.  I took a self-guided walk to see some of them.)

Door of alms house, Haarlem. (Wealthy merchants charitably funded homes for widows and poor women. I took a self-guided walk to see some of them.)

Coffe break at the V&D

Coffee break at the V&D

My mother always told me to clean my plate.

My mother always told me to clean my plate.