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From the Rhône to the Rhine: Haarlem

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On Saturday we had limited our visit to Haarlem to the morning market so as not to compromise our tour of Amsterdam but we returned the next morning to finish the job. We parked close to the centerpiece of the old town of Haarlem, the St. Bavo Church. The church was originally constructed as a cathedral but was confiscated by the Protestants in the sixteenth century. Interestingly a new Cathedral of St. Bavo was constructed in a different part of Haarlem in the early twentieth century leading to some degree of confusion among visitors. This was the second church we had seen that was named for Saint Bavo, a seventh century Benedictine monk from Ghent who abandoned all possessions and spent his final years living in the hollow of a tree.

The center of Haarlem was like a pint-sized version of Amsterdam without all the cafes and crowds. Cleo was looking very Euro chic in the striped bellbottom pants we had bought her at the Cuypmarkt. It was pleasant to be able to absorb the atmosphere of the cobblestone streets and brick buildings without being distracted by a lot of pedestrians and commercial activity. One thing that amused me was that Haarlem probably isn't even as well known around the world as the neighborhood by the same name in New York City. Thanks to the proclivity of European colonists to christen new lands after their own cities many of the originals have been eclipsed by their namesakes. Ask most people outside of the Netherlands about Haarlem and they would probably answer something about jazz or basketball.

It was kind of tough finding a breakfast place that had more than pastries and coffee on a Sunday morning but eventually we found a cool cafe with wraps and yogurt. Ian was the first to discover that the discarded cigarette packages on the street were festooned with grim photos of body parts disfigured from smoking. The gangrenous foot was our favorite but I've seen worse in the emergency department. I'm sure if the Netherlands awarded me a contract I could help them eradicate smoking in their country within a month.

The most popular sight in Haarlem is the Adrian de Molen windmill museum on the bank of the Spaarne River, just east of the center. This is a replica of the original mill that burned down almost a century ago. Unlike the wind pumps we had seen in Kinderdijk this was a true mill that used wind power to grind limestone, tobacco, and corn. We hadn't reserved a tour but there wasn't anyone waiting so we were able to jump into the first available. The museum was more elaborate than the one at Kinderdijk with some interesting models and historical photographs. From the observation platform we could see the spire of St. Bavo's church as well as the ornate white Bakenesserkerk tower.

A big part of visiting Europe is having a plan for Sundays. Unlike in the United States a lot of things shut down completely on the traditional day of rest even in major cities. That's great if you want to recuperate from a long week of work but it's not a lot of fun if you're trying to get as much out of a long road trip as possible. We had been lucky the previous two Sundays where we had found the Croix Rousse market in Lyon and Marché de la Batte in Liège and now we were hoping to top both of them at the famed Beverwijk Bazaar. This self-proclaimed "largest covered market in Europe" is a cluster of several warehouse-like buildings that focus on different themes such as flea market, electronics, produce, and prepared food. We were mostly focused on the edibles but there was plenty of weird and interesting stuff to look at in the other areas.

The outdoor area between the covered markets was largely devoted to food trucks. The crowd included a diverse mixture of Arabs, South Asians, and East Asians along with typical Dutch people. The high energy, international atmosphere was really enjoyable. We tried to eat in as many different places as we could without overdoing it on any one cuisine.

The produce market wasn't very large and was mostly focused on Middle Eastern delicacies like olives and dried fruits. At the very end we found a large food hall with a wide variety of Arab cuisines including some that were totally unfamiliar like Yemeni. We were totally full by this point so there was nothing we could do but look on helplessly.

The Beverwijk market was quite a sight but not as engrossing as I had hoped since a lot of it was dedicated to clothes and household items. We still had a few hours to spare before dinner and the top item I had left on my list was the Ridammerhoeve goat farm in the Amsterdam Bos on the outskirts of the city. The Bos is a man-made forest created on unused wetlands in the mid-twentieth century that is now one of the largest urban parks in Europe. It contains numerous lakes, hiking trails, and even a tall hill for sledding and snow tubing in the winter. Ridammerhoeve is a working farm in the center of the Bos that supplements its income from cheese and milk with a small restaurant and children's activities including feeding baby goats from small milk bottles.

The feeding sounded more fun than it was. There were way too many toddlers stumbling around in the goat pens trying to feed reluctant baby goats and often dumping the milk on top of their heads when they wouldn't take the nipple. Goat poop and pee was everywhere and the local parents seemed to have no qualms about letting their kids tromp around and fall over in the thick hay with God knows what underneath. Fortunately our kids lost interest in the goats quickly and I was able to get away with just spending a few quarters on food pellets for the older goats. There were so many full and half empty milk bottles lying around it would have been a waste to buy any.

Ridammerhoeve had been somewhat of a bust but it seemed like we still had time for the kids to enjoy another attraction in the Bos, the Fun Forest climbing park. I thought arriving two hours before closing would have given us enough time to do the course but apparently we had just missed the final entry point for the day which was quite disappointing for everyone. The kids were allowed to play around for a bit on one of the training elements and we then retreated to a snack bar across the street. I bought them ice cream to make up somewhat for the missed activity. On the side of the snack bar was a free book exchange which had a number of kids books in English. I dug some of the ones that we'd finished out of the trunk of the car and we now had an ever larger supply of unread books. The kids played a game of chess at one of the tables and we decided we might as well have an early dinner although we weren't particularly hungry.

We made a brief stop outside the EYE Film Institute for a close look at its unique architecture. Its prominent position on the northern bank of the IJ across from Centrum has made it an iconic feature of the shoreline. The building was designed to suggest the properties of light, space, and movement that are indispensable to the film-making experience.

For dinner we went to Amsterdam's lone food hall, aptly called Foodhallen. It was located in a hip neighborhood called Oud-West just outside of Centrum. The atmosphere was busy and energetic without being excessively crowded and the food options were good if unspectacular. It wasn't quite as good as Wolf in Brussels but it was much better than Food Traboule in Lyon. This would be our last easy meal at a food hall for the trip and we would have to contend with restaurants from that point on.

Our time in Amsterdam was rapidly coming to an end. I had mixed feelings about our experience because although the city was undoubtedly beautiful and exciting, I didn't feel that I had done as well as I could in creating our own unique experience. We had mostly trodden the well-worn paths carved out by millions of tourists, although in a somewhat condensed manner. I think the main problem was that having the car had forced us to base outside the city and I had then tried to see all of Amsterdam in just one day. If I had to do it over I probably would find a way to stay in Centrum and split the walking tour into at least two days, which would have allowed us to see some more local neighborhoods without getting exhausted. I thought our experience in Brussels had been much more successful. It was an important lesson to take to heart going forward as we would be beginning our swing through the German Rhineland the following day.

Posted by zzlangerhans 20:26 Archived in Netherlands Tagged road_trip family family_travel travel_blog tony_friedman family_travel_blog beverwijk foodhallen ridammerhoeve

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