Waking up hungry, we hurried down to the hotel’s breakfast buffet. It was just off the lobby in what could have passed as a high-school cafeteria. Although the steaming chafing dishes and plates piled high with fruit looked promising, this was the worst breakfast of the trip….actually, it was the worst of any trip. The eggs and bacon were cold, the fruit was way past its prime and other choices were limited. It didn’t take long to pick through what was there and get back upstairs to plan our day.
While I was reading ours tour books, Craig turned on the television, brought up our hotel bill and was dumbfounded to see we had been charged 40 euros for our “free” breakfast. He called the front desk to complain and was able to get the charge reversed. Even for a great breakfast….that’s a lot of money!
With that behind us, we decided on our daytripping plan…..shuttle to the airport and bus to Haarlem. We arrived at the airport only to find lines and lines of people queued up at the bus stop……all headed to Keukenhof Gardens. We smiled smugly…..now fully appreciating the “crowds” on the day we were there.
There was no line for our bus to Haarlem, so we hopped on and were off to explore Amsterdam’s little neighbor. The bus lumbered through suburbs filled with low-rise apartments, the ever-present canals and bicyclists out for a sunny ride.
The route ended in front of the train station…..a 15 minute walk away from the town’s main square, Grote Markt. The spire of the Grote Kerk (Great Church) towers over Haarlem and led us straight to the square…..bustling today with an open-air market.
Our boat arrived and, as we boarded, our captain asked each passenger what language they spoke. If you spoke Dutch, you got the benefit of his commentary……sadly, we were handed a laminated English guide. It was well-written but, judging from the laughter of our boat-mates, I suspect we missed a lot.
One thing I didn’t miss was how Haarlemers were taxed…..not by the width of a building, like Amsterdam…..not by the number of window panes, like Delft…..Haarlem based its tax on how many outdoor stairs a building had. Double staircase? You must have more money than Midas.
After an enjoyable hour-long cruise, we felt a bit peckish and spied a restaurant along the banks of the river……Spaarne 66. We headed indoors just as a few drops of rain began to fall.
We were quickly greeted by a friendly young man and led to a tall table for two in the bar area. It was too early to order dinner, so we started with our new apperitif of choice, Jenever. As he set our drinks down, our waiter pointed to a door in the floor and said it used to lead to a jenever tank downstairs.
We sipped our drinks, biding our time until the specials board was posted…..this would be the official start to the dinner hour. After not too long, our affable server returned with the blackboard….now listing the specialties for the evening and took our order…..Lambs rack and risotto with peas and young greens for Craig, Dutch pork chops with spring rolls for me. Service was a little slow…..it seems it always is here in Holland…..but the wait was worth it. The meat was perfectly prepared….the lamb was tender, the pork was moist…..both were delicious.
Choosing just one dessert was too hard, so we ordered two…..Chocolate-banana beignets with coffee ice cream and Orange pannacotta with rhubarb. Anyone who doesn’t like rhubarb should come here and try this dish…..it was fabulous! Oh, and the beignets were good, too.
The light rain had stopped and crowds were gathering….the Flower Parade was on its way to Haarlem and the flower-laden floats would soon be here. We were tempted to stay but it was getting late and we had a morning flight to prepare for.
A stroll back to the bus stop, a shuttle back to the hotel and a wonderful end to a wonderful day.
Some quiet evenings I sit by your side
And we’re lost in a world of our own
I feel the glow of your unspoken love
I’m aware of the treasures that I own
And I say to myself, it’s wonderful, wonderful
Oh, so wonderful my love…….Johnny Mathis