Christmas in Haarlem 2019

We spent Christmas 2018 in Haarlem visiting our daughter who lives and works in the attractive small, historic city, a few miles from Amsterdam. This last Christmas, as she wasn’t able to get back over to England, we decided we’d do the same again. The main difference this time was that our daughter’s boyfriend’s parents and brother had also decided to visit, although they weren’t staying as long as us and had arranged to stop in a hotel.

We rented a very nice, well equipped and beautifully furninshed and decorated apartment on the Turfmarkt, facing the River Sparne

The owner, Nana, was very nice and welcoming.

Looking out of the front window, this was the view over the river on Christmas morning

and looking to the left there was a good view over to the Grote Kerk

We mainly spent our time wandering round the city, doing some last minute Christmas shopping and stocking up for Christmas Eve, spending time with our daughter and eating and drinking.

On Christmas Eve we prepared our traditional Christmas Eve buffet which we shared with daughter, her boyfriend and his parents and brother. So a larger “gathering” than normal.

One of the things we’d particularly enjoyed during our previous Christmas visit was the singing in the Grote Markt, so after eating we went for a drink in Tierney’s Irish Pub before joining the crowd in the square. The Christmas service from St Bavo’s church had been relayed onto a large screen and afterwards, just after midnight, we joined in with the crowd singing Christmas carols and songs led by a singers and a band on a stage that had been erected in the square.

Just like the previous year, the square was packed, but we managed to find ourselves some space next to the Christmas tree.

There was a great atmosphere and we really enjoyed ourselves. Afterwards, we headed our separate ways and we returned to our apartment for a nightcap before turning in.

Christmas day we opened our presents before setting off around midday to our daughter’s house. They had invited some friends over as well as the two families for Christmas dinner but we went over a few hours earlier to exchange gifts and spend a little time together. We popped out for a walk before returning for a very delicious (and filling!) Christmas meal for us all.

Boxing day – ‘Tweede Kerstdag’ (second Christmas day) in the Netherlands – is always something of an anti-climax after the big day. We went out for a couple of hours for a wander round the old, narrow streets around the city centre.

The Friday was our last full day in Haarlem. We had thought about taking the train into Amsterdam for the day, but, for a number of reasons decided against it. Instead we visited Teyler’s Museum during the morning. We’d visited during our holiday in August, but there’s plenty to see and it was definitely worth returning.

The Oval room in Teylers Museum
Large electrostatic generator
Picture gallery

Afterwards we went for a light lunch with our daughter in the DeDAKKAS cafe which is located on top of the de Kamp multi-storey car park, and which afforded good views over the city.

The DeDAKKAS cafe on top of a multi-storey car park!

Our son then went off to spend some time with her during the afternoon and we had a wander round the city centre and along the canal.

We’d booked a table in the Art Nouveau style Bastijan restaurant for the evening.

We decided on the 4 course “surprise menu”, letting the chef select the dishes. We didn’t know what we were eating until they arrived. All the dishes were delicious.

Smoked wild boar starter
2nd course – pasta
Main course – swordfish
Pudding!

On Saturday our flight was leaving Schipol mid afternoon, so we spent the morning tidying up and after a short final wander round the city centre, relaxed in the apartment (Nana kindly allowed us to stay an extra few hours) until it was time to catch our bus to the airport.

Dutch cheese

There were no problems at the airport or during the flight and we were back home before 7 o’clock UK time. We’d had a very enjoyable 2nd Christmas in Haarlem. Depending on what happens during the next 12 months, we may return next year.

Conwy Town Walls

Conwy was built as a bastide, a fortified settler town, surrounded by high masonry walls, built at the same time as the castle. The new town was populated by settlers who’d moved from England, probably from nearby counties such as Cheshire and the walls would have encouraged immigrants to settle there as they would have helped protect them from incursions by Welsh locals. The walls are extremely well preserved, running for three quarters of a mile, with 21 towers and three original gateways.

It’s possible to walk on top of them for a good proportion of their length. Who could resist?

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Looking over the southern section of the walls from the Castle

The towers, constructed at roughly regular intervals, are D shaped and “gap-backed”, which means that they didn’t have walls on the inside. They originally had removable wooden bridges to allow sections of the walls to be sealed off from attackers

There were great views from the walls across the town to the castle, harbour and nearby Carneddau mountains

Looking over the harbour towards the castle for the spur wall
a view of the castle over the rooftops from the southern section of the town walls

Wainwright’s Wainwright

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At the beginning of last week I managed to get away for three days to do some walking in the Lake District. I decided to book into the Youth Hostel in Buttermere for a couple of nights as they had places available and I’ve never been there before. Well, that’s not quite true. I do remember driving over there once on a rainy day many, many years ago during a stay near Bassenthwaite Lake, but due to the poor weather we didn’t linger. So this would be my first proper visit and I was looking forward to getting up on the fells I’d never explored before. Of course, the weather in the Lakes is always unpredictable, to say the least, and I experienced a range of conditions during my short stay. But they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing (although I can’t say I’m completely in agreement with that statement!)

I drove over on the Monday morning via Keswick and the scary Newlands Pass. It’s a very scenic drive but it’s not exactly sensible taking your eyes of the narrow, often steep and windy road to admire the scenery or you’re likely to get a closer look at the fells than you’d planned.

The weather was mixed during my journey but didn’t seem too bad as I drove through the Newlands valley. The forecast was that it would be cloudy during the afternoon, with rain coming in early evening, and that’s how it transpired. I arrived in Buttermere around midday, to find that the tiny village (a hamlet really) was pretty much parked up, so I drove up to the top of the valley to Gatesgarth where I managed to find a space in the car park near the farm at the start of the Honister Pass. My plan was to tackle, Haystacks, a medium sized fell at the head of Buttermere. At 1,958 ft high it’s just a few feet short of being able to “officially” call itself a mountain, but it has all the characteristics of one, and just the right size and difficulty for an afternoon walk to kick off my break. It was a grey day with very flat light, so not a good day for photographs, but I did manage to “improve” some of my shots by playing about with Snapseed, although I’m still learning how to manipulate my photos.

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It was the favourite fell of Alfred Wainwright who stated that

“for beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality, the summit area of Haystacks is supreme. This is in fact the best fell-top of all”

His ashes are scattered on the summit near the curiously named  Innominate Tarn.

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Memorial to Wainwright in the small church in Buttermere village.

After parking up and getting booted and kitted up, I stopped for a short while to soak up the atmosphere while I grabbed a bite to eat.

Then set off along the path across the bottom of the lake, passing Fleetwith Pike, heading towards the far shore and the start of the Scarth Pass.

The route would take me up the relatively gradual incline up to Scarth Gap and then a steeper climb and short scramble to the summit of my destination.

Looking back to the lake at the beginning of the Pass.

and looking across to Fleetwith Pike.

Looking up to Haystacks

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The much higher fell of Great Crag over to the right

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Looking back down to Buttermere

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Reaching the Scarth Gap I could see over to Ennerdale, the next valley. But Pillar, the high rocky fell at the head of the valley, was obscured by low cloud

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Pillar in the mist!

It was a shortish, steep climb to the summit of Haystacks. Hands were required for a couple of short stretches, but nothing too difficult.

Looking back as I climbed

The view towards Buttermere and Crummock Water from the summit

I stopped at the summit for a short while, revitalising myself with some hot coffee from my flask, and chatting with a trio of other walkers who’d reached the top a short while before me.

This is the view across the summit towards Great Gable. Not much to see of the mountain as it was covered with cloud.

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I crossed the summit plateau heading towards Innominate Tarn

I followed the path in the direction of Fleetwith Pike

Looking towards Fleetwith Pike

Looking down towards Buttermere and Crummock Water through the gap in the crags

The route took me across to descend along the flank of Fleetwith Pike to the east of Warnsdale beck

There was a great view of Haystacks across the valley during the long descent

The beck tumbles down steeply over a series of waterfalls which were flowing with plenty of water following recent rainy weather.

Looking back up the valley towards the end of the descent

Reaching the floor of the valley there was an easy walk back towards the Lake and Gatesgarth Farm. Time to change out of my boots and drive the short distance back to Buttermere village and the Youth Hostel. I arrived a little earlier than the official check in time of 5 o’clock, but managed to book in, settle in to my room and take a shower.

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The rain arrived, as promised, at about 6 o’clock. It continued through the night and the wind also picked up. The next day was going to be a little different!

Last day in Haarlem

Our flight home at the end of our short holiday didn’t leave Schipol until after 7 o’clock, so we had more a less a full day before we got the bus to the airport. I had a wander along the canal first thing before we had to leave our little house.

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We dropped our bags at our daughter’s work, went for a coffee and then had a wander round town, mooching round the pleasant shopping streets. There was a small market on in the Botermarkt

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After grabbing a bite to eat we decided to visit Sint Bavo, the Grote Kerk. We’d been inside before a couple of years ago but decided we’d like another look round. There’s an entry fee, but it’s quite reasonable.

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We caught the end of one of the regular organ recitals held in massive Gothic building. Installed in 1738, the organ is huge – it covers the whole west wall of the church and is almost 30 metres high. It’s something of a tourist attraction in it’s own right and has been played by Handel and Mozart.

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The floor of the church is covered with gravestones. We spotted the grave of Pieter Teyler, who left the money for the museum that bears his name.

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Afterwards we wandered down to the river to meet son and daughter by the windmill – they’d been spending the last afternoon together.

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We walked back to the Grote Markt and had a final drink (mint tea!) then it was time to pick up our bags and say goodbye.

We’d had a good little holiday in Haarlem and the weather had been kind – much better than we’d expected from the weather forecast we’d seen before we arrived. The week had just disappeared and it’s not easy to leave your daughter behind, even if she is grown up 😦 We’re planning to go back for Christmas – providing we can find somewhere suitable to stay. And now we’re just about coming to the end of summer that’s not so long off.

Haarlem Jazz

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Our visit to Haarlem coincided with the annual Jazz Festival which started on the Wednesday and ran through until Sunday. We’d hoped to catch some of the music on the Wednesday and Thursday before we headed for home on Friday. On Wednesday evening, however, it poured down more or less continuously so after spending some time watching one of the acts on the opening night, we decided to call it quits and retreated to Tierney’s bar! The next night was much better. It didn’t rain and we were able to sample some of the music and atmosphere.

On the Wednesday there was only one stage, set up in the Grote Markt, but the next night three more stages opened up. 2 other stages around the Grote Kerk – on Oude Groenmarkt and Klokhuisplein – and another venue at the Pletterij , on the outskirts of the town centre.

From what we saw there wasn’t much jazz being played at the Jazz festival, which is why it’s actually billed as Haarlem Jazz and more. On Thursday the main stage was occupied by a couple of performers playing / performing electronic dance music, which is very big in the Netherlands. Not my scene at all, but clearly loved by the audience of mainly young adults.

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The other two stages around the Grote Kerk seemed to be devoted to soul music. Looking at the programme the “real” jazz seemed to be playing at the Pletterij .

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Soul Six on the Klokhuisplein stage
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We spent most of our time listening to a band on the smaller stage in the on Oude Groenmarkt . Uncle Sue are a local band and with a female singer and a horn section who were performing Stax style soul music. They were a good live act and much more up my street!

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A walk among the dunes

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As we were leaving Amsterdam on the Wednesday it started to rain, and when it rains in the Netherlands it really rains! It continued for the rest of the evening, which meant we didn’t hang around long to watch the start of the Haarlem Jazz festival that evening. (It was OK the next evening, though). The next morning seemed a little mixed but my son and I decided to risk it and took the bus to the Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland, an area of sand dunes to the west of Haarlem .

The Connexxion, line 81 bus for Zandvoort from Haarlem train station took about 20 minutes to reach the Visitor Centre. There’s a number of marked walking and cycling trails that start from there. As we weren’t sure about the weather we decided to follow the green trail

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The dunes are the nearest you’ll come to hills in this part of the Netherlands!

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After a short while we came to Het Wed, a freshwater lake popular for swimming. There’s a good stretch of sand too and toilet and showering facilities. I reckon it would be a popular spot for families on a sunny day. But as it was cool and overcast only a few hardy souls were braving the water.

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Het Wed
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We carried on, taking a short diversion off the green route to climb up to a viewpoint, where we could just make out the sea in the distance..

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On our way back to the Visitor Centre we passed some memorial stones. We stopped to take a closer look.

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During the Nazi occupation members of the Resistance captured by the Nazis were taken to the dunes to be executed and were buried there. In May 1945, after the occupiers had retreated a search of the dunes found 422 bodies in 45 locations. After they were identified the bodies were reburied and the granite headstones have been placed above their graves. 347 of the victims, inlcuding Hannie Schaft , the “Girl with the Red Hair”, are buried in Erebegraafplaats Bloemendaal, a cemetery in the dunes. The rest are buried in nine graves which are marked by the gravestones which record how many murdered resistance members are buried in the immediate vicinity. We passed two of them. We stopped for a short while to pay our respects and placed a small stone on top of the headstone.

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This stone tells that 92 people are buried in the vicinity

Moving on we saw some wild ponies having a snack. Ponies, deer, highland cattle and bison roam in parts of the reserve.

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We were quite lucky. Although it was overcast we had some sunny spells and there was only one, very brief, heavy downpour. By the time we’d taken our cagoules out of our backpack and put them on it had passed over!

I could have spent longer wandering around the dunes and next time we’re in Haarlem if the weather is good enough I’d like to walk the longer blue route trail which goes over to the sea shore and also pay my respects at the cemetery and some of the other monuments.

The Tassen Museum

Well, I never thought I’d ever visit a museum dedicated to bags and purses, but that’s what we did after we’d been to Foam. My wife had been before on a solo trip to see our daughter earlier this year, had enjoyed it and said that I’d find it interesting. It’s on the Herengracht, just a short walk from Foam, so we made our way over there.

The museum was founded to display a private collection of bags owned by Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo. Originally it was in Amstelveen, a suburb south of Amsterdam, but moved to it’s present location in a rather grand 17th-century canal house that had previously been the residence of the Mayor of Amsterdam in 2007.

The collection is shown on the top two floors of the house with elegant tea rooms and temporary exhibitions on the first floor. So visitors start by climbing to the top floor and working their way down.

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Modern stained glass window in the ground floor ceiling

My wife was right, I did find it interesting and enjoyed the visit. It was really a social history revealed by showing how handbags and the like (including bags used by men) evolved since medieval times. Right back then, both women and men kept their money and odds and ends in a leather bag on their belt – the oldest item in thecollection is a sixteenth century men’s bag made of goat leather with a metal frame.

the oldest exhibit

Over time men started to keep their stuff in pockets in their clothing while women tended to keep their’s in bags, the design which evolved over the years. For a while chatelaines, a series of chains hanging from the belt with hooks to hold small purses, scissors, sewing equipment and other items were fashionable, and their were quite a few examples of these in the collection.

From the 17th century to the late 19th century, women used pockets too. But these were seperate from clothing. They were hung from the waist under clothing which had slits in them so the pockets could be reached. This is how Lucy Lockett could lose her pocket! These went out of fashion with the advent of high waisted dresses in the Georgian period, leading to the development of the handbag.

Men continued to use bags, of course (I have several myself!), but they tended to be for specialised purposes – and there were examples of these, including tobacco pouches, gamblers’ bags and doctor’s bags, in the collection.

I found the top floor, with the earlier items, the most interesting. The floor below had a large display of bags from the 20th century, including expensive examples by designers and bags previously owned by celebrities including Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor and Hilary Clinton. They even had one from a certain Prime Minister, whose name I can’t bring myself to mention.

It’s amazing how many different styles of bag there have been, some of them quite vulgar! A surprising range of materials have been used to make them too from bamboo, beads, feathers, perspex, bottle tops, plastic cables and the skins of various animals including crocodiles, stingrays, leopards, and armadillos. Some of the animal skin bags being particularly horrible in that they included heads, legs, tails and other body parts as decoration.

If I hadn’t been encouraged by my wife, I’d never had thought of visiting the museum. But I found it fascinating and worth taking the time out to have a look around even for those of us with no interest whatsoever in fashion for the insights into social history. .