Inspired by visiting two cities in a day yesterday, I decided to raise my game and beat this new PB. Arriving at the train station, I bought the same day pass as before and took the next train to the furthest city from Eindhoven – which happened to be Alkmaar. I’d never heard of it, but going there first gave me the rest of the day to get back to base camp.
The train took about two hours, and was well worth it. Alkmaar had twinkling church bells, windy little streets, with pretty houses of all different colours and styles. Again, as with Utrecht and Amsterdam, the life and structure of the town was based around canals; beautiful arteries of interconnected waterways, along which people sailed boats and kayaked in the sunshine. I’d arrived too late for the famous cheese market, but I bought some cheese from a market and decide to try to collect a different local cheese from each city I visited that day.
After a whistle-stop tour, I made the 3:20pm train to Haarlem. I was initially unimpressed with my second choice of city – walking from the station, it could have just been Croydon or Hemel Hempstead, a prosaic, generic town. But everything changed at the turn of a corner, and like the Netherlands in general, I fell in love with Haarlem. After sourcing some local cheese, I sat outside a pub in the central square opposite Grote Kerk church and drank a beer in the sun (Texels – from one of the Dutch ‘Waddeneilanden’ islands and delicious!).
Taking the scenic route back to the train station to see a windmill, I got the 5:36pm train to The Hague / Den Haag.
By the time I got to Den Haag, I was pretty tired… Apparently sitting on trains and drinking beer in the sun, is really exhausting! On my initial train from Eindhoven that morning, I was thinking to also stop by Rotterdam or maybe Gouda, but now, no, absolutely not. I was tired and in a bad mood, with no one else to blame or to be annoyed at but myself – great.
Unlike what I’d seen elsewhere in the Netherlands, The Hague had a lot of high-rise buildings and wide streets, it could be any city – it’s like the start of Haarlem all over again, I was immediately judgemental and therefore instantly disappointed. Luckily, I soon found the windy, warren lanes that I expected and stopped for some dinner – a tapas of smoked salmon and fennel salad, blue pecorino in sherry, some bread and a beer (another Texels). The place was Café Oude, it was cute, slightly kitsch, and the food was delicious.
After a little post-meal wander, I got the 8:20pm train from Den Haag. It stopped at Rotterdam on the way to Eindhoven, but I was just too tired to visit another city. Plus, I needed to leave some places unexplored, so that I can come back for another adventure.
On day four, I finally investigated Eindhoven. I wandered around, saw the PSV stadium, browsed in some pretty boutiques, and whilst I sat in a bagel and juice shop, the glorious weather turned to torrential rain. I was sitting outside under the veranda and without a jacket or an umbrella, there was nothing I could do but wait and let (and hope that) the showers passed.
Pathetically and irrationally trying to overcompensate for being so desperately late getting to Stanstead, I arrived at Eindhoven Airport three and a half hours early for my flight – I only had carry on luggage. Despite such a healthy selection of freshly cooked food, I opted for a burger and a beer and sat on the terrace enjoying the sunshine – it reminded me of last month in Germany. The Netherlands has been my favourite place so far, I felt refreshed and energise from the trip, with a new love in my life, about which I had so much to learn and reasons to explore.
When I arrived back in London, the situation was painfully contrastive, a terrorist attack had just taken place at London Bridge whilst I was on the train home from the airport. Reality set back in, and the joy and happiness of my trip just disintegrated.