Globetrotters in Haarlem

Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
Trip End Feb 28, 2007

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Monday, August 7, 2006

MONDAY, 7th August
A day out in Haarlem. The original as it were. I am quite sure it is nothing like the famed Harlem of New York. We took the A9 south, turned off onto the A200 and followed the signs to 'centrum', a procedure we followed when entering most towns on our car trips.
We left the car in a covered car park which in Holland was indicated by a P with a ^ above it on the road signs. It is only when you are overseas does one appreciate the value of all those blue P signs in towns and cities. They are usually overlooked at home probably because one already knows where the parking stations are. Anyway, it was only a block away from the Franz Hals museum which Anne wanted to visit. But it was a Monday, wasn't it, and most places close on a Monday in Holland, don't they? Franz Hals museum certainly was. Bugger! Never mind, off we strolled in the direction of the main square to be confronted by the gigantic St. Bavos Great church. It was magnificent both inside and out. The stone flags under our feet were the graves of town folk going back centuries. As for the organ, I thought I had seen some of the greatest pipe organs in Italy but this one was enormous. [ It seems that every place of worship that we visited was bigger and better than the last. The wow factor increasing each time. Be it the size of the structure, the stained glass windows, the decorative ceilings, the fortified walls or the organ each was an impressive monument to a faith in which I have none. Why do I visit them? Because they are there! ]
We continued our walk around the streets and along the canal finding by chance the red light district. Unlike Amsterdam, to go window shopping here you had to pay a fee and go through a turnstile. In other words you had to be a serious shopper(!) to enter this enclosed street of whores. The oddest thing about this hookerhuis was that next door was a church. Sin and repent in minutes!
Lunch in the square opposite St Bavos. Good service. The club sandwich tasted like wood but the beer was refreshing. Anne nicked some of the teabags. Well they should know better than to leave a tray full of Liptons on the table. Like the hotel cannot resist.
We walked back down one of the main shopping streets back to the car. There is certainly a huge variety of shops in the Dutch towns. It seems the malls have not taken over yet and there is plenty of competition at street level. 
Our next stop was at a place called Cruquius a few kilometres south on one of the canals that criss crossed the region. We were to visit a pump but this was no ordinary pump. It was an immense steam engine that drove a series of pistons that drew water out of the land on the lower side of the dyke and sent it into the canals on the upper side. There used to be several of these pumps in this area which kept the water levels stable and the Haarlemmer dry where is now the airport. This pump is now a showpiece for tourists and we were lucky enough to be given a demonstration of its enormous power as we watched the pistons sucking up 50,000 litres at a time.
From there home at a reasonable time. Most of our days out were timed to get home for evening meal although we tended to eat about 8pm these days. Maybe something to do with the BBC news. It doesn't finish until 8pm here.
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