Saturday, June 14, 2008
This is Haarlem, our home away from home for the next three weeks. It's old, it's quaint, it's picturesque and it's very Dutch. We are renting a three bedroom house in a residential district, about a five minute walk from the center of town. The house is lovely with a rooftop terrace and a garden out back -- today it was warm and sunny and we had lunch out there.
Today (Saturday) was market day so I did food shopping for the next week. They have supermarkets as well but it's much nicer to buy food in the open air market in the main square than in a "big box store." I was expecting outrageous prices but overall, it wasn't that bad. Not much more than what we pay in the US for a lot of things. If the exchange rate were better, it would actually be cheaper than at home.
Today we also bought bikes. Biking is a way of life here in The Netherlands. No, that is not a picture of a bike shop you see but a side walk. In fact, that is what many sidewalks look like around here. Biking is not a sport but instead the major mode of transportation. We have seen as many as three people on one bike and if you have a "cart" in front, it's like having a mini van. We have seen a mother with her three children and groceries in one of those models. You definitely take your life in your hands when you go down the street be it on foot or on bike. The multitude of bikers and pedestrians combined with the few cars creates chaos. What's amazing is that so far, we have yet to see any accidents or crashes!
Written by lisa
No crashing is amazing but to top that, no one wears helmets! It is hard to dodge cars and pedestrians, but every one is careful. We tried renting bikes but no one had children's bikes to rent! We had to go to a thousand bike shops to see if they rented children's bikes. No luck. Then once Avocet and Daddy found some children's bikes. We thought we were going to rent them but the man in BIKE PLANET said there was a place where we could buy bikes and then just sell them back when we were done with them. It took a loooooooooooooooooong time to get to the place, FIETSCO (www.fietsco.nl). We did buy bikes there, and now we can feel like normal people who live in Holland!!
Written by Siena
The bikes here are different from American bikes. I mean they have 2 handles, 2 wheels and Etc. Etc. Etc. but they're built differently. It's like these bikes are made for comfort and American bikes are all vroom vroom vroom for racing!!! So they are nice to ride but after a while, they give your rear end a hard time! Today we rode bikes around town after we got them and to get Gelato as an after dinner treat and oh my, your butt hurts!! Not THAT much but after a couple of days, its got to be awfull!! Maybe we should just buy those bike seats with 2 pads on the back for comfort, mostly mom needs those. (But don't tell her I said that!!!)
Written by Avocet
We arrived here not knowing how our first stop would turn out. This one is important. If it was lousy or uncomfortable, our sense of space would be shattered. We needed a "good( not perfect )place" here in Haarlem to get out of the blocks well. IT DIDN'T DISAPPOINT US!!!!
Our place is like lisa described above and very homey. The girls have their nook to decorate. I have a place at 3:30 AM to go to and read when I can't sleep. The beds are comfortable. We have had nice meals in our kitchen and have bought the ingredients in interesting places. You know, not being able to read Dutch causes you to buy pudding instead of yogurt. If the person who is waiting on you at the market doesn't know at least some English, you're not 100% sure what you are going to bring home. It really makes the standard things we take for granted back home much more special. At the market this afternnon, lisa bought some fish and had no idea what it was but add some olive oil and garlic as you prepare it and it can't turn out bad.
As for the bikes, mine must be forty years old but runs like a champ. If you are ever in Haarlem, look up Fietsco and buy some used bikes. It saves a bunch of euros (I calculate about $500 US) by buying and selling back vs. renting from one of the rental places. We also had the "adventure" of discovering how to do it vs. taking the easy (and expensive) way. It wouldn't work for everyone, but it works for me.
Written by Marty