Friday, September 22nd, 2000 Haarlem in the Netherlands
Weather is gray and overcast this morning. May have rain. Up by 8 am, Jim had coffee and rolls ready. I found that I'd received two mosquito bites during the night. One on my index finger which really itches! Packed and straightened up the Holiday House before walking the luggage to the car. Then we walked to the grocery store and arrived just as it opened at 9 am. Our goal was to spend most of the Belgium Franks before going to Haarlem in the Netherlands.
We purchased cokes, six large bottles of water, juice, candy, detergent, breads, some cheese & salami for lunch today on the road and other items we felt we could use on the trip! Bought lots of Trix Candy Bars! They seem to work well as we can share a bar at a time! Also included some canned tuna and sardines (which made Jim very happy). On the way back to the car I purchased 19 postcards, I had 20 picked out but ran out of change so gave one back. Jim had walked ahead to the car with his load of groceries and he had the paper money! Still had some money left so we purchased diesel and changed the paper money for Guldens as soon as we entered into the Netherlands. We prefer to spend the money because of the fees when you change money to a different currency. [The Euro has simplified that for travelers today.]
Loading up the car we still had to drive to the landlord’s house to return the key…this was not an easy task with all of the one way streets. Much easier when you are walking. No rhyme or reason to the layout! Only entered into one pedestrian center and very nice gentlemen stopped us and gave us some directions! Found her house and then had to rediscover the way to the highway. Finally saw a taxi and figured he was headed to the train station so we followed and found the highway! By 10:15 we were on our way towards Antwerp before we leave Belgium.
Sun is trying to come out as we past by Gent on way to Antwerp. Around 1 pm we hit a massive traffic jam around The Hague. Actually had stopped traffic for up to half-hour at a time. Sun had come out and we’ve gotten our diesel and exchanged as much of the money as possible. We had a high school girl who gave us lots of information at the gas station. They all seem to speak great English in Holland! The Gulden is worth about 2.5 to a dollar we think.
Lots of windmills. Saw bits of De Hague as we found our way around the city. Some fantastic buildings. One that was at least twenty stories high had a wing off the top floor that appeared to float over the building next to it. They didn’t touch as far as I could tell.
Arrived in Haarlan about 4 pm. Lots of driving. Finally parked the car and walked into the Centre to find our hotel. Our room is great, but up a very steep and narrow staircase to second floor. It’s on the front of the building overlooking the plaza. We parked in the plaza to unload before taking the car to parking. Heard we were very lucky we didn’t get a ticket as the hotel told us later that autos are not allowed in the plaza after 11 am. The cars that were parked there (and made us think that we could also) had special permits as they were attending a wedding in City Hall. Oh Well! Got settled in, hit the ATM for more money as we need to pay the hotel cash to get the 5% discount. We are in the Landers B&B, which is run by the Hotel Amadeus next door. That’s where we will also eat breakfast. They have a Rick Steves’ tour group in the hotel in for the evening so we’ve been asked to wait till 9 am for breakfast tomorrow.
After dinner at McDonalds (a touch of home) we walked about the town, found the Corrie Ten Boom house, which is not open until after we leave. She hid Jews in her home during the war. Then we found the small Red Light District in town. Prostitution is legal in Holland. Found a church that we think is Catholic. Not sure as there wasn’t any information on the front. Hotel is not sure either. I checked with the bakery shop across the street and asked if it was Catholic or Protestant and she said Protestant. We found out differently from another lady on the street. She said it was the Old Catholic, not the new Catholic????? She said they had a service at 11 am on Sunday.
Walked back to the hotel by 8 pm. Made two calls to the real estate office to check on business. And then also called Wendy. She told us that West Wing had swept the Emmy Awards. Also that Josh’s team had won the finals 7-0. Josh scored 4 of the 7 goals. Said Jay had called and Thomas may be going home from the hospital this weekend. We had a premature grandson born in July and he's been in the hospital for over two months.
We had a bottle of wine (from our money purchases at the store) and some candy for dessert. The plaza was rather quiet and I jokingly said about 9 pm that the music probably doesn’t start until about 10 pm. Whoops! At 10 the music did start. We are over two bars and both were having a booming business on Friday night. By about 2 am, the music stopped then the drunks kept the noise up until about 4 am. Then about 4 the equipment arrived and they started to put together metal pipe stands for the street market!! Jim used earplugs all night and did pretty well. I read my book till 2, took Motrin about 3 and then finally drifted in and out between 3 & 4. By 6 the booths were up and I slept till 8:30 am. It’s going to be a long day!