Day 01: July 28th 1999 (Haarlem, Netherlands).
This morning I met Cindy, the other “single” close to my age, as the woman at the hotel counter had fun pointing-out. She seemed nice. She was checking-in and buying postcards.
Breakfast consisted of a few slices of bread, cold cereal, a slice of ham and cheese, a hard-boiled egg, and coffee and orange juice. I rented a bicycle from a shop the hotel recommended called the Wolkenfietser, about a block away. They gave me a one-speed with integrated lock and headlight. It worked well because there are no hills in the Netherlands. From the tourist office near the train station I got directions and a map of the best biking route to the coast, and then set off once I bought a bottle of water from a newsstand.
Imagine yourself bicycling down level cobble-stoned paths, past grassy sand dunes, in beautiful weather with a fresh breeze on your face; and you would start to get the impression of my bike ride. The cobblestones went on for miles, causing me to pity for a moment the poor people who laid them.
I reached Zandvoort, the coast town on the North Sea. A constant strong northerly wind blows down the beach. There are thousands of sunbathers; many in a state that would get them arrested in the U.S. I ate fried calamari and drank sprite while watching the people frolic on the shore. I rode around some more, then turned back to Haarlem.
I checked into my “tour” room that afternoon. No ceiling fan this time (shucks!). Tonight the group met for the first time, and we had a dinner that was sized more like a snack, but I made up for it with a Clif bar later.
Don, the guide, laid out the rules, which weren’t very many. Always wear your money belt. That was the most important thing. The group was a little awkward, although that’s to be expected on a first meeting. Also, many people were jet-lagged due to arriving just that day. All in all though, they seemed like good people. Two big (5 and 7 person) family groups. Wow, that must have cost a bunch. The assistant guide Ian had not arrived yet, being held up in Belgium for a couple of days.
After dinner, we took a walking tour with a local guide named Hans, and he described the city of Haarlem. The sidewalks had symbols marked in them to indicate what type of business establishment each building had. Every building over 5 stories tall required a hook sticking out from the top so that people could move large things up to their apartments. The Dutch have very steep steps, you know.
Most of the group retired after the walk, including myself. Sleep of the dead again. I still can’t believe I’m in Europe.
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Last updated 11/12/2005 . Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.