Back in June we managed to find the time in between weddings to hop over to north Holland and stay with an old friend of mine. Following my interview with Dutch designer Eline Pelinkhof who also hails from the region I was chomping at the bit to explore Haarlem and the surrounding areas. My last memories of Holland included a half day trip to Amsterdam at the age of 12 in which half the boys on the coach came back with nudy girl pens (click the top...you catch my drift) so I very much looked forward to creating new memories!
There's no denying the certain charm that comes with bikes and it's no secret they're a mode of transport synonymus with Dutch culture. Did you know that's it's common to have more than one bike? A tatty old thing to get you to and from work (these tend to get stolen so the cheaper the better) and one for best. They're almost a status symbol, seeing how others choose to accessorise them. My ride for the week was the racy white number, top left. I accessorised mine with my Alphabet Bags tote.
1. Het Grote Avontuur
A must visit for anyone with serious shopping in mind, this is one of Amsterdam's gems. With a carefully curated selection of homewares, it's impossible to leave without a little something. The scrapwood Indian tables were a personal favourite along with the beautiful fabrics and vintage pieces.
2. Juffies Warehouse
Haarlem's go-to boutique for gifts, Juffie's Warehouse is the Dutch equivalent of Joy filled with sweet little trinkets, stationery and accessories. They also stock Flow Magazine (a real gem of a read...ok, I can't actually read it but the photos are great!) which is soon to launch its UK contingent.
1. Gabled buildings are a huge part of Holland's architectural history and I never tire of their grandeur. This one was just off the main square in Haarlem.
2. If it's windmills you want, you must visit Zaanse Schans, an area of beautifully preserved historic windmills and houses. The painted wooden cladding against the terracotta roof tiles of the barns are so vibrant. The mills are also open to visitors and there are networks of walkways along the sluices well worth exploring. Zaanse Schans also boasts a museum of local history as well as a Willy Wonka-esque chocolate factory which covers the history of the Dutch chocolate industry, the process of production (really rather tasty) and national treasure the Verkade biscuit factory.
3. & 4. More of Haarlem's sites. The imposing tower of St Bavo Church and Haarlem train station, a shining example of 1900s Art Noveau design, the only in existence in the Netherlands. The tiling really is something to behold.
You can't avoid the abundance of flowers in Holland, the centre of the European floral industry and they're extremely proud of it. You won't find petrol station flowers here! Unfortunately we missed the tulips but were right on time for the peonies. Compared to prices in the UK (and I won't go into why they're so expensive in the UK right now) the price of a large bunch of peonies would make you cry. Pennies I tell you. And all so perfect.
I loved the use of city garden space. Being quite scarse, the most popular way to bring in some greenery is to grow climbing roses around your doorway and up the walls. Some were left to tumble and the delicate smell as you brushed past them was a real treat.
The Street Art
2. A decorative crest over the top of a doorway in Zaanse Schans.
3. Full length grafitti on an apartment block in Amsterdam. The guys inside the train look like the Flight of the Conchords.
4. An entire shop covered in decoupage-what more could you want in a shop?!
The Ice Cream
What's to say about the ice cream other than how udderly fantastic it was? As an ice cream connoisseur and with plenty of experience on the Italian front (it's an unwritten law that we have at least three a day out there) I can honestly say that Dutch ice cream is a force to be reckoned with. A personal favourite was visiting the Ijsboerderij Labora on the picturesque island of Texel. Their produce is so fresh because the cows are milked on site literally inside the barns behind their parlour. And guess what? They milk themselves!
Flavours worth a try are the Stroopwafel (caramel wafer heaven) and Granny's apple pie.
Feeling inspired to take a short trip? I whole heartedly recommend that you do. Be sure to check out my 'Dutch By Design' series too which focuses on (funnily enough) Dutch designers.