Sixer’s Travels: Haarlem globetrotting

Once bitten twice shy. Pete Sixsmith’s eccentricities with spelling know no bounds, as a reader gently observed after his report from the Benfica game. Pete’s poor editor had no idea where to start on this one, a detailed account – littered with proper names Salut! Sunderland wouldn’t recognise if they fell in its soup – of his day off from following Sunderland. It’s a good read all the same and ends on a happy note …

It’s a quiet Sunday morning in Amsterdam. People are walking or cycling to work. There is a peaceful air over our part of the city. It’s the calm before the Steve Bruce Revolution hits the Amsterdam Arena at seven o’clock tonight.

No football for the Three Musketeers yesterday. We were joined by the star ALS columnist, beer drinker extraordinaire and all round good egg, Paul Dobson, for a day of sightseeing away from the busy and chaotic centre of Amsterdam.

This time we opted for Haarlem, a town about 20 km away. It was a major port at one time, before the inventive Dutch reclaimed land and built larger ports further into the North Sea.

I remember singing a song at Junior School called Turn the Glasses Over which had the immortal line “I’ve benn to Haarlem, I’ve been to Dover, I’ve travelled this wide world all over”. Probably my first experience of the English sea shanty.

The double decker train dropped us at the station, a superb example of the Dutch Arts and Crafts Movement (William van Morrishh, one assumes) and strolled down a tidy street, past a shop selling fire extinguishers, model fire engines and safety notices relating to fire, into a busy, bustling town square.

Dutch town squares are simple to read. Huge church at one end and Town Hall at the other. This one wasn’t as big as Delft, but the church was. It was huge, with an imposing tower with a crown on top.

In the square, a market was in full swing. Unlike Bishop Auckland market with its stalls selling batteries, cheap watches and Hi Visibility jackets, this one specialised in produce. Wonderful loaves of bread, fruit and vegetables all perfectly laid out and flower stalls that were a riot of colours and sizes.

After a satisfying plate of raw herring and gherkins, we sat and drank cofee in a super cafe, watching Dutch people of all ages riding their sit up and beg black bikes around the square.

We walked down to the river, through beautifully laid out streets with gabled houses and smart shops. On reaching the original source of Haarlem’s prosperity, we watched bridges open and close to let a flotilla of yachts through, and then amused ourselves as the mechanism on one of the bridges jammed, leaving it open and the three engineers trying to fix it banging away with wrenches and spanners.

More people watching in a brown cafe, and then back to Amsterdam by train, Haarlem is a great day out drom the city and highly reccommended. We didn’t visist the Framz Hals Museum, as I had unpleasant recollections of his most famous painting The Laughing Cavalier. A copy of it hung in Room 7 at Bishop Auckland Grammar School and I remember getting a good hiding in that room from the Deputy Head.

We ate an overpriced and fairly undistinguished rijstaabel in an Indonesian Restaurant, eavesdropping a middle aged American telling his dinner companion that she should maximise her borrowings while the market is down and thbanks won’t lend to suckers who can’t pay, but they want to lenf to those who can. We don’t think it was Ellis Short.

More beer in The Nieuw Maarket and then a stroll back to the hotel, dropping into a couple more Brown Cafes before we slept the sleep of the just.

Oh, and buoyed by the news of the Mags getting thrashed at Brisbane Road. Atletico here we come!!!!

1 thought on “Sixer’s Travels: Haarlem globetrotting”

  1. Profuse apologies for the shocking spelling. In my defence, I had to do it early in the morning (7.15) so I could get on the hotel computer before the Americans came down to check their share prices. And I had a hangover due to the outstanding Belgian beers we were supping. And there are some words I can’t spell anyway.

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