We say goodbye to Amsterdam (for now) and travel to Haarlem. We were to meet our group at the hotel at 2pm but since it wasn't even 11 am yet, we head out looking for an adventure. St Bavo's (or the Old Kerk) isn't open this sunday as services are being held elsewhere so we walk to the Frans Hals museum as guided by the map from the TI office.
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 1-Haarlem
Now it's time to meet our travel mates for the next 20 days. Colleen Schaffer will be our guide and we will learn over the next few weeks that Colleen is a wealth of knowledge and a pretty awesome gal to boot. Bonus.....we get Trish Feaster for part of the trip too! Trish is hanging with us until her tour requires her attention later on, in Venice. We are so blessed to have this dynamic duo as our leaders. Couple that with all the incredible local guides and you have perfection! I can't imagine we would ever get such thorough details had we embarked on this journey on our own. We were well prepared for this trip. I watched 15 hours of Ken Burns' The War, re-read The Diary of Anne Frank, read Corrie ten Boom's book and countless other historical writings. I hope to one day know half of what these lovely guides know! Knowing the history of events and places makes seeing them in person really come to life.
After our day's adventures we went back to the hotel and collapsed...which seems to be a re-occurring theme on this trip!
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 2-Amsterdam
This morning we are headed to Amsterdam for a fairly busy day. We know exactly what our day will entail because Colleen has posted our day's agenda. She does this late every night and it is beyond helpful as we will be able to best plan for that day if we know what we are doing and where we are going. Breakfast, as always, is available in the hotel each morning. Afterwards, we will meet outside of the hotel where we will walk as a group to the Haarlem train station. Our tickets are purchased for us and this will be our first transportation lesson as a group.
We have walked through the historic district of Amsterdam, we've strolled the Red Light District (daytime means not so much activity here but I did get an eye-full in one of the windows), we spent some time in Dam Square, and now it's time to walk along Kalverstraat, a shop lined avenue. In the middle of the pedestrian walk in a very unassuming building (hidden, if you will) we find De Papegaai Hidden Catholic Church. It remains part of the history of Amsterdam, even though Catholicism is no longer illegal. In the 16th century, Catholicism was outlawed, thus forcing Catholics underground, a practice which continued for 200 years. I was really taken with the simple beauty of this place, there was a service going on so our visit was brief.
Our next stop was to witness the area known as Begijnhof. For hundreds of years Begijnhof housed women who dedicated themselves to God although they weren't nuns. This place still houses needy single women. The courtyard is filled with flowers and there are 2 churches, the English Church (the Pilgrims had once prayed here) and the "hidden" Catholic Church with painted out windows.
After the Begijnhof tour we hopped on a canal boat and had a nice calm ride throughout the canals of Amsterdam. The scenery was great but I have to admit it was really nice to have a seat for a bit! The Rijksmuseum was next on the agenda followed by a tram ride to the Anne Frank House.
After dinner in Haarlem we felt the need for another gelato. Another busy day, another night of sound, sound sleep. Tomorrow we meet our bus driver and head for Germany but not before we visit Keukenof Garden! Keukenof is only open 7 weeks out of the year and we were fortunate enough to experience it first hand. We spent a couple of hours there as evidenced by my multitude of pictures.
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 3 leaving the Netherlands
A few hours at the garden gave us a nice taste of Keukenof. I recommend visiting if you are in Amsterdam during the season. It was so serene, I could have spent all day here just sitting on a park bench watching the world go by. We rejoin Ben, our bus driver, in the parking lot and we head into Germany.