Ik hart Holland (I heart Holland)

Mum and I decided on an impromptu trip to Holland as my uncle was doing an opera there in Enschede and so had a place we could stay with him.  I thought it would be a nice chance to spend the quality time with my Mum that I have been missing since moving out as well as an opportunity to add another country to my list of travels without breaking the bank.

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My boyfriend walked me to the station to get the train to London where I would meet my Mum.  As we walked up I noticed a beer delivery lorry from the company my ex worked for and there he was.  How strange that he should be delivering locally to me, just at the time I was walking past and on a Saturday which he wouldn’t normally work.  Some people would say this was fate working in mysterious ways and once upon a time I would have chosen to see it as some sort of a sign; nowadays however, I would call it pure coincidence and I think my boyfriend found it most uncomfortable.  On the journey to Holland I read ‘One Day’ and I couldn’t help but see a comparison to the relationship I had with my ex.  Together, not together, together, not together, seeing everything as fate.  There’s one difference in our story though, I’m glad we didn’t end up together as it meant I met my wonderful boyfriend, who is perfect for me.  I felt quite sad waving goodbye to him as the train pulled out, knowing I wouldn’t see him for nearly a week.  He said it took him back to when we weren’t living together and had to wave goodbye to each other after the weekends.

Mum and I got the Eurostar from London to Brussels and had a bit of a wait there for our onward train.  Naturally my nose led me to a shoe shop.  I saw a gorgeous pair of shoes but sensibly decided to wait until my journey back, when I did indeed purchase them.

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Mum and I had a pleasant lunch with a glass of wine and I got to exercise my French vocabulary before we joined the TGV to Schiphol airport.  Once on the train however, we were told that due to engineering works we would have to go to Amsterdam and change there for a train to Enschede; it’s refreshing to know we are not the only country in the world to suffer engineering works on the railway!  Anyway we eventually made it.

The first day we went to Arnhem.  Arnhem is a place of historical importance since the battle of Arnhem during the Second World War.  We visited the bridge which the battle was centred around.

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We then went on to view the British war graves in nearby Oosterbeek.  It was a very moving experience.  What a waste of young lives.  Even sadder are the dead who were never identified, whose tomb stone simply says ‘a soldier of the 1939-1945 war, known unto God’.

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The following day, we ventured to Amsterdam.  As soon as we got off the train and into the centre of the city, the air was perfumed with cannabis and bikes weaved through the streets whilst a waterway, lined with canal boats broke up almost every block.  We started at the Nieuwe Kerk in Dam Square, which just happened to be holding a fashion exhibition.

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The architecture is beautiful too as is the 1655 organ and a stained glass window depicting Queen Wilhelmina to rival the famous window of Notre Dame.  Well worth a look.

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Next stop was the Anne Frank house.  We walked around the annex where the family hid from the Nazis; the entrance to which was disguised by a bookcase.  Cuttings from magazines of the time which Anne herself stuck on the walls still remain which was extremely emotive.

Being that Holland is so well known for Tulips, we visited the Tulip museum where I purchased some tulips to plant at home; actual ‘Tulips of Amsterdam’.  Next stop was Begijnhof which is an inner court, which once housed religious Catholic women rather like a convent.  To this day only women live there.  Inside this court yard is one of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands which dates back to circa 1528.

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I must admit whilst in Amsterdam, I was curious to try one of their ‘coffee shops’ but being with my Mum that was really out of the question.  Mum felt most uncomfortable when I took her on the quick walk of the red light district which was suggested by the Lonely Planet City guide.  The area does have to be seen to be believed with women in bikinis posing in shop windows.  It is worth the walk though to see the Oude Kerk which is Amsterdam’s oldest church dating back to 1306.

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We finished the day with a canal boat trip and a nice meal where I tried the local delicacy of herring.  I left Amsterdam wanting to see more.

Munster was our next stop the following day.  Being that Enschede is very close to the German border; I thought I might as well use it as an opportunity to visit Germany for the first time. Munster was what you imagine a typical German town to be like and we had a very pleasant lunch sitting in one of the squares.  I stopped off to buy a beer to take back for my other half at the local Pinkus brewery.

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We made the most of the nice weather and sat out in the garden when we got back to my Uncles, sipping wine and eating prawns and other snacks whilst listening to the country sounds of the cows being herded in for milking.

Our final day in Holland, I convinced Mum to join me in a return trip to Amsterdam on the proviso that we would get trams around rather than attempting to walk miles like the previous trip!  We visited the Rijks’s museum which everyone says is a must in Amsterdam and saw the famous Rembrandt Night Watch masterpiece.  We also visited Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s answer to Central park.

Now my cultural interests had been attended to, it was on to a more apt museum; the diamond museum, after all diamonds are a girls best friend.

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Following that we visited the handbag museum; can you believe they have a whole museum dedicated to the history of handbags?  The only thing better would have been a museum dedicated to shoes.  An interesting fact I learnt from the museum was that the need to make stronger bags from materials such as leather only arose with the advent of train travel becoming popular.  By far the best exhibit in my opinion was the cupcake bag as seen in the Sex and the City movie.

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Now no trip to Holland would be complete without seeing a windmill which was our last stop in Amsterdam.  We enjoyed a nice glass of wine in the bar underneath it.

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We rounded off the wonderful holiday in Lucius fish restaurant which I highly recommend.  You can enjoy your seafood whilst being entranced by the fish tank.  There’s an irony there!

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After a good nights sleep, we headed back on the train to Blighty, without a souvenir pair of clogs which my boyfriend expected me to bring back.  If you ever get the chance, Holland is well worth the visit.

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