Sat 26 Oct - Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands

Lovely day in Leiden, birthplace of a certain Mr Van Rijn...

The weather was much improved today compared to yesterday so we thought that we would check out Leiden, a town some 20+ minutes away by bus. You can buy a family day card good for one day of bus travel (off peak) for the whole family for £14, which turns out to be cheaper for us on single tickets just going to Leiden and back.

Once in Leiden, we switched on Runkeeper to record how we would stroll through town. As you can tell we had no plan, nor a tourist map, so we just zig- zagged down streets that looked interesting.

You can't tell from this map but the Rijn (Rhine) River (both Old and New) passes through Leiden and we crossed both several times.

Leiden had been described by our friends, Doro and Brian, as a mini Amsterdam with canals and small cobbled streets. That was very true, but we also liked the added attraction of old windmills.

We walked down a main shopping road and saw a typical Australian pub in Leiden, selling a very typical Australian beer... Not!

One of the windmills up close.

Di liked the name of this shop - it's one of her more common expressions when things are easy...but frustratingly the shop was not a patisserie, which would have been nicer than a boring clothing store.

The Rijn (Rhine) splits in the centre of Leiden into "Old" and "New". This is near the junction.

Yep, we stumbled onto another "typical" Australian retail business. Premium "Australian" ice cream, chocolates and coffee were sold in here. What?

Even the workers in the shop were not sure why it was called Australian. We don't recall any stores at home promoting Australian grown product - more likely Italian or Belgian. No, we didn't get homesick so were not tempted by any of these very ordinary looking commodities.

Every Saturday is market day in Leiden and the stalls line the banks of several canals and the Rijn (Rhine). Lots of textiles, flowers, fresh fruit and vegies, and more.

Fantastic display and clearly where the locals come to do their shopping too as it was pretty busy.

The stalls even cover both sides of bridges. In the background you can see the tall spire of the Staadhuis (town hall) but more on that later.

Of course there were several stalls selling nothing but cheese, cheese and more cheese - you could not wipe the cheesy grin from Di's face as tasting bits were provided. Yes, it was cheesy alright.

Hans was still chewing on some when we took this photo. Ahh cheese heaven for Di.

When we were in Phoenix, Arizona, we went to the Museum of Musical Instruments and they had an old steam driven calliope on display.

Here we found 2 calliopes just in one market place. Privately owned, with the owner busking with a tin cup in time with the music.

What happens behind the scenes fascinated us a lot.

The punched music sheets that drive the calliope. Very retro.

It was morning tea time so we took a break near a canal outside of the markets. Cookies from home and our thermos with tea for Hans and fresh orange juice from a market stall for Di.
We decided to wander away from the markets and see more of Leiden, so we headed towards an area recommended by Doro and Brian called Rapenburg, a wealthy area with grand canal homes.

It was picturesque and far quieter. Hans hanging out enjoying the views...

Along the way Hans got excited about this vintage car - it's a Volvo Amazon - and he fondly remembers a trip to Poland with mates in the same type of car when he was a sprinkly 18 years old.

He even composed a jingle for the car at the time "Volvo, Volvo Amazon..." (Ask him to sing it next time you see him, no don't, not very good nor long).

Di finally got a chance to see some autumn colours on trees. In England, the weather had been too warm and autumn seemed to be delayed. Here the trees are various shades of green to red to yellow. Lovely.

Just love the Dutch sometimes and their mix of English words... "PIN Automat Defect"?? Fantastic (we figured that you can also guess what that means..).

Not as many leaning houses in Leiden as in Amsterdam but there were still a few. This little pink building was cute and the windows were almost trapezoids.

We found ourselves on a self guided walking route called the Leidser Lopen. There were signs along the way that explained what we were seeing (and also several walking tour groups following the same route).

This gate is about 450 years old and was the front gate to the barracks area for the local militia. St. George and the Dragon feature on top. The area surrounding the gate became the red light district in the Middle Ages (no surprise to us that the military were near the prostitutes). Is this guy waiting for business? Who is he kidding?

We continued on the loop and found Rembrandt's place of birth although the building has long gone. Of course it now all makes sense - "Van Rijn" means "of the Rhine" which is almost adjacent to here.

We took a "selfie" with a Rembrandt self portrait in the Rijksmuseum so we figure another selfie was required here.

The young painter may not be appreciating Hans' tips... (Directly opposite Rembrandt's birthplace).

This old windmill is on the Rijn (Rhine) and marks the edge of the old city of Leiden before it expanded. Leiden was for a while the 3rd largest city in the Netherlands and expanded with students, as it has the oldest university in the Netherlands (since 1575). The foot bridge to the right crosses the Rijn.

We just thought this foot bridge was very cool. It opens to allow higher vessels to pass through to the sea.

Looking along the Rijn towards the centre of Leiden. We were really enjoying our walk around this very attractive and relaxed town.

We found our way back to the main plaza in town and it appeared a local bike repair group had set up business here. This made a huge amount of sense because pretty much everybody has at least 1 bike here. In the Netherlands there are more bikes than the population.

We headed in a different direction as were looking for "De Burcht", an old fortress. Along the way, we passed a Dutch "coffee shop" and thought that we needed a photo as we didn't take any in Amsterdam despite the numerous shops over there.

Again, this "coffee shop" fell into the category of "discrete" but the name was a bit of a giveaway.

Some students were handing out free information and maps of Leiden so we got a map from them and worked out how to head back into the centre of the town.

This busker caught our interest - he was very good and we gave him some money. We figured he could play the guitar and any other string instrument as well and sure enough we saw him later doing just that, plucking on a guitar.

Another self portrait along what we think is the "Old" Rijn.

We found our way to the old "hill" fortress called De Burcht. Not much of a hill - it was man made to be a little higher than the town and also above the high flood line.

Di laughed as one TripAdvisor review she read said "it was worth the climb". What climb? We have more stairs than this to get from the bedroom on the second floor to our front door at home in Noordwijk.

The fortress was built in 11th century but never saw a battle. It was "worth the climb" as you do get some views over Leiden from the top. Hans was trying to see even further...

As you circle the top rampart there are explanation boards of what you are seeing. This one faced the Staadhuis and talked about it being "burt to the groud" in 1929. Dunglish (Dutch English)?

The Staadhuis and Pieterskerk to the right (in the distance), just like the sign above showed.

A typical street in this old town centre. Plenty of cobblestones (in fact earlier in the day we saw a lad riding his bike come off as his tyre hit a cobblestone the wrong way).

Heading back down the hill, with a nice looking cafe at the bottom. It made us think of lunch (it was already 1.30pm) and we knew exactly where to go...

...we would go back to the market stalls.

Earlier in the day we walked past this rotisserie chicken stall and it smelled so good we had to come back for lunch. 10 winglet pieces for €3.20. Bargain. We had to wait 5 minutes for the next batch due to its popularity, but that meant we got a fresh and very hot lunch.

Burned fingers did not slow us down. Fantastic lunch sitting on a doorstep. Yummy.

We had read about Pieterskerk and its link to the American pilgrims so we headed off to see it. One more photo of the lovely Staadhuis on the way. Very impressive.

We passed down a small lane and found this plaque - from the Pilgrim descendants - to the place where Elder William Brewster had lived when here. He was the spiritual father of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, New England.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to Plymouth, MA, while we were in the US, so didn't really get that side of the story.

The front of the impressive Pieterskerk.

We are pretty sure they did not translate everything here...14 lines of Dutch became 4 lines of English...hmmm.

Good thing we know some German and could interpret a bit of what was missing. What we got was that a chapel originally stood here, from 1121 and that this church is as least 500 years old.

The inside of Pieterskerk is impressive, particularly the organ. We wondered where the organist sat and how he would get there. There was nothing obvious inside so there must have been stairs on the other side, outside, somehow.

More on the Pilgrim history inside the Pieterskerk church. The pilgrims fled first from England to Leiden before eventually going to America for true religious freedom.

A few signs helped explain the connection. This one was particularly interesting to Di - her friend Bev is from New England and is returning for Thanksgiving this year.

As usual in these old churches every inch of the floor has been used for burial.

Di always feels badly walking on graves, but not so much here when we saw vehicle tyre marks going over them. They drive over the graves, inside? We found out that renovations were going on inside on one side of the church so that would explain the tyre marks, but anyway...?

After our cultural update we decided we needed to balance it with another side of the Dutch culture - beer.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we got lucky finding 2 outside seats with a coffee table, along the promenade near the markets and looking towards the Staadhuis, at the Einstein cafe.

Our waitress tried to find a beer menu but had no luck so recited a list of beers we had never heard of (except Heineken) and we both opted for Affligen Blonde (Affligen is pronounced Afflichen). Very drinkable. We could have that one again.

Hans looked pretty relaxed and satisfied with our day in Leiden.

As we headed towards the bus station Di announced she wanted to buy some nice pork for dinner tonight as we stopped at a butcher shop we saw earlier in the day.
We thought that "slag" sort of meant whipped cream in Dutch or was that German? Anyway, this place turned out to be a very popular butcher and Di bought us some very lovely pork chops, cut straight from the loin, for tonight's dinner. The butcher even provided his own pork chops recipe to Di for cooking them and had the rest of the customers asking him home to cook their dinner!
Back to Centraal station for our bus.
Leiden, being a university town with lots and lots of students, seemed to have even more bikes than Amsterdam. This bike parking, just outside Central Staation was only one part of many bike parking stations that we saw. All packed with bikes like this - thousands...

Waiting for bus 20 to take us back to Noordwijk from Leiden. The buses were all nicely lined up before rolling into their bus stops.

Home to Noordwijk on the bus 20 after a most enjoyable day in Leiden.

Once we got home we had a few hours of down time before Di cooked up a storm for dinner. Roast potatoes, green beans and corn, served with the lovely pork chops grilled and a creamy mushroom sauce (not the butchers recipe as Di did not have the fennel seeds and sage leaves he mentioned).

The pork was super tender and accompanied with all the trimmings and a few glasses of wine, it was the best dinner we had for some time. We may have to go back to Leiden next Saturday for some more.

A fun night with a Rowan Atkinson Live DVD in the collection, then to bed. Very satisfied with our day. Good night.

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