Sweet breads and free wool

We are now back to a more typical American visit of Holland: it is Tuesday, this must be Holland. We ran the ‘randstad Holland’ from Rotterdam to Haarlem via Leiden and the tulip bulb region in one fell swoop. No tulips of course. They are all tucked away 6 inches into the sand awaiting spring and the tourists.

We visited my sister in law in Den Haag so I got to see the two nephews we had missed on the island. We went for a long walk through Den Haag’s many parks giving our friends the wrong impression that Den Haag is all meadows with sheep and geese and woods. After a very quick swing through the urban part of Den Haag we drove to Leiden, trying to squeeze in as much as we can of the remaining Dutch treasures on our last two days.

I showed my friends around Leiden where I spent 5 student years. One of the pilgrimage sites was the Frisian bakery which still has the same sweet bread specialties from way back when. I lived above the bakery and remembered the smell of freshly baked bread, and then bought a ‘pof’ (raising bread with a cinnamon sugar filling) and Frisian sugar bread plus a few leftover Saint Nicolas sweets.

On our way home we passed a wool shop and I couldn’t help myself, even though the same wool is probably for sale in the US. After I completed my selection I was asked to pull a chance card from a basket – to celebrate the shop’s 10 years of business. It was my lucky day and I won my entire purchase, having pulled a winning ticket.

In Heemstede I showed my childhood home and the woods that were such an important part of my growing up. It was dark and much of the detail of my early childhood environment was not really visible. I am sure such pilgrimages are really interesting for others – they are more significant to me – a nostalgia trip.

I had ourselves invited for dinner at the flat of our longtime (25 years) friends from Newburyport who have settled in Santpoort Zuid. She’s Dutch, he’s American but ready to get his Dutch passport. He speaks fluently Dutch. Although Lobster Cove is one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen, part of me would like to do what they did – live in Holland for a bit. Now that I have spent two weeks as a tourist I am aware of all the things I miss. We had a fantasy about finishing 2011 in Holland but the realization of that fantasy was not very obvious.

But then again, there is nothing like home, and the promise of sleeping in my own bed two nights from now, and not having to pack and unpack all the time is increasingly appealing.

We have ended our grand tour of Holland at the house that has become my home-away-from-home in Holland, 15 minutes from Schiphol. Tomorrow is our last chance for Haarlem.

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December 2011
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