A Few Days In Old Holland

Feeling impulsive after my lovely week in the South of France, I booked another trip to Holland, but this time to a part of the country I’d not been to. Old Holland is used to describe the area around Volendam, Edam and Marken, about half an hour north of Amsterdam. There’s traditional Dutch houses and costumes, quaint villages, lakes full of (delicious) fish and idyllic countryside. And lots of cheese.

The weather in late June was incredible, around thirty degrees for the three days I was there. I arrived by direct Eurostar to Amsterdam from London, which I’d done before, albeit this time on the newly introduced third daily direct train at 11am, a much more convenient time for those of us living outside London.  Other than a few hours in Amsterdam I spent my time pleasantly meandering around in the glorious sunshine and sampling local food and drink, as you’ll see from the photos below.

I stayed in Volendam at the Art Hotel, with my room featuring a balcony overlooking the lake. There’s a small beach here and a vibrant harbour lined with bars and restaurants. Quite a lot of tour groups come here, but it’s also still a working fishing village so plenty of local voices. Apparently there’s quite a distinct local dialect but it was all Double Dutch to me. Sorry, couldn’t resists a cheesy joke. Damn, I’ve done it again.

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Marken is a peninsula that is reached from Volendam by the Marken Express boat, with the express part obviously being a local in-joke. It is in fact a slow ferry, but a very pleasant half an hour journey and Marken is definitely worth the trip. The harbour is a little touristy, but once you head inland you’re greeted by quiet lanes lined with quaint old-fashioned houses, interspersed with streams and canals. Back at the harbour I ate eels for the first time in my life, washed down with a local organic beer. Despite some initial trepidation, I throughly enjoyed them.

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Edam, the most internationally known name in the area, was actually the most quiet. A few cheese shops to cater for visitors aside, it had the feeling of a rural market town, with a central square next to one of the many canals, quiet cobbled streets, a beautiful catholic church and an overriding sense of peacefulness.

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I also spent a very pleasant few hours in the village of Broek in Waterland, which despite being just 15 minutes from Dam Square could be in a different galaxy. There’s a huge lake. There are tiny boats chugging up and down the canals. There are pretty houses enshrined with flowers and beautifully maintained gardens. And most importantly there’s a lovely cafe where I sat outside and enjoyed a cheese pancake with just the birdsong and the chatter of a few locals for company.   A haven of tranquility in a beautiful part of the world.

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