Yesterday we took a break from packing (my wife is so efficient at this that she's already packed the novel I was reading ... grr!), to visit Haarlem, a lovely city near Amsterdam. Haarlem, as one of my friends described it, is "Amsterdam without the bullshit". Now I know why. It's gorgeous and not nearly so packed with tourists. Americans often have a preconception of what Europe is supposed to be, but then they visit Paris, London and other major cities and don't see the Europe that is. Haarlem is a lovely example of Europe (though I should be careful not to generalize Haarlem to all of Europe, of course).
|This was a lovely boat in the canal|
|People were taking advantage of the lovely weather|
|Grote Markt, Haarlem, Netherlands|
|Dutch cafes on the Grote Markt|
|Our daughter loves "flying"|
|... and watching everything around her.|
|The view from the cafe we were relaxing at.|
|Another canal in Haarlem|
|My niece, enjoying her trip to Europe|
All in all, Haarlem seems to have a slower, more relaxed pace than Amsterdam and I find that to be humorous because my wife and I found that Amsterdam had a slower, more relaxed pace than London.
After having lived in and explored small town Europe versus the "grand cities", I strongly urge anyone thinking of living here to check out the smaller towns. London is not England. Amsterdam is not the Netherlands. Paris is not France. People from the outside often don't recognize this, but you're missing out on so much of the culture if you limit yourself to the tourist destinations.