The rain and cold returned to Arnhem, so I drove to the coast yesterday seeking a bit of sun and scenery. On the recommendation of our finance director, I aimed towards Haarlem, the capital of North Holland. I didn't have time to see the museums, but really enjoyed a few hours wandering the town center and the many canals. Like Delft, I can see that this will be a wonderful spot when the weather warms up and the trees come out.
The city is arranged along the winding river Spaarne: I spent time walking each bank in turn to get a sense of the community. The many homes that line the canals seem to belong to artists and professionals, and the glimpses into studios and studys were the best part of the walk. I like the whole idea of having a creative space in my house (my art supplies are in a sunny upstairs bedroom with a good view of the street and the park). These homes had modern works on the walls, overflowing shelves of books and works in stages of completion, and stained tables with supplies at hand. Only the artists were missing (although I'm sure I could have attracted a few if I'd stopped to take pictures).
The large St. Bavo church is really worth the two euro entry fee (the entry is tucked along the side of the church amidst some shops). The main sanctuary seems to me to have a nautical theme: the wonderful ceiling vaults are made of wood planking, and three ships sail silently above the nave. The Christiaan Muller organ is also amazing.
I wanted to make it to the ocean, having come this far, and took a drive out to Zondvoort. It was dusk when I got there, but the hummocks of the dunes, a wilderness of their own, were inviting and I really want to go back and walk the trails there. The streets out to Zondvoort feature a long stretch of very un-Dutch-like mansions that would put a lot of McMansions in the US to shame. Judging by the cars in the driveways and the prices listed in the nearby realty office windows, these must be where the real power brokers of the Netherlands live.