Speaking Dutch

That one time I went to Hoorn

Last week, on my day off, it was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to go out and DO SOMETHING FUN! Because why the heck not??

Back in January I asked for recommendations of the best places to go in the Netherlands on my Facebook page and I got loads of responses including: Haarlem (went on Saturday), Gouda (going next weekend), Maastricht, Leiden, Delft, Valkenburg, Harderwijk (been), Nijmegen (going in a few weeks), Den Bosch, The Hague, Texel, Rhenen, Groningen, Oostkappelle/Domburg, Naarden-Vesting (been – in fact, this is where our wedding party was held), Rotterdam (been – lots!), Middelburg, Amersfoort (been) and Hoorn.

It was already 12ish when I decided to go, so I wanted somewhere which was an hour or less on the train from Hilversum so I could be there and back in the same afternoon. After a quick bit of journey planning on good old NS.nl, I chose Hoorn… and I’m so glad I did!

Hoorn – pronounced somewhere between the English horn and the Dutch horen (to hear) is a town in North Holland, approx 35km north of Amsterdam. It’s a harbour town so in addition to the beautiful old buildings and canals you also get a gorgeous harbour thrown in!

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I must admit, it was tempting just to get off at Amsterdam Centraal, since we stopped there anyway… but no, Hoorn was the order of the day. When I arrived at the train station in Hoorn I didn’t really have a clear idea of where to go, so I just wandered around with my camera poised (knowing that if I got lost, I have Google Maps on my phone, so no biggie)… it was a good plan as I eventually ended up at the harbour without even really trying!

The harbour is proudly marked by (probably) Hoorn’s most recognisable landmark, de Hoofdtoren meaning ‘the head tower’. It was built in 1532 and is a registered rijksmonument (national heritage site). Today, it’s a restaurant.

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I had already been exploring for about an hour at this point, so I decided to stop at a pub on the waterfront. I looked for the most traditional one I could find, which happened to be Café ‘t Schippershuis, a traditional bruin café. Perfect!

If you don’t know what a ‘brown’ cafe is, they’re a bit like old-fashioned British pubs. The ‘brown’ title coming from the (often) tobacco stained ceilings, walls and the wooden panelling and floorboards. They’re old and often a bit tatty, but that’s all part of the charm! Oh… and carpet on the table – check!

Schippershuis

The beautiful old bar is shaped like a ship, the friendly waitress was stood behind the bar cleaning glasses and three locals were happily chatting away. As I walked in, the locals stopped briefly to greet me, looked pleased when I returned their greetings (in Dutch) and then went back to their flamboyant conversation and foamy beer.

The Dutch are a friendly bunch – and on the whole – they’re happy to speak English to you. BUT now I’m speaking more and more Dutch, I’m totally noticing that people are even friendlier  in Dutch! They love that you’re making the effort to speak their native language and will reward you accordingly. (This is making me tear up a little bit thinking of the old guy I met in Amsterdam a couple of weeks back – I was in a bar near Centraal Station with my English friend and he offered us a seat, in English. When I replied in Dutch, his face literally lit up like a Christmas tree!)

And the same thing happened in Hoorn. Once I collected my drink and took a seat, the patrons (knowing I could speak Dutch) started chatting away to me and made me feel really welcome. I honestly don’t think that would have happened if I’d ordered my drink in English. Proost! 

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When I first moved here ten months ago, I would have never been brave enough to just get on a train and go somewhere brand new ON MY OWN. It just shows how far I’ve come!

I wouldn’t say I’m fluent yet, but I can do all the basics. Understanding what people say to you is important, and undoubtedly the first step, but now I can not only understand what they’re saying to me… I can reply. My understanding was always pretty good (after visiting here regularly when we lived in England) but gone are the days when I completely freak out when people speak Dutch at me. That whole day, I didn’t speak a word of English.

Initially, a lot of my problem was having the confidence to speak Dutch (this is especially intimidating because Dutch people speak such good English)… but one day I just said to myself: “Fuck it”.

I will make mistakes, but it’s the only way I’m going to learn. And with that, I somehow just got over my fear. This makes me VERY happy as it’s opened up a whole new world of adventures! I love visiting new places with my husband or my friends, but I now I don’t HAVE to wait for them. If I have a day off and want to go somewhere on my own, I damn well can.

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So, like any good tourist, I took a whole bunch of photos. I can’t post them all here as you might lose the will to live… but I’m going to add my favourites at least. (That’s a lot, still. It’s Hoorn’s fault for being so damn gorgeous!!)

As you may have noticed, especially if you follow me on Instagram, I have a bit of an obsession with Street Art.

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And churches. (This particular beauty is Grote Kerk.)

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And skulls. (This one is Noorderkerk.)

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I visited the central square in Hoorn too, called de Roode Steen (The Red Stone) to check out the Westfries Museum. An amazingly impressive building, I’m afraid my photo just doesn’t do it justice though… as I was fighting with the sun the whole time (not that I’m complaining!) so you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!

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After more walking, admiring and photo taking I fancied a bite to eat and stumbled across Bagels & Beans on my way back to the train station. I remembered that the one in Hilversum had good reviews, so decided to give it a go. Turns out, it was a day of good choices. (Unfortunately it was a one-day-only special. I went to Haarlem the next day with the Dutchie and all of my good fortune had run out. It wasn’t a bad trip… but it was nowhere as good as mijn dagje uit in Hoorn!)

The hot chocolate comes – not as a hot chocolate – but as a mug of hot milk and a shot glass of chocolate buttons to make it yourself! Very novel! I also loved the ‘heaven & hell’ saucer!

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To accompany the best hot chocolate ever… I had a delicious Paddoburger van champignons (mushroom burger in a bagel) but I can’t post that picture now or I might chew my arm off.

Think I’d better go and make some lunch…

So, have you been to Hoorn? What did you think?

Hayley x

Ps – and now for a shitload of photos that didn’t fit into the post… but I don’t know what else to do with them. (I didn’t Photoshop any of these btw, so no idea what’s going on with the crazy variation in sky colours!)

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Not your average huwelijksreis (honeymoon) – Part 3

The third installment is all about Lake Garda! Wooooo hooooo! What an incredible place! I feel so lucky to be able to have visited this amazing area of Italy and what better time to do it than on your honeymoon!? Idyllic is one word. Beautiful is another. Breathtaking, stunning, glorious… I could go on all day!

The first glimpse we got of Lake Garda was the northern shore at Riva del Garda. From there we had a short drive along the eastern shore to our first stop: Malcesine, or so we thought! The campsite we’d booked was advertised as being in Malcesine, but we soon realised it was also an “area” and we were miles away from the actual town of Malcesine. We were actually closer to the small town of Navene, with comparatively few bars and restaurants. Luckily it had a beautiful marina!

Marina Navene, Lake Garda

Marina Navene, Lake Garda

Fisherman, Navene, Lake Garda

Fisherman, Navene, Lake Garda

After a one night stay at Camping Alpino and a meal at Locanda Navene (which was super-delicious and so authentic the waiter didn’t speak a word of English!) we decided to travel down to Sirmione which had been highly recommend by my boss (he’s a Lake Garda nut and has been 10+ times.) I REALLY don’t want to talk about lack of photos on this part of the trip (if you’ve read the previous posts, you already know!) Sorry!

The drive from Malcesine (or Navene!!) to Sirmione is sooo pretty!! (Tip: Just stay on the SR249 and follow the shape of the lake, no need to take the motorway route that Google Maps gives. Weirdos!)

When we arrived at Camping Tiglio in Sirmione we approached the Vacansoleil reception to book a “luxe Navajo tent” for a few nights. It was cheaper than staying in our own tent (!) so, why not! Unfortunately, the grumpy woman at reception had no interest whatsoever in helping us. Big sighs, rolling her eyes and muttering “we’re very busy” as she scuffed her heels to another tent to get her book. I was so surprised by her rudeness I even commented on it (something I would never usually do!) “Well, if it’s too difficult for you, we can just book online…” (We’d already seen online they had spaces but thought it was “easier” to just turn up!) But then… just then, I realised something. How had she pronounced the word busy again??

So, I pulled out my secret weapon: “Bent u Nederlands? We kunnen het in het Nederlands doen, als u wilt.”

YESSSSSSS! Never in our lives have we seen so much of a turnaround in a matter of seconds. When speaking Dutch, this woman came alive, she loved us, we could do no wrong, we even got to choose which tent we wanted! We ended up staying for 4 nights and she was the friendliest, most lovely host you could wish for. In Dutch!

And in case you’re wondering what a “luxe Navajo tent” is, I’ll put you out of your misery now 😉

Our home for 4 nights

Our home for 4 nights

Yep, in true Dutch stylie… we hired bikes! Without a doubt the easiest way to get around Lake Garda! (Ask at your accommodation / campsite where to rent bikes, there are rental places everywhere.)

View from campsite Tiglio

View from campsite Tiglio

While staying in Sirmone, we wanted to do a boat trip so we rode our bikes to the harbour in Peschiera del Garda which we were told had better connections than Sirmione itself. It was also totally pretty  – well worth a visit in itself!

Peschiera del Garda Harbour

Peschiera del Garda Harbour

And just to prove how popular this area was with the Dutch…

Hollandse Patat

Hollandse Patat

I only took a photo! Promise! Why eat Dutch chips when you can eat Italian food?! 😉

And with the San Marco ready to set sail… off we went!

The San Marco

Boat trip from Peschiera to Garda

Lake Garda Boat Trip

Boat trip, Lake Garda

Boat trip, Lake Garda

Boat trip, Lake Garda

Boat trip, Lake Garda

Boat trip, Lake Garda

Boat trip, Lake Garda

Boat trip, Lake Garda

We hopped off the boat in Garda (town) because the Dutchie’s Mum had been to Lake Garda a few years back (ok, a lot of years back) and that’s where she had stayed.

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

Garda, Lake Garda

A gorgeous little town brimming with shops, bars and restaurants. We bought the majority of our souvenirs on this single trip!

If you’re lucky enough to visit Lake Garda, it would be rude not to do a boat trip! It was very reasonably priced, around 16 euros return from Peschiera to Garda. An absolute bargain in my eyes. You get to see so much of the lake this way, perfect for people who don’t have much time!

Or for those who want to spend the majority of their time chilling out…

Sirmione, Lake Garda

Sirmione, Lake Garda

Well, we had to rest, recuperate and relax before our car journey to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli for the San Marino MotoGP!!

Have you been to Lake Garda? Which places did you visit? Did you speak to the lovely Dutch lady at Camping Tiglio?

Hayley x