May 15, 2016
On a bench in Haarlem
I just saw a family with four girls bike by. It could have been my family only they all had blond hair, none of them wore helmets, and the youngest one had to sit in a seat attached to the dad’s bike — Klaryssa always had to bike on her own. It’s funny because with all the bikes around, yesterday I was thinking about all the family biking outings we used to take. I remember biking at Burns Bog and Karina and I getting in trouble for biking too far ahead and I remember biking the seawall and having to wait for Klaryssa and my dad who always fell behind. “It’s not her fault, her wheels are smaller — they can’t bike as fast,” my mom used to say. Then my dad would have to pack all six bikes into the car and the four of us would have to squish into one row…oh, those were the days!
The kids here must basically be born biking. I’ve seen so many parent bikes with a seat in front of them and a seat behind them for their kids. I suppose a bike in the Netherlands is what a vespa is to Italy…and still nobody wears helmets! My favourite thing to see was an old couple biking side by side on a quiet Sunday morning, their pedals in perfect synchronization. My least favourite thing to see was these young hooligans biking like maniacs through the walkway exit of the train station, barely fitting through the gate but thinking they were so cool.
Anyway, I think it’s nice that everybody bikes even though with the wind right now, it must be pretty cold. I also think it’s nice there are designated bike parking lots to encourage people to bike instead of driving. (The first 24 hours are free; after that, it’s 50 cents per day!) Many of the bikes attached to poles and fences have toppled over in the wind. The sun is shining at the moment, but both yesterday and today have been characterized by on and off rain. When it rains, it’s cold! I usually end up ducking into a nearby shop or under one of the roofs for shelter because my umbrella isn’t very sturdy and usually ends up blowing backwards. At least I have an umbrella this time — when I went to Amsterdam last July, I got miserably drenched! For some reason, the weather always behaves erratically when I’m in Holland. So now I think I’ll always remember the Netherlands as streets glistening with water and the fresh smell that always comes after a fall of rain. Some of the streets I have wandered down in Haarlem have been uncommonly pretty. Actually, the freshness in the air has made the city more enchanting, I think. I’ve seen a windmill, more bikes than I can count, and even a door covered in roses which I’m pretty sure had raindrops on them. Roses just kills me, though I’m pretty sure they are the type of flower that know they’re beautiful instead of being unknowingly beautiful.
I like the brick buildings that characterize Holland. They all look very firm and upright and remind me of the house the third little pig built to withstand the huffing and puffing of the big, bad wolf. Some of them even look like gingerbread houses decorated with white icing.
This morning, I had typical Dutch pancakes for breakfast — thinner than North American ones and thicker than the French crepes — with typical Dutch toppings: raisins, apples, bacon (with syrup, surprisingly good), cheese (with pepper and cinnamon, also surprisingly good), and some of the chocolate sprinkles called Hagelslag. I bought some Stroofwaffles for my French family — thought I already ate two because I was hungry.
It’s going to rain soon — the sun has gone behind the clouds and it’s become cold again. Yup, here it is.