Monday, 13 June 2016

2016 Trip to Europe - Day 5 - Haarlem

Day 5 - Haarlem

Franz Hals Museum
I’m being careful today. Not walking as much. But we did walk eight or ten blocks to the Franz Hals Museum. Unlike the museum in Delft, it did indeed house a small amount of that master’s output, but just four paintings. Large ones, impressive ones, ones worth seeing, but not much else in the museum is anything I’d go out of my way to see. There is an interesting and informative film about Hals’ work at the beginning. Perhaps worth the time if you’re a fan of Hals, as I am. I especially love the ones he DIDN”T get paid for. So much of his work is portraits of the rich and famous of his time, but give me those he did for his own amusement any time, the Little Shrimp Girl, the merry faced drunk.

Grand Hotel Franz Hals
Tonight we must pack. We’ve rather thoroughly moved into this large comfortable hotel room in the Grand Hotel Franz Hals. It is indeed a very nice hotel but the “grand” in its name is a bit fanciful. I’ve stayed in “Grand” hotels. They were all built in the late eighteen hundreds or early nineteen hundreds and they have marble bathrooms and a gazillion rooms and people who pop out of the woodwork at every turn to see if they could bring you a drink, Madame. We love these hotels. One in Rimini particularly comes to mind. An experience.

No. Not “grand”. But the Franz Halls is very comfortable, the front desk is alert and helpful and the room, fully satisfactory in every way. It may be difficult to accustom ourselves to sharing a ship cabin after having this much space!

Food at the Grand Cafe Brinkmann
I just realized I haven’t mentioned food. I expected little from the Netherlands in that department. How wrong I was. Our meals have been incredible, and we’ve added a few things to our repertory. For instance, a very popular drink here is mint tea. No. Not made with a tea bag. You crush a cup full of mint into the glass mug, pour boiling water over it and voila! Utterly delicious and refreshing. Tonight my dinner was two tiny whole soles. A white fish I love but never get in Canada because it’s already old before it gets to Canada. They were cooked to perfection.  JP had shrimp prepared in a spicy Indonesian sauce. We have not had a meal in the last four days that was less than perfection. One night we had cheese fondue made with Dutch cheese. Delicious!

In all fairness I must admit that I think our good fortune came from discovering The Grand Café Brinkmann on our first night in Haarlem. It left us with no desire to explore further.

Most clients sit outside at the sixty or so tables they have there. We chose inside, on red velvet banquettes, surrounded by dark mahogany. We were waited on by a series of cheerful young Dutchmen who patiently explained the (Dutch) menu to us. And took pleasure in introducing us to things we might otherwise not have tried. I am reminded again that in Europe, serving in a restaurant is considered a respectable career. Not just something to do part time.

Grand Cafe Brinkmann
In front of the cafe there is a row of trees seven in all, tall, but espaliered in a way I’ve never seen before, so that they create a tall flat green border to the café. I’ve seen espalier trees before, particularly in France, but never anything of the size of these. They are contained by strong metal pipes from the ground and across the top and there are wires from one pipe to the next to which the limbs are fastened. It makes for a very interesting effect. A wall of green.

Setting and food, Brinkmann’s has it all, and it’s just across from the church in the town square.

And we have yet to pay more than 50 Euros for a dinner for two in Haarlem.

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