20 October 2011

Making a life in Haarlem

Posted in Talking about . . .

So – the time arrived for us to settle down.

We moved to Haarlem on 1 October and I was immediately enchanted with the little semi-detached house we’re renting. It looks suburban, but the big advantage is that the neighbourhood is very quiet, which is marvellous. Although, I can faintly hear the suburban train going by when it’s still at night, which reminds me of home. Our neighbourhood is relatively new (built in the 1920s) but there is an older neighbourhood (late 19th century and early 20th century) close by. That area has more established trees and bigger homes and looks more expensive and I run through there on my way to the Haarlemmerhout (Haarlem’s big park/forest).

Our street

Our street

Our House My Fav Bakery

Our House (front door behind bush) and My Fav Bakery

An older neighbourhood

An older neighbourhood

The house is small (about 90 square metres) but well laid out. Downstairs there is a long, fairly large living room leading out onto a little patio and garden, a separate galley kitchen, a laundry area in an enclosed lean-to outside the kitchen, and the toilet under the staircase. There is a narrow staircase and upstairs there are two bedrooms, the bathroom, and a landing area. There is also an attic that you get to by way of a ladder that folds up into the ceiling – very clever. The attic is fairly large and has an interesting story attached to it – more about that later. The owner is a very nice young woman who bought the place early this year and spent some months renovating it. It is completely white – nothing on the walls at all – with pale wooden floors, and it has a very nice clean, peaceful feel about it.

Sitting area Dining and work area

Sitting area, Dining and work area

Kitchen Main bedroom

Kitchen and Main bedroom

There was almost no storage space at all, so, as you might guess, the first thing I did was head off by bus to Ikea to buy furniture (just about everything in the house already comes from Ikea). They delivered the same day, and I spent the first few days in flatpak heaven! I put together the side tables in the sitting area and all the drawers in the bedroom, as well as a shallow, open bookcase in the kitchen. Aaah . . . storage . . . nice. We have all the appliances we need and everything is brand new. Excellent! We decided to give the double bed a try, and set up the Aerobed in the spare room, so we are ready for visitors. We are set up for cable TV and have access to a huge number of movies for hire via the cable network. Also excellent! There is a supermarket within 7 minutes’ walking distance (faster by bike, of course) and I soon discovered a hairdresser and a beauty salon close by. It only takes me about 20 minutes to walk into town (faster by bike, of course) and have already found a garment repair place, the main post office, a medical centre, and the Ballantynes equivalent. Looking good!

The ethnicity is far less diverse than in Amsterdam, so we don’t have the many greengrocer stores and specialist ethnic food places. However, the supermarkets cater well for ethnic food ingredients, particularly Indonesian (the Dutch governed Indonesia for 3 centuries) and Malaysian (the Dutch also governed Malaysia for some time before the British took over).

We had miserable weather the first week we were in Haarlem and so I didn’t feel like going out to explore. I was kept busy with setting up home, so didn’t need to go much further than the supermarket (a 10 minute walk away). The bike also had a puncture, so I had to wait for BDH to remind me how to fix a puncture! I was also busy writing up the blog for Amsterdam and the return to Paris, and trying to set up my book-writing operation, so stayed indoors most of the time. However, by the end of the week, I was feeling stir crazy and starting to struggle with not having contact with people. So, on Monday of the second week, I decided that I would go out for a run in spite of the windy, squally weather. I set off on a route I’d planned from my map book, aiming towards a big park/forest that I’d been told about, Haarlemmerhout. I was soon excited as I discovered a gorgeous, old, upmarket neighbourhood nearby and the park itself. When I got home, I jumped on the bike and went back to explore more of the area. It was great to be out and about again (in spite of spitting rain), and I was reminded how important it is to get out and explore in order to feel that you “own” the place. Otherwise, you run the risk of feeling isolated and your perspective becomes very narrow. I guess it’s a micro-version of the idea that travel broadens the mind.

I am reminded that I am at the hub of European travel when I look into the sunny sky. Sometimes, the jet trails criss-cross one another in a stupendous display of the number of airplanes that go to and from Schipol airport. There is also a huge difference in the number, depending on the day. So, on Friday afternoon at about 5pm, we counted more than 25 clearly visible trails (some still in the making), whereas, on Sunday morning at about 9, we only counted about 5. Wow – we really are in the heart of Europe.

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Comments (1)

  • Kate Burtt
    Kate Burtt
    23 October 2011 at 13:08 |

    House looks great - enjoy

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