Sunday, July 19, 2009
A day around the castle...
Last weekend I had planned a surprise trip for us to visit a nearby castle in the Netherlands: Kasteel de Haar. I had heard that it was the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the country. Unfortunately, it rained most of the weekend, so we weren't able to visit! Today we finally got the chance, and after a week of keeping the location a secret, Gabriel was dying to know where we were going!
Kasteel de Haar and the nearby hamlet of Haarzuilens, are only a 25 minute drive from Amsterdam. If you're visiting the area, you can easily reach the castle by bus. Kasteel de Haar dates to the 1500s but was restored in the late 19th century. The village of Haarzuilens is kept in the castle colours, and all the homes, restaurants, and stores have red, green, and white detailing. After eating lunch in Haarzuilens and watching the weather flip from rainy to sunny to rainy again (how typically Dutch!), we headed out to the castle. It took us about 20 minutes to walk there, and on the way we passed beautiful fields with cows, bulls, and sheep. When we reached the castle, we realized that a Huis & Tuin (Home and Garden) festival was going on, and that admission had spiked from 8 euros to 14 euros each. That didn't even include admission to the castle, which would've put us back another 10 euros, so we decided to skip the castle for today. We walked back, a bit sad that we couldn't see the castle and the surrounding grounds, but happy to have gotten the chance to take a nice walk in the sun.
We hopped back in the car and drove around for the next two hours, enjoying the Dutch countryside and stopping off in Vinkeveen, another cute little Dutch town, at the Ijsbeer (Polar Bear) restaurant for some coffee and appelgebak (Dutch apple cake served at most traditional cafes).
On our drive we passed through green pastures filled with grazing animals, saw gardens filled with bountiful hydrangea plants, looked at beautiful Dutch homes with thatched roofs, and were amazed at how in some places, the water level was higher than we were! It was a beautiful afternoon, and we really enjoyed seeing more of the Netherlands that we hadn't seen before. It always amazes me how, in such a small country with so many people, there are still tons of open areas filled with farmlands, pastures, and forests.
I hope everyone had wonderful weekends as well!