First Day in Leiden

Leiden Travel Blog

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Louise and Anna, and a scene-stealing litter bin

After an uneventful flight we landed bang on time at Schipohl, where Anna was to meet us. It is pleasing to record the chaos at passport control, where about three flightloads of passengers appeared to descend on the two control points at once, and there was no semblance of queuing or any other kind of order. Everyone just milled around in a most unBritish fashion, and Louise was somewhat anxious as she was almost certain that she'd quoted a much earlier arrival time to Anna. However, we managed to worm our way towards the front and before long decanted into the arrivals hall where Anna was waiting, and all was well. Soon we were on the train for the 30-minute journey to Leiden.

The miller's original dining-room

On arrival at Leiden the first thing was to check in to my hotel, the Tulip Inn, which is a mere stone's throw from Leiden Centraal train station, and for which I've written a separate review. Then the general idea was to wander around Leiden, and be joined later by Guido and Wendy who were also part of the Friday contingent. As we passed near the windmill De Valk, I mentioned that I wanted to visit it at some time during the weekend, and as we had nothing in particular planned we decided to pay a visit there and then; and a very worthwhile hour it turned out to be. De Valk is both a working windmill, still occasionally used for milling flour, and a museum containing many old implements and tools, along with explanatory material in several languages. The approach is through the miller's former living quarters, which have been maintained in their original state; thereafter, a succession of steep wooden stairs leads eventually to the exterior platform, from which there are panoramic views over Leiden as far as The Hague, which is about 14km away.

The sails of the windmill seem huge when seen close to
The sails of the windmill reach almost to the platform, and so one can obtain a clear idea of their size, which seemed very great, although Anna said that, as Dutch windmills go, De Valk is quite modest. Inside, one could examine closely all the wooden mechanisms of the mill, and enjoy the evocative odour of the ancient timber.

Anna was wearing a shortish skirt, and because the stairs were so steep she was for obvious reasons keen to be the last to ascend. There was also a courteous elderly gentleman who was equally keen to allow ladies to go first, apparently oblivious (at least, I hope he was oblivious) to the indelicate situation that might thereby arise. Having reached the top, I was bursting with laughter at the "after you ... no, please, after you" exchange at the bottom of the stairs, which I thought would go on for ever; but I think Anna won in the end.

Louise is flushed with success at finding that she can get down the stairs after all

Coming down the stairs also provided entertainment because Louise threw a wobbly and declared that she couldn't manage it; at first I thought she was just larking about, but then it became clear that the need to come down backwards was a genuine problem for her. I went halfway up again and suggested one or two foot and hand placements, and finally she gained confidence and realised that it was actually rather easy: Plan B, which involved calling out a helicopter of the Royal Netherlands Air Force to winch her off the outside platform, would not be required. On regaining ground level we had a long chat with the present-day miller, who also acted as custodian and cashier. He was very informative, knew everything there was to know about the windmill and its history, and like so many Dutch people had very good English.

Leiden's pride and joy: the double-decker bike shed at the Centraal station

After all that excitement a little refreshment was required, especially as it was by now late in the afternoon and we had not yet had lunch. We therefore determined upon pancakes, and repaired unto the Pannenkoekenhuis, or Pancake House, at the Beestenmarkt, a large open space by the canal from where many of the canal trips start. Here we could sit outside and marvel at our good fortune in the fine weather, which until Thursday had been as bad in Leiden as in London. When the pancakes arrived I was quite unprepared for their size and quality: they were about fourteen inches in diameter and beautifully thin. There had been an astonishing variety from which to choose, and eventually I had plumped for apple and cinnamon; and it was perfectly delicious. At about this time we were joined by Guido, who had arrived by car.

"Girls just wanna have fun": if only shopping were always like this

Suitably fortified, we made our way to the train station to meet Wendy, who had just arrived from Leeuwarden, and then headed for Guido's car as he was to drive us to Anna's apartment a few miles out of town. Half-way there we stopped at an Albert Heim supermarket for supplies, and had so much fun with the self-scanning equipment that other shoppers must have thought that we were slightly inebriated, which was not (yet) true.

Anna has a lovely apartment, on the top floor and with balconies front and back. Inside it is modern, airy, spacious and light, and - more importantly - there was a table laid for dinner. After a few drinks food magically started to appear, and at the same time some logistical problems were sorted, centred mainly around the imminent arrival of Mehmet after an epic journey from Greece.

Wendy preparing jummies that, by some strange oversight, are not Frisian
There is little else to report except that a very good time was had by all, and it was well past midnight before thoughts turned towards bed. The others were staying with Anna, but she kindly drove me back to my hotel, and Wendy came along for the ride. And I slept like a top, having had a really full and enjoyable day; and the meet-up hadn't even started!

londonstudent says:
It's a deal! And I still find myself laughing at the "windmill events" whenever I think of them :D
Posted on: Sep 08, 2008
dolfijn says:
John, great pics! Next time pic of you and me, oké!
Posted on: Sep 08, 2008
dolfijn says:
John, great story! I really at to laugh hard when you explain the situation in the windmill of me and Louise on the stairs!
Posted on: Sep 08, 2008
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Louise and Anna, and a scene-steal…
Louise and Anna, and a scene-stea…
The millers original dining-room
The miller's original dining-room
The sails of the windmill seem hug…
The sails of the windmill seem hu…
Louise is flushed with success at …
Louise is flushed with success at…
Leidens pride and joy: the double…
Leiden's pride and joy: the doubl…
Girls just wanna have fun: if on…
"Girls just wanna have fun": if o…
Wendy preparing jummies that, by s…
Wendy preparing jummies that, by …
The Rijnburgersingel Canal near Le…
The Rijnburgersingel Canal near L…
Another view of Rijnburgersingel C…
Another view of Rijnburgersingel …
Date plate at the windmill De Valk
Date plate at the windmill De Valk
The board used to display the pric…
The board used to display the pri…
The millers original kitchen: not…
The miller's original kitchen: no…
View over Leiden from the platform…
View over Leiden from the platfor…
This dinky little door, giving acc…
This dinky little door, giving ac…
Sun-dial at the windmill
Sun-dial at the windmill
Another view over Leiden
Another view over Leiden
And yet another view over Leiden
And yet another view over Leiden
Ropework is part of the windmills…
Ropework is part of the windmill'…
This shows some of the heavy woode…
This shows some of the heavy wood…
De Valk windmill - the oustside vi…
De Valk windmill - the oustside v…
The windmill, from Rijnburgersinge…
The windmill, from Rijnburgersing…
Showing more clearly the storage m…
Showing more clearly the storage …
Dinky little windmill outside the …
Dinky little windmill outside the…
View from Annas balcony
View from Anna's balcony
Louise prepares to undertake her v…
Louise prepares to undertake her …
Almost ready
Almost ready
Dinner-time: Wendy, Louise, Anna a…
Dinner-time: Wendy, Louise, Anna …
Leiden Hotels & Accommodations review
Comfortable, Convenient and Clean
The Tulip Inn Hotel (not to be confused with the Golden Tulip Hotel, which is on the same site and with which it shares some facilities) is situated a… read entire review
323 km (201 miles) traveled
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photo by: dieforu