Inside, not so much serenity. Ever since the eerie cabin-wide silence during the safety demonstration, the three kids in front of us (in their early 20s) are talking loudly and constantly about flat sharing in London and clubbing in Amsterdam and visiting Dam Square and stuff, in a way that probably shoudln't annoy us anywhere near as much as it does.
The captain comes on the tannoy to say CABIN CREW BE SEATED IMMEDIATELY. Seconds later a massive jolt of turbulence sends 3 cups of cider up in the air in front of us, and causes Helen to reach - pre-emptively - for the sick bag. There's a lot of laughter throughout the cabin. I'm very entertained. That one jolt was the worst of it though, there's a couple more smaller bumps then everything's back to normal. We descend through the clouds and have a fair bump of a landing and here we are, in a soaking wet Amsterdam.
Helen lived here for a while, ages ago, so is an expert. So after a long walk to passport control we stand in the wrong queue, ducking out to use the oyster machines instead. Landside after a vape break we buy train tickets to Haarlem but do not validate them. A helpful man tells us we need to go to Amsterdam Sloterdijk and change, but as that train isn't for a while, we should instead go to platform 5 for the train to Leiden and change there.
So, platform 5 and the train to Den Haag via Leiden. I look on a map and discover Leiden is in the wrong direction, and further away from the airport than Haarlem is. Bah. Still never mind, we'll get there. Dutch trains are good, right?
Citymapper is telling me loads of trains from Leiden to Haarlem are cancelled. Most routes it's suggesting are to go back past the airport to Sloterdijk. But we can't, because we're on this train already... except, 5 minutes outside Schiphol and there's a looooong announcement in Dutch, followed by a shorter one in English, telling us this train is now going to stop and terminate at Hoofddorp just a couple of minutes away. There's problems on the Leiden line. Everyone off.
Huh. OK. At Hoofddorp the weather is sunny, and we change platforms to get on a train back past the airport to Sloterdijk after all. It's empty and a bit like a Croydon tram when we get on.
The driver's announcement refers to this service as a "Sprrrrinterrrrrrrr". It's going all the way to Amsterdaam Centraal and beyond, and before we leave - about 20 minutes after we board - it gets pretty full. Once we set off, there's an automated announcement which says the train is going in the other direction, to Den Haag, and lots of people look confused.
So now we're back at Schiphol, about 2 hours after we landed. Gah. Come Sloterdijk the train is heaving like a rush hour service, but almost everyone changes here including us. We take our place on a freezing cold platform and it's blizzard conditions in the open bits at the end. Brr. But, finally, we're on a train - standing, because it's also very crowded - to Haarlem. Eesh. It seems hard to believe that the best train service of the day was that provided by Southern Railway, but there it is.
Anyway, Haarlem. It's not raining, in fact the sun is trying to burn through the clouds. The walk to our B&B is a straight line past cute side streets and lots of eateries and over a canal and across a large main square with a herring market on it. The place looks great, albeit a little bleak because the clouds are fighting back against the sun. In summer I bet it's a lovely place to explore. In winter, we should just go for a drink.
First, we check-in. We're staying in a B&B run by a brasserie on the main square. Despite being early they say they've cleaned already so we can go up right now. It's up 2 flights of perilously narrow and twisty stairs and I'm not impressed. The room is nice though, and the laminated welcome note tells us this is a historic building with "monument glass" in the windows which can make it noisy, so here's some ear plugs. Again, cute.
Oh, also, in the corridor outside there's a fridge with wine in it and that's free to drink. Huh? Yes, really, free wine. Also breakfast is in the brasserie in the morning. Wow.
I get some electricity in the phone and then we head out. Our destination is Jopenkerk, a brewery in a converted church. We've looked at the menu and the beer and food both look great and it should be easy to find, right? What with google maps on our phones and that. Well, yeah, about that. Helen decides she will walk us there and I am not to help, since this is her present to me. We spend the next 20 minutes walking around lots of Haarlem which is indeed very nice, but actually we've just traced a circle and ended up back at the main square.
Attempt number two takes us down a different road at the very start, then ends up rejoining our original attempt's route. I insist on using one of the walking tour maps on the side of a building, which has Jopenkerk on it. Looks quite easy to find, tbh. At least the weather is actually quite nice, and I manage to get a single solitary "look, some tourism!" photo.
Eventually we see a sign to another bar we've got in mind, and an Albert Heijn supermarket. Helen's been hoping we'd run into one of these because she wants some coffee chocolates which remind her of living in Holland, so in we go and buy some. They are labelled as €1.33 on the shelf and buying two costs €2.78, confusingly.
Out the back of the shop and, aha! Jopenkerk, finally. About time too! Sure is a big ol' church they've converted here.
We grab a seat next to a blackboard listing about 18 beers they have on tap. We also have menus, with 4 full pages of beers. Holy crap. There's dark beers and IPAs and pilseners and witbier and ... well actually we're not totally sure about some of them because the menu is in Dutch and we don't bother asking for an English one.
Later I discover that my menu doesn't even have all the beers in, because it's out of date. Helen's has about 10 or so more. This is quite crazy, and excellent. I get an Oost-Indie porter and she has Hops and Myrrh. I like mine, she hates hers and I end up drinking half of that too. We also get traditional bar snacks: bread with dipping mayo, bitterballen, deep fried cheese, and a pretzel. Then more beer: a small Sin & Remorse for me, a small Nuts for Chocolate for Helen.
I get an Up In Smoke; she has a Weiss Lines. They are, of course, bloody lovely.