Hello friends! It’s been a busy weekend for me with fun late nights and two different cities, Leiden and Haarlem! I have a lot of posts, so hopefully I won’t overwhelm you.

I took off yesterday with my friend Sarah, who is actually a friend from Portland. Whether it’s fate or coincidence, she ended up as an au pair at a beautiful canal house a five minute bike ride away from me, and we’ve been exploring the city, loving Amsterdam, and missing Portland together. Yesterday we explored Haarlem, and then caught another train to the little seaside resort of Zaandvort on Zee.

Described in our guidebook as a “clumsy” resort, we didn’t expect much. The town is a cluster of ocean-view condos and hotels with a lot of fast food joints. Not a lot to look at, but if you came to take off your shoes and wiggle your toes in the sand while smelling the salty sea air, it’s just what you wanted.

That’s the North Sea behind me. Across that expanse lies the UK, and a little to the south is London. If you go north, you can reach Denmark and Norway, and if you go south and squeeze through the English Channel you’ll pass France and Spain. After that, anywhere is within reach. The Dutch knew these waters well and sent ships all around the world to trade, colonize, and profit. South Africa, Suriname, Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia), Japan, India, and more came under their influence. It’s a pretty far reach for such a small country, and all the ships started their journeys on this sea.

This stretch is now a popular, busy resort, and an easy train trip from Amsterdam. Since it was full of families and sand castles in late September, I can only imagine the chaos of a hot August day. The coast has none of the rugged trees and rocks of Oregon, but there were shells to find, cold water to dip my feet in, and a roving snack truck that parked itself right near the tideline.

It was the perfect way to end a busy, happy weekend. This morning while I was cleaning up some laundry, a stream of sand fell out of my pants pockets: always an indication of a good beach day.