We decided to spend yesterday checking out some of the small towns outside of Amsterdam – friends had recommended both Delft and Haarlem for their quaint, old-town sights. We boarded the train at Amsterdam Centraal and one hour later, we arrived in Delft, home of Johannes Vermeer, a heap of famous old hand-painted pottery, and plenty of canal-side charm. The first thing on our list was to climb the old church tower and get a birds-eye view of the city. Sadly, the tower was closed due to excessively high winds, and so we settled for a spin through the main part of the church to gaze at the centuries-old stonework and brilliant stained glass. Not a bad consolation prize.

After leaving the church, we grabbed lunch at a cute little cafe, enjoying the chance to get out of the wind and listen to the happy chatter of Dutch coming from a nearby table. If I ever manage to master the French language, I’m picking up Dutch next.

Fueled by our broodje (Dutch for sandwiches, unless I really misread the menu), we strolled up and down the canals, hardly believing that places this old and this lovely still exist in today’s modern world.

Our wandering eventually led us back to the station, where we caught a train back toward Haarlem. Haarlem has fewer canals than Delft, but the streets are just as charming, with beautiful brickwork and flower-filled pots on every other doorstep.

And the bikes – oh, geez, the bikes! Everywhere we look, it’s hard to find a single tree or railing or sign post that doesn’t have at least 3 or 4 bikes chained to it. Everyone in Holland seems to get around on two wheels – teenagers chatting on cell phones, business men in expensive suits, moms peddling away with a kid or two tucked into the their little bike-rigged buggies, you name it.

The wind and the walking began to wear on us, and so we ducked into a warm, lively bar for some liquid energy – I opted for mint tea, which is served here as a cup of hot water jammed full of fresh mint leaves (so, so good), and Shane chose a glass of whatever beer on the menu he thought he could pronounce correctly.

We headed back to Amsterdam for a simple pub-style dinner and a little more canal-side strolling, which was cut short by the onset of steady rain. Thankfully, there isn’t any shortage of cozy cafes and bars in which to take refuge from the weather, so we ended the evening with a glass of wine at a little hole-in-the-wall and then called it a night…or a ‘nacht’. I’m catching on.