H. de Vries Bookstore in Haarlem, Holland

While in Amsterdam, I decided to take a 20-minute train to explore Haarlem, a town that I had heard wonderful things about. Plus, it was the namesake town for New York City's Harlem neighborhood. It was a completely charming day trip from Amsterdam, and I especially loved discovering H. de Vries bookstore, open since 1905. Today, it has the largest selection of books in the Netherlands and is a joy to peruse, even though most of the books aren't in English. There are tucked away corners, a small but cute cafe, brick walls, chandeliers, and a gorgeous original fireplace - one of the loveliest independent bookstores I've ever visited.

We also had lunch at the casual La Place at the V&D department store - if you go, don't eat at the first level La Place - take the escalators all the way up to the top location, where there is a wonderful view of Haarlem. The Frans Hals museum was another highlight, especially seeing the collection of his Civic Guard paintings.

The exterior of H. de Vries

Snapshots from Amsterdam

It has been several years since I've been in Amsterdam, and I have fallen in love once again. It is street after street, canal after canal of postcard-perfect views, corner cafes and "coffeeshops." There are tourist-y areas of course (particularly in and around Dam Square...AVOID!) but I don't feel overrun by chain stores and cheap pizza places with bright lighting. The neighborhoods of Jordaan and the Nine Little Streets remind me a bit of my neighborhood in New York, the West Village. Since it is so easy to get to from New York, I have found myself daydreaming of finding the next cheap flight and spending a long weekend here with Andy. What a beautiful city.