Yesterday was a very different day than the previous one (which involved visiting 3 different family homes - basically non-stop eating, drinking and chatting) in that we had nothing planned aside from dinner later in the evening.  Jeff, the kids and I headed up to IJmuiden because we knew that the market held there on Thursdays has a giant candy/licorice stand and we wanted to stock up.  It was a beautiful day so we had lunch overlooking the beach at a restaurant that served me a terrible bowl of soup.  The view was lovely but the food was not so we moved onward!  bunkersThe area around IJmuiden is very interesting with sand dunes all along the beach.  It's actually a relatively new city (1876) and came into existence with the building of the North Sea Canal which was made to connect Amsterdam to the open sea.  The city plays a huge maritime role for Holland and it suffered a lot of damage during WWII - which brings me to our next destination in IJmuiden… The Bunker Museum.  The museum wasn't open but we could walk around the dunes that hold a large number of German WWII relics.  The civilian population of IJmuiden was  removed from the city during the war and it became a German stronghold.  It's hard to imagine that terrifying time when you stand looking at the beautiful, calm beaches and the lovely Dutch people.

candyThen onto the market, which of course filled all of our candy needs.  We have so much of it that we will have to carefully distribute it amongst our suitcases so that we don't have to pay extra money because of the weight!  I'll admit we bought a lot… but it is so cheap and fresh compared to the imported stuff we buy at home and it's difficult to resist.  Thankfully the bags were all carefully sealed so we weren't tempted to open them and start gorging ourselves with sugar as we are determined to get them home in the freshest state possible.

Next stop: Castle Brederode.  A day earlier we were looking for something interesting to do and I googled 'Netherlands castles'.  It turns out there are a lot of them (which makes sense considering how long people have lived in this part of the world), and there was one very close to Ijmuiden so we thought it would be fun to check it out.  What a beautiful place!  It cost a small fee to enter (the whole family cost 9€) and we spent about an hour exploring and soaking up the atmosphere.  The history is fascinating; it was first built in the late 13th century but was attacked and partially destroyed in 1351.  castleIt was re-built and attacked again a few times over the following centuries (when she heard that Julia proclaimed, "Why are people so mean?!").  It fell into ruin and out of use in the late 17th century and was left alone until the late 1800's when the Dutch government made it the first national monument and worked on restoring it.  The grounds are really pretty and the stonework is impressive, and considering how much carnage and destruction occurred over the years there is still a very calm feeling around the place.

Feeling pleased with our discovery we had a few hours to kill before meeting up with our friends for dinner.  We were very close to the beaches at Zandvoort (where we've already spent a few fabulous days) so we popped over there and found a gorgeous beach bar to sit at and soak up the later summer sun.  The kids frolickled, the adults relaxed, and it was a perfect ending to our highly interesting day.

Final stop - Haarlem for dinner with Sven, Joyce and their daughter Luna.  We had such a great lunch the other day with them that we wanted to squeeze in another visit before leaving these low lands.  We enjoyed a great Italian meal, shared some wine and some laughs and headed home feeling a little high on life.

I'd sum it up as a near perfect day.


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