For years, I’ve had a dream: traveling light. Just a handbag on my shoulder. Come to a place, any place; buy what you need, spend your two weeks there. Leave all the stuff and fly away, light. When my luggage got lost en route from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, that’s how I came to Leiden, after almost 24 hours of traveling, on a Saturday night, when all the shops are closed. No change of clothes. But, as the receptionist informed me brightly, though normally everything was closed on Sundays, tomorrow all the shops would be open from noon till 5P.M. On Sunday, we had a huge hotel breakfast, and took the bus to Leiden Centraal, a nine-minute ride. This is what you see to your right as you get out of the station.
To your left, there is the Visitor’s Center, and the old town. One of the first signs we saw said, LEIDSE LOPER. We followed the arrow until we came to another sign and the English translation. LEIDEN LOOP. The whole town is marked with those arrows which don’t actually form a loop. You stop, read the explanation, which charmingly says, “Here is a place of beauty (name). Stop and enjoy.” You stop, enjoy, and then follow the arrow until you come to the next sign. The arrow may point in any direction. It takes you about two hours to walk all around the town, stopping at designated places. One of the main attractions, the really beautiful old Pieterskerk, as we learned, was open for tourists on weekdays, 1:30 – 4P.M. The church tower, we read, was built in 1121; in 1512, it unexpectedly collapsed, and was never rebuilt. After a leisurely walk along the prettiest streets and canals, it was time to go shopping.
Haarlemmerstraat, 1 km long, is the main shopping street in town. I went straight to C&A and bought a few very cheap tops. Every shop window had a nice Valentine’s Day display, and there were wonderful decorations everywhere. Rushing past those windows with my man, I made mental notes for myself. There are things a woman prefers to do when she is alone. My experience shows that men simply don’t get window-shopping, nor do they understand why a woman needs to stand in front of a counter or clothes rack for half an hour. Parallel to the main shopping street there is another one, called Boommarktstraat, where one can also find a number of shops, and a large street market.
All this walking produces two usual side-effects. A man starts looking for a place to eat, and a woman starts checking if among all the street signs, there is one which says WC. Common sense will tell you that the two are usually to be found in the same place. Not quite. Most restaurants in town open only for dinner, after 5P.M. We went to look at Hortus, the University Botanical Garden. A small glass building there has a shop to your left; a café straight ahead; and a toilet to your right. As you walk back to the station, there is a café which is open all day. Though the day menu is mostly sandwiches and snacks, they offer at least one meat and one fish dish, plus soup and dessert. One can enter through a side door just to use the facilities.
Lufthansa found my luggage and delivered it to the hotel. Ah, but I’ve done my shopping 🙂