Haarlem, described as the younger sibling to Amsterdam, in its tourist pamphlet, has everything the larger city has and more. The canals, the beautifully wonky buildings and even the coffeeshops sit alongside a stunningly restored 18th century windmill.
What it doesn’t seem to have, at least on our brief visit, is the sordid underbelly of its “big brother”.
I’ve not been to Amsterdam since they attempted to clean up the red light district, but that was the one thing that I always disliked about my visits there. Of course it’s great fun to look in the sex shops during the day – we once found a sex gnome – but after dark I chose to avoid it. Seeing the girls in windows, the drug dealers and the drunken stags just didn’t appeal. Does this make me a prude? I prefer to think not.
In true Dutch style, and not entirely to prove that I’m not a prude, we followed our trip to Haarlem with a visit to the bioscoop (cinema) in Hoofddorp to see the male stripping flick Magic Mike. Cinemeerse was not easy to find. The disorienting bus journey there probably did not help along with the oddly quiet city centre streets. It was a Tuesday night in the middle of the summer holidays, but everything seemed to be closed as though some kind of curfew was to be imposed around 7 o’clock.
The screen, the third of six, was situated on the top floor of a purpose built building with spacious and comfortable seating. At €9.50 per person, this is to be expected, but not always delivered. Drinks and snacks were available outside every screen and the 15 minute interval allowed the all female audience (only two men including Nick) to replenish their drinks, popcorn and nachos half way through. Given that the film is less than two hours long I’m not entirely sure why the pause was necessary and was more than a little disappointed when an usherette failed to appear with a tray of ice cream. That aside, I enjoyed the film if not the noisy attitude of the other patrons. Yes I am a cinema snob.
Another bus ride home, a day ticket was only €13.50 for the two of us, we were back on the deserted streets of suburbia. It was raining by now, and eerily misty and silent. It does make you wonder what the people of Hoofddorp do for kicks, but then Amsterdam isn’t far away if you like that kind of thing.