Leo from Couch Surfing has kindly invited us to stay with him for a couple of nights while we’re in The Netherlands. He lives in Leeuwarden so that’s how we come to spend a day exploring the capital of Friesland. We arrive after our day in Westerbork and feel instantly welcome. And it’s also a chance for us to experience a snippet of life inside the windows of the older style Dutch homes we pass when walking through cities. The kind with the large windows and high ceilings.
Leo has already left for work when we wake. He’s left us a spare key so we can come and go as we please. We decide to have something of a rest day that begins with a walk to the bakery and supermarket for fresh bread and ham. Leo has left some for us but we particularly want the experience of walking to the bakery to choose our own bread. There are so many types of fresh bread available here and we just don’t have the same choice at home (actually, the fresh bread at home is totally different to the light fluffy fresh breads in The Netherlands).
Leeuwarden is beautiful for walking. We stop often to take photos of life on the canals. There’s a range of boats and, as with every watery place I’ve traveled, fishermen. The city is old but also modern. The buildings and facades date back centuries but the shop fronts are contemporary. This is clearly a regular city, not a tourist town. It’s refreshing to be in a place like this where there are no tourists carrying Lonely Planets racing from one “must see” to the next. A place where the atmosphere is just normal not aimed at getting cash from our traveling wallets. Bikes are parked along the canals. Cars line the streets. And old buildings watch it all.
Our find for the day is the PoesPas Cat Cafe (address: Noordvliet 11). We are both a bit thirsty and keen for a hot chocolate so start to look for a cafe. As fate would have it, the one cafe we pass is PoesPas. You are supposed to book but it’s a quiet day so we can enter. There are about six cats living here in this space. They are obviously much loved and rule the space. The cats walk on tables, play on climbing gyms and can also take a break by retreating to a quiet area away from the guests. It’s a cute place to stop for a while (unless you dislike cats 😉 ).
Given that it’s our second night at Leo’s house we decide to cook him dinner. We buy some groceries and cook up a Dutch dish: huttspot (carrot, onion and potato mash) with meatballs we bought from the butcher shop. Then we spend the night chatting with our host, sharing stories of our respective travels and homes. It’s the part of Couch Surfing that we enjoy the most.