Discover home exchange with stories from our members.
Yvonne and Mike on an exchange in the Netherlands. This time, taking a detour from the big tourist cities, let’s see what they were up to in Delft.
You know you love a place when it’s OK if it rains!
Having enjoyed our previous swaps to Rotterdam and Amsterdam this year, we didn’t hesitate at the offer of a swap in Delft, as we were steadily coming to love all things Dutch. Knowing very little about Delft, we were surprised by how close it was to Schiphol airport and how neatly it placed between The Hague, Leiden, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam.
Until HomeExchange opened up the opportunity, we’d never considered visiting smaller towns. We’d read that Delft was Vermeer’s birthplace and considered to be one of the prettiest and neatest towns in Holland and maybe this had given us a vague image of it being a bit chocolate boxy and conservative in comparison to exciting Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
Arriving at Tomislav and Joyce’s place, it was still only midday (and this was after having lost both our way and an hour’s time difference). I had a feeling of being in a time slip. Tomislav had arranged for us to collect the key from his office, and we looked forward to the walk with our tiny weekend backpacks. We were completely surprised by what we found.
As we passed a trendy design college, what felt like a million chattering students spilled out on their bikes. It was an amazing sight, set against the backdrop of the famous college library – seemingly grown not built; a giant steel cone thrusting out of it’s jauntily angled grassed roof. Far from conservative, our first sight of Delft was modernistic, fun and radical.
Soon finding ourselves lost, we were reminded how friendly Dutch people were when we asked a man walking the other way where our destination was. He smiled, telling us that it was, in fact, his workplace and he would be happy to escort us there. By the time he waved us off at reception, we knew quite a bit about each other including the fact that our HomeExchange host was actually his boss, Tomislav!
Autumn sunlight rippled into their already airy apartment, making it look even lovelier than in the pictures. We found three balconies and planned to spend breakfast lunch and dinner consecutively as the sun moved around.
We’d heard that Delft was small, so decided to take it slowly and just meander.
We joined the canal leading into the center of town, admiring the achingly lovely but tiny ‘row’ houses along the way – their uncovered windows displaying clean, bright interiors – and an almost universal and effortless sense of design. This was a complete contrast to the other side of the city and just as cool.
Reaching the pretty old Eastern Gate, the smell of warm, sticky Dutch waffles and coffee beans drew us into a bohemian looking coffee shop. We sat beneath a sunny skylight and read cool Dutch design magazines (or at least looked at the pictures). We felt… well, very cosmopolitan and right at home.
The next morning we were woken by a soothing patter of rain. Ah well, perhaps not breakfast on the balcony this morning. So we breakfasted at the dining table by a big window and watched the neighbors toing and froing, one hand on their handlebars and another on their umbrella. We took the umbrellas and bikes that Tomislav had left us and did the same, making towards Delft’s vast central square with its lovely hotchpotch of building styles.
“Coffee and some Butterballs?” suggested Mike, as we huddled at the door of the new Town Hall, watching the rain cut almost horizontally across our view of the New Church, (so called because it was being built as late as the 14th century!!)
We found the lovely Beestenmarkt – a traffic-free square, shaded by tall trees creating a giant canopy for loads of cafès. I was surprised at how the rain that could make me so grumpy at home, seemed now just photogenic and romantic. Feeling like I was in a black and white film, we joined the other blanket wrapped couples to huddle and munch on Butterballs, Holland’s famous little croquettes and warmed ourselves with big cappuccinos.
We meandered our way home through quieter alleys. The mix of weak sunlight and strong rain gave an out of focus quality that made us feel like we were in a Vermeer painting. Our next 3 days and nights were to be spent in the rain. Our walking tour in lovely Leiden viewing its centuries-old architecture, university houses and Botanical Garden, was experienced through a watery haze.
We slopped our way through our cycling trip along the canal to the old city of Schiedam.
“You know you love a place when it’s OK in the rain,” I said to Mike, as we huddled, sodden under a bridge along the way. “Well, it’ll give us an excuse to come back and try out the three balconies.”
See you again next year Delft!