leidensketch

Our last day In Leiden – a lovely city – with Els, our host. We cycle into the centre, park the bikes with the hundreds of others, and stroll into the crowds on the canalside, thick around the fish stalls: today is market day. But fish later – we walk down the narrow alleys past quirky little shops, until we enter a really nice shoe place. (Yes I have a thing about shoes, but not in a fetishistic way, or on the epic scale of Imelda Marcos, but… oh, some other time.) So I compare two loafer styles – not much in it, you may say, but it’s the details that count. I’m not buying (€259.00!) just observing.

And so to lunch – herrings! Wedged onto a bench with a lovely view of the canal but encompassed by a steel sculpture that is a bike rack, we drop the maatjesharing smothered in onion bits down into our mouths in traditional style (Els is most amused) and bite into smoked eel broodjes. (In the early 70’s I suffered a surfeit of eels – and white wine – from the rack of my friend’s cycle in Amsterdam; it did not endear me to her. Or to passers-by.)

Back at Els’s, we sit at her garden table and eat Jakob’s almond cakes – gevulde koeken – which are the best I’ve ever eaten. And Els is trying to manage the fallout from a newspaper splash about her government department…

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