Part of the joy of travel is not always knowing what lies at the end of the journey, and whether it’s going to be a pleasant surprise or one of those trips that you file under ‘won’t be going back there soon’. The Netherlands, as you’ve probably seen from the blog, is somewhere we both enjoy planning trips to, as it is beautiful and has one of the best (in my opinion) coastlines in Europe. Nothing fancy, but dramatically windswept and incredibly well looked after and clean (like most things in The Netherlands). We were excited then as the ticket labelled ‘Marken and Volendam’ came out of the bowl. Not knowing what to expect, we did the usual basic research and headed off for the Dutch coast along the now familiar highways. Marken and Volendam, as the name suggests, are two separate villages on the Dutch Polders, separated by the Inner sea and linked by a regular water taxi service. I’ll deal with Marken in a separate post, but for now, here’s what happened when we arrived at Volendam. First impressions were a little bleak. We passed signs to Edam and other villages scattered all the way across the coast until we came to a rather plain car park attached to the forecourt of a clap board hotel. Seagulls wheeling overhead were really the only signs of the sea being anywhere close, but as is the case with much of The Netherlands, first impressions can be deceiving. We joined a slow trickle of people wandering past on a raised roadway, past a commercial boat yard advertising boat hull repairs, and then deeper into the streets of Volendam itself. The town had a real sense of another century, many of the houses having clapboard fascias and small spires. All the streets were tightly packed together, and led down to the sea front, where very pretty shops and cafes lined the walkway fringing the harbour, within which a wide range of boats, from small yachts to larger cruisers were moored up. Often the back of these craft were opened up and people were having a drink or something to eat, rather like a picnic on the water. We strolled through the town, noticing that the main trade of Volendam seemed to be shops that allowed you to have your picture taken in Dutch national dress (I counted four before Michelle told me I was obsessing). After reaching the other side of the harbour (it’s not that big), we wandered back past the street café tables heaving with people and bought tickets to the water taxi (a large boat moored in the centre of the harbour), and settled in for the trip. Half way across, it struck me that this was no five minute trek, and it was a pretty long voyage over to the tiny harbour at Marken. Like so much of the Netherlands, it’s difficult to judge distances as everything is so flat, so we ended up having a really good sea trip over to the island. No wonder the guy who sold us the tickets wanted us to know there were only a couple of return journeys back for the rest of the day! After we’d been to Marken, we walked back to the car, convinced that while there isn’t a huge amount to see in Volendam, what there is makes for a beautiful and relaxing visit to the Dutch coast.