We arrived in Holland, bright-eyed but bone-weary, picked up our rental car, and headed for our hotel in Vollenhove, a small town northeast of Amsterdam. Until 1932, Vollenhove was on the coast of the Zuiderzee. That’s when the Dam was built and most of the Zuiderzee was reclaimed for polderland. Water still connects Vollenhove to the rest of Holland, though, and there’s a very cute (everything here is cute!) little harbour to prove it.

Vollenhove‘s Harbour, mostly home to recreational boats now.

The first thing I noticed after opening the car door, after the park-like setting, was the birdsong filling the air. Hotel Stadtspalais Seidel, partly dating from the 14th century, is the former home of some kind of nobleman. He was the friend – and next-door neighbour – of the Bishop of Utrecht, or at least his summer “cottage”, which was a moated castle. This bishop seems to have been a trendsetter, as a number of his friends also built palaces here. Hence the beautiful lawns, gardens and buildings.

Stadtspalais Seidel, a nobleman’s house, parts of which date from the 14th century.

But the bishop’s castle itself only survives as ruins. It was never kept up very well, and eventually its stones went to build the Great Church near the harbour, and to improve Oldruytenborgh Manor. Only a few romantic ruins remain. Romantic ruins were very fashionable.

We had supper (fresh fish and deep-yellow fleshed French Fries, served with mayonnaise, for me) in the tiny town of Blokzijl, only 5 km down the road.

Tiny Blokzijl, pop.1200, is known as “little Amsterdam” because of its architecture and restaurants.

And so to bed in our coach house, where, if the weather is nice, Piet-Jan will bring our breakfast to our own private terrace. I wonder what the rich people are doing today?

Our little castle, formerly the Coach House.