THE ALARM wakes me at 0630. I am down for 0700 and enjoy a hearty breakfast, looking forward to the day ahead.
The day is slowly waking up. It looks like we still have a slight south-westerly blowing. I can tell by the flags fluttering outside the hotel entrance. Seagulls are floating around, catching the thermals.
Laid out in a square grid pattern, each length measuring precisely 1,850 metres, the straight roads are peppered with attractive properties, many used as second homes by the rich society of Amsterdam.
Wandering the streets, it is as if one has stepped into a fairytale. I climb the steep, wooden steps to the bell tower of the Old Church, a magnificent structure today used for functions in the town. I enjoy privileged, sweeping views over the rooftops of the old town.
I check into the Intell Hotel Zaandam and take a boat ride, soaking up the industrial past of the Zaan region with its warehouses, and pass a traditional waterfront property depicted by Monet in one of his paintings. The boat drops me off back in the Zaanse Schans, where I enjoy dinner in an authentic painting mill along the River Zaan, the sails turning and humming their tune to a distant past.
– Michael Cowton
All images © Essential Journeys/Michael Cowton