We live, work and go to school in Amsterdam, but we practically call the small town of Monnickendam our second home. 20 minutes (15 km) away from Amsterdam by bus or car, even though Hubby prefers to cycle there and back, Monnickendam is the neighbouring town of the rowdier and more touristy Volendam. It sits on the edge of Gouwzee, an inlet of the bigger IJselmeer, a big body of water filling up a large part of North Holland and Friesland.
In the summer, the town is bustling with fishermen, locals, tourists, and in the old town center close to the marinas, seasonal sailors and their families (which includes us). Starting around Easter, and all the way until it’s too cold to sail and the boat needs to go to the dry dock, we spend almost every weekend on the boat, even if we end up not going anywhere. The Kid is always happy to to spend the nights on the boat, but having the playground available right by the boat in the morning where she could run off to after breakfast, look for other children, and play with them. I think it’s a special feeling for a city girl to be let out free and be able to just roam on her own (albeit on limited range), swim, row her little rubber boat, or fish with other kids and be dirty in the process. It’s the closest we’ve had to living in the countryside.
The old town center is 10 minutes walk away. It has plenty of choice in the terms of cafes and restaurants, it’s got shops, an ice cream shop which my daughter loves, and on Saturdays there is the weekly market taking place in the main street. There’s not much else to do if you’re looking for something touristy, but we’ve grown to love the unimposing charm of the place, with its toy-like little old houses, the surrounding greens, and the easy-going locals, who can go from sobering quiet to a roaring bunch whenever they hold a local party at the main square.
In the winter, things wind down considerably, many of the businesses close their doors, unless it’s a glorious winter like we had in 2012 where almost all of Gouwzee was frozen, and people could walk, skate, cycle or even drive across the ice sheet to go to the neighbouring island of Marken. Unfortunately we have a warm and wet winter this year, so we made no winter visits to the town, but we’re looking forward to be back when we can get our boat on the water again in spring.