The former fishing village of Volendam is the largest of the Markermeer towns and has had, by comparison with its neighbours, some rip-roaring times. In the early years of the twentieth century it became something of an artists’ retreat, with both Picasso and Renoir spending time here, along with their assorted acolytes. Evidence of the town’s artistic connections can be seen in the antique-filled public rooms of the Hotel Spaander on the waterfront, whose collection of paintings and sketches were given to the hotel by various artists in lieu of their lodgings. The hotel opened in 1881 and its first owner, Leendert Spaander, had seven daughters, quite enough to keep a whole bevy of artists in lust for a decade or two. The artists are, however, long gone and today Volendam is more or less a tourist target, crammed in season with day-trippers running the gauntlet of the souvenir stalls arranged along the length of the cobbled main street, whose perky gables line the picturesque yet workaday harbour.

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