So in case you thought I was going to The Hague (and by the way, what’s up with the article? THE Netherlands, THE Hague … I shall call myself THE Anna in 3rd person from now on and see how people like it) … well, anyways, I actually went to Den Haag. Pronounced with a extremely loud and vigorous gargle so you sound extra Dutch. I mean, it’s the same place, but I feel way cooler visiting Den Haahhhhhhhhhh.
Well, it’s very much like the other Dutch towns I visited – that is, very cobblestone-y and ‘European’. Because, duh, I’m in Europe. I should be a professional writer, no?
I took full advantage of all of the cute street-side cafes by having lunch at a plaza filled with umbrellas and the sound of churchbells.
The latte macchiato I ordered was once again, a somewhat bland reminder of Second Cup or Starbucks (and then I felt bad, because I’m in Europe and I’m supposed to be drinking refined European coffee), but I felt totally justified ordering an apple tart again (second day in a row, how successful!), because after all, apple tarts are a Dutch specialty.
Now being that this was Monday, unfortunately, all the museums were closed, which meant I had to make do with monuments and buildings that I could look at but could not go inside. On the upside, it played well into my walk fast-see things-go philosophy and also into not spending the moolah. Which, I have to say, was going pretty fast at that point.
I was trying to be inconspicuous about my map-checking to ‘fit in’ (and those who know me, know that I LIVE by the map) – but this meant that quite a few times, I turned off into little alleyways that weren’t exactly where I meant to go. Still, the European charm persisted, and also, I managed to find my way in the end, because unlike London or Paris, Dutch cities are usually pretty good about having perpendicular, rather than star-shaped intersections, meaning that it’s easy enough to get around. (Where as in Paris, someone will tell you to take a right and you’ll get to a star-shaped intersection with 3 streets going off to the right and it’ll make you very very sad and confused).
One of those wrong turns that I took brought me a little off to the side of where I wanted to go, so I cut across through a park (one of a million here – having a lot of green space in the city is something that the Dutch people do very well … or as I like to say, the Dutch do green well ). As it happened, there was actually an exhibition of sculptures by South African artists right there in the park. I wasn’t even surprised, because another thing the Dutch do really well is having really weird public art. Like the strangest shaped things standing in the middle of the street. In Vancouver, our public art stretches to cover huge bear statues painted in different colours, which is, OMG, pretty out there (*not), but the Dutch actually go out there. A lot.
One travel tip though? It’s not as easy to find bathrooms in Europe as it is in North America. I mean, at home, I would chug water like a horse and then find the nearest Starbucks to make use of their facilities. But while Starbucks does exist here, the cafes are far and between and chugging water like a horse is not an option anymore. Since by that point, I absolutely had to make a trip to the facilities, I stopped in the nearest Dutch cafe and bought myself an espresso in order to use their toilet. I mean, two birds one stone, right? (Because you can never have too much coffee …)
So I passed by the Paleis Noordeinde (which is the actual residence of the royal family, I believe) on my way to the Vreidespaleis, the Peace Palace. I don’t know who uses it or for what, but it was on my map and a palace, so who was I to say no? (I think it was gifted by some rich dude to the UN for housing all of their aspiring International-Relations-Political-Science my-life-goal-is-to-work-with-international-law interns. Just to show them that there is no such thing as international law. JK. Except for the first part. And the last part.)
The people who were just having a romantic stroll about town also didn’t get to say no … to taking 5 million pictures of me. I would feel bad, but I’m traveling by myself and I mean, someone needs to document the presence of my awesomeness in Europe.
I was still feeling chipper by then, and apparently I hadn’t yet realized that my shoes were giving me some really horrendous blisters, so I had the bright idea of walking across half the city (through the neverending parks, again) to the pier. In reality, it’s actually quite far away and I didn’t actually make it there, so it wasn’t one of my brightest ideas. Note to self: if the tram system is well-developed and costs 1.5 Euros, TAKE THE TRAM. It won’t kill your ‘Best Tourist Ever’ status to ride the bus once in a while instead of walking.
The reason I actually headed that way was the Madurodam, which is labelled as a mini-Holland attraction for kids.
I know, I know but I couldn’t resist.
Well label me a kid and call me Judy, but it was AWESOME. I mean, I can say that I do have a somewhat developed interest in architecture and this display would help me learn more about Holland, but let’s be honest – I was just excited to touch and pose with all the little things.
Does it look like I was excited? Because I was very, VERY pumped. As were the little kids, who kept running around after the moving trains and boats.
The birds were not impressed however.
Nope, not in the slightest.
Not by the little boats and the little people, and certainly not by the big people. This one kept on just sitting there, even when I was literally 20cm away from it taking a photo. Guess this is where ‘cool as a bird’ comes from … (wait, is that a saying, or did I just make it up?)
Once I had satisfied my inner child, I for some reason decided it would be smart to continue on EVEN FARTHER through the park. Someone teach this girl to quit while she’s ahead. By this point, my shoes were starting to really hurt (despite my sticking on a whole family size pack of bandaids on my feet); still, I pressed on … apparently to the middle of nowhere.
Because the whole time that I walked by the canal and through the park, I met exactly ZERO people. Seriously, how does that happen in a city center? I almost thought I was lost, but my directions were to follow the canal, and that’s kind of hard to miss. FINALLY, I made it to my (last) destination.
Oh yes, the Rosarium. I figured, I might as well end my day on a high and colourful note. I like flowers, and parks, and basking in the sun, so I thought it’d be a done deal. Oh, except that …
Wrong season, dummy! The roses were either done blooming or hadn’t started yet, because aside from these little buds, every other flowerbed was full of tiny leafy bushes, but absolutely no flowers.
Still, I walked (barefoot, thank God!) through the park, attempted some silly self-timer photos (which, by the way, is really hard to do when you need to hang your camera from a branch and there’s wind and birds in the way).
My original plan was to walk all the way back to the train station but I knew by now there was no chance in hell that was happening, so I caught the first tram I found and comfortably made my way back to the central plaza. Then I somehow got it into my head that my tram back home stopped somewhere else, so I walked off and then proceeded to get lost in some very sketchy alleyways, before realizing that I needed to go back to where I got dropped off in the first place. Just pure genius.
By the time I got back to Delft, I was pretty cranky and pretty tired. Thankfully, my host arranged for us to have a very relaxing and happiness-restoring bike ride to the store.
Somehow, he figured out that buying delicious buns for dinner was just the thing to perk me up. I guess I make my feed-me-or-I'll-tear-your-head-off philosophy quite apparent after a long day. Go figure.
(Sidenote: can I just say how much I love European stores? The selection is SO awesome and despite what everyone says, I still think it’s pretty darn cheap. I mean, everything we bought was between 1 and 3 euros, which added up to about 30-40 euros with everything. When I shopped at Provigo in Montreal, the same amount of stuff would probably cost double that. So whatever, I was like a kid in a (candy) store back there).