Sorry it has taken me so long to get photos up from our recent trip. I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around how to get started. We visited seven cities in 16 days and took over 1,500 photos. I wasn’t quite sure how to put it all together, but I think I’ve finally decided to break it down by city. So first up is The Hague in the Netherlands. The Complete Package had to go for business, so I happily tagged along. We flew direct from Houston to Amsterdam and took the train out to The Hague. First stop – the Hilton Hotel near the city center. I have to say, I loved just about everything about this hotel. Loved the location, the staff, the modern decor, the room, and the bathroom with its giant soaking tub, slate shower and frosted glass walls. The only thing I didn’t love was the amount they hijacked us for on laundry service. We could have bought new clothes for what they charged, but I digress. I have to say, it really was a lovely place.
The Complete Package and I arrived on a Saturday morning, which gave us two days to be tourists together. One of the places he took me to was Scheveningen, a resort town on the North Sea (and a quick 10 minute tram ride from The Hague). In the summer, this place is crowded with beach lovers and swimmers. In November, it’s cold and rainy, but still beautiful. And we had the bonus surprise of running into Sinterklaas and Black Pieter. I had never heard of this combination, but it is a holiday tradition here. Legend has it that Sinterklaas and Black Pieter come over to The Netherlands by boat from Spain prior to Christmas. Sinterklaas rewards the children who are good. Black Pieter takes the bad kids back to Spain. It’s an interesting tradition that dates back over 200 years. You can read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas We found them just outside the Kurhaus Hotel, with it’s stunning architecture and views of the North Sea. A stroll through this hotel is a trip back in time. They knew we were tourists because my jaw kept hitting the floor.
I had five days to myself to explore The Hague while TCP attended workshops and meetings. I thought I would be doing it on my own, but I learned that another wife had also tagged along. That’s how I met my new friend Rabecca Ng. She’s Chinese, but lives in Malaysia with her husband and children. Together we spent 3 days exploring the city and surrounding area including museums, shopping districts, and a visit to the town of Delft. I am very grateful to Rabecca. Sightseeing alone is educational, but sightseeing with a friend is just pure fun!
One of my favorite places in The Hague was called “Escher in the Palace.” It’s just what it sounds like – a museum of M.C. Escher’s work located in a former palace building that dates back to the 1700′s. If you don’t recognize his name, you may recognize his work. I find it fascinating, intricate, and sometimes mind altering. You can look at it and see one thing, then look at it again and see something else. If you’re ever in The Hague, do yourself a favor and check this place out. Rabecca had never heard of Escher, and she loved this museum. We spent over 3 hours there, and loved every minute of it. Here’s a sampling:
Besides the artwork, the palace itself was beautiful. Every room featured a different paint color, murals and a unique crystal chandelier. I couldn’t wait to see what I would find in each new room. These are a couple of my favorites:
Next up, a quirky little tourist trap known as The Madurodam. It’s a miniature copy of multiple Dutch cities and landmarks set in a park atmosphere that has been drawing visitors for almost 60 years. I think most locals find it kitschy, but I found it charming. Thankfully, they give you a guide-book with your ticket and each exhibit is numbered, which helps you figure out what you’re looking at. I was stunned by the attention to detail, all in a 1:25 ratio. Judge for yourself:
I loved the architecture of The Hague. It’s a mix of historic and modern all blended together, but it works. Of course, my favorites were the older, more historic buildings with their trademark Dutch features. Here’s a montage of various landmarks I fell in love with:I have one last destination to share – a day trip to Delft. Do you know about Delft and its famous blue & white pottery? It’s lovely. The town of Delft itself is also very lovely, and the fact that they had a market on the town square each Thursday convinced me to visit. It was a quick 25 minute tram ride from The Hague, so my new friend Rabecca and I gave it a shot. Turns out all those photos on the internet don’t really do it justice. This place was beautiful. I won’t bore you by going on and on about it. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Finally, I’m going to wrap this up with one of the things I loved most about The Hague…oliebollen. Oh my heaven and stars above, these are the best fried dough treats I’ve ever eaten in my life. Words escape me. They’re sort of like donuts, but sort of like popovers. They have the most decadent texture.When you pick one up, it feels heavy so you’d think it would be dense. But then you bite into it and it’s incredibly fluffy and wonderful. They make them plain, with raisins or currants, filled with cinnamon-spiced apples, topped with tart cherries…you name it. And they serve them warm with powdered sugar dusted over them. If heaven is a food, it’s an oliebollen. If I’m ever on death row, my last meal will be a plate of oliebollen. I’d give my left kidney for the recipe. Okay, maybe not, but if I knew how to make these, I’m pretty sure I could rule the world. God bless the Dutch. They now have a very special place in my heart (and stomach). Next up – a weekend in Amsterdam, so stay tuned!