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May 17, 2012

Den Haag/The Hague

The house we are staying in for three months is lovely. We are in a suburb one street away from the dunes and beach and all the houses around us have lovely little gardens and the streets are treed and quiet. It’s amazing how much good use the people put their small gardens to use. Eating areas, play areas and gardens are carefully tucked in and highly manicured and neat. Our house is the top two floors with 3 bedrooms, 2 bath rooms and huge windows so the place is full of light and air. We have a balcony and the entire wall next to it is a window and can slide open. I think at night we can hear the ocean across the dunes – a dull roar.

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The bus stops about 3 streets away and the tram is near the little shopping area about 6 streets (15 minute walk) away. There is an Aldi and Albert Hein grocery stores plus lots of other specialty shops including a fish shop that has raw and cooked fish relatively cheap – yum.

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May 23, 2012

Heat Wave in The Hague


We have spent the last few days in a relative heat wave here. It’s been in the high 70s, sunny and dry. Over this weekend the beaches have been packed and it was fun watching hundreds of families on bicycles coming into the area. Five minutes walk around the corner is one entrance to the beach and the bikes pile up there. We also have a little food truck with French fries and ice creams etc. (Max and I love the white chocolate Magnum bars). Then across the dunes and on the beach are restaurants dotted around. They have outside seating with glassed in booths and some have low seating with big squishy pillows. All have children’s play equipment in front and trampolines and slides etc.

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We went out to watch the sunset on Saturday evening and it finally did around 9:45 pm. There were still lots of families sitting out but younger people came in and live music, disco balls, and dance floors started up. It looked fun although how some of the girls staggered across the sand in hugely high heels was surprising!

The heat is supposed to break this week and we are back to high 50s, low 60s. That will be a bit better for exploring as the buses and trains are not air conditioned and were unpleasant. We were gasping and dripping after a one hour train journey back from Amsterdam – the glass compartments with no air flow were very unpleasant. Still the journeys are short enough here.

May 24, 2012

Delft

We spent a lovely day in Delft which is pretty close to The Hague and virtually connected. The trams run there so we don’t even need to get on a train and we can use our regular chipkaart for traveling. I think normally it will take about half an hour as we need to go into central area by bus and then change to the tram. We are getting faster and comfortable about which bus or tram goes where but still learning.

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Anyway apart from the construction around the main station (everywhere we have been so far in the Netherlands has construction at the main train stations), Delft was lovely and quintessential Holland. Small streets along canals with lovely tall, row houses and ducks swimming by. We followed the spires of the churches and went to the main square as it was market day and so filled with stalls sandwiched between Nieuwe Kerk (new church 1381-1496) and city hall (built between 1300-1600).

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We went into New Church which is the main burial place for the royal family and has the tomb of the William the Silent (founder of the country). The Littles were very taken with the dog at his feet – in marble – that supposedly loved him so much it stopped eating after he was assassinated. Max read about the rather gruesome death of William’s assassin (flesh torn off and disemboweled kind of thing) and was quite intrigued. I think they are becoming more interested in history!

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Then we climbed the tower which has 375 steps even smaller and more winding than Notre Dame. It is the second highest in The Netherlands. Poor Max was not happy but he made it. The views were amazing.

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Inside the church they were setting up for an evening concert and one of the organizers invited us to sit and watch the rehearsal. A famous Dutch pianist was playing with a small group of musicians and it was lovely. Amazing music and the acoustics were incredible. We were lucky to get this free show as the evening’s performance was sold out and looked pricey!

The market was neat and had good prices on fruits and vegetables. We were not prepared for shopping really but it spurred us on to find closer markets or to head back there with our snazzy wheelie cart and load up.

We ate a lovely old restaurant next to the city hall. Salads and sandwiches but notched up a bit (duck breast etc.). It was in a beautiful building and the back wall was from 1300s but the main part was much newer and “only” from the 1600s.

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I did not purchase any Delft pottery on this trip but will probably have to get a piece or two. I actually saw neat things in the antiques stalls in the market that I will explore more. Anyway Delft is lovely and will be a regular place to go to I think.


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May 25, 2012

Amsterdam

Spent the day in Amsterdam today. The train was easy and fast (35 minutes) but we have to get down to the main station first so probably door to door is about 1:15 minutes. I’d forgotten how crowded the main station area was in Amsterdam and given the construction across the square it was a bit stressful but nevertheless fun. We had a free bus tour included in our Museum passes that we purchased so decided to use that first to get acclimated. It was nice and we were actually able to get on and off in a couple of places so used this to stop at the Van Gogh museum and then back to central. We did have to stop at a diamond “tour” before this, which turned out to be more about trying to sell us jewelry, and quite heavy on the commercial push. I don’t think the tour guide was impressed with Jacob’s question to her about the use of child labor in many countries to harvest diamonds. She got a little defensive!

Anyway we jumped off at the museum area and ate a snack in the park between Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum. There is a wading pool and playground plus big park for picnics. It’s fun and the Littles (and big kids) enjoyed the playground. It always makes me smile at the difference in playgrounds overseas as American ones have become so safety oriented that they are sterile. This one was quite dangerous in comparison but fun!

The museum was nice and not very crowded. I remember before being crammed in but it was very easy to see everything both up close and then to step back and see how the paintings change. The Littles wanted to see the sunflowers and were happy with that and then spotted a few more such as his bedroom painting that they recognized. Max’s favorite was the skull smoking. Gruesome but I used it for a quick anti-smoking lesson!

After the museum we spent an uncomfortable hour walking around looking for a place to eat. It was 4pm and so lunch had finished and dinner not started. We were in a quieter area which was neat but lacked choices of restaurants. Still we eventually found a great Italian place and tucked in. It was after 6 pm on Friday night and the crowds were changing and so I decided it was time to head out. We had a broken train and so had to change but apart from that and the incredible heat on the trains, it was an easy trip home. We were quite glad to be back in our quiet suburban area though. The hustle and bustle of Amsterdam tired us all out.

I forgot my camera so photos coming from Jake soon!

May 29, 2012

Beach time in The Hague

Daytime on the beach -- lovely and hot but full beach.

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And then in the evening it is nice to sit out and have a drink. Sunset comes very late!

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May 31, 2012

The Hague views

Train Station -- Holland Spoor -- in The Hague

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We went downtown again yesterday. Some cool architecture.

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I like the mix of old and new:

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June 2, 2012

Rotterdam

We took off on Saturday for Rotterdam as it was lovely weather all day but rain heading our way (sadly also heavy rain in England for the Queen’s Jubilee). The trip there was easy and fast by train and once in there is a fast and clean Metro system. We noticed there was one Metro line ending the The Hague but the people at the train station had not mentioned this and said best way to get there was train so I am not sure how/if that works well or cheaply.

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June 6, 2012

Escher Museum

We visited the Escher exhibit which is in the het Paleis in the Hague. It’s a lovely old building – part of a row of houses and would not jump out as being a palace and purchased by Queen Emma the late 1800s. It’s a lovely building and the area is filled with grassy areas, sculptures, and has a peaceful feel. Worth a stroll around the neighborhood and supposedly on Thursdays and Sundays there is a book market in the area. We will have to go back and see.

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Escher has always fascinated me so it was good to learn about him and what drove his paintings. Plus he grew up and exhibited in the surrounding areas so it was neat to put visuals to the towns. He did a series of pictures using a birds-eye perspective from the top of New Church in Delft and looking down at the market place so since we had just climbed that tower and seen the same views, we were all interested in seeing his take on the same thing. I could see some similarities. The top floor has some hands-on exhibits to let you experience some of his perspective “tricks” and we got to stand in one room area as shown in the picture, where everyone looks different sizes. It’s a nice museum and about an hour or two to take it all in.

June 9, 2012

Museum Gemeentemuseum/Mauritshuis

Visited the municipal museum today and luckily this one and a couple of others are right on our bus line so we pass them every time going into the center of town. The bus line we are on (24) is a great one as it hits all these sites including the Peace Palace. The Mauritshuis museum is currently closed and so many of the pieces have been put onto one floor of the G Museum. It’s a rather industrial and clinical building and except for a few period rooms, lacks charm. We liked the pieces on loan and quite a good array with Rembrandts and Vermeers. Charlotte had wanted to go because this she wanted to see Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earing and so she was happy as it was on display. She said it was better than Mona Lisa as it was bigger, no crowd and she liked this painting more as the girl was prettier. Budding art critic here!

There were some lovely old rooms with high ceilings and period doors etc. but in the middle were strange Asian-inspired sculptures. I thought they had a rather Pokemon look to them or some kind of modern Manga figures – since there was no information about these we were at a loss to know what it was about.

There was large display of the Dutch movement by Mondrian. It did not hold our attention really (we like classics more) and downstairs had a very strange and large exhibit that we could not really figure out. Items seemed to be grouped by color (at least I think they were) with new, strange things like a shoe or photograph bunched in with older pieces. Perhaps there was a deeper meaning but it was lost on us.

Another high though was a huge dollhouse that had been built in the XXX. It was very detailed and intricate paintings on walls and tapestries plus supposedly showed snapshots of houses and life at that time. We all enjoyed peering into the rooms.

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Anyway an interesting museum. I wouldn’t go back but glad we went and once they build the new art museum I think that would be a better place to head to.


June 16, 2012

More Delft

I’m hooked on Delft and especially the Thursday market there so we went over for the afternoon. We loaded up on good and cheap vegetables and fruit. A large bag of new potatoes (tiny Dutch ones) were 1.95 euros and I got some amazing persimmons that were like jam to eat. The children are desperate for more as they are hooked. We bought smoked herring which Max and I liked but we have yet to try the raw herring that everyone seems to love here. You get a gutted raw herring on a bread bun and top it with diced raw onions. We love sushi so want to try it but somehow it’s taking more time to work up to. I see people just holding the herring up and munching them down plain too. Hmm. I think it’s the bones that put us off more than the rawness.

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But market day has a festive feel to it and there are musicians playing plus the horse-drawn organ, which is quite loud. The outdoor cafés were full and I think coach tours from England were in town as there were so many Brits there.

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July 28, 2012

Leiden

The Littles and I headed out to Leiden today because we had read an older blog post here by Marta when she lived in The Netherlands and she described the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, the National Museum of Antiquities.: http://www.rmo.nl/english/

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This is one of the top ten Egyptian museums and has lots of mummies and artifacts which made Max excited. There were very few people in the museum and it was a relaxing walk around for a few hours. There were great children’s interactive pieces and a nice bookstore and café. Children were free and I only paid 9 euros so a great deal.

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August 1, 2012

Leiden again

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We enjoyed Leiden so much that we took Grandma and older brother Ben back on Wednesday. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday but the weekend one is the biggest and also has an antiques market which is nice. Crowds are higher and it is fuller on Saturday but there are more stalls for sure. Just depends what you want.
We also found plenty of boat trips from small one family style to larger groups in covered boats. Most last 1 to 1.5 hours. The smaller boat drivers are open to bartering with taking children for free etc.

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August 4, 2012

The Hague: Beaches

The beaches in the Netherlands run up the entire coastline pretty much. Similar to Belgium and Northern France, they are wide swept beaches with sand dunes and parkland. The tides are pretty big so sometimes the water is a long walk out. Still the wide beaches are nice and offer a lot of room to play on.

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The dunes near our beach area in the Hague are large parkland with bike paths, walking paths and horse trails. We have foxes, rabbits and even 2 shaggy cows and their calves wandering around. That gives you quite a turn when you see these on the loose actually and we were kind of nervous to walk past them running freely (they have enormous horns).

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