Trip To The Netherlands

Second star on the right, straight on till morning, isn’t it? No, that’s Neverland!

“Trip to the Netherlands” is a Scottish country dance, and a tricksy enough one at that, but we did it at my Tuesday night class the day before I took a….

Trip to the Netherlands!

This was a holiday that had a bit of history of rescheduling and push backs. And Gawd Bless Easyjet. It started with my The London Marathon journey, when we had both booked flights to the capital. Then R couldn’t go, so we re-booked his flights (where d’you wanna go? Amsterdam? Cool I haven’t been there either) and I booked adjacent seats on the same flights in February. All for minimal cost and fuss.

January came, and Covid restrictions were still in place. End of January and restrictions were lifting, including parkruns, so we booked a cancellable hotel in Am’dam, with a lovely Scottish vibe to it. And then we double checked on regulations and found we would still have to quarantine for 5 days. So we pushed the flights back to March. And then found that the hotel prices had literally doubled. So I suggested we look at Den Haag – I knew there was a Scottish dance ceilidh on the Friday night, it has the gallery with the Girl With A Pearl Earring, and most importantly – the parkrun begins with a Z!

We booked a room in the appropriately named Corona Hotel, and the journey began.

Flying from Belfast International (we all still call it Aldergrove) can be a pain, but it does have some good points. Booked parking in the main stay car park, which is very close to the terminal building, is not expensive, and I’ve always found security checks to be friendly and fairly quick. There’s still many outlets not yet reopened but Starbucks provided the necessary seats and caffeine. Our 9-50 flight had meant a reasonable leave the house time.

We’d boarded in good time, and started to taxi, but then halted because of an aviation fuel spill. Seeing fire engines on standby with lights flashing was certainly a worry! But we did get underway, and the flight to the busy hub of Schiphol takes just over an hour. This airport is HUGE, no seriously, you land and then taxi for a few miles until you reach the terminal building. It is also technically 5m below sea level.

There is a train station onsite, where you can get onward journeys to eg Amsterdam, or in our case, The Hague (Den Haag)

Our hotel was a short 15 min walk from the station, and we admired the lovely open squares full of people eating, drinking and laughing, as we passed by. The hotel staff were very welcoming, and we soon had dropped off our bags, had a relaxing drink on the hotel terrace, and set off for an aimless wander (ie to find vodka, wine and the holy grail of diet coke). Some places don’t use mastercard or visa, only maestro, so make sure you have some euro cash with you!

We found a lovely rooftop restaurant for pasta/ steak, and then wandered through the Passage, a vintage shopping mall with some gorgeous little emporia and a bit of history of the building as well.

Day 2

Having passed on our plan to stay in the capital, this was our day to visit Amsterdam. R had found a Flixbus that cost only 16-90 return, a third of the train prices, and which got there a few minutes earlier.

Took a while to find the right stance down at DH Centraal, but we did after a few enquiries find the green Flixbus sign, and a straggle of other travellers joined us. Good clean bus arrived right on time, and there was no trouble finding seats (in front of an annoying talking woman). After 40 minutes we discovered why this option was cheaper and quicker, as it pulled into the park and ride hub at Amsterdam Sloterdijk, just outside the ring road. We bought all day transport tickets at 8-50, and the metro takes another 40 mins to reach Centraal. The train gets there in 5 minutes, so that’s a good alternative option.

But wow, Amsterdam Centraal Station is a hugely impressive jewel of a building, red brick gothic with a clock and a dial showing…wind direction? A busker with a miniature fairground organ was playing Queen songs as we passed, and we went for the easy option of MacDonalds breakfast muffins, before taking a canal cruise boat trip. These are an hour long, there are multiple operators offering the same journey, so the principle of arbitrage means they are all priced at 13 euros.

The tour is a very relaxing way to spend an hour getting some of the history of the city, and the ticket doubles as a postcard! We learned that as there are so few bridges across the Amstel river, the little ferries are free.

We strolled down the waters edge to the Sea Palace, a floating Chinese restaurant that is the replica of the Jumbo in Hong Kong. What a sumptuous interior, and we were fascinated by the robot waiters, which brought orders to the table on mechanised trolleys. Dim sum starters, followed by soup, and then we couldn’t resist trying the salted egg yolk dessert thing…..

A wander round the neighbourhood reminded us of the city’s reputation, which apparently is not the reason the city flag has three Xs on it. I enjoyed sampling cheese in Henri Willig, and bought a mini cheese slicer.

The Flixbus option is good value, but our return bus wasn’t scheduled until 8 pm, so we decided to cut our losses and just get a train back. Unfortunately it was cancelled at Harleem, with a further 40 minute delay, but we did get back , out our feet up, and then set out in search of chips. Ended up by introducing R to Five Guys!

Day 3

The hotel breakfast seemed expensive at 17 euros, so we headed off in search of alternative, finding ourselves at https://hoenderenhop.nl/en/hoender-hop/ a really chilled and relaxing cafe with cool background music on Grote Markt, with super strong coffee, and a delicious yoghurt/granola/fruit dish.

We had tickets for 10 am at the Mauritshuis Musuem, but were distracted by the arrival of a royal (?) at the next door parliament building. The museum itself is in a lovely old building, and contains many fabulous paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Dutch masters. The pride of place is the Girl With The Pearl Earring (room 15 upstairs), which was not too mobbed by viewers, though it is protected by a steel circular barrier.

My favourite was the giant detailed painting of a bull.

Of course, the museum shop is a must visit, and I bought some pearl earrings (natch!), a GWTPE face mask, a tulip microfibre cloth and a book about tulipomania. (If you’ve seen me on Weakest Link you’ll understand!)

No, I dont know why I can’t get this image the right way up! But spot the beagle

We then took the no 1 tram out to Scheveningen, the seaside resort just a couple of miles from the centre.

We alighted at the Kurhaus stop, a fairy-tale hotel with fabulous glass dome and porticoed terasses.

R described it as a posh Blackpool! It has the usual seaside elements you’d expect – frites and ice cream kiosks, amusement arcades, as well as a pier boasting upper and lower (covered) decks, with a Ferris wheel, and zip line and bungee jumping at peak times. Some interesting bronze sculptures are dotted on the promenade. There are a number of eating and drinking establishments here – I asked the barman for a Sex on The Pier and he gave me one! (insert own innuendo here).

And I later enjoyed a common menu feature – a 12 o’clock special, consisting of a sandwich, soup, and small salad. The weather was superb, and we agreed to come back tomorrow to watch the sunset.

Scottish Country Dance is a world wide activity, and when I had contacted Margaret, the local co-ordinator, she said there would be a ceilidh on the Friday night. So I was delighted to be able to attend. My day travel ticket got me on the right bus, and I enjoyed a super evening of song, dance, and food with some locals.

Day 4

Saturday is parkrun day. But this was no ordinary parkrun day. This was Letter Z day, getting that final letter in my alphabet, and fulfilling the “thing I want to do” that I said on The Chase. Previously Zs were only in Poland or South Africa, so Zuiderpark (literally Southpark) is a very much appreciated addition to the fold, being easily accessible from much of the UK. My usual parkrun write up is here Zuiderpark parkrun

After the parkfaff in the cafe, we changed back at the hotel, had a stroll around the local shops including the cooks treasure trove that is Dok, a cornucopia of knives, pans, aprons, dish towels, barbecues, recipe books, moulds, piping nozzles and kitchen appliances of every description.

Back out to Scheveningen, where it was much busier being a weekend, with the little blue mini train going from here to the harbour, many dogs having the time of their lives on the beach, and the daredevil activities going strong. I had a celebratory glass of fizz on the Kurhaus terasse, before we strolled on the pier, and then as the sun was already making long golden streaks across the water we found a table with a fire pit (it was still cold, 12 degrees or so) in Golfslag, one of the many cafe restaurants by the shore. We ordered a selection of tapas, and the sun could not have been more stunning as it slid into the ocean.

The tram home was understandably packed, but the crowd was good natured and courteous.

Day 5

On our final day, we returned to Hoender en Hop for breakfast, before strolling through Chinatown,

and then by the canal, to look at the Royal Palace.

We stopped for coffee and bitterballen (breaded deep fried balls of stew) and a final look at the birds around the Buitenhof. Security at Schipol can take some time to get through, so make sure you leave plenty of time at the airport.

But the weather was still lovely on our return flight, giving superb views over the Mourne mountains.

4 Responses

  1. […] A few days in Den Haag are very highly recommended, a beautiful friendly city with lots to see and a relaxed vibe. Trip To The Netherlands […]

  2. A really interesting write-up of your visit to The Netherlands which I enjoyed reading,

  3. Such a lovely post about one of my favourite places in Europe. I never knew that the Belfast Airport was called Aldergrove 🤗

  4. You need to read “The Black Tulip” by Alexandre Dumas if you haven’t already done so. I really enjoyed it.

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