Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Holland part 3: Amsterdam and Den Haag

This is part 3 of a 3-part series on a weekend trip to the Netherlands. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2. If you just want to see pictures, click here. If you’re actually interested in a bit of narration, please carry on.

While nature brought us flowers and history gave us windmills, our journey wouldn’t be complete without a visit (albeit short) to a Dutch city or two. Now, the only knowledge I had of the Netherlands before the trip was Amsterdam, but my colleague, much more prepared than I was, suggested a brief trip to Den Haag, since it was on the way back to Brussels. I know the English name of the city is The Hague, but the original Dutch name of Den Haag is now stuck since it was all I saw on the road anyway.

After Keukenhof, the group of 5 set out on a venture to find our “hostel”, which was literally situated in the middle of nowhere. It would be more appropriate to call it a “campsite” rather than a hostel, because what we rented was a little cabin with 5 beds and no heating. Oh boy. Then again, with low cost being our main priority, the place seemed pretty reasonable.

The ride to the campsite was quite amusing. Apparently Ms. GPS decided to lead us into the wrong destination when we entered our coordinates for the first time, resulting in me going on tiny, winded one-lane roads accommodating two-way traffic, bike lanes that were wider than the car lane, and frustrated drivers passing me frequently because I was slow. Hey, cut me some slack, I didn’t want to fall into the river on my right, and it was entirely possible what with the narrow space we had on the road.

So then after a bit of wandering and finally entering the address of the place instead of the coordinates, we found ourselves parked outside our hostel. Hooray, no passengers have been hurt in the process.

Enjoying life in the wild, are we? Well, the place was adequate for the most part, except for the lack of heating which was more of a problem than I had expected. I had not heeded the advice to bring extra blankets, and so I was stuck with the default ones that came with the cabin. At least there was SOMETHING, right?

Once again there were some animals roaming about that I just had to take pictures of. There were two badass cats that just sat there and stared at anyone who passed by. The black one seems to be saying “Whatcha lookin’ at?” while the golden one simply gives you the “I don’t give a damn” look. As for the rabbits, they were everywhere! We saw them running in and out of their holes, which all appeared to be under the cabins. There probably was a family of these living under OUR cabin too, who knows!

On the Amsterdam metro from our hostel in Aalsmeer to central Amsterdam. Public transit is rather expensive in Amsterdam at 2.60 Euros per 1-hour trip on the metro. Also, the buses and metro aren’t linked, so it’s a further 2 Euros per hour on the bus if you need to transfer. Sounds like a rip-off?

The ride from the hostel to downtown took around 35 minutes, which is approximately the time it’d take to get from Scarborough to downtown Toronto by subway, I suppose. Unfortunately since we got on the metro at around 8:30pm, we got to Amsterdam at 9 or so and that gave us less than 2 hours to explore the city in the night, since we didn’t want to get back too late. Then again, I generally prefer to see cities in the night, so it worked out quite well.

Just felt like taking this one because the name of the metro station was “Waterlooplein”. “Plein” in French means “full”, so this place must be full of Waterloo…which itself makes no sense because we’re in Amsterdam where everything is in Dutch. There goes my hypothesis.

This is Amsterdam at night. Known as “Venice of the North” because of its numerous water canals, this was certainly a charming place to be after the sun has set. Of course, it may be harder to see streets and architecture at night, but cities come to life after dark, when they leave behind the splendour of daylight and show off themselves in a completely different way. That’s why I love exploring cities during the night.

St. Nicholas cathedral, right across from Central Station. Quite a gigantic and impressive structure, suitably the first sight to see after stepping into the city center.

When Amsterdam is mentioned, one generally associates it with the Red Light District. Well ladies and gentlemen, here we are. YES, I am not kidding, this is the famous R.L.D. of Amsterdam. Would you believe it if I told you we accidentally stumbled upon it? I mean, there were swans swimming in the canals and the street looks like any other normal, busy street. It couldn’t be THAT one, right?

Wrong. We ended up realizing that we indeed wandered into the R.L.D. without prior knowledge of where we were going. Ahem. So we took a stroll through the area and got out from the other end, but of course we didn’t do anything…”inappropriate”, as one would assume is the norm in the R.L.D. Let’s just say it was a “unique” experience…

Corner store selling souvenirs and other little accessories. I rarely buy any souvenirs when I travel, the exception this time being Zaanse Schans which was visited the day after Amsterdam. Souvenirs are generally too expensive for my liking, but still, it was enjoyable to look at the variety of them on sale.

Arriving in Den Haag! On our hunt for food, I saw this building with a Dutch flag proudly waving in the wind.

Food! Everyone was too hungry by 2:30 in the afternoon that we just settled for the first thing we found as soon as we parked. The sauce that came with the fries was ridiculously tasty. There was something about it that was just so…GOOD, and addictive. I can’t put my finger on it, but oh dear, it was delicious.

My colleague ordered this dish, steak tartar, which was nothing but raw ground steak. I was also going to get that, but I didn’t feel much like trying raw meat at that precise moment. Kudos, Shanning, for being the only one in the group bold enough to get the specialty.

This little public square in Den Haag was filled with people even on a Sunday afternoon. I kinda liked the design and style of the buildings on the left.

Wandering about in central Den Haag, trying to find the International Court of Justice. One thing I liked about the Netherlands is their streets. They’re wide (except for the odd ones in Aalsmeer) and clean and generally it was pleasant driving in the Netherlands. Walking in Den Haag was also a very relaxing experience, even though we were rushing most of the time because we only paid for 2 hours of parking. I think I would have preferred to take a longer walk in Den Haag than Amsterdam. It just felt…fresh, with more open spaces and a sense of leisure.

This is Binnenhof, or “Inner Court”. We didn’t manage to find the International Court of Justice, but this is still a court, and a beautiful one. At first, I had the impression that this structure was a palace or a castle from a fairy tale, similar to the Grosse Cloche in Bordeaux but maybe three times bigger. I was almost imagining a royal family living inside – a king, a queen, a prince, and princess…but anyway, it’s just a parliament building for politics and administration.

Eyes disappear as Annie smiles for the camera.

Exiting the Binnenhof area, we reach the other side of the Den Haag city center, but unfortunately it was time to go, unless we wanted to risk getting a ticket for overparking…

Hence, the exploration of the Benelux regions has been complete with the Netherlands, the third and final country of the trio (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg). Technically it is still ongoing, because I will be visiting some other Belgian cities in the near future, but I am glad to have been able to fit Holland and Lux in the schedule within one month. Next stop: probably Bruges? Wait and see!

One response to “Holland part 3: Amsterdam and Den Haag

  1. April 14, 2011 at 22:03

    The Beef TarTar looks good 🙂


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