Thursday, November 1, 2007

A city that starts with "The."

Wednesday morning in Amsterdam and I considered calling it a good day for resting, but I knew Thursday (today as I am writing this) is Armistice day and there was potential holiday closures. So we decided to push ourselves a little bit and planned a day trip to Den Haag, aka The Hague. This idea started a number of weeks ago when a new employee was talking to CF and he suggested the Escher museum in The Hague if we'd be in the area already. I asked CF, "Is that really the name of a city? It sounds like a neighborhood, like The Village." But our guidebook said it was also known for its "stately atmosphere." And I wanted to see more of the surrounding area so a train ride sounded good.

We left a little later than we should have, struggled a bit to figure out how to buy our tickets and ran up the stairs to track 13a just as the 10:45 train rolled away. It was sort of like a movie. CF says missing a train feels kind of cool, "like you're somebody who has to be somewhere." Which right now is anything but true! I decided to see if we could get a mid-morning snack... and unfortunately I wandered us a little further away from the train station than I should have. We ended up at Unlimited Delicious, a wonderful chocolate shop, but they didn't really have the pastries we were craving right then. We bought some chocolates for later (including tomato-basil and rosemary with sea salt!) but had to hurry a little, not cool in Amsterdam. I felt like a jackass. We ended up running to our second train, we caught this one but the whole experience wasn't exactly pleasant. CF had to straddle some guy's suitcase as we squished into the crowded second class train car, but luckily the airport turned out to be a close stop and nearly everyone exited, their journeys continuing elsewhere. After a short 45 minute train ride we arrived in Den Haag and were ready for a bit of an adventure.

We walked for a bit, only barely looking at the map. I realized quickly the area of interest was quite small and wandering really would get us everywhere. We found a market and stopped for a bite to eat. A timid cook made us a crepe while the boss ate one of her own. She cooked bacon right there on the griddle, grated the cheese... and whoops, ran out of tomato. The boss stood up and walked over to a nearby stand, and she came back with another tomato or two. So awesome. She put out the pesto jar for us, I paid her 5euros, we had basically ordered our crepe with the works. We sat on little stools along the front of their table and shared our delicious meal. Afterwards we looked for dessert, and ended up getting a little raspberry pie from a very well branded, pink booth. The night before I had walked around eating baked potato with sour cream, and now raspberry pie was street food as well!

We saw the Binnenhof, an old parliament building, and the pond on one side of it. We took a walk down a posh shopping street that felt very much like Grafton street in Dublin. The city really is stately, and we had a very nice stroll as colorful leaves fell all over the streets and squares. A strong reminder that it really is autumn, and not winter like I kept thinking in Zurich. We tried to decide on a museum to visit. I almost sent CF to see Escher in het Paleis alone. But considering all the fine art paintings I've seen already and will also see in Paris, I decided to stick with him. I hope my sister will forgive me for not taking the opportunity to visit the Girl with a Pearl Earring at Mauritshuis! In the end I am very happy with my choice, the Escher museum was so much fun. The historic building is an old palace, and was once the home to Queen Beatrix's great grandmother. They've painted the walls vivid red and deep purple, and included a contemporary artist's fantastical chandeliers (Hey! We've already seen one of them in Amsterdam!). Escher's early work is not seen as often but it's all amazing. He lived in Italy for a time and I had never realized how much of his work includes influence from this. There were mirrors in almost every room and the reflections bounced around, colors and illusions. It was all so appropriate for where we were. Very well done! The upper level of the building was a more interactive Escher exhibit. This was more aimed at school children, but we played around for a while. I reminded CF that there was a scene in one of my favorite childhood movies that was inspired by Escher's work. And a couple rooms later there it was, the "Within You" scene from Labyrinth was playing on a small monitor. The other museum guests were mostly younger guys, and they didn't quite know what to think about this strange David Bowie music video, and I stood there trying to contain my delight. We retrieved our belongings from the fantastic locker room down below (furniture on all six sides of the room) and rejoined the more serious world of The Hague.

We stopped for a beer and then walked back to the train station. Our train was waiting and we were back in Amsterdam around 5pm. It was very nice to arrive in the city and actually know where we were going. It was wonderful but intimidating and overwhelming the first night.

We paid a second visit to De Bierkoning, collected more groceries from Albert Heijn (is this name somehow related to Albertsons?) and settled in for the night. I'm not sure if anything wild went down here for Halloween. But we were sure tired and could use a break. So we had another great CF cooked dinner and more Belgian beer sampling (what we first saw as small glasses kept here in the apartment are actually perfect for splitting a bottle between the two of us). I read up on Belgium and Paris while CF tried to finally finish his great beer manifesto (this would finally happen around 1:3am). Even though we were only out for about 7, maybe 8, hours, I was so glad to rest my "weary bones."

We're planning on taking it easy today. It's been a slow morning but breakfast was fantastic. We bought pre-made crepes at the store and just crisped them up and ate them with banana, Nutella and cream. Heavenly! I think we'll go out to see a market or two, probably have some fries for lunch, there's a shop I'd like to go back to because I've admired their fun, print, fabric bags from the window twice now, and we're going to look for some place to make a dinner reservation for tonight. Sounds like the perfect day to me!


Leslie said...

They're all sounding heavenly to me!

Leanne said...

That's okay about the girl with the pearl earing-- take David Bowie over Vermeer any day! :)