Our trip to The Hague, Netherlands

April 17-21, 2003

I took an extra day off on Thursday so we could get up early and fly to The Hague, Holland from Gatwick. It then took a half-hour on the train from Amsterdam airport to The Hague, then we took the streetcar to Scheveningen (pronounced Shawinigan) which is a seaside resort that started in the 1800s and now has a casino, pier and boardwalk. It was quite warm, 26 deg. so we walked along the seafront promenade and rented bikes for 4 days.

We went on a long ride through sand dunes on Friday, about 8 miles inland to Leiden. There were hundreds of people out riding, walking and riding horses. We saw fields of tulips in bloom and many greenhouses. On the way back we passed miles of embassies and palaces, even the Canadian embassy which is a posh estate in the forest with big iron gates in front.

We stayed in Scheveningen on the 3rd floor of "Witte Huys" (the White House), a small 12-room hotel. They'd converted the attic into 4 bedrooms - ours was the smallest but had a built-in washroom. Louise said it's lucky we weren't any chubbier or had bigger suitcases or we'd have never fit. The lady running it said she could have filled up the hotel 10 times over, judging by the phone calls she was getting on Thursday afternoon. Our room cost $120 a night.

We'd visited Scheveningen and The Hague for a brief time on our trip in 1992, but thought it had been developed much more and had loads more traffic. The fact that the water isn't warm enough to swim in until August didn't seem to prevent people from walking on the promenade. There are lots of things to do -- visit the aquarium and art galleries, and the town council sponsors band concerts and entertainment. Scheveningen alone gets 11 million visitors a year -- tourists from all over as well as visible minorities from Holland -- young guys driving motorcycles and souped-up cars to impress the girls. We had dinner at several very nice restaurants on the sea front - they're built right on the beach, very pleasant with the sun going down over the North Sea.

A beach-front restaurant in Scheveningen.

Saturday was cool and windy so we looked at the museums in downtown Hague. One of them was the local prison built in the 1600's which had lots of torture instruments and a guide explaining it in gory detail, much to the disgust of several teenage girls on the tour. On the way back we saw the International Court of Justice where Mr. Milosevic had his trial. I managed to wrench my back that evening, so that slowed me down a bit. We took it easy on Sunday and went on a short ride on Monday morning. That ended in tragedy too because the chain came off my bike (inside the chain guard) and I couldn't ride it back to the rental place. Louise returned her bike, I took the streetcar back to the hotel and we got to the airport on time. (We left the key for the malfunctioning bike with the guy who said he'd go and retrieve it.)

We noticed again (see also least year's trip to Utrecht) how even fairly young children are out riding bikes by themselves. You'd never see this in fear-riddled Britain.

Our flight on Monday afternoon took only 42 minutes (a relief after our long trip home from Thailand) but we waited almost that long in Amsterdam while the British Airways guys figured out why they had one too many suitcases on board. We didn't get any rain the whole weekend, unlike England where it was cold and dull on Saturday and Sunday. After carrying 2 small suitcases, I discovered how out of shape I've become so have resolved to exercise more!

Brian admiring the strong but silent Dutch women.

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