The Netherlands

It may be a silly idea, but that’s never stopped me before. Yes, travelling to Holland would be the thirteenth year where I’ve spent some or all of November out of the country.

I decided on The Hague for a few reasons. First, it would be short. I was starting a new job so I couldn’t take very much time off work. The Netherlands is just a short flight from London so there was no need to try to ask for a day off in the first few weeks! Secondly, I spent a few days in Den Haag in 2007. Unfortunately it was in December and I was working a little way out of the city centre. I wandered around after dark, looking for somewhere decent to eat but otherwise saw very little. It did look pretty, though, so I flagged it for a later visit.

Little boy with his finger in the dyke statue, Binnenhof (Parliament Building)

I think my cold, dark and damp first impressions were basically correct. I took a long stroll around town, walking through the main Plein (Square), into the Binnenhof (their parliament building).

On first leaving the hotel it was fine, dry and cold, which is about the best you can ask for in November. It was continually threatening to rain. The locals were pretty brave to cycle everywhere as I hate ride when it’s raining — I need windscreen wipers for my glasses!

Dutch bikes

In the afternoon the threat became reality and I ducked into various cafes and shops, hence the lack of pictures.

For a brief time in the late afternoon the sun broke through the rain clouds. I know this isn’t a notable building but I love the lighting and the contrast with the sky.

House in sunlight

Of course the sun sets early at this time of year. This leaves a significant gap between the time you effectively have to stop sight-seeing and the time you can reasonably get dinner. Den Haag, it turns out, has a great planetarium. It was slightly disorienting hearing Dutch in one ear and English in the other but the pictures were good.

Back in the town centre, I stumbled across the same restaurant I ate in last time. It was good second time around!

I’m sure I hadn’t exhausted all that Den Haag has to see, but the next day I decided to take the train to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam canals

I wandered around with no specific target in mine. In the end I went from the train station, around the Rijksmuseum and back again.

Amsterdam Canals

Of course it’s the canals that Amsterdam is famous for. (It wasn’t until I got here that I realised that Den Haag didn’t have many.) In The Netherlands you can’t get very far away from bikes. Apparently the Dutch like to watch (two) TVs while unlocking them…

Bike and old TVs

Amsterdam is much less well known for its Statue of Liberty. Okay, it’s on a cafe opposite the train station and doesn’t get its own island (like in Paris and New York) or ferris wheel (like Tokyo).

Dutch Statue of Liberty

I would say that the trip was over in a flash, but that would imply that there was a lot of light… Still, it was good to get away and The Netherlands is such a pleasant place and is incredibly easy to get around. I can’t believe it took me thirteen years to get come back.