Wednesday, 5 October 2011
We had a smooth run from Den Haag to Amsterdam which took just under an hour. Our hotel Park Lane was easy to find and very pleasant. This time we were on the second floor, the first flight of stairs was OK, but the second flight was the ‘stairs of death’- very steep, shallow steps and a spiral near the bottom. These are typical of many Dutch buildings, the building is narrow, and the stairs are steep.
As this wasn’t our first visit to Amsterdam we took a more relaxed attitude to sightseeing. Our first day consisted of catching up with some friends for lunch and then spent the rest of the day with them. It was very pleasant and good to see them now they have a baby.
The following day we wandered around to familiarize ourselves with Amsterdam again. It attracts more tourists than Den Haag. The red light district and the cannabis cafes are more of a feature here. Again we caught up with our friends for lunch going across to north of the harbor which was a nice change of view.
Afterwards we took a short canal tour which was very interesting. Amsterdam is known as Venice of the north with its hundred canals and a thousand bridges. It was an extremely prosperous and important city in the 18th Century which went from nothing to nothing in about 100 years.
For the first time since we left home it looked rain and it actually rained just as we got close to our hotel. The little café Smit & Voogt at the corner of our street turned out to be a great find and was definitely out of the tourist area as there was no English menu, the waiter was happy to translate for us.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
We arrived in Den Haag around 10 am from London via Rotterdam. The first purchase was a map of the city, just so we could find our hotel. We seemed to take the long way round but finally arrived without too many detours. The hotel was small and simply presented. We were thankful they moved our room from the third floor to the first on our arrival as the spiral staircase was rather steep and carrying our cases up further than one floor would have sorely tested our stamina.
We then went to explore the city. The Hague is one of the best kept secrets of tourism; it is a charming city that has much to offer. It is has its share of canals and 17th century classic Dutch buildings. It is the home of the Dutch Parliament, royal family and the international courts of justice Near the Justice Building is a perpetual flame for world peace which was sent from every continent this is surrounded by various stones from all the countries of the world, a very optimistic symbol.
We visited the Mauritshaus, a 17th century mansion which is now a museum full of old masters and includes some of Vermeer’s paintings of which one is Girl With a Pearl Earring. These smaller museums are often more satisfying than the large ones as you don’t become totally overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of paintings, You can spend more time really appreciating them.
Another interesting gallery is that of Prince Willem V which consists of a mass of paintings collected by him.
|A typical view in The Hague|
The Hague has the custom of high tea, even small cafes offer this. Two tier plates filled with cakes, pastries and sandwiches with a pot of tea. What a civilized way to while away an afternoon. There is definitely an air of wealth and refinement in this charming city
A day excursion to Delft was a 20 minute tram ride away. This was the centre of the Netherlands famous blue and white tiles and china. It is ironic that the blue and white ceramics from China inspired the original Delft ware and now all the cheap ‘Delft ware’ in tourist shops is imported from China. You can still buy Dutch produced Delft china but expect to pay a premium price.