Tues. July 15, 2014:
The Hague, Netherlands
I went across the street to McDonalds for my morning coffee and was surprised to find that the door was locked. What the hell was going on?! It was 9:30 in the morning… and apparently McDonalds opens at 10am. Back in the hotel I had to rethink my coffee plan. As I madly googled for coffee, Brent pointed out the place across the square from us. I figured it would be better to go there and risk it being a sit-down than having to go back to the now-open McDonalds where I had struggled to open the door. Homeland Coffee was good; the lattes were cheaper than drip coffee for some reason though. we did not have much time before our tour of the Binnenhof, so we had breakfast in the room: Stroopwafels!
The tour was in Dutch but we were given English headsets. It was a very thorough and informative tour; it did not even feel like it took that long. We did not get to see the House of Parliament in action; we were there too early in the day. After the tour we set off with our map. We were looking for Old and New City Hall. Turns out we had walked by them a few times before and did not even realize it. We stopped at Marks & Spencer for a quick snack break. The white chocolate macadamia cookie was amazing, it was so fresh that it broke as I tried to take it out of the bag and part fell on the floor. The donut was a little too dense and yeasty for my liking.
After much fussing about and getting ready we set off for the Hotel Indes. We had reservations for afternoon high tea. The hotel was super fancy, located snug in among a bunch of embassies. Inside the hotel we were not sure if it was being served in the main dining room or somewhere else. We asked at the front desk and the guy led us right back to the main dining room. He must have thought we were complete idiots, as soon as you enter the hotel the first thing you see down the hall is the dining room.
High tea consisted of four courses and matching teas: two courses were savoury and two were sweet. The first one was little bite sized sandwiches with fish. I dropped some salmon onto my arm and it was all I could smell the rest of the meal. The second course had a cold tomato gazpacho that was intolerable and I had to chug it in one go. The cauliflower dish was surprisingly tasty. The first dessert course consisted of scones. Even with fancy spreads like mascarpone and chocolate ganache, I still do not like scones. The final course was a tiered plate of dessert bites. At this point I was getting full and my head was starting to buzz from all the sugar. I really had to take my time, sipping tea in between dessert bites. The teas we had were: Japanese green sencha, South African rooibos and orange pekoe with roses.
On the way back we walked through an outdoor art exhibit. The exhibit was called Grandeur, and it lived up to its name. It was just giant statues strewn about. I was particularly amused by the giant patio furniture set, and the soccer player head butting another player. We stopped at the hotel for an afternoon beer break before heading out again.
First on our afternoon tour was the fancy building that the king works out of, it is so fancy in fact that there is a public park behind it. For some reason I had it in my head that we would just able to walk right in to the International Court of Justice and look around. Partly this was due to the lack of public toilets combined with the aftermath of afternoon tea and beers. It was a nice distraction to try and name the countries’ of the flags flying on a nearby boulevard but man was I happy to see a hotel nearby.
We seen most of everything in The Hague, the rest of our afternoon we decided to spend at Madurodam, a miniatures park. We had decided that walking to the beach to gawk at the ocean was too far (1.5-2hr walk without a map). I was having so much fun looking at the miniature dioramas of places we had already been to, as well as places we were planning on going to. I was thoroughly amused by the little buses and cars driving, even more so when a real crow would land in the city bringing to minds scenes from a cheesey sci-fi flick where an oversized animal wreaks havoc on a city. As if that was not entertaining enough, there was one interactive exhibit. For €1 coin a little car would drive under a spout of a factory and out would drop a pair of clogs… the truck would drive up to where you had inserted the coin, and honk to let you know to grab them. I almost missed that, I was so amused by the whole affair. Adding to the amusement were all the little figures in awkward positions, such as the guy standing on the handlebars of two bikes, or the poor drunk who was sideways. And then we learned why these little scenes exist. We watched in awe as a woman encouraged her daughter to play in the exhibits. Later on we saw them getting yelled at by park staff, while another staffer had to fix what the girl had broken. It was oddly satisfying to watch.
We spent at least 4 hours at Madurodam, and we learned a lot about Dutch history and culture. When we entered we had been given a card that when passed by a sensor would play a short movie about the diorama nearby. It took me a good few seconds of staring to realize that there was an actual heron, not a fake one, by the riverside in one exhibit. There was another interactive exhibit wherein you try to plug holes in the wall (representative of a dyke in a story). It was so much fun watching Brent try to plug the holes as water sprayed everywhere.
On our way back to the hotel we passed some more embassies. We also passed a building that had written on it in giant block letters: strange things happen here. Turns out we had walked right by earlier in the day and not even noticed it. We were tired, having done a lot of walking. For dinner we stayed at the hotel and ate at the pop-up restaurant “X.” They did not have an English menu and thus we had to wing it. It was called a “meat” pop-up, so we at least knew that much. I ordered the steak and brood because I knew what one of those was. It turns out that brood is bread. I was presented with a giant plate of slices of bread, a salad and a bowl of fries… and a small but thick steak that looked all the smaller, dwarfed by all the other food items. The steak was amazing, very well seasoned. The fries were the worst we had had on our trip. They were too oil and crispy and not even ketchup could rescue them.
I had ordered Bavaria Rose beer but apparently that was a non-alcoholic beer so I swapped it for Jacobsin’s Max Rose, which was pretty good for a beer with the word max in the name. It was nice to sit back and relax after a long day, people-watch from the patio. There was a weird girl posing for photo after photo as if she were a super model. It was really odd given she was posing in front of a bike rack.
While Brent settled the bill I ran across the street hoping McDonalds had not yet closed, it was after all almost 10pm. I tried to order a Daim McFlurry but apparently they did not have that. The guy named the flavours: Kit Kat, M&M and something, I had no idea what he said. I had to ask him to repeat it. Stroopwafel he said very slowly. That one, I said, not willing to try pronouncing it lest he laugh at me. The McFlurry was OK, but I would much rather have just eaten stroopwafel on its own. There were not enough stroopwafel pieces in the McFlurry. Back in the hotel I was relieved to find an English channel, MTV. That quickly faded as I tried to watch Geordie Shore. I had enough trouble trying to understand what people on jersey Shore said, but throw in the British accent to really muddle everything?! The show needed subtitles; I had no idea what anyone was saying.