August 3rd – Den Haag

I woke up this morning to wonderful sunshine. I checked out of the Hotel Continental seamlessly, got onto a morning train to The Hague (/ ‘Den Haag’), and realised I’d left my seven euro umbrella in the hostel. Whoops. It was not too bad though – believe it or not, it had already started to break. I have another one at home, it’s okay!

Today I was aiming to meet two people – Roos and Davey. I find out today, under the strangest of circumstance, that my naivety towards relationships had got me unstuck. Roos and Davey hadn’t spoken to each other in several months (for personal reasons). I was evidently wandering into The Hague and thinking everyone still spoke to one another, saw each other regularly and everything was hunky-dory. Whoops again.

Roos had a spare room, so I decided to stay with her (no air-beds or sofas guaranteed!). Then I found another problem – both Roos and Davey were working today, until the late hours of the evening. Basically, this was my one day in The Hague, and I realised much too late that I’d only be seeing them for one evening – the shortest time span of all the people I’ve met on this trip.

Unable to get them out of their workloads, I set about finding ‘The Girl With The Pearl Earring’ painting by Vermeer. It was in a museum called the Mauritshuis. It took me well over an hour to find it, with the reason being that it simply wasn’t there. Let me rephrase – the Mauritshuis Museum is closed for two years until 2014. 100 works previously housed there have been moved to some other lesser-known museum several miles away. I’m not entirely sure that Vermeer’s famous painting (possibly one of Holland’s most well-known) was sent to the same museum. With too many unknowns, I gave up the chase, and largely spent most of the rest of the afternoon window shopping.

Tulips! – I had a bit of a ‘piccy day’ in The Hague whilst exploring. The city is full of these red flowers, which I assumed were the stereotypical tulips that take over Holland. Roos later told me they were not, and as she works in a botanist, I’ll take her word for it!

I did stop by a cafe to have a kroket (fresh this time) and some Italian soup (Pomodori?). Both dishes were delicious. The service was exceptionally slow-paced – it could well have been the heat. But let’s face it, I was in no rush! I left a 2 euro tip and the waiter started talking to me and asking me about my journey, so we had a little banter. Later I also had some espresso ‘thing’ (a milky version) in an espresso bar. They sure like Italian food out here!

I finally managed to meet Roos at around half past four at the train station. We got a tram back to her house in the suburbs, where I dropped my bag off and changed into something more ‘summery’. I found that she had the same IKEA wardrobe as me, as well as several other units in her household (again, pretty weird – IKEA is making homes across Europe all look the same, evidently!) Playing music and watching ‘vertigo videos’ on Youtube, we killed time as we waited for the night to draw in. I have to say – Roos was a lot more passionate about her cultural dishes than the others I’ve met as well (insert ‘women in the kitchen’ joke here >                 < ).

We went out to the city centre at around six o clock, and had Dutch pancakes (bacon and cheese, believe it or not!). Coupled with various syrups, this pancake was definitely the strangest meal I’d had in the Netherlands so far. I also had a toastie just to fill up more, readying myself for this sequel to ‘crazy dutch people night’.

Pancake – Bacon and cheese, with maple syrup. Heston Blumenthal’s source of inspiration?

Right before Davey got into town, Roos took me to a coffee shop, where I found that The Hague is probably the last place in the whole county not to have the ‘weed card’ tariff in effect. It was odd going into a bar and asking for a joint, then blazing at the back and everyone being cool about it. Naturally, you get busted in England for that! Roos was not too keen, as she didn’t know what effect smoking and drinking combined would have on her. I didn’t either for myself – another ‘sod it’ moment.

Weed – Although it look like a sex toy, this is actually how you get weed. The joint comes in a plastic test-tube thing, similar to what we drink shots out of in England.

We departed the coffee shop, with me being slightly stoned after a whole joint to myself, and ran into Davey en route to the first ‘port of call’. I sat and spoke to Davey for a little while in a courtyard, as we brought in the first ten beers. However, the big Friday night I was expecting oddly does not occur in the Netherlands (here, the big nights out are Thursday and Saturday. I wouldn’t have guessed this!). After we hit the clubs, I realised we’d be waiting a while before the place got remotely ‘booming’. Unfortunately, after the fifth pint and around ten shots later, the memory of the night starts to fade.

At some point somewhere in time, Roos gave me two tickets for her coat and handbag, which I possibly lost when dropping my wallet on the floor. Davey’s mates were helping to fly the Dutch flag – one of his friends whose name I cannot recall downed a pint of beer in two or three seconds. Even my uni mates would have had problems competing with this guy! The night ended with Davey needing a taxi home. Roos sorted him out a cab, and then got myself and herself back to her house, where I proceeded to crash into her bed… and sleep.

Victory – Okay, I yield. Even though I will ALWAYS claim that Tenerife was a draw, this time there was no contest. The dude on the left drank quicker than I think I’ve ever seen anybody drink before. The Dutch win the drinking contest on that merit alone. It was still a fun night!

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