Over the holiday weekend last May, I went back to The Netherlands; this time, to The Hague and Rotterdam.
While Americans were busy celebrating Memorial Day (if they’re lucky enough to even have it off), Germans celebrated Father’s Day. OK, technically the official holiday is Ascension Day, but everyone here knows the real holiday is Vatertag. Father’s Day in Germany is…interesting. If you’d like to learn more, I just so happen have a post about every German man’s favorite drunken holiday.
My friend and I opted out entirely and left the country. If the Dutch celebrate Father’s Day on the same day, we couldn’t tell; once we crossed the border, there was nary a beer wagon nor group of staggering men in coordinated outfits in sight.
We chose to stay at Hotel Den Hague in Voorburg because it was reasonably priced, right next to major public transport stops, and (most importantly) they had bike rentals. Unfortunately, all three of our bikes (we had to trade one back in because of a broken light) had issues with their brakes. If you’re not planning on renting bikes, though, I can definitely recommend this hotel. Our room was really clean and the beds were comfortable. I don’t think we heard our neighbors at all.
After arriving early in the evening, we took the bus to the Scheveningen Pier. I was surprised the bus driver spoke to us in German, and even more surprised that we were able to purchase our tickets with our credit cards. You definitely can’t do that in Germany! Maybe in 10 or 20 years, though…
I was also surprised by how many people were wearing shorts and tank tops, or even swimsuits, despite the fact that it was no warmer than 20c (68F) and really windy. We stopped at one of the many restaurants and bars on the beach, and watched the wind surfers while enjoying “Bavarian” Radlers from the Netherlands.
Along the pier, there were the usual tourist spots like chain restaurants, kitschy bars, and souvenir shops. They also had an old-fashioned carousel and a huge ferris wheel. Further along the pier, there was an area where you could glide through the air suspended on a wire or bungee-jump off the pier itself.
We also encountered a lot of interesting public art.
The next morning, we stopped at Café Het Torentje. They had oat milk for their coffees, which I was pretty excited about, as I’m lucky if they even have soy in Wolfsburg. Even better: it turned out that almost every cafe had oat milk in The Hague. So, huge A+ from me in that department. Unfortunately, the only vegan item they had food-wise was a cupcake. I was pretty hungry, so I got it, but it was definitely too sweet. At least the coffee was good, though; and my friend seemed to really enjoy her breakfast.
There was a church right next door to the cafe, where some lawn maintenance was going on.
After breakfast, we headed to the downtown area on our rental bikes. Cycling is really popular in The Netherlands; in fact, the Dutch have more bikes per capita than any other country in the world. The bike paths here in Germany are a serious upgrade from the US, but they’re nothing compared to the bike paths in The Netherlands.
We walked around the city for a short while, and then stopped at Mauritshuis. This museum houses several famous Rembrandt paintings, as well as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. My favorite piece was the creatively-named, “Old Woman and Boy with Candles” by Peter Paul Rubens. I can’t say I’m really a fan of Rubens’ work overall, but this painting is famous for a reason; the way he painted the glow of the candlelight on the faces of the two subjects is absolutely stunning.
After the museum, we went to Club Vers for lunch. I had the pink falafel, which was very tasty. I also appreciated that the waitress let me know it was gigantic, so I didn’t waste money (and food) by adding an order of fries. They also had Fentimans rose soda! For a reasonable price! It’s my favorite soda, but (until then) I had been deprived since moving to Germany. I used to get it every time we ate at Johnny Noodle King, our favorite restaurant in Detroit.
After lunch, we rode our bikes back to the coast to explore an old German WWII bunker under the sand dunes. Unfortunately, it was closed to the public for a private tour. So, we decided to walk along the beach instead and grab a quick coffee before heading back into the city.
On the way back downtown, I came across an all-vegan grocery store named Veggie4U. It was decently sized, had a wide range of products both from The Netherlands and from other countries, and they even had a counter with fresh-made products and baked goods! Oh, how I wish such a place existed here in Wolfsburg. Hell, I’d even accept it being as far away as Braunschweig. The cupcake I had was so good; unlike the vegan cupcake at the cafe, the icing was light and fluffy. Yum.
Dinner was at a restaurant called Lorelei. They didn’t have any vegan options on their menu, but our waitress was kind enough to check and see if the vegetarian burger was actually vegan, including the bun. Thankfully, it was! They even managed to find some vegan mayo. I was, admittedly, suspicious at first that they were just saying it was vegan, but since it was a slightly different color than regular mayo, I decided to assume/hope for the best.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we rode our rental bikes 23km (just under 14.5 miles) to Rotterdam. This was my favorite part of the trip. I expected it to be really strenuous, since we were renting really heavy Dutch bikes, but it was actually very easy and pleasant. The entire way there was basically flat, and we experienced barely any headwinds at all.
The countryside between The Hague and Rotterdam was absolutely beautiful.
We didn’t spend much time in Rotterdam. Our first stop was the Euromast Tower for a birds-eye view of the city, and then we went to the park for lunch. We chose what looked like a food stand, but in reality it was just a stand for drinks and to place food orders. A building nearby housed the kitchen and, underneath, the restrooms. All seating was outdoors and limited. Still, it was worth making a mad dash for the first table to open up; the food (and atmosphere) were perfect.
Our next and last stop was the Market Hall for a quick look around. I think it would have been more interesting had we not already eaten, but since we’d just had lunch, there wasn’t much for us. I had some OK coffee, giggled at a stand called “Family Nuts,” and took this photo of the mural on the ceiling.
Then, it was time to go.
The ride back was just as easy as the ride there, other than a few detours for construction. We decided to take a different way back to The Hague, which led us past several sheep farms and a lot of greenhouses.
We stopped at what turned out to be a steakhouse for dinner, so my meal (an expensive appetizer of two tiny pieces of falafel) was incredibly sad. Thankfully, I still had some muffins left over from my birthday party; so, I ate the last two as soon as we got back to the hotel.
We left The Hague the next day, after a quick stop at Capriole Cafe. They’re located along one of the canals, and (at the time we were there) surrounded by wildflowers and overgrown grass. It was a beautiful ending to a fun and relaxing long weekend.
Sorry it’s been a while since my last post; I’ve been busy over the last few months. I’m starting my first “real” job in Germany soon! I’m sad that I won’t be teaching English any longer, but I’m relieved to have found a full-time job with actual benefits.
I will continue to update this blog. Hopefully more regularly, since I no longer have to look for work every day or prepare for interviews. In fact, I have a few posts already in the works!