Travel: Raw herring and a pearl earring in The Hague

Full set of photos

I arrived in The Hague from Delft in the late afternoon. As it is about 2 hours from Nijmegen to this part of the country, I figured I’d stay the night to save myself the commuting time. My AirBnB was steps from where my bus dropped me off, and I met with my lovely and welcoming hosts, who offered me a glass of wine and for me to join them for dinner later in the evening. I had a few hours to kill before dinner, so I took a walk in the area. The city felt much more like a city than the other places I’d been to–a little grittier, busier and more diverse. I came across Grote Markt, a relatively small square lined with restaurants and bars, which connected up with a maze of pedestrian streets. It was shopping central, with major international chains (e.g., H&M and Zara) along with a few I didn’t recognize. After I’d had my commercialist fill, with the sun setting over the city, I headed back to the apartment. There, I had a tasty Moroccan-inspired dinner and some lovely conversation with my hosts before calling it a night.

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With just one day in The Hague, it was a bright and early morning for me. It was an easy tram ride to the center of town, where I grabbed a quick bite to eat. My first stop of the day was Mauritshuis, a renowned art museum housing Dutch Golden Age painters, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt  and Rubens.

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The museum had recently been renovated, and its lower levels were modern and clean-lined, which stood in contrast to the older, more ornate upper levels that housed the art. I bought myself a museumkaart for 60 Euros, which gains me unlimited access to a whole bunch of museums around the Netherlands (apparently it pays for itself with about 4 or 5 visits). The museum was lovely with a beautiful, and not overly large, selection of Dutch art. I admired Vermeer’s famed “Girl with a pearl earring” for a time, which had a wonderful luminous quality to it as well as Rembrandt’s darker portraits. They also had a special exhibition on Dutch Self Portraits – Selfies of the Golden Age, where it was interesting to learn about the different self-portrait customs (e.g., in the middle of painting, playing a role like that of a lute player) of the period.

inside Mauritshuis
inside Mauritshuis

The Mauritshuis is right next to the Binnenhof (Dutch Parliament), which is the oldest parliament in the world still in use. I walked through the complex, largely empty apart from a few tourists, and admired the imposing Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights). It’s perched  elegantly on Hofvijver lake, which was pleasant to sit out next to and bask in the (apparently unseasonably) warm autumn sun.

Binnenhof
Binnenhof

It was a relatively short walk over to my next stop, the Escher Museum. I’d always been a huge fan of M.C. Escher’s–I remember hanging his work up in my bedroom as a kid and just being fascinated by the complexity and impossibility of his work. I had never actually realized he was Dutch until I researched this trip! It was great to be able see the full range of his work on display.

inside the M.C. Escher museum
inside the M.C. Escher museum

From there, I walked through golden leaf-laden streets to catch a tram out to Scheveningen, a nearby seaside resort. My AirBnb host had recommended checking it out, as so many tourists forget that The Hague is basically the only major city in the Netherlands located by the ocean.

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It wasn’t long before I was smelling fresh, sea air and walking along the bustling esplanade, lined with restaurants and shops. It was amusing to see folk out on the beach in their coats and scarves, but I could understand taking in the sunshine before the long cold of winter arrives. I was hungry for lunch, and my host had recommended trying the seafood in Scheveningen, particularly at Simonis Aan Zee. It was a bustling sort of place, and I pointed out what I wanted (fish & chips) and asked if I could just have one herring. Raw herring (Hollandse Nieuwe) is something of a Dutch delicacy, so the gastronomical adventurer in me figured I should give it a try. They have not been cooked though apparently it is subject to a degree of curing. The fish and chips ended up coming in a massive portion (I think originally intended for two people). I did appreciate that it automatically came with not only tartar sauce for the fish but also mayonnaise for the fries. Love Europe! The herring was surprisingly delightful–meaty and flavourful, without being overpoweringly fishy-flavoured. After I was stuffed full of fish, I made my way back to the tram and headed back to town.

seaside at Scheveningen

seaside at Scheveningen

I hopped off and took a peek at Paleis Noordeinde, which houses the working offices of the Dutch king, before taking a stroll around the area. Filled with boutiques and restaurants (a surprising number of Italian), it was still surprisingly lively despite being Sunday. I took my time meandering my way through the pedestrian streets back to the apartment to pick up my overnight bag to train back to Nijmegen.

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