Last week Marco and I traveled to Amsterdam to see my sister-in-law, who was in town for work. One of the activities we did was a canal tour by boat:
A random bridge along the way. The weather was great, as you can see. Blue skies and lots and lots of sun. I of course forgot to bring sunscreen but hey, what can you do (except be smarter next time). We also had lovely weather this weekend, although today’s weather definitely colder with a hint of rain here and there.
And one of the random house boats we saw along the way. It’s definitely not my thing to live on one of those, but to each their own. The flowers were a nice touch.
Speaking of flowers: a lovely, flower covered bike. It definitely demands your attention.
And finally, a bowl of yoghurt for me and a small plate of poffertjes (Dutch mini pancakes) for my sister-in-law. This was a restaurant very much themed towards tourists – I think there were about 15 orange clogs hanging from the wall. (Both pages link to English Wikipedia.)
Last week MediaMarkt moved about 300 meters. Still on Grote Marktstraat, but now it is even closer to the city centre action. MediaMarkt is like a Dutch Best Buy, for my American readers. The new location is in the building which used to house the V&D clothing store (1969-2015) and the Canadian store Hudson’s Bay (2017-2019). Hopefully MediaMarkt has more luck than those two stores did…
It is definitely a prime location, even better than the previous one which was near the end of the Grote Markstraat shopping area. And what picture isn’t accentuated with someone cycling past?
This image is kind of funny – I hadn’t realized the girl in the middle was basically filming herself with MediaMarkt in the background. Maybe she was streaming it to YouTube? Especially with how she is holding her free hand by her face.
I definitely won’t miss the old MediaMarkt location, with its old grimy carpet and horrible stairs. It was either take the horrible stairs or wait for the slowww elevator. Either way, you lost. There’s no carpet in this new location and there are escalators if you want to go to the upper floor. That alone makes it a win in my book.
Rotterdam will be hosting Rotterdam Rooftop Walk (official website in English) from 26 May through 24 June. It reminds me a bit of New York City’s The High Line, except on a smaller scale and for a limited duration.
Here is an artist’s impression, from the official website:
Note the temporary bridge connecting the two buildings. It looks pretty high up to me!
The tickets are €3.50 for adults, with kids entering free. There are also tours and other events going on between 3 June and 5 June, during the Rotterdam Rooftop Festival. The organization also has a live stream set up so you can watch the construction. To be honest it might just be a cool to look at the city itself, even without the rooftop construction going on!
This year the tram tracks for tram 16 are being re-done to allow for the new Avenio tram (htm.nl, in English). The Avenio tram is wider so almost the entire track needs to be re-done to accommodate this.
This area is not far from the Buitenhof / Hofvijfer / Dutch parliament. You can see the parliament buildings in the background on the right side. Due to the construction tram 16 is currently taking the route of tram 1 on its way to Statenkwartier. You can read more about the construction over at denhaag.nl in English. The end of the route, Statenkwartier, will be tackled in the second half of this year. At that point tram 16 will ride over the route of tram 3 for part of its journey. The expectation is that everything will be done by March 2023.
For the most part I am a fan of Avenio trams, especially as they are level with the ground so you don’t need to go up or down a few stairs like you do with the old trams. (That came in handy once when I bought something heavy. Distance wise I could have easily walked home but due to how heavy it was I decided to take one of the Avenio trams to get closer to my house.) It is of course also helpful if you have a stroller or luggage.
The only thing I don’t like about the Avenio trams is that both sides are two seaters. The old trams are a bit narrower and have 2 seaters on the left side and single seaters on the right. When I am traveling alone I always go for a single seat or I stand.
The color of the Avenio tram (omroepwest.nl in Dutch) will slowly be changing from red-black to white-red between now and the end of 2023. As each tram comes in for maintenance it will be updated. I did see one in the wild already last month but I didn’t have time to take a photo. The Hague’s public transportation company HTM is doing this because it is easier to see white-red than it is black-red, so it is a bit safer for traffic.
The Hague was host to the 2020 Invictus Games (English Wikipedia) last month. Like so many things, it was postponed for two years due to Covid-19. The Invictus Games are for injured, wounded or ill military personnel (active or veteran). It ran from April 16 through April 2022 with about 500 athletes from 17 countries competing.
I noticed today that they were taking down the Invictus Games flags from the Buitenhof:
Here it is from another angle, where you can see the provincial flags better:
In total there are 12 flags for the Dutch provinces and 1 flag for The Hague. In the background is the outside of the Binnenhof (English Wikipedia). It is currently closed for renovation. At the moment they are hoping to finishing the renovations by the end of 2026. We’ll see…
So last time I talked about King’s Night, which is when you go to music festivals, drink overpriced beer, and dance like a maniac. Oh, and try to avoid being pickpocketed–apparently the police found a 13 year old and 20 year old with a bag full of 21 stolen telephones on King’s Day (article in Dutch over at omroepwest.nl). Sheesh.
In contrast, King’s Day itself is about selling cheap stuff. This is the one day a year it is legal for anyone to sell their old furniture, toys, books, you name it. Well, anything except food. Almost all cities ban that. I didn’t get any photos of these vrijmarkten (free markets) this year, but check out my post from way back in 2012 (!). Back when it was Queen’s Day, before she abdicated the throne and became Princess Beatrix. Marco took those photos for me since I was till living in America back then.
One thing I did get photos of was the flower sale at the Lange Voorhout. It was quite colorful, and not just because of the flowers:
These juichcapes (cheer capes) were sold by the grocery chain Jumbo last summer when there were a lot of high profile sporting events going on (Tour de France, Dutch Grand Prix, UEFA Euro Cup, etc.).
Tonight is the 10th anniversary of The Life I Live festival. Note: their website is definitely experiencing server capacity issues, so it is a bit hit or miss to visit it right now.
The last edition was of course in 2019. It is held in The Hague’s city centre, with musical acts spread out over about 8-10 stages. The opener this year was the Ukrainian band Go_A. Last year they participated in the Eurovision Song festival held in Rotterdam. This year the band got special permission from the Ukrainian government to travel to The Hague to perform (as technically Ukrainian men are not supposed to leave Ukraine right now).
This stage was at the Lange Voorhout not far from the Escher museum and Hotel Des Indes.
This smaller stage was on the opposite end of the Lange Voorhout, featuring the band Kuzko. I didn’t stay long, but they really brought the bass! It was a weird feeling to feel the bass after not going to any concerts the last two years.
King’s Night (and more accurately King’s Day) is a holiday to celebrate the birth of the Dutch King Willem Alexander who turns 55 tomorrow. The joke “Max komt misschien later…” is a joke that Max Verstappen, the 2021 F1 world champion, might stop by here later. Hmm.
(Man, I still remember when it was weird to see Willem Alexander with a beard!)
Amare is the cultural complex that opened last year. Progress has also been made around the building, including the side. It actually looks pretty good now, which is important considering this area is the walkway between the central train station (behind this photo) and the city centre (ahead of this photo). For some months only a tiny sliver of walkway was open on the right side, about 5 feet across… Not fun when you have pedestrians and cyclists competing for the same space, let me tell you. Either way, we have come a long way from this graffiti-filled construction area two years ago.
Here is another look at the flowers in the front. You can still see some construction off on the right side, where they aren’t quite done yet.
This is the first weekend where it has truly felt like “everything is back to normal”. For instance the festival Paaspop (“Easter pop”) was held this past weekend. Back in early 2020 it was the first large festival to be cancelled and now it is the first large festival to be held again. The outdoor terraces are also full as everyone has flocked outside to bake in the sun a bit. (In the Netherlands, most people get Easter Monday off.)
Speaking of outdoor terraces, Marco and I were just at a local Bagels & Beans to get some coffee and banana bread. The coffee was a mocchaccino to be more specific. How hipster of us. And the banana bread was made with walnuts and dark chocolate. Yum yum.
We also took a long walk around the city centre to soak up some more sun. Here is a look at the Hofvijver:
You can’t really tell in the above photo, but the area was very crowded with everyone having the same idea. There was also a market in the area as well.
I think this might have been the first day of the year that I went outside without a jacket on (although I find a long sleeve shirt to wear). Bring on the sun! ☀️
Rijswijk is a small town not far from The Hague, 15 minutes by tram. It is also where I got my first two corona vaccinations last summer. I visited again yesterday, taking a walk through a small park not far from the Rijswijk Central train station. That way I could enjoy the sunshine a bit more. Here are some of the photos I took:
Who needs a net for the basketball hoop? The train station (English Wikipedia) is in the background. Well, the glass pyramids are visible, anyway. The tracks themselves are underground.
I don’t think you are supposed to walk under the vines above, but considering there is a small dirt path there it looks like some people have tried. It is an interesting piece of nature, that’s for sure.
A handful of birdhouses (on the pole) with residential housing behind.
An area with outdoor seating – there is similar seating around other edges of the circle, making this a good place to hold a performance or poetry slam.
It is an interesting park; a bit bare at times, but that quality helps it look more natural.