Shopping

More Christmas trees (Or: A peek at De Haagsche Bluf)

A few days ago I wandered into the Haagsche Bluf (denhaag.com, English) to take a quick picture of their Christmas tree. The Haagsche Bluf is a tiny, outdoor high-end shopping area tucked away in The Hague’s city centre:

In other news, Omroep West (a local news site and channel) will be showing a short documentary later today about the New Year’s Eve riots that occurred in the 70s, 80s and 90s here in The Hague. The document will air tonight at 18:00 and will be available later (I assume) on this page.

Documentaire over kerstbomen rausen in Den Haag: ‘Alles ging op het vuur’ from omroepwest.nl. Documentary about stealing Christmas trees in The Hague: ‘Everything was thrown into the fire’. Rausen is slang in The Hague’s dialect for stealing.

The Hague was well known for burning Christmas trees, cars, couches, chairs, bikes, you name it. At the height of the mania Christmas trees and other flammable materials were stolen from rival groups, occasionally leading to violent injuries and death. The damage cost the city millions of guldens every year (guldens was the Dutch currency before the euro was adopted). In the end the city started organizing their own parties so that people would come to the ‘official’ parties and cause less damage on their own.

The bonfires which happened on the beaches of Scheveningen and Duindorp were the result of the city attempting to control the riots. This worked out okay until two years ago when the bonfires were out of control and spawned fire tornados (!, video from bbc.com). Last year permits were not given to hold the bonfires again due to lingering safety issues and this year the bonfires were cancelled due to corona measures.

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Essential? Non-essential? (Or: What are we again?)

The discussion about who can stay open during the lockdown and who must close continued today. Hema, a general merchandise retail store, decided to open today. Only essential items like food, baby clothes and toiletries were available. The original government ruling said that if it at least 30% of the items sold were essential, then that part of the store with essential items could remain open. The rest of the inventory would be unavailable for sale. (If the store sold at least 70% essential items the entire store could remain open.) Because at least 30% of what Hema sells is essential they decided to open yesterday. Problem is, other chains including Action and Wibra then decided they would re-open from tomorrow. And those stores’ stock is even less essential than Hema’s in my opinion.

That meant the Dutch cabinet went back into discussions last night and this morning. The end result: the 30% ruling is now gone, so you need to sell at least 70% essential items to stay open.

Some large non-essential stores open despite lockdown; government to intervene from nltimes.nl

and then Tighter rules around essential stores that can open in lockdown, also from nltimes.nl.

Fotoseries: Stil in Den Haag op de eerste dag van de lockdown, or Photos: Silence in The Hague on the first day of the lockdown [Tuesday]. Photos 9 and 11 are a bit political, since the pink ‘soon available for renting’ signs have the Dutch prime minister and the Health minister’s name listed as the realtor (Rutte and De Jonge).

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A new addition in Grote Markt (Or: Toilets)

Kudos to The Hague for putting temporary public toilets on the Grote Markt. The most shocking of all: I didn’t see any signs that you had to pay, which would be quite normal in the Netherlands. Generally the only free bathrooms are found in restaurants or cafés.

Normally these barriers would be used for the Royal Christmas Fair. However, the fair was cancelled so the barriers could be put to a different use. And public toilets are very important right now. At the moment restaurants and cafés are only allowed to be open for takeout or delivery, so there not many public toilets available to shoppers at the moment.

I also saw some toilets by the plaza outside the Tweede Kamer parliamentary building, so it is not just on the Grote Markt. (Oh, and for American readers: yes, that’s TJ Maxx in the background. However in Europe the company goes by the name TK Maxx.)

Above is a tweet from the Scheveningen police, wishing everyone a nice Sinterklaas evening. Everyone opens their presents from Sinterklaas on the evening of December 5, aka last night.

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Bijenkorf holiday windows (Or: 2020 edition)

Here are some of the holiday windows Bijenkorf (a high-end retail store) here in The Hague. Bijenkorf is Dutch for beehive.

This one is Sinterklaas themed (you can see the music in backend and his staff in front of the music sheet). The white letters that are almost impossible to see say Muziek dat verbindt – the music that brings us together.
The mannequin was also slowly rotating. The white letters say Feest van samenzijn – Feast of being together (or a similar translation).
Continue reading
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Black Friday in The Netherlands (Or: Early morning lines)

Black Friday has become popular in the last 5 years in this country. I know it doesn’t make much sense, but who doesn’t love a good deal? (Although whether something is a good deal is questionable at times.) But with corona this year, it was a bit weird to see the city centre so busy.

Here was the line for Uniqlo, a recently opened Japanese clothing store:

This photo was taken just before 10:00, so right before the store opened. I was lucky that I was just passing through and could use the side streets to avoid this area. When I passed the edge of the city centre later in the afternoon it was almost impossible to see through the mass of people shopping here at Grote Marktstraat (denhaag.com, English site). Are the discounts really that important?

Most NL residents don’t care about Black Friday from nltimes.nl. You could have fooled me.

Still, other cities had it much worse: Burgemeester Aboutaleb sluit winkels in centrum Rotterdam om ‘dramatische drukte‘ from nos.nl. The mayor of Rotterdam (Aboutaleb) closed all stores in the center of Rotterdam because of the ‘massive crowds’. He closed them at 19:10, about 50 minutes earlier than they would be required to close due to corona regulations. Amsterdam and Rotterdam were quite busy all day though (with both mayors issuing warnings to avoid certain areas of their cities early in the afternoon). According to reports the crowd levels were more manageable in Utrecht and The Hague.

Note: the above article does have a lovely picture of the “Koopgoot” shopping area. The nickname “Koopgoot” translates to “Shopping gutter”, owing to the fact that it is lower than the street next to it, although still an open area. It’s a lovely area. Just not on Black Friday in 2020…

Happy weekend, everyone!

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That’s pretty clever (Or: A wall of chocolate letters at Hema)

Marco took this photo for me of the Hema in The Hague’s city centre. It shows a wall of chocolate Sinterklaas letters being used to block off what was formerly the entrance to Hema’s restaurant:

Hema’s restaurant is closed right now due to the corona regulations in the Netherlands. All restaurants and cafés are closed with the exception of takeaway. But takeaway doesn’t make much sense at the Hema restaurant so it is completely closed.

And what better way is there to to block off an entrance? It’s quite clever – it immediately makes the space more festive and takes attention away from the reasons why it needed to be closed in the first place. Here’s a look at the store when the restaurant redesign first opened back in early 2015:

You can see the store in the background

If you need a refresher on Sinterklaas letters, they are literally large letters of chocolate, from A all the way to Z. They usually come in the flavors milk, dark, white and hazelnut. They are either plain or covered in fancy designs. If they are a gift for someone, then you normally buy the letter that corresponds with the first letter of the receipt’s name (N for Niki, and so forth). Or a lot of people buy “S” for Sinterklaas. But be warned: if you wait until the day before Sinterklaas to buy one, there will probably only be Q’s left!

Sinterklaas is celebrated on 5 December. It is a children’s holiday (mostly…), celebrated with gifts, poems and good food. You can read more at dutchnews.nl with the “Ten things you need to know to celebrate Sinterklaas” list.

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New Uniqlo store in The Hague (Or: A mini Japanese garden)

A new store has opened up where Marks & Spencer used to be – Uniqlo, a clothing store originally founded in Japan. The inside looks completely different. Where the escalator used to be there is now a set of stairs. And a mini Japanese garden…

The sign on the wall reads: “Honoring The Hague, known for being one of the greenest cities of The Netherlands, a real garden has ben recreated at the heart of the UNIQLO Grote Markstraat store. Inspired by the traditional Japanese Garden at Park Clingendael, the garden incorporates true Japanese elements such as bonsai trees and green moss, perfect for a serene setting. At UNIQLO, we are committed to maintaining the planet and producing clothing in a way that is harmonious with nature, without excessive burden on the environment. To discover more about UNIQLO’s environmental initiatives, visit the sustainability area on the 1F.”

The reason I came to Uniqlo was to see if they were selling their reusable face masks in the store. After a few weeks of wearing single use face masks I decided it was time to move on to reusable ones. Hopefully ones that fit better than the one-size-fits-all face masks I have found until now. I’ve been crossing the bands before placing them around my ears to try and get them tighter, but it isn’t perfect.

Uniqlo’s face masks are sold in small, medium and large, in the colors white, grey and black. I’ve seen a few recommendations about how comfortable they are, so hopefully I can try them out in the next day or two.

(Side note: You can see the face mask display to the left of the stairs in my photo.)

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Holiday displays (Or: Christmas time at CASA)

I’ll just leave this photo here…

CASA (a home department store) has put up their Christmas display already.

And you know what – I like it. I like it a lot.

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Leaves of yellow and green (Or: Megastores)

This morning Marco and I walked over to Megastores and a few stores in the surrounding area to do some Saturday shopping.

Megastores has always been an interesting mall. Most of the stores are furniture related, with some additional everyday stores like Hema, Blokker, Big Bazar and Xenos. They have had issues with unoccupied stores throughout the years, although we didn’t see as many this time. However in general it is the same issue American malls have: walk down the “wrong” wing and you will find yourself in a ghost town.

In other news:

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Anniversary year (Or: 150 years of Bijenkorf)

Bijenkorf is a Dutch department store which opened its first store in Amsterdam in 1870. 150 years ago! To celebrate this, they scheduled a year of celebrations in 2020 (thehagueonline.com). For example, there are unique shop windows (Bijenkorf always has beautiful holiday windows), unique merchandise to buy, guided tours, events to attend…

The only problem – which you can see coming with the date of March 10, 2020 in the article from thehagueonline.com – is the corona crisis rearing its ugly head. The carefully scheduled events and tours now read tijdelijk niet beschikbaar or temporarily not available.

In other news:

  • The Dutch corona app will be called CoronaMelder (nltimes.nl) and will use Bluetooth. CoronaMelder translates to Corona Reporter.
  • Kuikentjes bevrijd op de Oude Trambaan from regio15.nl – baby chicks fell through a pedestrian bridge and couldn’t get out on their own. They were ultimately freed by firemen who removed a few of the bridge planks to reach the chicks.
  • The Guardian has a very interesting article called ‘Landscape of fear’: what a mass of rotting reindeer carcasses taught scientists although that topic admittedly isn’t for everyone. But there’s an informative tie-in with the Dutch Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve (where thousands of animals ended up starving due to a lack of predators in the area) and the ultimate changes to the ecosystem which occurred because of the abandoned carcasses. This caused a great amount of controversy in The Netherlands because it was a conscious choice not to feed the animals to help them survive the winter.
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