With our son and his family newly settled in The Netherlands, our first stop on our first journey in two years had to be their adopted city of The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch).
After an uneventful KLM flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam, we purchased our train card (see TripBits) and then followed signs (and our remote guide in the form of our son, Kyle, and his NS app) to catch a train to Den Haag Centraal, about 30 minutes away. On arrival, our nine-year-old grandson, Alex, sprinting toward us at top speed and greeting us with great big hugs was a boost to our jet-lagged spirits. Alex was our guide for the final leg of our journey, a short tram ride to his new neighbourhood (while his parents, who were also there to greet us, returned home on their bicycles). When we were settled in, Kyle and Alex took us for a short walk to see a little of their pretty neighbourhood and its green spaces.
With Alex on the last few days of his spring school holiday, we were able to spend the day with him while his parents worked and ran errands. It was so cool to have him lead us around his neighbourhood, showing us his school, the shopping street, and his favourite parks with such joy and confidence.
May 4 is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands (we hadn’t realized), where civilians and soldiers who have died since the outbreak of World War II are honoured with half-mast flags, ceremonies and two minutes of silence. It is always followed by Liberation Day on May 5, which celebrates when the Netherlands was liberated from German occupation and flags are raised again. Oddly, Liberation Day is only an official holiday every five years (next in 2025), but Kyle had the day off so we were all free to head into town for our first glimpse of the city.
We even wandered into the Liberation Festival (held at Malieveld, a huge grass field in the city center), which was just getting started in the early afternoon but promised to be a lively music and beer fest that would run late into the night.
The following day, Alex took us on a longer walk to a beautiful multi-use park called Haagse Bos. The little canals, green spaces, and large parks make the area so lush and lovely.
The weekend offered an opportunity for a family cycling day trip. We sorted bikes for ourselves (see TripBits) and rode the wonderful cycle paths to Leidschendam where we watched boats come and go through the lock and explored the historic Salamander wind-powered sawmill.
We had enough time on our final morning in Den Haag to hop on our bicycles once again and ride to the beach. Photos of sand dunes, kilometres of fine sandy beaches, and the Schevenigan pier in the distance will need to wait for our return.
This first visit to Den Haag was short and sweet–time to reconnect with family and to get a feel for their new home city. We’ll be spending several weeks in the area in July, giving us lots of time to explore and experience more.
- Train card: At the NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Netherlands main railway company) counter (follow the signs for trains and locate the counter in the large open hall) we purchased our OV-chipkaart to make travel throughout the Netherlands simpler (and, hopefully, a little cheaper). At the cost of €7.50 ($10.50CAD) per card for five years, and with a plan to spend at least a month in the Netherlands on this trip, it seemed like a worthwhile investment to allow tap-on/tap-off travel with no need to purchase tickets.
- Train: From Schiphol Airport to Den Haag Centraal, €9.30 ($13 CAD).
- Bicycles: Cycling is a way of life in Amsterdam, and is well-supported by the transportation infrastructure of bikeways, trains, trams, and buses. Bicycles even form part of the NS train system, and can be picked up at a station for the final ride to work or home, kept for the day or night, and returned to the station within 24 hours. Our anonymous OV-chipkaart train cards (no photo, no ID required) don’t allow access to these bikes, but there were other short-term bike options. We chose HTM fiets, part of the tram system, and were able to locate bikes not far from home. We paid €5 ($7CAD) per bike for a 24-hour period.