After our exit from Brussels, we dozed off in comfortable rail seats bound for Rotterdam, only to be awoken abruptly by a boisterous ticket warden, who in both Dutch and English recited our right to use first class, compared with our ability to only pay second class… After shuffling to the back of the train to find a few spare seats, we again feigned sleeping to carry on with the train to Den Haag. Once at Den Haag we transferred to Zoetemeer Oost to stay with our Dutch friend Mariska, whom we met in Africa.
From here, it was a short trip down the road to see Kuekenhof, the annual flower festival in Lisse. The place was like Disneyland, but with flowers. A bit late in bloom due to the long winter, but nevertheless as Tam’s Aunt described “God’s Palette” of colour. Struggling to avoid the hordes of snap happy tourists and flower enthusiasts each trying to get their perfect tulip picture, we enjoyed the warm sun over the much cooler temperatures.
On our return, in a short stop off in Leiden we found a Maori exhibit on the shores of the canal, accompanied by a large waka! Small world…
Mariska was most hospitable, ferrying us around, serving us dutch pancakes (layered with bacon and cheese or apple and cinnamon) and taking us out to the Queens Night celebrations in Den Haag. Their the pubs were packed with revelers and the stages full of live bands. The main band Skip&Die was a bit like a No Doubt cover band singing most songs in full english.
Queens Day or Koninginnedag is the annual celebration of the Dutch for their monarch, each time in a different town. This year was special in particular as the celebration was for the handover of the crown from Queen Beatrice to her son, William and it was to be in Amsterdam! An early morning rail trip to Amsterdam was on the cards, and after only several hours of sleep we again slept on the train. Mitch’s old workmate Will was very hospitable at short notice to give us a place to sleep, along with 6 others in his small apartment. He made pancakes too and did well entertaining the hungover guests.
Queens Day along the canals was one big open air dance party with barge boats joining in on the themed festivities. A free market atmosphere across the town with stalls selling everything from old toys, shirts and food, to mojitos, couches and beards. Buskers performing with hula hoops or slept in inflatable chairs for money, a bit of a different sight. While we were a bit jaded, it was good we didn’t have a late boozy night and got ready for the flight back to London (Tam had work the next day).
The trip was an amazing one and the hospitality shown was very much appreciated. Thanks Mariska and Will!