Amsterdam is only about an hour away from the Hague, so we headed out for the morning. The sky has reverted back to its dull grey colour as we ride the highway to the capital city of the Netherlands.
Scored some free parking at the old centre
We made a beeline straight to the old centre of Amsterdam, the part that everyone visits. Having never been here, I was very curious to see the place that not only legalized prostitution and marijuana, but put it on display in the stores on the main street. Our first impression: there sure are a lot of canals here...
There are over 100 kms of canals in Amsterdam...
... and tons of bridges. This is one of 1,500 bridges in the city
Amsterdam is often called the Venice of the North.
Boats seem to be a good way to get around here. Any other mode of transportation in the Netherlands?
Bicycles, of course!
Along with windmills, canals and tulips, Holland is known as the nation of bicyclists. About a third of the population list the bicycle as their primary mode of transport. We saw so many bicycles traveling around the city as well as locked up to railings that stretched along the sidewalks.
Those not old enough for their own bicycle still trundled around on two wheels
Also a horse-drawn carriage. For the tourists.
The infamous red light district
I'd heard so much about the Red Light District but when we got there, we were so surprised at how not-seedy it seemed. Non-descript buildings housing sex shops and bawdy houses are only distinguished by garish signs and the scantily (if that) clad women behind the full-length windows tapping on the glass as you walk by. Smack-Lick!
Just so you didn't know where you were, the lights in this area have red bulbs.
Another thing we had heard of was Coffee Houses. But coffee is not the main item on their menus... These are cafes where you can order marijuana from the menu, sit down and have a smoke or munch on a Space Cake. All out in the open! Coming from very repressed North America, it seemed so very strange!
But again, very un-seedy and normal-looking from the outside.
Amsterdam turned out to be quite a pretty place to walk around. At least during the day. We only spent a few hours there in the morning and headed back to The Hague in the afternoon.
We wanted to try some native Dutch food: Herring Sandwiches!
In Holland, they love eating herring that's been salted and served raw. You can have it by itself or it's also eaten with raw onions and on a hot dog bun. This was delicious and cheap! They also say it's a great hangover cure. Smack-Lick!
Later on, we are told that we need to blend in with the Dutch, so we trade in our motorcycles for bicycles! Bua is taking us to visit the nearby village of Delft on two (non-motorized) wheels. Because bicycling is so ingrained in Dutch culture, all the streets have dedicated bicycle lanes that have their own markings that denote right-of-way - very important when crossing an intersection!
Mike prepares our transportation for the evening
It's a 40-minute ride to Delft and at all times during the ride there was always a canal by our side
I was not doing very well with all this exercise. Thank goodness Holland is so flat!!!
Delft Town Hall
Bua is very fit and waited frequently and patiently for us to catch our breaths
Window shopping. No prostitutes or marijuana in these stores.
Renovations to the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft
Bicycling in Delft
What a beautiful town! Lots of canals and bridges like Amsterdam.
We thought Amsterdam was pretty, but Delft was even more charming. Mainly because it was less crowded and we were able to see more of it since we were on bicycles. What a great idea! Too bad the sun was setting as it was getting dark and cold, so we had to head back.
As if the canals weren't enough to remind us we were in Holland, here's a windmill!
We thought that would be the end of our whirlwind tour of the area, but Mike insisted that we *HAD* to see The Hague. This wasn't on our radar at all, but when our host got back from work the next day, we all took the public transit into the downtown. We were glad we did because Wow, Holland has some very pretty towns and cities!
The boardwalk in The Hague
Some funky artwork. Perhaps the artist had visited a coffee house or two before designing these...
It was still a bit early in the season, so not many people milling around in the beaches.
The Hague at night, pretty cafes lined the street
So strange to call a city *The* Hague. And calling the country *The* Netherlands. However, now that we've been here, we've decided to rename it "The NedaLands". Smack-Lick!
Statue of William I, Prince of Orange (is the new black)
More The Hague at night
Mike and Bua showed us such a great time around Holland, we were very grateful. We're keeping this blog primarily as a record for us to remember all the great places we've visited, but we're so glad that others are not only following along with us, but often reach out to us to offer us a place to stay as well as show us around their part of the world.
Thanks so much, Mike and Bua! :)