Day 5 Summer 2018: The Hague, Delft and travel to Bruges, Belgium

I had planned a few things to do in The Hague, but after getting there, I changed my mind. We wanted to get on the road to Belgium so we packed up first thing in the morning and hit the road.

Delft, known most recently for its signature blue and white pottery was just a 20 drive from The Hague on our way out of the Netherlands. I wanted to take a quick spin through the town to get a feel for what it’s all about. We quickly found a place to park and wandered to the market square. The market square, or markt, is typically the center of a small town. Larger towns may have several or markets for specific goods. Bruges, for example has the vismarket or “fish market.” Most towns have special market days in which market stalls are set up to sell goods. Sometimes specific days are for specific things, like flowers.We haven’t been able to catch any cities on market day, yet.

We stayed in Delft just under an hour, long enough to circle the market square and buy a few souvenirs. I thought it would be a good place to have some breakfast/lunch, but everyone said that they weren’t hungry.

Immediately upon returning to the car and navigating our way to the highway, everyone was suddenly STARVING. Fortunately, we spotted a Starbucks at the service area at the highway entrance, and were able to prevent death by starvation (this time).

A few hours on the road and we arrived in Bruges (say brooj), one of Europe’s most finely-preserved medieval towns. Bruges is connected to the North Sea by a canal and, like Amsterdam is a town filled with many canals, one almost completely encircling it where the medieval walls once stood. After checking in to the hotel, Jeff set out to return the rental car and the girls and I rested awhile.

When Jeff returned, we set out on foot to explore and find a proper meal. The weather was almost perfect, not too warm and sunny. There were dozens of restaurants to choose from. We settled for “Brugge Link” because of the traditional Flemish menu. (Bruges is the capital of the Belgian province of West Flanders.) It was the best meal that we have had so far this trip. Jeff had rabbit, Kiki had chicken stew, Kai the traditional “waterzooi,” and me the farmer’s plate with a 1/2 meter sausage and mashed potatoes. After dinner the kids had some gelato and went t the pool with Jeff.

I took advantage of the time to go on a self-guided walking tour of the town using the map from the hotel. When all was said and done, I walked about 4 miles weaving in and out of cobbled roadways through the northwest portion of town seeing many “often overlooked” sites (per the map legend) along the way. It was a much needed respite from my family, that gave me a good overall picture helping me to feel like we didn’t need to pack too many sights into our next day.

If I had it to do over, I would have skipped The Hague and stayed a bit longer in Bruges. I loved it very much, despite the Disneyland crowd-levels that I wouldn’t discover until tomorrow.

Goodness nacho!

Day 4 Summer 2018: Muiderslot Castle, Zaanse Schans and travel to The Hague

We got an early start today for our first experiences outside of Haarlem/Amsterdam.

Muiderslot Castle

The first stop was Muiderslot Castle just east of Amsterdam, about a 30 minute drive from Haarlem.

The grounds were beautiful, right on a canal that leads to the sea. On the way in we watched as some very large sailboats made their way through a lock system in the adjacent canal. The castle was enjoyable. Nicely maintained and small enough that we could pop in and out in less than two hours. I liked the garden the best. Kiki liked the falconry.

View from Castle tower to the canal and the see beyond.

After our castle visit, we took a turn north to visit Zaanse Schans, an open-air folk museum. I wasn’t sure what we were getting ourselves into. I was pleasantly surprised to find a mid-sized museum (Zaans museum) explaining the history of the local area and the regions’ history of industry including producing rice, starch, and paint. Attached to the museum is the “Verkade Experience” (a Dutch brand of cookies and chocolates), a large exhibit that takes you through the chocolate and cookie factory of yesteryear.

Outside, there was much to explore, but we started with some lunch, the Dutch treat pannenkoeken. Pannenkoeken are pancakes and the Dutch eat them for lunch, dinner and dessert -but not breakfast. We tried a variety including ham & cheese, salami & cheese and rum raisin. With our belly’s full, we set off to explore the exhibits.

Set up like a little 17th century village, Zaanse Schans puts local history on display. We started at the wooden shoe shop for a demonstration on how traditional wooden clogs are made. Other stops included the cheese farm, chocolate shop, bakery museum, a spice grinding windmill and a scenic stroll through the wetlands. Jeff even managed to find the distillery, the “Two Headed Phoenix,” with tastings of traditional liqueurs. It was a very beautiful location, educational, interesting even for the kids and completely overrun with bus loads of tourists.

The last thing on the agenda today was to drive to our destination for the night, The Hague. The Hague (translated from der Haag, meaning the hunting ground) is Netherlands seat of government. I was drawn in by the seaside beach area attraction, Scheveningen which is set up very similar to a beach you would find in California. Lined with restaurants and a pier loaded with amusement park style rides, Scheveningen is a weekend getaway destination. But for us, the weather was dismal (rainy and WINDY) and we were exhausted from our day. Jeff took the kids to the pool while I uploaded pictures and wrote. We ate a mediocre dinner and went to bed.

If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed in nearby more quaint, Delft.

Goodness Nacho for now!