Exploring The Hague

After a rather hectic start to the new year, Pieter and I finally had a quiet weekend to just relax and enjoy each other’s company.  Having indulged in a Saturday morning marathon of cooking shows, we set off on a walking adventure to find special food for Porgy (as you already know if you read last week’s saga, she has a delicate tum).  So here, on this rainy Monday, are some of the places we really enjoyed.

Living in the city centre, I’ve sort of fallen into this trap where anything that isn’t within walking distance simply seems too far!  A ten minute tram ride?  Forget about it.  A bus ride?  Who do you take me for?!  After this weekend though, I think it’s safe to say I’m cured of that silly phase.

Piet Heinstraat (Zeeheldenkwartier)

The Hague, Piet Heinstraat

You wouldn’t necessarily walk down this street thinking that it seemed like a lovely place to linger.  Some of the buildings are really worn down and you get the sneaking suspicion that a lot of the novelty-type shops in the area (think a whole store dedicated to toilet seats) may in fact be intended for other purposes …   wink wink.  To be brutally honest: it seems a bit sketchy.  I must admit that I am not at all the sort of person who has a nose for sniffing out great places.  I tend to like things neat and tidy and can be quick to judge a book by its proverbial cover.  I’m so glad I didn’t this time, though, because this street is PACKED with goodness!  The highlight: an Italian food shop, simply called Italy.

The Hague

The shop is a true feast for culinary geeks – they sell every imaginable type of flour, pasta in shapes I’ve never seen before, and a wide array of prepared food ready for you to sink your teeth in to.  A big plus: the staff were extremely friendly.  Pieter and I walked out with a heavenly burrata, which I’d been raving about since my trip to Rome in October, and pasta flour!  I’m happy to say that both were a tremendous success.  Or otherwise put: we devoured it all.

Besides Italy, the Zeeheldenkwarter is also home to a Portuguese traiteur (which we sadly didn’t try, with thoughts for our wallets and our waistlines) and an expat store!  We couldn’t resist stocking up on all manner of mysterious British sodas (dandelion & burdock?  yes please) before continuing on our journey.  I’m pretty sure that, given how heavily we were weighed down at this point, all calories consumed later were immediately used to replenish our depleted stores …

Right?

Frederik Hendriklaan (Statenkwartier)

The Hague, Statenkwartier, Frederik Hendriklaan

It wasn’t my first time in this area – I’d been with Barbara the week before and had immediately fallen in love.  It’s a very homey, friendly atmosphere, with a good mix of chains, independent boutiques, organic market stands/grocers, and lots of enticing restaurants.  While the street itself is quite commercial, the area surrounding it is very family-oriented, with beautiful old Dutch houses and lovely green expanses to play in.

The Hague, Statenkwartier, Frederik Hendriklaan

Aaah … Dutch weather.

(For the girls: a great store to check out in this area is By Fabrio – it looks a bit uninviting from the outside but they have a great selection of Dutch-made, high-quality clothes to choose from, all for 40,- or less!  Plus they apparently overhaul the entire store every week so you’re unlikely to find the same thing in there twice.)

We finished off our stroll at Hudson’s with some drinks and a snack and both agreed that the place had a great, relaxed atmosphere.  We were there fairly early, but by the number of reserved signs on tables it was clear that the place gets quite packed in the evening.  Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area!

The Hague, Statenkwartier, Frederik Hendriklaan

Goodbye, 2013!

I’m sitting in the departures lounge at Pearson Airport, waiting to head back to ‘real life’ after a short but wonderful visit home for the holidays.

I feel like it’s been a big year.  The first half in particular seemed to bring stress after stress and, at certain points, had me questioning my decision to stay in the Netherlands.  I’d even started to half-believe in the unluckiness of the number 13.

But 2013 was also really good to me.  I got to go to London, to Rome, and even home to Toronto – twice.  I was visited by many friends and also by my lovely Maman, and I was lucky enough to have enough flexibility at my work to be able to properly enjoy their company.  I lost my job – but then, with blood, sweat and tears, and also the help of my wonderful Pieter, I got it back.  I learned to drop my pleases and thank yous and people actually listened.  I guess you could say I got the hang of the Dutch way (although I’ll still apologize to you if you run me over with your bicycle).

Campo dei Fiori - take me back!

Campo dei Fiori – take me back!

I got my master’s degree and my friends and family celebrated with me.  I started figuring out what I might want to do with that degree, and taking steps towards reaching my goals.  More than ever, I have a real sense of control over my own life.  (It may falter on occasion but I know it’s there!)

Celebrating graduation with amazing friends

Celebrating graduation with amazing friends

I had a realization recently while I was in Toronto for the holidays: that I in fact have two homes.  It’s a comforting thought, in a way.  No matter how long I’m away, my relationships remain strong (if slightly different) – something I was worried about when I first moved.  I’ve also managed to continue to fall more and more in love with both Canada and the Netherlands, whereas I used to think that to love one more than the other was inevitable.

(How’s this for a random entry?)

I don’t want to make a big list of resolutions, but I would like to share two.

First, I’m going to speak Dutch.  Actually speak it, and not just listen to it and then answer in English.  I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and try not to be too ashamed of my many MANY grammatical errors.  It’s high time I did!

Second, I’m going to experiment with this blog.  It’s not going to be perfect, and my updating record likely won’t be either!  But I love to write here and so far it’s brought me many good things, so I’m not going to stop.

On that note, I’m off to board my flight.  I wish everyone a great end of the year, and a very happy new year 2014!