Have been trying to finish this one up for a while!
It was January 2019 and we were in Den Haag. We woke up to an alarm clock because it was our last day and we had big plans for the morning. We were going to Binnenhof before our flight out! I had been wanting to see more of that place since we’d arrived, and we were just barely able to squeeze it in. It is a complex of buildings in a large stone plaza, the defining feature of which is the Hall of Knights, a castle built in the 1200’s.
We were going to see that hall along with some of the surrounding buildings where much of political life occurs in the Netherlands. We signed up for an online tour, the only one we could fit into our schedule, and it was listed as being in Dutch. We hoped for the best and were delighted when the tour ended up being in English and just four people- a Dutch mother and daughter and ourselves. The gracious Dutch participants offered to have the tour in English and we were relieved. Ther are headphones with a recorded tour but it wouldn’t have been the same.
The Netherlands has a parliamentary system with representatives from many political parties. They gave us a seating chart with party names, below. Several caught my eye: “50plus”, “THINK”, “Party for the Animals”, with 4, 3, and 5 reps respectively.
We got to see where they sit and hear a little about the parties. It was fascinating to be around 3 Dutch locals who could explain the Prince’s Day tradition, also called Budget Day, that takes place in the Hall of Knights each September.
It was an interesting tour in lovely company. It came to an end and we said goodbye and thank you again. Then it was time for a quick brunch of pancakes, famous in the Netherlands and something we hadn’t tried yet. Then it was back to collect our things from the apartment and head to the airport. We were sad to leave but we knew we would see our friends again in Philly. We also were a little excited because we had a 23 hour layover in Dublin! Off we went.
We had a madcap time in the capital of Ireland. We took the bus from the airport to our digs for the night. We walked through a dark, quiet, residential area with houses of brick and stone. We met our host at his cozy home within walking distance of Dublin Castle, Trinity College, shopping, etc. Despite the hour being a bit late, it was Saturday night and we went out to wander the lively streets. We were looking for live music, beef stew, and vegan Yorkshire pudding, which we found at a pub in the commercial area near Christ Church. There was even a fireplace and decadent desserts! It was wonderful just to walk around, sit at the pub, and listen to people talking and have no obligations other than making it to the airport on time the next day. We ate at a leisurely pace then made our way back to the house, slept well, and got up very early the next day to see things in daylight. We had porridge at a little coffee shop and talked to people about the airport bus and walked around the area a couple more hours before heading to the airport. Then it was up and away back to our family and jobs and school and the City of Brotherly Love, with many stories to tell the folks back home!