If, like me, you face the dilemma of planning for summer holiday (though it could be a weekend of other time of the year) with children at home then the likelihood is that there are several questions that your mind has raised with yourself. The consideration of the what the weather will be like is up there in the Top 5, yet this right now is the lesser of my challenges. Even if you do not have children to worry about during those 10-12 weeks from mid June to September where many companies in The Hague sink into near ‘dormant mode’, and the vacant ‘hot desk’ and office spaces at work resemble a Donald Trump Inauguration rally. I do hope that all the sun drenched opportunities to be outside enjoying The Hague fall beyond the the days that fall between Monday and Friday, and the weekend weather patterns should not cause for concern that Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds will don their dancing shoes and swing lamppost to lamppost along the Prinsestraat, or Lange Voorhout. There is the occasional Indian Summer 24 hour period, or two, so get streaming/downloading Crowded House’s ‘Four Seasons in One Day’ on your Spotify or other musical medium playlist. That way may never get caught out…. Please remind me to do this again before the month’s end.
I am assuming that most of you reading this have not experienced this eighth wonder of the known Dutch Working World, and that you may work at an employer with upward of 30 employees, or that it is not uncommon for your boss, team leader, sports coach, local delicatessen owner, restaurant, bar, partisserie, colleague, or other, may be gone or absent form daily duties for at least two weeks, likely three, between mid July and mid August. Plus do not expect many builders or other tradesmen to be around during bouwvak, as this is standard throughout the country and at allows you some guarantee that these weeks may be buskers than most for vacation planning and other domestic or international travel plans – do check the roads before travelling folks, to avoid disappointment.
If you fall into another category, be it self-employed, stay at home parent, nanny, grandparent /other family member, new arrival, student or Chief (Summer) Entertainment Officer, then I saluter you all!! And I will touch on these options in greater for you in the coming weeks. Right now let’s view this initial brain dump as an ‘getting to know The Hague’ period, or the what does the city look like with relation to the things to do.
Our website and later social media activities and blogs will largely cover maters of where one can find further information and some tips and recommendations from some of those in our networks and communities. We will also reveal some of the city’s finest, such as workshops/courses, summer camps, play centres, beach events, festivals, neighbourhood kinderborderijs, and public events, and much more… What a busy time ahead of us!
When I first arrived here, it was the summer of 2002 – and what a summer it was. I landed in The Netherlands two days shy of my 25th Birthday, ready to start a short term assignment from the UK, for my then employer, and the next 12 months would kick-off with the immediate requirement of understanding the lay of the land and getting stuck into my new life.…as a single and free young man. Less of this will be revealed in late bogs, yet happy to discuss these over a coffee or a Belgian beer at one of the fine bars and cafes we have here – definitely more on those later though 🙂
In my first few weeks I also it became apparent that many of my new colleagues and those I met often started the conversation on the topic of ‘things to do’ in this way ‘There is this great festival/event/opening (delete where appropriate or add another) you must go to, where you do…. and they have this wonderful…. and and …and….it is incredible’. I would interject, or another new comer to this low lying nation, with headlight gladdened rabbit eyes ‘Oh when is that then?’ To which the reply wold often be ‘Last weekend, or two months ago’… The Dutch Agenda, more on this another day, or when my Dutch partner and kids are not listening, and likely after I go for my Post Brexit Dutch Naturalisation process. Again, a coffee or Trappiste beverage discussion.
Anyhow, I digress. Beyond realising on my initial flight over from England on that sunny Saturday afternoon back in late June, 15 years ago, how much of the surrounding area of Den Haag looked very green, I had not prepared myself for the fact that Scheveningen and Kijkduin offer wonderful safe havens throughout the year, with plenty of attractions for one to enjoy and sample, yet the words ‘beach resort’ did not instantly sing loud in my head. There were also less wind turbines, yet I guess that shows human progress in the last decade and a half, right?! ‘Two Duvals alsjeblieft’ I hear at least one of you cry out, out there in cyber space. ‘Ok then, just the one. I’ve to the bike….’
And I;m back on track again… So, if you are to not yet familiar or aware of these two names, you soon might, or should investigate these locations further.
Both Kijkdun and Scheveningen beach areas sit directly on the incredibly tropically warm (yes, sadly I do joke here) North Sea and have beautiful sandy beaches – this not a joke. Some beach and promenade areas more densely populated with people and beach bars, stradtenten/s, dog walkers (check the signs and schedule for period when the dogs are actually allowed on the beach (on a dog leash or not), sunbathers (nudist/naturists beach also), or water sports fanatics, a like.
Another thing they share in common is Kijkduin and Scheveningen are both incredibly easy to reach by public transport, bike, and even car (do allow for the roads to be ‘quite’ busy on summer evenings when the weather is nice and also weekends) as warm weather brings not just locals to the beaches and public spaces, but also tourists, ‘out of town-ers’, water sports enthusiasts, and many more. The words ‘trapped like sardines’ can be heard by fietsers/cyclists heading to the beach as they pass the more popular tram and bus routes, as automobile and tracked dependent machine compete for the prize of best mobile incubator and best non-two wheeled travel option for all those not fortunate to live locally and utilise this popular transport method – more details on public transport and where to buy a bike can be found on the website. You can also hire bicycles from various outlets, also.My advice, get a bakfiets, or omafiets as soon as (economically/physically) possible, and an OV Chipcard.
Prior to coming to The Hague to work on assignment one of my responsibilities in theInternational HR department where I worked was that I used to create the various city and country guides for the expatriates and business travellers. Yet, though this may surprise some of you who are still reading this, that I had failed to finish the one on The Netherlands, let alone go to The Hague or Amsterdam, mainly due to my sudden departure just 2 weeks after my initial ‘look and see visit’ – plane, train, taxi, lunch on the Bankastraat, a traumatic experience with Kwarme Melk, and a repeat of my first three travel activities in reverse order, on my return journey back to Stansted Airport – and closing down my life in the UK pre-departure was more of a concern to me. Some of you may know or have experienced these undesired yet greatly important dilemmas like selling the car, moving out of a rental home and into another (temporary) place, packing up home coation (twice) and unpacking (once), finding temporary accommodation in host location, arraigning shipping, forgetting to get important documents checked, and other possible various work/family/friend obligations. Oh and leaving parties – which were of course far more entertaining and distracting.
My manager at the time told me, concerning the ‘Netherlands Assignment Guide’, to finish whilst I was here for a year, and maybe put some picture in it if I had time, to help paint a picture for future business users and families/accompanying children/dogs/cats/neighbours/family GP, etc. Also, I was to speak to other expats and get their insight into their experiences. And geeze, some of them really did tell me what they thought, and welcomely often over a drink or two at the Sherlock Holmes or O’Caseys – which soon became two establishments I chose for a method for gaining an insight into the city and the some hidden gems. Plus the some f the hidden pit falls – more of which I will cover in a later bog ‘ what to bring, what not to bring’.
Thankfully a lot has changed since then… I go less to these bars or post work borrels, and instead I am often sat in the Palaistiun watching the kids play and the dog wait for children to drop their food to her level and talking to other parents (expats and local folk), swapping glass for coffee take out beaker. Or at the Scheveningse Sandspeeltuin, also watching the kids and K9 perform the same activities they attempt in the park, though this time in the sand, with more distractions for the children, and often reasoning with my daughter as to why she cannot eat ice cream for breakfast, even if it is a good idea. And as ???? is a near permanent fixture there in the summer and warmer months. In seriousness, there are a lot of useful links and blogs out there with great information of this fine city, which sits delightfully achter de duinen, yet recommendations orally and by other means really help t get to know these places best. I learnt about the city from my Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, French, Egyptian, friends and colleagues, to name but a few, as it was not until a lot later did I benefit fro also mixing more locally, largely as a result of staying here longer and getting more active socially and in my spare time. By active, I mean going out and doing things, as opposed to work and my domestic chores (mental note, should have got some home assistance back then with some things)
The beach and promenade areas have seen a recent investment and a complete revamp from how things were. An injection of investment and the growing profile of both areas as ‘a place to be’ not just in the summer for the sun, or a winter stroll, but for professional and amateur beach sports events, such as..surf schools, kite surfing, sailing, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, more organised special sports events in the Beach Stadion, beach volleyball, Mudmasters, Red Bull Motorcross, and the annual summer firework and music festivals.
The pier in Scheveningen has also seen itself return from the proverbial ashes and become a popular space for new business, shops and eateries, as well as suiting all members of the public and offering a great look out point for the surrounding sea, ‘resort’ and sand dune that sit around us here. For more details on both locations you may also find these links useful. I will, this is turning into a big list, also write a blog piece on both Scheveningen and Kijkduin in the coming weeks. Kijkduin is situated due west of Scheveningen, past Duinoord, the Vogelwijk, in-between Ockenburgh (where The International School is located) and the Westland, and compared to Scheveningen is it far less built up and as populated with bars, shops, restaurants, and other places of interest, it has a unique feel to it and stand out alone as a more ‘secluded’ or less busier of the beach options which we benefit from in The Hague.
The city itself is made up of eight official districts, these are Centrum, Escamp, Haagse Hout, .
Laak, Leidschenveen-Ypenburg, Loosduinen (where Kijkduin is located), Scheveningen and Segbroek. In relation to things to do, each of these districts is home to a diversity of different neighbourhoods – be it, for example culturally, architecturally, commercially or demographically – and offer a variety of shops, play grounds, restaurants, sports and social clubs, community centres, secret gardens and hofjes, libraries, children’s farms (kinderboerderijs) cafes, embassies, businesses, parks, fitness centres, museums, and so much more.
In the past 15 years I have been able to participate socially and competitively in many sports and other leisure activities – although unofficially I have retired from playing football at Wilhelmus for the third time – and these options are definitely a great way to meet others, settle in, relax, share pains and frustrations, or jokes and anecdotes, yet for some it may not be an option, or it may have to wait – sometimes due to residence permit challenges or other administrative requirements needed here, such as a bank account, or copy of our work or accommodation contract.
However, for those that have not started off here this way, or had different experiences and other positive recommendations, The Hague in general is an incredibly charming place to live and spend time. And importantly, that one may have to scratch beyond the surface to truly get to know what there is to offer you and we a City’s Finest hope to assist here and continue to offer suggestion and various snipers of information about Den Haag, S’Gravenhage, or The Hague.