Den Haag…another day with no joke

Sunday August 11 – Den Haag

I slept in again today – my back was hunting again – but I had looked yesterday and almost everything was closed until noon today, so there was no reason to rush out of the house. I love taking walking tours and recommend them to anyone traveling. Usually it gives you an opportunity to explore the city center – including many places you may not have checked out on your own while giving you historical and cultural information. Many of them end with a trip to a pub or a coffee (depending upon the time of day).

I got ready and walked over to the meeting point – Im sure I would make most others nervous or anxious with the lack of planning I do – but it said it was going to meet in this square and the email didn’t necessarily tell you where.  I had a feeling it was near this cartoon statue – so I checked the website and I was right. There were 14 people on the tour, great size group – we had Russians, Texans, Germans, and some Asians – all different points of views on the world. Makes for great conversation when you find out how everyone learns a different history about many parts of history.

Our guide was Denny – he normally does architectural tours but he was filling in for his friend while she was on holiday with her family. He had a lot of insight on the architecture of the buildings so we got to see a lot of little details most people don’t notice – or if they do itll take years (according to Denny). He took us through parks, gardens and we walked all over the city center. For me the highlights were realizing how old the city and the fact that they are still ruled by a king! They vote here for the people who keep the government in check, not the actual government since the king appoints them. They also have like 25+ parties – so they are forced to work together and it is hard to bribe them since the group changes so frequently.

We also learned about the canals throughout Holland – basically they are all locks and dams meant to assist with water problems (rising and lowering due to weather) most of Holland is below sea level. They aren’t afraid of rising sea level because they are prepared for it – they worry about the world, but not themselves.

At the end of free tours they say “now is judgement time.” This is when you get to place value on the tour, since many people who come on these are backpackers or who don’t want large expensive tours, often times $10-15/person is a reasonable rate. I usually give $10 – if they do really good $15 – those are the ones who can answer all my crazy questions. After the tour I walked over to the city volunteers (they have these people with maps and candy to help tourists) and got a map because I want to take the tram to the beach, but first – LUNCH!

I ended up finding another pizza place but opted for pasta and soup this time. I really want some fries!! I haven’t found a stand open when I am actually hungry for them though.  I sat and wrote up to this point in the blog, read some of my book and enjoyed the food for a while. After lunch I walked around for a bit, then went to figure out the tram system so I could check out the beach. Luckily you can buy tickets with a card on the trams themselves – the signage and information at the stops is actually very good here. I rode line #1 from the city center to the beach area. It was about a 25 minute ride. The tram went down tree lined streets – everything so lush and green – make the outskirts of the city seem farther away than it really was.

I got to the beach stop, opened Google maps and headed towards the water. On the way over I ran into a bunch of kids teaching each other parkour. It was a pretty cool site to see – looked like a legitimate club – they had shirts and leaders and stuff. Getting to the beach from the tram line was a quick 10 minute walk. It smelled like fish the closer I got to the water – but the beach views were gorgeous. It was (and usually is) very window, so there were many windsurfers out on the water. I didn’t see many people camped out on the beach – but it was pretty cool  out (all of 64*).

After I checked out the beach I went back to the tram, I really wanted to get some digestives (ya know fiber full crackers, with chocolate!) and chocolate for my adventures tomorrow – luckily there was a shop just at the tram stop. I gathered my snacks and got on the tram back to the city center. I stopped at the Peach Palace as my guide recommended it. However, you can you cant actually go in and they only have a small visitor center to check out. I took some pictures and headed back to the tram. The Peace Palace is an international group of people appointed by each country that handles international arbitration. In order to participate each side must agree to the final settlement.

Once back at the city center I decided it was time to head back to my Airbnb and relax for a bit before the concert and also change, it was already cooling off and it was only 5pm. I got back to my room and no one else was home (woohoo) but I just went to my room to watch some Friends and take a nap before my super wild night ahead. I full expected to be out late (and I was!)

The concert started at 7pm – but tickets said P!NK had two openers – so I didn’t leave the house until after 7pm since the park was only about a 15 minute walk. People were filing in from the trams, buses and trains – all so orderly and excited. I followed the wave of people into the park. There was a bike parking lot at the venue (and many people didn’t even lock their bikes up) and a locker facility in case you wanted to leave stuff outside of the park.

I decided I had come all this way I should buy a shirt with the concert dates and places on it, so I waited in the long line and got a shirt. After that I headed to ticket check in. I paid for the closest area (the Golden Circle) which meant my line to get in was super short. They scanned your ticket, put on a wristband and made you throw away your ticket. You then have your bags looked at, but no metal detector or pat down. Europe (ok maybe just this area) has concert venues figured out. No cash at the food or beverage lines. You instead buy tokens – plastic round coin like pieces that can be split in half to pay for food or beverages. The minimum you could buy was 5 tokens – for $15. So I went with the 5 tokens because they had FRIES!! The friends were 1.5 tokens and the drinks (non-alcoholic) were 1 token a piece. I got fries, fanta and a water. They even had water refill stations around the site – its super nice!!

Den Haag – The Hague….

Saturday, August 10

I was so tired from traveling that I slept in until about 9am! It was wonderful actually, minus the fact that my back always hurts when I sleep that long. I decided to get ready for the day so I can catch my train to Amsterdam.
I always wonder how older people live in these flats with the two foot step into the shower/tub – it can be difficult for a healthy, able body person! I packed up my bags and headed out on my seven minute walk to St Pancras station to catch the Eurostar train to Amsterdam.

The ticket said to arrive 45-60 minutes before the ticket time and I got to the station one hour before. I probably should have checked exactly how to do the Chunnel portion = because I kept waiting for the board to announce my train platform and it just said check the website – which had ZERO information on it. I finally stood up and found a sign that said “Eurostar” (the Chunnel train). I headed there to find out that even though I was there 30 minutes before the train departed I may not make it because I am taking the Chunnel and they need to do passport control – luckily they rushed me to the front of the ticket line – but I was tuck in the passport and security line. Im not quite sure why they have you go through security  other than to check for guns? I never saw a single person get stopped or had their luggage pulled aside. I realized later because I was in such a hurry that my trusty sunglasses were left in the security bin – but I did make my train, with time to spare! In fact, the platform had just opened up and I got just hopped in line and got right on!

I was determined to stay awake because I really wanted to see all the sights along the way. The tunnel or Chunnel (channel tunnel) is about 31 miles long – there are actually three tunnels – one for each direction and one for maintenance. It was completed in 1994 and took less than 6 years to complete at a cost of about $12 Billion in today’s value.

It makes trade and travel easier between the UK and Europe main land. The tunnel comes out in France, and the rail splits between east and west – east going to Amsterdam and Brussels and west going to Paris. The train starts in the heart of London and heads out to the country side before heading to a shallow depth of 150 feet under water in the tunnel. I was expecting my ears to pop due to the change in pressure, but that never happened. The tunnel was to be expected – no cell service and dark. The train can reach speeds of 100 MPH in the tunnel, but 186 MPH on land.

The train stops in France and Belgium before heading into the Netherlands. My ticket was to Amsterdam, but I opted instead to get off in Rotterdam since my Airbnb host was hoping I could arrive early, and lets be real it cut about an our off my travel time.

I got off in Rotterdam and had to buy another ticket all of $5 (+$1 for the ticket itself) to get to Den Haag (or The Haag as they say it in English). I made my way to my Airbnb and knocked, and knocked and rang the bell (which is just a bell attached to a knocker inside), and nothing. I messaged the host and told him I would be sitting on the stairs. After about 5 minutes he opened the door and was like “why didn’t you knock?” Well, I had, but whatever. The room was exactly as the pictures showed – bright and airy and pretty large for a bedroom in Europe. I only met Alejandro, the husband, not the kid or the wife. If I had known there was a child, I may not have booked here, but she was so quiet that I never had to worry.

I dropped off my stuff, collected the keys and headed out to find myself some sunglasses – much needed after a whole day of bright sun without them! The city center was about 25 minutes by foot away from the house – but it is such a great little town that walking is no big deal at all. This is a bike country though, so I feel like at some point I should rent a bike. It probably wont happen – but it should.

I found some cheap ($2) sunglasses at the trustee H&M (they think H&M is expensive – but the prices are the same in the states and we think its cheap!). Im much more comfortable with sunglasses on, so I continued to explore the center – which is mostly shopping – and decided to find a place to sit so I could figure out wat to do tomorrow before the concert. I found a place called Binnenhof which is the government office building – but it is so pretty – right on a little pond (man made from the locks and dams and canals). There is a “garden” in the middle – with a large church and a pretty fountain – and that is where I started to plan my day tomorrow.

I wanted to find a free walking tour so I can get the most out of my time here and see all that I can. It took a lot of Googling – which is crazy – but I finally found one. I picked the 10am start time so I could go to the little amusement park later in the afternoon (its not rides, its just like a 1:25 exact replica of a lot of the important things of Holland, called Madurodam.

After I made my reservation I decided it was time for dinner. Of course I wanted pizza – there is something about a paper thin pizza that makes the world a little better. I was going to go to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant – but it was a chain (similar probably to a smaller Biaggi’s) and I feel like I should have done it in London since he British. So, instead I found a place with good reviews on Google next to the city center church. I arrived at the perfect time – it was full downstairs so they opened the upstairs just for me – but within 10 minutes the place was almost full upstairs as well.

My pizza and caprese salad were a perfect way to end the day. After dinner I decided to go find some ice cream or white chocolate bar (or anything by Milka really). I put my headphones on and started to walk towards home. I was enjoying my podcast when someone tapped me on the shoulder. He was a 35-40 year old man from Congo. At first I was a bit taken back – but we chatted a bit and I said I was walking home but wanted to get something sweet first. So we chatted on the way to the gelato shop.

I ended up talking to him for over an hour and a half. He was a nice guy, there was some language barrier – but it was great to hear about life in Holland, especially as an immigrant. I finally bid him ado, dropped him off at the train station, and continued on my way. Because I didn’t know him, I made sure he got on the train before I left, I didn’t want him stalking or anything – but he didn’t even look back.

Show me the way OUT of San Jose

Thursday, August 8 – Friday, August 9

I worked today before my 8pm flight – but didn’t walk enough and when you are going to be stuck on a plane for 10+ hours, getting in your steps becomes very important. So after my very slow (not just because of traffic, but because my driver really like the right lane, never once getting in the HOV lane!) Lyft to the airport I got through TSA, got to my gate and began my pacing. I got to the airport with only 4,500 steps and had just over an hour to get the rest of my 10,000 steps in – so I paced and I paced. I ended up grabbing my Kindle and reading and pacing – Im sure as it got closer to boarding the people were getting annoyed with my pacing – but I don’t care – I was on a mission!

I hit 10,000 steps (insert happy dance here) right as boarding was to begin. I saw some people queuing – they call that “gate lice” in Passenger shaming terms – and I wasn’t going to be one of them. They announced that the systems had crashed and that there would be a delay in boarding. It only lasted about 10 minutes, but once we were able to board, it went very slow, the computers were running slow and there were only half the amount of check in computers available. Because of my Platinum status on American I got to board with the elites on the flight – well after first class of course.

I had asked before the flight if the middle seat was taken and they confirmed it was, I am bummed because I changed my seat last night so I could have an open seat. Once I was by my seat the guy on the aisle was already on the plane (he must be status too) and since boarding was going slow because of the delay, I opted to put my pillow and technology bag on my seat and go stand in the galley

The flight attendants I talked to were just amazing and hysterical. We talked about how crazy the TSA regulations in the states are, as well as the UK version. For example, in the States the flight attendants don’t have a liquid allowance, but in the UK they do. And in the UK the armed forces can take their riffles and guns through security as long as they have a pass, but they cannot take water, as it may be used as a weapon – as opposed to the guns they have with them?!

We also talked about how crazy people are on airplanes and having to detain people mid-flight. Theyre given four types of situations and the solutions to all of them. Once of the flight attendants is a volunteer police officer in his town – and he knows (or seems to know) his stuff.

Boarding was complete; I had to return to my seat, and to my surprise, the middle seat was open! Woohoo! I had to bother the aisle guy again to get in and that’s when I noticed it – I was in a window seat with no window!! However, the lack of window actually means Ill be warmer on the flight since there is no window, there is no loss of heat!

They served the first mean about an hour and a half into the flight. I was really trying to exhaust myself so I stayed awake for it. They had what they called “red chicken curry” or the “vegetarian option” (I never did figure out what that actually was). I went with the curry; there was nothing “curry” about it, I never actually saw or tasted any curry – but it tasted really good. Simple salad, roll, dinner and some lemon custard, jello thing for dessert.

I don’t recall much after I finished eating because I fell asleep, and I slept hard! According to my FitBit I slept for over 5 hours. Im glad I brought my full size pillow (yes I know, judge away, but the Dr said it would help my back and he was right) it made sleeping so easy.

I woke up a bit before we landed – I missed breakfast (which is always my favorite part of the meals). We had left about 30 minutes late and arrived about 20 minutes early – yeah!!

After deplaning, came customs – many countries now have a chip in the passport that means you can bypass the annoying passport control people – it also means you don’t get a stamp – but I already have a London Heathrow stamp, so that’s fine by mean. I needed to get to the Underground station. I followed the signs and bought a ticket – I ran into someone who works for the Underground and he said it was delayed about 40 minutes and so I should take the TFN train and transfer along the way to the Underground. I followed all the directions and made it to the transfer point. The ticket guy there wasn’t as friendly as the airport – but he wasn’t mean. He kept trying to keep my card and I kept asking for it back – finally he opened the gate and let me have my ticket back.

My Airbnb was only about a 7 minute walk from the Kings Cross Station (trains and Underground). His directions to get to his place were spot on – but Google did assist a bit. The host, Mike, must be a shy guy. He lives, sleeps and works in 60% of the flat and the remaining is a storage closet, shared bathroom and guest room. It’s a great set up for Airbnb and its on the first floor (or in every other country in the world, the zero level). We chatted for a bit, I reviewed the binder he had set out for important information of the area, put on shorts and headed out to explore.

The moment I went to walk out the front door it dumped rain – so I ran back in to get my rain jacket that I had decided at the last minute to bring, sure glad I did that! I decided to put in the GPS – Westminster Abbey – since there is a lot to see and do in that area. I started the one-hour journey by foot and had to stop once because it was raining so hard.

On my way I decided to add a stop at the British Museum . It has been ages (like 15 years??) to my route – it was halfway between my flat and Westminster Abbey. Its free to get into the museum, I had forgotten this. They ask for a $5 donation – but its not required. You can now even text a number and make your donation that way!

I wanted to check out the Rosetta Stone again – its just a great part of history!! Its shocking to think that we learned so much from this stone – that before was just a guess! I walked around a bit more and then continued on my walk, I was getting hungry. My walk took me through the off-Broadway theater neighborhood – very busy, everyone is out on this Friday night to go see a show. I decided I was really hungry now so I looked for a place to eat and finally decided on an Italian place.

I got myself some olives and pizza with a 7up and water. Literally EVERYTHING tastes better here. A big reason is they don’t allow artificial colors (like Fanta isn’t cartoon orange, its like orange juice orange), and they don’t modify their food either. They don’t cut pizza here – you cut each bite yourself. I really like that because it forces me to eat slower. I wrote out (and re-wrote my boarding pass writing) most of this blog there. Once the food is delivered I switch over to reading (current read: Nelson Mandela’s Autobiography).

After dinner I continued my venture over to Westminster Abbey. Last time I was here Big Ben was under construction, it has been over 2 years since Ive been here so I expected it to be cleared – but when I got to the neighborhood I realized in fact there was ever MORE scaffolding that before!! They are doing a full restoration of the Parliament and Big Ben (much needed). Its an amazingly large project, but it will be great when its done. I walked around a bit, went to the Abbey gates and then hopped on the Tube back to the Airbnb. I was exhausted and worn out – exactly what I needed to sleep through the night.

What Im all about…

Lets be real. If you read blogs or follow traveler accounts on Instagram or Facebook – you dream of living your life through them. You want the followers they have, the experiences they have – but, you are a real world human who has to go to work on Monday morning. I am that person too.

I work hard and spend my money on traveling and seeing the world. I am often asked by friends if I can help them plan a trip or how I save the money to be able to do this. Honestly, its not an easy going thing – but I enjoy every minute of it. I love helping others plan trips, find deals, ideas for what to see, and how much it is all going to cost.

What I have learned about planning a trip, funding a trip and enjoying are trip are all found here on my blog. I share valuable tips to make your trips more exciting and less work – and unforgettable. Below you will see me having fun, laughing, taking in beautiful views – world wide! I am a real human! Im not financed by some company looking to sell items – if I promote it, I use it.

How can I help you?

Are you looking to travel? Do you need some tips? Dont know what to do next? Reach out! I am here for you – I am NOT kidding – I love traveling! I get excited FOR YOU, when I know you are planning or thinking about traveling to somewhere new. Dont worry, Im not going to charge you, in fact, Im not going to do anything other than share with you what I would do if I were in your position.

No such thing as dumb questions – and Im not looking to get rich off of this. Traveling is the reason I work so hard and I love every part of it (TSA and all!) I hope I can inspire you to adventure out (even if its just to another state or city!)

Dont forget to follow the Instagram and Facebook page for even more travel tips!