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!!

What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?

Stand up! Ok, ok, I cant take credit for that amazing joke – and Im sure our guide cant either – but it was hilarious and I loved it, so I had to share!

Lets get into today! Let me start by saying I slept like a rock – I dont know how or why, but my body clearly needed sleep. I even slept through Lauren’s alarm! It was our last Airbnb and last place with a kitchen so Lauren made herself some oatmeal and enjoyed her breakfast before we hit the road. We packed up and headed to this like Viking ship looking building. (we thought it was a church, but still dont know for sure). Snapped a picture this odd building and decided to head down to the little downtown area of Stykkisholmur. Turns out there isnt much there at all! We parked and attempted to find cute little stores, but they dont exist there! Its a fishing village looking place and not much else. Disappointed we headed out of town toward, YARNVILLE! (Alafoss)

Today was a day all about Lauren and her happy places. But first, we had to stop a water fall and cross under water in a tunnel – and that was like of course an awesome thing that I nerded out over. It was a 6km tunnel that was built to cut down on travel time from the north, used to be a toll road, but now its free!! (woohoo!!)

When we arrived at Alafoss Lauren was giddy. This place is like her heaven. The store is all things wool and yarn – and we saw everything! Lauren got her wool fix with some bundles (Im sure they have a name for them) to make a sweater, but not before looking at every color and style and texture. She was just lit up with joy!! After she bought enough to get the tax back we walked up the small little hill to check out the rest of the town (only like 50 people live there) but there wasnt much else to see.

After Alafoss we headed into Reykjavik. We are staying at a pretty nice hotel tonight and because I am an Orbitz VIP or whatever we got free drinks and entrance into the spa. Could this trip have ended any better?? We checked in and headed to the room to relax for about 30 minutes before heading off to the CityWalk tour. (I would recommend doing a walking tour in ANY city you can!) Our guide Nanna was a true Scandinavian girl – blonde hair and all! She was a great guide, was always loud enough and added plenty of humor. Remember that joke from the beginning, that was Nanna. We learned more history about Iceland that we didnt know and got a nice little tour of the city. After our walk we headed to dinner.

On our way to dinner, we ran into Lauren’s second happiest place – a Christmas shop! She likes ornaments for her Christmas tree. So we stopped in to get her one! And I got Bill an elf named Hugo! (by the by, I dont buy souvenirs for people!) But he asked about the elves so I got him one.

And finally we arrived at our dinner local. Lauren had done some research to find a vegan hot dog place. It should be noted that the Icelanders LOVE hot dogs. In fact most things close early (like 7, restaurants 10) but the hot dog stands stay open well into the night, closing at 1am. Anyway, back to the vegan hot dog. This place was like a cafeteria, but high end. We proceeded to order (2) vegan hot dogs (they come with cronions, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and some secret sauce thing), a side of smooshed potatoes and grilled sourdough bread with herbed butter. And it was DIVINE!! Like so good!! Who knew pickles would add so much and who knew a VEGAN hot dog could be so good!! I am NOT a vegan, but I dont eat red meat or pork – or anything, so hot dogs arent something Ive had in YEARS. But today I had one and it was just so lovely. Our waitress was from Colorado who had met her boyfriend while studying abroad in Prague and moved here to be with him. We learned a whole lot of random things about her and very much enjoyed hearing about life here.

After dinner we headed out to find some ice cream. I had heard it was good and they werent kidding. Lauren was even able to get vegan sorbet. I got white chocolate and toblerone – Lauren got passion fruit and strawberry. All were amazing and didnt disappoint. We took our ice cream and walked to the concert hall that Reykjavik finished in 2011. Its a pretty cool looking building sitting on the water front and was meant as a tour attraction for their new tourism push starting that same year.

We finished the night with (free) drinks in the top floor bar (woohoo for VIP). Lauren got the two free drinks and I got a Sprite. Basically like $50 worth of drinks for $4 (woohoo for VIP, again!). After our beverages we headed down to the room to change and hit the SPA!! It of course involved robes and slippers, a hot tub and sauna. We enjoyed our time, talked to some Americans who loved to embarrass their 15 year old son who wasnt even there.

Sad to say tomorrow is our last day in this beautiful country – but we are already planning our next trip for next May…where will we go next??