A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian walk into a bar…

No, seriously, they did. Embassy workers and the cheeky lads were kind enough to invite me to dine with them. I played my part of the shocking and bedeviled American and more wine was probably sprayed from laughing than was properly consumed. Not a bad way to enjoy the afternoon.

Welcome to Den Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag….

pict3004Do remember though that you must respect Low Sidewalk and High Sidewalk. High Sidewalk is for walking, Low Sidewalk is for cyclists and you best mind your P’s & Q’s when tress-passing on the Low Sidewalk because the Dutch are armed with bells and they are not afraid to use them.

Next stop: the local grocery store. The Netherlands are damn expensive and eating out will put you back a pretty penny or four so I hit the market and pick up enough food to crowd into the mini-bar when I get back to the hotel. Nothing terribly noteworthy about Dutch grocers except for the staggering variety of dairy products. Takes up nearly a third of the store. A clerk was kind enough to explain the varieties of milk and for what foods they are specifically engineered.

If this entry is disjointed it is because that was my experience. My hair and sleep cycle did not meld with The Hague. It’s all now a bit of a blur due to sleep deprivation and the strange habit I have of viewing a new city through the lens of the last city I visited. Hence, the Netherlands is viewed through Iceland who was viewed through Ireland who was viewed through France who was view through Morocco and so on and etc.

So my summation is this: the Dutch are groovy kind of folk. They like their bikes retro, their cars small, and their dogs breed-neutral. They have a complicated style of dress that only years of study in the areas of architecture and Dadaist art could I then begin the assimilate. They serve a cup of coffee with a cookie which is exactly how life should be.

The Dutch will take the time to tear up an asphalt covered street only to be replaced with brick laid in a herringbone pattern. That’s a lot of brick. That’s a lot of patience.

pict3014The architecture is Baroque on top of Baroque on top of more Baroque with snippets of astounding Art Deco and modern structures. But all building have the same M.O: large windows with, often, no curtains drawn. They suck up as much light as they can during the day and and rarely bother to draw the shades at night allowing for seriously people watching in their natural habitat. When asked about this, a local store clerk informed me that Dutch people did not assume the worst of people as Americans clearly do.

Attached to these large windows, however, are retracted candy-colored striped awnings just begging to spring out. The most common color are white and orange which I can imagine make the place reminiscent of Newport, Rhode Island the summers of the early 1900’s where the Astors and the Rockefellers and other Masters of the Universe would keep “summer cottages” (read: massive mansions constructed before the introduction of the income tax). I would actually consider a trip back here just to see these awnings in full glory.

I like these people. Their national color is orange, they’ve adopted mint tea from their citizens of Moroccan descent, they ride their bikes rain or shine, hell, I saw a family of four commute to work on a tandem bike with attached side car. Amazing. This in a city with the best public transport I have ever seen.

The only complaint I can conjure is the weather, well, that and a disturbed hotel-roommate. The weather has either been pissing rain, misting rain, or blowing rain the entire week. The only reprieve was the last day when the sun finally broke through and the temp reached a lovely 50 degrees. Rain however, was not enough to keep me from visiting the beach.

I’ll get into that tomorrow though. Right now, I’m still so jet lagged, I’m ready to call it a night even though it’s only mid-afternoon.