Visiting a beach located on the North Sea in March hardly seems like a good idea, but we’d been given an afternoon reprieve from the rain in The Hague and we thought we should make the most of it.

My companion for this errand is “Doc”, whom I have discovered is my iPod soulmate. We spent the afternoon one-upping each other on WWII cantina songs. I swear, I never thought I would meet a person as into the Andrew Sisters, Mel Torme or Glen Miller as myself.

Reaching the beach from the embassy district in the The Hague is amazingly easy. Both trams and busses make the trip regularly, so pack a 1.6 Euro and you’re all set.

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The beach at Scheveningen is a trip back in time. I mentioned before how the candy-striped awnings of buildings in town reminded me of Newport, Rhode Island circa 1900, well, Scheveningen has that in spades.

A palatial hotel and restaurant, Steigenberger Kurhaus, lords over the mile + long beach and is flanked by an esplanade and board walk housing more shops, restaurants, and bars than one can count. Depsite the wind blowing a steady 30 knots dropping the windchill to about 15 degrees, the beach has hundreds of people milling about, chasing the tides, playing with dogs, and throwing their bags in the air to see how far the wind will take it.

It’s a little too cold and to windy for the Doc and I, so we head out to the covered pier, a half-mile long, double-decked structure that stretches out into the ocean. The pier has small satellite structures featuring a casino, a restaurant, and bungy jumping. In the summer, it is filled with the expected tourist shops, but at this time of year, it’s just hosting bedraggled tourists such as the Doc and I who do not want to brave the cold.

We walk off the pier and head around the other side of the Kurhaus to have a look. It looks swank. We, decidedly, do not. But we’re going in anyway. The worst, to our thinking, is that we’re kicked out for a dress code violation, but that is certainly enough time to snap some pictures before we receive the boot.

011_galerij_imagesThe interior of this hotel is amazing and we have only just hit the lobby. I can imagine that a night in a beach side room will set you back a month’s mortgage payment. No one seems to care that two women with scary windblown hair are lurking about so we venture forward towards the grand staircase engulfing the room and start climbing.

We reach the top and find ourselves in the grand ballroom. The appointments and general luxury remind me of the movie Titanic. Doc is snapping pictures and I am turning circles to take it all in.

Behind me, above the staircase, is wall painted to look like a movie screen. Pictures of the hotel and guests from over a hundred years ago are projected from where, I don’t know. Directly under this “screen” is a grand piano where a woman is quietly playing standards.

Doc and I note a bar in the far end of the room. We scamper over to have a drink and spy on the diners. From this vantage point, we can see the entire room. In my walking shoes, sandy jeans, and winter jacket, I more than feel out of place.

We order the house wine, 9 Euro yikes!, and an appetizer of bitterballen which will serve as dinner. Bitterballen is a Dutch “meat-based” snack of what I am assuming is meat-byproducts, flour, and broth, rolled together and fried. You usually receive either mustard of mayonnaise (the Dutch eat a tremendous amount mayo), and when we initially ask what is in the appetizer, the waiter replies “you don’t want to know”. I take this to mean that it is something akin to the American hot dog, so I go for it and don’t think twice.

We lounge about for a few hours requesting songs of the piano player whom we discover is American. It’s a nice relaxing evening away from our fellow travelers who are no doubt out and about making a nuisance of themselves. We eventually pull ourselves out of our chairs, leave the hotel, and make our way to the tram stop. Not a wild night out, but a pleasant evening nonetheless.

Just like everything else in The Hague, Scheveningen Beach is pleasant, it’s clean, it’s orderly, and it’s nice.

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