Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Netherlands Adventures!: Christmas in The Hague

Way back in August when I was sitting in the airport in Minneapolis nervously awaiting to get on my eight hour flight to Amsterdam, I met a family (an American family) who was currently living in The Hague (which is about a ten or fifteen minute train ride from Leiden, city center to city center).  We got to talking for a little bit.  I told the mom, LouAnn, and her two girls that I was going to study in Leiden for a semester and then the subject of Christmas came up.  Do you have any plans?  I didn't.  I had a very non-concrete plan to explore the Netherlands a little more over Christmas.  But LouAnn wouldn't have it.  She kindly opened her home to me and let me have a family over Christmas, an offer which I happily accepted!

Immediately after flying in from Italy, I hopped on a train to Den Haag Centraal station and LouAnn came to get me.  I was a little bit tired afterwards, as you might imagine, but after settling a little bit in the guest room, I jumped right in on the family stuff.  I went downstairs and had smoothies with LouAnn and her girls, Riley and Bailee (twelve and fourteen respectfully), and then the girls and I did a little bit of Christmas shopping and cooking.  LouAnn is accustomed to baking up a storm around the holidays.  There were cookies and chocolate and all sorts of yummy things in containers lining the counter, and apparently this was a small batch this year.  I jumped in and learned how to make chocolate truffles and this ridiculously good white chocolate and caramel cereal mix.  Riley, Bailee, and I also learned how to make eggnog (their dad really likes eggnog, so they wanted to make some for him to surprise him after he got home on Christmas Eve).  

The twenty-third was very low-key, but Christmas Eve was a little busier.  LouAnn's husband came home from a business trip and that same day, Riley and Bailee's sister (who is my age) was flying in from California to spend the holidays with her dad.  There was also a dinner party with another U.S. expat family and we made our own spring rolls for dinner.  I didn't know that I liked spring rolls until I made my own!  They're so easy to make!

Christmas was a little more low-key than Christmas Eve.  It was just LouAnn's family and me.  Riley burst into my room while it was still dark outside (that doesn't mean too much... I think it was around 7am.  It gets light pretty late in the Netherlands) and they were opening presents.  I was even surprised when I had a couple presents and a stocking to look in!  I felt very at home.  Later, we walked to the beach.  You know, as one does on Christmas day.

It was pretty empty since it was very windy on the North Sea and eventually it started spitting out.  But we weren't the only ones out walking.

Riley decided to jump down this sand dune and then climb back up.

Going to the beach on Christmas Day was something I never expected to do, but it was nice to be able to do that.  Nice to be able to have one last look out to sea while standing in the sand.

In the Netherlands, Second Day of Christmas is a thing.  I think the point is that you have the opportunity to, if you're attached to someone just by dating or by marriage or however one prefers to attach themselves, you can visit both sides of the family.  But it's also a day that tends to be more active.  People go on bike rides or are just generally out.  So LouAnn's husband, Molly (the girls' sister), and I went to the Gemeentesmuseum, which is an art museum.  There's a little bit of everything, it seems.  Lots of porcelain and Delftware, some paintings, architectural models... that kind of thing.

One unexpected thing that I found here was an exhibit on Pride and Prejudice costumes (from different film versions, I think).  I don't think I would have appreciated this museum as much as I did without this exhibit.  I got really excited!  I really like looking at costume design.

Also on Second Day of Christmas, I relocated from LouAnn's house in the Hague to a hostel in Amsterdam.  This is because Jack and his dad would arrive the next day and I wanted to be close(ish) to the airport so that I could wake up early, but not too early, and go pick them up.  But Molly also wanted to do some museum hopping in Amsterdam, so she booked a night at a hostel and we had an evening in Amsterdam together.

Neither of us are big partiers, and while we are of legal drinking age, we didn't feel like going to a bar or anything like that.  So we got a really yummy Indonesian food dinner (very prominent cuisine in the Netherlands) and then walked around the city because there was a bit of an on-going festival of lights, so there was a display of light-up works of art scattered throughout the city, and we found a few.

Even though Christmas was spent away from my own family, I still had a really nice Christmas.  LouAnn and her family made me feel at home, so I didn't feel sad being away.  It also helped that my family and I FaceTimed for a little bit when everyone was together at my Nani's house-- that was a lot of fun!  I got a kick out of that.

As I write this, I can report that as of last night I have arrived safely at home, but right now, I've been up since 4:30am because of jetlag.  At least I have a bit of time to adjust back to my "home timezone."  Even though I'm back though, I'm not quite finished posting about this trip.  I have more adventures to share and even after I'm done sharing adventures, I know that this isn't the last time I will think on this semester.  So look forward to those, I guess.

Thanks for Reading!


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