The morning of the 7th April dawned and my friend was off ridiculously early to work and going straight from there to Schipol airport. I was on my own and so what to do? She had asked me the previous night what my plans were and I replied in all honesty that I had no idea. I really didn’t.
Walking past the hotel bar which was empty at this hour and leaving my key with the rceptionist who had now become accustomed to my slightly unkempt looks (see a previous entry for an explanation of this) and very cordially bade me a good journey, I was slightly sad to leave the Golden Tulip and Leiden. The hotel is standard business accommodation but the town is wonderful and I had enjoyed such a wonderful time there.
I decided a second (local) opinion might be in order so that was a grand excuse to return to Cafe Rembrandt and speak to Tony the owner whom I had got friendly with. I asked him about the two options my friend had given me and he was emphatic that Haarlem was much better on the basis that it was a lovely old city but more specifically that Den Haag was “too full of immigrants” (his words, not mine). I went online to look for somewhere to stay but there was very little on offer in Haarlem and certainly nothing within my budget and so I decided on Den Haag. Again the options were limited although I tried several different sites, obviously none of them owned by the useless, totally discredited and utterly immoral TripAdvisor who are hell-bent on being the only travel related website available online. I do exhort you to boycott them.
I eventually managed to get a room in the Court Garden Hotel which appeared to be fairly central. It was on the limit of, or even slightly above, my budget but I was really left with little choice as I wanted to move and the place I was staying in Leiden was far more expensive if you were not on a corporate rate.
There was time for one last look around the many delights of Leiden, which I had rather fallen in love with and I highly recommend, there is such a good vibe about the place. Here are a few images.
Den Haag, here we come and it was certainly no problem to get there. A short walk to Leiden Centraal station, single ticket bought from the very pleasant lady in the ticket booth who (yet again) spoke faultless English and off I went. I must confess that I do like trains in “the Low Countries” and indeed most of Western Europe as they just put our appalling UK system to shame. Frankly, there are third world countries that put our disgusting network to shame.
Having been removed from national control at huge cost to the taxpayer some years ago and sold off to (mostly foreign) companies who see them only as a cash cow with the guaranteed right to increase fares annually above the rate of inflation, railway travel is an obscenity in my home country. It was therefore a delight to jump on the NS “double-decker” train for the short trip to Den Haag. I know it is not physically possible in UK because of tunnels and low bridges etc. but I do rather like this two level rolling stock.
If the reader has perused earlier portions of this journal then they will know that I have something of a bad habit of falling asleep on trains and overshooting my destination but no such inconvenience here and I alighted at Den Haag in good order in the early evening. OK, I had got that far and was going well but it almost inevitably started to unravel then.
When I say that I am a complete technophobe I am not being falsely modest nor fishing for compliments, I genuinely am. It is about as much as I can do to answer an e-mail. I had memorised the map from the station to the hotel on my laptop in the morning or at least I thought I had. I strode off purposefully in what I believed to be the right direction only to find that none of the markers I had committed to memory were to be seen. Oops. In situations of emergency such as this there is only one viable solution – hit the bar, which is exactly what I did.
The next available bar was duly visited and I was told there that it was a fair old walk to where I wanted to be and so a couple of beers down the track the very helpful chap behind the jump called me a cab. It was obviously not a ploy for a kickback as it was indeed a fair old trek to where I needed to be but the driver did it on the meter and was obviously not ripping me off. He deposited me at the door of what looked to be a fairly modern building on Laan van Meerdervoort where I was checked in promptly and courteously by a charming young lady who had perfect English. I was directed to Room 106, which was on the first floor obviously and to the rear so road noise was never going to be a problem although, in truth, when I walked the road outside in the evening it did not seem that busy anyway.
The room was unremarkable and I may as well have been in New York or London but it was well-appointed with a large flat screen TV, complete with various satellite channels including quite a few in English (BBC News, NatGeo, Discovery etc.) and also a cooking channel I did not know called 24 Kitchen which became my default station as I could watch cooking programmes all day.
The en-suite bathroom was a walk in shower (piping hot water at a good pressure all day) but no bath, and the whole room was spotlessly cleaned and exactly what I would have expected from a premises in this price range. There is a wi-fi connection which is super fast and any amount of power sockets so you can charge up all your kit.
A friend of mine is involved in marketing and she speaks (as obviously do others) of the “Unique Selling Point” (USP) of any given business or product. In the case of the Court Garden it is a “green” and eco-friendly approach to things and it would seem that this is not merely a gimmick as they use solar panels, they have recycle bins on every floor and so on. Had I not read this online beforehand I would never have known as it was just a typically business style hotel and I suppose there must be a moral in there somewhere. You don’t need to compromise comfort or facilities in order to do the right thing by the planet. I am as keen as the next man to do my bit for the rock we live on and the people thereon and whilst the “green” thing is a marketing ploy as well as a conscience choice for them, I did actually feel slightly good about having chosen it over a couple of other similarly priced and equipped other hotels. If ecological matters are of great concern to the reader then this is definitely first pick in town.
The “green” / eco ethos extends to the breakfast which I believe is the only meal offered as I certainly did not see a formal restaurant and the kitchen in the breakfast room (located in the basement) would not have been up to the task. It is the usual continental affair featuring bread, cheese, cold cuts, fruit, juice, tea and coffee etc.
Breakfast is a meal I rarely take but there were no tea / coffee-making facilities in the room and I do like a coffee in the morning so I just headed down for that as breakfast was included in my room price anyway (walk-up price is €12:50) but it looked so good that I took into it and very good it was too. I had a large bowl of very fresh fruit with yoghurt, coffee, fruit juice (plenty of variety including an interesting apple and ginger which I had never had before) and then a hot plate of scrambled eggs, Frankfurter sausages and a rather bizarre offering of chickpeas and sweetcorn. The veg. selection got even stranger the day I left and it all seems to change daily but I have never seen carrots and sweetcorn for breakfast before. The scrambled eggs seem to be constant but on the Monday the frankfurters had been replaced by what I know as spinakopitta from my time in Cyprus i.e. pastries filled with spinach and goat’s cheese. Very tasty they were too.
As I say, they really do take the eco gig very seriously here and all the food was organic or home-made and FairTrade featured heavily in the hot beverages. They aren’t messing about with this and I have to say it results in a very pleasant product. People that know me will find it literally incredible that I a) actually got up early enough for breakfast when I did not have to and b) took the meal twice in a row. I genuinely could not remember the last time it had happened. I really should get back into the habit.
If you do want to partake breakfast is available 0700 – 1000 Monday to Saturday and 0800 – 1100 Sunday.
I really enjoyed the Court Garden and would recommend it to you.
On that first night I headed straight for my room and bed as I was pretty tired by then from doing precisely nothing. I think lethargy must be a particular weakness when you get to my age.
I’ll take you for a walk round Den Haag in the next instalment so stay tuned and spread the word.