Den Haag and Gouda

We just arrived yesterday in jolly London, but I figured I should catch everyone up on the end of our Netherlands trip.

The Hague is such a great city. It is the cleanest city I have ever seen. It is also a seamless blend of modern and traditional (as is so much of Europe). Aside from the power-tripping tram cop, everyone there was extremely nice and very friendly, and they all spoke English. Some of them probably spoke it better than me, with just the slightest accents. I was quite impressed because I could barely pick up a word of Dutch. Dutch has many things in common with English. Some words are exactly the same, but it has for some reason been the hardest language for me to catch on to.

The second day in the Hague, we walked to the beach and rented bikes. The Dutch bikes were a little challenging to ride, at least to get on. Lauran just never stopped and would go in circles until we decided where to go next. She was sore the next day from trying to get on and off the bike. The North Sea is beautiful, but too cold to swim in. Instead we had lunch at a place called Noah's Ark. It was not the greatest dining experience, which is sad because everywhere else we ate in the Netherlands was amazing.

The next day, Lauran and I visited the Peace Palace in the Hague. It was very inspiring. The palace was originally built by the Carnegie Foundation in order to house the International Permanent Court of Arbitration, where countries and multinational corporations come to work out their differences peacefully. It has prevented much warfare and bloodshed. In return for this valuable service, the countries have given lavish gifts to the palace. For example, China gave four Ming vases that are literally priceless, they can't even be insured. Because of these gifts, the palace is simply stunning. Furthermore, the UN International Court of Justice is located here. We got to tour the courtroom. I found it so inspiring to see peace and justice held in such high regard, and the building was beautiful and fascinating.

The last day in the Netherlands, we took a quick train trip to Gouda (pronounced How-dah), where Gouda cheese originates. It is a small and somewhat traditional Dutch town, complete with canals. It was very beautiful, especially the church with its gorgeous stained glass windows. It is where Erasmus was ordained. Gouda was his hometown. We also visited the cheese museum and dined on some Gouda with mustard, the Dutch way of eating cheese. It was tasty and informative.

On our last night, our host took us out to eat at a great Italian restaurant. It was a wonderful way to end the visit, with great food and great friends in a wonderful atmosphere. We are so spoiled.

The Netherlands was a pleasant surprise overall. I had no idea what to expect, but I didn't imagine that it would be able to capture my interest like the other places we visited. It did thanks to its charming culture, beautiful cities and towns, and to wonderful people like Jess, Josue, and Randall.

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