De Oude Tol (The old Tollhouse)
Took the kids to school and rode to the train. I was there with plenty of time to spare and when the train came I put my bike on, found a seat, took out my book and didn't have to move again until we got to Amersfoort. Changing trains was a bit stresfull as my train got in a bit late and the one I had to get onto was just pulling into the station a couple of platforms away from where I was. So I had to get the bike off the train, then onto a lift to go up, walk a bit, then another lift to go down and then onto the next train. I only JUST made it, but I made it! This train took me all the way to The Hague so I could relax with my book again...
Got off the train in The Hague and took out my printed routemap, but I couldn't even find the first street mentioned on there.
.. So I just started riding. I had plenty of time to spare again so I was not too worried but enjoying the weather riding around. I asked some people if they knew which direction I should ride in but everyone I came across seemed to be from somewhere ohter than The Hague for some reason! Eventually I found someone who knew the general direction I should ride in and she told me to turn left at a certain street. So I rode and rode but never found the street she mentioned, and I had the impression I should have been there already. Finally I asked someone again and it turned out that the street I was on was where I should turn. Not a street sign with the name of the street in sight though....
I turned anyway and passed by a lot of embassies so I must be getting close right? Eventually I started to recognise stuff from the last time I was here (1999) so I was happy enough.
Weapon of Australia
As it was only about 20 past 11 I still had heaps of time so I stopped to take a couple of pictures and then continued on my way. When I got to the embassy I was slightly disappointed (like the last time I was there) as it must be one of the only embassies which is not housed in a beautiful old mansion but in an ugly office building... I decided to park my bike and walk around a little to have alook at some of the prettier buildings around, but first I wanted to take a couple of pictures of the Australian embassy. Not the building itself, but the emblem over the front door and the flag. I crossed the road to get a better angle and I had just taken my first picture when a security guy walked out the door, down the steps and towards me! I know, I know, I should have expected this of course but I was still slightly startled.
The Australian Embassy
The guy wanted to know what I was doing, why I was taking pictures, that sort of thing. I explained and offered to show him the pics but he said that wasn't necessary. I also told him I had an appointment at the embassy and he invited me to come in. I asked him if they had coffee as I was dying for a cup by that stage but he told me that they actually had to bring in their own thermos of coffee every day! I thought that was pretty sad, an employer in The Netherlands not even providing coffee for their staff...
As it was still about 25 minutes before the time of my appointment I decided to walk around a bit more but as there wasn't that much to see so after a few minutes decided to go in anyway. Had a fun chat with the security guys about how we could turn the contents of my purse into a bomb and then they called the guy I had my appointment with.
The Australian flag (not enough wind to get a better picture)
And believe it or not, I didn't even have to wait, he came straight away and I was actually served BEFORE my appointment time! Forms were checked, paperwork scrutinised and I was out the door again ten minutes later. The efficiency still amazes me, normally visiting government agencies means being sent from one person to the other and back again and a state of general frustration by the time you walk out the door...
As I got out much earlier than expected and I had arranged to meet Petra at 13.15 at the Zwarte Ruiter on the Grote Markt I had about an hour to spare. I decided to ride into the city centre and have a look around before heading to the cafe. I asked for directions again and headed in the right direction until there was a road closed off. And another one, and another one, until I was completely lost.
Statue on Plein 1813
I did see some nice things along the way so it was definitely not wasted time! I then came across a very friendly postman who directed me to the right place. I ended up at the same closed off road but decided to just go through anyway this time which got me to the right place in the end. I parked my bike at the end of the Grote Markt straat and walked around a little bit. I couldn't resist "De Slegte", which is a large chain of discount bookshops. I browsed a little bit, especially around the travel section as I was looking for a book on Malawi but there musn't be enough interest in the country as there was nothing to be found unfortunately. I then continued onto the Grote Markt and sat down at the cafe where I was to meet Petra. It wasn't long before she got there....
As Petra and I hadn't met in person before it was interesting to see how the meeting would go.
The Royal Theatre
It is always different in person than it is online as most people will have experienced, but there was no need to worry. We recognised each other straight away (always a surprise) and we sat and chatted comfortably. We talked about all sorts of things: travel (obviously), family, The Hague, meet-ups and more. We had a very nice time sitting outside in the sun, enjoying the atmosphere, the food and the company. After talking for a few hours we walked back to my bike, stopping in at an Asian food shop on the way. (I can never resist those...) We said our goodbyes at my bike with Petra going home and me to the train station.
I had to wait for a little while for my train to arrive so I sat reading my book again. I got on the train at around quarter to five and read some more until the conductor came to check tickets.
De Grote Markt
He informed me that the ticket for my bike was not valid until after 18.00 (6pm). It actually says that on the ticket but who reads that? When you buy a ticket from a ticket machine it doesn't say that anywhere which I think it should... Anyway, I was pleasantly informed that I would have to leave the train in Utrecht
and then wait until after 18.00 to get onto another train to take me back to Meppel
. Bugger! So I did (almost) as I was told. I got off the train at Utrecht and got on another one at about a quarter to six. I figured that if someone came by in the train to check tickets and they told me to get off at the next train station again it would have already been past six and I doubted they were going to make things too difficult for me.
De Zwarte Ruiter
I was right as the next check for train tickets was as I was getting ready to get off the train in Meppel...
So all in all it was a fun and interesting day (ok, some might not find it so interesting but hey, my life is pretty boring most of the time so this was a lot of excitement for one day) and next year I get to do it all again for my other daughter's passport!