Fireworks Explosion

It has been far too long since I last blogged, and I’ve really missed it! The last couple of months have been a real turning point in my life – I officially graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Law, and started an amazing new job! Life has changed a lot and gotten a lot busier since two months ago, but I’m very glad to have been given a wonderful opportunity to stay in The Netherlands and continue to live here and enjoy this beautiful country.

To kickstart my return to regular blogging of my adventures here, I thought I would share a lovely throwback to mid-August, when the International Fireworks Festival was held at Scheveningen, our favourite beach in The Hague. This festival brings together various countries to compete with their best fireworks displays, and lasts for a couple of weekends every year. I was able to visit the displays of China against France, and what a beautiful, glowing, explosive experience that was on a warm summer evening!

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Have a wonderful week everyone!

Sunny Scheveningen

Studying for exams at this time of the year has me longing for the beach. At the end of March, a beautifully sunny day allowed me and some friends to visit Scheveningen, The Hague’s busiest beach, for a food festival and market. Though it was still slightly windy, the blue sky and warm sun made up for the months of grey and cold we had all been feeling a little too keenly!

Visiting Scheveningen always gives me a warm feeling of security – that winter is finally behind us, and summer is slowly making its way in. This beach has some wonderful, happy memories that I’ve collected over the past four years, and will forever be somewhere I can recall fondly as ‘home’ for a period of my life.

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The beautiful coast

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On top of ‘De Pier’

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The skyline from De Pier

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Brilliantly blue summer skies

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Scheveningen’s Ferris Wheel

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The Kurhaus

Chinese New Year

The Hague city centre took on a whole new personality this past Saturday, with the Chinese New Year being celebrated right in the heart of China Town. Hundreds of people were able to celebrate and take part in the festivities, peruse street stalls filled with food and clothing and masks, and watch dragon dances and firecrackers being lit in the middle of the road.

The streets were chaotic, to say the least, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing dragon dances for the first time. Capturing them in a photograph was extremely difficult, given the crowds, but the atmosphere was electric with the brightly coloured dragons and the hammering of the drums and cymbals.

The centre of China Town was fully repurposed to make way for the parade of dragon dancers, accompanied by their drums and firecrackers. Some of the main roads were transformed into piles of firecracker paper, with the sound of them being heard every quarter of an hour.

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The main street in China Town covered in smoke after a round of firecrackers.

Magical Maastricht

Maastricht’s Christmas market is definitely one of the best in The Netherlands. Starting in early December and open until New Years Day, this market is an extremely popular attraction during the cold winter months. With a massive skating rink, a ferris wheel, children’s rides, and lots of little stores selling Christmas trinkets, it gives a wonderful start to the magical festive month.

I’d never visited a Christmas market (or Maastricht) before, so visiting this market was a great start for someone living in The Netherlands already, especially since it is only a 3 hour train journey from The Hague. Maastricht is a beautiful little city, full of young students and tons of stores and restaurants. The architecture is typically Dutch, with tall and narrow buildings, and there were hundreds of Christmas lights everywhere. Walking around the city at night was absolutely beautiful, especially overlooking De Maas (‘The Meuse’ river).

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A view over Maastricht

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Boats on De Maas

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A beautiful building in the city centre

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The skating rink

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Twilight over the Christmas market

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A beautiful lit-up reindeer

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Lights in the Christmas market

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A carousel in the Christmas market

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A view of the beautiful Christmas market at night

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De Maas by night

This was a day trip I had been anticipating for a while, not just for the Christmas market, but also to see a very popular city in The Netherlands. It was a lovely experience, and I enjoyed every minute of walking around the stunning city of Maastricht and seeing a Christmas market for the first time!

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Amsterdam Light Festival

The Amsterdam Light Festival has just started on the 1st of this festive month, bringing a whole new stream of lights to this already sparkling city. The festival is held annually in December, and can be experienced either by walking or by taking a canal trip. The light artworks are featured all across the city centre for just under two months, with submissions from light artists all over the world.

Amsterdam is already a very illuminated city by night, with huge lit-up signs and buildings to be seen all over the centre. However, with the festive season and the start of the Light Festival, there were even more beautiful twinkling lights to be seen everywhere. I was only able to find four of the installations for the Light Festival (should have taken a map…), but the ones I found were stunning up close.

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The stunning ‘De Bijenkorf’ department store in the city centre

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One of the light artworks on display over a canal

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A second light artwork on display

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A rainbow light artwork on a canal bridge

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A fourth light artwork, right next to the Amsterdam Central Station

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Amsterdam Central Station all lit up at night

Seeing Amsterdam by night is truly beautiful, and something I will never tire of. Walking along the canals, watching people go by and seeing the Christmas lights appearing as the sky darkens will always be a wonderful way to spend a relaxing evening.

Experiencing a Night of Museums

This Saturday, I finally got to attend one of the best cultural events that takes place in The Hague annually – Museumnacht! This is a night which opens up over 40 cultural places of interest in the city, ranging from art galleries to film houses and historical museums. Not only can you experience art, architecture and history until the early morning, but each place had special surprises for the night – from ice cream at the Mauritshuis to a Cirque du Soleil theme at the Escher Museum!

I had never properly been to a museum in this city before Saturday (shock horror), so I visited three of the most popular ones in one go!

1) Museum de Gevangenpoort (‘Prison Gate Museum’)

Even though this was the smallest museum of the three I visited, it was definitely the most fun! We were taken on a short tour of the torture room and prison rooms, and given a lot of interesting history about some people who were held there. There was even a very realistic depiction of a man that had been formerly imprisoned in one of the prison rooms! For each room we visited, we were asked a question to test our knowledge – if we got it right, we got a chocolate coin! It was a great start to the night.

2) Het Mauritshuis

Next stop was the very famous Mauritshuis! The building and architecture of the museum itself was exquisite, as was the art inside. I was able to see well-known pieces such as ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer and ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ by Rembrandt, and so many other beautiful paintings and sculptures. There was also a special British Royal Collection featuring 22 Dutch genre paintings. This museum was definitely a wonderful visit, made even better by free ice-cream at the end!

3) Escher in Het Paleis

Finally, I visited the stunning Escher museum. This was a building I had been passing by for the past few years I have been in The Hague, and the museum was even more beautiful on the inside – perhaps because it is a winter palace! The museum had been transformed into a circus theme on the night, which went perfectly with Escher’s amazing optical illusionary art and the Halloween festivities. Aside from Escher’s creations, the main highlight for me were the chandelier sculptures – they were exquisite! A perfect end to a night of culture.

International Open Day (Just Peace Festival)

This past weekend was a time of celebration in The Hague, as it was the International Day of Peace on September 21st. As a world-famous city of peace and justice, there were loads of activities and events happening all around the city to raise awareness of this day and promote the main goal of the United Nations. Aside from the concerts, photo exhibitions, and various other happenings, a very special event was a highlight – 13 of the most prominent international organisations in The Hague opened their doors to the public!

The Hague is famous for hosting many international organisations symbolising peace and unity, most famously the International Court of Justice (in the Peace Palace) and the International Criminal Court. However, there are lesser-known but equally important organisations too, including the Hague Conference for Private International Law and the International Development Law Organisation. All of these organisations welcomed interested visitors for free to see how they work and promote their goals and practices. Since I’d already visited the Peace Palace and the ICC numerous times, I decided to visit the Hague Conference and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) this year.

First up was the Hague Conference. Private international law has always been an area of particular interest for me ever since we had a course on it in university, especially in relation to commercial law (to those who know me, this doesn’t come as a surprise). There was a wonderful lecture given by a professional of the Conference – Mr Thomas John – on the history of the organisation, its activities, and its ever-growing importance in a closely linked world. I met some lovely people, got to ask questions, and there was even a jazz band afterwards – always a plus!

Next on my list was the OPCW. I’ve already visited this organisation before for a lecture by the Director-General, but yesterday’s visit was even more informative as there was so much to see! I got a chance to look at equipment used during chemical warfare, including protective suits, gas masks, and detector equipment. There were also several screenings of documentaries – I watched a particularly poignant one on chlorine gas attacks used during warfare in Poland, killing thousands of people. I also took a walk through the beautiful gardens behind the building, with sculptures donated by countries who have suffered through the use of chemical weapons, as well as see the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the OPCW. This organisation deserves even more recognition for its efforts to rid the world of such deadly weapons, especially in light of the warfare the world is seeing these days.

Definitely some great and memorable visits this year, as always!