Snow in The Hague

Against all odds, it finally snowed in The Hague this weekend! This was quite an unexpected treat, as it’s already February, and there hadn’t been much snow in recent months. If it did snow, it melted too quickly to be enjoyed. So when it did snow this past Saturday, I – along with many other city dwellers – took this opportunity to enjoy the unexpected winter wonderland that our city turned into!

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The Hague doesn’t usually get much snow, as it’s too close to the sea and never truly gets cold enough for snow to remain on the ground. If anything, residents of The Hague will get icy sleet, accompanied by enough blustering winds and grey skies to keep us from enjoying the winter season much.

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As someone who comes from hot temperatures and island life, snow remains a wondrous thing to be seen. I was incredibly excited (as seen below), as this was the first time I could actually touch snow without it melting away!

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Have a wonderful week!

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.

Winter Walks

It’s the middle of winter here in The Hague, and while there hasn’t been much snow, it has been quite chilly and icy on the streets. Winter weather can be painful – especially when it gives you a cold – but when the sun is shining outside, walking around the city can be just as pleasant as it is during the summer.

Stepping outside this past weekend was one of those lucky pleasant days – the sun was shining, there was an antique and books market in the centre, and plenty of people walking around taking advantage of the weather. Europeans always know how to appreciate good weather!

I went walking around ‘Het Binnenhof’, or the Inner Court, the centre for Dutch politics. The Dutch parliament meets here, and the buildings also house the office of the Prime Minister and the House of Representatives. This area is a gorgeous, peaceful location – the courtyard is a massive open space for the public to walk through, and just outside the walls of the courtyard lies several restaurants and the shopping centre on one side, and the famous Mauritshuis museum on the other side.

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The buildings both inside and outside this courtyard always give me a very Hogwarts impression, with the tall towers, sloped roofs, and bricked walls.

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Just outside the Binnenhof lies the Hofvijver, a lake nestled among some of the most famous buildings of The Hague. The Hofvijver and its surroundings make for some beautiful pictures, no matter the season or time of day. On this walk, I found some unexpected mushrooms growing on a tree, a graceful addition to the scenery.

Have a lovely week!

Gratitude

My path this year has had its fair share of ups and downs.

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University life has been amazing, and it’s sad to think that this will be my final year. I’m not particularly ready to let it go just yet. My course has taught me so much, especially with my specialisation, and the friends that I have made and gotten closer to this year have been wonderful.

I’ve travelled to the beautiful city of Vienna and all over The Netherlands, something I’m truly grateful for. Travelling around Europe since I arrived here in 2013 has sparked something in me, and I’m eager to keep travelling in the new year and onwards. I’m excited to not only see more of Europe, but to see the rest of the world – Asia, more of the Middle East… anywhere that life takes me.

I’ve started this blog, which has been a very fulfilling new experience. I love writing, and this has been a great way to start slowly delving into writing publicly and see other people blogging too. I’ve also discovered a love of photography (thanks to my favourite photographer partner in crime), and is something I’m definitely eager to explore further in the new year.

The upcoming year will definitely be the most challenging one of my life yet. I have some major decisions to make – whether to continue my academic education, go through the struggles of finding my first job… Who knows where I will end up this time next year? All I know right now is that I’m ready to make the most of my final six months in university, enjoy my time with my friends, explore even more of the beautiful city I have come to call home, and remain positive for my future.

Happy New Year to everyone!

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.

Exploring Leiden

A couple of weekends ago, I finally decided to visit the beautiful city of Leiden. It’s only a stone’s throw away from The Hague – just ten minutes away by train! – so it was a wonder I hadn’t visited yet. Despite the short distance, I was always drawn to visiting more popular cities like Amsterdam and Delft, but after hearing nothing but good reviews from friends, I finally decided to check it out!

In my mind, I had thought of Leiden as a ‘student city’, since one of the oldest and most prominent Dutch universities is based here. However, it was almost the complete opposite – so peaceful and tranquil, with the shopping streets nowhere near as busy as The Hague can get. The canals were stunning, with one on almost every corner you turned. Canals aren’t very prominent in The Hague, so it was a nice change to see so many in Leiden. And with the setting sun, the views were incredible.

It’s really not this time of year without some sparkling twinkle lights in the tree branches here in the Netherlands. Seeing the trees lit up like this was a lovely glimpse of Christmas.

This is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve been to, and a great place to visit for a day if you’re nearby!