I arrived in The Netherlands, a.k.a. Holland, very early Queen’s Day Eve to meet my new friend Karen and her dashing husband, Arthur. After extending a warm hello, we dined al fresco in the enchanting garden of their 1860s abode and then… we were off and running.
And by that I mean… running. At a bare minimum we moved briskly at a fast trot, but Karen and Arthur, like all other people living in those healthy, northern European countries (You know who you are, Finland and Denmark) referred to it as… strolling. Once they even called it “going for a walk.” Ha! But I knew better.
Let me just say after four days of non-stop strolling, my butt has never looked so good. Well, maybe that one time…
Queen’s Day in Den Haag (The Hague)
Now I always thought The Hague was the name of the courthouse/prison where war crimes trials were held. I found out rather quickly that The Hague is actually a vibrant, historical village of just half a million people enjoying a laid back attitude and neighborly appeal. Our home base at the Hilton – The- Hague kept us within trotting distance of everywhere we wanted to be.
Declared by Queen Beatrix to honor her mother, Juliana, Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) is a country wide celebration happening each year on April 30. As luck and perfect planning would have it, festivities were already in full swing when I arrived.
Now that’s a party.
We had an early dinner then cantered another few blocks into the heart of downtown. There were more than a dozen live bands and crowds of happy people dancing in the streets strutting in their finest orange… uh, stuff. Orange hair, orange clothes, orange skin. It didn’t matter, orange was the name of the game and I, having been forewarned, came fully prepared with my orange shirt and scarf. Both of which were tucked firmly under my hoodie and hat as the wind howled off the North Sea. Oh, all right. Maybe it wasn’t howling… but to a Florida girl, it was downright arctic.
Gobs of happy people. A hello here, a where are you from there, wine and beer flowing like water while the bands played on. Welcomed by friends of friends and strangers alike, it wasn’t hard to feel the love that is the Den Haag and I wallowed in it with all of my might.
Queens Day morning dawned clear and bright, orange sparkly remnants matted in my hair. Our choices were: head over to a mobbed Amsterdam for the formal events, or rest on the couch and watch the televised version.
Hmmm…. does this look fun to you?
Yeah. Me neither. Karen hosted a mid-morning brunch where we could catch all the televised pomp and circumstance while resting on the couch. (Last night was great fun, but I must be getting old — either that or my trotting limit is 50 miles or less on any given day.)
This particular Queen’s Day was actually a historic event for Holland. After 33 years on the throne, Queen Beatrix abdicated to her son Willem-Alexander. This Queen’s Day marked the coronation of the new King and his ever popular new Queen Maxima. This is the first time in 123 years that Holland has had a King and the masses were embracing the new. The King(dom) will last only until he is ready to pass on the crown himself, for next in line is his eldest daughter Princess Catharina-Amalia who one day will be Queen.
With the coronation over, we head out to what will be a totally different celebration and when I say totally different, I mean… like, totally, man.
We take the car (!!) downtown and my first thought is… Wow, this looks like Disneyland. Just like magic, the remnants of last night’s festivities are completely gone and Den Haag is bright and shiny, ready for a new day.
You see, in Holland, Queen’s Day is celebrated with a country wide vrijmarkt, or yard sale. Yep, you read that right. Yard. Sale. And let me be the first to say it really was a fun time. Family time, that is. The whole town brings out stuff they want to sell, kids included. No, no… they weren’t selling the kids. The youngins’ had their own booths set up ready to make a quick buck… errr, Euro.
The energy reminded me of our own July 4th celebration with quirky people, local bands, blankets and picnics with homemade cupcakes for dessert. We walked and bargained and walked some more, shopping for hours until our wallets were emptied, then took a quick trip over to the nearby town of Delft.