As I departed from both my sister and Joe I headed to The Hague, which ended up being a very memorable few days. A much smaller city then Amsterdam, it had a much more relaxed feel, and I hardly got ran over in the bike paths. The demeanor of the people was much nicer overall. Although their are tourists in The Hague, I did not see any Americans, mostly Europeans looking to get to a smaller beach city.
My trip was filled with the usual sightseeing, including the peace palace, which is houses the judicial seats for the UN. A very cool place from the outside, although they only allow tours during certain parts of the year (obviously the farthest time from when I was there). The Escher Museum was another bright spot. After a few floors of his work my brain was in serious need of a reboot. The last floor consists of a few hands on exhibits, where a bunch of kids and I couldn’t stop double-taking everything.
Did I mention its a city on the beach? Like a really nice beach, that has beach bars. Beyond the beach there was The Hague Grote Markt. Where a bunch of bars surround a huge open air seating area, and since all the bars are owned by the same people, you can move around with your drinks, which was quite nice.
Beyond the usual touristy things and because of the extreme hospitality of a friend I was able to go to a Meatball Monday. This is not something you will find on any trip adviser or lonely planet write-up but it was the best part of my time in the Netherlands. A tradition that eerily reminded me of my parents Sunday dinner club, where the place changes hands every other week but the foundation of the meal, I think you could guess what that would be, remains the same. I was able to talk with Neike’s family and feel right at home, which got me towards the realization that a week after I was leaving The Hague I was going to be back with my own family.
Although it wont be on anyone’s to do list when going on a Euro-trip, it was a great place to spend a few days and recharge the batteries.
This trip to Barcelona was a much different experience than my trip last November, primarily because it was summer. We spent the 4th of July on La Barceloneta, trying to be as American as possible. It seemed that everyone there was holding something that was red, white, and blue. One student from Texas thought well ahead when he packed for his study abroad program and had a 3′ X 4′ American flag. He ran up and down the beach enough times to get a group of British travelers next to us screaming out lines from Team America.
On the beach we sat next to a group of girls who were studying abroad. Every 5 minutes or so 1 or 2 people would walk up to them, trying to sell them tickets to one of the many beach clubs or events that was going on. My patience wore thin as one “beard growing, ripped pant wearing, guitar playing, spending mom and dad’s money to do nothing for a few months” moron was pitching how they shouldn’t be spending the 4th of July with Spanish people and that he knew of a party on a secluded beach that would be with a “bunch of cool, down to earth people, no bros or assholes”. After sitting down and talking with them for a few minutes he said thanks and left them his Facebook email. As he walked away he had some serious pep in his step and most likely gave himself an inner high five for how cool he was.
After about 2 minutes of planning in my head, I grabbed a beer and walked over to the girls, ready to throw them the best pitch they heard all day. As I stopped I excused and introduced myself as a failed study abroad student who was now living the dream in Barcelona. I immediately gained respect for the bearded kid from a few minutes ago, from a few towels over these girls seemed cool and collected, but I felt like I was about to get something thrown at me. I talked for a few minutes how my best friend (pointing at Joe) laying down a few towels over was a struggling artist but he was really good, and how we were putting together a beach stage for him later that day. I stood strong for as long as I could before starting to crack up and tell them that I was kidding. Luckily they started laughing and I told them that they were actually making me feel bad about my beach body, because no one had invited me to any secret hidden beach parties all day. I made a request that they throw some parkas on, and that might let them sleep on the beach in peace, although the tan lines would look weird.
As I walked back to my Midget sized, hostel beach towel, my sister had that look that I have come to love, the “What the hell is wrong with you” look. I love you Barcelona, see you soon…