A holiday in The Hague

Hague, Netherlands. (Shutterstock)
Updated 04 February 2019

A holiday in The Hague

  • The Hague has been the seat of power in the country for centuries
  • It has some of Holland’s finest buildings, museums and art galleries

DUBAI: While it’s not the official capital of the Netherlands, The Hague has been the seat of power in the country for centuries — home to the royal family and to the Dutch parliament. That means it has some of Holland’s finest buildings, museums and art galleries, but doesn’t have Amsterdam’s full-time, full-on energy. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
There’s certainly plenty to keep visitors occupied on the culture front. For grand architecture, we’d recommend a visit to the parliament building Het Binnenhof, the beams of which are decorated with the famous ‘luistervinken’ (eavesdroppers) — wooden faces with a single huge ear on the side, meant to represent the higher power listening in when the hall was used as a courtroom in centuries past.

Equally impressive is the Peace Palace, home to the International Court of Justice. Opened in 1913, the Palace is the result of international cooperation and houses doors from Belgium, marble from Italy, wall carpets from Japan, rugs from Iran and so on.

Many of the city’s finest buildings are also museums and galleries. The excellent Mauritshuis is dedicated to 17th and 18th century art, particularly that of the Dutch masters including Vermeer, Rembrandt and Rubens. The gorgeous art-deco Gemeentemuseum, meanwhile, has a wide range of modern art classics as well as older pieces. A trip to those two venues alone could eat up an entire day.
Another big draw for art fans is the permanent exhibition “Escher in the Palace,” an exhaustive, mind-bending collection of works from the celebrated Dutch graphic artist at Lange Voorhout Palace.
If you need a break from the highbrow, and some retail therapy, The Hague has plenty to offer there too. If it’s raining (always a strong possibility in Holland), head to The Passage — the country’s oldest shopping center. It opened in 1885 and has since been expanded considerably, but still remains covered.

For those seeking more unusual trinkets, there’s a large, and very popular, art, antiques and book market that runs on Thursday and Sundays in Korte Voorhout in the summer, and at the Plein on Thursdays in the winter.
And if you want to shop like a local, get down to The Hague Market, which sits between the city two most multi-cultural districts: Transvaal and the Schilderswijk. It’s Europe’s biggest outdoor market and welcomes an estimated 25,000 visitors a day, in all weathers, to its 500-plus stalls.
Foodies won’t be disappointed by the range of options The Hague provides. Italian restaurant The Court; Tommy’s & Zuurveen, which offers international cuisine; and French eaterie Cottontree City by Dimitri are all highly recommended.
If you want to take in a great view while you eat, head for The Penthouse on the top floors of The Hague Tower, which promises views of “up to 45 kilometers” from its windows, 135 meters above street level.
To get a taste of the regal life, you could book a stay at the luxurious — and ideally situated — Hotel des Indes in the heart of the city. The hotel used to be a city palace and that royal grandeur is still apparent in its 92 rooms. If extravagant splendor isn’t your thing, then the romantic sophistication of the boutique Paleis Hotel might be a better bet. This central, 20-room gem is just a short walk from the Mauritshuis, and is a work of art in itself.

We opted for one of the numerous Airbnb properties on offer throughout the Netherlands, and stayed in the city’s seaside district of Scheveningen, well worth a visit if you’re on a summer trip. Just 15 minutes by tram from the city center, Scheveningen has something of a timeless ambience, like a postcard brought to life, particularly the old-school pier. It’s a charming and peaceful neighborhood, and its long, sandy beach is the most popular in Holland. It’s easy to see why. Be warned, though. This is the North Sea, and that water gets cold.
Possibly the Hague’s most-famous tourist attraction, though, isn’t its market, museums or seaside, but the peculiar miniature city of Madurodam — a combination of amusement park, scenic beauty (including more than 5,000 miniature trees) and ‘edutainment.’ Scale models of typically Dutch canal houses, cheese markets, windmills, flower-bulb fields and more combine with multimedia presentations to give a short history of this fascinating and beautiful country.

If you’re planning a trip to the Netherlands, but don’t want to be based in the hustle of Amsterdam (which is less than an hour away by train, so you can still visit easily), we’d highly recommend The Hague.


Virgin Galactic reveals futuristic outpost for space tourism

Updated 16 August 2019

Virgin Galactic reveals futuristic outpost for space tourism

  • Critics suggested the project was a boondoggle, but supporters argued that there were bound to be hard and sometimes costly lessons
  • The interior spaces unveiled Thursday aim to connect paying customers with every aspect of the operation

UPHAM, New Mexico: Spaceport America is no longer just a shiny shell of hope that space tourism would one day launch from this remote spot in the New Mexico desert.
The once-empty hangar that anchors the taxpayer-financed launch and landing facility has been transformed into a custom-tailored headquarters where Virgin Galactic will run its commercial flight operations.
Two levels within the spaceport include mission control, a preparation area for pilots and a lounge for paying customers and their friends and families, with each element of the fit and finish paying homage to either the desert landscape that surrounds the futuristic outpost or the promise of traveling to the edge of space.
From hotel rooms to aircraft cabins, the Virgin brand touts its designs for their focus on the customer experience. Spaceport is no different.
Earthen tones help ground visitors on the first floor. The social hub includes an interactive digital walkway and a coffee bar made of Italian marble. On the upper deck, shades of white and gray speak to Virgin Galactic’s more lofty mission.
Company officials, offering the first glimpse of the facility Thursday, say the space is meant to create “an unparalleled experience” as customers prepare for what Virgin Galactic describes as the journey of a lifetime.
Just how soon customers will file into Virgin Galactic’s newly outfitted digs for the first commercial flights has yet to be determined. A small number of test flights are still needed.
Billionaire Richard Branson, who is behind Virgin Galactic, and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, first pitched the plan for the spaceport nearly 15 years ago.
There were construction delays and cost overruns. Virgin Galactic’s spaceship development took far longer than expected and had a major setback when its first experimental craft broke apart during a 2014 test flight, killing the co-pilot.
Critics suggested the project was a boondoggle, but supporters argued that there were bound to be hard and sometimes costly lessons.
Democratic state Sen. George Munoz has enduring concerns about the business model for commercial, low-orbit travel for passengers.
“You can have all the money in the world and come back and say, ‘Was my 30 seconds of fame worth that risk?’” he said.
Munoz says New Mexico’s anticipated return on investment in terms of jobs and visitors is still overdue, with more than $200 million public funds spent on Spaceport America in cooperation with Virgin Galactic as anchor tenant.
At the facility Thursday, the carrier plane for Virgin’s rocket-powered passenger ship made a few passes and touch-and-goes over a runway.
Behind the spaceport’s signature wall of curved glass, mission control sits on the second floor with an unobstructed view of the runway and beyond.
There’s also space behind two massive sliding doors to accommodate two of Virgin Galactic’s carrier planes and a fleet of six-passenger rocket ships.
Virgin Galactic posted on social media earlier this week that its carrier plane had landed in New Mexico and its main operating base was now at the spaceport. And Branson said the wing of Virgin’s next rocket ship has been completed.
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said once the test flights are complete, commercial operations can begin.
Chief Pilot Dave Mackay said the crew in the coming days will fly simulated launch missions to ensure in-flight communications and airspace coordination work as planned. The pilots also will be familiarizing themselves with New Mexico’s airspace and landmarks.
“New Mexico is on track to become one of the very few places on this beautiful planet which regularly launches humans to space,” Mackay said.
Branson will be among them. About 600 people have reserved a seat, according to the company, at a cost of $250,000 a ticket.
That buys them a ride on the winged rocket ship, which is dropped in flight from the carrier airplane. Once free, it fires its rocket motor to hurtle toward the boundary of space before gliding back down.
The latest test flight reached an altitude of 56 miles (90 kilometers) while traveling at three times the speed of sound.