Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gallivanting in The Hague

Two weekends ago, we went to the Hague. It was meant to be everyone's quiet little post-exam trip, but  one person mentioned out loud that they were going, and the next one chimed in, and so on. It ended up with eight of us MPP girls (with our varying degrees of hangovers) in our own private box on the train. So much laughter, so much love, and so many smiles.


Autumn had just set in, clearly. The light was beautiful, and the Norse weather gods (Freyr and Fjörgynn) obliged.

Below is the Binnenhof, the central seat of Dutch government. On a weekday, I'm told you can catch the Prime Minister walking around with barely any security. As it was Saturday, all we caught were sunshine and whiffs of the most authentic freshly-made ice cream sandwiches I've ever seen. (Seriously, thin Dutch waffles with scoops of vanilla ice cream squished in between. Too good!)




Here's Lily with a camera, beautiful as ever.


And here's Uncle Bob, shooting some birds, all casual.


Here are some children and signs and cows and the glass front of the train station. Symbolic because:
  1. The first time we got lost was at the train station, less than ten minutes after we disembarked!
  2. It became the theme for the day, surprise surprise.
  3. We lost ourselves -- despite the signs -- somewhere in the Dutch countryside.
  4. We travelled in the same direction and frequency as the merry-go-round. (That is to say round and round and round and round...)
  5. But! We somehow managed to see the bright side of it all. When you're lucky enough to be friends with some people, there's joy to be found in everything.



Like I said, it was autumn, and we got to admire the many hues of the city.



We took a zillion pictures at least, with our collective assortment of cameras. Here we are, (most of) the motley crew, as multicoloured and multifarious as the sun makes us out to be.




And here are Diana and Lily with their beloved Starbucks coffees and a side of wisdom.

When I pointed out this sign, Martha waved me off, "Pero, this is common sense!".



Here are Martha and Drea, indulging the sun.


And here is Lily again! With no idea I'm taking a photo of her.


Clockwise from top left: detail on the Binnenhof fountain, window-dressing, Escher's hands, and Drea as modern art!


Fact: Sometimes, the sun shines in the Netherlands. And when it does, it's breathtaking.


Above, photos from the Escher museum, a cornucopia of the zaniest line drawings, tessellations, and general wonder from one of my favourite artists in the world. I would go to The Hague just to see this museum again. No bias!


A projection room in the museum. Trippy much?


And finally, the story of how we got lost and how Kristen became my person of the week, abridged version.

The Hague has a beach (or so they say). It's pretty famous; it pops up in all the guidebooks and there's even a 360° panorama of it buried in a museum somewhere. Half of us wanted to go there, but we decided that it was too far out from the city and we would rather spend our time checking out touristy things (and shopping), and maybe get there later to watch the sunset.

After an hour of checking out pretty buildings and getting good doses of Vitamin D, Kristen and I split up from the rest of the group to check out the Escher museum. Best. Thing. Ever.

It was the perfect reminder of all the reasons I love patterns in mathematica, and all the reasons I fell in love with him in high school. Escher is that rare, brilliant math artistic genius who doesn't seem completely cuckoo. And even though we had less than an hour at the museum before closing time, every second of it was revitalising. More so because I was with someone who enjoyed it as much as I did.

After being shooed out of the museum just shy of five, we walked around the city and decided to get to the beach front to watch the sunset as planned. Instead, we chased down a bus, missed it, got told we were going in the wrong direction anyway, found the right bus, got off at the wrong stop, missed the exit for the beach, walked a very windy two km into a rapidly darkening skyline (and back), and finally, finally made it to the Promenade, just shy of three hours after we'd set out for it. Forget having a plan, it was a wonder we could even read the road signs that pointed us in the right direction. We were so lost, and so loving it. It takes a really special person to laugh your way through an entire day of missed connections, and this is exactly why Kristen is one of my favourite human beings right now. In all the photos I have of her (including ones I took last weekend), there isn't a single one where she isn't laughing, or collapsing because she's laughing, or laughing because she's collapsing...or well, you get the idea.

Anyway! So we got lost. But all that meandering was totally worth it. When we got there, the pier was lit up, the moon was winking at us, and the twelve-fifteen minutes we stood there (clinging to our belongings and chowing down our supersized pizza) were the most surreal end to a day of surreal things. The whole sky was sparkling, bits of the beach were billowing to us in giant waves, and the whole thing was incredibly memento mori and entirely magnificent at the same time.

For me, standing there was (again) a sobering reminder that I am just an atom in this giant expanding universe. And whether I choose to gain or lose an electron determines what I choose to bond with and become a part of, and where I ultimately go. There are so many other atoms and ions all floating around in the same soup; some I'll find, and others I may never know. But we're all out there and that's what makes the universe big and beautiful and colourful. And I'm so glad to be a part of it all.


Being on the Promenade was special for one more reason. The summer before I started this blog, I went to Italy with my friend Kirstin (not Kristen!), and we also split up from the rest of our friends in the pursuit of a beach we'd read about in a guidebook, got maddeningly lost on the way (but made it, somehow), and spent less than half an hour there before we went back to the big city to be with the rest of them. The likeness of it all was uncanny, down to how the entrance to the beach looked. It felt like things were coming full circle. And on a day pivoting around Escher, whose work deals with symmetry, metamorphosis, and different ways of viewing reality, this was almost too much.

And of course, I loved it.


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