I love Amsterdam. I go every year for the galleries, the opera, the beer, the genever, the rijsttaffel, the brown cafés and, well, the fun. I’ve had many a fine time there, sometimes with and sometimes without dear Mrs Ray. It’s a top place.
I was cut to the quick, then, on hearing recently that the good burghers of Amsterdam had asked any British tourists in search of a ‘messy night’ to stay away. Admittedly, this controversial campaign is aimed chiefly at 18- to 35-year-olds on stag parties, rather than senior railcard-holders like me. But any drunk and disorderly behaviour risks a hefty fine and a criminal record – and since I’m fond of the occasional evening of great wickedness but can’t afford the fine and already have the criminal record, I decided to take my custom elsewhere. I’m not going where I’m not wanted.
So, Mrs R and I went to the Hague (Den Haag) for the weekend instead and – who’d have thought it? – had a hoot. Even a seven-hour delay on Eurostar failed to put us off, thanks largely to a couple of bottles of decent red I’d brought for the journey and the warmth of the welcome at De Basiliek, the restaurant ten minutes’ walk from Den Haag Centraal station I’d booked for lunch but in which we ended up having dinner. They could not have been nicer and plied with us excellent cocktails, fine wine and scrumptious sharing plates of rock shrimp, duck rillettes, pig’s cheeks, pumpkin ravioli, sweetbreads and sauerkraut and slow-cooked pork belly.
Our hotel, the Leonardo Royal Hotel Den Haag Promenade, a temple to 1970s style and architecture overlooking a Shell petrol station on the outskirts of town, was less successful and I wish we’d checked into the jollier, more central Hotel Indigo, housed in a former bank.