North Beach, The Hague, March 2014
A rich, smooth cup of coffee at 6.30pm, my first proper cup of the day. Reading a long story on the NYT on my phone, trading witticisms (I think of them as witticisms) with my friends (sisters, really) back home, Googling cheese shops with potential, scribbling down their addresses. "Sweater Weather" playing in the background. The best kind of multi-tasking.
Waking up at 4am, unable to sleep. Curling up with a good novel, until a sliver of cold morning light seeped around the curtains. Sliding back under the covers and sleeping for a good hour.
That hour when the sun is low in the sky and the world diffuses into whirls of colour - at the beach it was shades of pale blues, melting into a delicate pink, lit by creamy yellows and a pale orange. Sky, sand, water straight out of a Monet painting. A girl cycling past in a wetsuit carrying a surf board. The waiter teaching me how to say "Noorderstrand".
Walking towards what I hope is a tram stop, refusing to check a map because the day is too beautiful to stare at my phone worrying about directions. Tall, narrow facades of brick, glass, iron frames. Glimpses of high ceilings, crammed bookshelves, potted plants perched on windowsills. A duck landing in the canal. Policemen in their neon yellow parkas, stern yet smiling. I'm hungry and hoping to find a sandwich shop to grab lunch.
An 8am run outside because I didn't want to pay 12.50 euros to use the gym. Curse myself because I feel like my head might freeze to death, caught in a vise of cold. Feeling better when I hit a forested park - later I found out it is called the Haagse Bos. Bare trees, the sky turning bluer by the minute, dazzling, occasional spears of sunlight, the smell of damp wood and dirt.
Winding a long grey scarf around my neck. Slipping an oversized navy wool cardigan over my grey sweater. Pulling on my trench, a tug on the collar to snap everything into place. Savouring the layers I never get to pile on back home.
Goodbye, Den Haag, it was fun.