What: Noordeinde Palace & Het Loo Palace and gardens
Where: The Hague & Appledoorn, The Netherlands
Other than my passion for commercial aviation and travelling (oh and cheese) I have a sincere interest in the Kings and Queens of Europe, the royal households and their history. I do, in fact, have a portrait of my sovereign, Her Royal Highness, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, centre surrounded by those whom shall one day ascend to the British throne (including the Duchess of Cornwall). I also have a picture of Queen Beatrix, the Queen of the Netherlands which I bought while visiting Het Loo Palace in Appledoorn in the Netherlands.
I was visiting Brett, an Australian friend who was living in the Netherlands in the southern Dutch city of The Hague (Den Haag). Brett had become somewhat of a celebrity over the decade he had resided in Holland, most notably through his appearance in the Dutch Version of the TV show, The Block, (Het Block) several TV advertisements and his stylish hair salon Salon Bliss. I had flown from New York to Stockholm and onto Amsterdam, then caught a train to The Hague so was absolutely exhausted, but imagine my surprise when on that first night, over one of those Dutch – legal –trumpet – shaped – green – cigarettes, he mentioned his salon was just a few metres away from the Queens working Palace, Noordeinde, and he had personally seen Her Majesty Queen Beatrix on several occasions and just recently spotted her casually walking down the street past his salon. I reluctantly (with thanks to ‘that personally rolled cigarette’) fell soundly asleep with a large smile on my face and had dreams meeting of royalty.
It was 7am when I received a message via foot-soldier from the Queen, that she and her family wished to invite me for breakfast at Noordeinde Palace. This was the place she worked from every Wednesday which was just around the corner. I quickly rustled through my suitcase and found my perfectly pressed tuxedo and a clean shiny top hat whilst in the background a phone was constantly ringing. I stretched from my bed, to reach this incessantly ringing phone, still wearing the stinky clothes I’d been in since leaving New York and it was Brett on the other end “Are you ok? Its 3pm! I’ve been calling all day! The Queen has just left and driven past!” My invite to breakfast with the Queen was a dream….Sigh….” Damn you rotten jet-lag! Damn you lovely green cylindrical roll your own special Dutch cigarette! Damn you beautiful gold coloured in-flight wines!” I said loudly in my cloudy head. It was now late on the Wednesday afternoon and I had missed my chance of even seeing Queen Beatrix leave her working palace.
Noordeinde Palace was still just around the corner so I showered and dressed and made my way in the cool Dutch Summer afternoon to see it. Upon learning that the few sections of the palace open to the public were now closed for renovations, I sat there, on a concrete block outside the palace, with a lemon gelato and contemplated how close I had come to seeing a Queen, a real Queen 😉
Built in 1533 it resembles a rather large home especially being physically attached to stately homes on either side. Handed to the state in 1984, it is used mainly as the Queens working residence where she meets members of parliament after driving from her Palace in Amsterdam, Huis Ten Bosch each Wednesday. I made my way, with the sticky dripping lemon gelato in hand, onto Salon Bliss. It was only a few metres up the road and I was met with cheers from Brett, his business partner Michelle and clients in chairs in the midst of their treatments to a round of applause. Brett, having a visitor from Australia had made me the conversation piece in between rinses, chops and dyes and they all agreed that if I couldn’t catch a glance of their monarch, then the best thing to do was visit the best of the royal residences that I could tour and that would be Het Loo Palace and Gardens. So it was agreed, Brett and I should travel to the most northern part of the country, Appledoorn a whole one and a bit hour away the next morning.
The next morning, in a ‘green’ Dutch way, we each rode a bike to The Hague Central railway station and left them in a secure spot where we were sure to find them on our return. We boarded an Inter-City train, fast and luxurious (and in first class I may add) which took us past a city famous for cheese, a few dikes and some modern windmills of Holland on our way to Appledoorn.
In part 2: Het Loo Palace