We returned from a thoroughly enjoyable trip to The Hague in the Netherlands yesterday, having stayed at Haagsche Suites which is superbly located midway between the centre and the impressive Scheveningen beaches and harbour. Originally built in 1890, the now owners Guido and Irene van den Elshout bought the property in the 1990s and spent two and a half years converting it into three fabulous suites, each with their own character and each forming one floor of the building (75 square metres in size).
Guido and Irene live next door so have been able to convert both gardens into one with stunning effect thanks to the design expertise and minimalism of Dick Beijer. A series of square, slate-edged pools separated by gravel pathways are flanked by beech hedges, and a variety of flowers, especially roses (owing to a personal hobby of Guido’s) can be found at the far end. Moving inside, we stayed in Suite 3 on the top floor which is cleverly designed by Martin de Boer and Gerda Rietveld from Breda in such a way as to combine both modern and traditional fittings.
There is a generous lounge area and good-sized bedroom with a small, modern bathroom just off it, complete with double bath and separate shower. The bedroom had its own contemporary fireplace (but that was surplus to requirements at this time of year) mixed with traditional soft furnishings. Tucked away in a cupboard in the lounge is a music system that plays throughout the suite, along with a comprehensive selection of CDs.
Just across from the living area is a well-equipped kitchenette with a refrigerator, well-stocked with complimentary drinks, an oven and a built-in coffee-maker. If you preferred not to go out for dinner, you’d have all the facilities required to rustle up something for yourself. This makes the accommodation ideal perhaps for those who are between house moves and don’t wish to dine out every evening.
However, perhaps the owners’ best market lies in those seeking romantic breaks away. Haagsche Suites is the ideal venue for those preparing for a wedding as it has the ability to accommodate small groups of up to 18 people for dinner parties for which an outside catering company is used, enabling families to get together to enjoy the celebrations. It also, of course, serves as a romantic retreat for a married couple to spend their first night of wedded bliss.
Guido is clearly a perfectionist and takes great care to ensure guests are well looked after. He arranged our taxi transfers to and from Schiphol Airport for us, and organised restaurant reservations. He even accompanied us to each restaurant – as he does for all guests should they wish – to ensure that everything was as it should be with the reservations.
We tried a great little Indonesian restaurant called Keraton Damai within walking distance of the accommodation, and Lemongrass – a larger restaurant brimming with atmosphere at the harbour – where fish was more prevalent on the menu. At the Indonesian we opted for an assortment of dishes; the menu wasn’t in English but helpfully included pictures. We were treated to a tasty selection of meat and vegetable dishes of varying strengths. I had been unable to identify one of the meats but, when Guido asked us the next morning whether we tried the goat satay, the penny dropped!
At Lemongrass there was an English menu, and English-speaking staff were happy to offer guidance. (Lacking the ability to speak Dutch really isn’t a problem in the Netherlands.) I went for the oysters done in 5 different ways - with ginger, with seaweed, with Bloody Mary, with salt and with onions (pictured) - followed by a delicious sole cooked in butter.
The harbour was an area we had explored earlier that day, courtesy of the bicycles that can be borrowed at Haagsche Suites. The beautiful Scheveningen beaches either side of the harbour seemed surprisingly empty despite the good weather, yet we were assured that this isn’t normally the case when the sun shines. We spent some time cycling about and admiring the nearby sand dunes which was made easy thanks to a network of well-paved tracks.
In the centre of the Hague in contrast, we explored a few bars and the area around the impressive government buildings and Mauritshuis, home to Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. The architecture is typically Dutch, full of character and particuarly beautiful. Our visit also co-incided with a public display of Botello statues – close to the centre – among which you could stroll freely.
Returning to Haagsche Suites, breakfast can be enjoyed on your suite balcony, or on the terrace or conservatory both overlooking the garden. We opted for the latter and enjoyed fresh fruit, yoghourt, and an array of bread, cheese and ham. Eggs were also on offer but there was more than enough for us already. A nice extra touch was a morning paper for us each… and overseas guests are even treated to a newspaper from home.
Strangely, I don’t hear of many Europeans choosing The Hague for a few nights away. It’s usually Paris, Barcelona, London, Milan, Rome, etc… but people really ought to explore this less-visited hidden gem. The city has a lot to offer and a number of good hotels. However, if you’re looking for something utterly unique, you really should consider Haagsche Suites. It’s unlike anywhere we’ve previously stayed.
At breakfast yesterday morning, just before Guido and Irene waved us on our way back to Schiphol, Guido asked us what he could be doing to improve on his already wonderful offering. I was a bit stumped by the question because I couldn’t think of an answer. I said I would email him when I had come up with something… but right now I’m still thinking.