The Netherlands

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part five.

On Sunday, we decided to visit Maastricht.  I really didn’t know what to expect, since I had never been to the city before.  I did know that there aren’t any “coffee shops” open to foreigners in Maastricht.  It’s one of the areas in the Netherlands that has chosen to restrict pot sales to people who aren’t locals.  If you want marijuana, you have to go west.

It was no big deal, though.  Maastricht proved to be entertaining without the benefit of pot.  Not only is the city beautiful, it’s also wide open on Sundays.  Yes, you can go shopping, have lunch, or simply people watch.  There was some kind of race going on there Sunday, so there were several brass bands playing along the route, along with a drum band and a group of violinists.  As a music lover, this really appealed to me.  Despite the bitter cold, I stood there and listened to a group of musicians play “Canon in D” and Vivaldi.  I’m not ashamed to admit that their version of Pachelbel’s masterpiece had me openly weeping.

We parked in a huge lot on the outskirts of town and walked in…

Right off the bat, we heard the thundering sound of drums.  An awesome drum band was beating an infectious rhythm and had attracted a crowd.  The music would be a theme in Maastricht on Sunday, as we ran into a number of bands playing in the street.  

What’s that sound?

 

You can also load up on cheese!  I wish I liked cheese more.

We rounded the corner, just out of earshot of the drummers and promptly encountered a quartet of string musicians.

I often get choked up when I hear really well played live music.  I was listening to these people with tears streaming down my cheeks.  They played so well out in the cold and their music went straight to my heart.

As you can see, other people were affected by the music, too.  

We reluctantly moved on, because it was so cold and Bill needed to get some cash.  I managed to get a few more pictures as we searched for an ATM.  We were looking for lunch and a place to pee.

Our route took us past the runners and several more excellent brass bands!

We walked through one area near a mall and several very touristy looking restaurants.  One alley smelled distinctly of cheeseburgers, which was kind of strange.  But then I noticed we were near a McDonalds.

And these guys were playing jazz… I loved that they had a tray of empty beer glasses nearby.

 

Just as we encountered our fifth musical ensemble of the day, I turned to the left and we found a place to have lunch…

 

I have a knack for finding good places to eat.  There are a few things I look for.  Mainly, I like places that aren’t either too crowded or too empty.  I prefer them to be off the main drags.  And it doesn’t hurt if it smells good outside of the restaurant, too.  A lot of people were sitting outside, despite the cold weather.  I didn’t want to sit outside, but Bill was about to bust.  So we walked inside De Twee Heeren, which turned out to be a pretty awesome bar/restaurant.  They were playing good music and had menus in English, as well as places to sit.  We ended up spending a couple of hours in there, enjoying lunch, good Dutch and Belgian beers, and fun music.

Obligatory menu shot of Bill.  They had a number of appealing choices, everything from steaks to falafel.

 

Bill had what amounted to a “sauerbraten stew”.  It came with a big basket of frites and a salad.

 

I had fish and chips.  I considered a few of the other choices and actually had some trouble deciding, but since the Netherlands is a sea faring nation, I figured the fish and chips would be good.  And they were!  I even tried the fries with mayonnaise.  That’s how they eat them…  Not bad at all, though a little bit of mayo goes a long way.

 

Bill had a double espresso while I enjoyed an excellent Belgian brew suggested by the waiter.

And one more for the road.  It’s probably a good thing German beers aren’t this interesting.

 

It was late afternoon by the time we were finished at De Twee Heeren, so we decided to get some cheese for Bill and head back to the dogs.  I might have liked to have tried another restaurant later, but I just can’t eat as much as I once did.  You’d never know it to look at me, though.

This place had lots of free samples, which Bill was happy to try.

Here he’s trying the gouda with garlic.  I think he brought some home.  I found us some beers and waffle cookies, too.  If it turns out he loves the cheese, we can order more.

We headed out of the city and I took a few more photos.

The grand looking building houses the visitor’s center, which sadly, does not have a public toilet.  Fortunately, I found one at a bustling looking hostel with a huge bar.  It was nothing to duck in, which was a huge relief.

So long, Maastricht.  We’ll be back!

 

I missed the lunar eclipse, but did manage to get a picture of the huge full moon.

 

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early, had breakfast, let the dogs have one more romp with Yogi, and loaded up the car for the drive back to Germany.  Nel was the most awesome hostess and invited us back.  I think she said we were her first real American guests, although she has hosted Canadians.  I’m hoping a few of my American readers living in Germany might visit Vijlen.  I have a feeling we’ll go back, especially if we stay in Germany for much longer.

I love visiting small towns and talking to locals, getting a feel for the real culture.  While we always enjoy visiting big cities, I find that it’s harder to get a feel for the culture, mainly because so many other international visitors are also there.  So, if there’s anything to be learned by this trip, it’s that small towns are worth a look.  They tend to be less expensive, safer, and the locals are more likely to make a connection.  I felt like we’d made a friend when we left Nel’s place yesterday.  I hope this series will inspire a few others to visit her in lovely Vijlen!

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The Netherlands

We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part three.

Saturday morning, we woke to beautiful sunny skies.  The weather in Wiesbaden has been so yucky lately that the sunshine was especially energizing.  The dogs went a little nuts when they saw Yogi prowling around outside, but then Nel invited us to let the dogs play with her in a little paddock.  Zane and Yogi got along beautifully, but Zane gets along with everyone.  Arran needed to warm up a bit, but he also had a great time.  They rolled around in chicken shit and ran like a couple of youngsters.  It’s been awhile since I last saw them play so hard, especially Zane!

Adorable Yogi is eight months of unbridled puppy energy!  She was jumping up to give me a kiss when I took this photo, even though it looks like she’s on the ground.  Who could resist that smile?

Yogi was a great canine hostess!

Yes, the chickens were tempting, but fortunately, they were well protected.

The horses looked on in amusement.

They were so happy that they came running to me when they saw me with the camera.

Arran checks out the henhouse.  No hens were harmed.

I think Zane wanted to play with the chickens.

I already miss Yogi.  She’s so cute!

A picture of the outside of the house.

 

After an extended play session, we brought the dogs inside and went on a short excursion, starting with the St. Martinus boutique winery.  The winery is literally steps away from Nel’s house.  We could have walked there very easily, but we wanted to make a purchase and we didn’t know how much we’d be buying.

The entrance to the winery.  It’s a rather small vintner, but they have a beautiful tasting room.  In the summer, they offer group tours of the facility.

When we arrived at the winery, the parking lot was pretty empty.  Bill parked far away anyway.

By the time we left about thirty minutes later, the lot was fuller.  We even ran into an American couple who appeared to be affiliated with the military, but we didn’t chat them up.  The male half had the air of an up and coming officer.  My guess is that they were Air Force.  ūüėČ

 

The very friendly lady behind the counter spoke perfect English and let us try several of the wines, which included several whites, a red, a rose, and a couple of sparkling wines.  They also had beer that had been aged in wine barrels.  We bought several bottles of wine and a couple of the beers.  I had one of the beers last night, and it was surprisingly good.  I was expecting it to be sweet and cloying, but it was actually much drier.

The tasting room, which offers a lovely view of the surrounding countryside.

Bill tastes a sparkling wine.  I never knew the Dutch made such good vino.  The whites were good, and we bought a bottle of red, which was unusual but interesting.  The biggest surprise to me was the rose, which was dry and had a finish that reminded me of buttered popcorn with a little zing at the end.

Beautiful scenery!  This is one thing I miss about our former house near Stuttgart.

 

After we visited the winery, we headed to Vaals.  It’s just a few miles from Vijlen.  There’s a park there where you can visit Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands at the same time.  Although it was sunny on Saturday, the weather was quite cold.  Still, lots of people were visiting and, if we’d wanted to, we could have had lunch there or visited the labyrinth.  There’s also a tower to climb where visitors can get a look at three countries at the same time, hiking trails, and lots of playground equipment for kids.  I expect it gets busy there during the warmer months.  We could have spent more time there and not been bored.

Parking is two euros a day.  When you leave, you deposit your coins into the green machine.

 

A commemorative rock.


Someone brought her horse.  I was jealous.  You can bring your dogs, of course.  We did not bring ours.

 

Bill gets his bearings by looking at the sign.

The entrance to the labyrinth.  If it had been a little warmer, we might have tried it.  I read that it’s a pretty challenging maze.

 

The big tower.  It was too cold for us to consider climbing up, although there is also an elevator.  Maybe next time.

A picture of the labyrinth… again, an activity we might try next time.  

This sign was in Belgium.  It was in French.

 
 
 

And here it is…  three countries, no passports required.  This may not seem like a big deal to some folks, but I’ve never even been to Four Corners in the United States.

 

The Netherlands…

Belgium…

Germany…

 

And one more photo for the road.  The border itself isn’t all that exciting, but there are a few family activities available.

 

We probably should have gone up the tower.

 

We didn’t have to pay for anything besides parking, although there are a couple of restaurants there and I think there is a fee to climb the tower.  The labyrinth is also not free.  I noticed a couple of other restaurants in the area, including one that had its own tower.  We decided not to eat at the park, since there was a Cuban restaurant in Vijlen I wanted, and failed, to try.

Bill took a wrong turn and we took a short jaunt through Belgium, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I’ll post pictures in the next installment.

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We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part two.

 

Off to the Netherlands!

I had let our hostess, Nel, know that we would be arriving sometime between four o’clock and five, since we needed to check our APO box on post.  Bill is going to be out of town for the rest of the week and I can’t be arsed to go to Clay Kaserne to check the mail.  I don’t even have the combination to our mailbox.  That turned out to be a good plan anyway, since we had a few chores to do before we could head for the Autobahn.  From Wiesbaden, Viljen is about a three hour drive, but most of it is on high speed highways.  And unlike Stuttgart, it appears the the Autobahn up here is pretty well appointed.  There are probably more people here than down there, but traffic isn’t as bad.

We had a mostly uneventful, yet beautiful, drive to the Netherlands.  Here are a few pictures I took on the way.

As we got closer to Aachen, I noticed these signs on the side of the Autobahn.  They were names of trees and years.  My German friend explained that they are “trees of the year“.  The count started in 1989 and every year, a new tree and year is erected.  On the Autobahn, you can see the signs from 1989 to 2014, although I saw no evidence of actual trees planted there.  However, they are planted at the Berlin Zoo.  Since 2010, a German “tree queen” is also elected to represent the project.


Another tree…

 

I also noticed this interesting truck, which had artistic depictions of the Crusades painted on it…  

The art was pretty cool looking, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some people were distracted enough to have a wreck at the sight of it.

We stopped here for a little late lunch.  This rest stop has a Nordsee, which had pretty good food.  Since we had the dogs with us, we ate in the car.

I always enjoy the reading material on the stall doors in German rest stops.  They’ll let you charge your phone, but you still have to pay 70 cents to pee.

Thanks for being there, Serways.

We arrived in the Netherlands at about 3:40pm and arrived at our apartment less than 20 minutes later.  Our hostess was waiting for us.

I like how some places have a canopy of trees formed by lines of them on either side of the road.

 

Pretty country on the way in, with rolling hills…  this is the most “mountainous” part of flat Netherlands.

One of the reasons I like border towns is that you can see how countries change.  You cross the border and the signs change, the language changes, and the laws change.  In the Netherlands, I noticed a difference in architecture, with many brick buildings and painted shutters.  And yet we were really just minutes away from Germany.

I remember enjoying our first trip to the Netherlands in 2015 and wanting to go back there, but it was so much easier to go to France from Stuttgart.  Now that we’re in Wiesbaden, I predict a lot more trips to Benelux, where the beer and the chocolate is better.

Below are some photos of our accommodations, which were very reasonably priced.  I paid just 336 euros for three nights in this two room apartment in rolling farmland.  We also paid 9 euros taxes in cash on the way out today.

The living room area… note the very steep stairs.  Our dogs had a little trouble with them at first, but then got used to them.  The bathroom is on the first floor, which makes our middle of the night pees a little less fun.  We left a light on in the living room for safety, although there is a hall light, too.

A washing machine, but no dryer.

The master bedroom has what I presume was a queen sized bed.  This room also has a TV.

These are two twins pushed together, I think.  There is no TV in this room.

Steep!

It’s a little like climbing a ladder.

The dining area is adjacent to the living room and kitchen.  It does not have a traditional oven, but there is a microwave that has a convection setting.  There’s also a dishwasher.

Another view of the bedroom.  It was a bit chilly during our visit, but the bed linens were warm enough.

 

There is a TV in the living room and a broken DVD player.  The are also a few board games like Rummikub and Yahtzee.

This was a hit at our family reunions when I was growing up.  Nice to know the Dutch like it too.

 

But probably my favorite part about the accommodations was the big fenced in paddock.  Our dogs were welcome to run around in the paddock to their hearts’ content.  They were also allowed to play with Nel’s dog, Yogi, an adorable Shiba Inu.  These Japanese dogs look just like foxes and are bred to hunt birds.  Yogi is just eight months old at this writing and she had a good time getting my 9 and 10 year old dogs to play with her.

Nel also has chickens, which were kept very safe from the dogs and foxes, and she offers boarding for two horses who made Zane and Arran bark.  In warmer weather, we could have walked a route around town, stopping at different restaurants and bars for refreshment every few kilometers.

We decided to stay in on Friday night after Bill made a quick run to the grocery store.  After a good first night’s sleep, we did some exploring on Saturday.  More on that in the next post.

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We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part one.

One of the best things about living in Germany is being able to access so many great countries so easily.  When we lived near Stuttgart, it was super easy to get to France and Switzerland.  Now that we live in Hesse, we live much closer to BeNeLux… that is, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

It’s our habit to take quick trips over holiday weekends and, boy, was I ready for a trip.  We hadn’t had a good one since September, when we visited beautiful Lesa, Italy on Lake Maggiore.  Although we’ve had long weekends since September, we spent Columbus Day weekend house hunting in our new town of Wiesbaden.  We spent Veteran’s Day weekend celebrating our anniversary in beautiful Baden-Baden.  We had good times on both of those trips, but sometimes I just need a break from Germany.  Fortunately, it’s easy to cross borders in Europe.

A couple of days before Christmas 2018, I started looking for places to go over Martin Luther King weekend.  I went on Booking.com and started looking at my list of bookmarked places.  Bill and I narrowed our choices down to two– the Netherlands or the Czech Republic.  We flipped a two euro coin and the Netherlands won.

We haven’t yet found a local boarding facility for our dogs, nor have we found our local vet, although we do have ideas for both.  We decided this time, as usual, to bring our dogs, Zane and Arran, with us.  Wherever we went would have to accommodate the dogs.  As I’ve mentioned before, when I look for rental houses or apartments, I look for places that don’t charge extra for dogs.  I’ve found that people who don’t charge pet fees tend to be much more laid back about the dogs and welcome them, rather than simply tolerate them.

I had been curious about the eastern Dutch city of Maastricht, especially since it’s not too far from where we live.  Adding in all of my other criteria, I ended up finding very dog friendly accommodations in a little hamlet called Vijlen, which is just fifteen kilometers from Maastricht and only a few kilometers from the German city of Aachen.

The apartment I found in Vijlen, which is connected to the hostess’s house, is called Hoeve Nelderhof.  It’s within walking distance to the St. Martinus boutique winery, as well as the city of Vaals, which is very close to the highest point in the Netherlands as well as the three country border of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands!  I love booking trips near border towns, too.  You get more bang for your travel buck when you can access two or more countries.  Vijlen offers access to three!

I had good feelings about our hostess when I let her know we were coming with two beagles.  Her response was that we’d be very welcome.  And indeed, she made it so.  We had a great time in Vijlen, although the weekend was a little too short.  If you’re searching for a dog friendly place to visit, I hope you’ll come along with me on this multi-part series.  As usual, I’m going to start at the beginning and will include links at the bottom of each post.

Cute shoes!

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Ten things I learned in The Netherlands…

I usually like to sum up my trips with a list of things I learned while traveling. ¬†The trip Bill and I took to The Netherlands was our first time really visiting Holland, though we had been to Belgium and Luxembourg, which are the Be and Lux parts of Benelux. ¬†I thoroughly enjoyed the week in The Netherlands, despite missing my dogs. ¬†So here it is… ten things I learned in The Netherlands.

1. ¬†Bikes are EVERYWHERE. ¬†Seriously, everyone in The Netherlands seems to enjoy riding bikes. ¬†If you visit, you can rent them with ease. ¬†I didn’t rent a bike during this trip because I spent enough time riding them as a kid. ¬†But it really did appear to be a great way to get around. ¬†I saw a lot of happy looking families riding together. ¬†It was pretty cool.

2. ¬†Pot is not everywhere. ¬†A lot of people think there are coffeeshops on every corner in The Netherlands. ¬†I didn’t see any in Apeldoorn, though for all I know, I was looking in the wrong places. I only saw one in Haarlem, though I know for a fact there are more there. ¬† In Amsterdam, pot is everywhere. ¬†It is quite the tourist attraction, along with sex. ¬†Buying marijuana in cities with coffeeshops is no big deal at all. ¬†It’s totally legal. ¬†And space cakes can be fun, as long as you don’t overdo it.

3. ¬†Beer comes in smaller bottles and glasses than it does in Germany. ¬†In a way, I kind of liked this because it made it easier to try different ones. ¬†I did discover Jopen beer in The Netherlands, which I will be looking for here. ¬†It’s good stuff.

4. ¬†Many Dutch people are very tall. ¬†I say this as a woman who is only 5’2″ tall. ¬†I would have thought no one would think of me as a local simply because I am so short, but quite a few people spoke Dutch to me before realizing I am American. ¬†That, in and of itself, is kind of cool.

5.  A lot of Dutch words resemble German words.  A lot resemble English words.  And a lot are totally unrecognizable to the uninitiated.  Fortunately, many people in The Netherlands speak English beautifully.

6. ¬†Free WiFi is widely available, much more so than it is in Germany. ¬†I also found that it’s easier to watch YouTube videos in The Netherlands. ¬†They aren’t as strict as Germany is about copyrights.

7. ¬†If you want tap water in a restaurant, you can get it. ¬†You don’t have to buy bottled water. ¬†It’s totally fine and even offered. ¬†Bill and I actually prefer German style bubbly water, which not everyone had. ¬†I was surprised about that.

8. ¬†Stores aren’t necessarily closed on Sundays like they are in Germany. ¬†Some are closed. ¬†Some have shorter hours. ¬†You won’t have to sit on your can on Sunday, though.

9. Sex is no big deal. ¬†Prostitution is legal and you can see women selling their wares in the Red Light district of Amsterdam. ¬†Don’t take pictures of them, though. ¬†I didn’t try to because I had been warned by Samantha Brown.

10.  If you are in Amsterdam on a Saturday, you may see some rather raunchy hen and stag parties in progress.  For that reason, I think it would be funny if one of the Duggars honeymooned in Amsterdam.  I think it would cause Ma and Pa Duggar to have a stroke.  I almost had a stroke when I saw the huge masses of people walking away from the train station.  It was crazy.

Pretty tulips!  I think these were made of wood, though.
 
Bird takes off in Haarlem.
 
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Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 12

Yesterday, we decided to take things very easy. ¬†Neither Bill nor I felt much like going back to Amsterdam, though we didn’t get to see much of the city. ¬†I hope we’ll have another chance to visit before we leave Germany and I’ll be more in the mood to look around and see more than the Red Light district, sex shops, and coffee shops. ¬†It’s a great city and there’s a lot to see and do there.

Bill enjoys coffee…

Sunday morning in Haarlem was very peaceful and quiet. ¬†After breakfast, we took a walk over by the Basilica and watched people play with their dogs. ¬†I saw one mom ride her bike past us with one child sitting on the handlebars and one standing up behind her. ¬†None of them were wearing helmets, which I thought was kind of refreshing. ¬†It’s the kind of thing my generation did. ¬†Of course, if I were a mom, maybe I’d be horrified at the lack of safety consciousness. ¬†I think I was just enjoying being in a really cute town in another country.

The basilica…

Electric cars are all the rage… ¬†This is a Tesla.


I was tempted to go in here…

 

At about noon, we went to the Napoli Restaurant, which was very close to our hotel. ¬†It was a really nice place for lunch. ¬†We had a table right by the window, so I could people watch while we waited for our food. ¬†Napoli has a pretty extensive menu and it was hard to choose a dish. ¬†I ended up with cannelloni served Bolognese style. ¬†Bill had ravioli made with truffles. ¬†We started with a shared salad and finished with a piece of tiramisu and a “shake” made with lemon ice cream, vodka, and prosecco. ¬†One thing that was really cool about this restaurant is that a lot of stuff is done table side. ¬†We watched the waiter mix pasta in a giant wheel of cheese for the people next to us. ¬†We watched him make my dessert, too.

Montepulciano for lunch…

Salad dressed tableside.

Cannelloni and ravioli…

The makings of my dessert.

Finished product… ¬†the tiramisu was killer!

We picked up two more space cakes from a different guy at Willie Wortel’s Sinsemilla cannabis shop. ¬†He was a lot crankier than the first guy was, but we were emboldened. ¬†I noticed a whole lot of young folks in there smoking and watching car racing on TV. ¬†The air was thick with pot smoke and we had to get out of there quickly.

We went back to the hotel because Bill had some school work to do. ¬†I ate a second cake and basically spent the day relaxing. ¬†The second space cake wasn’t all that powerful and did nothing but make me doze.

But after awhile, I was ready to scarf down a steak and fries. ¬†I think it’s safe to say that marijuana makes me want to eat… even more than I regularly do.

   

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Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 11

I already blogged about my experiences with my first space cake.  Overall, I’ll just say that it was a fun experience.  I basically got very relaxed, although the cake seemed to really kick in once we went to dinner at a Croatian restaurant in Haarlem.

 

I picked up some Cannabis chocolate in Amsterdam.  It’s very good chocolate made with hemp seeds.  It doesn’t get you high… just makes you fat.  

Bill indulged me with a foot massage before I tried my first space cake…

This is it… I pictured it in my post about eating it, but I thought I’d put it here, too.

Ironically, after seeing all the rubber butts, dicks, and boobs in Amsterdam, I found a Jack Chick tract in Dutch.  It was not far from where a couple of JWs had set up to proselytize.

JWs at work…

I had noticed the Croatian restaurant to and from the train station.  I figured it would offer a nice change from all the stuff we had been eating this week.  I had never had Croatian food and Croatia is on the list for a future trip.  So off we went… Bill ordered a bottle of dry red wine and the waiter brought this one from Macedonia.  It was pretty good.

Macedonian wine… perhaps another country we could see?

Bill tastes it…

I had a giggle fit over this piece of buttered French bread.  The space cake was at its peak at that point, since my laughing fit went on for several minutes.  

 

This restaurant had little plate warmers generated by candles.  Made for easily keeping things warm.

I had salmon and Bill had grilled meat with mashed potatoes and gravy…

I had fries…

And for dessert, I had Irish coffee and Bill had Croatian coffee, which was made with a pear liqueur.  

If you want to try Croatian food in Haarlem, Dubrovnik is a good bet.  

On the way back to the hotel, I shot some more scenes around Haarlem.  It really is a cute town and a great alternative to Amsterdam.

Even the McDonald’s is cute.

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Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 10

So today is my birthday… We started off with breakfast at the hotel and being stared down by some grumpy looking guy.  I declared him an asshole. Then we walked through an antique market and came back to the hotel, where I changed shoes and put on sandals and socks because we decided to go to Amsterdam and I knew my feet would kill me in my warmer clogs.

We walked to the main square in Haarlem and wandered around.  I was able to take some nice photos before we went into the cathedral.  It was five euros for both of us to go in, but it was well worth the cost because a choir was rehearsing.  Their singing was beautiful and the acoustics were amazing.  I got all teary as I heard it… I wanted to join in, but I also really just wanted to listen.  It was very moving.

Yes, this is an ad for an opera about the Costa Concordia…  

And there are sex shops in Haarlem too.

And cool old bikes.

Then we walked to the train station.  Haarlem is just two stops from Amsterdam.  It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get there.  Once you do, wow… Amsterdam is huge, busy, and obnoxious with people!  There were literally throngs of people pouring out of the train station.

Bill and I found our way deeper into the city and were soon confronted by lots of sex shops, coffeeshops, and prostitutes.  Amsterdam is definitely a city where a person can sin freely.  We soon ran into a group of men, one of whom was wearing a pacifier around his neck.  He was obviously drunk and waiting for his companion to finish peeing at one of the pissoirs in the city.  After we passed them, we ran across a sex shop with a replica of a woman’s butt made out of rubber.  Next to it were huge fake boobs and a couple of male versions of fake genitals.  There were plenty of didos, harness gags, and leather outfits offered, too.  I saw many bored looking hos.

We walked around for awhile and when we got hungry, stopped by a little hole in the wall restaurant.  The guy cooking and waiting tables was wearing a chef’s outfit and appeared to know what he was doing.  Bill had piri piri chicken and I had another cheeseburger.  The Dutch seem to season their meat differently than we do.  The burger tasted a little like sausage.  It wasn’t bad, but I kind of missed American burgers.

I thought about having some cheesecake, but decided I just wanted to move on…  Parts of Amsterdam are truly pretty, but it was just too busy and noisy for my liking.  We got back on the train to Haarlem and I discovered that there is free WiFi offered, which is really awesome.

On the way back to the hotel, Bill and I stopped into the coffeeshop and picked up a space cake.  I ate it about an hour ago.  It’s my first experience with marijuana ever.  I’m still waiting for it to kick in…  Maybe I will blog once it does.

Yeah… Blogging is essential.

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restaurant reviews, The Netherlands

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 8

On Thursday, Bill said he thought he’d probably be done with his conference early.  I decided to go to the pool, where I started reading another fascinating book.  This one is about a guy who has visited every single country on the planet.  After a suitable time allowed for the housekeeping staff to clean our room, I did some blogging.  I got tired of fighting with the terrible internet in this hotel, so I decided to go have some lunch.

This duck was fantastic… I actually had to sit and bask in the afterglow after this meal.

I had given some thought to walking back to the Centrum and maybe picking up a souvenir or two, but it turned out to be chilly and windy and I was afraid it might rain.  So for the third time this week, I went to De Heerlijekheyt, the delightful restaurant next door to the hotel, where the male waiter on staff– who bears a passing resemblance to a young Kirk Cameron (before he turned into a religious wackjob) immediately recognized me from Sunday night.  I was seated at a nice window table and enjoyed a delicious duck entree with vegetables and a couple of glasses of wine.

When I got back to the room, I felt strong enough to fight with the Internet again.  I finished my blogging.  Bill got back at about 3:00.  We enjoyed one of the bottles of wine we brought and watched TLC as Bill told me about the conference.  Then, at about 6:00, we visited De Bon Vivant, a local French inspired place that didn’t seem all that French to me.  I had been curious about it since our arrival, but we finally got around to visiting last night.  Apparently, asparagus is a specialty.  They even had asparagus inspired desserts.  We made a reservation for six o’clock, but that wasn’t really necessary.

Bill checks out the menu.

 

Bill tried the asparagus soup with smoked salmon while I had a soup called Grandma’s Sorrow, which was mustard based with smoked salmon.  They looked identical, but had wildly different flavors.  Both were excellent.

I had steak and asparagus.  Bill had a game stew.  Our waiter made our eyebrows raise when he said the game was fresh because it was just shot on Monday.  Good to know.  We also had frites and spinach with boiled eggs on top.  My steak came with a small dollop of mashed potatoes and Hollandaise sauce.  It was all a bit much, though very tasty.

We weren’t going to have dessert, but were talked into it… I had an Irish coffee and Bill had a D.O.M. coffee, which was made with some liqueur whose name escapes me right now.  I think it might have been B&B.

 

A very pleasant female waitress came in a little later than her colleagues and talked to us.  She asked if we were there for business or pleasure.  We explained that we were in Apeldoorn on business and headed to Haarlem and Amsterdam for my birthday.  She said Apeldoorn will seem rustic in comparison.  Not so many trees as you head west.  I am very impressed by how pretty Apeldoorn is.  It’s been a nice place to spend the week.  I wouldn’t mind coming back.

Outside the restaurant.

The tree lined main drag.

I guess some Dutch folks don’t like the police, either.

Before we go to Haarlem, we will stop by Apenheul, which is a primate zoo park where monkeys walk freely among the masses…  should be fun.

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restaurant reviews, The Netherlands

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 7

The Bilderberg hotel in Apeldoorn has a restaurant open for dinner that offers “surprise” meals.  You tell the server what ingredients you don’t like and the chef makes you a “surprise” menu.  You can order up to five courses.  This sounded like an intriguing idea to Bill and me, so we decided to try it.  We asked for three courses, a bottle of wine, and a bottle of water.  We asked that mushrooms not be a part of the meal.  In retrospect, I really should have included other items to the list.  But hell, it’s good to expand the old palate and try new things.  My mom would be sooo proud.  I was the kid who once would not willingly go to any restaurant other than McDonald’s.

The first thing the waitress brought out was an amuse.  It was red beets covered with goat cheese foam and a Parmesan cookie.  Now, while I thought this amuse was very pretty, I don’t usually like beets or goat cheese.  But I decided to be brave…  and I have to admit, the beets and goat cheese were pretty good.  The beets were a little sweet, almost like cranberries, and the goat cheese was mild.  I was expected to be the least offended by the Parmesan cookie and it was actually a bit strong for me.

It was a pretty amuse… and I actually enjoyed it somewhat.

The bread was very good.

The next course was a pair of raw tuna and duck liver pinwheels that came with a seaweed salad and some kind of wasabi inspired sauce.  There was also a small trough of crumbs that we could draw the fish and liver through.  I don’t like liver.  It’s not something that would ruin my meal if it was mixed up in something, nor do I get freaked out if it’s on my plate the way I do when I am served mushrooms.  But I don’t like the way liver tastes, nor am I keen on the idea of eating organ meats.  The raw tuna was very good.  The waitress offered to bring me something else, but I was okay with just the tuna.  Bill said the duck liver was tasty.

Another attractive course… the liver was too icky for me, though.

Next came the main course…  lamb.  I almost never eat lamb because the first time I ever tried it was when I lived in Armenia.  What I probably ate there was mutton and it was so gamey I almost puked at the table.  I will admit that the lamb served here in Apeldoorn was very good.  It was tender and not too strongly flavored.  I still wouldn’t have chosen it off a menu, but I have to say the chef surprised me.  I ate and enjoyed the whole course.

It was tasty and attractive… and I never eat lamb!

Finally, for dessert, we had raspberry sorbet with white chocolate mousse and raspberry mousse.  It came with a decorative cookie and, clearly, I had no issues with it…  until we had coffee and the waitress brought out housemade caramel with yogurt to go with our double espressos.  Plain yogurt is yet another food I almost never eat.  But I decided that being almost 43 makes me old enough to take a chance.  I did and mostly enjoyed the coffee.

Dessert was a winner.

I’m finding out that coffee in The Netherlands often means a second dessert.

I noticed most of the others who were having dinner were getting the same or similar dishes, so it wasn’t like the chef was coming up with something special for every diner.  It was more like the menu was a mystery and they hoped you liked it.  I have to say, I ate a lot of stuff on Wednesday night that I definitely wouldn’t normally choose to.  Fortunately, I lived to tell about the experience.

Ahh…

There were a couple of kids in the restaurant who were very well behaved and tolerating the grown up dishes very well.  I was very impressed!  They were better behaved than I would have been under those circumstances when I was their age.  As we left the restaurant, the dour waitress invited us to take a couple of homemade peppermints.  Always a good idea.

This trip to Apeldoorn has been for getting me out of my comfort zone, though I am not sure any of the foods I ate the other night will be foods I start eating on a regular basis.

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