Hotel Jakarta (Or: Celebrating our wedding anniversary in Amsterdam)

Marco and I celebrated our wedding anniversary over the weekend. We booked two nights at the hotel Jakarta in Amsterdam:

It is a lovely 4 star hotel a few kilometers from Central Station. It is walkable, although after the initial walk we decided to take tram 26 back and forth (2 stops). As you can tell, most rooms had a balcony, which was definitely one of the highlights for me. I sunned outside for almost an hour the first day. Even the floor was nice and warm. It turned out to be a good choice, since there was definitely less sun on the second day.

In the distance you can see the Jan Schaeferbrug (bridge). It has quite an interesting design. You can read about it over on Wikipedia in Dutch (link). It has stairs on either side of the bridge and either side of the river, and a sloped ramp for pedestrians and cyclists on 3 out of the 4 sides. The 4th side doesn’t have a ramp, only stairs, since the construction literally goes through an old monument building, the Pakhuis de Zwijger (Dutch Wikipedia). You can also see more photos at bruggenvanamsterdam.nl (Bridges of Amsterdam).

Here is the bridge at night. The photo credit goes to Marco. His night photos are always better than mine! Although the photo makes the lighting look even more gorgeous than it was in real life.

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Who needs to get home? (Or: I thought my day was annoying)

After a long workday (one more day until the weekend!) I logged off around 17:00, glad to close the computer and rest my brain for a bit. Turns out it could be worse: there are no trains running at the moment in the country. There is a disruption with the train communication system. That means traffic controllers can’t speak with the conductors. This is deemed a safety risk so all trains have been stopped.

Dutch rail traffic shut down over train control telephone outage from nltimes.nl.

Rijdt niet = not riding

The crazy thing is that this is not the first time this happened this year. It also happened back in May (also nltimes.nl in English). It makes me glad that I don’t need to grab the train today – good luck to everyone who does!

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Lunch by Little V (Or: Time to drool a bit)

Marco, Roger and I decided to have lunch by Little V over the weekend. Little V is a Vietnamese restaurant in The Hague’s city centre. Thanks to corona we’ve only had takeout once, a temporary option they put in place when restaurants were forced to close last year. I forgot how much I missed the food!

Little V is well known for their cocktails, both alcohol and, in this case, non-alcoholic. Marco had a “spiced lemon and rose”, a spicy lemonade with rose petals, red peppers and spices. Roger had a “ginger breeze”, with fresh ginger, lychee juice and jasmine tea. I had a “Little T Mix”, a mix of ginger, lemongrass and jasmine tea. Yum.

Some of our appetizers were fish cakes (on the left) and chicken spring rolls (on the right). We were pleasantly surprised that even though the menu says that some items are two pieces, you can ask for three. No sharing necessary!

And our lunches (which sort of replaced our dinners as well). I had a delicious, delicious, delicious bΓ‘nh mΓ¬ sandwich with chicken. It was spicy, packed with red peppers, but also sour, packed with pickled vegetables. It really hit the spot – I am a huge fan of spicy sourness. The Vietnamese bread itself was also perfect. As usual, my only alternation was removing some of the coriander stems (but keeping the coriander leaves themselves).

Roger’s dish on the left was Bun Bo Xao, with beef tenderloin, while Marco had Bun Heo, with roasted pork belly. Both also received rave reviews from the boys.

I am drooling a bit thinking about the next time I can order that sandwich again. Good stuff!

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Eyes wide open (Or: Slightly creepy Albert Heijn mascot)

Imagine my surprise when the mascot at Albert Heijn (one of the local grocery stores) was staring at me creepily while I was choosing which sparkling water to purchase. I don’t know; maybe it was the wide open eyes staring back at me? Also slightly creepy is the very realistic pink nose with wrinkles..

But that will never top the satirical video that made fun of stockpiling (YouTube) last March at the height of the corona craziness. It used images from a movie, with the Albert Heijn jingle slowed down and creepy sounding on top of it. Twitch.

Dutch lesson: 2e gratis = second (item) free.

2 = twee, second = tweede, which frequently gets abbreviated to 2e.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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Open house by Amare (Or: Also, new greenery)

This weekend was an open house at The Hague’s newest building, the Amare cultural complex (Amare.nl, in English). It was part of the UIT Festival (uitfestivaldenhaag.nl, in English), a festival which kicks off the 2021-22 cultural season in The Hague. Some of the events are in person, some of the events are virtual. The first events at Amare are planned for later this month, including events by Nederland dans theater’s “Skin of the mind” (ndt.nl, in English).

They have planted new (temporary) plants in front of the complex, opening up the space a bit for the opening day and removed part of the gates. It is so nice to have more space in this area again! The construction zone was taking up a lot of it (and still is, on the left side of the building).

Last week Marco took a few photos of the plants being added:

And an hour later it already looked like this:

Quick work! And even a radio for some tunes.

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Max wins! (And: The Netherlands goes insane)

Max Verstappen just won the Dutch Grand Prix. Woohoo!

It was definitely a bit nerve-racking to watch. While he was leading most of the way, Lewis Hamilton was very close by. This was the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985. Originally the Netherlands had been awarded the race last year, but it was delayed for a year due to the corona crisis (the organizers didn’t want to hold the first race with no fans).

Above: lots of fireworks (above the Heineken banner which says “Turn up the Max!” and all along the track). The rest of the orange smoke is fans with orange smoke bombs. It’s interesting that you see a bit of orange smoke right by the track, meaning an official volunteer or similar also had a smoke bomb in their possession just for this moment…

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Fireworks at Wagamama (Or: The firecracker curry)

During our visit to the Mall of the Netherlands last Friday, Marco and I stopped at Wagamama for a late lunch. (We refer to it as Wagamama’s for whatever reason, but technically the name isn’t possessive.) Wagamama is Japanese for “disobedient” or “willful”. The restaurant usually translates it as “naughty child”. The first restaurant opened in 1992 in London.

It is styled after the quick tempo of Japanese ramen eateries where you get in, get your food and get out. The eateries are usually pretty small so it is considered rude to take the seat for too long. At Wagamama this usually translates in everyone’s food arriving as soon as it is ready, rather than the entire table getting served at the same time. They always mention this beforehand, though. We didn’t get that speech or get our food separately this time, for whatever reason. Maybe they were done at similar times anyway.

As silly as it might sound, my favorite memory was of the Wagamama in Boston, where after the meal Marco and Roger ordered desserts and coffee. I saw on the menu that the tea was actually free (!) back then, so I ordered that. I think it was just a simple green tea. It arrived in this cute little cup and the warm tea really hit the spot.

Above is the dish I chose: firecracker curry. As the name suggests, it is spicy. The sauce underneath does have a sweet kick to it, though. This time I didn’t think it was overly spicy, although I did avoid eating the dried red peppers (but I did eat all of the fresh ones!). The first time I had it I guarded every drop of water like it was the most precious thing on earth. I do miss the curry I used to have at Wagamama, though. Surendra’s curry (home recipe from mob kitchen.co.uk).

Marco’s yaki soba teppanyaki. Teppanyaki is a noodle dish where the noodles and vegetables are baked on a flat pan, with everything turned quickly enough that the noodles stay soft but the vegetables turn crispy. His was with chicken and shrimp. The red bit on top is fresh ginger, which is always heavenly.

I am not a huge fan of noodles which can limit the choices of meals I would order at Wagamama. But everything always looks so tasty!

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Mall of the Netherlands (Or: Like an inexpensive trip to America?)

The Mall of the Netherlands opened earlier this year. It is definitely an American style mall, complete with kiosks in the middle of the walkways. The owner is Westfield (the company that owns a lot of American malls) so it does make sense.

First, the cutest photo ever, of the Nijntje store! Nijntje is a cartoon rabbit. She goes by Miffy in English translations.

And then Hema – I love the facade and touch of green. And as noted, there’s a kiosk in the middle of the walkway.

What mall isn’t complete without a peanut butter store (below)? pindakaas = peanut butter.

The joke on the bag is Pindakaas, in geval van noot or Peanut butter, in case of emergency. Normally it is “in geval van nood”, but they switched out nood (emergency) for noot (nut in English).

(It’s a lot cooler if you don’t have to explain it, I swear.)

And finally, a huge cart artwork which doubles as a slide for kids (the front paws are the slide).

So we can finally say that the Netherlands has a proper mall. American style, at least.

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August (Or: Did you know it is already time for Sinterklaas?)

Marco and I visited Action today. Action (English Wikipedia) is a cheap store, kind of like Dollar General in the US without saying everything is a dollar.

Imagine my surprise (okay, not really) when we saw that Action was selling kruidnoten (English Wikipedia) already. Although I know Roger already saw some at the beginning of this month. Kruidnoten is a hard cookie-like confectionery sold in the time leading up to the Sinterklaas holiday on 5 December. These days it starts appearing in August, and 2021 was no exception.

They also had other Sinterklaas items for sale:

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Through the centre of The Hague (Or: Tourist tram)

Side note: it is getting way too easy to use the British spelling for some phrases, like “centre” instead of “center”. Hmmm.

Below is a photo of the tourist tram riding through the centre (!) of the city. The Grote Kerk (literally “Big Church”) is off to the left, just out of the photo. I’ve posted a picture of this area a few times after its renovation a few years back. It looks a lot better with the greenery and stone walkways than it used to look.

Here is a photo of the church from the air (pre-renovation), from monumentenzorgdenhaag.nl. And here is information on the tourist tram, from denhaag.nl in English. Unfortunately it is a bit overpriced, but for tourists it could be nice.

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