In plain sight (Or: Squatting in Amsterdam)

On Friday Roger, Marco and I went to Amsterdam to see a performance of The Book of Mormon musical. Along the way we spotted a building that definitely wanted to be noticed:

“Kraken” is the Dutch translation of squatting, or taking over a building or residence currently not in use. Squatting in the Netherlands goes back to the 60s (Wikipedia). “Kraken gaat door” means that the squatting hasn’t stopped, regardless of the action the government takes against them.

The musical was held at Amsterdam’s Carré theatre. It’s a beautiful theatre, though a bit disconcerting if you have a fear of heights.

I was thinking about how cool that backdrop would be as a background on my iPhone.

And above is a look at the seating, although I have been at places with even steeper seating arrangements. The best part was that the row in front of you was rather far down, so you don’t have to worry about someone tall in sitting in front of you.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Culture | Leave a comment

High wind causes detour (Or: Danger of falling glass)

For the last few months the walkway between the train station The Hague Central and the city centre is closed whenever there are high winds (article in Dutch). Pedestrians must take a short 5 minute detour via the Bezuidenhoutseweg towards Herengracht.

This measure is taken whenever the wind speed is over 50-60km or 30-37 mph. The reason? Four windows broke in June and July in the Dutch ministries office building pictured below, although at the time summer heat was considered the reason. It is not that big a deal, since it’s for everyone’s safety. Still – sometimes you just want to get home. Especially when it’s dark and late.

This was the scene again Friday night, so I decided to take a photo. It’s probably a thankless job, telling annoyed tourists that they have to walk around…

Categories: Daily Dutch living, The Hague | Tags: | Leave a comment

Horses and trumpets (Or: Practicing for Prinsjesdag)

Last Sunday Marco and I were enjoying coffee at the central library when we saw a commotion outside the window. The police were practicing with the royal horses in advance of Prinsjesdag (held last Tuesday), with the route going past the library.

The final day of practice is traditionally held the day before the event, with the horses being trained on the beaches of Scheveningen. The horses have to navigate loud crowds, fireworks, sudden movements, etc., as preparation for the ceremony.

Categories: Culture, Holidays, The Hague | Leave a comment

Disney+ (Or: Dutchies are the guinea pigs)

Marco and I are now guinea pigs!

As of a few days ago, Disney+ is available in the Netherlands as a free trial. (Yay!) Officially it launches in the US, Canada and the Netherlands on 12 November, but Dutchies are able to sign up for free to test out the service for two months. Of course, the catch is that if you don’t unsubscribe before 12 November you pay the subscription fee automatically. Either €6,99/month or €70/year.

Marco and I signed up today. We first tried to sign up on our Apple TV, however the payment options were limited (only iTunes?) and there was no option to choose a yearly subscription. Therefore we instead completed the account setup via the website and then simply logged in on the Apple TV after the account was set up.

Since it is a free trial all of the extra “releasing on 12 November” type content isn’t there yet, however there is plenty of existing content from Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic to choose from. Way more than I could name here, except I’ll list some nostalgic films: Cool Runnings, Three Musketeers, Escape to Witch Mountain, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Dad told me I wore out my VHS tape with that last one… I can see that.

There was one thing I noticed while watching some Pixar shorts (5-6 minutes each): anything with written words was translated into Dutch. See here:

The banner across the front door says Welkom Eerstejaars! or in English: Welcome Freshmen! The short was about a college party with the Monsters’ Inc. crew. There were no subtitles and no Dutch in the credits at the end, but there was still Dutch in this scene. I think it is a Pixar thing though – I can remember that Finding Dory also translated the signs in the movie into Dutch. I find it amusing for sure.

Otherwise: how cool is it to have all of this cool content at our fingertips? And to be the first country to get it? Ha!

Categories: Everyday purchases | 2 Comments

Remnants (Or: Hurricane Dorian says hi)

You know what’s kind of cool (if you ignore what happened to the Bahamas, of course)? That a hurricane can go over the Bahamas and up the east coast of the United States, before boomeranging back to Europe. Take a look at our weather today:

That’s the last remnants of hurricane Dorian floating over Northern Europe. It’s rained all day, but more the annoying kind of rain where you’re not sure if you need an umbrella or not – until you realize you’re pretty wet and yes you did indeed need an umbrella today. Oh well.

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TGI Fridays (Or: Another American restaurant invades)

Last April a new restaurant opened in The Netherlands: TGI Fridays. It’s an American restaurant chain that has over 500 locations in the United States with an additional 300+ locations outside of the United States. Since April 2018, one of those locations is here in the Netherlands. In the Hoog Catharijne mall in Utrecht, to be precise.

In case you are wondering, the name comes from the American phrase “Thank God it’s Friday”, which is also often shortened to “T.G.I.F.”.

Marco and I visited the mall last month and we ended the evening with dinner at TGI Fridays. Yum!

My mini burgers and fries
Marco’s wing platter

As usual the only sticking point was never knowing what language to speak: when we came in, the hostess (person who greets you and takes you to your seat) spoke English. The first waiter spoke Dutch and the second waiter spoke English. Hmmm… That happens a lot, though. Must be something to do with mine American accent (haha). Although I also had the impression that some of the staff only spoke English.

Apple pie with vanilla ice cream and coffee

For dessert, Marco and I split warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream, which went well with my coffee. I really enjoyed the ice cream; it was frozen enough that it didn’t melt instantly.

Overall the food was good and I loved the decor. For instance, take a look at the chair in the background of the dessert photo – it’s covered in American flags and other American trinkets. Anywhere else and it would look tacky, but it works here.

Marco also noted at the end that they used an American style “receipt/check book”, which included a slot for a credit card which sticks out over the edge of the book. That way the waiter knows there is a credit card inside when the book is closed. See also this link (Amazon.com).

Categories: Food, Utrecht | Tags: | 2 Comments

Palace Gardens (Or: The last embrace of summer?)

The Netherlands is enjoying a last minute fling with summer today, with temperatures over 80F. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but here it is! I decided to take a stroll over to the Palace Gardens, which I’ve already blogged about a few times over the years (2012 and 2016).

Palace Gardens / Paleistuin in The Hague

It was lovely to sit in the sun and just read a book. Today I started a book by Neil Gaiman – The ocean at the end of the lane or De oceaan aan het einde van het pad in Dutch, as that was the language I was reading it in. It’s about a man who goes back to where he lived as a child to attend a funeral. While there he gets lost in his memories of his childhood.

One interesting and unexpected thing was that the book begins with a preface which reads “Ik schrijf in mijn eigen taal. Dat is Engels. Ik ben er erg dol op. Het is een goede, soepel taal, waarin ik kan uitdrukken wat ik te zeggen heb. …” Or, translated: “I write in my own language. That is English. I am very fond of it. It’s a good, flexible language where I can express what I need to say.”

I thought that was quite strange, and wondered if that preface was in every version of the book. But no, he goes on to say that his sister-in-law lives in Utrecht (a city in central Netherlands) and he brings his family to the Netherlands as often as he can to visit. He goes on to say that you don’t need an English/American upbringing to read this book, and since it is now translated into Dutch you can read it too (of course the preface was translated as well, since he doesn’t speak Dutch). Kind of cool.

The only small downside to going to a park to read is that sometimes you can get distracted and not be able to focus on the story. Especially when what you are trying to read isn’t in your native language… When I arrived, I chose a nice sunny bench, at the end to give others plenty of room to also sit down (the benches generally fit three adults). I’m at the far left, with no benches to my left. To my right, there are another three benches, all grouped right next to each other.

After a while, a man sat down on the other end of the bench I was at. No problem at all; he was just watching his kid. About five minutes later a woman sits down next to him, so I promptly and politely moved my backpack to the ground so she definitely had enough room. And then they began to talk. Argh.

Oddly enough, I had no problem when the conversations happening were at the next bench (about five feet away), but one foot away was a bit much. Especially since they were tourists speaking English, which meant hearing one language and reading another. I was pondering my options – 1) suck it up and keep reading 2) go find another bench 3) leave. But after a few minutes they all got up and left. Yay.

So I kept reading, having a personal goal of getting to 100 pages. I did that, and was at page 103 when two more people sat down at “my” bench with a few other folks in their group standing around them. And they began to talk loudly. Arghhhh again. This time I gave up – I was past my goal anyway – put my bookmark in place, stood up and left immediately.

I don’t know. Maybe I expect too much. It is a communal park after all. 🙂

Categories: Reading, The Hague | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Eurovision Song Contest (Or: Close to home)

Today it was announced that Rotterdam had won the right to host the Eurovision Song Contest (Eurovisie Songfestival in Dutch) next year in May. This is because the Netherlands won the 2019 version of the song contest with Duncan Lawrence’s Arcade (YouTube) in May. It was their first win in 44 years.

Now, if I am being honest – this whole concept of a European song contest seems polarizing at best (you either love it or hate it) and political at worst. There are two components to the voting – each country has a panel of five judges which cast their vote for other countries using a points system, and each country also has votes coming from televoting from the fans. You are prevented from voting for your other country. Whomever gets the most points from the two combined voting areas wins.

Next year the song contest will be held at the convention centre Ahoy in Rotterdam (Wikipedia) after it was announced that Rotterdam had beaten Maastricht for the right to host the event. I’ve been there a few times for concerts and WWE wrestling events – it is a nice venue. The only annoying thing is that you need to use special tokens to buy food and drink, so we usually don’t buy anything.

Hotel prices in both Rotterdam and The Hague are skyrocketing (article in Dutch). The Netherlands will have a busy month in May 2020, as it was also recently announced that the newly-granted F1 race will happen on May 3 in Zandvoort (in the area of Amsterdam). That’s actually one of the reasons Amsterdam dropped out of the race to host the Eurovision song contest rather quickly – there was already going to be issues with having enough hotel rooms in the area, especially as a lot of press and groups arrive about two weeks early for the song contest.

It should be an interesting May next year!

Categories: Culture, Rotterdam | Leave a comment

Festival tip (Or: The Streets of Chuck Deely)

This afternoon the city centre will be hosting a festival in honor of the street musician Chuck Deely who passed away in January 2017 (where has the time gone, really?).

The festival will be held from 12:00-18:00 in the Grote Markt street. The description says “musicians will be at every street corner”. From 18:00 the musical arts will move to the big stage at the Grote Markt, ending around midnight.

Download the schedule (PDF)

More information at chuckdeely.nl or visit the Facebook page The Streets of Chuck Deely.

Flowers left in memoriam outside of Bijenkorf after his death
Categories: Daily Dutch living, The Hague | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A day out (Or: Hoog Catharijne mall in Utrecht)

A few weeks ago Marco and I went to Utrecht for half a day. It’s about a 45 minute train ride – when the trains ride properly anyway. There were some issues that day, so I think it took about an hour and a half to get there. Opps! It’s a city in the middle of the Netherlands with about 350,000 residents.

The main reason for this trip was to visit the Hoog Catharijne mall, which has probably been under renovation for years. At least it seemed that way. I don’t think it is completely done, but the parts that are done look really good. Check it out:

The area between the mall (pictured) and the station (behind us) is semi-covered by the artistic roof above, although Marco says it doesn’t help 100% when it rains on a windy day. Ha!
Inside the mall – looking down on one of the wings. The pretty big for Dutch standards (about 42,000 square meters) but American malls are generally larger.

And just outside the mall in one of the canals is a piece of art: a whale made of plastic. Of course, a statement on plastic in the oceans.

And a close-up look at the whale from the front:

In the background you can see the mall

It’s a nice day trip, especially when you a combine it with a tour of the older parts of the city (which we did a few years back).

Categories: Marco&Niki, Shopping, Utrecht | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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