Time to vote! (Or: 2019 provincial elections)

Today the Netherlands can vote for the 2019 provincial elections and for the local water authority (English Wikipedia link). The first election is also indirectly important because the provincial members elected today will vote for the Senate members in May.

Voting at The Hague’s city hall

There are many places to vote, including 68 train stations (link in Dutch) as well as in the two Dutch parliamentary buildings (Eerste Kamer, Tweede Kamer, or Senate and House of Representatives in English). It’s the first time the Senate has been open as a voting location. But for me, I like the city hall as it is quite photogenic.

As you might have guessed, “stem” means vote.

Personally I can only vote for the local water authority, as the provincial elections are only open to Dutch nationals. This makes sense. But it is still nice to be able to vote for the water authority and (back in March 2018) the local government.

Voting was very fast – when I arrived there was no line. Of course, I deliberately waited until a bit later in the morning. When I left a line had started to form, so it is simply a question of luck.

There was also an elections desk where you could go with questions and for voting-related arrangements. I realized later that this was the help desk in the weeks leading up to the election (therefore it was not in use today).

Not sure what that apple is doing on the ground. When I took the photo I hadn’t even seen it.

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

Wabi Sabi (Or: Reading on a rainy day)

The weather here has been absolutely dreadful. Monday morning I made the mistake of wearing my lighter jacket, not realizing how bad the wind would be. With the windchill, it was about 0C/32F. Brrrr! I made coffee the second I got home, let me tell you. And now it’s Wednesday. The weather is a tiny bit better, but not really. It’s still cold, windy and rainy.

One fun thing to do on days like this is to read. My current Dutch novel is Wabi-Sabi by Francesc Miralles. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy of accepting your imperfections and making the most of your life. But that’s not why I grabbed the book. I grabbed it because it starts with a cat!


One note about the various editions: the Dutch version I am reading seems to be two books in one, totaling around 400 pages. If you’re instead reading it in English, you should look for Love in Lowercase to read the first half. Let me tell you: if the book had that title and this book cover instead I wouldn’t have given it a try. I am not big on romances.

But to me, I just saw the cat. Which is funny, since I am not a big cat person. I tolerate them, of course. I think they are darn cute. I love how soft they feel to the touch. But I don’t really trust that they won’t go berserk at a moment’s notice and claw me for no reason. I love reading about them, though. Also try The Guest Cat by Takeshi Hiraide.

This book is pretty easy to read in Dutch. The font size is big enough (not any of that annoying fine print sized font) and the author has a habit of writing 3-4 page chapters. You won’t hear me complaining about that. I do remember one time I found a book in Dutch online, thinking it would be a great read. I checked it out from the library without opening it until I got home. Imagine my disappointment when I saw the abysmal font size and the lack of paragraph breaks (seriously, I found a page with no paragraph break on either the left OR the right side). That one quickly went back to the library unread.

Anyway: the theme of this book so far is sort of the butterfly effect (an idea that a small change can cause something much bigger to happen). The cat stops by, and ends up staying. Because of that, the main character meets his next door neighbor, ends up going to the vet, sees a love he thought he’d never see again, etc. It’s very enjoyable so far.

Ah, and it’s raining again.

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A late night (Or: Ajax football and Captain Marvel)

Note: there are no spoilers for Captain Marvel in this post.

Last night was a fun night with Marco and Roger. First off, we watched the Ajax-Real Madrid Champions League football game. Amsterdam’s Ajax team lost the previous match against Real Madrid 2-1 so they needed to win by at least two goals last night to proceed to the quarter finals. And that they did – winning 4-1! The coolest goal was the last one Ajax made (YouTube).

The best part about the game was that it started at 9pm and ended around 11pm. Which was really good for us, since after that we were going to a midnight showing of Captain Marvel. Generally movies premiere on Wednesdays in the Netherlands, and since 12:01am is also Wednesday… yeah.

Fun thing: I noticed that the movie theatre had ruby chocolate KitKats. If you’ve never tried ruby chocolate, you should. It is a bit sour, but still sweet like chocolate.

movie theatre snacks!

While we were waiting in the downstairs lobby (the upper part was roped off so they could clean the theatre from the previous showing) I took a picture of The Hague’s library:

looking down at The Hague Central Library (library=bibliotheek)

The movie was pretty good. I liked it and was definitely entertained even though I was sleep deprived. I thought the cat stole the show. More about the cat here, with a few minor spoilers if you don’t read the Captain Marvel comics.

And lastly: of course there is a Stan Lee tribute. The theatre clapped for that.

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To celebrate the good weather (Or: By Hofhouse)

Full disclosure: this picture was actually taken at the end of June last year, on a Friday. The weather was spectacular that day. It was taken at Hofhouse, here in The Hague. The only drawback is they aren’t open in the weekends, although that makes sense since they are reliant on the traffic to Central Station.

Marco and I enjoying a beer at the start of the weekend last year

This week’s weather has also been great, considering it is mid-February. The weekend and the last few days have been 15C-18C (about 60-65F). Of course, the weather gets colder after today, but still – we are still above average temperatures tomorrow.

And it’s not even March yet… kind of scary, when you think about it!

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Wrapped in fog (Or: Buitenhof in The Hague)

Last week I took a photo of the Buitenhof here in The Hague:

And a photo where the flags are less prominent:

It was a cold day that day. Whereas this past Saturday we had temperatures of almost 60F (15C), with similar temperatures expected this weekend. Time to sit outside for hours soaking in the sun!

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Sweet store displays (Or: Valentine’s Day by Hema)

❤ Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤

Valentine’s Day display at Hema in The Hague

Marco and I exchanged Valentine’s Day gifts this morning. He got me a small bottle of cava (a Spanish sparking wine), a bag of Haribo gummy bears and a chocolate rose. ❤

I got him Winter-in-lov, a chocolate and rooibos tea, with additional spices like cinnamon, ginger and licorice. If you like tea with chocolate notes, I can highly recommend it.

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A bit of color in the city centre (Or: Chinese New Year 2019)

This past Saturday was the celebrations for Chinese New Year in The Hague. I took some photos of the “statues” that represent the holiday. Upon closer inspection, I noticed these are mostly the same statues used back in 2013 for the first Chinese New Year I attended (scroll down to the second-to-last photo).

I’ve taken some better, close-up photos of some of them this year. For example, my favorite:

with the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in the background, and a bird flying past too!

For some of them it was actually a bit hard to tell which of the 12 animals they represent, but because a few stripes on the top of this guy’s head (above), I think he might represent the year of the tiger.

Year of the ox
Click here to see the rest of the photos for Chinese New Year 2019…
Categories: Holidays, The Hague | Tags: | 4 Comments

Cheese for the masses (Or: New Henri Willig store in The Hague)

A Cheeses & More store by Henri Willig has recently opened in The Hague, not far from the Binnenhof. This chain bills itself as a ‘cheese gifts’ store so expect slightly higher prices.

It looks a bit touristy from the outside:

The location isn’t marked that well on Google Maps, but if you’re coming from the Hofvijver (the famous pond) and you’re at the Bagels & Beans café, then keep walking past it and follow the corner. The cheese store will be on the left.

Marco and I aren’t cheese experts, mainly sticking to a few standard cheeses. I was thrilled when the local grocery store started carrying cheddar cheese. It goes great with the Ritz crackers from Kelly’s, the local expat store. Otherwise our standard fare is a jonge belegen cheese which is ripe at about 2 months and translates to ‘young, mature’.

I had a purpose for visiting this Cheeses & More store, as I knew they carried a lovely spicy cheese. We first tried it (or something similar) when Marco’s mom brought back cheese from Alkmaar, a city well known for its cheese market.

We had seen the cheese at Schiphol airport as we were flying to the States for Thanksgiving, but didn’t have time to pick it up after we arrived back in the Netherlands:

I wonder how many people accidentally ask for the ‘red hot chili peppers’ cheese. Ha!

Categories: Food, The Hague | Tags: | 1 Comment

Chinese New Year in The Hague (Or: Tip for this Saturday)

Happy Chinese New Year! 2019 is the year of the pig. And not the gluttonous kind…

The Hague will again feature Chinese New Year celebrations this Saturday to mark the occasion – see the scheduled program. The holiday is celebrated nationally in city hall while the local celebrations are held in Chinatown, including Rabbijn Maarsenplein and Bijenkorf’s parking lot.

I’ve always been a big fan of the local celebrations held at Rabbijn Maarsenplein (with its Chinese New Year market) and the area behind Bijenkorf (which always has lovely sculptures). But the dance routines in city hall are not to be missed, either!

Picture from the 2013 Chinese New Year celebrations, in the parking lot behind Bijenkorf

Come check it out. You won’t regret it!

Categories: Holidays, The Hague | Tags: | 2 Comments

Heel Holland Bakt (Or: Season finale tonight!)

One of my guilty pleasures when it comes to Dutch television programming is Heel Holland Bakt which translates to ‘All of The Netherlands bakes’. Yeah, it sounds better in Dutch…

It is a cooking competition held outside in a tent. The format is a spin off of the UK’s The Great British Bake Off and there are actually many international variants of the program. There was even an American version… for a total of seven episodes. Yikes.

2018-2019 candidates

Actually, Heel Holland Bakt is one of the few weekly Dutch shows that I watch outside of the news programs. Of course when I moved to the Netherlands I watched a lot of television to learn Dutch, but not so much anymore. Don’t get me wrong – half the time the TV is set to some Dutch thing or another (F1 racing is pretty cool when Max Verstappen hasn’t totaled his car in pure anger), but I don’t watch anything with same amount of regularity that I watch Heel Holland Bakt.

One of the highlights of the show is the Dutch comedian André van Duin who presents the show alongside its two judges. I tend to like his style of comedy, and his Dutch is pretty easy to understand. There’s exceptions of course, and I do find myself sometimes turning up the volume a bit too high to understand some references, but it is generally easy enough to follow along.

This season also had two interesting threads to follow: 1) Cas, who has a hearing impairment and 2) the controversy surrounding Maroeska, who may or may not be an amateur baker.

When Cas was selected for the competition he brought along a sign language interpreter (by the name of Wieke) to translate everything. The only question I had was why she would sign everything, even when he wasn’t looking at her. But it turns out that was the agreement the two of them made – sign everything, just in case. You can read an interesting article in Dutch about Cas, Wieke and their experiences here (if you’re caught up).

The other contestant that got a lot of reactions was Maroeska, who has received a ton of criticism in the news and on Twitter because she has in the past written a cookbook and had a catering company. The question is whether or not either of those things disqualify you from joining Heel Holland Bakt because you can’t be considered an amateur. I don’t have an opinion either way – especially in this era of easy self-publishing when anyone can publish a cookbook! – but I do think the criticism has gone too far. It’s a pity.

All in all, it’s been a fun show to watch. I will miss Heel Holland Bakt. And I might have to look up André van Duin in some of his other work.

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