Author Archives: Niki

About Niki

I run the blog http://www.lifeinthehague.com

Christmas lights at the Bijenkorf (Or: 2021 edition)

Here is a look at the outdoor decorations at Bijenkorf here in The Hague (Bijenkorf is a high-end retail store). These lights and decorations go up every year. Actually the lights were already up when Marco and returned from the United States back in late October, although the window displays weren’t ready for a few more weeks.

The lights:

And here is a look at some of the window displays. They change every year and usually draw a crowd (though less of a crowd this year and last year, of course).

It is hard to believe that it is almost December…

In the meantime, the current corona wave is still going strong, with intensive care units filling up. There was another press conference tonight, a week earlier than originally planned. Here is a look at the measures that go into effect Sunday morning, in English at government.nl.

There was another “noise” demonstration near Central Station this evening; the press conference is held in that area so the people outside try to make as much noise as possible to get heard on television. See also some images at regio.15 (text in Dutch). There were some pretty grim demonstrations last week so this time the military was present instead of the police. This demonstration went rather peacefully though, especially in comparison to the riots last week in Rotterdam (theguardian.com).

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

Comfort food (Or: Beef stew on a Sunday evening)

Marco and I made beef stew in our slow cooker this past Sunday. It’s a pretty simple recipe – just beef stew meat, carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and leek. Add a bit of thickly sliced bread for dipping and you are good to go.

As you might have heard, Europe is currently in the grips of yet another corona wave. Remember how I said a little over a week ago that our previous record for infections was around 13,000 and we leapfrogged over that record with 16,300 infections reported the next day? Yeah, It would be nice to go back to 13,000 (or even 16,300 really). We’ve been at over 20,000 infections for about a week, with the average over 21,000 and 23,000+ registered today. See also this nltimes.nl article in English.

So they might move up the next press conference (currently scheduled for Friday, December 3) to later this week, but since there hasn’t been enough time to see what the effects of the latest measures, the press conference will likely just be a reminder that people need to stick to the rules.

But, on a lighter note:

Man threw “irritating” Nijntje toy in trash sparking hours long police search from nltimes.nl. The best part is the security guard who originally called the police ended up keeping the hide-and-seek toy and putting it on his dashboard, as reported by this nos.nl article in Dutch.

Walrus leaves Arctic comfort zone for snooze on Dutch submarine from theguardian.com. Quote: “…others, however, thought it was very nice of the Dutch navy not to kick the walrus off their boat.” A lot of jokes were made since the submarine was part of the “walrus” class (English Wikipedia). The walrus has since moved on (most likely to the UK) although it hasn’t been spotted recently.

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New mural by the Eat Company (Or: Apparently it wasn’t the end after all)

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about the mural by the Eat Company being painted over, after 5 years of sitting stuck in the “fall” theme. At the time it seemed like the end of an era.

A work colleague sent a tip last week that a new mural had unexpectedly appeared recently:

Although I do need to take a closer look during the day – it looks more like a giant (weatherproof) sticker than a painted mural. The texture is really nice, though.

(The stork shows up in a lot of imagery around The Hague; it is part of the official coat of arms – see also English Wikipedia.)

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Riots against corona measures (Or: Another press conference)

As expected, things are getting worse before they get better in the Netherlands. For instance, our previous record was around 13,000 infections in a day, back in December 2020. We leapfrogged over that record last Thursday – clocking in at 16,300 infections (!), a jump of more than 3,300 in one day. The numbers will start getting limited by our current test capacity soon.

There was another press conference on Friday, with more measures added (official government website in English). Consider it a partial lockdown. We’re back to ‘work at home unless impossible’, with non-essential stores closing at 18:00 and essential stores like supermarkets and pet stores closing at 20:00. Cafés and restaurants also need to close their doors at 20:00. This will last until early December. Part of me thinks the government went straight for three weeks to ensure that stores would be closed in the evenings for Black Friday, which was definitely the start of our wave last year. At the moment there is no curfew, though.

The government also said that they were looked into a 2G approach versus the 3G approach we currently have for some things. The “G” comes from the Dutch verbs gevaccineerd, genezen of getest (vaccinated, healed or tested). The current measures are in place to give the government time to change the law to allow for 2G (vaccinated or healed) without the possibilities of getting tested to enter certain areas anymore. Although it also feels like the government is shifting some of the responsibility by stating that certain professions can go for either 2G and not have assigned seating or 3G with assigned seating.

As you can imagine this is a bit of a sensitive subject in The Netherlands. A few hundred people (or a bit more) decided to protest outside of the building where the press conference was held while it was being broadcast. And of course some people come with the intent to damage stuff, not just protest. You can see lots of images of the protest over at regio15.nl, in Dutch. For some reason people decided to vandalize a café (photo taken by me yesterday):

The owner figured something would happen and had moved all furniture inside by 15:00 on Friday, but that didn’t stop the vandalism. The damage for the glass wind screens was estimated at a few hundred euros, whereas the damage for the building’s window was around 10,000 euros (omroepwest.nl in Dutch). And how did rioters cause that damage, you ask?

Why, they literally pulled bricks out of the sidewalk, of course. Oh, and they also threw bricks and fireworks at the police. Who eventually turned a water cannon on them to get them to leave (see also the regio15.nl article linked above). Five people were arrested.

As usually happens in 2021, there is already a virtual donation started for the café owner (omroepwest.nl, in Dutch).

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Almost time to start the countdown (Or: Sinterklaas)

Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands this Saturday from Spain, as is tradition (read more at English Wikipedia). After his arrival Dutch children start counting down to December 5, as that evening they can open their presents. Minor gifts are given (usually left in shoes) between the arrival of Sinterklaas and December 5.

Albert Heijn is getting into the party with their own version of an advent calendar with mini chocolates:

Every day from November 13 through December 5 has a little window to open (in random order, which as an adult I find a bit annoying). Aftellen tot pakjesavond = countdown to gifts evening (a literal translation).

We’ll see if things proceed as planned. The nationally televised arrival of Sinterklaas can go ahead because almost all of it is taped in advance and the city he arrives in doesn’t actually exist, due to the pandemic. Normally he arrives to much fanfare and thousands of young kids cheering him on in person or watching from home.

Regional arrivals have started to be cancelled, with Utrecht being the first big city to cancel theirs (official website in Dutch). A decision for The Hague hasn’t been made yet, but the signs informing travelers of bus and tram re-routing on Saturday are still in place, and inside the trams an automated message plays saying there will be re-routing on Saturday. It will probably go ahead as the arrival of Sinterklaas at the harbor in Scheveningen now requires tickets and they are restricting the number of tickets offered. At the moment the parade through The Hague is also still on. We’ll see.

For fun, here’s a look at the first (and only) Sinterklaas parade I went to back in 2013. Psssst: Americans, please don’t be shocked at the use of blackface. It is slowly being phased out in most cities.

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Vegan time (Or: Who knew cactus could be delicious?)

This Friday Marco, Roger and I had dinner at FOAM in The Hague. This was one of the “first Friday of the month” special dinners. The theme was Mexican, with shared plates.

Unfortunately I am not the person to ask what all of this was. The images are in order that they were served. Some notes:

  • The third image with the cups was my favorite. It is actually a warm, spicy cactus soup. Delicious. I either want the recipe or I want it added to the lunch menu.
  • The fourth image is of mole tacos. It was interesting. I am not sure I have had mole sauce before. The only good way to eat it was with a knife and fork. It was still a bit messy, but doable.
  • The fifth (and largest) image is part of our main course. Not everything was pictured as some things arrived a bit later.
  • The last image is of the dessert. I have decided my palate is not refined enough. I keep hoping it is ice cream or cake or chocolate, but usually we get stuff like figs. It’s fine though, as it keeps it light.

Some other news:

Dutch coronavirus avg. nears 10,000; Covid hospital total close to 1,500 from nltimes.nl. This is not that great; we’re not that far from our record set last December and we’ve only just started November.

Thousands of people demonstrate against coronavirus policy in The Hague from nltimes.nl. This was this afternoon (from about lunchtime to 16:00). The estimated crowd was 20,000 to 25,000 demonstrators. While I was somewhat in the area today I didn’t need to be anywhere near the demonstration route. You can also see dozens of photos over at the local news site regio15.nl (in Dutch). Most of their anger is at the stricter rules – you now need to wear a face mask or show a QR code (vaccinated, recently tested or recently recovered) in public places.

Otherwise things are going well for Marco and I except that the weekend unfortunately flew by. However there is always next weekend forward to!

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Big chocolatey sprinkles (Or: MEGA kruidnoten!)

Unfortunately these beauties weren’t available when Marco and I traveled to America a few weeks ago:

It is a new offering from the Dutch grocery store Albert Heijn: a large kruidnoten (English Wikipedia) covered in lots of chocolate and sprinkles. They are quite delicious, but also quite hard. I fear a bit for my teeth. Considering Marco and I brought about six random flavors of kruidnoten to America, I think my parents and brother would have also appreciated trying this version. If only it had appeared last month…

In other news: corona cases have been rising since about 3-4 weeks ago. The rise started the week before our trip, so it was weird to see the numbers double in the single week we were gone. The Dutch cabinet held a press conference this evening to announce additional measures, a bit of a turnaround from their last package where they got rid of almost everything including social distancing. Highlights are:

  • the Dutch access pass (aka the CoronaCheck app) needs to be shown at more locations. You can receive an entry QR code if you are vaccinated, you tested negative for the virus in the last 24 hours or you have recently had corona. A valid QR code is now required for a café’s outside terrace (it was previously only required for dining inside). It is also required for events where seating is assigned and at gyms, museums, conferences, etc.
  • face masks are now required indoors for public locations which do not yet require the Dutch access pass (like supermarkets, libraries, amusement parks and retail stores).
  • booster shots will be given for people aged 80+ from December and for people aged 60+ from January 2022.
  • the advice is to work from home half of the time. For about a month the advice to work from home was completely removed, but as you can see that didn’t last long…

Read more at NL Times: Cabinet expands Covid pass system even wider than expected; Face mask rules explained.

Categories: The Hague | Leave a comment

Time for some spicy ramen (Or: Visiting Takumi Ramen on the Herengracht)

Marco and I went with Roger (who had a day off today) to visit Takumi Ramen on the Herengracht (street). It was my first time although Marco and Roger go there occasionally. They fight over who gets to pay the bill since the person who pays gets the stamps added to their ramen card (at 10 stamps you get free gyozas and at 20 stamps you get free ramen).

There were lots of choices on the menu, including vegetarian options and side dishes:

As a starter we shared gyozas:

The drink in the photo above was calpis (English Wikipedia), a Japanese uncarbonated soft drink. Marco and Roger ordered that while I stuck with sparkling water.

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Back from the US (Or: Just a bit sleep deprived)

Marco and I recently returned from the United States, visiting my parents (whom I hadn’t seen in three years – stupid pandemic!). It was a great trip, just like old times. We were definitely limited in what we could do thanks to the pandemic, but there were face masks and hand sanitizer everywhere. I was presently surprised to see how many people were wearing face masks compared to the Netherlands. It was definitely night and day. My poor hands are in need of some TLC and location after using all of that hand sanitizer (which we also have at all Dutch stores, but since my main outingias just going to the grocery store and back I don’t need to use it as much).

It definitely wasn’t easy to get into the US; there were a lot of hoops to jump through and many forms to fill out. I could get in as a US citizen however Marco only got in because we were married. Thanks to a warning from a colleague we did bring out marriage certificate, and it did get asked for. We got tested to enter the US and tested to get back into the Netherlands. It is debatable whether we needed that second test as the rules changed while we were there, but since the airline asked for it to be uploaded it was definitely a case of ‘better safe than sorry’. There were health forms and test result printouts and quarantine declarations for the Netherlands and more. You don’t have to quarantine if you are vaccinated, but you still need to fill out the form saying you are not quarantining because you are vaccinated. I had a whole folder full of papers to show…

I didn’t sleep much on the way there or the way back, but that was to be expected. Ironically we booked premium plus tickets on United Airlines to make sure we didn’t have anyone directly next to us, but most of Economy Plus and Economy were empty so it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. When I went to the bathroom I saw a lot of people in Economy stretched out on 3 or 4 seats trying to sleep. We didn’t have too much jetlag after landing in the US – the flight arriving at 18:00 probably helped as we only had to stay awake a few hours. I also have to give some credit to the shower at the hotel as the water pressure was wonderful.

Here are a few photos. I didn’t take many as it just wasn’t that kind of trip.

Iron Man statue outside of a Gamestop store
Amenities at our airplane seats (the Saks Fifth Avenue pillow was indeed soft)
Statue at the food court in O’Hare airport on the way back
Almost back to Schiphol… with light rain clouds above the North Sea

Unfortunately it was quite a bumpy flight back to the Netherlands, at least in the first half while we were still over land. It was raining all day where we were, with a bit of lightning at O’Hare on top of that. It was fine in the end, but there were times the flight attendants had to buckle in (including them pausing the meal service for a while). But we got back in one piece. We slept in a bit this morning but I think we are all good to go now!

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Spotted at Hema (Or: Anyone up for some tompouce flavored ale?)

Last week Roger spotted some tompouce flavored ale at Hema:

How crazy is that! Considering it has Hema branding, it looks to be a Hema exclusive. And if you need a reminder about what tompouce is, check out the English Wikipedia article. It is quite tasty but difficult to eat!

Categories: Everyday purchases, Food | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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