The Hague

Lazy weekend (Or: Games and books)

I’m all in favor of a lazy weekend myself. Even if the reason it is so lazy is because we are trying to stay inside more often. Breakfast for Marco and I was brioche bread (a type of sweet bread). I toasted mine and added peanut butter, and Marco had one with the more traditional Dutch butter and hagelslag. That’s chocolate sprinkles for any American readers.

I finished a few of the books I was reading: The Institute by Stephen King. It was pretty good – just the right amount of horror for an October read. Although it reminded me a lot of his other book The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Both main characters are kids, and both suffer a lot of mental and physical pain. (I admitted to Marco that I was skipping ahead a bit at times just to get a broad sense of where the storyline was before heading back to where I was.)

I also finished the other perfect-for-October horror read The Graveyard Apartment by Japanese author Mariko Koike. It was much slower pace and there were a few elements or character actions that took me out of the story. But I think the characters will stick with me for awhile.

Gaming wise – I’m wrapping up an Xbox game called Coffee Talk. It’s a visual novel by an Indonesian gaming studio. It is about exactly what it sounds like – you’re a barista who listens to others’ problems and makes coffee for them while you do. I feel like this game has taught me a lot of coffee recipes… Cinnamon ginger coffee, anyone?

Oh, and the resuable face masks I got from Uniqlo yesterday are great. They fit much better than the ones I had before and the fabric does indeed feel much more breathable.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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Rainy days (Or: Plein in The Hague)

Last weekend I was a bit too early getting outside and had to wait for a local store to open, so I decided to take a walk. I took a photo of the Plein while dodging rain drops:

This is the same Plein that I was talking about during yesterday’s blog post, with Dutchies partying minutes before the partial lockdown started. I serendipitously ran into a coworker right after taking this photo, so that was unexpected and nice.

But, I must celebrate the fact that it has finally been dry the last few days! I think we’ve had rain every day for the last three weeks or so. My rain jacket certainly felt loved.

Michelin star restaurant stops sly scheme to skirt Covid rules from nltimes.nl. During the partial lockdown restaurants and cafes are closed except for takeaway. An exception to that rule is hotel restaurants which can remain open to feed guests. A restaurant and hotel decided to create a package where you pay 10 euros extra to be registered as a hotel guest, although you don’t stay overnight. The 10 euro lets you eat at the restaurant – but you need to make sure you use the hotel entrance to access the restaurant. Heh.

And here is a short article in Dutch from omroepwest.nl, because it’s a cute story: Hond pakt in z’n eentje de bus en eindigt op politiebureau (Dog takes the bus alone and ends up at the police station). A bus driver noticed a dog in her bus Wednesday evening, but didn’t think anything of it because there were other passengers in the bus. Until the driver got to her last stop, with no passengers left, and noticed the dog was still there. The story has a happy ending: she took the dog to the police station where its chip was scanned. As the article writes “The fare skipper got a warning and a free ride home to its owners”.

The best part? The image in the article shows the dog, its face not visible behind a seat. The caption reads: “The dog didn’t want to be recognized in the photo”.

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The Hague in the international news (Or: How dumb can you be?)

Late last night I saw a story on Omroep West, a local news website, with a link to this video on Twitter:

The video is from a BBC correspondent. It shows Dutchies partying at 21:35 last night, right before the partial lockdown went into effect, closing restaurants for four weeks. Sure, let’s get some dance music going and have a great old time… That’s perfectly fine. Idiots. The craziest part? This is at the Plein in The Hague, which is literally at the doorstep of the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives). Politicians were discussing the particulars of emergency corona law at the same moment these folks were partying right outside.

The owner says it was a combination of the wrong music, saying goodbye to restaurants and cafés, and emotion (omroepwest.nl article in Dutch). There is also an article in English at nltimes.nl: Parties held outside parliament as Dutch pubs close for lockdown.

On a related note: Berlin gives middle finger to anti-maskers in tourism agency ad from theguardian.com. It is exactly what you think it is. Though I try not to pass judgement on those without a mask, since there are valid reasons that someone cannot wear one. But I reserve the right to roll my eyes at people who have a mask on but do not wear it correctly. No, I don’t want to see your nose right now!

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Anyone up for gourmetten? (Or: Fun times in October)

Another “Wow. Is it that time already?” type posts. Next week’s Albert Heijn discount flyer includes discounts on meat for gourmetten. In October. Does anyone remember if that is actually normal?

Like my post about the Christmas display at the CASA store, I am not against this. However, gourmetten is a social activity so you’re more likely to invite people over to your house. Which doesn’t sound that good in corona times.

New Year’s Eve 2013

But, one step back: there’s no good translation of gourmetten in English, but it is sort of like an indoors barbecue. You have a special grill or baking plate which you place in the centre of the table. You can grill almost anything you want (meat, fish, veggie meat, bell peppers, mushrooms, pineapples…). Generally the meat goes on the top. There are also 6 to 8 slots underneath with ‘little pans’ where you put the more fragile stuff like veggies and mushrooms, or even pancake batter to make pancakes. Add some baguette bread with butter and other toppings and you are set for the evening. But generally gourmetten is very popular at Easter, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, not in October. (Or sometimes you can request it for your birthday. I think I did that one year!)

Christmas 2012 (check out the mini pans underneath)

Hmmm. Gourmetten, anyone?

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Rainy days (Or: October is upon us)

Rain rain rain. That’s all it does these days. It’s cold and wet and dreary and (even without the corona issues) it would be the perfect time to stay inside.

This morning I searched my drawer for an appropriate sweater to wear. I don’t have many – I found one, which is actually one more than I expected to find. I don’t usually wear sweaters, but maybe that will change now that I am at home and not in a climate controlled workplace. We’ll see…

Some interesting things I came across today:

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A vision for the future (Or: New plans for The Hague’s Central Library)

Plans for redesigning the interior of The Hague’s Central Library made the news recently. The building which houses the library and the city hall celebrated its 25th anniversary last month. it was opened by then Queen Beatrix on 8 September 1995. It’s an interesting building, having been given the nickname Ijspaleis (Ice palace) by locals.

The original architect (American Richard Meier) knew exactly what he wanted and didn’t want any changes at all, which is why a plan to redesign the interior is so surprising. But the architects in charge of this project admit problems with the design – the entrance is hidden and it looks more like an office than a library. I definitely agree with that!

The redesign will focus on the entrance, the café and the children’s area. There will also be a new debate space on the fifth and sixth floors and a rooftop terrace. Actually, I think there is a terrace already but it’s not in use at the moment.

Minder boeken in Haagse bieb van de toekomst (omroepwest.nl, in Dutch)

Mecanoo designs masterplan for The Hague Central Library (mecanoo.nl). Click “View project” at the bottom of the page to see a few additional photos.

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A ride of gold (Or: Golden carriage to be on display at Amsterdam museum)

Have you heard of the Dutch golden carriage? It was in the news this week See also this dutchnews.nl article: Gouden Koets may no longer be used on budget day amid slavery controversy. The gouden koets or golden carriage is one of two carriages the King has at his disposal. Traditionally it makes an appearance at least once a year at Prinsjesdag, which happens on the third Tuesday each September – next week, then.

Gouden koets verlaat het binnenhof / Golden carriage leaves the Binnenhof. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

On this day the King takes a carriage ride from the Dutch Noordeinde Palace to the Ridderzaal in the Binnenhof before delivering a speech to the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives. Normally the golden carriage is used for this carriage ride, but they also have a backup glass carriage. This is a good thing because the golden carriage is currently being restored (it was gifted to Queen Wilhelmina in 1896 after all!). Once the restoration is complete the golden carriage will be on display at the Amsterdam Museum next year from June to November.

That means it will not be available next year for Prinsesdag in September. However that seems to be the plan all along due to some unexpected controversy. One of the door panels depicts a racist scene, with dark-skinned persons bowing and offering gifts to a white woman. There’s also the thought that since millions of euros were spent of this restoration it is probably better that it not be used during the parade anymore. We shall see.

Luckily they still have the glass carriage at their disposal…

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SpiZe (Or: First time back in a restaurant)

Well, Marco and I can add “went back to a restaurant” to our lists – on Sunday we met up with Roger and his mom to enjoy Thai food at the SpiZe restaurant. Yes, the Z is officially capitalized in their name.

I had Keng Massman: The menu description is: Tender sliced beef in Thai brown curry with coconut milk, potatoes, cashew nuts and onions. I can definitely recommend it.

Above is Marco’s dessert – spekkoek (Indonesian layer cake) with pandan ice cream. Yum!

And how was our first trip to a restaurant in these corona times? Not too bad, actually. The official rule in the Netherlands is that two or more households need to keep 1.5 meters distance from each other inside a restaurant. SpiZe requests that if you fall into this category you should send an email to them (versus placing an online reservation). That way they can seat the party at one of the tables by the window. These tables are definitely wider which helps you keep your distance.

Between each table was a glass shield, although I can’t remember if they were always there. There were also arrows on the floor telling you which direction you could walk in. Roger also received information and a QR code to scan so that he could register the group online and answer the obligatory health-related questions.

It’s not perfect, but it’s probably as close as you can get while still having a relatively normal restaurant experience. I’m definitely glad we went as the food and company was good.

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New use for the old PostNL location (Or: Another Amazing Oriental in The Hague)

Yesterday while waiting for Marco I spotted a new addition to the grocery store scene: another Amazing Oriental location would be popping up in The Hague. This one was going to take over the space left vacant by PostNL:

Amazing Oriental is an Asian supermarket with over 20 locations in The Netherlands. At this point I can’t imagine doing without it. For instance, tonight we had wokgroente (vegetables in the wok) and the sauce we chose was ponzu sauce. It is a thin citrus-based Japanese sauce with a tart aftertaste. In this varation we added a bit of lime juice, sesame oil and soy sauce to spice things up a bit more. Yummmm.

The interesting thing about PostNL (the Dutch postal service) is that this location was literally the last remaining post office in the Netherlands (article from ad.nl in Dutch). It closed in November 2018. Unfortunately these days all PostNL locations are mini locations found in other, existing stores. It does make it easier to pick up packages, though. Speaking of which, I do have to go pick up a package tomorrow…

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Bird and flowers (Or: New graffiti in the Wagenstraat)

Marco and I spotted some beautiful graffiti in the Wagenstraat in The Hague’s city centre.

Beautiful, isn’t it? if you live in The Hague and you want to check it out yourself, go to the Wagenstraat and then find the side street called Wagenstraat (no, that’s not a typo). The side street is around the corner from a Chinese restaurant, Kaa Luu Palace.

For something completely different, check out this article over at dutchnews.nl: Cameras in Veluwe capture clearest footage of wolf in NL to date. Yep, wolves! In the Netherlands. Yikes. But good for the ecosystem. The Veluwe is a hilly, forest-rich area in the Gelderland province of the Netherlands. See also the Wikipedia article about the Veluwe in English. It sounds like a pretty relaxing place to visit. If you avoid the wolves that is!

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