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Thanksgiving in the States (Or: Photos of cold places)

A few weeks back Marco and I were in the States for Thanksgiving. First we went to Chicago to be tourist-y and then Indianapolis to see my folks again. Actually, Chicago was chosen because there are no direct flights from here to Indy, so we usually tack on an extra city somewhere…

Elmo, the Starbucks mascot at Schiphol airport!
Do you see the “miniature” plane on the roof? Cool!

It was a lot of fun, but I had a hard time adjusting to the cold that first day, which was around the freezing point, or just a bit warmer. After doing some tourist-y stuff near our hotel, we went to a Cheesecake Factory to try and keep me awake. This backfired, since the restaurant keeps their lighting so low I can barely see the menu. As a joke (mostly), Marco pulled out his phone to use the flashlight option. A joke, until we realized the couple across the aisle did the same…

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Categories: Holidays | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Homemade slow cooker beef stew (Or: Yummy goodness)

Yesterday Marco and I made a hearty beef stew in the slow cooker. Pure mostalgia. ūüôā With¬†Liefde & passie¬†bread from Albert Heijn (Love and passion). One of their freshly made breads from their bakery.

Homemade slowcooker beef stew with bread

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Christmas window displays (Or: Cuteness at Bijenkorf)

Check out this cute window display at Bijenkorf in The Hague:

Bijenkorf Christmas window display, The Hague, 2018

The cutest part is definitely the teddy bears trying to open the fridge on the right (this part was motorized, so the fridge door did open and close).

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

A new Christmas decoration (Or: Spotted at Primark)

Last week I bought my first Christmas decoration, this one at Primark. Marco and I usually buy 1-3 small things a year. I couldn’t resist this cute face and bell…

Christmas decoration at Primark in The Hague, 2018.jpeg

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

Oliebollenkraam sighting (Or: Temporary move from Spui to Grote Markt)

Public service announcement: please note the very awesome and tasty oliebollenkraam on the Spuiplein (which has its own Facebook page!) looks to have relocated to the Grote Markt this year:

Location of the Spui oliebollenkraam, The Hague, 2018

This is because of all the construction at the Spuiplein (article in Dutch, with photo), which seems to take over more and more space every week.

The Facebook page for the oliebollen stand says it should open on November 2nd. This is a very popular place to buy oliebollen. Oliebollen (literally “oil balls”) are sort of like donut balls, without any holes. They are typically served with raisins inside, unless you are a heretic like me that eats them plain. Here’s a look at how long the line gets on New Year’s Eve, back in 2014. This stand is popular! Or check out this 1 minute video.

And for the public transportation aficionados reading this (haha), the bus driving past is the old model – it is bus 61, which is a temporary line to take over tram 1 at least through the end of the year. They are busy doing work on the Scheveningseweg.

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

Girl with the pearl earring (Or: Keychain at VVV The Hague)

Over at VVV tourist information office, on the ground floor of the Central Library, you can find a rather special looking keychain of ‘Girl with the pearl earring’:

Girl with the pearl earring key chain at VVV The Hague

It looks pretty cool, although I can’t help but think she looks a bit annoyed at someone (in my opinion the shape of the dark brown eye piece makes it look like she is frowning).

Here’s a look at the actual painting on Wikipedia to compare.

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

Grote Kerk in Breda (Or: Step back in time)

As mentioned in my last blog post, Marco and I spent our 5th anniversary in Breda. One of the places we visited was the Grote Kerk (Church of Our Lady) which was built between 1410 (!) and 1547. The church serves as a mausoleum for the first generations of the Nassau family (a total of 17 family members being buried there). After the Spanish invaded Breda, the Nassau family began to use the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft instead.

Here are some of the photos which I took of this magnificent church:

Grote Kerk in Breda, chandeliers

Grote Kerk in Breda, prayer candles

close up of prayer candles in a secluded part of the church

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Categories: Breda, Culture | Tags: | 2 Comments

5th wedding anniversary (Or: A trip to Breda)

My oh my, how time flies. It’s been five years since Marco and I got married! This year we went to Breda for a few days. Marco chose the location and hotel secretly. I must say – he chose well!

Breda is a city relatively close to the border with Belgium, with about 180,00 inhabitants. The only times I had been there was to transfer from one train to another, so it was new to me.

We stayed at the lovely Bliss Boutique hotel in the city centre. I can highly recommend it! Marco booked through booking.com, and thus didn’t have a chance to select a specific suite. However, it worked out wonderfully as we were placed in the Long Island suite.

It was perfect for us, as it comes with a separate sitting area (pictured below), an eating area, a king-size bed, a bath and double shower… the list goes on and on. The location was also great, being right next to the Grote Kerk (Church of Our Lady) in the heart of the city.

We also got complimentary prosecco and chocolates upon arrival, a welcome surprise as we hadn’t mentioned anything about it being our anniversary!

Bliss Boutique hotel, Long Island Suite, Breda

sitting area

Window at Bliss Boutique hotel, Long Island Suite, Breda

Yes, there was even a wooden boat hanging from the ceiling. And beautiful windows which let the gorgeous sky in…

While walking to the hotel, we went through Valkenburg park. It was beautiful, and luckily we had gorgeous weather for the mini-trip. We were in Breda from Tuesday to Thursday last week. Thursday was coincidentally the last day of summer-like weather in the Netherlands. Friday the weather suddenly changed and brought cold, wind and rain. We didn’t even need our jackets while in Breda. So much good luck there!

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Categories: Breda, Marco&Niki | Tags: | 4 Comments

Kruidnoten (Or: The state of Christmas this year)

Back in 2013 I wrote a blog post called Kruidnoten (Or: Christmas comes earlier every year). That post mentioned how kruidnoten (Wikipedia) were readily available after September 1st. This candy is traditionally seen in the month of December, both for the Sinterklaas holiday on December 5 as well as Christmas.

This year they were definitely available by August 23, when this photo was taken in a local Hema. Heh.

Kruidnoten by Hema, August 2018.jpg

I give it another 5 years, and then they will be available everywhere by August 1st.

(And in case my parents are wondering, yes, we’ll bring some the next time we visit.)

Categories: Culture, Food, Holidays | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Cause and effect (Or: Train chaos by NS)

On Tuesday the train system here in the Netherlands, run by a company called Nederlandse Spoorwegen or more commonly NS for short, went to hell. Well, maybe not literally, but I am sure a lot passengers thought it was!

The craziness actually started around 17:45, when a 21-year-old shoplifter stole something from Albert Heijn at Schiphol airport and fled down the escalators to the train platform. As he noticed he was being chased – by the military police, due to shoplifting at a national airport! – he decided to jump into one of the train tunnels to get away. He was found and arrested anyway.

Amsterdam Centraal - stock photo from NS

Amsterdam Centraal – stock photo

But think about it – what happens when someone runs onto the tracks? The trains are immediately stopped, of course. Anything in the general vicinity. That was the begin of the chaos – Schiphol is an important hub for both travelers entering and leaving the country. But no, it gets even worse.

About an hour later, NS tweets there is a major issue with the railroad switches (which determine what direction a train should go in, this platform or that platform; this direction or that direction) in and around Amsterdam. Because of this, no trains can enter or leave the city. Amsterdam isn’t that far from Schiphol airport – about 15 minutes by train, give or take. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Around 20:00, NS reports that the situation has been fixed and they are bringing the system back online. Around 20:30, this proves not to be the case, with the train system around Amsterdam still down. By 22:00, NS has about 70,000 stranded passengers on its hands and is forced to shut down a train station at Amsterdam-zuid (Amsterdam south) because of overcrowding on the platform.

Passengers begin referencing a seldom used hashtag, #treinpoolen (car pools for train passengers) to try and get car pools organized for people to get in and out of the city. NS even references it¬†in a tweet. It’s too complicated to bring in buses to get people home, since it is too overcrowded and most of the buses are in use elsewhere in the country for other ongoing construction projects. The NS does however promise to get the remaining passengers home that night, with roughly one train running every hour (manually) in each of the directions from Amsterdam. Around about 03:30 that night, the system is fully cleaned and restarted. The only hinderance left is that some trains might be shorter than normal Wednesday morning, since they aren’t in the right starting place anymore. The NS promises to look into the situation.

Later on Wednesday the report is released with the cause of the railway chaos (article in Dutch). It turns out that the thief running into the train tunnels and the major issue with railroad switches around Amsterdam are connected. Cause and effect. When the trains around Schiphol were forced to stop and remain in their current position, one of the trains found itself in a very unlucky place. It was sitting right above the area where the software determines whether a train goes this way or that way. The software thought that a train was repeatedly arriving, and so it repeatedly passed information about which platform to go to. Just over 32,000 times, or 32,768 in exact terms. With 16-bit software, this causes an integer overflow. At the same time, a worker tried to add a platform number by hand for this train. The two events together caused a minor meltdown. Here’s the official article about the cause (still in Dutch).

The crash caused some corruption in the data. Around 20:00, the corrupt data seemed to be removed, but when the system was re-started this was not the case. By 03:30 that night, the system had been fully cleaned and brought back online, just in time for the morning rush hour.

Categories: Amsterdam, Daily Dutch living, Transportation | Tags: | 4 Comments

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