Daily Dutch living

Empty streets of The Hague (Or: Plenty of places to park your bike)

Recently Marco took a photo of the bike parking outside of Hema:

This was at the start of what is normally evening rush hour, as everyone heads home from work. Normally this area would be packed with bikes, crammed so tightly together that it would then be impossible to remove your bike once you returned from your shopping trip.

The area is normally so full that it there are ‘bike coaches’ which help you park your bike. Or bike coaches that stand around all day talking with each other… one of those two is true. Although one time I did see one of the coaches help an older lady diagnose a problem with her bike, so that was nice to see.

But still: the strange times continue, with no end in the near future.

The government launched a campaign today called ‘alleen samen’ which can be translated as either ‘only together’ or ‘alone together’. Basically reminding us that we are together in this – even when we must undertake so many actions alone (article in Dutch).

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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…

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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
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Helping hand on a hot day (Or: French restaurant LaSalle)

The Netherlands has been in the grips of a record-setting heat wave this week, with at least five provinces reaching 40C (104F). Due to the fact that The Hague is so close to the North Sea, we didn’t quite reach those temperatures – for us it was more like 36-37C (96-98F).

However, most people don’t have air conditioning in their homes. Why would you, when temperatures like this only happen a few days of the year? Luckily public buildings and work places tend to be at least climate controlled. On days like this it is beneficial to go into work rather than being at home, where the temperatures inside can easily hit 84-86F.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this table outside of LaSalle, a French restaurant here in The Hague city centre:

Free water (for both you and your pet) at La Salle

The sign says ‘Pak maar!’ or ‘Help yourself!’. They even thoughtfully put out a water bowl for pets, either dogs on a leash or neighborhood cats.

You have to understand that water fountains are almost unheard of in this country, both indoor and outdoor. The city and water company Dunea are trying to increase the amount of free water spots in the country, but that takes time.

To see free water on a record setting day – Thursday it was 40.7C (105F) in Gilze en Rijen (Google Maps) – is a step in the right direction.

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European elections 2019 (Or: Time to vote)

Well, time for Dutchies to vote that is. As an expat, I can’t vote. Every five years, European elections are held for the European parliament. 751 seats, of which 26 are for the Netherlands; 29 after UK leaves the EU.

Check out how long the candidate list is (!):

Voting list taped up at The Hague city hall

Voters receive the same list, just a bit smaller (but not that much smaller – it’s still almost impossible to fold back up!)

Only UK and the Netherlands vote today. The rest from the European lands vote tomorrow or in the weekend. Therefore official results won’t be announced until Sunday evening, although exit polls started coming in a few minutes ago. Should be interesting…

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Improvements by Albert Heijn (Or: Shorter receipts)

One of the better improvements for Albert Heijn, a local grocery store, is the option for self-scan. And not the version I’ve seen in the United States where you need to weigh each item as you scan it to make sure there’s no thievery going on. Here it is simply scan each item and then pay at the end. Though I do understand the need for the US system.

Self-scan at Albert Heijn is wonderful. It’s no longer horrible to go right after work, when its crowded and the lines are 5 to 7 customers long. Seriously – before self-scan I would always swear a bit if Marco asked me to pick up something after work, it was that bad. Those days are long gone, as I can count on one hand the times I’ve had to wait for an available self-scan register, and even that was never longer than 30 seconds.

The only problem with self-scan: You are required to print out a receipt, since you need to scan the receipt to allow the exit gates to open. I almost always said no to a receipt previously, when going through a “manned” line with a checkout worker. Why waste paper?

That is also now a thing of the past!

Longer, full receipt (for ONE item!) on the left, versus the short receipt on the right.

This week after paying I was greeted with the question “Would you like a full receipt, or only a short receipt to open the gates?” Very nice. You can see the difference above, with the bar code removed. A great improvement, Albert Heijn!

Oh, and for the people who read small font really well, yes, the receipt says “1 insecten”. I did not win or buy an insect, rather, Albert Heijn has a promotion where you can receive insect stickers and fake insect tattoos for every 10 euros spent. The receipt lets the worker know that I can receive 1 set because I’ve spent more than 10 euros.

Categories: Daily Dutch living, Everyday purchases | Tags: | 2 Comments

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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Gevulde speculaas time (Or: Who knew almond paste was so tasty?)

Last week Marco and I made gevulde speculaas (literally “filled speculaas”) which is a type of spiced biscuit filled with almond paste. In case my parents are wondering, this is what Marco and I brought over for Thanksgiving! The actual recipe came from a box of Koopmans mix.

One possible title for this one is “The day after”

The only thing we had a bit of trouble with was the thickness of the bottom and top dough. Easy enough to roll out, but then it was too wet to transfer it to the baking dish easily.

But was it delicious? Yes it was! Especially if you add a small spoonful of whipped cream on top, with a dusting of powdered speculaas spices…

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A small tribute to Chuck (Or: Near Central Station)

Not far from The Hague’s Central Station, a small monument for Chuck Deely has appeared. Chuck was a street musician who passed away two years ago today. Earlier in 2018 he received a mural on one of the tram tunnels (scroll down a bit to see the photo).

Memorial to Chuck Deely

This memorial can be found outside of the entrance to Rijnstraat 8. This building is across from the main entrance of The Hague’s Central Station, and houses many government ministries. After crossing the tram tracks and the small street, look for the white marble blocks on your left.

There’s no name of description of what this is, so you’d definitely need to be a local to know.

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A quirk of Dutch television (Or: You mean I have to stay up until midnight?)

I don’t know, this probably happens in other countries too. However, the first time I remembered encountering it was after I moved to the Netherlands.

Last night, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was on TV. It started at 8:30pm and ended at 10:30pm. Or so I thought… Around 10:20, I turned to Marco and said: “I don’t understand how this movie is going to end in 10 minutes. Kevin is just starting to prepare his offensive against those two robbers.” Marco thought for a moment and said: “Oh. I know what they are doing”, in a slightly offended tone. We looked it up:

Eek! It doesn’t end at all at 10:30. The TV provider just decided to skip a few programs in between. With a sinking heart, I realized I’d have to stay awake until 11:55pm to see the whole movie. I’m no spring chicken, so I decided there was no second half of the movie for me.

It’s not the first time this has happened – I remember our friend Roger mentioning how he hates that, since he would change the channel during the “intermission” programs and then forget to go back – but it was still annoying.

Oh well. My parents (and most of the US, who are able to watch the 24 hour TV marathon) will be happy to know there is a copy of A Christmas Story on the table, waiting to be watched. Repeatedly. It’s tradition!

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