And a few days ago I reported on Sinterklaas’ plan to arrive at a non-existent village to prevent crowds of parents and kids from going there in these corona times. That’s the national Sinterklaas, but a lot of cities have their own local Sinterklaases as well. Check out this blog post that I wrote about the 2013 parade in The Hague.
Well, this year the story is that the boat of Sinterklaas had some favorable winds during its journey from Spain to The Hague’s harbor, so he unexpectedly arrived early. The mayor advised him to go into a short quarantine at an undisclosed location, which he did. Sinterklaas will receive a corona test on Saturday so that he can participate in Sunday’s parade (which children can watch on TV at home). Read more (in Dutch) at omroepwest.nl.
Here’s another thing that has changed this year due to the corona crisis: Sinterklaas will arrive in Zwalk this year. But good luck finding it, because Zwalk doesn’t exist on any maps.
That’s right – the organization behind Sinterklaas (a Dutch holiday celebrated on December 5) has cleverly chosen to have him arrive in a fictional town. That way you avoid any crowds and super spreader events. Usually 20,000-30,000 children and parents watch him arrive in a different city each year. Of course, everything was probably taped a month or two ago, but this way you prevent any and all traffic to the town.
This news was announced during the first episode of the Sinterklaasjournaal (literally “Sinterklaas news”) last night. That is a 10 minute program that will air daily until December 5. (Side note: there are so many toy commercials before and after this show – it is insane!).
The mayor of the fictional town asked children to send their drawings to Sinterklaasjournaal so that they could take part in the fun without being there physically.
The lady on the right is Dieuwertje Blok, the presentator of the show. The show is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year – and she has been the presentator since the beginning.
Hotel Huis ter Duin has put up the ‘tallest Christmas tree of the Randstad area’. The tree is 17 meters tall (55 feet). It is of course a bit too early to be thinking about Christmas decorations – but not really. Check out this video:
We haven’t put up the Christmas tree yet, but we do have one or two things out. Including a painting we brought last year (complete with LED lights):
We found it in a pop-up Christmas store in Eindhoven. It looks nice, doesn’t it?
Marco and I decided to risk it and go to Xenos and Bijenkorf (a high end department store) today. It was probably the first time I stepped foot in Bijenkorf this year. And actually it wasn’t too bad. I thought it it would be really busy, especially on a Sunday afternoon, but Xenos was actually busier.
Bijenkorf had an interesting setup for the escalators: pieces of cardboard taped to the side of the escalator which reminded you to stand on the other side (as far away as possible from the opposite escalator). While they are taped securely to the elevator it was done in such a way that someone standing on the wrong side won’t rip them out. I didn’t take a photo, however.
The good news is that the Christmas section isn’t that busy on November 1st. Who knew?
It is another rainy day, although that seems to matter less when you are working from home. Luckily it was dry when I went out this morning to do some grocery shopping. Otherwise it is a pretty quiet Thursday and we’re just counting the days (or day) until the weekend.
Here are some of the stories that I’ve seen in the news lately:
Coronavirus reporting again hit by IT issues but growth does seem to have slowed by dutchnews.nl. The issues occurred twice in the past week, meaning that the number of cases reported was inaccurate. They aren’t missing any data, it just comes a day or two later than it should. The last few days the number of cases has only risen by a little bit (we’re just over 10,000). What really matters, however, is getting the hospital intakes down so that more people leave the hospital than enter it. And we are not quite there yet.
CASA is a home goods store on the Grote Marktstraat. I decided to take a few photos of their Christmas display for you:
And here’s a look from the escalator:
I don’t think it will be that much longer before we put up our Christmas tree. We’re home a lot these days, so why not make it extra festive?
In other news:
You are no longer allowed to sit on the stairs at the Spuimarkt (article in Dutch from indebuurt.nl). The stairs are part of the Grote Marktstraat; it is one of the exits for the Pathé movie theatre. I only ever use the escalator so it doesn’t affect me either way. The reason? There’s no way to keep 1.5 meters distance because so many teenagers sit there (which also means the area needs more places to sit, but I digress).
Marco took this photo for me of the Hema in The Hague’s city centre. It shows a wall of chocolate Sinterklaas letters being used to block off what was formerly the entrance to Hema’s restaurant:
Hema’s restaurant is closed right now due to the corona regulations in the Netherlands. All restaurants and cafés are closed with the exception of takeaway. But takeaway doesn’t make much sense at the Hema restaurant so it is completely closed.
And what better way is there to to block off an entrance? It’s quite clever – it immediately makes the space more festive and takes attention away from the reasons why it needed to be closed in the first place. Here’s a look at the store when the restaurant redesign first opened back in early 2015:
If you need a refresher on Sinterklaas letters, they are literally large letters of chocolate, from A all the way to Z. They usually come in the flavors milk, dark, white and hazelnut. They are either plain or covered in fancy designs. If they are a gift for someone, then you normally buy the letter that corresponds with the first letter of the receipt’s name (N for Niki, and so forth). Or a lot of people buy “S” for Sinterklaas. But be warned: if you wait until the day before Sinterklaas to buy one, there will probably only be Q’s left!
This is to be expected; people are working from home more often and most people won’t be going on holiday this year. I read somewhere that some people are purchasing multiple Christmas trees so that they have one for each room. The only rule I have is that we need to wait until November before we bring out the Christmas decorations. November 1st, that is…
Amsterdam to use flowers to stop cyclists chaining bikes to bridges from theguardian.com. Like it or not, bikes do get in the way often. And one of the places you will always, always see bikes is chained to a canal bridge. The worst part? It doesn’t just spoil the view, it also leaves less room for pedestrians which means they are more likely to walk in the road.
Personally I don’t remember having this issue in Amsterdam but I did experience it in Utrecht. I felt like I was walking in the street at least half of the time, which definitely wasn’t fun.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, normally it is perfectly fine in the Netherlands to have alcohol outside (both in your possession and to consume it). Of course, there are some exceptions – the decision is made by each city and written into their rules. But the Dutch government said yesterday that during the partial lockdown you are not allowed to buy alcohol after 20:00 and you can be fined for having it in your possession or consuming it outside after 20:00.
Originally the same rule applied to soft drugs (5 grams or less of marijuana, weed, that kind of stuff) during the partial lockdown, but various news outlets are now reporting that the rule has been lifted for soft drugs because it contradicts the already existing rule about soft drug use. So it is again legal to have and use a (very small) amount of soft drugs after 20:00, but not drink alcohol outside. See also this article in Dutch from parool.nl. This country is a bit weird sometimes!
And for something light-hearted: Lichtjesavond Delft gaat door met thuispakket en live-uitzending from omroepwest.nl. In other words, Delft’s December light festival will go ahead without spectators, but it will be shown live on TV. The festival is where a few thousand lights on a Christmas tree are turned on at the same moment. Think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Oh, and if you really want to get into the spirit you can order an extra package with local products, chocolate milk, a game to play after the broadcast, etc.
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.
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!)