Holidays

Christmas decorations at Casa (Or: Reminders of my childhood)

Earlier this month I took a photo of Christmas decorations at a local homeware store called Casa (Dutch website). This was of course before the lockdown started and stores were closed, although pickup and delivery are still allowed.

I like the toy in the front, of an pendulum-based amusement ride. It reminds me of the Zipper ride (English Wikipedia) which is an even crazier design where your individual carriage also flipped while the ride spins. When I was just a kid, my mom would occasionally go on the Zipper when the carnival was in town (sometimes with my cousin Roxanne, I think?). I was always pretty shocked by this, as I never wanted to go anywhere near the contraption. I liked watching others go on it, though. From a safe distance. At some point as I grew up Mom stopped going on it, as it can get pretty painful to ride it of course. But whenever I see a ride like that I always think of her riding it.

As a kid my biggest accomplishment was riding the Tower of Terror. Twice. I was pretty proud of that. But I did skip on the (admittedly wimpy) Thunder Mountain roller coaster, until years later when Marco and I went on it. The first time around I kept my eyes tightly shut and kept whispering “No no no”. Oh, and I watched a few YouTube videos to help me get a sense of where all the turns would be before getting on it. Things went much better after that first time and I decided it was safe to actually look around on the second ride. Heh.

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A tower of sugary goodness (Or: Oliebollen and powdered sugar)

Spotted at an Albert Heijn in The Hague:

It is a tower of oliebollen mix and powdered sugar canisters! The sign reads “Enjoy the Christmas weekend”. A lot of oliebollen gets made and consumed around Christmas and New Years. Here is a look at the oliebollen Marco and I made for New Year’s Eve 2020.

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Christmas decorations at Bijenkorf (Or: 2021 edition)

Here is a quick look at the Christmas decorations at Bijenkorf, a high-end store here in The Hague. They are also the store with the beautiful Christmas window displays each year; see also this year’s post about those.

First off, the very tall Christmas tree (spanning about 4 floors) which changes every year. They usually put it up before Sinterklaas and decorate it for that December 5 holiday first, but I didn’t get any pictures of those decorations this year. Also, sorry about the not getting closer to take the photo :), but times like this bring out my slight fear of heights!

Random Christmas table display.

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At the movies (Or: Christmas tree at Pathé)

Marco, Roger and I were able to squeeze in one last movie on Saturday morning before the lockdown arrived on Sunday. We booked the tickets for Spider-Man: No Way Home a week previously, as soon as they went on sale. We even had to wait in a virtual queue for an hour to get them! In the end, Roger was the lucky one who was able to get into the site and book tickets (after some technical difficulties as the website and app kept crashing due to the Spider-Man demand). They were great seats, too.

I must say the movie theatre itself was definitely doing everything they could to take it a safe experience. You were required to show your CoronaCheck app (vaccinated, tested or recovered) to get in and wear a facemack until you were sitting in your seat. There was also social distancing in the theater; the seats around your group’s purchase were blocked out automatically and not available to purchase.

Since we are Marvel geeks we already had tickets for a second showing for Spider-Man on Sunday morning, but we will unfortunately get an automatic refund for those. We understand how lucky we were to be able to see it on Saturday, even. And Mom, if you’re reading this: what Marco and I told you about Spider-Man was an integral part of the movie! (“Hey Mom, did you know…?”)

Christmas tree at Pathé Spui near the drink/food area. Actually it is right next to the Starbucks coffee machines. And the rooster on the right side is because Pathe’s logo is a rooster.

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Christmas tree in De Passage (Or: 2021 edition)

It must be December because the Christmas tree is back in De Passage! (aka The Passage, a covered shopping area in the city centre of The Hague).

The cool thing about De Passage is that is more of a triangle shaped hallway. As you can see above the tree is placed at the intersection of those three parts, so it is always visible when you enter.

Oh, and a few months back they did remove the greenery which was separating the walkway in De Passage (corona measures). Though I wouldn’t be surprised if it came back. Yesterday one of the local Albert Heijn supermarkets had a security guard posted outside the entrance checking that everyone was wearing a facemark and this evening a local Jumbo supermarket had a line of about 15 people waiting to get in, probably because they started putting a limit on the number of people who could be inside at the same time. I haven’t seen those measures since the first half of 2020.

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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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We have given in (Or: Time for oliebollen)

Earlier this month I had mentioned that oliebollen stands started appearing on 1 October, the first day they were allowed to do so. Marco finally gave in today (16 October) and purchased an oliebol for me and a krentenbol for himself, aka an oliebol with raisins. It still annoys Marco that the names changed over the years. It used to be that if you ordered an oliebol you would get a doughnut-like thing with raisins. If you wanted the version without raisins you had to say “oliebol without raisins”. Oh well…

Of course I had already taken a few bites when I remembered that I wanted to take a photo for a blog post, so I had to strategically position it so that you couldn’t really tell that about 15% was missing…

Marco and I either make our oliebollen ourselves or we order it from Vermolen in the city centre. I found this article about the 2021 situation (in Dutch from ad.nl): Oliebollen van Vermolen toch op Grote Marktstraat, gemeente verandert van gedachte. Quick summary: this oliebollen stand was always found at the Spui. However, for the last three years the stand was moved to the end of Grote Markt, about 100-150 meters away but much closer to the crowds of shoppers. It was moved due to the ongoing construction at the Spui for the Amare building. Officially the construction is complete and the Amare building is open, but things are still in a bit of flux in the area. The owner of the oliebollen stand first heard last week that he had to move back to his old location this year, but after a bit of campaigning at city hall (a lot of the politicians stop by for his oliebollen) he heard that he was indeed able to open at the Grote Marktstraat this year. Next year is still up for debate – he might need to move back to the Spui then.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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Oliebollen (Or: It must be October)

Last year it was a huge decision to let the oliebollen stands open a month earlier, on 1 October, due to missed income (no festivals were being held, etc.). This year they also opened a month earlier, from yesterday. But this was more of a surprise as it wasn’t splashed everywhere on the news. The stands are usually allowed to be open between 1 November and mid-to-late January as oliebollen is a treat for Christmas and New Years.

But it is good news to see that the stand is back in the city centre, at the end of the Grote Markt shopping street (across from the public library). And perhaps they will be allowed to stay here; they moved to this spot some years back due to the construction around the Amare building. But construction of the Amare building is complete (previous blog post) so that is a good sign for the oliebollen stand.

In case you have no clue what oliebollen are, here is the page on English Wikipedia. Just try and read that without drooling.

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August (Or: Did you know it is already time for Sinterklaas?)

Marco and I visited Action today. Action (English Wikipedia) is a cheap store, kind of like Dollar General in the US without saying everything is a dollar.

Imagine my surprise (okay, not really) when we saw that Action was selling kruidnoten (English Wikipedia) already. Although I know Roger already saw some at the beginning of this month. Kruidnoten is a hard cookie-like confectionery sold in the time leading up to the Sinterklaas holiday on 5 December. These days it starts appearing in August, and 2021 was no exception.

They also had other Sinterklaas items for sale:

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Orange, orange, orange (Or: Cheese and nuts for King’s Day)

Over the weekend the intercom unexpectedly buzzed. It turned out to be a surprise package from work. Inside were gifts to celebrate King’s Day with.

Think of things like a toxically orange lei (you can just see it hidden behind the orange ballons), nuts, cheese blocks, Valencian orange tonic water, and a game of tic tac toe with wooden blocks. Oh, and an elderberry syrup mixture to stir into your water.

The two drinks were Aperol Spritz, an Italian drink (aperol, sparkling water and prosecco). They actually weren’t part of the package. I still had leftover aperol spritz from last year when I celebrated King’s Day with my coworkers! Virtually, of course. Luckily the bottle is now empty. It’s an okay drink… once a year?

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