More than 5 months after the Netherlands went into a lockdown in mid-December (government.nl, in English) I was finally able to return the two books that I still had on my account when the lockdown was suddenly announced. Well, perhaps I can’t describe it as sudden – you felt it coming as the shopping crowds just kept building after Black Friday. (Yes, the Netherlands celebrates that as a shopping holiday now as well.)
At the end of November and the first two weeks of December I started to return each book as soon as I finished it, just in case. That left only two books that I wasn’t done with yet. One was Stephen King’s The Outsider in English and the other was a Japanese novel translated into Dutch, Nakano’s handel in oude rommel (=The Nakano Thrift Shop). Since Monday, 19 April patrons have been allowed to return library books at any library in The Hague, 12:00-17:00 Monday through Saturday (link in Dutch). Patrons also have the option of requesting a bag of five books in a specific genre (this option has been available for the last few months).
Random photo above from the interior of the Starbucks in The Hague city centre. I haven’t had Starbucks in a few years, but on a whim Marco and I decided to grab a drink. I went for a vanilla Frappuccino. That was also on a whim; I spent most of my time in line thinking I was going for a caramel Frappuccino. Let me tell you: I don’t regret my change of heart. Or taste buds.
You can also see blue Nespresso cups in this close up:
Based on the pattern on the blue cups, I suspect that the flavor is Tokyo vivalto lungo, which has “delicate floral and fruity notes”. I’m not a big fan of Nespresso, though. I’d rather have a regular sized cup of coffee than an espresso.
Marco and I went for a walk this afternoon, ending at Lebkov for a cup of coffee (medium Americano for me, large cappuccino with a shot of hazelnut for Marco). I usually take a large cappuccino as well but since cafés are now only open for takeaway I noticed that the foam is all but gone by the time we get home. That does tend to affect the taste a bit. Therefore, medium Americano it is!
It was fairly cold out today (under the freezing point) but luckily I found a bit of protection hiding behind flowers sold at the shop next door. The Turfmarkt is known as a wind tunnel so this is always something to keep in mind.
Primary schools, daycare will reopen on February 8, minister confirms from dutchnews.nl. The Dutch government has always said that the re-opening of primary schools was their primary objective. There will be a press conference next Tuesday to see if any other measures could be lifted on 9 February. The next on the list to be lifted might be the curfew from 21:00 to 04:30. I think in an ideal world the government wants to keep the curfew in place, but that also risks more rioting and general unrest so it is hard to tell what they will do. My bet is that it will still in place a bit longer, but who knows?
Getting a virtual haircut: It’s a thing from nltimes.nl. A hairdresser in Limburg (southeast Netherlands) came up with an innovative way to keep his business afloat: you order a package of supplies and find a relative who wants to help cut your hair. The hairdresser and client then have a virtual hair cutting session where the hairdresser shows your relative step by step how to cut your hair using a “doll head” traditionally used to train new hairdressers.
Police in Leiden prevent riots by giving out free coffee, also from nltimes.nl. Over the last few weeks protests and riots have been announced online by inviting people to come to a certain location to “drink coffee” together. The police heard that some people wanted to “drink coffee” in certain areas of Leiden. Officers went to the areas with jugs of coffee and tea to help dispel the situation and show that they were there to talk with residents. Their plan seems to have worked – no unrest was reported in the city and only one person was arrested and taken to the police station. Bet he felt a bit embarrassed, being the only one to get arrested…
Last week Marco and I shared a giant cookie, with a cup of coffee on the side. The cookie was from FOAM over on Frederikstraat in The Hague. As you might have guessed ordering from FOAM has sort of become a weekly lockdown tradition these days.
Coffee and a chewy cherry chocolate cookie. Now that’s a dose of C’s (albeit not vitamin C).
Chewy, slightly gooey, thoroughly awesome.
In other news: Pandemic forces Artis to say goodbye to its lions from nltimes.nl. Artis, a zoo in Amsterdam, doesn’t have the funds currently to build a larger lion enclosure as planned. At least this way the three lions can stay together and have enough space to move about. It’s a sad but smart decision.
Earlier in September, Marco and I visited one of the local Bagels & Beans cafés to enjoy a lunch outside. It was a bit cold, but doable as long as I kept my jacket on. It was probably my first visit in 2020, although admittedly we usually only go a few times a year. Check out our chai lattes:
I always loved these plates, and pretty much forgot about them until I saw our coffees. I also had a bagel with butter and chocolate sprinkles, but I was decidedly not Dutch about it. If you’re Dutch, you spread on the butter and then pour the sprinkles on top. The butter is mainly there to help keep the sprinkles from falling off while you take a bite. I have no interest in butter and chocolate together, so I instead simply alternated which one I put on my bagel. Which did mean I sadly had some chocolate sprinkles left over, but c’est la vie.
It definitely showed that I haven’t been to a Bagels & Beans in a while. I forgot that you need to pay inside. Which worked on in the end, since we were also asked to leave our contact details for corona purposes. Unlike other places (with a QR code you scan) you simply wrote your details in a notebook with a pen.
In other news, The Hague library no longer requires online registration before visiting the library (article in Dutch from the library website). The rule only lasted about two days, but was temporarily required after the press conference last Monday. A few days later the library received status in The Hague’s emergency ordinance as a doorstroomlocatie, or basically a place where people walk through it to experience something or get something (museums, monuments and attraction parks are other examples). This was probably for the best, since the link above mentions that there were long lines outside of people waiting to get in. Face masks are still urgently advised the library, like all public indoor locations in the Netherlands.
Here is your Awww moment for the day. The first color photos of the panda cub born earlier this year in a Dutch zoo are available:
The panda definitely knows how to pose for the camera.
As noted in an earlier blog post, I stopped by the oliebollen stand in the city centre today (in the area of Blokker and Xenos). Luckily the stand is big enough for good social distancing – there are two lines in the middle, with exits on either side. I didn’t have too wait that long either. I ordered two oliebollen and four krentenbollen (oliebollen with raisins). The two regular ones are for me and the four krentenbollen are for Marco and Roger.
Preparing the goods… bag of oliebollen with a canister of powdered sugar. And here’s a look at the oliebollen with some coffee:
Not the best pictures in the world but you get the idea. The one on the left is a krentenbol and the one on the right is an oliebol. Normally we douse them with even more powdered sugar, but not this time. The dough itself is pretty sweet anyway.
The reason we can have oliebollen already is because The Hague (along with a few of the other larger Dutch cities) decided that oliebollen stands would be allowed to open a month earlier, from 1 October, rather than the usual 1 November. This is to help combat the loss of revenue due to all of the cancelled festivals this year, where oliebollen is also traditionally sold. Oliebollen sales will peak around New Year’s Eve (the busiest day of the year), although some stands will stay open through the end of January.
What can I say? I didn’t like coffee growing up. I actually didn’t start drinking it until after grad school, when I used to live in New York. Two things happened to change that:
Marco and his mom took a trip out to New York to see me, but I was warned she liked her coffee first thing in the morning. And since my previous residence was on the top of a very steep hill, walking to the nearby deli every morning was not an option. So I bought a cheap one-cup coffee maker. (Maybe I didn’t like coffee back then, but I did love smelling the fresh coffee grounds.)
In 2011 the Halloween nor’easter hit, which brought lots and lots of snow. Easily up to my knees. But the bigger problem was the lack of power: my apartment lost power for 3 or 4 days, which meant it was bitterly cold within a day inside my apartment. Let’s say it was something like 50F / 10C, but I don’t remember exactly anymore. I do remember that I spent the last night at a coworker’s because I just couldn’t get warm enough. And that cold in my bones stuck around for weeks. I started drinking coffee shortly thereafter to warm up and then once I moved to the Netherlands it became part of the evening routine.
In other news:
Good news! Diego the tortoise, father to hundreds and saviour of his species, finally retires from theguardian.com. Diego was one of 25 giant tortoises released from captivity recently. With his species threatened with extinction (he was one of only two males on his island, along with 12 females) he was moved to California’s San Diego zoo back in the 1960s. There have since been 2,000 giant tortoises born from a breeding program, with estimates saying that Diego was responsible for 800 of those young! Wow. He has been returned to the island he left as a teenager.
And continuing the animal theme, here is a YouTube video from the Dutch safaripark Beekse Bergen, where a extremely rare sort of deer was born late last month:
These sort of deer don’t live in the wild anymore, and there are about 1,500 in captivity (from 16 at its lowest).
Yesterday Marco and I took a long walk, skirting around the city centre to avoid crowds of people. We walked along the Zuidwal, which is both a street and a neighborhood within the larger Centrum neighborhood. For the most part it was easy to avoid others and it was a pretty walk along the canal. We did see a few boats drive past as well.
Near the end found ourselves near the Grote Kerk and spotted a café by the name of Anne and Max. I’ve seen it a lot although we’ve never gone to it. And yesterday was 1 June, the day restaurants and cafés were allowed to open again. After some pondering we did sit down at the terrace. None of the tables on our side were taken so it seemed safe enough. Still, it did feel weird as it was most likely our first terrace visit of the year due to the weather only being warm enough the last few weeks.
Above is a look at the menu with a closed one on the left and an open menu on the right. The light green insert on the left was added to talk about the changes in this new “corona time”. For instance, payment would be done at the table so you didn’t have to get up, and that walking paths had been made. Slightly surprising: the toilets were open, and with them promising they are disinfected every hour.
Marco ordered a Zindering (no idea how to translate that – if you know, leave a comment), which is an ice cold chai latte with an extra shot espresso. I had a ginger-lemongrass soda and we shared a slice of apple pie with whipped cream. Somehow we always end up ordering apple pie at new places. This apple pie was pretty good, although it was different than what I expected – I expected the top crumb to be a bit more crunchy. Still good, though.
Otherwise things seemed pretty normal. I wouldn’t say the waiter kept 1.5 meters distance perfectly, but a) that’s almost impossible b) the moments were limited to handing out the menus, receiving the food and paying.
The only thing that would have made the visit better would have been more sun. When you are moving around it isn’t too cold but sitting down meant it was easier to feel the wind every minute or so. Brr! I think businesses would have preferred more sun, but perhaps it was for the best as it meant that most places weren’t overflowing with guests. There was enough room in most places to take a seat right away and enjoy the goodies.