Marco received a surprise bouquet of flowers this afternoon from work. He and others from his group were recognized for the work they had done on a big project which is wrapping up.
Marco and I were pretty lucky. We actually threw out our few remaining vases late last year, planning to replace them at some point. Of course we never got around to it. (Neither of us really have a green thumb so we don’t usually have flowers around. I’ll be happy if it survives the week!) After some pondering, I noticed we had an empty lemonade dispenser with a tap (this one, from xenos.nl), so I quickly rinsed it out and used that. And it works perfectly! And it looks a bit cute if I say so myself.
It’s still not that warm yet in the Netherlands. Maybe 10C (50F), depending on the day? But you can still find color if you wander through the city centre. For example these flowers at the Rabbijn Maarsenplein (a plaza):
The heavy stone planters were added by the city sometime this month, as they weren’t there the last time I wandered through this area. (You can see the major shopping street Grote Marktstraat in the far distance.)
The chips brand Lay’s has three new flavors in the Netherlands: Subway teriyaki, KFC original recipe chicken and Pizza Hut Margherita (lays.nl). I haven’t seen the flavors “in the wild” yet, but it is only a matter of time. Starting in May if you buy a bag you can use it to get your second meal free at that restaurant. Lays is known for some weird flavors. One that managed to stick around permanently in this country was “baguette with herb butter” (stokbrood met kruidenboter).
Today’s photo is from Marco, taken earlier this month. It shows a flock of pigeons enjoying a bit of sun in The Hague:
He said they didn’t really move. They just sat there, puffing out their chests and (presumably) enjoying a rare moment of sunshine. By the locks of it they were smart enough not to go into the street and smart enough to stay out of the bike path (marked in red).
Just sitting there. Doing nothing. Sounds nice, right?
Earlier this morning I was walking through the Albert Heijn when I noticed a sign near the cheese section, apologizing for the less than spectacular stock. Indeed, there were a lot of gaps and not much cheese to speak of. I didn’t think much of it since cheese wasn’t on my grocery list today.
In public transportation news: Amsterdam’s metro lines 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54 have been stopped since about 17:30 today due to a technical failure in one of their new systems (nos.nl in Dutch). The issue is in the new traffic control system that they only started using yesterday.
In corona news: Ministers ‘consider coronavirus vaccine rethink’ after AstraZeneca chaos from dutchnews.nl. There is a lot of controversy around AstraZeneca right now in the Netherlands (and Europe in general). First it was not allowed to be given to 65+, then there were rare cases of rare blood clots mostly see in women under the age of 60 across Europe, and now the vaccine can’t be given to anyone under 60 but can be given to anyone older than that. The same national health council who said “don’t give it to people under 60” last week is now considering advising the government that people under 60 should be allowed to choose whether they want AstraZeneca or not.
Oh, and just to show you how weird the weather has been lately: we had more snow and hail this morning. It started coming down right just as I ducked inside Albert Heijn, but unfortunately I was not met with blue skies and white clouds when I left 15 minutes later. Boo. Who expects weather like this in mid-April?
I wouldn’t call what we got “lots of snow” per se, more a mix of hail and slush. Heavy on the hail part.
It is sort of weird weather where it is dozens of tiny storms flashing across the country, so you might have 2 minutes of hail, then 45 minutes of nothing and grayish skies, 5 minutes of vibrant blue skies and then another 2 minutes of hail. I was woken up early this morning at 03:45 to extremely loud hail smashing against the window. Marco slept through it all, of course!
The cold arctic blast also means that when the clouds disappear, you get to see lovely blue skies. Briefly. For a moment. See also this tweet:
You know it is Spring when the sunscreen is on display at the local Albert Heijn. In this case it was on display at the self-service registers, which might make you think that the coming temperatures will be blazing hot, like 36C/100F. Nope. We are looking at around 22C/72 F for today and tomorrow before the temperature drops again. Don’t get me wrong – sunscreen is still needed at those temperatures if you spend enough time outside. I just always find it funny when I see sunscreen on display in the Netherlands.
I also wanted to complain about how expensive sun screen was here in comparison to America, but after quickly checking Walgreens I realized that it is pretty much expensive in both places. Who knew. I don’t go through sunscreen that quickly, that’s for sure!
I returned to the Malieveld for a long walk for the first time in months. It is a large grass field just outside of The Hague’s Central station where events are held. It reminds me of last fall when they were setting up for the carnival. Apparently that was in September – time really does fly, it seems.
On the way to Malieveld I spotted a horse-drawn carriage:
While you do have the opportunity to take horse-drawn carriage rides, it is not something you see every day. I only see them a few times of the year. I am also pleased to report that I walk at the speed of a slow horse-drawn carriage, apparently. Or actually I was slightly faster. I think they turned right before entering the Malieveld to go into the Koekamp, probably to let the tourists take pictures of the deer. (Feel free to click the link again if you want to see cute pictures of deer.)
In other news: Dutch clubbers hit the dancefloor for study into easing lockdown from theguardian.com. If I remember correctly this is one of the events where the tickets were gone in 20 minutes. You have to have a negative test to enter the event, and there is also random “fast” testing at the door as well. In theory you also need to get yourself tested within 5 days after the event, but not everyone does. During the event you are divided into groups, each group with a different level of corona measures (face mask, no face mask, concessions at seat, you can get concessions yourself, etc.) Each visitor has to wear a device as well to track their movements. It will be interesting to see what data comes out of it.
The purple, yellow and white flowers bloom every year for a few weeks and always bring a bit of color to the area. Check out where Lange Voorhout is on Google Maps. It is around the corner from the Binnenhof, Tweede Kamer, and the Hofvijver (pond).
As usually happens these days, the Netherlands broke another record today with the warmest 21 February ever (article from omroepwest.nl in Dutch). The previous record was 14.8C (59F), although temperatures are expected to rise to 16-17C (60-62F) today.
I took a walk this morning around the city centre, stopping to take a photo of the Plein and the statue of Willem van Oranje:
There were plenty of places to soak in some sun today. You can check out the boulevard webcam at scheveningenlive.nl. Fairly busy, both in terms of pedestrians and traffic.
While my winter jacket was perfectly acceptable this morning, it was less acceptable in the afternoon when I went out for a longer walk. It is still jacket weather, of course. But you can feel Spring inching in, however briefly. Which makes sense if we really do hit 16-17C or 60-62F this weekend.
Quick note on the curfew: Dutch curfew to remain in effect for at least a week while court considers verdict from nltimes.nl. it is a stark contrast with how crazy Tuesday was – no more curfew, maybe we have one still, we do indeed. And now they need a week, which is a bit ironic since the law is currently set to expire on 3 March. I suspect they will extend it again, though. There will also be a planned press conference next Tuesday, but considering the 7-day average of infections has started to go up again I don’t see much room for lifting measures.
Random news: ING, the last Dutch bank to cash cheques no longer offers the service from dutchnews.nl. Huh. I’m going to admit I did not even know that was a possibility, but it just means you can’t cash checks. You can still deposit them. I’m a big fan of payment methods in this country. The first is pinning with a debit card. There is no signature, and if the purchase is under €50 you only need to enter your pin every once in a while. It used to be €25 but the limit was raised to promote contactless payments in corona times. When using the card you just put it near the side of the machine and wait for it to beep that it was successful. The beep is slightly different if you then need to enter your pin, but the benefit is the card never leaves your hands.
The other payment method is iDEAL (English Wikipedia) which allows you to buy things online using direct online transfers from your bank account. In other words, the payment request happens between the company you are buying from and your bank, so that your bank details are kept secure. Almost every Dutch website uses it. It was a huge shock when we tried to order online for pickup at Five Guys a few weeks back, as they didn’t offer iDEAL as a payment option. How old school! Needless to say we just ordered when we got there instead.
And in some cute news, a Flemish photographer spotted a yellow penguin on an island in the south Atlantic:
The yellow color was likely from Leucism (English Wikipedia), or a partial loss of pigmentation.