The Dutch Guide to Cycling

Your alternative guide to cycling in the Netherlands…

“There is no happier cyclist than a Dutch cyclist” (CyclinginHolland.com) but why is this? The flat land? The most extensive cycle network in the world? Priority over motorised vehicles? Who knows for sure… but the Dutch bloody love their two-wheeled best friends.

So, what does it take to be a Dutch cyclist?

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© niputaidea / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

1. Your bike has no gears and a foot brake.

2. You lock it with a strange ring contraption – a “ringslot”, which no one else has ever heard of.

3. Your bike is named after a granny.

4. You scoff at the mere thought of wearing a helmet! How ridiculous!

5. You take your bike on holiday with you. And if you can’t… you hire one instead.

Camping with bikes

6. If you are in possession of children, you buy a bike with a wheelbarrow on the front to transport them to school.

7. You can carry multiple children.

8. Or a fully grown adult on the parcel shelf.

9. There are more bikes than people in your household.

Bikes at Hilversum Station

10. Ladies: You have adorned your bike with a basket, flowers, a colourful paint job… or all three.

11. In order to prevent theft – your bike is a rust bucket with a permanent squeak.

12. You park it next to a nicer bike in the hope that it won’t get stolen.

13. You can ride whilst rolling a joint.

14. Or carrying a case of beer.

15. Or a printer.

Cycling whilst carrying large objects

16. In fact, your ability to ride when stoned, inebriated, or both means you can cycle to the kroeg (pub) or to parties!

17. You can have a completely normal conversation on your mobile phone without wobbling, swearing or falling off.

18. Hell, you can ride with no hands.

19. You are a champion, superhuman bike rider.

20. You are Dutch.

Hayley x

Sunflowers in Hilversum – Remembering the victims of flight MH17

A year has passed since the MH17 air disaster. It happened on July 17th 2014 and Hilversum was one of the towns hardest hit. Fifteen residents were killed among the 298 passengers on board.

To commemorate one year since the tragedy, Hilversum is in bloom. The town is awash with bright yellow sunflowers.

According to some news reports, the seeds were taken from a field near the Ukrainian town of Torez, where the plane crashed, and were given to a victim’s father by a journalist who covered the disaster. They state that some were passed on to St Vitus church and others were entrusted to the city’s chief gardener, Hans Roon, who planted them in Hilversum’s botanical garden. (Sources: RFE/RL and The Guardian)

Hayley x

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers in Hilversum (Zonnebloemen in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum.)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

Sunflowers at St Vitus Church, Hilversum. (Zonnebloemen bij de St Vitus kerk in Hilversum)

 

Strange Dutch Celebrations: Having a baby in the Netherlands

This is the last post in the mini-series: Strange Dutch Celebrations.

(Just in case you missed the other posts: Seeing Abraham & Sarah (Turning 50 in the Netherlands) and The 12 and a half year wedding anniversary.)

Beschuit met muisjes

From these previous posts, we learned that Dutch people are a bit barmy when it comes to celebrating birthdays and anniversaries… So what happens when they have a baby?

Well, my dear readers… you’re in for a treat! It’s about to get a whole lot weirder.

Back home, in England, when someone has a baby… they will probably call their Mum… and then after a few days, the (hopefully) happy couple will get in touch with other friends and family to announce their new arrival. Some people plaster the event all over Facebook. Their choice.

In Holland?

You just announce it to the whole street! With coloured banners, bunting, balloons etc (blue for a boy, pink for a girl) possibly a stork… and any other baby related paraphernalia you can think of.

Situatie gewijzigd = situation changed

Situatie gewijzigd = situation changed

Situation changed! It sure has!!

Then comes the baby announcement card aka the Geboortekaartje.

Organised parents-to-be will have already selected the card design and the baby name, so when their little bundle of joy arrives… all they have to do is fill in the date, time and weight at birth. Oh and because they’re Dutch = the baby’s length! A very important detail!

The geboortekaartje (literally: birth card) is something we Brits could definitely learn from the Dutch! All the vital statistics, on one piece of card – it’s so handy! (Especially if you’re like me: terrible with remembering birthdays and suchlike!)

So. You’ve got your card – which means you’re part of the inner circle. Now to visit the little pipsqueak.

Brace yourselves for the worst part.

Even worse than holding a brand new, tiny baby and thinking the whole time: “Shit… what if I drop it!?”

You need to eat a rusk with butter and aniseed balls on top.

Beschuit met Muisjes

Beschuit met Muisjes

Told you.

**Bleeeeeeeeeugh!**

I’m not a baby. I don’t eat rusk. I especially don’t eat rusk with butter! I especially, especially don’t eat rusk with butter and ANISEED BALLS!!

Yet, it’s a Dutch custom… so when a baby is born, you’ve got to do it.

Beschuit met muisjes (literally: rusk with little mice, real meaning: rusk with aniseed balls) come in three types. White and blue balls for a boy. White and pink balls for a girl. And white and orange balls when a new member of the Royal family is born!

Are you looking forward to geboortekaartjes dropping through your letterbox!? Wahahahaha!!

Hayley x

Strange Dutch Celebrations: 12 and a half year wedding anniversary

Wedding rings

Next month it’ll be mine and the Dutchie’s 1 year wedding anniversary. WOW – how quick has that gone!? So now seems like a good time to talk about Dutch wedding anniversaries… but first, to put it into context… here’s what we’re used to in the UK (and from what I can gather, it’s pretty similar in the US too).

The English tend to celebrate their wedding anniversaries every year, well at least the two of them anyway. But how long do you have to wait until it’s time for a big old party!? Generally, people celebrate ‘properly’ when they make it to 20 or 25 years.

In case you’re not au fait with traditional wedding anniversary names, here’s the list of edited highlights:

1st Paper
10th Tin
15th Crystal
20th China
25th Silver
30th Pearl
40th Ruby
50th Gold
60th Diamond

The names of some of the anniversaries are supposed to provide guidance for appropriate gifts for the spouses to give each other, but I’m not sure if people still do that nowadays. We still call the biggies by their traditional names though, for example most people would know what a “Golden” wedding anniversary is.

So anyway, if you’re Dutch… when do you celebrate your wedding anniversary?

After 12 and a half years, of course!

Sorry, you what?

So you get married in August 2014 and you have a party to celebrate your anniversary in February 2027… Riiiiiiight…

12.5 jaar getrouwd

Good old Wikipedia confirms that in Holland, they also have a similar method to the UK, but they also (apparently) celebrate 37 ½ months, 6 ¼ years and 12 ½ years:

jaar = year
maanden = months

1 jaar Katoen (Cotton)
37 ½ maanden Blik (Tin)
6 ¼ jaar IJzer (Iron)
10 jaar Blik (Tin)
12 ½ jaar Koper (Copper)
20 jaar Porselein (Porcelain)
25 jaar Zilver (Silver)
30 jaar Parel (Pearl)
40 jaar Robijn (Ruby)
50 jaar Goud (Gold)
60 jaar Diamant (Diamond)

And the real reason why the Dutch celebrate 12 ½ years of marriage? They can’t be arsed to wait 25 years for an excuse to party!

Hear! Hear!

Yet another reason why I love the Dutch.

Hayley x

When you moved to the Netherlands what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?

Dutch windmills

(It’s not all tulips, clogs and windmills.)

The idea for this post came from an expat group I’m in, so the question was originally: When you moved to Hilversum, what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?

But actually, many of the comments weren’t Hilversum based, they were just general tips for surviving in the Netherlands. So I thought I’d share them with you. Real tips from real expats living in this funny little country called Holland the Netherlands…

1. “Bring cold and flu meds and loads of strong pain killers just in case, because paracetamol just doesn’t cut it sometimes.”

2. “If there isn’t a queue don’t try forming one! Otherwise you’ll be waiting all day – follow the Dutch lead.”

3. “Watch out for mopeds & pindakaas is not peanut cheese but peanut butter!”

4. “The most important one – the online takeaway ordering service: Thuisbezorgd.nl!”

5. “I wish someone had told me (still would love to hear the logic behind it) how cars from the right automatically have right of way even when it makes absolutely no sense.”

6. “One thing I didn’t think about was the weather differences. I packed shorts and t-shirts, no real jackets. I wish I had brought warmer clothes for cooler temps.”

7. “That customer service is a rare find here!”

8. “That credit cards are rarely accepted as a form of payment. Or VISA debit.”

9. “Download a parking app for your phone – it makes life much easier!” (Try yellowbrick.nl or parkmobile.nl)

10. “It’s a ghost town on Sunday!!”

11. “There are many different rules for pets – in particular dogs. Dog tax. Rules for poop and leash etc. I only found all this out after someone said the dog tax inspector was knocking on doors.”

12. “Where is the nearest A&E? What’s the emergency number? (112) And the non-emergency number? (0800 8844).”

13. “Public transport apps / links to NS.nl and 9292.nl were a lifesaver.”

14. “The blue parking spaces at the supermarket, and where to buy the blue time thingy.” (Blue spaces are temporary parking spots and you need a parkeerschijf – a parking disk to indicate what time you arrived. Available from HEMA, Bruna and Halfords stores and at many petrol stations.)

15. “Dutch rudeness directness. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.”

Can you tell that the last one was me? ;-)

When you moved to the Netherlands,  what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?

Hayley x

Things to do in Hilversum: WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling

WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling

The title of this post could also be: That one time in Hilversum when I ate loads of delicious food, drank loads of amazing wine and got so tipsy I cried about learning Dutch. But I guess the other title is more factual and Google probably likes it better… so…

First things first: What is a WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling? Wijn = wine. Spijs = food / dish. Together it means wine pairing, food pairing… the act of pairing food and wine together type thing. Culinaire = culinary. Wandeling = walk.

So: a culinary walk around Hilversum (other Dutch towns and cities are available) where you get to drink lots of wine and eat food that goes with it. In short, heaven for food and wine lovers.

Unlike the time when I ate Amsterdam – I can tell you every single detail of this trip (the stuff I remember anyway) because the Hilversum one is done, over, finished… for this year anyway!

However, WijnSpijs run dates all over the country – pretty much every weekend during the summer – so there’s probably one near you soon! Here’s the agenda. (Dammit!! Utrecht is sold out already! *Sad face*.) Anyway… without further ado…

Restaurant 1: Gastrobar Kurk

Wine: Gran Sasso. Food: squid ink risotto, gin & 7up foam, parsnip puree, peas and a prawn!

Gastrobar Kurk, Hilversum

Gastrobar Kurk

We both loved this place, including the very keen waitress (it was early in the day and she was super enthusiastic, bless her!) and we will definitely be returning. The menu looked very interesting and not over-priced, so I’m curious to see what else they have up their sleeves!

Restaurant 2: Zilt & Zo

Hot and cold smoked salmon, asparagus and asparagus foam, topped with a beetroot chip. Re: wine… I’m struggling to read my own handwriting, I wrote down something like Gruner Veltliner – Roshlitz. I remember it was nice ;-)

Zilt & Zo Hilversum

Zilt & Zo, Hilversum

The food was good, but not the star of the day. The presentation in a wine glass was funny, but quite difficult to eat! I would go back for the”beach” at the end of their sunny terrace, however, to sip a cocktail with my feet in the sand!

Restaurant 3: Proeverij De Open Keuken

Here they served up a beef salad made with jodenhaas (beef shoulder tenderloin). Although I thought he said Yodahaas so I’m sticking to that! It was paired with a light, easy drinking red: Dornfelder Nahe 2014. Yum. Very, very easy to drink!

Proeverij De Open Keuken

There was a chip in my bowl (naughty, naughty!) so I had to switch plates with the Dutchie because I wanted to photograph it zonder chip. However, my beef was slightly chewy and the Dutchie’s was perfect… so it serves me right for switching I guess!

Proeverij De Open Keuken

Proeverij De Open Keuken

(The Dutchie getting arty with his wine ^)

We sat outside… because it was awesome weather that day! But FYI – the inside of this restaurant is gooooooorgeous! (My iphone camera, not so much.)

Proeverij De Open Keuken

Proeverij De Open Keuken.

Restaurant 4: Lust 

This beauty is meerval (which I think is catfish) pasta with samphire, tomatoes and a gambas (prawn) sauce. Definitely the dish of the day!! Served with Finca Constancia Altozano Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc. (70% Verdejo and 30% Sauvignon Blanc.) Result: yum-a-lum-a-ding-dong.

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Restaurant 5: Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Monkfish with a fermented risotto (what the heck?!) an orange coloured sauce and a cherry tomato. It was delicious, but they didn’t do much explaining! Served with Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc.

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

They also had a DJ…

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

…and a dude playing saxophone who liked hiding in bushes.

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Restaurant 6: Heren Spyker

Zachtgegaarde runderwang (slow cooked beef cheek) with roasted tomato, pea cream and a cumin crisp. Served with a 2013 Cuvee Tradition Rouge – Corbieres from Chateau Beauregard Mirouze.

Heren Spkyer

Here it is, in Dutch (nice touch btw, they were the only restaurant to do this).

Heren Spkyer

This was probably the tiniest dish of the whole day. It was good, but not great. The crunchy cumin thing outshone the beef cheek, which is never a good thing. I love the fact that this place is connected with Spyker though and due to it’s brilliant sunny position, I’d go back for a glass of wine or three!!

Heren Spkyer

Restaurant 7: Rex 

Pulled pork with a chilli and BBQ sauce and mango chutney. I can’t remember what the thing on top was… a kind of prawn cracker type thingy. It was seriously good! (Sorry, Rex – I totally underestimated you. When I saw this place on the list, I was very surprised as I thought it was just a bar/club so my expectations were rather low.) But boy did they prove me wrong!! Served with a Beaujolais Nouveau.

Rex, Hilversum

Rex, Hilversum

Restaurant 8: Puur Smaeck

Last but not least: Puur Smaeck. (That’s the old way to spell smaak, meaning taste / flavour.)

They served rib eye filled with yellow and green courgette with a cream of goats cheese and white chocolate. Yes, you read that right. White chocolate. The Dutchie loved it… I tasted it together, ate the beef and then had the white chocolate cream as pudding! This was served with an Italian red: Salice Salentino.

Puur Smaeck

Puur Smaeck

After that, we didn’t want to go home straight away, so our friend joined us, we ordered a bottle of prosecco and then I cried. Nothing to do with the brilliant day, perhaps a little to do with the wine!

Result: if you didn’t pick it up already, I absolutely loved my WijnSpijs culinary walk. Wine, food, walking… what’s not to love? I think it’s a fantastic way to sample new restaurants in your local town/city… or a unique way to check out a brand new city! I will definitely be going on another one in the near future!! (Hopefully this time without the tears!)

THE LOWDOWN

COST: €55-60 depending on location, but to try 7 or 8 new restaurants in your area – that’s a bleedin’ bargain! Not to mention said number of starter sized-portions and glasses of wine. (Not all glasses are “full” measures by the way. It depends on the restaurant and how shaky the waiter’s hands are.)

MORE INFO: Wijnspijs.nl

Hayley x

The Dutch two-tone sigh

Due to popular demand, The Dutchie and I recorded a (very bad) sound bite of an English person sighing vs a Dutch person.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the Dutch two-tone sigh!

 

Hayley x