Cat Café in Amsterdam

I cannot believe I have only just found out about this… but this morning whilst reading tweets in bed (don’t judge me – it’s my day off – we all do it) I found out that THERE IS A CAT CAFÉ OPENING IN AMSTERDAM THIS MONTH!

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Photo credit: Kattencafé Kopjes Facebook Page

Sorry for shouting. I am soooooo excited!!

I’ve seen cats in bars here in the Netherlands, well – I should say “a cat in a bar”, several times. But a whole café full of feline friends?? No siree!

It feels like an #onlyinHolland or should I say #onlyinAmsterdam kind of story, only it isn’t. After extensive research (Googling ‘cat cafe’) it turns out that these things already exist! Who knew?

There’s Café Miao in Copenhagen, Cat Town Cafe’s in Oakland, USA and others in Melbourne, Paris, Japan, NYC (of course) Seattle and San Diego. Ok, so I’m totally not with the programme…

BUT, this is the first in the Netherlands.

Crazy cat ladies rejoice!

If it wasn’t enough news that there’s a cat café opening in Amsterdam this month… even more exciting is the news that it was crowdfunded. Woah.

975 people joined the campaign raising a staggering €32.715!! (Source.)

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Image credit: My Cat

So, what else do you need to know?

It’s called Kattencafé Kopjes and it opens its doors on 22nd April 2015 at 211 Marco Polostraat in Amsterdam.

You have to book in advance via their website.

There will be 8 cats in the café and only 20 visitors are allowed at a time.

Entry is €3 for a two hour slot.

The cats come from animal shelters Stichting Dierenleed and Dierenopvangcentrum Amsterdam. They cannot be adopted as it could be stressful for the animals to have a constant rotation of different cats.

More info on their Facebook & Twitter pages | Cat pictures: Instagram

Dus, ga je mee? 

So, are you coming?

Hayley x

Things to do in Hilversum: Loosdrechtse Bos, Hilversumse Hei en Zonnestraal

I wrote the majority of this post a few months back and never got round to posting it, but since visiting Vliegveld Hilversum (Hilversum Airport) over the Easter weekend, now seems like a good time to share it with you. I’m obviously slightly biased towards Hilversum because I live here… but if you happen to find yourself in the area, then hopefully I can provide some ‘insider tips’ to keep you amused. So here goes…

Loosdrechtse Bos

Loosdrechtse Bos (bos = forest / woods) is located at the edge of Hilversum, bordering Loosdrecht (hence the name) and Hollandsche Rading. If you put ‘Loosdrechtse Bos’ into Google Maps, it’ll direct you straight to the Zonnestraal compound, in the heart of the woods. (More on that later.)

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The woods are extremely beautiful and (as most woods are…) just a tiny bit spooky feeling… especially if you’re on your own. The perfect place for cycling and walking in Hilversum: loads of people take their dogs for a walk here.

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If you want to visit, but aren’t familiar with Hilversum: a well-known landmark is Zuiderhof, a cemetery on the edge of the woods. Aim for here and then enter the woods from either side of the cemetery. (Note: don’t enter the cemetery itself as it is a dead end. No pun intended. Argh!!)

Hilversumse Hei

Hilversumse Hei or Heide (meaning hay, heath or moor) refers to the large areas of open space in Hilversum. I’m a bit confused about what all the different parts are called, but according to Instagram tagging, the bit that we visit most frequently is known as Hoorneboegse Heide.

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There are cattle grazing in the fields so pay attention to the signs and keep your distance from them. You are in their home, so play nice and follow their house rules. Like me…

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Or be like the Dutchie and go in for the full on close-up… he thinks he’s bloody Rambo or something! ;-)

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I’ve seen these things run, so I stayed well back!! Aside from the scary cattle, it’s a great place to walk around and explore. You could easily spend a couple of hours wandering around the heath and the woods. (Or run or cycle, whatever you’re into…)

Landgoed Zonnestraal

Slap bang in the middle of Loosdrechtse Bos is Landgoed Zonnestraal (meaning Sunbeam Estate). It’s a former sanatorium used in the 1920s and 1930s for patients with tuberculosis. It was designed by architect Jan Duiker and is an example of Nieuwe Bouwen (Literal translation = new buildings, meaning Modern Architecture).

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It’s a bit more run-down than I was expecting but still interesting to look at. The reason for the sheer volume of glass was to let as much light as possible to enter the patient’s rooms and help them feel better. Sun = happy, right? These days it’s used a conference centre which can be hired out. Many local businesses are also located here – mostly clinics and fitness-related.

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There’s not much to do here, unless you’re feeling peckish – then there’s a brasserie. I made a special trip by bike to take photos for this post as I’d never been before and I have to be honest and say I was a little underwhelmed. (Trip Advisor – you actually let me down this time!!) The buildings are different, that’s for sure, and if you’re really into modern architecture then I’m sure you’ll like it… but personally I wouldn’t make a special trip. If you’re already visiting the area and fancy a walk anyway, ok, but don’t come here especially.

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In fact, I found this building in front of the Zonnestraal much prettier, especially with a dusting of snow! (Told you I wrote this post months ago!!)

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Vliegveld Hilversum

If you’re walking / cycling in this area you may also come across Vliegveld Hilversum (Hilversum Airport) which does what it says on the tin.

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We went for a bike ride in the area on Saturday, well – actually we were planning on cycling to Loosdrechtse Plassen, but we never made it that far – so we stopped here for a bite and a borrel instead!

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The two female waitresses were really welcoming and the menu had a good selection of typical Dutch cafe food… broodjes, uitsmijters, borrelhapjes etc. We had the bittergarnituur mixed platter and for once I actually enjoyed the kaasstengels! It’s a miracle!

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With bitterballen, obviously. These only score a measly 6/10 but as I’ve said before: you can’t get bad bitterballen!

For some reason this place is ultra dog friendly, so if you’re taking a furry friend, there’s a special menu for dogs called “De Waf Kaart!” (In Dutch, dogs don’t say “woof woof” – they say “waf waf”!)

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Oh and a hondenbar! The owners must be dog-people…

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So there you have it. How to spend a few hours in Hilversum on foot or by bike. And if you’d like more info…

THE LOWDOWN:

ADDRESS: Various. To enter the woods on foot or by bike, aim for Zuiderhof, Hilversum. Or park at Vliegveld Hilversum and start there.
OPENING TIMES: Always. (However I did see a sign that you can’t enter certain parts of the woods between 8pm and 6am. Seems sensible!)
PARKING: Free street parking near Zuiderhof and at the airport.
MORE INFO: Landgoed Zonnestraal | Brasserie Zonnestraal | Hilversum Airport | Hilversum Airport Restaurant (Websites all in Dutch.)

Next on the ‘Things to do in Hilversum’ list is: Film Theater Hilversum.

Where are your favourite places in Hilversum / Het Gooi area?

Hayley x

(Dutch-related) Stuff That Happened In March 2015

Bit of a quiet month blog-wise as March has been a reeeeeally busy month at work (yep – I have a real job and everything!) Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like it’ll let up anytime soon, so you’ll probably only be hearing from me about once a week for the next few months. Just so you know and that. I haven’t been kidnapped.

Tomorrow we’re off to Brussels (for one night) en route to France to see my parents for a few days. (Yep, the ‘rents are expats too – they moved to France a couple of weeks after I moved to Holland!)

So before we go off gallivanting… here’s some stuff that happened this month.

 1. Rediscovering Etsy 

I’m very happy to have discovered some extremely talented Dutch illustrators in the past month… Introducing Kim Bell Illustrations. Love her work!!

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After living here for nearly a year… the office/blogging den/spare room is finally finished! (Crikey, we are terrible DIYers!!)

I was looking for some funky postcards to frame and brighten up my office –  so there’s the obvious, Paperchase, but their delivery rates to the Netherlands are ridiculous (£5 for a postcard… huh??) so I decided to look elsewhere.

Bravo, Etsy! Bravo!

These fine specimens are from a seller named Darveelicious:

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I also bought postcards from Moa Gift Ideas, Steak & Eggs Please and Le Lapin Blanc. I specifically opted for Dutch illustrators / Etsy shops (with the exception of Steak & Eggs Please) because they ship to the Netherlands (obviously) but also because they are friggin’ awesome. Why look further afield when there is so much talent right here in the Netherlands? Can you tell I’m a BIT excited about this!?!?

And the final result…

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I should probably also show you the other side of the room, aka the Blogging Den, but hmmmm my desk is a bit of a mess now… and can I be arsed to tidy it for photos? No.

2. Clog slippers

Possibly the best slippers ever? The Dutchie has been without slippers for about six years, but whilst in tourist paradise at Zaanse Schans, he was sucked in by the clog slippers.

Nothing to do with me, honest!

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3. Visiting Haarlem, Zaanse Schans & Gouda

Pretty impressed I made it to three new places in March. In case you missed those posts, there was A Quickie in Haarlem and Tourist Paradise – Zaanse Schans.

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I didn’t write a post about Gouda because, well, there were no rose-tinted spectacles involved!! ‘Twas a dreary and cold day and the photos I took on my iphone just didn’t do it any justice. My American friend and I did however discover a fantastic cafe thanks to Sophie in Clogs (big thanks again, Sophie!) This is an especially good tip for mamas who are visiting Gouda… we went with a one year old and the place was totally kid-friendly. It’s unofficially split into two parts, the right-wing for kiddie winks (with loads of toys and high chairs etc) and the left-hand side for grown ups who’d like to enjoy their coffee in adult company.

Zoet & Zalig (yup, that’s my full review on Trip Advisor) is most definitely off the beaten track and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d be forgiven for walking straight past it. Here’s the entrance:

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But once inside – it’s a complete hidden gem!

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Fantastic food, beautiful interior details and a great atmosphere. It’s set in a former orphanage but they have completely transformed it – including the outside. When the weather’s nice, there’s a gorgeous courtyard with funky tables and chairs. Ohhhh and THE CAKE. I’m not at all a cake person, but their selection of cakes and tarts was too hard to resist. The coconut and pineapple taartje was stunning. If you visit Gouda, go here for coffee and cake, minimum!

4. Masterchef Holland

A new series of Masterchef Holland has started! YAY! Pretty much one of the only Dutch TV programmes I can watch! I love you guys, but you really don’t have the best TV… Thank funk for Netflix! So yeah, one of the contestants is an undertaker… or so I thought when I translated ondernemer  literally. It actually means entrepreneur! Oops!

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I have also been watching a few Dutch films: Gooische Vrouwen (yes, I know, I’m totally behind the times!!) Dunya & Desie (totally a teener film, but hey, I like Clueless!) and Jackie, which I watched last night. If anyone has any other Dutch film / series recommendations for me – preferably on Netflix – I’d love to hear them please! Trying to watch as many Dutch programmes as possible. It all helps, right? It’s still such a strange concept to me that I can actually watch films in another language. Fuck! (Sorry Mum!)

5. D’ Vijf Broers, Zaandijk

Gah! More food! Yup, pretty much sums the month up: working & eating!

You know when you go to a restaurant and fall in love? I really did with this place. D’ Vijf Broers in Zaandijk is truly unmissable if you’re visiting Zaandijk / Zaandam. Full review here.

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6. Port tasting

Oh, and we did a cheeky bit of drinking too!

Our friend works at a Gall & Gall store and we went to a port tasting evening (in Dutch might I add!) at the beginning of the month.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and although I didn’t understand absolutely everything – as there were so many technical words – it was fun and something I wouldn’t have been able to do a few months back.

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It’s not a wine tasting until you’ve spilled wine, right?

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7. Bagels & Beans

And while we’re on a food and drink theme… I have to mention Bagels & Beans which we have visited twice in the past week!! If you follow me on Instagram you will have probably already noticed my new obsession!

If there’s a Bagels & Beans in your neighbourhood and haven’t visited yet, I encourage you to do so now!

Koffie – check.

Goedkoop – check.

Lekker – check.

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There is a distinct lack of bitterballen in this post!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??

Have a great weekend everyone!

Hayley x

6 Reasons you should go to Zaanse Schans

This totally sounds like a sponsored post, but NOPE. Just a cool place to go for a few hours, especially if you’re feeling a bit sad and want to smile from ear to ear.

1. Are you a tourist? 

Are you entertaining a tourist? Are you new to the Netherlands? Do you like clogs, windmills, tulips and everything quintessentially Dutch? You NEED to go to Zaanse Schans.

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2. Are you Dutch? 

You will still love it. Yes, it is a tourists paradise… but that doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it. Be a tourist in your own country for the day. (The Dutchie actually bought these, with absolutely no prompting from me!)

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3. Close proximity to Amsterdam

Zaanse Schans is located in Zaandijk, Zaandam. It’s less than 20 minutes on the train from Amsterdam Centraal. (The closest station is Koog-Zaandijk and from there it’s about a 15 min walk… or you can just take the bus which takes about 40 mins.) The perfect location for a day trip from Amsterdam. You can easily fill half a day, or more if you visit the Zaans Museum.

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4. It’s real, sort of…

It looks and feels like an open-air museum, but people actually live here! It’s a working community that dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. All kinds of buildings, windmills, barns and houses were relocated here from across the Zaan region, piece by piece, since 1961.

It is also home to the first ever Albert Heijn (the Netherlands most famous Dutch grocery store chain) which started business in Zaandam in 1887.

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5. D’ Vijf Broers

So technically this isn’t in  Zaanse Schans… but it’s within spitting distance, so it counts in my book! A fantastic bar, restaurant and hotel set alongside the Zaan river. Better than the food outlet offerings within Zaanse Schans itself (a pancake house and a crazy ass expensive place)… so worth crossing the bridge for! It has panoramic views of the Zaanse Schans windmills with a large terrace to enjoy the view on sunny days! See here for my full review.

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6. Windmills

There are no less than SIX windmills at Zaanse Schans! Five of which are functioning and open to the public. The other is just for show ;-) There are also two mini-windmills and model windmills within the grounds, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Read more about the windmills.

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If I’ve already persuaded you to go, here’s the Zaanse Schans website for all the practical stuff.

If not, here are a ton more photos.

Hayley x

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A quickie in Haarlem

Get your mind out of the gutter!! ;-)

After the epic trip to Hoorn… the day after, Haarlem with the husband was on the menu. Unfortunately, timing wasn’t our strong suit that day and we didn’t end up arriving in Haarlem until nearly 4pm (!) by which time the sun was already beginning its descent, meaning that the light was running out for decent photos and it was also bitterly cold! Brrrr!

So it made the trip short and sweet. On the plus side, we now HAVE to go back again another time! (With much better planning de volgende keer!)

First we arrived at Grote Markt (literally: Big Market) and immediately spotted Viqh (a wine bar) – which Marit Smits had recommended on my Facebook page… so it would be rude not to go and have a cheeky glass of prosecco! It’s a very cute little bar with lots of little nooks and crannies. The tables are wedged in everywhere, so be prepared to get cosy with your neighbours!

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After cheeky bubbles, we explored market square which was bustling with traders and shoppers… it was Saturday afternoon after all! Unfortunately this is the only photo I have where the sky doesn’t look bleak and empty. This is St. Bavo Church or Grote Kerk – I’ll let you work that one out for yourself ;-)

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Next on the agenda was Jamón Jamón (on Inge Mastwijk’s recommendation) for a quick bite to eat.

They’re renowned locally for their sandwiches, so The Dutchie went for a beef sarnie and I opted for a couple of tapas dishes. The spicy chicken was wonderful! A word of warning though… despite being a delicatessen and selling wine, they don’t have a license to sell alcohol with your meal… so this is a place for coffee and a snack rather than a borrel and snack!  Extremely cute place though… there will be fights for that one table in the summer! (Ha ha, just noticed – hello from the window reflection!)

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On the same street (Schaghelstraat) is this little beauty. An art shop with one of the coolest shop fronts I’ve seen outside of Brighton!

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Then it was onto Jopenkerk, recommended by both Inge and Marit (thanks, ladies!)

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Previously, the building (an old church) was known as Jacobuskerk, but in 2010 it reopened its doors as a brewery, cafe and restaurant. According to their website, in 2013, Jopenkerk won the title Mooiste Bar van Nederland  (Best Looking Bar in the Netherlands) and I can totally understand that. It’s goddamn beautiful. It was also goddamn busy… note to self: come on a day other than Saturday!

In addition to the wide range of beer, they had BEER bitterballen!

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Honestly? I couldn’t taste the beer… but that could have been because I was drinking beer, who knows! These get a 7/10 with minus points for the (random) shape, (lack of) mustard and slightly lazy presentation.

Beer and bitterballen – check! Next…

Museums were off the cards because it was already too late in the day, so we took a walk to check out Cathedral of Saint Bavo (thanks Christina Ames for the tip). She sure is a beaut (the cathedral I mean, but I’m sure Christina is too!) and next time I’d love to do the tour!

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That’s it unfortunately, all we saw of Haarlem! But enough of a taster to want to return!

This weekend I’m off to explore Gouda with my friend and goddaughter, so as always… insider tips are welcomed / appreciated / encouraged! :D

What are you doing this sunny weekend?

Veel plezier!

Hayley x

Strange Dutch Celebrations: Seeing Abraham & Sarah

Irene Van Dam made a comment on a recent post that she’d love to hear my stories about ‘special events’ which Dutch people celebrate – like birthdays, anniversaries and newborns. Great idea – thanks, Irene. Your wish is my command!

I’ve already written about Dutch circle parties, which are weird in themselves! But imagine if it’s a special birthday, say you turn 50… believe me, it’s about to get a whole lot freakier!

50th Birthdays –  Or “Seeing” Abraham / Sarah

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So, you’re turning 50. Maybe you want to keep it quiet, have a small meal with the family, something like that. Live in the Netherlands? NO SUCH LUCK!

Your home, garden or place of work (or all three!) will be decorated by your ‘loving’ friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and a life-sized doll of YOU.

Turning 50 in the Netherlands is a BIG BLOODY DEAL!

Apparently it means you are old enough and wise enough to have ‘seen Abraham’ or if you’re a woman – old enough to have ‘seen Sarah’ and your whole street will know about it! The names come from the biblical figures, Abraham and his wife Sarah. According to the bible, Abraham lived until he was 175 and Sarah until she was 127… so if you make it to 50 you’re deemed old enough to have ‘wisdom through experience’.

Traditionally there’s a big party with, you guessed it – cake!

Or, if your friends are jokers, you might get something like this…

Exhibit A:

Abraham

This was given to my brother-in-law on his 50th birthday party, rather than a traditional cake. Basically it’s just another excuse (much like the Sinterklaas poems) to take the piss out of your friends and loved ones.

His office was decorated like so… (smiley used to cover his handsome face – sorry, bro!)

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(The thing on the right is a dummy, looks pretty realistic huh?)

In addition to the hullabaloo at work… he also had a party at home to celebrate. At his birthday BBQ he was given a zimmer frame while we – his friends and family – sang a song to him about how past it and ‘over the hill’ he is. Nice, huh!?

But don’t get mad… get even! Just save up your cruel ideas for when your friends and colleagues turn 50. Or if that’s passed already: 60, 70, 80… they’re all celebrated. Along with 1/2 Abraham or Sarah for when you’re 25!! Then you get half a cake. Crazy Dutchies!

Other ‘kroonjaren’ (translates to crown years) are celebrated as follows:

25 Half Abraham (or Sara / Sarah)
50 Abraham (or Sara / Sarah)
60 Isaac / Isaak (or Elisabeth / Elizabeth / Rebekka / Rebecca)
70 Jacob  (or Anna / Rachel / Lea)
80 Joseph (or Deborah / Asnath)
90 Anthony / Antonius / Efraïm (or Ruth)
100 Methusalem (or Judith)

Names seem to vary (possibly according to region? Help me out here please…) but it’s every 10 years anyway.

Here’s how it’s done the traditional way… the cake my schoonmoeder  was given for her 70th birthday, or ‘Lea’. Accompanied by a big circle party, natuurlijk! 

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Looking forward to your birthday now??

Hayley x

Ps – coming up next in this ‘Strange Dutch Celebrations’ mini-series: Having a baby & Celebrating 12.5 years of marriage. If there are any other weird celebrations you can think of that you’d like me to explore… please let me know!

It’s all about you: An interview with The Dutchie

In his natural habitat

In his natural habitat

Maybe it’s just me (and I suspect it isn’t) but when I’m reading a blog – and I read a few – I’m always curious about the author’s partner. You could politely just say I’m a curious person, but like a lot of people, let’s be honest: we’re just nosey!

Bloggers partners usually get mentioned in their blog (a lot) but you rarely get any more information than that. One of my favourite ever posts on a blog was a post her husband had written about her. It was just so refreshing to see his take on things and I’m pretty sure it made me cry, it was that beautifully written.

My husband, aka The Dutchie, isn’t that guy though. That’s not his thing. He doesn’t do slushy or soppy and that’s fine too… so instead, I did a mini-interview with him to celebrate my 100th blog post! As my number 1 fan, he deserves a bit of appreciation! :)

Hope you enjoy!

Where were you born? And where did you grow up?
I was born in Amsterdam. I lived in Bovenkarspel for the first 6 years of my life and then we moved to Huizen in ‘t Gooi. After that I lived in Amsterdam for a few years before moving to Hilversum. From there I went to England for 3 years and now we’re back in Hilversum.

What do you do all day? 
I’m an SEA Consultant. So if you see paid adverts at the top of Google results, that could be me. And if you’ve visited a website and are (annoyingly) followed around with banners… that’s what I do as well.

Favourite Dutch food(s)?
Vlammetjes. Preferably on a platter along with bitterballen.

What Dutch dish do you think everyone should try while here?
We’re not known for our great food, but I think everyone should go to a Febo or a different ‘eten uit de muur’ (eating from the wall) place and get some kroketten and other random stuff that’s in it. Make sure you’re not that tourist who opens an empty slot though!

What is the one thing you recommend someone does on their trip to Holland?
If you’re in Amsterdam on New Year’s eve – find a rooftop to party on. The 360 degree fireworks at midnight are absolutely unbelievable (don’t even try to imagine). I’ve seen many English friends literally get tears in their eyes when they’ve been there.

What is it like being in a relationship with someone from a different country?
Fun and sometimes difficult. Fun as in I love the English culture and I’m in the middle of it. Hard because apparently the Dutch come over very rude and sometimes (for me) I’m acting normal and am being accused of being very rude. <Editor: He is rude. But he doesn’t mean to be. We’re still working on that one…>

What do you most miss about England?
The pub culture. And more specifically, being able to chose from different types of cider from draft and bottle in any random pub. Every pub I went to in England has a selection of cider. Here you’re lucky if they have one brand, and then it’s Strongbow!

Favourite place in Holland?
Out on the water in Vinkeveen. My best friend has a boat.

Favourite country you’ve visited?
Thailand.

What is your favourite trip we have taken together?
Mojacar, Spain. As a country I’d say the trip to Thailand – but so many crazy things happened in Mojacar and it’s the first and most likely the last time I’ve had success with karaoke. (I’m not known for my beautiful singing voice!) I sang Pulp – Common People.

How about your least favourite trip we have taken together?
Hmmm… I guess Brugge <Editor: He’s Dutch, he means Bruges.> when all the bars and restaurants we wanted to visit were closed. And actually the whole city was dead for some holiday or something.

Best bands?
**Rubs his hands together** Mmmmm… Music, my favourite subject! :) In no particular order… Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Sonic Youth, SLAYER, The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnyman, Roxy Music (with Brian Eno), Primus, The Clash, Sisters of Mercy, New Model Army, Rammstein, Television, Doe Maar.

Best song ever made?
Roxy Music – If There is Something. <Editor: This song was played at our wedding.>

Best gig you’ve ever been to?
Sonic Youth. Pukkelpop 1990 or something. Gig doesn’t completely cover it, the whole festival was amazing: The Pogues, Ramones, Nirvana (before Nevermind), Frank Black, Ride, Dinosaur Jr.

First tape you ever bought?
**Laughs** Yeah yeah, I’m old! I’m too old to remember the first. The first I remember is Depeche Mode – Black Celebration, but there must be ones before that.

Favourite TV show?
Masterchef. (Or MotoGP if you can call that a TV show.)

Favourite film?
LA Confidential.

Proudest moment ever? <Editor: Puke fest coming up!!> 
Marrying Bitterballenbruid :)

What’s your special talent?
I guess I have to say pingpong. And I deliberately say pingpong as people who take it too seriously call it table tennis. <Editor butts in again: He’s being ridiculously modest here! He plays in the 2nd division in Holland and in the UK he played regionally. He’s good. Really bloody good.>

Anything else you’d like to know about The Dutchie?

Comment below and I’ll get him to answer any additional questions :) Today is your chance to be as nosey as you like!!

Hayley x