Not your average huwelijksreis (honeymoon) – Part 1

I was hoping to share the official wedding photographs with you – before the honeymoon pictures – but I’ve only just received the “sneak peek” myself… so in the meantime… let’s crack on with our beautiful huwelijksreis!

My dream honeymoon destination has always been Thailand. The clear water, the blue sky, the perfect beaches… it’s just ideal honeymoon material! However when my friend got married in Bali in October last year, we thought – “heck, we’re going all that way already – let’s go to Thailand as well”. It was everything it was cracked up to be and more… and I would LOVE to go back, but for our honeymoon, we wanted to go somewhere we’ve never been before. (If you’re new to the blog and want to read about our Thailand trip, you can do so here: 10 things to to do on Koh LantaKoh Lipe: Thailand’s secret island?Thailand Packing List.)

So we decided on… ITALY! (There is actually a significant reason for this, but it’s better to explain that in a later post… it will all become clear later – I promise!)

As we wanted to visit several places in Italy, we did the Dutch thing (they love camping and caravaning!) loaded up the car and decided to turn it into a road trip! A mix of hotels and camping, keeping the plan flexible so we could stay in places for longer if we liked them… and move on if we didn’t. But first stop: Basel in Switzerland! We left for our honeymoon on my birthday, so didn’t want to spend the whole day and evening driving. Basel is around a 7 hour drive from home so it seemed like the ideal location for a stopover. We were right.

En route to Basel

En route to Basel

We arrived quite late in the evening, so only had time for a quick shower, change of clothes and then went out for dinner: a cheese fondue! Of course! We’d done a bit of research prior to the trip and found a highly recommended restaurant on Trip Advisor called Elsbethenstubli, serving the “absolute best fondue you’ll ever have” – according to one reviewer. They were right. It was delicious. The best we’ve ever had! Another reviewer thoughtfully added “Remember, it IS Switzerland”… so we weren’t too surprised when the bill came. It was expensive… but hey, it IS Switzerland.

Cheese fondue, Basel, Switzerland

Cheese fondue, Basel, Switzerland

On the way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon a fantastic bar called Zum Kuss. (It means “The Kiss” in German.) Again, it was expensive (10+ euros for a double gin)… but so, soooo worth it. Their gin collection was one of the most impressive we’d ever seen! The second shelf down is ALL gin. I shit you not. AMAZING!! The Dutchie had one with cucumber and pepper. Yum!

Zum Kuss, Basel

Zum Kuss, Basel

And now for some “real” photos, from my “proper” camera!! (The above were phone photos… Sorry!) The next morning, we wanted to get on the road by lunchtime, so we had a couple of hours to explore Basel:

Basel, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

Zum Andreasplatz, Basel, Switzerland

Zum Andreasplatz, Basel, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

Basel Town Hall (known locally as Roothuus) is over 500 years old and dominates Marktplatz (market place) in the centre of Basel.

Basel Town Hall

Basel Town Hall, Marktplatz, Basel, Switzerland

Basel Town Hall

Basel Town Hall

Basel Town Hall

Basel Town Hall

Beautiful! You must go there if you visit the city!

On the subject of recommendations… a place to avoid is Restaurant Zum Alten Stockli. It looks great from the outside and has a lovely terrace, but the waitress was unbelievably rude, slow and unfriendly and one of the locals was even worse! A terrible dining experience, we wanted to get out of there as fast as we could!! Later we discovered it’s the #346 worst restaurant (out of 411 restaurants) in Basel!! Lesson learned… ALWAYS check Trip Advisor first!!

I’ll end on a positive note, however, of a cool mural we spotted… plus some street art! (The Dutchie had a better picture of the mural… an amazing panorama… but since his phone ended up drowning in a swimming pool in Italy – the less said about that the better – this will have to do!)

Music mural

Music mural, Basel, Switzerland

Street Art, Basel

Street Art, Basel

Street Art, Basel

Street Art, Basel

Part 2 coming soon: Italy and the Stelvio Pass!! Now I’m off to relax before my first ever Dutch lesson! Nervous? Me…? Eeeeeeeeekkkkkkkk!!

Hayley x

Bitterballen Bruid’s Bruiloft

Wow, that’s a mouthful. As promised… I said I’d share a few snaps of the day! Well actually, days: we were married in a small, intimate ceremony on Friday and then on Saturday we had a huge party with around 130 guests! Suffice to say it was the best weekend of our lives! :D

Bride mug

The service was beautiful and very personal… we only had 11 guests. Just our closest family. <3

At the Gemeentehuis

On Saturday I had partymaids, rather than bridesmaids! With orange flowers, of course… Go Holland!

Party maids

It was an emotional day to see friends and family, many of the UK contingent I hadn’t seen since I moved here, so a few tears were shed!

Welcoming a friend to the party

Everyone had an amazing party and we danced the night away until 4am or so!

Sweets

Now it’s time to finally relax after months of planning… we leave on our honeymoon tomorrow! Italy for 2 weeks… Can’t wait!!

Professional photos to follow – the above were taken by family and friends. And of course… I will be sure to blog about our amazing honeymoon too!

Have a good couple of weeks!

Ciao!

Hayley x

Wedding Card Post Box

Today I have mainly been drawing… with a sharpie… on a cardboard box.

When looking for a “wedding card post box” online, I couldn’t find anything I liked. Except for a real English post box… but being in the Netherlands means it’s practically impossible to hire one here and getting one from the UK would be extortionate. Even adding the words “customized” or “alternative” to my Google search didn’t help a bit… I then got results for card boxes with ribbons round them, or diamantes… or badly printed lettering with the bride and groom’s name on them.

Nope. This just wouldn’t do. So I ordered a plain white cardboard post box and decided to decorate it myself…

With a sharpie!

Card post box

1. Take one boring white wedding card post box, purchased online from Amazon for around £10 including delivery (around €12.50) plus 2 black markers. One thick, one thin (around €2 each from local stationery store.)

Wedding card post box

2. The lettering is the most important bit, so I used a pencil and ruler first… just to be sure.

Wedding card post box

3. Once you’re happy… fill in with the marker. (This was the most annoying bit and I ended up having to re-do it twice because all the letters didn’t fit in!!)

Card post box

4. Then… get creative!! I had the idea a couple of weeks ago, so while I was waiting for the box to arrive, I spent some time practicing and using the world wide web for inspiration!!

Wedding card post box

It’s sure as hell not perfect… but it’s personal… and that’s what matters. No one else in the world will have the same post box as me on their wedding day!

Wedding card post box

5. The finished result…

Wedding card post box

Wedding card post box

Wedding card post box

Wedding card post box

Wedding card post box

Wedding card post box

Wedding card post box

Wedding card post box

Hayley x

Een zomerdag in Utrecht

(A summer’s day in Utrecht.) At couple of weeks ago, the Dutchie and I made the most of our close proximity to Utrecht (a mere 14 mins by car or train) and spent our Saturday afternoon/evening exploring this quaint city. It’s actually the 4th largest city in the Netherlands with a population of over 300,000 people, but to me it feels somehow smaller. Like a Dutch version of Brighton… with canals and minus the sea, of course!

Mariaplaats, Utrecht

Mariaplaats, Utrecht

First we went for a glass of bubbly at Vino Veritas, an Italian wine bar run by Alison of A Flamingo in Utrecht and her partner, Giovanni. The inside of the bar is decorated with stunning pictures of Bologna, Giovanni’s home town, plus a HUGE wine rack… of course!!

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

If the weather is good, there’s a small terrace to sit outside and watch the world go by. We didn’t sample the food (as we were on our way to a Japanese restaurant) but the cheese and meat platters on another table looked incredibly delicious!

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

After our refreshing glass of Col Fondo (Prosecco – recommended by Giovanni) we went exploring… keeping our eyes peeled for Street Art and other random curiosities for me to photograph! Well, I wasn’t disappointed, there were lots of  weird and wonderful things to keep me amused!

Street Art, Utrecht

Street Art, Utrecht

This rather cool piece is painted on a side street close to Vino Veritas (Biltstraat 9). I love the colours and the LED displays… I can’t remember what they said unfortunately…

Another side street… another opportunity for street art. As you can see, cyclists don’t limit their parking for art… ;-) So make them part of the shot I say!!

In the grachten (canals) we saw a number of abandoned bikes – sad – but strangely pretty. They remind me a bit of dead umbrellas…

Utrecht Grachten

Utrecht Grachten

And another…

Utrecht Grachten

I suspect this one, on the other hand… might be a practical joke ;-)

Utrecht bike

The next bike we saw wasn’t abandoned… but an advertisement. Bedrijvendag means company day. It’s a day for students to connect with potential future employees, organised by the Student Association of Utrecht. It worked for me! I certainly had to look twice at this beautiful green beastie!

Utrecht green bike

An interesting looking street, vlakbij (close by) Biltstraat…

Utrecht Shutters

After much wandering (and photo taking) in the general direction of Mariaplaats, we finally found the Japanese restaurant, Konnichi Wa, which a friend had recommended. (Of course, I’d also looked it up on Trip Advisor and Iens – a Dutch restaurant review site – just to double check!!) ;-)

Konnichi Wa, Utrecht

Konnichi Wa, Utrecht

We were in sashimi-edamamebean-vegetabletempura-wasabi-misosoup-plumwine heaven!!

Sashimi, Konnichi Wa, Utrecht

A great restaurant and reasonably priced for the Netherlands. Everything we ordered was delicious and the wasabi was HOT HOT HOT! Always a good sign of a Japanese restaurant… if the wasabi is kicking, the food probably is too! :D

My only minor critique is that the plum wine was served in a thimble!! For 5-6 euros I want a big girls glass please!!

I can’t end without including this cool shot I took of a Lion’s head fountain close to Mariaplaats. I instagrammed the crap out of it… obviously.

Lion fountain, Utrecht

Lion fountain, Utrecht

What else is there to do / see in Utrecht next time we visit?

Hayley x

**Wedding Update**

Considering the title of this blog is Bitterballen Bruid… I haven’t posted much about the wedding… at all! I put this mainly down to the fact that the Dutchie reads every single post (how sweet!) so I don’t want to give away any secrets… and secondly, that we’ve been so busy planning the wedding that I haven’t actually had any time to write about it!!

So just a quick update… it’s exactly 3 weeks from today!! Eeeeeeeek!! Very exciting!! But we still have so much to do… I wouldn’t say I’m stressed, but I would prefer things to be ticked off the list a lot quicker than they currently are!

Wedding bits

I’m very much looking forward to it, obviously (!!!!!) and I promise to post a few pics of the big day before we go off on our honeymoon! (A road trip to Northern Italy! Yippeeeeee!)

Hayley x

Brighton: My favourite place in the UK

If I wasn’t getting married in Holland, I’d definitely choose Brighton as my wedding location. My love affair with this magnificent city began in 2001, when I moved there from Southampton to start university. Best decision I ever made.

So, why do I love Brighton?

1. It’s quirky. Really, really quirky. Like your older brother who rebels, gets a leather jacket, a Mohawk and starts a punk band. One of my top places to visit is the Prince Albert, a 2 minute walk from the train station. From the front, it just looks like a “normal” pub, but check out the art on the side wall. Simply stunning! The bar itself is extremely studenty… so don’t expect much glamour (actually – none), but sit outside and enjoy the art!!

The Prince Albert, Brighton

The Prince Albert, Brighton

Eagle-eyes will have spotted a little Banksy here… it’s actually a replica as the original Kissing Coppers (dating from 2004) was removed and sold to a US gallery in 2011. This iconic image has become one of Banky’s most famous street works.

Banksy, The Prince Albert, Brighton

Banksy, The Prince Albert, Brighton

2. The Beach. Or the bi-atch as I like to call it. Who doesn’t love a good beach? Yeah, yeah… it’s stone not sand, but it still looks awesome!

West Pier, Brighton

West Pier, Brighton

3. Moshimo. (Formerly Moshi Moshi.) Without a doubt, this is my (and our) favourite restaurant… EVER. We’ve tried countless Japanese restaurants over the past 5 years… none as good. The conveyor belt is a genius idea and this restaurant makes me smile every time! Tip: Brighton Town Hall (dating from 1830) is directly opposite the restaurant.

Moshimo, Brighton

Moshimo, Brighton

4. The Royal Pavilion is a marvel to look at… especially by night when it’s lit like a Christmas tree! A former Royal residence, it is now owned by Brighton & Hove City Council and gets around 400,000 visitors each year.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

 5. The Pier. (Brighton Marine Palace and Pier, shortened to Palace Pier and now just Brighton Pier!!) It’s a wonderful thing. Candy floss, fish & chips, arcades, fairground rides… nostalgic and fun. A grade II listed building since 1971. No trip to Brighton should be without a stroll down the promenade!

Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier

6. The Brighton Wheel. Marketed as “Brighton’s latest and greatest attraction”. There’s no doubt it’s great for tourists, I’ve never actually been on it… but even I have to admit, it does look cool. A great addition to Brighton’s skyline.

Brighton Wheel

Brighton Wheel

7. “Kiss Wall”. One of my favourite sculptures ever.  As you walk past and look out to sea, the light shines behind the column and the images become clear: 6 couples kissing. Different ages and genders but all displaying one thing: love. The statue “illustrates the diversity of Brighton’s population, celebrating equality, understanding and acceptance between all individuals.” (Brighton & Hove)

Kissing Wall, Brighton

Kissing Wall, Brighton

8. The Bandstand. First opened in 1884, it was restored to its former glory in 2009 and is now a popular wedding ceremony venue. I totally get it!!  I would love to have wedding photos here. It’s “considered to be one of the finest examples of a Victorian bandstand still surviving in England today.” (Brighton & Hove) Could not agree more. So beautiful!

The Bandstand, Brighton

The Bandstand, Brighton

9. More quirkiness. What looks like street art, actually has a hidden agenda. How very Brighton. Here Here is a “Biosphere project” for Brighton & Lewes Downs (covering almost 400 square kilometres of land and sea between the River Adur and the River Ouse) and aims to “look after and improve our local environment, whilst at the same time developing ourselves in a sustainable way.”

Street Art, Brighton

Street Art, Brighton

10. Change. The thing I most love about Brighton is that it isn’t afraid of change. It’s constantly evolving, updating, improving. Every time I visit, something is different, new. That’s an exciting prospect! Now I live in Holland, it’s going to be more difficult to visit my favourite seaside town… but I like a challenge! ;-)

What’s your favourite UK destination?

Hayley x

This blog post is an entry to ukbreakaways competition.

Bitterballen Proeven: Trivio, Loosdrecht

Last night we cycled to Loosdrecht and stopped at a pretty Italian restaurant by the water to enjoy a glass of wine (Sauvignon Blanc for me, beer for the Dutchie) and take in the view. We’d already eaten dinner, so the plan was just to have a drink, but whilst I popped to the ladies, the naughty Dutchie ordered bitterballen! Naughty because we’re both supposed to be on a “pre-wedding healthy eating regime”… but what could I do? ;-)

Trivio Restaurant, Loosdrecht

Trivio Restaurant, Loosdrecht

10 out of 10 for the view! I love being surrounded by water!! The bitterballen get a solid 7.5 out of 10. I like my bitterballen to be perfectly round, so a minus point for that. The mustard was a bit funny tasting, way too tangy, so that also gets a mark down and the bitterballen themselves were ever so slightly greasy, so a half point deduction. Still lekker and sitting on the terrace was gezellig, so a double thumbs up from two happy customers! (Trivio Restaurant in Loosdrecht.)

Hayley x

15 Things I never did until I lived in The Netherlands

1. Called people a whore (to their face). Ja hoor!” “Nee hoor!” “Momentje hoor!” 3 months in, it still makes me chuckle every time.

2. Arrived at a party at 2pm and left at 6pm. It’s not strange at all to set a time when everyone has to leave your birthday party. (Could it have something to do with the fact that it’s the birthday boy or girl’s job to buy all of the food & drinks for the occasion?) Work in an office? You’ll also need to buy cake for the whole workforce.

3. Electrical work. Most rented Dutch houses/apartments come without light fittings… so you call an electrician, right? Wrong. You save money and risk your life by doing it yourself… no biggie ;-)

4. Looked into other people’s houses… curtains are a rarity here, let alone net curtains! Nose away!

5. Cycled, everywhere! Just do it.

20140603-163158-59518771.jpg

6. Accepted ice cream topping as a breakfast food. Hagelslag (chocolate or sugar sprinkles) on bread (normally with lashings of butter.) I still don’t do that shit… I’ll stick to my marmite, thanks!

7. Ate FrikandelNever again.

8. Ate hot food from a vending machine. The Dutch love all things deep-fried and hate queuing. A chain of fast food restaurants called FEBO solves these two problems in one, with their vending machine walls!

Febo, Utrecht

Febo, Utrecht

9. Understood the difference between Holland and The Netherlands (but still say Holland). Hup Holland Hup. Case closed.

10. Called Boxing day “second Christmas Day” and Easter Monday “second Easter Day”. (Tweede Kerstdag and Tweede Paasdag.) Hell, why make up words when you can be super efficient and just add a 2 on the end? Similarly, the word for animals = dieren. Pet = huisdieren (house animals). Is it actually super efficient though, or could someone not be bothered to come up with more words?

11. The lekker hand sign. Eaten something delicious? Do this.

12. Owned orange clothing. King’s Day, football matches, other sporting events… it’s a must. Dress head-to-toe in orange. The sillier the better.

Our King's Day accessories box.

Our King’s Day accessories box. Every proud Dutchie has their own orange collection.

13. Said kunt without getting a bar of soap down my throat. (This actually happened, circa 1992. Bite marks in the soap after I used my “new-swear-word-of-choice” very loudly at my annoying younger brother. Of course, my Mum was standing behind me. Fail.) Anyway, here you can say… Je kunt (You can) Kunt u? (Can you? formal) and my personal favourite Kies mijn kant (Choose my side) without so much as a bat of the eyelid.

14. Heard “fuck” on the radio at 9am. Swearing just doesn’t have the same power here. Motherfucker, Fuck You, Fuck Off: unlikely to cause any offence. Similarly, songs with swearing aren’t “bleeped” out like in the UK… There’s no Cee Lo Green – Forget You, it’s Fuck You. Same goes for Lily Allen. Really want to insult a Dutch person? Tell them they have cancer… horrible… but that’s Dutch profanity for you.

15. Had a calendar in my BATHROOM. Weird, freaky or just super-sensible? Where else in the house do you have time to sit and “do nothing”? Read more about Bathroom Calendars.

What have I missed? Anything else you’ve noticed about the freaky deaky Dutchies you’d like to add to this list?

Hayley x

A Day of Mourning

Today’s post will be short one, because at 16.00 local time (it’s currently 15.15), there will be a minute’s silence for MH17. The first plane bringing home the Malaysian Airlines victims is expected to arrive in the Netherlands today at that time (at an airbase in Eindhoven), and it is officially a national day of mourning. In addition to the one minute of silence, flags are flying at half mast and a “Silent March” is taking place in Amsterdam at 20.00, departing from Dam Square.

Flags at half mast

Flags at half mast

I would also like to share another link with you: a powerful and eloquent speech by Frans Timmermans (Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs) to the UN Security Council.

Hayley x

MH17 – “Everyone knows someone, or someone who knew someone.”

On Friday morning I turned on my laptop to write a light-hearted post about my weekend trip to Utrecht. Instead I spent hours reading articles and blog posts about MH17 and listening to the radio for updates.

I won’t pretend to know too much about this tragedy. I only know what I’ve read. I didn’t know anyone on board. But the Netherlands is a small country, “193 people is a lot for us.”

“Everyone knows someone, or someone who knew someone.” (anastasiahacopian.com)

Such true words. At the gym, a woman broke down in the changing rooms. My instructor was also mourning her friend who had been on board.

It’s so incredibly sad. I’ve cried several times since Friday, reading about these people I don’t even know, but somehow I feel a connection. The Netherlands is my home now. Dutch people are MY people.

Therefore I couldn’t let this tragedy pass unmentioned. My blog posts can wait. In the meantime I just wanted to share a few links with you, in addition to the tear-jerking post from Anastasia above.

BBC: What we know

Amanda van Mulligen, MH17: A plane has crashed

Colleen Geske (Stuff Dutch People Like) A tribute to Antoine van Veldhuizen, a Dutch friend lost on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

Personal message from the Expatica Team

My sincere condolences to the crew, passengers, families and friends of those on board flight MH17.

Hayley x