Dutch

How to Learn Dutch: For Beginners

Over the last year and half I’ve received quite a few emails asking me about how I learnt Dutch. Note: I am still learning!!

But anyway, I thought I’d share how I am learning Dutch with you guys. I hope it’s helpful for any of you who are being challenged with this difficult language. I feel you!

1. Michel Thomas CDs

My first port of call was Michel Thomas because my Mum and Dad were learning French at the time via the Michel Thomas method and had highly recommended it. (As do I!)

Learning Dutch materials

Both the Foundation and Advanced course are very good, however they will not suffice (alone) in teaching you Dutch! But they’re great for beginners to get a feel for the language and the pronunciation etc.

Oh and because I’m a food nerd, my sister-in-law cleverly bought me “Your 1000 Most Important Words: Food and Drink”.

2. Dutch textbooks

Secondly, I got my hands on EVERTHING Dutch I could. Dutch textbooks, grammar books, children’s books. I mostly ordered these from Amazon UK as I was still living in England at the time. As I was buying so much, I got the majority of them second-hand.

Learning Dutch materials

For me: the “201 Dutch verbs” is an absolute must! I use it loads. Hugo “Dutch in 3 months” is also a pretty good textbook, except that I’m not even halfway through it. If you are more dedicated than me, it’s a good ‘un!

3. Children’s books

Most of these were lent to me by my schoonmoeder (mother-in-law). I also bought a few myself at Bruna (a chain in the Netherlands – a bit like WH Smith).

I use the really simple ones for pronunciation – I read to the Dutchie and he corrects any errors. Then I read the slightly higher level ones with a dictionary next to me! (The same as I do with magazines.)

Dutch learning materials

4. Online courses

The two I’ve tried are Duolingo and Babbel. I recommend both of them. Duolingo is free – but it does have a few annoying quirks. I see people complaining all the time on the FB group… things which they think are right but Duolingo says are wrong and about the speaking/microphone settings. I found that speaking slowly and loudly helps with that! (Typical English person, eh?) But really, you have to otherwise the programme marks your answers as wrong. I’m pretty sure they have an app too, but I haven’t used that.

Babbel is more visual/text based. You pay 20 euros for 3 months and you can use it as often as you like. They also have a phone/ipad app which I found useful on the go.

5. Dutch courses

I did an intermediate course at my local college as soon as I arrived in Holland. This is obviously one of the best ways to learn – as you’re thrown in at the deep end! Unfortunately… our teacher was rubbish. Sad face.

It did mean that I had to speak Dutch in class for an hour and a half each week though… and do homework every week. So that was great for continuity… (even though every single bloody week I did my homework in a rush – half an hour before class – whilst eating dinner. Some things never change!!)

Dutch learning materials

At my local college they used the “Delftse methode” which is a pretty good course, though the books are VERY old fashioned, despite being published in 2007…

6. Dutch TV

As I’ve already mentioned before, there’s not a lot to write home about with Dutch TV. But pick a subject you’re interested in and hopefully you can find something tolerable. For me that’s MasterChef Holland. (UK Masterchef is the still the best, Australia second and Holland third. The rest suck.)

I used to watch Pim & Pom, a children’s programme about two cats. There are tons of kids programmes available on cable (we have Ziggo) but I couldn’t stand most of them as the voices are too annoying. However, if you can – watching kids programmes is a really good way to learn basic words, sentence structure and pronunciation.

7. Subtitles

I have Dutch subtitles permanently on, no matter what I’m watching. So even if I’m watching an English/American series, I’m still learning. This is easy for people who already live in Holland, but if you don’t – check all your DVDs, you might be surprised how many have Dutch subtitles.

8. Films

Kinda the same deal as with TV, but there are a few gems: Gooische Vrouwen (also a TV series), Dunya & Desie (totally a teener film, but hey, I like Clueless!), Jackie, Alles Is Liefde, Alles is Familie.

9. Radio

Even if it’s on in the background, you’re still exposing yourself to the language. My favourite stations are 3FM, Sky Radio and Radio 538. And at Christmas time… NPO Radio 2! (Because of the Top 2000.)

top2000crop

10. Practice with Dutch people! 

This seems so obvious, but of the whole list… this is the hardest one to pull off!

Here’s the thing with learning Dutch: you speak Dutch, they hear an accent, they switch to English.

There’s only one way to rectify this. You have to be more stubborn than a Dutch person… and believe me, they’re pretty stubborn.

The whole switching to English thing doesn’t happen to me that much anymore (thankfully!!) but occasionally, it rears its ugly head. When this happens you have three options:

  1. Politely tell them (in Dutch) you’d like to continue in Dutch as you need to practice.
  2. Carry on in Dutch and hope they get the message.
  3. Only for the very brave: If they’re winning the stubborn contest and you’re getting frustrated… act like you don’t understand them when they speak in English. “Sorry, wat zeg je?” or “Wat zei je?” whilst looking surprised is rather effective. It forces them to pause and rethink what they are doing and speak back to you in the language you are using. (The Dutchie finds this particularly annoying, but it gets the point across and forces him to make the switch.)

I do find stubbornness wins out… most of the time anyway!

Anything else you’d like to add to this list?

Hayley x

 

Advertisements

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

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

You know you’re definitely Dutch when…

1. You think it’s perfectly normal to transport another human being on a bike with you.

2. Your calves resemble Popeye’s biceps.

3. You get annoyed when people think the Netherlands is all about Amsterdam.

4. You get annoyed when people think Amsterdam is all about weed and prostitutes.

5. You own one of these:

Masher

6. On special occasions and at Christmas time, you dust off your gourmetten set and let everyone cook their own food on the dinner table.

7. You eat (and enjoy) frikandellen.

8. You manage to say hoor 10 times a day without so much as a stifled giggle.

9. You roll your eyes when someone refers to your country as Holland, then take a deep breath and prepare yourself to deliver your rehearsed speech about the difference between Holland and The Netherlands.

10. You fly a Dutch flag when camping so that people don’t mistake you for Germans.

100_Dutch

11. You’ve stepped in dog poo and then walked into your house with your shoes still on.

12. You will not allow people to say that oliebollen are doughnuts. EVER.

13. (Women) You think that white leggings are a fashionable option for summer.

14. (Men) You think that coloured jeans are a fashionable option, period.

15. You don’t know what the Dutch two-tone sigh is, because you don’t even realise you’re doing it.

Hayley x

Learning Dutch is f*cking hard

Dutch kissing

Yesterday I cried about learning Dutch. In public. On a busy pub terrace. Ummm. So yeah, that sucked.

Luckily, it was super sunny yesterday and I was wearing sunglasses so hopefully no one noticed… (I’m totally kidding myself, people definitely noticed.)

Anyway, I cried because learning Dutch is fucking hard.

I don’t really talk about it very much, and I purposely try to keep negativity away from my blog… but this isn’t negative, it’s just honest.

I’ve been learning Dutch properly for about a year. Before that, when we still lived in England, I had a few CDs which I listened to occasionally (Michel Thomas, in case you’re wondering). Occasionally – meaning listening to them for a few hours in blind panic directly before every trip to Holland and then not bothering again for a couple of months. Read: Until the next trip!

I’ve taken a Dutch course (which I didn’t complete because the teacher was a terrible teacher. Nice sweet lady, but seriously love – you’re in the wrong business) and I can have basic level conversations and understand about 80-90% of what people are saying to me. So considering I’ve only lived here a year, I reckon I’m doing alright.

So yesterday, fuelled by 8 glasses of wine (not all full measures – thankfully!! On the Wijnspijs Culinaire Wandeling – separate post on that to follow) I took the plunge and started talking to my Dutch friend in Dutch. They don’t call it Dutch courage for nothing! He speaks amazing English, I’ve known him for 6 years and we’ve always spoken together in English. But you know, I need to practice. And I’d been speaking Dutch all day, so it seemed natural to me.

It was all going fine until I made a tiny mistake, literally I said ‘heeft’ instead of ‘hebt’. I know it’s wrong, they know it’s wrong… but y’know, 8 glasses of wine, talking quickly, in my second language… I’m going to make mistakes. No biggie. But then… The Dutchie corrects me.

Ok – I think to myself – he’s supposed to correct me, that’s the only way I’m going to learn. (We have a deal – we correct each other’s language mistakes, except if we’re in a group. Then you have to remind them about it later, one on one.) So… deep breath, carry on…

Then The Friend corrects me. Again, something ridiculously tiny. And I lose my shit.

I just stopped talking and had a little cry, while they awkwardly carried on talking. Once I’d regained my composure… I went to the toilet to fix my face.

They’re blokes so they thought they were being ‘helpful’. I tried explaining to them that it’s not what you say, but the way you say it… but these are Dutch blokes, so that was no use whatsoever!

When I came back, I started talking in English, but after a few minutes, I thought nope. This is not cool. I WILL speak Dutch and I WILL make mistakes. So I gently reminded myself of my speaking Dutch mantra: fuck it.

I try really hard. Really bloody hard to speak the language. And I had a little wobble… but I bloody well picked myself up, dusted myself off and carried on. How very British of me!

So, to anyone out there who is learning Dutch – or any other language for that matter – good luck to you, hats off and a big virtual high five.

It’s hard fucking work – and I applaud you.

Hayley x

20 More Amusing Dutch Words

About 6 months ago, I wrote a post entitled 30 Amusing Dutch Words. It was shared, A LOT, so I guess you were mildly interested in it.

Laura Frame, my partner in crime for that post, has come up with some more cute illustrations of Dutch words. It would therefore be a shame not to share some more!!

This post shows you why it’s a bad idea to directly translate Dutch words into English…

1. Eekhoorntjesbrood

Eekhoorntjesbrood – literally translated as ‘little squirrel’s bread’ it actually means porcini mushrooms. Leuk, hè? 

Eekhoorntjesbrood

2. Luipaard

Means leopard, but is literally translated as ‘lazy horse’.

Luipaard

3. Koevoet

This is the word for a crow bar, but the literal translation is ‘cow foot’. Tskkkkk.

Koevoet

4. Papegaaiduiker

Yuh huh, you got it – ‘parrot diver’. It actually means puffin.

Papegaaiduiker

5. Tuinslang

Continuing the animal theme… we have ‘garden snake’ – which is actually just a garden hose.

Garden snake

6. Brandslang

And for real emergencies… a ‘fire snake’!! Ok, ok… it’s really just a fire hose.

Brandslang

7. Gordeldier

Gordeldier means armadillo, but the literal translation is ‘belt animal’ 😀

Gordeldier

8. IJsbeer

The direct Dutch translation for polar bear is ‘ice bear’. (IJs can also mean ice cream! Even better!)

IJsbeer (polar bear)

9. Paardenbloem

Crossing animal/flower genres, we have the ‘horse flower’. Which is actually a dandelion.

Paardenbloem (dandelion)

10. Madelief

Literally meaning ‘loveable maggot’ – madelief is the word for a daisy.

Madelief (daisy)

11. Vingerhoedskruid

A foxglove is literally translated as ‘finger hat herb’. (Also an ideal candidate for a funny English word illustration!!)

Vingerhoedskruid (foxglove)

12. Bloemlezing

‘Flower reading’ is the way you say anthology in Dutch.

Bloemlezing

13. Pindakaas

Literally meaning ‘peanut cheese’, pinkakaas is the word for peanut butter.

Pindakaas

14. Toiletbril

Where did I put my toilet glasses??? ‘Toiletbril’ means toilet seat!

Toiletbril (toilet seat)

15. Stofzuiger

‘Dust sucker’! Thankfully it means vacuum cleaner!!

Stofzuiger

16. Stembanden

Stembanden, meaning vocal chords. The literal translation is ‘voice tyres’.

Stembanden

17. Schoonmoeder

Definitely one of my person favourites!! Mother-in-law is literally translated as ‘clean mother’. Schoon can also mean beautiful.

Schoonmoeder

18. Feestneus

Are you a ‘party nose’? You might be better known as a party animal.

Feestneus

19. Buitenbeentje

A misfit or ‘being an outsider’ is literally translated from Dutch to English as a ‘ little outside leg’.

Buitenbeentje

20. Brandweer 

“Quick, call the fire weather!” Brandweer is the word for fire brigade…

Brandweer (fire brigade)

(In this instance, weer comes from weren which means to avert. So ‘Brandweer’ means fire defence or fire aversion. And yes, that’s a map of Belgium – the illustrator has ties with Belgium.)

If you have any more suggestions of amusing Dutch words for Laura to illustrate – please comment below! And if you want to give Laura some love (and congratulate her on her awesome drawings) here’s her Facebook Page.

So, what have been your biggest fails so far whilst learning Dutch? (Or any language?) Ondernemer was a personal highlight of mine – I thought it meant undertaker, but it’s actually entrepreneur!! Plus “Ik heb mijn benen uit.” Totally normal to say that in English, but in Dutch it would insinuate that I have prosthetic limbs. Oops!

Hayley x

20 Reasons why King’s Day in Amsterdam is the worst street party in Europe

Koningsdag or King’s Day (27th April) in the Netherlands is such a boring day. Especially if you go to Amsterdam – then it’s particularly awful. I wouldn’t recommend you go, definitely not. You’ll have a rubbish time. Honest.

1. Everyone wears sensible, somber clothing. Mostly black or grey.

Kings Day

By DirkvdM (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5] via Wikimedia Commons

2. No one drinks. At all.

Beers

3. Especially not on the street. There is a high level of class and decorum at all times.

Drinking cider on Queens Day

4. No fun is allowed. And especially no dancing!

Dancing at Kings Day

5. And strictly no Dad Dancing.

Dancing on Queens Day

6. The canals are really empty and boring too. Nothing going on there.

Amsterdam Canals

By Carmelrmd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

7. The streets are deserted. Nothing to see here!

Jordaan on Kings Day

8. There’s nothing to do. You can’t get funny caricatures of yourself drawn on the street by Stan Heinze, Dutch caricaturist and comic artist.

Getting caricature drawn on Kings Day

8. Or throw wet sponges at your mates for shits and giggles.

Wet sponge throwing

9. You definitely can’t do that. I told you – no fun allowed.

Queens Day Sponge Throwing

10. There’s no messing around or being silly. Or you’ll get arrested by the fun police.

Queens Day Fun

11. The parks are completely desolate on King’s Day. Especially Vondelpark. Completely empty.

Vondelpark Queens Day

12. There’s no one taking advantage of the vrijmarkt (free market) and selling their old tat.

Vondelpark Queens Day

13. Or asking you to pay 50 cents to look in a box.

Queens Day 2011

14. And did I mention… NO DRINKING!

Drinking on Kings Day

15. And under no circumstances can roads be closed or traffic stopped for revellers.

Queens Day 2011

16. Later on in the evening, everyone is completely sober. No parties, no staying up late. Everyone just has an early night.

Kings Day Holland tshirt

17. Completely, 100% sober. I told you, right?

Queens Day drunk people

18. It definitely doesn’t get blurry. And people definitely don’t crash their boats whilst drunk.

Queens Day Late

19. You see, King Willem-Alexander is a very sober man. Never had a drink in his life… and his nickname definitely wasn’t Prins Pils (Lager Prince) in his student days, before be became King.

Koningsdag

By Erikt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

20. Happy King’s Day everyone. I hope you have a really ongezellig time. Better to just stay at home that day really.

Queens Day

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.

IMG_9364

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!)

IMG_3364a

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.

IMG_9362

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.

IMG_9384

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.

IMG_3367

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.

IMG_9377

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

IMG_9344

IMG_9346

IMG_9354

IMG_9365

IMG_9362

IMG_9382

IMG_9371

IMG_9358

IMG_9368

IMG_9376

IMG_9380

IMG_9378

IMG_9383

IMG_9387

IMG_9392

IMG_9394

IMG_9388

IMG_9405

IMG_9409

IMG_3371

IMG_9397

 

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

That one time I went to Hoorn

Last week, on my day off, it was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to go out and DO SOMETHING FUN! Because why the heck not??

Back in January I asked for recommendations of the best places to go in the Netherlands on my Facebook page and I got loads of responses including: Haarlem (went on Saturday), Gouda (going next weekend), Maastricht, Leiden, Delft, Valkenburg, Harderwijk (been), Nijmegen (going in a few weeks), Den Bosch, The Hague, Texel, Rhenen, Groningen, Oostkappelle/Domburg, Naarden-Vesting (been – in fact, this is where our wedding party was held), Rotterdam (been – lots!), Middelburg, Amersfoort (been) and Hoorn.

It was already 12ish when I decided to go, so I wanted somewhere which was an hour or less on the train from Hilversum so I could be there and back in the same afternoon. After a quick bit of journey planning on good old NS.nl, I chose Hoorn… and I’m so glad I did!

Hoorn – pronounced somewhere between the English horn and the Dutch horen (to hear) is a town in North Holland, approx 35km north of Amsterdam. It’s a harbour town so in addition to the beautiful old buildings and canals you also get a gorgeous harbour thrown in!

IMG_9319

I must admit, it was tempting just to get off at Amsterdam Centraal, since we stopped there anyway… but no, Hoorn was the order of the day. When I arrived at the train station in Hoorn I didn’t really have a clear idea of where to go, so I just wandered around with my camera poised (knowing that if I got lost, I have Google Maps on my phone, so no biggie)… it was a good plan as I eventually ended up at the harbour without even really trying!

The harbour is proudly marked by (probably) Hoorn’s most recognisable landmark, de Hoofdtoren meaning ‘the head tower’. It was built in 1532 and is a registered rijksmonument (national heritage site). Today, it’s a restaurant.

IMG_3289

I had already been exploring for about an hour at this point, so I decided to stop at a pub on the waterfront. I looked for the most traditional one I could find, which happened to be Café ‘t Schippershuis, a traditional bruin café. Perfect!

If you don’t know what a ‘brown’ cafe is, they’re a bit like old-fashioned British pubs. The ‘brown’ title coming from the (often) tobacco stained ceilings, walls and the wooden panelling and floorboards. They’re old and often a bit tatty, but that’s all part of the charm! Oh… and carpet on the table – check!

Schippershuis

The beautiful old bar is shaped like a ship, the friendly waitress was stood behind the bar cleaning glasses and three locals were happily chatting away. As I walked in, the locals stopped briefly to greet me, looked pleased when I returned their greetings (in Dutch) and then went back to their flamboyant conversation and foamy beer.

The Dutch are a friendly bunch – and on the whole – they’re happy to speak English to you. BUT now I’m speaking more and more Dutch, I’m totally noticing that people are even friendlier  in Dutch! They love that you’re making the effort to speak their native language and will reward you accordingly. (This is making me tear up a little bit thinking of the old guy I met in Amsterdam a couple of weeks back – I was in a bar near Centraal Station with my English friend and he offered us a seat, in English. When I replied in Dutch, his face literally lit up like a Christmas tree!)

And the same thing happened in Hoorn. Once I collected my drink and took a seat, the patrons (knowing I could speak Dutch) started chatting away to me and made me feel really welcome. I honestly don’t think that would have happened if I’d ordered my drink in English. Proost! 

IMG_3273

When I first moved here ten months ago, I would have never been brave enough to just get on a train and go somewhere brand new ON MY OWN. It just shows how far I’ve come!

I wouldn’t say I’m fluent yet, but I can do all the basics. Understanding what people say to you is important, and undoubtedly the first step, but now I can not only understand what they’re saying to me… I can reply. My understanding was always pretty good (after visiting here regularly when we lived in England) but gone are the days when I completely freak out when people speak Dutch at me. That whole day, I didn’t speak a word of English.

Initially, a lot of my problem was having the confidence to speak Dutch (this is especially intimidating because Dutch people speak such good English)… but one day I just said to myself: “Fuck it”.

I will make mistakes, but it’s the only way I’m going to learn. And with that, I somehow just got over my fear. This makes me VERY happy as it’s opened up a whole new world of adventures! I love visiting new places with my husband or my friends, but I now I don’t HAVE to wait for them. If I have a day off and want to go somewhere on my own, I damn well can.

IMG_9307

So, like any good tourist, I took a whole bunch of photos. I can’t post them all here as you might lose the will to live… but I’m going to add my favourites at least. (That’s a lot, still. It’s Hoorn’s fault for being so damn gorgeous!!)

As you may have noticed, especially if you follow me on Instagram, I have a bit of an obsession with Street Art.

IMG_9290

IMG_9320

And churches. (This particular beauty is Grote Kerk.)

IMG_9331

And skulls. (This one is Noorderkerk.)

IMG_9341

I visited the central square in Hoorn too, called de Roode Steen (The Red Stone) to check out the Westfries Museum. An amazingly impressive building, I’m afraid my photo just doesn’t do it justice though… as I was fighting with the sun the whole time (not that I’m complaining!) so you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!

IMG_9334a

After more walking, admiring and photo taking I fancied a bite to eat and stumbled across Bagels & Beans on my way back to the train station. I remembered that the one in Hilversum had good reviews, so decided to give it a go. Turns out, it was a day of good choices. (Unfortunately it was a one-day-only special. I went to Haarlem the next day with the Dutchie and all of my good fortune had run out. It wasn’t a bad trip… but it was nowhere as good as mijn dagje uit in Hoorn!)

The hot chocolate comes – not as a hot chocolate – but as a mug of hot milk and a shot glass of chocolate buttons to make it yourself! Very novel! I also loved the ‘heaven & hell’ saucer!

Bagelandbeans

To accompany the best hot chocolate ever… I had a delicious Paddoburger van champignons (mushroom burger in a bagel) but I can’t post that picture now or I might chew my arm off.

Think I’d better go and make some lunch…

So, have you been to Hoorn? What did you think?

Hayley x

Ps – and now for a shitload of photos that didn’t fit into the post… but I don’t know what else to do with them. (I didn’t Photoshop any of these btw, so no idea what’s going on with the crazy variation in sky colours!)

IMG_9286

IMG_9288

IMG_9297

IMG_9305

IMG_9309

IMG_9311

IMG_9312

IMG_9316

IMG_9317

IMG_9323

IMG_9324

IMG_9333

IMG_9325

IMG_3283