Living in the Netherlands

Weekendje weg tip: Vakantiepark Vlugtenburg aan Zee

This place is so friggin’ cool that I thought I’d share it with you guys, because I’m nice like that.

Yesterday we took our second trip to Vakantiepark Vlugtenburg aan Zee. Technically it’s located in ‘s-Gravenzande but it’s very close to Hoek van Holland and a little town called Monster! (Yep, you read that right. Monster. Tee hee hee…)

And why is it so good I hear you ask? Let me show you 🙂

If you bend over in front of me, I will take a picture of your ass and post it on the internet.

[If you bend over in front of me, I will take a picture of your ass and post it on the internet.]

The End.

Just kidding, the view is equally as good without rollerblading chicks. Right?

 's-Gravenzande

The gorgeous beach is only a 10 minute walk from the campsite (and no, this isn’t a sponsored post, I just really love it here!)

Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd, 's-Gravenzande

Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd

If you enjoy a borrel – there are three bars on the beach: Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd, De Pit and Elements Beach. Especially for you, we went to all three! (Only for testing purposes, obviously.)

Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd is the classiest (read: most expensive) of the three, and De Pit and Elements both have a more relaxed, hippie vibe. At the first two, we only had drinks… but we tasted the food at Elements, including bitterballen!

Bitterballen at Elements Beach

It was a mixed bag. The bitterballen scored a 7/10 because they were slightly overcooked and they were tiny! (Except one! I think that one came from a different bag…)

The kibbeling was good, the mussels were average. I would avoid the groenten tempura (vegetable tempura) as it was super greasy!!

The service was also really (really) slow at Elements but they were busy, what with it being a Saturday afternoon in August and all… so I can forgive them. Totally worth a visit for the atmosphere and cool setting. Good vibes is no understatement!

Elements Beach, s Gravenzande

Elements Beach in 's-Gravenzande

Elements Beach in 's-Gravenzande

I love the wood carvings too!

Oh… and let’s talk about the beach again…

Hoek Van Holland

In the background you can see the Hoek van Holland 🙂

's-Gravenzande strand

I was doing my Instagram / blogger thing here… and the Dutchie thought he’d do the same…

's-Gravenzande strand

Hup Holland indeed! And speaking of… how Dutch is this next photo!?

's-Gravenzande strand

Thank you cycling Dutch person for coming into my shot at the exact right moment!

Back to the campsite… it’s definitely one of the better ones: well organised, clean, fantastic location and well priced! Just beware though, the reception operates limited opening times. On Saturday that was 10am – 3pm, we didn’t know this and arrived at 3.15pm. Luckily there was a member of staff still there and she happily helped us. Phew! It also closes for lunch (12 – 1pm) so just make sure you check the opening times in advance to avoid disappointment!

There’s also a pancake restaurant on site. We didn’t go there but it has good reviews on IENS (a Dutch restaurant review site similar to Trip Advisor).

He pannenkoek, 's-Gravenzande

Leuke naam, hé?

's-Gravenzande strand

If you love camping, the beach and being a hippie for a day… you should totally go here. It’s brilliant.

Do you know any other awesome campsites that you’d like to share with me?

Hayley x

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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

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

Eating Amsterdam Food Tour

Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited along on an Eating Amsterdam Tour. They lured me with bitterballen, obviously.

I’ve never done a food / tasting tour anywhere before, so it was an exciting first!

Before I start: A few days ago, one of my fellow expat bloggers posted about her experience of the same tour… and while I enjoyed her post, she went into huge amounts of detail about every aspect of the tour along with pictures of every single food they tried. I’m NOT going to do that.

If I tell you everything that happens and everything you eat – there will be no surprises if you want to do the tour yourself!

So, here in Bitterballenbruid fashion, is a higgledy piggledy series of events that may have happened on the Amsterdam food tour – in no particular order. SPOILER: There were bitterballen.

Bitterballen on the Amsterdam Food Tour

Because I’ve already ruined that part: let’s start with it.

We went on the Jordaan Food & Canals Tour – so yep, you go on a canal boat! Woop woop!

Definitely one of the highlights of the tour. The captain is awesome, friendly and funny and you get to drink prosecco and eat cheese and bitterballen whilst cruising around the Amsterdam canals. Sweeeeeeeeeet!

Oh, speak of the devil! Here he is:

Hotel Pulitzer

Hotel Pulitzer

So yeah, you get on a boat and are greeted with this happy sight!

Amsterdam Food Tour Cheese

Amsterdam Food Tour

Eating Amsterdam Food Tour

And then, around half way into the one hour boat trip… this happens…

Bitterballen Delivery

Only in Holland, right? BITTERBALLEN DELIVERY!

Bitterballen

They get one of the best scores yet… a 9/10. Bravo Holtkamp bakery! Absolutely delicious! They’re definitely in my top two ever (the others were at the SkyLounge) but I always score including presentation, so they have to get a minus point for that. Foil tray indeed!

And you clearly can’t have bitterballen without yet more alcohol! YAY!

Brouwerij t IJ Beer

Amsterdam Food Tour

Hungry yet? So, boat tour over – let’s go to my least favourite part… LIQUORICE!

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje is owned by Mariska, who is very Dutch (I mean, very direct). I was a bit scared of her, especially when she told an American lady off for taking photos and not listening… but I’m a blogger, so I’m allowed to take photos? Right? Pleeeeeeease?

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje

I hate drop… and (sadly) nothing changed. I tried it. I still hate it. The Dutchie tried it. He still loves it. We got a bag each to take away, so he was super happy as he got two bags!

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje

I then tried to take some establishing shots, but people kept getting in my way… I like the way this one came out though. “Oh, do get out of the way with that silly camera, dear!”

Amsterdam Food Tour

Dude, please!

Amsterdam Food Tour

People, just a sec?

Amsterdam Food Tour

Nailed it! Grrrr, dammit… there’s still someone lurking on the right…

Amsterdam Food Tour

As you can see, it was a pretty dreary day in Amsterdam – but our tour leader Annamaria kept our spirits up!

Raw herring, anyone?

Amsterdam Food Tour

There was also kibbeling… Mmmmmmmm…

Kibbeling

In addition to all the delicious food, I also used the walking part of the tour to get some random Amsterdam shots… and of course, I had to stop every time I saw any street art!

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

I’m not even sure why I wanted to take a photo of this blue wall… but people just wouldn’t let me…

Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

Thank you, thank you very much.

Amsterdam Food Tour

Oh yeah, where was I…? Food.

Two words for you: APPLE PIE. But not like apple pie you’ve ever had before – this is Dutch Appeltaart. I am totally not a sweet person, but this appeltart was something else!

Amsterdam Food Tour

And… more food… remember that this tour is 4 hours long!! (And this part definitely isn’t in the right order…)

Then, the icing on the cake.

My first ever taste of poffertjes! I can confirm they are as good as they look – if not better!

Poffertjes

Poffertjes

Poffertjes on the Eating Amsterdam Tour

So, there you have it. Edited highlights of the Eating Amsterdam Food Tour. It is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done in Amsterdam!

The full tour is 4 hours long with 7 stops and 12 tastings. It starts at 11am and finishes at 3pm, so take my advice and skip breakfast! Or if you can’t… have a VERY light breakfast.

You and your bellies will thank me later!

Hayley x

Note: I was hosted on the tour by Eating Amsterdam but all views and opinions – as always – remain my own.

(Dutch-related) stuff that happened in April 2015

I was just about to write a post about my “Eating Amsterdam” trip – but then I realised I only posted 3 times in April – and sooooo much happened last month! So that one will have to wait for now… and in the meantime you get a kinda summary post about April, you lovely springy sunny month, you! (Well, mostly.)

Not sure if I’m going to make this a regular thing, but it’ll do for now as I have a few things I want to write about but they don’t necessarily need individual posts.

So, roughly in chronological order (I totally just went downstairs to get my calendar – goldfish brain!!) here’s the Dutch-related stuff that happened to me in April 2015:

1. I ate Amsterdam.

As in, I went on a food tour of Amsterdam and ate EVERYTHING. Even drop (liquorice)… my nemesis. Are you proud?

I will write a whole post about this (promise) because it was amazing. But in the meantime, here’s a picture of some bitterballen. Because, duh.

Bitterballen on the Amsterdam Food Tour

Bitterballen on the Amsterdam Food Tour

2. My 1 year Expat Anniversary

I was just about to post this and then I realised I totally forgot to even mention the fact that I have lived in the Netherlands for a year! What did I do to celebrate? I went to Germany on a business trip… ha ha. Oh well, there’s always next year…

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the fact it’s been a whole year… in some ways it’s gone by in a flash and in other ways… I can watch Dutch films and TV and listen to Dutch radio… and TALK DUTCH TO DUTCH PEOPLE. So that’s still mind-blowing to me.

I read an article today about “Being stuck in the middle of two worlds” by Amanda (of Expat Life with a Double Buggy fame) and I totally relate. She says “I’ll never be mistaken for being Dutch, yet I don’t feel that England is my home anymore.” TOTALLY, TOTALLY get it.

Also love that she compares expat life to Tom Branson moving into Downton Abbey. This makes me laugh, nod along and feel like something is missing at the same time. (And if you don’t watch Downtown Abbey… YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE – LIKE – NOW.)

3. My sister came to visit – so we went to Utrecht

Not really news in itself… except that we properly did Utrecht: A guided walking tour, a canal tour AND we walked all 465 steps to the top of the Dom tower! Oh, and my sister is 5 and a half months pregnant… so there’s that too.

Utrecht gearing up for the Tour de France in July

Utrecht gearing up for the Tour de France in July

And now from the top! For reference… look for the red bike…

View from the top of the Dom Tower, Utrecht

View from the top of the Dom Tower, Utrecht

As with #1, this trip will also get a full blog post shortly… I took a bazillion photos despite it being a dreary old day.

4. Visited Keukenhof

I totally get it. This is one of those touristy things you have to do, once. And once was enough!

We went on a Friday, a very sunny Friday and it was ram-packed. I’m not going to do a blog post about this, because Jennifer over at Expat Lingo has already summed the experience up perfectly!! Here’s her step-by-step virtual tour: Tramped under the tulips at the Keukenhof

Instead… here are a few snaps I manged to take without 20 people getting in the way:

Tulips at the Keukenhof

Keukenhof

Keukenhof

Flower fields near the Keukenhof

Pretty, huh?

And to give you a small glimpse into the volume of tourists…

Windmill carnage

Windmill carnage

5. Blogger meet-up

By far one of my highlights in April was meeting up with some fellow bloggers. In addition to Jennifer from Expat Lingo, who I’ve just mentioned above, I also met up with Sophie from Sophie in Clogs, Aislinn from Ace the Adventure and Alison of A Flamingo in Utrecht. We met at Alison’s gorgeous Italian wine bar, Vino Veritas which is co-owned with her Italian partner Giovanni.

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

Vino Veritas, Utrecht

It was a fantastic evening and we have already set a date to meet up again in June! Fascinating to meet other expat bloggers and share our stories. With wine, of course!

6. King’s Day

Last, but by no means least, were the birthday celebrations of King Willem-Alexander on 27th April. Once again, the weather did not disappoint, despite the forecasts consistently predicting rain until the day itself! Phew!

King's Day in Amsterdam

(We definitely have a problem. We have so much orange crap it’s hard to know what to wear!!)

Orange clothing for King's Day

In the end I plumped for a tiara with orange fluff (classy), Dutch flags painted on my face (standard) plus the following ensemble…

IMG_3766

King’s Day afternoon was spent strolling around the canals, meeting up with friends and listening to live music. The evening was a haze of wine, beer, new Dutch “friends” and more beer. How about you?

Thanks April. You were awesome.

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

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!

Kopjes Amsterdam

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.)

Paris the Cat

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

(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