Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Roadtrip

Here’s the 2e Pinksterdag roadtrip on a grey and drizzly Monday -- We drove up to the north and visited a couple of villages. While I get the pictures ready, have a look first at the short videos we made.



The man-made dijk (dike) highway connecting Enkhuizen (North Holland) and Lelystad (Flevoland). It takes approximately 30 minutes to crossover. We came from the Enkhuizen side. On the right is the Markermeer (Marker lake) and on the left is IJsselmeer (IJssel lake), both used to be part, a massive inlet, of the Waddenzee (Wadden sea).

I love the music though - which became a hit only when Royal Club Tonic used the song for its TV commercial.



The Nuon (energy company) modern windmills in the A6 highway in Flevoland. These windmills provide electricity to the Flevoland province.

If the video gets boring, although I love the blue skies (almost 10PM on the watch when Dutchman took this), just listen to the cool background music - soothing and therapeutic.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Expatica blog and halfway through Pinksterdag

After blogging weekly for Expatica early last year, which then turned into a monthly update, I am now blogging for them as a Guest Blogger, which is more like an every few month blog posting. Given the fact that I have my own busy yard to tend to, the schedule is just perfect.

Expatica also have new expat bloggers in the Netherlands. You can read their stories by clicking on the Dutched Pinay logo below the chatbox.

And my newest blog entry in Expatica is about the strange behavior of the Dutch and what they meant by fresh bread. To read the article, go here: Don’t freeze my bread!


This is our frozen sliced bread inside the freezer.


Come Monday is Pinksterdag (Pentecost), 2nd Pentecost Day that is, ergo no work. This weekend is another one of the long series of weekends here in Europe, albeit the last long weekend for us here in the Netherlands since the next holidays will be 25 and 26 December, Christmas Days.

I think I have written a few times in this blog that religious holidays in this country have a thin sheath of deception covering them; a smoke screen per se. These religious holidays represent a historical-spiritual segment of world Christendom but the way I see it, they are just faux holidays in Holland. Many have left the faith. Some are in deep limbo state - not having any religious or spiritual standpoint, while others just don’t care at all.

The locals don’t even go to church during Pinksterdag (or Hemelvaartsdag and Paasdag), except for a handful few, which I believe are bound to extinction very, very soon. Instead, if the weather is nice, they pack the beaches or drive to neighboring Germany, Belgium and France to spend the weekend, and the remaining locals hunt for bargains at the woonboulevard (home boulevard) during the 2nd day of Pentecost.


People just want to keep the religious holidays in the calendar to have extra days off from work, which of course I won’t dare protest. I will be stupid if I would.

So I gave Dutchman two options:

Option ONE: Let’s go to Reims in France. Visit the Champagne region, enjoy the views of the breathtaking rolling vineyards, and be wine connoisseurs for the weekend.

Option TWO: Let’s go to Hameln, the town of the Pied Piper in Germany (of the Grimm Brothers stories I read as a kid in school). Follow a historical and cultural trail in the old center then drop in to see the beautiful Hamelschenburg Castle or the Buckeburg Castle 15 minutes away near Hildesheim.

His answer: None of the above.


*heavy dejected sigh*

Said he has been rigorously immersed in the so-called Old Europe culture – he claims to have had suffered severe psychological overdosage of it, and have seen so many castles, driven through scenic little villages, and spent days at ruins and museums during his childhood days that it would take another decade or two before he would be sober enough to visit one. True enough, when we travel within Europe, he always prefers to remain outside the castle or museum while waiting for me to finish my history and culture educational tour.

So, okay, fine... but my feet are still itching to go and I’m thinking if I should drag him by the throat, maybe charm him up, ah, perhaps bribe him! But, looking outside the window and seeing the grey boring skies, I reflected -- nah, I am not in the mood to go through all these.

Well anyway, good news - yesterday, Dutchman offered a truce. He said we will watch a movie in the city center and come Sunday or Monday, we will go somewhere, but not outside Holland. He said he has a surprise for me, a nice place that I haven’t been to, yet. Now, I am curious what and where this place is?

So last night we went to the city center (to watch the movie, Last King of Scotland) saddled on a bike – the typical Dutch manner. Dutchman on the bicycle steering wheel with me perched royally at the back. The steely bar I am sitting on was too sharp for my little butt though. However, after a few minutes of wiggling and waggling I figured the balance of my weight and found a comfortable way of sitting. What a feat. I am a fast learner, ha-ha!

We biked through the Centrum, Dutchman pedaling his 2nd owned rickety bike for city purposes, and this strange eerie feeling - an abstract mixture of euphoria and dreaminess enveloped me. Ethereal I must say; a cross between discovering the city as a tourist and reliving it as a local. Maybe because this is the first time (I am not joking after 4+ years!) I have traversed and seen Utrecht Centrum from the back of Dutchman’s moving bike. Dutchman on the other hand was in high spirits. He said proudly and loudly, as if he just discovered a new patent in biking technology, “This is the fastest and most efficient way to get to and move around the city center - biking.” I could clearly tell he is enjoying immensely the Dutchness in him.


My movie review for the Last King of Scotland is 4 stars out of 5. It’s a good film. Political in nature; some scenes were pretty disturbing. Idi Amin has been known to have tortured and massacred the Ugandan people, even his own confidants.

There was also an open-air street party, more like a musical gig, at the Neude square: Festival a/d Werf. A huge stage prepped up with colorful disco lights graced the bustling place. Hundreds of people, mostly young kids (remember Utrecht is home to the largest university of the Netherlands) swarmed the area with beer cups in their hands. Ah nice, we just arrived on time. So we stayed around a little bit to watch the lively street party scene.

Later, we moved to a café nearby to relax and sit down, and read through the stacks of newspapers and magazines they have. I ordered dry white wine and he a beer. Just half past 1AM, we decided to go home but when we got out of the café, the dark skies were pouring mad. Bad, bad weather, she ruined the whole festival. But, I guess, the Dutch are so used to the rain, it doesn’t bother them anymore. It did bothered the Dutchman though because we are going home by bike!

Today Sunday, the skies are still dull and grey. It looks cold outside. Maybe we will go to that “surprise” place tomorrow. Hopefully it will be better weather, although, to be honest, I have my sincere doubts.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dorpen in Wijdemeren, Loosdrecht, and Loenen

Dorp in Dutch means a village, a little town. The plural form is Dorpen.
Yesterday Thursday was Hemelvaartsdag [Ascension Day] in the Netherlands which means -- No work. Frankly speaking, I do not understand why a non-believing country, well majority of the populace that is, still celebrate this religious occasion? Perhaps the reason why the Dutch are not willing (yet) to part ways from these superfluous religious holidays is because it would mean losing official public holidays ergo vacation days. Now, now, no one wants that, lol.

Anyway, I thought yesterday will be another one of those sad, grey, and drizzly days that we have been experiencing in the last days but surprisingly the weather mood changed slightly after 3PM. We saw hope. We saw amazing grace working right before our very eyes. We saw rays of light creeping behind the somber clouds! Hallelujah, amen!

Quickly, we settled ourselves inside the car, “Where are we going?” Dutchman asked.

“I don’t know? Anywhere I guess? I just want to get out!”

Well, we got lost in the posh villages of Wijdemeren and Loosdrecht and the scenic Aan de Vecht river in Loenen.


Oh my, can you believe this? A Burberry Jeep in Loosdrecht, lol!
Next foto is typically Netherlands - a draw bridge. This one though is being managed by a remote control. It says under the red blinking stoplight: afstandbiedende brug (remote control managed bridge). When you are in a hurry, these draw bridges can be a pain in the ass. The whole activity can take as long as 10 minutes depending on how many boats are passing through.

Children on a sailboat training in Uitwijk, Loosdrecht. Foto in the middle is an old Albert Heijn grocery shop, now an office. The new owner retained the glimmery old ceramic tiles with the Albert Heijn name on it. Third foto is Dorpstraat in Loenen Centrum looking towards the church.

On the left is the pretty windmill called “De Hoop”. In English it means “The Hope”. We saw this windmill by chance while taking a detour walk to the parking lot. Dutchman doesn’t like my intentional detours but much to his chagrin he has no choice, ha-ha.

After I took a picture of the windmill and us peeping into the house where the windmill stood (the curtains were drawn which was quite atypical if you are aware of the Dutch culture of opening up their living rooms to the world), he said, “The people who live here are probably sick and tired of people like us. They hate tourists, I’m sure.”

Vegtlust, is the name of this one of the many proud stately mansions decorating the river banks of aan de Vecht in Utrecht. On the right foto is the mansion’s little tea house. Quite charming isn’t it? The ambience brings us back to the medieval ages when princesses have afternoon tea service in lavishly embellished tiny tea houses by the river.

On the left is our river view from the bench we sat by Loenen aan de Vecht. You can see the ubiquituous wooden draw bridge opening up for passing boats. There were many boats docked that afternoon in aan de Vecht, and many leisure cyclers passing by too.

A closer view of these typical wooden Dutch draw bridges. This one is manually drawn up and down. Very charismatic though.


We had dinner in this Pancake restaurant by the river Aan de Vecht. Dutchman took a STILL video of the river and the draw bridge with the church bells ringing. It was 6PM on the watch. The video is also a little bit dark because we were facing the glare of the sun.

Our view from the Pancake restaurant by the river Aan de Vecht in Loenen. We originally planned to have drinks in this cafe in the Centrum but my wanderlust feet lead me with the Dutchman tagging along to this place. It was a better pick, we thought.


Dutchman took this traffic signages foto. He was quite amused with the line up, ha-ha. And this shop I thought is somewhat cute with the pink flowers. Ironic because I do not like the color pink.


On another note, my spirit has been yearning for another home. I really think I have had enough of city living. It’s probably the age getting to me as I now want something totally different -- somewhere still, green, and scenic; a place where I can find complete rust.

Told Dutchman I want to live by the water. He said we would have a huge problem with mosquitoes? Hmm...


Visit Period: April 2007
Destination: Wijdemeren (North Holland) and Loenen (Stichtse Vecht - Utrecht), The Netherlands


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gourmet Misconception


Two weeks ago before I got sober (read: sick) and when the weather was warm, dry, and sunny, Dutchman and I were at the Dutch sister in IJsselstein for dinner. The lekker menu on the table: Gourmet - something typically Dutch.

Now, you’d think the Dutch gourmet has something to do with the finest food you can find in the Netherlands? Wrong.


The long dining table set right outside the doors to the garden with the gourmet appliance in the middle. Me waiting for the gourmet! And that’s my 11-year old niece wearing my tiny black high-heel sandals – they had a laugh about it, they think I have the tiniest feet. Well, I always felt I need to wear high-heels in this country otherwise I would look like a midget.

Okay, here’s what dictionary.com says about our new word for the day - Gourmet:

Noun - a connoisseur of fine food and drink; epicure.

Adjective - of or characteristic of a gourmet, esp. in involving or purporting to involve high-quality or exotic ingredients and skilled preparation: gourmet meals; gourmet cooking.

Adjective - elaborately equipped for the preparation of fancy, specialized, or exotic meals: a gourmet kitchen.

That’s what the world says about gourmet but this is what the Dutch says about it:



Tadaaah... This is the Dutch Gourmet! Small slices of meat – shaorma, chicken, beef, pork, little burgers, and even mini omelettes and pancakes cooked underneath. Pretty much grilling in a flat electric pan, I should say.


Gourmet close-up. With all the meat and potato, dinner will not be complete without a dose of salad to balance up. I quickly made this by mixing balsamic vinaigrette, herbs, dash of sugar and pepper, and olive oil, and adding sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Simple and nothing fancy really.


So now you will not be fooled, you know what this gourmet cooking or food is in the Netherlands. It’s also pronounced literally as it is spelled: gour-met with the “t”, so make no mistake of saying, gour-may.

Tip: I strongly advise to do gourmetten outdoors. The strong after smell will stick to the walls, ceilings, and curtains. It lingers, and will take days, maybe weeks even to recover back the fresh and homely ambience your living/dining room used to have.

And, reports for this weekend? It’s a bit slow. I still have a husky manly voice and half of the time I am deaf. Despite the erratic downpour and sunshine, I met up with Yankeegirl yesterday Saturday in Utrecht. We had big mouths we forgot it was already 6PM!

Today Sunday is lazy day. I am in my underwear now at home, with a blanket tagging along, and sneezing all day while writing this entry and uploading pictures, and ordering Dutchman (my willing slave; he corrected me earlier, he said maid) – bring me my water; I want my chips; give me my bag; close the curtains; my blanket please; take this to the kitchen; where are my tissues!?; ah well, you get the point
.

Hopefully next weekend is a promise of a beautiful day and no more sneezing!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A “reality sucks” rambling


Have you been sick but still managed to drag your heroine self to work?


Have you been on-the-road, out of the country, and unwell?

Have you been stressed without others and even you knowing it, until someone who knows you better, in and out (your mother who else), tells you -- Quit the act, you are stressed!

Have you been stressed and sick at the same time, you can’t simply distinguish which is which?


Have you ever been told -- Do not be a perfectionist?

Have you ever felt bad that summer is fast approaching and knowing that stepping into that sexy bikini would mean tragedy?

Have you ever felt so much discomfort that you now notice the burgeoning layers of fat curls in your abdomen?

Have you ever tried of dieting but just can’t control stuffing yourself?

Have you ever been in a situation where you must be on diet not for vanity’s sake?


Have you ever looked yourself honestly in the mirror and seeing how much you have aged, you don’t recognize yourself anymore?

Have you ever thought 30’s is the prime top-of-the-world age and only realizing that it won’t stop counting to 40?


Have you ever woken up without an alarm clock during weekdays?

Have you ever dreamt of winning the lotto so you can escape the corporate rat race?

Have you ever dreamt of retiring at 45? Or even at 50?

Have you ever wished of not doing anything for a change?

Today, I had a quick chat with someone who was very, very, stressed, confused, lost, lonely, angry, humiliated, unappreciated, threatened, depressed - name it, she has it. While looking at her dejected face and abandoned spirit, my heart was crushed. I could see behind the thin eyeglasses she was wearing tears gathering and about to roll out from the corner of her eyes. She held them back.

Listening to her story I realized how uncomplicated many of our lives really are. We ramble about nonsensical matters while others truly suffer.

Maybe I take her out one weekend before she finally leaves the country. I’m not good with empathy, but who knows... I can always try.


On other news, the Eurovision Song Festival never failed to fail me. I don’t think I have a very high standard taste in music but words just escape me tonight. It’s like watching Tony Blair’s moving adieu speech earlier on the news.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Freedom and Simpletons (I was a screamed at Victoria Station in London)

Yesterday Saturday, when we went out to do our Saturday-scheduled shopping chore, we noticed that the side roads leading to Transwijk Park were closed and there were men standing dressed in orange vests. Hundreds of bikes were also parked along the side streets and a continuous flow of people, young, adult, and old, walking, biking, and even women pushing proms can be seen.

“Wat is er aan de hand?” (What is going on?)

“Ik heb geen idée.” (I have no idea) Dutchman replied looking out the window of the car and watching the busy street going to the park.

Earlier that day in the morning, we saw helicopters passing through.

We drove parallel to the park by Europalaan and heard thundering music playing. I told Dutchman we should check out the place after shopping.


Foto of Bevrijdingsdag Festival in Park Transwijk in Utrecht. Took the picture from the internet. I think this was taken during the morning. We went there in the afternoon and obviously we didn’t bring our camera.

It was the BEVRIJDINGSDAG - Freedom Day or Independence Day celebration. Harry Balkenende Potter has commissioned the whole country to celebrate and stage massive open-air public parties to commemorate the day when the Netherlands was freed from the Nazi’s occupation during the World War II.

The theme for the Bevrijdingsdag: Vrijheid (freedom), Grondrechten (rights), and Veiligheid (safety).

Notes: Official Bevrijdingsdag is every 4 May.

And speaking of SIMPLETONS -- I would like to touch on a little bit with a few snippets from my time in London several days ago.


Victoria Station in Kensington, London.

I was in Victoria Station in Kensington and I needed to get to Islington. In the Tube – London Underground website it says I will have to take the tube service to Angel Station. I’ve been debating on my head for a few minutes if I should take a cab instead, but eventually, after going through the logical process of elimination, I decided to take the tube -- a. It is faster, with a cab you will have to go through the mazes of traffic lights and the traffic itself, b. the place where I am going to is located near the station anyway, and c. I have, hallelujah!, finally understood the mesh of this complicated multi-colored spaghetti tube routes.

First things first, I need to buy a ticket. So I went down the underground and strode directly to the self-service machines appended on the wall. The two women in front of me took a while with the machine and ultimately gave up without any ticket in their hands.

I stepped forward when they left as it was my turn. Being not so familiar with the system but having transacted with similar self-service machines in other countries, I was quite confident I could manage this buying-a-ticket-transaction in a fly. I then inserted my credit card to pay for the ticket. But helaas, it didn’t work. I did the transaction again repeating the same process but WhyTF this machine won’t recognize my darn credit card?

My annoyance came to a halt, completely, when I heard a shrilly irritating voice pierced sharply through my eardrums.

“If you don’t know what you are doing, why don’t you just leave and go buy your ticket at the counters because we are all here waiting!!!”


Have you ever been yelled at by a complete stranger? Yep, that was supposed to be my initial reaction.

I was struck. I turned around slowly and saw this unattractive figure standing right before me: a short, fat, young woman with streaked blonde hair clipped on the sides. She was sporting this I-am-a-bona-fied-bitch-so-don’t-fuck-with-me-look. Judging from her accent she is American. Probably an American living in London, who has acclimatized to the transport system thus she knows her way around London Underground, I suppose.

She yelled again at me, this time in a much higher tune that everyone around the area was staring at her, “We’re all here waiting for you!!!” %@#&!

Her face was very red, with pure and intense infuriation that looks like it is about to burst into tiny pieces. I thought for a moment that she will launch her rocket claws at me! Oh my, miaow, lol!

But, seriously speaking, I was like -- OMG? Someone just yelled at me? Someone freakin yelled at me!!!

I have to admit - I also get easily irritated with individuals who hug self-service machines for more than a minute but far be it from me to shout at them? Although, I think my half evil mind would (we all have a half evil mind), but I’m a coward, too guarded and bastardized by the decorum policies that brought me up into this world. Bless me!

So anyhow, for about 5 seconds I stared at this seething creature before me grappling for the right words to say. Simultaneously I was battling inside with the many options available for me to exploit:

1. Should I entertain this woman’s reckless tirade?

2. Should I let her get into my nerves? I am very, very tempted to tell the bitch to shut the hell up and put her on her right place.

3. Should I even try to explain that I knew what I am doing but the machine just wouldn’t read my credit card? On second thought, why should I even explain to this idiot who seem to fancy welcoming strangers by screaming at them in busy public places?

4. Should I slap her??? Umm... honestly, I was about to lunge at her.

5. Should I just ignore her and move on?

Well, alas, my logical self has spoken. I realized that I am truly *sigh* a very civilized individual who won’t stoop low at other people’s diatribes even if directly attacked. *erhm*

In this blog for example, I have had my share (countless times) of being attacked for no reason at all by complete strangers but I chose to ignore them. However, it is different when you are faced with a situation in real life, and impromptu, that calls you to either respond back in a negative or positive manner. There is a split of a second to think, no time to ignore, but just react. Yeah, R-E-A-C-T.

Its like what I always say – you see the true personality of an individual when he or she is tanked with alcohol.

I gave the woman my last blank stare and quickly moved on towards the ticket counters.

I just could not face myself indulging in petty confrontations. Moreover, I simply do not have the time to waste my energy on a negligible stranger who was having a bad hair outburst day just because she had to wait an extra minute in queuing up for a ticket.

Later that evening, I was sitting in the lounge of Gatwick Airport waiting for my flight to Amsterdam. My 19:10 flight was delayed. It was 19:48 on the clock and still there was no mention of my flight gate on the departure screens. I was also not feeling well and didn’t have the muscle to complain or do something else but sit and wait.

Then I heard a screeching noise; a woman, her lungs sounded like it was ripped apart - she was screaming to a ground steward. Her husband joined in the fray too.

All eyes in the lounge were on the couple’s drama.

“That’s my babyyyyyyyyyyy!!!” pointing to her little baby in the prom held by her husband. “I am not going without my babyyyyyyyyyyy!!!”

“She can’t get out of the wheelchair! Not possible!!!” husband chimed in, albeit his voice not as screechy as his wife.

Oh.My.Goodness.Heavens. Truly an opera act. A screaming husband and wife tandem in the airport. What could you ask for more? Personally, I simply do not want to understand why people have to scream the daylights out of them just to get a point across? Why can’t people just complain in a civilized way without exercising their throats in high-pitch crescendo and getting attention to themselves? I mean, whoever said it is cool to bitch in public? Doing this will only justify what an uncouth and lowlife being you truly are. In the Philippines, we have a term for this - palengkera.

The ground steward managed to amazingly stay calm all throughout the ordeal. I would surely nominate him for the customer service of the year award, or perhaps, the most cultured employee of London Gatwick Airport, ha-ha.

This incident quickly brought back memories of the early morning episode at Victoria Station when the blonde streaked hair young woman with a shrilly-voice yelled at me.

Some people do things that make them feel good. They exert their rights, they demand, they bitch and moan and needle up others whilst in the process forgetting to realize how stupid, primitive, and laughable they have become to the outside world.

When you are called a simpleton, remember, it’s not a compliment.

Travel Period: June 2007
Destination: Utrecht South (Utrecht), Netherlands | Kensington (London - England), United Kingdom

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Friday, May 04, 2007

London Ads

So I was in London a few days ago for work and could not help but take notice of these two quite striking advertisements:


British Heart Foundation street ad near Earls Court in Kensington.

England is trying to be healthy now. I can pretty much understand since more and more Brits are becoming fat, especially with the young generation. But seriously though, if you just look closely at the hard butt and the lean legs of this man on the advert, without glancing at the woman he is embracing with and of course his face, you would think this butt and legs belongs to a young stud! =)


Grolsch Beer ad in Angel Tube near Islington.

This ad is sort of a laugh, a twist, a play of words and theme, for the infamous Amsterdam’s “Red Light District” and Eindhoven’s “Philips Light Bulbs”. As you can see, Grolsch is a Dutch beer brand from Enschede. Dutchman however argues with my Philips theory and says I am just seeing things, lol.

(By the way, Heineken, Grolsch, and Bavaria, all Dutch beers, were fined by the European Commission recently for their alleged beer-cartel pricing during the years 1996-1999. The fine is said to be 10% of their profit – definitely to the tune of millions of euros!)

Also, at Schiphol International Airport underground train station, they have this new monstrous and long horizontal series of ads, spanning the whole stretch of the platform of 3 women happily clad in their colorful underwear. This very eye-catching ad, yeah it really makes you stop on your heels and ogle for a few minutes, belongs to Dove, a brand of Unilever. I sat down on the bench waiting for my train to take me home and watched everyone on the platform. Strangely, the women seemed to be more fascinated with the 3 half naked ladies in the advert than the men.

Hmmm, why???

Well, the advert was pictures of 3 normal women, who do not have supermodel bodies and faces. They have love handles in their tummies; they have bigger sizes, and healthier legs too.

I wish I have taken a picture of the advert but at almost 12 midnight (Easyjet had an almost 2 hours delay!!! – this should warrant an entry in this blog) and not feeling well (I’m on sick leave now actually, but the storm is over - I think, so I’m popping in for work later) it was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to go home, sleep, and see the doctor the next day.

Travel Period: May 2007
Destination: Kensington | Islington (London - England), United Kingdom

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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