Saturday, September 29, 2007

The “Anniversary Debate”

This fall is our 7 years anniversary, and 5 years (last August) of living together. So to commemorate this very special occasion, I came up with a few romantic suggestions.

Initially, Dutchman told me that in the Netherlands the usual practice of couples is to only celebrate when the milestone of 10 years being together has been achieved. Now tell me... how dull, uninspiringless, and unromantic that can get for the first 9 years and 11 months in the relationship? With a Dutch man(woman)?

Nevertheless, I told him flatly, and resolutely –- I am not Dutch, so you are going to compromise with me and abide with my terms. PUNT. Actually I am Dutch *sniggers*, as I am a holder of the maroon passport, but, you know what I mean.

And well... his response was only a sheepish smile. Nou goed!

So here are the choices I made. See my poll of getaways below, and please do vote! Let me know what is best.



There is also an additional function in there to vote your choice of romantic getaway. Let’s see what’s popular.

Rules: If you pick “Other” please make sure your suggestion falls under the long weekend getaway category.

Vote now!


Results:

19 votes - Castle somewhere in France
7 votes - Spa in Limburg, Holland
8 votes - Pick any European city trip

And for the “Other” here they are (I am the only person who can see the responses so I am adding them here):

4 votes - Venice, Italy
3 votes - Paris, France
2 votes - Barcelona, Spain
2 votes - Seychelles/Mauritius
1 vote - Castle in Valkenburg, Netherlands
1 vote - Cook at home then go to the movies
1 vote - Cruise in the Mediterranean Sea
1 vote - Marseille, France

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Aanrijding in Amsterdam

After a teary weary weather yesterday, today the sun shone – hallelujah! Looking at the bright blue skies, an indication of a dry beautiful day is in order. So I thought I will take advantage of this exceptional sunny occasion. Get out during lunch and take the tram to the city center. It’s been 18 days already since I bought the nice belt at Mexx in Schiphol Airport. I picked the wrong size - M, which was too big for me, thus I need to exchange it with the S size.

Mexx has a branch in Kalverstraat, the longest and busiest shopping street in Amsterdam Center. Returns and exchanges are valid only within 21 days after date of purchase. I therefore must act fast, and so I went.

It has been quite some time since I rode a tram. Amsterdam’s trams are nice and comfortable. They have a uniformed design and color: sleek, blue and white. They also yield distinct sounds when they stop, and when the doors open and close for passengers. It also speaks which is cool.

We passed through Museumplein where Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum are located and I remembered briefly my meeting with a headhunter in this area a year and a half ago in a café in PC Hooftstraat. Then there’s the lively Leidseplein, one of the busiest little squares in the city center.


The tram, now full, slowly lumbered forward in the narrow streets flanked by old crooked buildings now serving as shops, cafes, and food joints, and through the famous canals of Amsterdam – Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht... people got out and a new set of people piled in. I kind of miss this. My routine now is driving to work – traffic in the A2 – driving back home – traffic again in the A2.


Fotos of the collision. Look at the sticker on the vehicle that collided with the tram -- a naschool opvang? Means a creche or child care services. There are children inside!

Anyway, the tram stood still for a minute. I forgot which stop it was, but I think we were between Keizersgracht and Herengracht. We then heard an announcement in Dutch saying there is an aanrijding [collision] before us. We were told to get out and retrace our steps back to Leidseplein where we could take another tram to Central Station. The Dutch announcement was quickly followed by an English version.When I finally got out of the tram I was surprised to find out that it was actually our tram that was involved in the collision! Huh – why we never felt or heard anything?

I remembered that I have my camera with me (I thought of shooting pictures of the swans nearby my work, but never got to do it, ha-ha) and took some pictures.

There were also so many people on the streets. Most of them were tourists, local ones and international. I thought – These people are very lucky. They came right in time when the sun is up, lol. If only they knew Amsterdam is gloomy, rainy, and windy 80% all year round.

At any rate, have a look at the fotos above. The vehicle in question that collided with our tram was in fact a crèche bus service! *Horrified look* There were kids inside! Quite scary really... but the good thing is, it was only a slight collision otherwise the children would have been in dire danger.

I wonder though if the driver of the crèche (child care) bus service will get a warning from the company or from the police for irresponsible driving with children onboard. Yes or No?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt in Beesd

This is not the first time I have been to this halcyon of a place: Heerlijkheid Marienwaerdt (in Beesd, Geldermalsen), a divine and pastoral nature’s park where one can truly reflect and enjoy what quality life is all about.

A couple of years ago we were here with the whole Dutch family celebrating the birthday of my other Dutch brother-in-law. We had a little picnic in the woods and did a walking route whilst picking chestnuts and castanas along the way.

To check out this remarkable place, please go to their official website: Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt (in Dutch)


De Stapel(b)akker pancake house. The sun was out; beautiful weather it was. We had light lunch here with coffee, tea, and tart.

My organic tea and a souvenir foto of the Dutch sister’s chic and classic red Volvo before she finally says bye to her (jammer but she’s retiring her soon... and perhaps display her in a museum, ha-ha, rightly so!).


Feast for the connoisseur culinaire zealots: De Landgoedwinkel - this is the organic delicatessen shop in Marienwaerdt. Every food and drink they sell here is organic. They even have organic wines.

Heerlijkheid Marienwaerdt is a naturist’s paradise!

In this wonderful place, you can find rich history, the protected Marienwaerdt monument manor house, horse stables, fields of organic farms, a lovely organic delicatessen shop selling products only produced from the land, an old monastery, a delightful pancake house, rental houses, stables, and courtyards for business, parties and weddings, a cozy bed & breakfast, walking-running and cycling paths, a relatively big forest, and a calm river.


Walnut picking in Notenlaan, Marienwaerdt. Oh look, I found my first walnut!


Directional signs in Marienwaerdt. There were many people taking a break along the river and enjoying the warm weather.

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Check out this short clip of a hyperactive black dog swimming in the river and playing throw-the-stick with his master.

Heerlijkheid Marienwaerdt organizes two large events yearly. These are: (1) Kerstfair (Christmas Fair - might check out this one) and (2) Landgoed Fair (Countryside Fair). There are also enriching activities such as cooking and theme workshops. Concerts are also held here. Other than that, there is plentiful variety of diversions, i.e., bird watching, Nordic walking, boating-canoeing and walnut-castanas picking.

Dutchman and I had a walk through the fields and woods. I think we walked more than 5 kilometers. Later that afternoon we arrived home and dropped to our bed exhausted, lol. Just shows we need more exercise!


They also sell organic ice cream in the monastery area. I ordered bosbes [bilberry], one of the best ice cream I ever had.

There was also a travel bureau holding an open house that day. Their travel theme offering was all about winter - a winter vacation up north in Norway, Iceland, Alaska, and Canada. In the huts beside the session area where they held the educational winter travel video tour (with a huge white screen and all that), people were selling clothes and distinct souvenir items from these cold northern countries.

This old red “Porsche” diesel tractor should be a collector’s item in a museum! Cycling through Marienwaerdt is one very popular activity by the locals visiting the place.

Anywho, I’m definitely going back again to check their organic delicatessen shop called - De Landgoedwinkel. Lots of luscious goodies there, and although a bit pricey, one cannot argue with nature’s pure touch and quality.

All fotos can be found here: Heerlijkheid Marienwaerdt, Beesd, The Netherlands

All in all, it was a nice non-traditional Dutch birthday party and surprisingly a beautiful warm Sunday too.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bridges on A27

For a change of scenery, fasten your seatbelt and let me take you to a little drive down the highways of the Netherlands and through its bridges. These two bridges on A27 highway, heading towards the south of the country, were taken last weekend during our Baarle trip. They are small-to-medium size bridges and are quite interesting in design.


The Merwedebrug [Merwede Bridge] in Gorinchem. Check out the hanging lights on the sides.


The Keizersveerbrug [Keizersveer Bridge] between Gorinchem and Breda. I call this the box bridge.

Up and coming this weekend: The kick-off of the verjaardag seizoen [birthday season] in my Dutch family. The brother in law starts the countdown with a non-traditional Dutch birthday celebration. In an organic pannenkoekenhuis boerderij [pancakehouse in a farm] in the south of the country. Cool.

There is also a promise of a lovely stroll in the nearby forest. Ah nice indeed. I am so very looking forward to this family birthday feast get-together. What else is new, I will for sure be taking pictures ;-)


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Twin Towns: Baarle-Hertog (BE) & Baarle-Nassau (NL)

In my continuing quest for history and culture, I spend idle moments googling (an addiction we all think is normal) and discovering a plethora of sights and places, when I ran into this interesting website about the twin towns in the border of Belgium and the Netherlands.

The twin towns and border pole (grenspaal) between Belgium and the Netherlands.

These twin towns are said to be the most remarkable village in the world as there are 30 loose puzzle pieces of land tangled seamlessly with each other and under two sovereignty - Belgian and Dutch.

Baarle-Hertog, the Belgian municipality has 22 loose bits of land in Baarle-Nassau, the Dutch municipality. Baarle-Nassau in turn has 8 loose bits of land in Baarle-Hertog. These bits and pieces of land are called enclaves.

Here is a description of the sister towns I found from their official website:

“No where else in the world is known of a municipality so extremely interwoven with a municipality of the neighbouring country. This tangle is most visible in geographical respect. But in social, cultural, and economic terms, as well as in the public area, there is a great deal of interaction. Examples are - amongst many others - the mixed (Belgian-Dutch) organisations, the joint international library, the joint cultural centre, common public provisions such as drinking water, gas and sewerage, firms with both a Dutch and Belgian address, and so forth. Typical too is that one, so to speak, at a single glance can observe 2 towns hall, 2 fire services, 2 churches, 2 police services, and double provisions for electricity and telephony.”


Veilinghuis means auction house, with the flags of the two countries.



I looked tired here with my noticeable eye bags and dark circles, and straight out of the bed hair... but still enjoying my Westmalle.


Not so good news: Apart from its interesting history and facts, the twin villages didn’t really impress me a lot. Dutchman was teasing me a bit, “Valt het tegen?” [Was it disappointing?], and I must say he was spot on.

Here’s the good news: Both Baarle towns are open on Sundays! So I checked out the shops and surprisingly Dutchman didn’t mind being my bag lady for the day - holding my bag whilst I do my fittings. Usually he would complain and say he is not my personal maid and moreover he isn’t gay, lol.

Later we had some Belgian frites. The dutchman was grumbling again saying they were not the real thing. He said the Belgian frites are larger in cut and their mayonnaise has a sour twist, which obviously were missing. He actually prefers the Dutch fries called “patat” and the sweet Dutch mayonnaise but since he was in a Belgian shop and in Belgium territory - actually just a few feet away from the border ha-ha, he was expecting the real Belgian frite experience. Hmm, interesting logic I might say...

We then had light dinner in this popular cafe along the main street by the border of the two municipalities and I ordered a cold beer for myself – Westmalle. Yummy.

Nevertheless, it was a nice day to be out and about.

Travel Period: September 2007
Destination: Baarle-Hertog (Turnhout), Belgium

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

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Discovering my bathroom and Schiphol

Discovering my bathroom

It’s been two full weeks since I toiled and labored for our bathroom. With all the clinging undetected stains and icky grime, I scrubbed and wiped judiciously every inch of them filth away. On the tub, sink, shower cubicle, walls, and just about everywhere. So after my grueling bathroom performance I felt high and mighty -- shhh, this is the first time in my life I could remember sweating out a house job.


Now, let me tell you partly why...

I did a hell of a job! It merits a foto shoot ;-)

The bathroom and toilet is, and has always been, the Dutchman’s official domain of house chores responsibility. Two weeks ago -well on that day, he vacuumed our whole place (which is also part of his house chores activities - am I a very lucky woman or what???) so I thought maybe I’d help out a bit. I’m not really into slavery at home, lol, so helping out was just the right thing to do. The bathroom was it.

And the result – walla - the overall sleekness and the sparkly look had a long lasting impression on me. It was so pleasing to the eyes I could not muster an ounce of courage to put my accumulated mountains of toiletries back in there again, which, as Dutchman insists are mostly rubbish anyway. So they are now all piled up on top of each other outside the bathroom door that leads to the master bedroom.

Right, two full weeks like this, with nothing in my bathroom. Kind of weird, but honestly, I quite like it.

Discovering Schiphol

It just hit me last Sunday that I can actually shop (a) during weekends (b) late hours until 10, and everyday in the Netherlands -- in Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport!

Moi, in the departure lounge of Schiphol having coffee in a cafe with Dutchman while we wait for his flight - how do you like my polka dot scarf? Next foto, is an old shoot of Schiphol taken almost 2 years ago.


This opportunity never really dawned on me before, maybe because I am so used to shops closed on Sundays, and during the week, shops are only open until 5PM. Being an established and accomplished lazy butt on Saturdays and getting off daily from work at 6PM, this shopping chore proved to be a real big burden - I shy away from checking window displays on what’s “new”, “hot”, and “in” nowadays. However though, I have learned to employ some work-around techniques and fit in my consumer lifestyle around this tight schedule. And although shops in the airport are limited, it will for sure help assist those last-minute and emergency buying needs.

Okay, much has been said and not done (ha-ha) about this shopping topic, I marched out of the airport lobby last Sunday with 3 shopping bags, and, with no shopping guilt!

When I arrived at the parking level, I inserted the parking ticket into this metal standing parking machine. My eyes grew to a baseball size upon seeing the total tariff - almost €15.00 for 3+ hours parking!?

I felt robbed.

Later that evening I consoled myself with my precious purchases. Since I seldom go out shopping, it was easy to justify and let go of the €15.00

In the meantime I could vividly visualize Dutchman’s blonde eyebrows meeting each other and turning into a creepy uni-brow. The equally malicious scowl displayed on his mouth completed the whole disapproving look -- Ah, too bad it’s not his money.

Lesson for this week: (to the tune of Destiny’s Childs “Independent Woman”) Men, hands off our purchases!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Childfree

When you reach the late 30’s age mark, and without a child, some of the numerous forthcoming questions popping out from people’s mouths are, “When are you going to have kids then?” The hard-hitting ones would push and scoff, “You need to hurry up. You are 37 already!!!” and “The clock is ticking! It won’t turn back!”

Then there are those self-serving packs who believe that their pension-for-a-child-premium-motive is but a conventional take in the evolution of societies and culture. They say with horror, “Who will take care of you when you are old?” -- Makes me want to grab a pan and hit them right on the head.

You also have the idealists and their philosophical profound echoing statements of, “A woman is perfected through motherhood...” leaving everyone in stitches, emotional and teary eyed - sniff. Of course, how can we miss the spiritualists and traditionalists lamenting, “What’s the purpose of your life if you are not going to have children?”

Yes, I have been asked, and harassed, a million times over this when-are-you-having-a-child topic. Over, and over again, it is not entertaining anymore. It’s getting so tedious, old, and uh, irritating.

Particularly by Filipinos (and I suppose Asians in general) who are not even family members, and many are acquaintances you just met, they do not seem to know that there are words in the vocabulary such as “privacy” and “tact” that exist. I am hounded, cross-examined with passion, judged and made feel guilty (pointing finger: oh you heretic selfish woman!) by people who think they know better what the purpose of every woman’s life is in this world. In their old school purist way, it is, in this order, (a) get married (b) have kids = voila, purpose of living achieved. Bliss!

Since when is happiness just about getting hooked and raising a child? Happiness can mean many things to many people. I see a lot of morally stuck up bitter people after 20 years of marriage and 3 kids. Divorce proceedings left and right (divorce lawyers even advertise their services on TV) leaving children helplessly on the gutter, and in turn these same children carry the emotional bruises and deep-seated misgivings of a crumbled family life to their adult lives, and in most cases repeating the same sad cycle.


Here in the Netherlands, the Dutch, and Europeans in general, tread on this topic during social gatherings a bit carefully and lightly. They, at least respect your privacy, although I have my own doubts, they may be the opposite within and towards their own family circles. Typical discussions for the middle-aged group always lead to kids, so they ask me if I have, and when I say no, they stop right there. Some, for the sake of conversation would probe a bit, if I would want to have kids - I say NO again, and they would just stop right there, unless of course I encourage the discussion.

I won’t deny the fact that when you get older the more you are set with your ways. I think I am... very set with my ways. I cannot imagine myself pushing a prom on the street, waking up after midnight because the baby is crying for milk, not working or working part-time because I need to attend to the baby first, think all day and the future for and all about the baby, re-arrange my life explicitly for the baby, not be able to travel whenever I want to, give up my space and privacy, give up my freedom, just for the baby. No, no way.

Am I selfish? Hell YES, I am.

But, women who indisputably want to have a child are selfish too. They want a baby for themselves, for their own fulfillment.


So there... everyone’s equal then, ha-ha.

I am sure many would say it’s different when it’s your own kid - from your very own flesh and blood. I do completely agree. I am pretty sure it would be. But I am glad I have a choice. Had it been so easy to donate my gonads to another woman who desperately wants to bear a child but can’t, I would have done it – for a price, lol.

Seriously, what am I trying to say?


People need to truly understand that having a child is a CHOICE. It is not an autopilot function after achieving an official coupling status.

It’s quite startling that many underestimate the enormous responsibility that goes with bringing a child into this (sometimes ruthless) world. Having a child means lifetime responsibility - eternal parenthood, with the first 20 years as the most arduous stage.

Yet, in this 21st century times, the idea of a CHILDFREE LIFE - many would perhaps argue and use the term childless instead, is still a sort of taboo, even in developed forward thinking countries. Many people just find it hard to believe that there are real women out there who do not have mother’s instinct; women who shrink at the idea of motherhood. Women who independently knew -against the pressures of soceity’s mainstream norms and values- what they truly want.

Hopefully, one day, there will come a time when everyone wakes up and come to terms with this human sociology development. That being childfree is just one of the normal lifestyles couples and individuals opt for.

The gospel truth remains though that many women subconsciously have children to complete themselves. The conscious part is of course sustaining the human race’s ecosystem on planet earth. Go forth and multiply.


Well, I am happy and content to say - I don’t need a child to complete myself; I just need me.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Rijksmuseum Muiderslot and Muiden

I finally made it to Muiden! Dutchman was teasing me that our weekend was a grand and marvelous [insert sarcasm here] one. With all the culture, history, art and architecture we absorbed in the little village of Muiden, nothing could have been so much better.

Actually, Dutchman refused to go with me in to the castle. He is, as written and published many times in this blog, per culture, art, and history pursuits totally overdosed – blanched – ad nauseam – defunct. His brains will malfunction if you show him pictures of bewitching architectural masterpieces.

The Muiderslot in Muiden, constructed in 1280 by Graaf Floris V. The writer Pieter Cornelisz. (PC) Hooft also lived here during the Golden Ages (17th century).

What to do? What can you actually do if you grew up in a country and continent with breathtaking castles, mystical ruins, and amazing works of art and architecture still standing tall? Answer: you get used to them and sometimes take them for granted. Dutchman said – If you have seen one, you have seen everything. Now mister, let me prove you wrong! Join me!


Anyway, hoping to lure him to come with me inside the castle, I bargained and said I will pay for his entrance fee - I know; a measly €8.50 (you pay additional €2.50 for the tour), ha-ha, but all the more he strongly resisted, his jaw dropping and making faces as if he is about to barf. Good lord, tell me how can a beautiful castle be so sickening?!!!


The inner courtyard of Muiderslot (not many people huh, this was around 5PM); a doorway leading to the courtyard; and routes.

Sigh - I guess the fact that he went to Muiden with me and waited for 1.5 hours outside the castle (he must be sooo bored, lol) is enough to show how serious he is in compromising with my wants. Like what I always say, with my Dutch and European (not including South Europe) escapades, I always win against the Dutchman ;-)


Muiden cafe terraces, and I just realized that those three women in the 2nd foto, I went with during the castle tour.


Check my own pictures here: Muiderslot and Muiden

Rijksmuseum Muiderslot (the Muider Castle) website, in Dutch: Rijksmuseum Muiderslot

Muidenvesting tourism website, in Dutch: Beleef Muiden (Experience Muiden)


In the little town center, you can see a series of sluizen (water gates) over a bridge that opens up for water traffic. Below are some interesting shoots of the bridge and water gates unlocking for passing boats. Instead of opening the traditional Dutch way which is upwards, this bridge opens up sideways. Check out the 3 videos I took:

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The bridge opens sideways and boats pass by. See also the sluis [water gate] close. The Netherlands has many of them situated literally all over the country.

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After the boats have passed, see again the bridge going back to its original position while us pedestrians wait.

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The bell rings and the gates open! It is now safe to cross the bridge.

Muiden is an ideal 1-day weekend getaway. Combine the trip to the Muider Castle with a lunch in one of the open-air café terraces by Muidens little town center, and a boat trip to the small military island called Pampus, spells perfect!

This little village is part of the North Holland province, just a few minutes away from Amsterdam Center. Easily reachable by public transport, car, and even by bike (from Amsterdam).

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