Tuesday, January 31, 2012

0% Alcohol Beer and Garlic

Last Friday I was in Eindhoven (south of the Netherlands about 120KM fromAmsterdam) having a little kick-off with my partner. I managed to get my messageacross during my presentation and the food was a success. We had Spanish tapas and booze.

Since I am in the Noord Brabant region which is where Eindhoven is and where Bavaria beer comes from, I had to say no to wine and drank the local beer. Firstly, I had the normal Bavaria beer, then for my second bottle I tried the 0%alcohol Bavaria wit beer. I was curious of course.

One thing I know: It may be the beer for Hugh Hefner and his old comrades (the TV advert of this beer) but IT’S NOT FOR ME. It tastes funny.

After the kick-off party, I didn’t realized that I was carrying with me a very strong garlic accent. Blame the gambas al ajillo, cooked in oil and garlic! The gambas were literally swimming in ground garlic but it was sooooo yummy, I came back for a 2nd serving.

Thus the consequence: When I got home in the evening Dutchman was complaining that I completely stunk.

Oooops, sorry. LOL

Eindhoven, The Netherlands

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Bringing back Catharijnesingel in Utrecht

This is for those who have been in my adopted home city Utrecht (Netherlands)...



Trivia: Did you know that the 4-laneroad that separates the Hoog Catharijne mall (right under the mall passageway)used to be part of the Catharijnesingel (canal)? It used to be water underneathuntil the Gemeente Utrecht dried the area to pave way for the 4-lane road.

Rest assured though, the GemeenteUtrecht has plans on bringing back Catharijnesingel to its former glory! And to a much granderlevel! That’s the reason for all the on-going construction and road works. Utrechthas 25 different projects that includes the new Utrecht Train & Bus Station and bringing back the old canal into the centre. The projects will be realized in the coming years until 2030.

I can’t wait to see the new Utrecht withthe old Catharijnesingel back to where it was before.

Below are the pictures I took of the current Catharijnesingel that rims the south western part of the old centre of Utrecht. Soon it will be extended back to where it was, up to Vredenburg.

But firstly, a video (in English) of the infrastructure developments in the City of Utrecht:


And here are my pictures of Catharijnesingle during our walk:

Grand Hotel Karel V on Catharijnesingel is the first 5-star hotel with a 1-Michelen star restaurant in Utrecht.



Visit/Walking Period: December 2011
Destination: Utercht Centrum (Utrecht), The Netherlands

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Bertus, the world-famous cat in Utrecht

During the Christmas holidays Dutchman and I strolled down Catharijnesingel in Utrecht. Catharijnesingel is a canal that rims the south western part of Utrecht’s old centrum.

We both love walking, and of course as part of this activity we have to stop by at a café to grab something warm to drink. Café de Poort was a very convenient choice as it is located on the corner of Catharijnesingel and Oudegracht.

In Café de Poort we met ‘Bertus’. The regulars in the cafe told us that he is very famous in Utrecht. He is a male ginger cat and he is the house cat of the café. His favourite spot in the café is sitting on the top back ridge of the second and third seats facing the Oudegracht. We were also told that sometimes he can be spotted at the other café across the road.

Bertus is a very picky and arrogant cat as well. He has this kingly posture that says—‘Who are you? What do you want? I am the boss here and do not mess with me, stay away from me!’ 

He actually gets peeved when people pats him longer than a minute. Interestingly, he doesn’t like women. How did I know? Well, firstly, he doesn’t like me (ouch, that severely injured my ego), and all the female specie that came around to pat him, he sneered and clawed at them. He does allow a few regular male guys to stroke his back, including the Dutchman, for longer than a minute, and repeatedly as well. UNFAIR. Why is that?!  

I don’t know why but cats always fall under the charm of the Dutchman. He has this magical magnetic animalistic aura in him that cats cannot say no. I’m envious.

             

Visit Period: December 2011
Destination: Utrecht Centrum (Utrecht), The Netherlands

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quick coffee in quiet Vrijthof, Maastricht



I like my terrace view: The Vrijthof -- Sint Janskerk, Sint Servaasbasiliek and the Hoofdwacht.

Nowadays I drive to all 4 corners of the Netherlands. Each week I burn between 700 and 1000+ kilometres and that makes me the queen of the road =)

Last week I was in Maastricht which is 200+ kilometres from Amsterdam. Maastricht is located at the southern tip of the Netherlands bordering Germany and Belgium. I have a business partner here and we finished the meeting earlier than expected. I saw that I have a few missed calls, as well as I can see continuous emails coming in to my phone so I decided to work a bit before driving back to the Randstad. A quick swing by at Vrijthof (the main big square of Maastricht) for some coffee while I check and answer my emails and call back people would be the best scenario.

While sitting at a café terrace on Vrijthof  and sipping my coffee it dawned on me that I really liked my job. Even if it is stressful. Even if sometimes I feel the heavy weight of the responsibility. Even if I have to juggle, find out, search and justify things on my own.

Vrijthof before 12 noon is very quiet. I have never seen Maastricht this still. However, I noticed people trickling into the square when I left about half past 12. Many of them with cameras hanging from their necks.

It was nice to have seen the quieter side of Maastricht.









Travel Period: January 2012
Destination: Maastricht (Limburg), The Netherlands

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Saturday Market and Waffles in Mechelen, Belgium

Mechelen, a city of 80,000 inhabitants in the Flemish region is a feast during Saturdays. I was so happy when I strolled down Ijzerenleen and saw the lively outdoor market in the middle of the street extending to the Grote Markt (main market square).



Dutch is the official language in Mechelen. Their Dutch though is purer and they use different words. I have to listen carefully in order to understand them.

Mechelen Saturday Market

I am always after for a nice food market visit. I like to sample local stuff when travelling. In Mechelen I found out that ‘witlof’ (chicory) is a local forte. They have many recipes for this vegetable and one stand was selling witlof soup. I must admit that I was tempted to try the specialty but that morning I was hankering for some waffles. Witlof though is a leafy vegetable that I always generously use for my salads, and I prefer to eat them raw.

There were many waffle stands and it was a bit difficult to choose from which to buy. Eventually I ended up in the Grote Markt and bought a little bag of waffles from a charming waffle vendor.

The market was okay. I have been to better markets (read: France and Spain). Mechelen market is definitely better than the one we have in Utrecht for example.

After walking around a bit in the market and taking pictures I sat down at an outdoor café terrace. It was quite a busy morning in Mechelen and with the beautiful fresh and sunny weather, it was perfect to people watch with a warm cup of coffee from the cafe terrace =)

Here are my pictures of the Saturday market in Mechelen:




Travel Period: November 2011
Destination: Mechelen (Antwerp), Belgium

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Ijzerenleen: Champs Elysees of Mechelen

Because of my Fine Arts degree (I secretly wished I finished Economics or Business Management) I am appreciative of art and architecture.

I love creativity. During my elementary and high school years I used to be the artist of the class but nowadays I dabble in IT sales-marketing-promotion-incentive types of creativity for work. Not really the same but creativity is in the mind, in the personality and character of the person. One cannot argue that it’s in the DNA. A creative person will make creativity happen.

So anyway, while walking around Mechelen, I quickly noticed the lovely guild buildings on Ijzerenleen. They really stand out and I must take pictures of them.

Belgian (and Dutch) architecture is based on Gothic Renaissance architectural character. Belgian architecture though has more Baroque influence than the Dutch and one can see it clearly on its facade details.

Later, I found out that the locals dubbed Ijzerenleen street as the ‘Champs Elysees of Mechelen’. Hah cool! I was indeed correct with my hunches =)

On the Ijzerenleen you can find many traditional and specialty shops selling cigars to cheeses and wines. It is one of the main streets that leads to the Grote Markt or the big main square.

Travel Period: November 2011
Destination: Mechelen (Antwerp), Belgium

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Walking the ‘Dyle Path’ in Mechelen, Belgium

The Dyle Path crossing under the Grootbrug on the Dijle/Dyle River.

In November last year I was in Mechelen, Belgium for a weekend. I was in Brussels for work that week and thought it would be nice to spend the weekend in another town since I am already in Belgium. Mechelen came to mind as it is near Brussels and when I googled pictures of the city I was sold out.

I stayed in a church—Martin’s Patershof, a beautiful old church that has been converted into a hotel. While there, I discovered the ‘Dyle Path’ (Dijle in Dutch), a walkway along the River Dyle. When I am travelling alone, I walk a lot, and I really mean—I walk a lot.

What I like about the Dyle Path are the views to the historical houses and stone buildings along the river banks, as well as being able to pass through the residential areas. It allows some catching a glimpse of the local daily life which for me is very pleasing. I like to be able to see beyond the usual touristy and on-the-surface type of sights when travelling.

One can find the walking path at the Vismarkt, right beside the little foot bridge. It crosses under the Grootbrug (see photo above).

Walking the Dyle pedestrian pathway and the sights along the way.

This is the Vismarkt.

Travel Period: November 2011
Destination: Mechelen (Antwerp), Belgium

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