Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A different kind of dining experience: SupperClub Cruise Amsterdam

I have to say hats off to SupperClub Cruise Amsterdam for truly delivering a different kind of dining experience. Although the food here was quite good, ultimately, for this kind of restaurant you come here to be surprised and be entertained. Yes, those are the correct verbs. Be surprised and be entertained.

If you are familiar with SupperClub, they have popularised the communal dining on a bed concept. There are 2 SupperClubs in Amsterdam, the original SupperClub restaurant and the SupperClub Cruise. The difference between the two is of course easy, SupperClub Cruise is housed in a boat that sails on the Het IJ River.

I ordered a rose and then 2 more glasses of red wine while Dutchman had beer, cola and a tonic. He is my chauffeur =). So you dine on a big communal bed side by side with everyone, no big table and chairs and shoes off please (and make sure your feet do not stink!)

The philosophy of this unconventional restaurant is the feasting of our senses. Anything can happen here they say but there are 2 main surprises during the entire dinner show experience.

Let us start with the first: The FOOD

The 4-course menu is a surprise menu! You will only know what they will serve you right on the spot. Everyone on the boat gets the same thing. Of course you can always inform them ahead of time if you have food preferences, such as being a vegetarian or hating a specific food item.

Starter: Salmon with salad greens which was very refreshing. Typically Dutch soup literally served in a tin can: Pea soup (erwten) and Dutch ragout balls (bitterballen). This was a surprise and really good.

Main course: Roasted lamb with sauce and asparagus and potato on the side. Dessert in a Wok-in-a-box: Ice cream and yoghurt with strawberries, peanut butter caramel and walnut toppings. I am not the sweet tooth type but this one I did not share with the Dutchman! They served the best (the dessert) for last.

Then we move on to the next surprise: The ENTERTAINMENT

Diners are not only entertained by cool music and a live DJ, but a real act. Well, it was more like an alternative something different kind of show act. You’ll only find out about the act on site when it starts. From what I know, they do not do the same acts. It is always a different show altogether each time.

Our very 'interesting' entertainment show. He just out of the blue came in to the dining bed hall and kind of freak entertain us haha! If you are impatient, fast forward to 1:40 and watch it till the end =). I think my filming skills here have improved a bit.

After dinner some of the groups stayed for more dancing and flirting with each other. There were 2 gay diners who did a lap dance on air--hanging act! Wow, I could not get my eyes off them haha. And the bride-to-be from the orange-haired Hen group did a walk show for us.

Our waitress also told us that there are NO rules in the SupperClub Cruise. You can do whatever you want. I guess you can go crazy as well!? She herself was dressed in a see-through blouse and she has 2 black bandages plastered X on both her nipples. No bra. She was offering her services as well to interesting individuals who want their nipples X-bandaged and then photographed. Her colleague was also dressed interestingly. You see, I only see these kinds of daring outfits bordering fetish and bondage during Gay Pride Parade in Amsterdam.

Moreover, you can watch the sunset as well on the boat’s deck as it sails back and forth on the river Het IJ. Dutchman and I managed to catch the beautiful sunset.

We checked the upper deck of the boat as it sails on river Het IJ in Amsterdam.

In summary Dutchman and I enjoyed this unconventional dining experience. It’s quite different! I know for sure that this type of dining experience is not for everyone, especially if you are the traditional and conservative type, this will not go well with you. However, if you are the open, liberal, modern, creative and alternative type, this could be a great place for you to enjoy the night.

Food rating: 4.2 stars out of 5 and as for experience, it was one of a kind =). Highly recommended!

Visit Period: June 2012
Destination: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Prosecco and Summer Darkness in Utrecht

It is never too late to post what I did last weekend. Well, Saturday and Sunday I pretty much did what the doctor prescribed—do nothing and relax. But Friday evening I went out with Blondine for some drinks and people watching at Zussen Lobby Restaurant in Janskerkhof, Utrecht.

We had coffee and then prosecco. I had white and she had rose. Then we ordered another round, both rose. Then it rained. Summer ended for a while. Then it was dry again.

It was the perfect evening to people watch in Utrecht. Because it’s the yearly ‘Summer Darkness’ festival, a 3-day/night gothic-cosplay event held at the Dom. The city’s ambience was something like god threw out a huge party and invited all his friends from heaven and hell. We even saw the devil and his army of bats. Naturally, Blondine and I stayed glued to our seats as we relish the outstanding passing scenery before us. We had fun watching!

I was not able to take pictures of the great costumes because I was busy talking but I managed to take 1!

Our plan after the drinks was really to check out this ‘Summer Darkness’ event at the Dom but then bad luck came in the form of rain. It rained, and rained and rained. Continuously. No chance.

And midnight was fast approaching. These princesses need to go home and sleep and be tuck in bed so time to call the trusted and loyal prince charming Dutchman on his white horse (black car actually haha) to rescue the damsels in distress from the pouring rain.

Visit Period: July 2012
Destination: Utrecht, The Netherlands

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Belgian ‘Nationale Feestdag’ in Ghent

Trivia: Did you know that Belgium was once part of the Netherlands?

Blondine and I in Ghent last weekend (21 July).

In 1830 Belgium broke away from the Netherlands but it was only a year later that Belgium’s National Congress adopted a new constitution and on 21 July 1831 Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg swore allegiance to the new constitution. He became the first king of Belgium.

Thus 21 July is Belgium’s ‘Nationale Feestdag’ (National Holiday) and coincidentally Blondine and I were there. I’ve been to Ghent before so I know what to anticipate except that we didn’t expect the multitudes and the noise.

It was about 16:00 when the provisional bar and cafe stands and floating entertainment platforms on the Graslei (canal) were opened. Crowds kept flowing in and the noise became unbearable. Sorry if I am sounding like a grandma but I cannot handle a rowdy crowd. If I go to a street party I need to have static location where I can sit and watch everything happening before me and not the other way around. Anyway, it was really busy and congested. Some of the tram stops were even converted into café terraces. But we were glad to have enjoyed the city before the street party started.

Belgium’s ‘National Holiday’ is pretty much like the ‘Queens Day’ in the Netherlands but without orange-clad people in hilarious out-of-this-world outfits and the gar(b)age sale on the streets.

Check out a few pictures here of the crowds:

Tram stop converted into a cafe terrace.

When we left there was no available space on sight along the Graslei.

Watch this space for more Ghent stories and pictures in the coming weeks (culinaire, boat trip, architecture and more), as well as my previous travels to Copenhagen, Denmark (April – just a few more posts), Cuba (May), Lesvos, Greece (June-July) and a few local-Netherlands stuff in between.

And oh, I’ve booked a long weekend trip to Paris next month with Bru!

Travel Period: July 2012
Destination: Ghent (East Flanders), Belgium

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

In Copenhagen: a Dane asked me what is ‘Happiness’?

Trivia: Did you know that the Danes are the happiest people in the world? Use google please for more info =)

It was a sunny day in Copenhagen with sporadic passing clouds. I wanted to enjoy my afternoon in the city with a glass of wine while people watching, something that is always in my agenda when I am travelling. Luckily, I found an available table at the outdoor terrace of the strategically located ‘Café du Norden’ on Stroget and Kongens Nytorv (the Kings New Square). Here, I met Bj.

That is Bj at my back before we actually met and had a chat.

Bj is in his 50’s, lives in Copenhagen and works in the finance industry. He is married and has a daughter. He’s basically spending his afternoon chilling out with a beer in the city while his wife and daughter went to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a unique open-air museum located by Oresund, about 42 kilometres north from the capital city. It is the same museum that I wanted to visit that same day, however, I wasn’t feeling very well so I decided to stay in Copenhagen instead.

We didn’t really talk about the Danish being the happiest people in the world or Denmark being the happiest country. We talked about Copenhagen and what brought me to the city. Then we further talked about travel. We talked about our jobs. We even talked about Christiania. Our discussion went deeper and we talked about life. About happiness.

Different people have different thoughts about what happiness is and what it means to them.

He asked me, ‘So, what is happiness to you?’

To me, happiness is relative. It is something of personal nature. The character, the personality, the person’s personal circumstances and the stage in life this person is in, will determine how that person will view and understand happiness.

Happiness to a 16 year old is different to someone who just recently graduated from university. Moreover, someone who is between 25 and 30 years old, who thinks he or she can conquer the world, will have a different view of happiness compared to a person in his or her mid to late 30’s who have other factors in life to consider, i.e. children, a more stable job, etcetera. When we reach our 40’s, our take on happiness will be different as well—I know this personally because I am at this stage currently. I am sure that reaching our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, another state of happiness will enter into the picture.

With that, I believe that happiness is a state of achieving contentment, which is a continuous and evolving process throughout the stages of our lives.

If I look back at what made me happy before, it humbles me big time. I have gone so far in life. So I try to hold on to these snippets of my bygone days to keep my feet firmly on the ground. I try to be grateful each day and to always go back to the basics.

I can honestly say that I have gone past the material happiness stuff. I do not anymore feel the nagging need to constantly prove myself, to be accepted by others, to be number 1 at work and to be the best at whatever situations and circumstances I find myself in. Importantly, I have learned that happiness is something that we ultimately can control and can decide.

Right now, what makes me happy are my travels-discovering the world and being with the Dutchman.

View on Kongens Nytorv, the Kings New Square.

Another picture of me and Bj before we actually had the chat.

The afternoon went fast and before we knew it Bj and I have to part ways. His family will be home anytime soon and they are expecting him for dinner while I am faced at the challenge of finding a restaurant.

I thanked Bj for his time and for the thought-provoking discussion we shared.

Now it’s my turn to ask you—What is happiness to you? What will honestly, at this very moment, make you happy? Will you go for it?

Travel Period: April 2012
Destination: Copenhagen, Denmark

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

A quick visit to Freetown Christiania: a place for hippies, not for me

In Copenhagen, Denmark, there exists a free town where you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want yourself to be. The residents to date in this Copenhagen enclave are less than a thousand and the whole area covers about 34 hectares located in the suburb of Christianshavn.

There are no hard rules here except for the following:

When visiting, make sure to pay attention to these otherwise you will be pulled out from the crowd. The residents of Christiania are known to have smashed cameras so I made sure to keep my camera out of sight. No pictures and no running in the Green Zone. The Green Zone is the heart/centre of Christiania.

So Christiania was high up in my list of places in Copenhagen to visit. Just out of curiosity really. What is a town like without any legal form of entity? Where everything is free going and people can be whoever they wanted themselves to be? People here can do whatever they want? Yup, I was really, really curious!

Like San Marino in Italy, Lichtenstein in Switzerland and Monaco in France, Christiania is officially an autonomous state within Denmark. For more information, go google it =)

Ludvigsen, the co-author of Christiania's mission statement (circa 1971) wrote this:

“The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.”

But I must say though that Christiania is not for me. Alas, we didn’t click. There were no butterflies in my stomach at first sight. I am not the hippie ‘flower power-love-peace’ type of gal who wears harem pants, have nose piercings and spends her days doing yoga and meditations. I don’t smoke hash and I don’t use cocaine as well. Although I do not believe in marriage I see sex conservatively. I also don’t like living in huts and derelict houses with graffiti, hygiene challenged and poverty-stricken environment around me.

Moreover, freedom for me is a very important form of expression, but I believe that with freedom comes responsibility, and that means adhering to certain guidelines.

On the positive side, it was good to have visited Christiania, albeit rather quick. I was able to see it and experience just a little bit what this world is all about. Further than that, I didn’t really have any reason to stay longer. I felt so out of place there. Do not get me wrong though because it’s actually a fun place with lots of shops, cafes and restaurants but it’s just not my cup of tea.

A few months ago, a Danish colleague from our EMEA headquarters was my visitor in the Netherlands. While we were in the car driving to a client, I confessed that I was in Copenhagen last April. Our conversation led to the subject of Christiania.

He said, ‘Christiania is the answer to tolerance in Denmark, just as the coffee shops and red light districts are to the Netherlands.‘

Hmm... you know, he could be right.

Here are the pictures, outside of the Green Zone of course:

And now I am entering the Green Zone. This is the moment where I stopped taking pictures.

When in Copenhagen, do try to visit this enclave and experience for yourself a different kind of world. Maybe you and Christiania will click? Who knows.

Travel Period: April 2012
Destination: Freetown Christiania, Denmark (an enclave of Copenhagen)

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Because summer has arrived in the Netherlands

Finally! So I bought one of my favourite drink, Martini Rose sparkling wine to celebrate a bit. Really good when served chilled. I discovered this wine 2 years ago.

And I have been eating my favourite seafood salads in outdoor terraces during lunch. Yummy. I can eat this for days and I will not complain. This one was at the restaurant of NH Naarden.

Ah, one must always seek the good life huh. But I hope the warm and dry weather stays???

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Copenhagen Panoramic Views from the Tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke in Christianshavn

Confession time. I do not really like heights. I mean, I appreciate panoramic views but an open-air setting, in a balcony or a tower on top of a very high building? Oooooh, that makes my knees wobble. Nevertheless, I still push myself every time because I have the gorgeous views at the end of the climb in mind.

The beautiful and elegant tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of Our Savior).

You can see the architectural wonder, the Oresund Bridge that connects Denmark (Copenhagen) and Sweden (Malmo) from the top of the Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn. The tower and spire stretches to 90 metres.

So when I stopped over at Christianshavn my goal was to really just explore the area quickly and then go to Christiana, the infamous autonomous enclave in Denmark. However, while walking around I saw the beautiful tower of the 17th century ‘Vor Frelsers Kirke’ (Church of Our Saviour). The spire on top of the tower I believe was finished half a century later.

I love the black colour of the impressive corkscrew spire against the eye-catching gilded railing and balusters of the external winding staircase that leads to the top. The gold colour flutter playfully against the sunlight. The spire looked so pretty from afar so out of curiousity I decided to inspect it closely.

Climbing the church’s tower wasn’t really in my plan but when I looked into my cOPENhagen card booklet, it states that it’s one of the free attractions. Well, it is not free to the general public but if you buy the cOPENhagen card your entrance fee to climb the tower is waived.

I was tempted. Soooooooooo tempted. And before I knew it I was climbing the stairs to the top!

Come follow me and see the beautiful views of Copenhagen from the top of the Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn through my pictures below =)

There are 550 steps to the top of the tower. Not an easy climb.

These simple, neat and structured lines, as well as uniform windows form the typical Danish architecture in Copenhagen.

I did not really go all the way to the top because the human traffic was dizzying me. Plus the fact that the more you go up, the more you realise that there is nothing up there anymore except for that spire and the golden ball. I was probably just a few steps away to the golden ball! But the thought just kind of stays with you especially when you look around you, and uh, below..... ugh help! Haha.

Why do I keep torturing myself from these height-related activities?

The last 150 steps have gilded railings. I did not bother to go up to the topmost part though as I was feeling already dizzy. You see the pathway thins down and my vertigo kicks in.

Beautiful, love the house-like buildings.

The climb is highly recommended because the views up there were just amazing. You cannot get this higher in Denmark I believe, plus it is open-air!

Do take note that it can get crowded. I was quite lucky as I did not have a mass following when I went up, however, when I went down, the narrow wooden staircases were packed. Children and adults were queued up and moving slowly to go up the tower.

Travel Period: April 2012
Destination: Copenhagen, Denmark

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