Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Part Two of Haarlem: Along the Spaarne River

I still have pictures of Haarlem I haven't posted from my visit 2 years ago!

Hah, took a while to post these but I just cannot let them slip away in my Picasa database of pictures.

Even if its 2 years ago, Haarlem does not change. It never has since centuries ago =)

If you are looking for a quickie and easy side trip, then Haarlem is the perfect one. It takes approximately 15 minutes with the train from Amsterdam Centraal (10 minutes from Amsterdam Sloterdijk) and goes every 8 minutes. With the car is it about half an hour.

There are lots to see here in Haarlem. Check out this video: Haarlem Marketing. The city is like a small sister of Amsterdam but without the crazy tourists. The Grote Markt (big market square) is my favourite place in the city. It is the living room of Haarlem where everyone comes together. Great for people watching opportunities! Make sure you sit here with a drink in hand.

Trivia: Did you know that Haarlem is older than Amsterdam? And that Haarlem is the capital of the North Holland province in which Amsterdam is a part of? But Amsterdam however is the capital of the Netherlands.

I know, it is a bit complex, haha!

Yup, just 15 minutes with the Intercity train from Amsterdam Centraal.

Here are my other posts about Haarlem during this visit:

Hope you like the pictures!

Typical Dutch architecture: Trapgevel houses (Step-gable houses)

Former Weigh House (De Waag) on the left photo is now a cafe. On the far right photo is the Teyler's Museum.

More step-gable houses along the Spaarne.

The Gravestenenbrug, a foot and bike wooden draw bridge.

Bakenessergracht flows to the Spaarne,

The Spaarne and you can see the Gravestenenbrug (wooden drawbridge) far ahead.

Your typical old Dutch buildings.

The Amsterdamse Poort.

Travel Period: March 2014
Destination: Haarlem (North Holland), the Netherlands

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Gin and Plateau Fruits de Mer at Mossel & Gin

Nothing stands between me and my (extreme) food craving, especially when its my favourite -- seafood. Yup, no one! I am sure many can relate with me. Well, can you? =)

Last March, I had an intense craving for Fruits de Mer. The absence of the Dutchman who was on business trip during this time just heightened the whole craving episode. Which means I do not have to go home early and cook, but I can go somewhere and stuff myself with mouth-watering seafood =)

So I went right away to work and employed the help of Google, searching for a fish restaurant near my work place. I am lazy and I didn’t want to travel far so any restaurant serving fruits de mer near my office in Amsterdam West would suffice.

This is how I found Mossel & Gin which is just a few bus stops away or a 15 minute walk. The reviews online were very promising as well making my food craving shoot up the roof, haha. So I made the online reservation, came and seated myself at the upper floor with the view of the diners on the ground floor. I was on my own so I didn’t mind sitting upstairs alone. It gave me exactly the privacy I needed to eat a huge plate of seafood for 2, all by myself. *grins*

Never ever be ashamed to treat yourself, you can always improvise!

The plateau fruits de mer is good for 2 people but I ate it all. Greedy much eh? Well, most people share the big plate as a starter, and then afterwards, order each a main course. But not for me, I just ate the whole plate of shellfish and crustacean goodness. It is both my starter and main course, and my dessert is coffee.

This is a dinner that I am very pleased about. The shellfishes were fresh and juicy. I had delicious prawns that were lightly steamed. I wish I ordered extra oysters. They also served it with bread, fries and fennel salad, all complementing well.

But the surprise factor for this dinner here at Mossel & Gin was the GIN itself.

The guy who was serving me, not sure if he was the owner but he seemed confident enough to be giving directions to some of the staff, helped pick a gin concoction from the menu for me. I cannot remember what it was but it tasted really, really, really good. Sharp, citrusy and fresh which went well with my fruits de mer. It was like wow at first sip.

The restaurant is located in Westerpark, in the Westergasfabriek terrain of Amsterdam West (outside the core city centre). They have a nice outdoor terrace for the warmer months.

Great place for all the seafood lovers out there, but I’d say – come here for their gin concoctions!

To get here with public transport, take bus 21 from Amsterdam Centraal and get off at Westerpark (Bus stop: Van Hallstraat).

The interior design is industrial modern style. They have the map of Zeeland (a region in the Netherlands) on the wall, the main producer of mussels in the country, if not in Europe.

I seated myself in the upper floor because I was alone and I wanted to people watch all the diners below as I eat my fruit de mer for 2 on my own. 

This was a lovely gin concotion. Sharp, citrusy and fresh. Looking at this plateau fruits de mer is giving me again the craving.

It looks huge, but the meat is minuscule compared to the pan, the shells and all that rubbery seaweeds. So I am not guilty for eating all this myself.

Coffee for dessert and a little chocolate =)

Travel Period: March 2016
Destination: Amsterdam West (Amsterdam – North Holland), the Netherlands

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Monday, August 29, 2016

At the Pier in Scheveningen, Netherlands: Food Boulevard, Roofdeck and Beach Views

There are definitely a lot of improvements since the last time I visited here at the Pier in Scheveningen! It is great to be back =)

It’s been a long time ago since I was last here in Scheveningen, also known as the beach of The Hague. That was in 2011 with Blondine. We had lunch in The Hague, then we went shopping in the afternoon and we closed the day with a dinner at a beach club in Scheveningen. 5 years ago. Time flew out the window so fast, and now Blondine is gone...

I am soothed though with the fact that she left me with lots of beautiful memories to remember and cherish, and I am glad that I was able to document many of our time together here in this blog. They are precious to me and will always be.

So the other weekend Dutchman and I were here in Scheveningen. We had lovely blue skies weather. It was a beautiful day.

I have heard that the ‘De Pier’ in Scheveningen is now under a new management so I insisted that Dutchman and I visit the place, and I was surprised to see that it has now become a Food Boulevard extending partly to the roofdeck. The Bungy (for bungee jumping) is still there and a new attraction is being assembled together, the Ferris Wheel on the sea which opened a week later.

Wow, I am fascinated with all the major changes, considering that this property was in a terribly derelict state the last time I was here. It is a transformation! Although it seems that a few of the spaces in the Food Boulevard area are still waiting for tenants. I do hope they get leased out very soon. Perhaps they are already, and the new tenants just need to move in anytime soon.

The grumpy Dutchman on the other hand was not impressed at all, “Bah, Scheveningen is still a circus, it’s for the masses.”


This is so typical for this picky Dutchman, what can I do? We managed though to lay down and relaxed a bit on a lounge bed on the roofdeck, which he really enjoyed very much, so he might not mean it =)

Tip: Yup, there are free lounge beds at the end of the roofdeck. Plus the views from the bars, cafes and restaurants here at the Pier are simply stunning! Panorama views of the beach and the boulevard. Come here!

For more information, please visit the official website here: De Pier

I enjoyed taking these pictures, and I hope you enjoy them too.

The Food Boulevard at the Pier in Scheveningen.

You can go up the roofdeck for the beach and boulevard views.

Scheveningen Beach.

The Kurhaus on Scheveningen Boulevard.

Lounging here at the roofdeck =)

It is a great place to walk around and enjoy the beach views, but it can get very windy here.

Lots of dining opportunities with a view here at the Pier. I would love to come back!

We would have wanted to eat here at this terrace but we have already reserved dinner at a different restaurant near the Kurhaus.

Travel Period: August 2016
Destination: Scheveningen, The Hague (South Holland), the Netherlands

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Hague, Netherlands: Parliament Buildings (Binnenhof) + Wealth Tax

I have been here, rather passed by Binnenhof, which is the Dutch name for the Parliament buildings, a few times. This is the heart of Dutch politics. The first time I was here was a decade and a half ago when I was visiting the Dutchman in the Netherlands as a tourist.

Oh, I still have the (pre-digital) picture of me with the buildings in my back =)

Trivia: Did you know that this is the oldest House of Parliament in the world that is still in use?

I won’t go through the history details about this grand 13th century government building but if you are interested here are a few helpful links:

Anyway the only thing I can say is that a large portion of my money (tax) goes here!

In this country, we get taxed on EVERYTHING. And taxes are not cheap here. Even when you elect not to spend your money which is already taxed by the way (Income Tax), you still pay 1.2% tax on it every year. You pay this additional tax when you have savings above €24,437 as of 2016 (thus €24,437 is not taxable). It’s called the Wealth Tax.

My question is -- Since when is having €24K++ makes you wealthy? I would understand if they raise the figure to, say, €500K, or even €200K.... but only €24K++ non-taxable??? Are you kidding me? We do not even earn interest on our savings anymore! Having money will cost you money in this country.

If you have investments or have saved a lot of money -- hard earned money from your own sweat, blood, heartaches, work stress, career frustrations and all, you will have to pay the price for living in this country. It is absurd to pay additional taxes on money that has been previously levied, but that is how it is here in the Netherlands.

I do wonder if other countries have this kind of wealth taxation as well? I would love to know.

And with all the sundry of political confusion that has been engulfing Europe right now, and here in the Netherlands as well, there is only one fact that stands out: You can never trust politicans. Not with your money. Not with your future. Not with your life.

Entering the Binnenhof. It is open for everyone to visit.

The building in the centre is the Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights). This is where the King of the Netherlands delivers his speech to the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives during Prinsjesdag, the official kick-off day of the Parliament.

It was a beautiful day when Dutchman and I were here last week. We sat on the bench here and ate our sandwiches and fed the birds.

The small tower is the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. The lower right building is the Mauritshuis, a museum which is the owner of the famous painting of  Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Pearl Earring.

The Dutch Houses of Parliament from the lake. Isn't she just stunning? If you visit the Netherlands, do visit The Hague. It is approximately 50 minutes train ride from Amsterdam.

The statue of a The Hague woman across the lake looks like Princess Beatrix (former Queen Beatrix). You can also see the Dutch Prime Minister's office tower.

On this bridge you will find the flags of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands.

Travel Period: August 2016
Destination: The Hague (South Holland), the Netherlands

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