Sunday, November 30, 2008

De Bazaar Beverwijk

Beverwijk in North Holland province is widely known for its bazaar, the biggest free or open market in the Netherlands. The Dutch national traffic signage on the highway even has Bazaar on it to guide visitors. That’s how popular this market is. And on its website, it says that the fete attracts about 60,000 visitors every weekend.

Website: De Bazaar Beverwijk

Dutchman took a souvenir shot of me, of course. That black plastic weave shopping bag on my arm, I bought it for only €3,50.

It was Dutchman’s idea to visit the Bazaar (2 weeks ago). We’ve been to the Utrechtse Bazaar in Vleuten twice before, which for me was so and so. He swears though that the one in Beverwijk is nothing comparable; it is big, HUGE. He is trying to convince me to go. Ok, alright, we are going!
Entrance fee to the Bazaar is €2 per person and car parking is a flat €3 for the whole day. The parking area reminds me of the shopping mall parking areas in the Philippines. This is a very rare thing in Holland, but this Bazaar massive parking lot is of course an exception.

The weather was a bit cold. It also showered and I was glad I had my hat with me otherwise my hair will be all over the place.

Tempting smell of stroopwafels were wafting outside in the air... I am not a big fan of stroopwafels though (or any sweet stuff for that matter) but I do eat this sometimes. Next foto seems to be a stall selling alternative - herb medicine, like methol candies for colds and cough or something like that.

Indonesian fares were on sale... I did some sampling of their rice cakes... I go crazy with dried sausages so Dutchman and I did some sampling too. We did not buy as we just bought some Italian Salami that morning at the supermarket... products from the east called wierook - aromatic incense.

Poffertjes, Dutch mini pancakes. Next is the main food market hall with an interesting hodgepodge wall collection of anything.

So what are my impressions? Well, I was not really awed with the bazaar. There were a lot of rubbish being sold, stall after stall, shop after shop, hall after hall. The clothes on display took me back to time when I strolled along the shopping stands of Patpong Night Market in Bangkok, Mongkok in Hongkong, and Greenhills Shopping Center near where I live in Manila. Low-cost shoddy clothing on sale here. There was really nothing exciting that caught my eye.

Here are some of the items that we bought that were value for money and are good to OK quality: CD’s, DVD’s, socks, maillots, bristles for our electric toothbrushes, cotton bodysuit underwear, and the black plastic shopping weave bag of course.

As for ease of paying, there were a couple of ATM’s in the Bazaar but the queue was amazingly long! We didn’t have much choice as we didn’t have cash with us and in bazaar’s like this (read: free market), you need cash. Some stores have pin, usually the bigger ones, but the small stalls don’t.

Fish vendor and next is a typical fish fast food vendor selling haring, kibbeling, makreel, yummy... by the way, I had fresh raw herring with chopped onions and pickled gherkins last week Friday for lunch.

China Town Hall, mostly food stalls in here. Mid foto - public toilets are NEVER EVER free in the Netherlands. Hey, a fortune teller cabin! Come on right in, lol. You know, anyone can pretend to read palms and minds. I can ;-).

On a Sunday, it was relatively busy at the Bazaar, and as you can see in the foto, they already decorate the halls with colorful party lights, or are they actually Christmas lights? Next foto inside the China hall.

We finished the day with a quick dinner in China Town Hall. We were serviced by a middle-aged soft spoken Chinese woman who repeatedly asked us, “Wat wil je dlinken?” and she looked at me and asked again for the nth time, “Dlinken?” her eyes very inquisitive and I think a bit annoyed, “Dlinken?”

For a moment there Dutchman and I were baffled. We looked at each other our foreheads wrinkling – what did she just say? And then after some careful thought we realized what she said, haha. How could we not possibly know? So stupid of us, she actually meant DRINKEN (drinks, in her words, dlinken) , LOL.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Indian Cool and Ladyboys

There was some Indian theme going on in Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam 2 weeks ago when we were there for lunch on a Friday. They made a gazebo out of tin cans which was placed right by the entry hallway from the small hotel lobby to the café restaurant. The hanging tin cans remind me of thermos pack lunches in the early 70’s.

A really nice work of contemporary display art and me squinting my eyes. My colleagues have actually started to wonder why I take so many fotos every time and every where. Of course, I never dared to tell them I have this blog to post them to ;-). Fotos taken by my Nokia phone.

What’s cool with this design is the mini-TV’s inside the tin cans! It was really impressive, creative, unique, well thought of and resourceful for the artist, I reckon. The first time for me to see such minuscule teles! Really cool.

The back of the café restaurant was transformed into a snug lounge area, quite inviting in fact, and the pillows and curtains were of Indian inspired design and were made of glossy and bright Indian fabrics.

Then we saw a group of Indian ladies dressed in traditional Indian garb pass by. They caught my attention as they all look quite different to me, bigger, chunkier, taller, and their eyes and facial features were hard and sharper than normal, hmmm.

I whispered to my two colleagues and told them the Indian ladies are ladyboys.

“Huh, how would you know that?” the two chorused seeming to read each other’s minds as their curiosity piqued.

“Trust me, I am Asian, I just know.”

Well, well, they do not want to believe me? They even swore saying I am wrong, TOTALLY wrong. Whatever. I think they just do not see it, they do not have the gift of seeing it, haha. No wonder there are so many European guys in Asia getting scammed thinking they went to bed with a gal when she, or rather he was a ladyboy. Ignorance is bliss.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Leersumse Veld

A couple of weeks back Dutchman and I went for a walk in Leersumse Veld in Utrechtse Heuvelrug forest. This nature park is monstrous in size and has many pockets of walking trails and fields that stretches from Hilversum down to Rhenen. One of this is the Leersumse Veld of course.

The national road through the forest and next foto is a snapshot of the entrance to the Leersumse forest.

It was a nice walk as autumn was in full bloom at that time. Leaves in bright colors were everywhere as far as my eyes can see... yellow, orange, red orange, brown... autumn is undeniably my favorite season of the year. I just love walking in the forest. It is very still and the exercise helps empty my active mind (which at times is strained too).

Leersumse veld is a 6-kilometer walking trail which is about a 90-minute walk.

I just love this mushroom foto.Here are some more fotos taken during our walk: Leersumse Veld in Utrecht Heuvelrug, Utrecht, The Netherlands

I am in the phase of my life that I need more quality time communing with nature. Walking, as we all know, is a very healthy way of exercising without putting much effort. What better way then to spend a weekend like this. The more we pile up years to our age it’s become vital that we observe a vigorous and healthy lifestyle. I know first hand how easy it is to slack behind and get lazy!

Anyway, after the walk, my stomach was grumbling. I was famished and craving for the wrong thing, the unhealthy, greasy and fatty patat! Patat is the Dutch version for French fries. These fries are slightly larger than the fastfood French fries and smaller than the Belgian-Flemish fries.

The snack bar in the middle of the forest... cool huh.

We didn’t have money with us so we went to the nearest town to withdraw from an ATM and while on the road, we found this snack bar in the middle of the forest just by the main road. After having taken money, we drove back to the snack bar and had our filling patat. Not really the healthiest option available but yummy!

In Dutch, I would call the patat snack as something lekker verdiend after the walk. We deserved the little treat. After all, it was just a normal potato fries serving (stop thinking in calories!); it wasn’t even near as anything like debauchery. So I should loosen up the paranoia a bit and enjoy sometimes the little greasy things in life ;-)

Visit Period: October 2008
Destination: Leersumse Veld (Utrechtse Heuvelrug - Utrecht), The Netherlands

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lekker Mosselen

Philippine is a small village in Zeeland (region south of the Netherlands) that is famous for its mussels restaurants. Foto is from a book I bought early this year - 52 zondagen, wandelen en lunchen (52 Sundays, lunches and walking trails)

Steamed mussels are not only a Belgian thing – which brings me to mind the little narrow yet full of activity side streets with open-air cafe terraces and restaurants offering mussels and frites on the menu in the Centrum of Brussels – but well, mussels are also a Dutch thing!

2-kilo pack: Zeeuwse Mosselen - Moules de Hollande - Hollandische Muscheln - Dutch Mussels

The Zeeuwse Mussels in Zeeland province and this is mainly in Yerseke where these yummy mussels are cultured and harvested, are very popular. In fact this southern region is one of the largest producers and biggest oyster exporters in Europe. About 50% of the mussels harvested are exported to neighbouring countries such as Germany, Belgium, France, and Italy. So I will wager the thought that the mussels I ate in Brussels and Antwerp were Dutch mussels from Zeeland.

Washing the mussels with fresh water and making sure to set aside the damaged ones.

Another interesting fact I read and also have heard is this small village in Zeeland called Philippine (not the Philippines! but what an interesting name for a village, haha) near the border of Belgium is a well known place for its delightful mussel restaurants. People flock to this little village to eat mussels served in different ways! There is also a Mussels Festival during the last week of August. I am so definitely going there next year, perhaps in the spring, when it’s warmer, or in August during the Mussels festivities. It’s nice to eat mussels outside, in an open-air terrace with beautiful weather and while watching everyone.

Clean mussels ready to be cooked - for flavouring, empty first the sachet of mussel herb mix into the ready pot.

I also wanted to do the open, wide, and flat polder landscape walking trail from Kruiningen to Yerseke during summer.

Anywho, the Dutch parents invited us over last weekend for some steamed mussels for dinner. The dinner was actually a treat for me since I love seafood ergo mussels but I always never have the chance to make them at home because the Dutchman hates seafood or anything from the sea for that matter. So that evening for dinner, Dutchman got pizza instead for himself.

Then add in the (packed) vegetable mix into the pot!

Like a paparazzi, I followed the Dutch parents around their kitchen while they prepared our mussels dinner.

You’ve got to clean the mussels first with water and make sure to take away the bad ones. Dutch father said that if the mussels are wide open, one way of checking is tapping it on any hard surface lightly and see if the shell’s lid retracts, then they are fine to cook. If they don’t, throw them away as you don’t want to have a struggling stomach after dinner.

Mussels pot at boiling point, now ready to be served!

After cleaning, pour into the pot some white wine – tastes much, much better than plain water, then add the mussel herb mix, and pour in the ready packed cut vegetables – leeks, carrots, onions, celery and some thyme and laurel leaves if you have please.

Let the mussel pot simmer under low to medium heat until its klaar ;-)

Uiteindelijk, we can now eat our mussels! We had 2 pots, about 4 kilos of Zeeuwse mussels. The Dutch mother prepared some green salad and bread on the side. Unlike the Belgians, the Dutch prefer to eat mussels with bread than frites.

The part that I look forward to with steamed mussels is the soup, so I always ask for a small cup or bowl. The Dutch parents on the other hand like to eat their mussels with cream sauces – knoflooksaus, cocktailsaus, whiskeysaus, and all other sauces they can think of. I prefer them naturel, without any sauce.

Of course mussels are best eaten with white wine on the table.

4-kilo mussels was too much for 3 people, so we had a lot left. Dutch mother baked them the day after and Dutch father ate them with his boterham (sandwich).

It’s just too bad that the Dutchman doesn’t like seafood. Most mussels sold in the supermarket come in 2-kilo packs, and I don’t like buying something that I cannot consume within the same day or having to make 2 different sets of meals in the evening.

And since we are in this mussels topic, I so so miss the baked mussels (tahong!) in the Philippines!

There is this inconspicuous restaurant in Salcedo Village Makati, near Citibank Building where I always go to with my colleagues and clients. They serve scrumptious baked Tahong and (the unhealthy, lol) Sisig! Too bad I can’t seem to find any similarly cooked Baked Tahong with cheese on the menu here in the Netherlands.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Elburg, a little fortied town

Elburg is a fortified little town shaped like a square. The blue surrounding the town plan is the moat.

The little preserved medieval town of Elburg is a perfect example of Dutch old glory. Elburg, once a wealthy town during the Middle Ages, a member of the Hanseatic League with a flourishing fishing industry, is nowadays a peaceful town in Gelderland province that mainly survives through tourism, which mainly is coming from local tourism or from neighbouring country, Germany – saw quite a number of Deutschland plate numbers.

This is the little main square in the Centrum.

Built only for 4 years, from 1392 to 1396, this fortified beautiful town is still in tact, in the form of a square with defensive walls which are now in ruins, and surrounded by a moat with stone bridges that connects Elburg Centrum to the rest of the Elburg municipality.

It’s a picturesque place that will bring you back in time. The streets are straight and in the main square is a tea house and small canal with an impressive row of trees, its branches cut and formed to align together with the help of wooden trellises.

This is the main street in Elburg with rows of shops. On the left foto are two pretty bicycles that caught my attention. They were parked in front of this art gallery - hmm, the owners are definitely artists.

It was a pleasant experience to walk in this town’s cobbled stone streets and see charming little shops and cafes. I saw a couple of local tourists shooting fotos of some of the monumental buildings. And while I was tempted to stop and shop, I reminded myself that there is more to see before I can do the deed.

One of the pretty old characteristic Dutch gabled trapgevel buildings in Elburg now a fine dining restaurant and this is the main street leading to the Vischpoort, as you can see in the picture.

The Vischpoort is probably the most celebrated monument of Elburg as it’s very striking; an exemplary reminder of the grandness of this once wealthy town.

More fotos of Elburg here: Elburg - Gerderland, The Netherlands

Me standing near the Vischpoort. Dutchman complained that I was not looking into the camera. I like those fishnets though.

Walking through the Vischpoort will lead you to a small haven. There was a nice open-air terrace across it just by the stone bridge but helaas November is already a cold month so you don’t see people sitting outside. It must be lovely here during the summer!

The small haven in Elburg just outside the fortification gates. Some boats are old traditional boats like this one in th foto.

By the haven, we saw a couple of boys fishing, and oh boy, they just caught a huge fish! The fish, which is more than a meter long, was whisking itself trying to set free from the hook but the boys were strong enough to hold on and pin down the poor thing. I asked the boys, who are now measuring their catch, the name of the fish, but too bad the name escapes me now – I have a terrible memory!

The huge catch of the boys in the haven. Later, one of the boys released the fish back to where it came from.

A group of people already gathered to witness the great catch when the boys announced that they are returning the fish into the water. They took the hook off the mouth of the fish and one of the boys carried the worn-out fish and slowly placed it under water. Aw, so sweet of the boys to have returned the fish back to where it belongs! But I wonder -- how on earth could these boys find such a large fish in such a small pond of water?

The moat surrounding Elburg Centrum and two boys playing, sailing on a raft, hah nice pastime for these kids! This stone bridge is connected to the haven entering Elburg through the Vischpoort.

Dutchman and I returned back to the Centrum and decided to walk along the fortification dikes. We reached the corner of the pathway (Elburg is shaped like a square so there are 4 corners), which is where the Sint Nicolaaskerk is built nearby and we saw this old cemetery nestled peacefully in its own spot, right in the corner.

Sint Nikolaaskerk flanked by two buildings and next foto are wooden shoes hanged on the wrought iron fence just outside the home - locals really wear them but mainly when they are doing outside chores such as gardening.
On the other corner of the town further ahead is a nice place for picnicking under a huge tree with tables and benches and the ground is sloped all the way down to the moat. It’s very picturesque, very country, and tranquil. I love especially the colors of the leaves and that they have fallen and scattered loosely on the ground. It brings an added twist of mystery into the setting and you can easily picture yourself back in the 14th century.

It was a nice walk, something we both enjoyed. Walking is a cheap and healthy regimen.

The nice and peaceful walk along the dike surrounding this square form little town. You can see the moat on the left side.

I told Dutchman that I could live here, well nearby just in the outside, not in the Center of course as I need my space and some idyllic country views. He said he could live here too, but helaas Elburg is too far away from Amsterdam where we both work, so we junked the idea.

Yummy hot Chocomel with generous amount of slagroom on top and speculaas cookie.

We retreated back to the Centrum for a cup of warm drink in one of the café restaurants in the main street. The café restaurant I was eyeing on in the corner of the small square was full so Dutchman suggested we try the other café across it.

It was a bit cold outside so we were thinking of ordering hot tea but we saw the other diners drinking a cup of Chocomel. Oh, a great idea -- a nice warm cup of hot chocolate when outside is cold is just perfect. So we ordered two hot Chocomels with slagroom on top. I’m not really a fond of hot chocolates (I’m afraid of the calories lol!), but this one is really yummy.

I also got curious what an Elburger Botje is.

The local specialty in Elburg -- Elburger Botje

Normally, when we take a warm drink, we always have something together with it, like an apple tart or something, however we were not hungry, but the Elburger Botje stood out in the menu. I am always curious to try anything local! So we ordered just one Elburger Botje to share with and when it arrived, hah, I had a good laugh!

The puff pastry is formed like a fish (botje means bones, perhaps it is supposed to be fishbone) and it tastes like it has some butter, the typical spijs Dutch filling which reminds me of amandelspijs.

This white house is literally built on the fortified city walls (the ruins) of Elburg, and next foto is the view from the cafe.

We decided not to have dinner in Elburg and when we left the fortified town walking towards the outside parking lot, we saw many people walking into the Centrum and wondered where they are going. The church bells rang; it is a few minutes to 6PM. “Ah...” Dutchman said, “They are going to mass.”

Dutchman being a Catholic, although I doubt him being a practicing one since I have never seen him go to church or given interest in this subject, added that the people are from the strict reformed protestant church. I could tell, at least from the church that it’s not Catholic because the design was relatively eenvoudig – simple.

Although I myself am an agnostic, it makes me smile when people still practice their own religion and tradition.

Travel Period: November 2008
Destination: Elburg (Gelderland), The Netherlands

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