Monday, February 13, 2012

Dutch Treat

I was in Holland for a week walking off the tundra that had made them so itchy at home, and came to love many things.
1. Schipol Airport. What's not to love about entering a land that doesn't require fiddle-farty forms to be filled out, only to have someone who can't be bothered to read the forms ask you the same questions on the forms? I walked up to the lovely young gentleman at customs, certain that I had missed the tour on the airplane, you know, the handing out of forms. He asked me what I was going to do in Holland. I did not say "Drugs." "Welcome to the Netherlands. Enjoy your stay." A quick stamp, and off I went to retrieve my luggage. Afterwards, to the "Nothing to Declare" exit. Two security agents on either side. Never a question or even a sideways glance as I passed between them into a well signed venue that had me at the designated pick up point pronto. Take that, Miami, the bane of my travel!
2. Small European Cars. Provided me with so much entertainment while I waited for my friend to pick me up. Reminiscent of clown cars, I would watch a teeny tiny little vehicle pull up to the curb to drop off departing loved ones. The driver door would open, and out stretched a leg with a size 15 shoe on the end into the roadway, the leg longer than the car was wide. The knee, flexed at 90 degrees over the foot. A hip would appear, and in the blink of an eye, the knee would straighten, and both the knee and the outward facing foot would swivel to face the car as it relinquished another hip. Another seemingly endless leg and the owner's behind would be saluting the sun, well, if it had been out that day. The torso, head and outstretched arms soon followed, much like a monarch exiting a chrysalis. And then the being stood up. I swear, 3 times the height of the car. And before it was over, that car would give birth to two slightly shorter specimens, from one of the two doors, before sprouting full sized luggage, back packs and other bric a brac. 
And I'll be damned, if I'll be crammed - oops, wrong verse.
3. Bikes. Purple bikes, blue bikes, pink bikes. Bikes for one, two or three, often carrying more people than seats. More bikes than cars in the church parking lot on Sunday. Bikes parked on the street, dedicated bike lanes throughout the country. Why? Because no matter whether they are tall or short, thin, fluffy, shaped like a washboard, apple, pear or tulip bulb, Dutch women are graced with the most amazing gams, and THAT you don't get from sitting in a car all of your life.
Town Hall, Haarlem.
4. Shopping. I like this anyway, but I love it in Holland. If you hate shopping, the Netherlands will work hard to change your mind. Sure they have malls. I'm talking about shopping in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Amersfoort, and probably a whole bunch of other towns that sport storefronts from somewhere in the 1600's, all beautifully renovated, all with old world charm and personality, which we lack here in our sterile box store setups. All punctuated by cafes and restos with tables and chairs outside, even in the cold, there were tables with lit candles and chairs with warm blankets for the hardy souls, beckoning them to stop and linger for a few moments with a latte.
5. Dutch Butter. As in butter cookies in every way, shape and form, destined to butter the hips. Forget the tins we get here at Christmas, they may say Dutch on them, but they are no reasonable facsimiles of the stuff eaten abroad.
6.Poffertjes. Adorable puffy little pancakes eaten with a smattering of oh so sweet syrup. Destined to make a more adorable, puffy, not so little, version of me.
Waiting for the Bitterballen. And beer.
7. Bitterballen. And because butter is only one of the food groups, you have to fit in something savoury, and these deep fried little balls of stew fit the bill nicely. Washed down by a great local brew. Turning me into a Butterballen.
8. Stroopwafels. Thin sandwich plate sized waffles, hot off the press, spread with a thin layer of ooey gooey caramel. I think this might be related to butter as well. Once more 'round the block.
9. Heineken Bock. 'Cause it's never a vacation without a decent national beer.
10. Filet Americain. A ground meat paste akin to steak tartare. The spicy version became my mainstay at breakfast, spread a little more copiously than is likely proper, over good multigrain toast or fresh bread. Or even from the blade of a knife.
 I did not try herring. I have fond memories of my father consuming pickled herring that came in a small, white plastic barrel with a red screw top lid. He would exclaim that I didn't know what I was missing. Judging from the stink, I knew what I was missing all right, and I believe I came out the winner. Jeannette assures me that real Dutch herring in Holland bears no resemblance to the Abomination in a Barrel, even if the Abomination was imported (directly from Fish Hell, I say). I will reserve the tasting and the judgement for another trip. I suspect Jeannette will be right, as she has been all along.
My "Dream Boat" doesn't snore or require legs. Amsterdam.
I had the most solicitous of hosts, my school mate Jeannette, and her hubby, Robin. And a most delightful Golden Retriever named Toby, who made me miss my doggie more, but who gave me the pleasure of his company as well during several walks about town. And what's not to love about a mutt who presents you with your own mitts when you are going out? And all his toys, one by one, when you arrive home because he is so happy to see you?
And that was the week that was. Proost!


  1. Its Jas

    Forgot what I sign in as!

    Are you in that photo in the previous blog? Have only just caught up with it.

    Yes, Europe can be a bit of a shock when you are from relatively new countries like the US and Australia. So picturesque with tiny little streets that you wouldn't think a car could fit. I remember the funny little Smart cars from Paris. They are incredibly small. I wouldn't thinmk they offer much protection if in a crash!!!

  2. That looks like a really beautiful place!! Sounds like you had a great time!!Love the pictures!