Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ Category
Email newsletter came in (haven’t read this article) that reminded me of the many instances of Surprising Things That Ruined A Run.
Actual examples from my past (some more than once):
*Fresh mountain lion tracks spotted in a box canyon (Tucson)
*Unseen open manhole cover (Atlanta)
*Stopped by Savannah River Site security and some military helicopters (nuclear reservation, South Carolina)
*Sudden outbreak of gang turf war (Tucson)
*Arrest (Athens, GA)
*Tornado (Alabama and Southern Illinois–not the same tornado)
*Pot farm (North Georgia mountains near Cohutta…decided it might be prudent to re-plot my route through this one)
*Wildfires (California, Colorado, and Arizona)
*Flooding (Missouri, Arizona, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire)
*War games (on the tank tracks around Ft. Stewart, GA, then again more recently in the Salisbury Plain)
*Struck by falling tree (Cook’s Trail, Athens, GA–required several stitches in forehead and caused massive changes in sense of smell and taste for about a month, as well)
*Armed robbery (Decatur, GA near Emory: guy looks through wallet while holding the gun on me and demands, “Credit cards…where are they?”; I laugh and say, “look at me, dude…do I LOOK like I have credit?” at which point he flings the wallet back at me and tells me to run which, ironically, is what I had been trying to do at the time)
*Struck by golf ball (Griffin, GA)
*Alligator in road (Brunswick and Savannah, GA) [also, venomous snakes on trail more places than I care to remember in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas]
*Dead Family acid (surprising, everytime, just how quickly it hit and how clean it was, Atlanta and Athens, GA)
*Jumping Cholla cacti (Tucson–newby surprise)
*Lock maintenance 14km across the Afsluitdijk (had to turn around and go back)
And, most frequently: the pub at the turnaround point of a long run is closed for the afternoon or closed down completely (happens too often to keep up with).
So, four years now (or, rather, next week it will be…here’s the annual reports for years Three, Two, and One for historical perspective).
We just received our new visas valid until 2016 but plan to take the next step toward citizenship in a year, Indefinite Leave to Remain…sort of the British Green Card. There is an exam, first, but in general it is all downhill from here.
The view from Western Street near the new house…also all downhill
Additionally, we are in the process of moving house (which is why I rushed the annual report a week forward) from just north of the Oasis over to Old Town to a house situated close walks to either the Beehive or the Castle or the Globe (recently reopened!)—three locals instead of one and all three of high quality—and dozens of others a short walk. The new house has three bedrooms each larger than its counterpart in the old house, the two receptions are larger and made into more of an open-plan configuration, the bath is larger and has a tub (not just a shower), and there is a finished basement; on the down side, the kitchen is a little narrower and more primitive as is the small garden but everything we do and everywhere we normally go in Swindon (save for the butcher) is so close.
The only races I did this past year were the London Marathon (5 pubs plus a can of Carling on the last mile) and the Beerathon (5 miles with a pint and a hefty food item between each) and the mileage run for the year suffered from this lack of focus—1950 give or take about 25 (most estimates pretty good using gmap-pedometer), while the last several years (except for the year of the wreck) were in the 2200-2500 range.
On the runs, I visited 255 new pubs with a stunning 67 new ones (steep part of the graph) in September when I took two weeks off work and ran at least 10 miles per day in new territory each day. The 1000th wasn’t as big a thrill as I thought it would be, but I saw some really nice places and met some really fine folk. The September holiday found me visiting Gloucester, South Wales, Slough (exotic, I know) and Exeter along with some nearer-to-Swindon trips. The 100 Yellow Beer Challenge was responsible for a lot of second visits to pubs I might not otherwise have gone to after an initial stop and many of these seemed better the second time around. Oh, and my Workingman’s Club appears to have failed or at least hasn’t been open the last several times I’ve popped by (I have a grand one scoped out for the new neighbourhood, though).
Best pubs in Year Four (reverse order by First Visit write-up):
The Southgate Inn, Devizes
The Hop Inn, Swindon
Dicey Reilly’s, Teignmouth
The Brass Monkey, Teignmouth
One Eyed Jack’s, Gloucester
Ye Olde Red Lion, Tredegar
The Rose of Denmark, Woolwich
The Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms
The Green Dragon, Marlborough
The British Lion, Devizes
The Blue Boar, Alsbourne (for the Dr. Who connections)
British Citizenship Exam Prep
Assize Court, Bristol
Paul Simon in Hyde Park
The Bremen Musicians (German children’s story)
Sex Tourism in Wiltshire
Modern Algebra for Omid
Burns’ Day Lunch
There are others search for ‘made me laugh.’ The blog may or may not have made some of the over 100,000 visitors laugh, but the damn fools keep checking in (that’s you, that is).
I didn’t go to Holland to find a new bourbon to try, but this one was cheap (in Holland), smooth, woody with hints of vanilla, and a treat to come home to at our B&B. We siphoned off most of it in the late evening twilight Thursday and Friday, with splashes of Spa Rood. Plus, the name is just fun to say…Pennypacker!
Nice afternoon in the Vrijtof
We planned the Netherlands trip around a Bruce Springsteen concert at PinkPop, a music festival going on during Pinkster weekend every year since 1970. Unusually fair priced (we also saw the Hives, the Specials, Seasick Steve, and 8 other acts on our day ticket), even the food tickets were reasonable (although the food sucked…€2.50 for a beer seemed fine, though).
Maastricht is a little city in the conservative southern Dutch province of Zuid Limburg, full of students and bars and tourists largely from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. When I last visited in 2001, hardly anyone spoke enough English for me to communicate (but my rudimentary German and French kept me from starving lost in town). This trip it was hot and sunny and everyone spoke English to us as soon as we tried to use Dutch.
The Specials and some of the mostly white crowd.
On Sunday, the convention centre near our hotel had the annual Eerste Pinksterdag Vlooienmarkt (flea market) and we had a wander around since the rest of the city was locked up (save for the bars and some restaurants). I got the clock, here, for €20; it was running a little slow but I think I got it adjusted.
Stolen web picture, but we are under the orange circle at the right
As the Specials note, though, “it’s later than you think.” We continued to enjoy ourselves the rest of the weekend before heading back to Amsterdam for my birthday pancakes, and stashing the little pipe I brought along for this trip near the RAI Station.
This was my first overseas trip since moving to Swindon and the Advertiser publishes photos of idiots holding up a copy of the paper in foreign lands (a segment called ‘Where in the World?’). I got in two of these but they haven’t yet been published:
In a Maastricht neighbourhood on one of many stylised donkeys
This finally appeared in the Advertiser at the end of summer
time = Bruce minus 20 minutes
Surreal decor on the Gaasperplas Metro Lijn 53
From January to April 2002, I worked on my dissertation continuously in 20-30 hour shifts breaking for 5-6 hours sleep before starting another 20-30 hour shift…writing, revising/rewriting, and smoking up the last couple pounds of pot I had grown in the basement of our little ghetto house outside Athens–breaking this routine only for a hernia operation, a few therapeutic runs, discussions with my research adviser, and occasional meals. I defended the dissertation two days after turning in the all-but-corrections final version and two days after that we boarded the plane to Amsterdam with our cat and a couple of suitcases arriving finally in the Bijlmer (pronounced BILE-murr). My new boss had met us at Schiphol, dropped us off in a driving hailstorm commenting, “hey, weird weather, eh,” and we were left in a typical new Dutch rental: no lighting fixtures (the tenant buys and installs their own) and though called a house because it has an entrance on the street and two floors it was only as much a house as the one we shared walls with or the one upstairs (which you had to climb two flights of steep dutch stairs to reach from the front door). We had no euros, no litter box or cat food, and no idea really where we were.
Our house had no garden but the 5 meter wide balcony extended about 15 meters over a small storage facility
Heading out into the street, I encountered the market full of Africans (mine was an almost exclusively Ghanaian and Surinamese buurt) one of whom was very drunk and urinating on the sidewalk near a couple of coppers. I asked them (the police) where to find a cash machine and the one with the elaborate neck tattoo and the copious facial piercings told me I needed to go to Kraaienest which I found out in the ensuing interrogation is a shopping facility in the K-buurt (but I was in the G-buurt, so it would be a hike). She said the easiest way would be to take the Metro one stop down and when I said I didn’t yet have any cash to buy my ticket the other one, an enormous and unusually tall fellow, looked annoyed and said dismissively, “no one ever pays around here anyway…you will be fine.” Not wishing to take the chance my first few hours in the country, I walked to Station Ganzenhoef and followed the elevated rail line through some threatening looking high-rise tenements (including a section that was hit by an El Al 747 freight transport a few years earlier killing a bunch of illegal immigrants and resulting in the urban renewal efforts that culminated in housing such as that we were then moving into), passed several especially friendly (in my — erm — limited experience) heroin and crack dealers, and noted some of the funniest graffiti I had ever seen.
Without realising it, we had moved into what was then still thought of as the most dangerous neighbourhood in the Netherlands (although it turned out to be, easily, the safest place we had lived since about ten years before we met one another) and I was instantly and absolutely in love with the place. I still am, for that matter, so on this short visit we stayed in a B&B not ten minutes stroll away just beyond the Gouden Leeuw.
Pic from the web…nice shot of the buurt
We cleared Baggage Claim, Dutch Customs and Passport Control in a matter of minutes and picked up our OV-Chipkaart, the Oyster Card for the whole of Dutch public transport (replaced the Strippenkaart and is replacing the paper tickets on intercity trains) and were standing at our B&B front door an hour after landing. It was an incredibly sunny afternoon, 30 degrees Celsius, and I just had one other duty besides walking around our old neighbourhood and going to the city centre for a coffeeshop break and some Chinese food: the pipe hunt.
The day before we left for America in 2004, I took an old clay pipe and stashed it in a memorable place and then, because I have no memory (left it all in pipes over the last 50 years) sketched out the location in a running journal. The place that seemed most obvious was in an area protected from new construction by the need to have floodable areas to control the water. In southernmost part of this old wooded area called the Bijlmerweide I chose a tree with three trunks, each just small enough that I could touch thumb-to-thumb and forefinger-to-forefinger whilst throttling the trunk. The roots were rigid but separate from one another and the soil was soft enough to lodge the pipe under one of the roots pointing magnetic south by my compass. I had hidden a pipe and a gram of hash near the Berlage monument at Victorieplein in October 2001 and picked it back up on my return in May 2002, so this should probably have worked as well.
The triple trunked tree that ate my pipe
Things have changed a lot but the only real disappointment on this trip turned out to be the effects of eight years growth on the hiding tree. Each of the trunks was larger than the entire tree was before and the roots were absolutely massive. The pipe is almost certainly now an integral part of the plants vascular system and I only hope that years from now the roots are burnt away in some area renewal effort and this item is once more revealed to the world.
Eight years ago I could have tilted the tree with this stance…the pipe is somewhere approximately under the yellow circle, and I can post directions if you really want to try to recover it.
We rented some bikes and headed out toward the Hoge Dijk and further afield to an area flooded this time of year as much for the agricultural benefits as the fact that it provides a brief Spring sanctuary for migratory birds. It is very rural out that way but a head turn of no more than 60 degrees will always show the near proximity of Amsterdam, Amstelveen, or Duivendrecht. Stopping for a beer in Abcoude was another good trip down memory lane and we returned to the B&B by following the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal then passing through the Telegraafbos (an another managed forest adjacent) then around the Bijlmer to see what has become of some of the old high-rise apartments (now mostly low houses like our old one).
“Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.” ~ Anonymous, but completely appropriate as I reached my 50th birthday on May 30th.
As usual, the most recent prior set of wine notes are here: Getting a taste for it — Wines for May Part 2
Going into the final third of May we had an impending trip to see Little Steven and his backup band (some up-and-coming kid named Springsteen sings lead) and Jackie had just finished an I.T. course trying to jumpstart a relatively stagnant job search. A mild celebration was in order and you can’t get any milder than a store brand Cava. Sainsbury’s brand is nearly as cheap as club soda and only a little more challenging but it is quite dry and has a little flavour and you can get it on sale for less than four quid:
The next couple of days we drank some repeat wines, depleting the stock before our trip. In Amsterdam, we got settled in our housing then returned downtown for some food in Chinatown (which I really desperately needed after a stop at the Gelderse Coffeeshop and another delay at a bar up the Zeedijk from our restaurant). Some of the Chinatown restaurants require you pass through the kitchen to get to the seating and Nam Kee has only the most rudimentary partition–this inspired confidence in the food which was well deserved. The hostess barely spoke English, but we were able to get a suitable red wine (Marchais Merlot) with our rudimentary Dutch:
For a country where you can still buy and use soft drugs in most of the land, the Netherlands has some funny liquor sales customs. You can only buy it in slijterijen (bottle shops) or, at a steep mark-up, some night markets. The slijterijen tend to open in the afternoon after a day of closure and close early almost everyday. We let time get away from us on Saturday in Maastricht and missed out on the evening’s distilled spirits–and the slijterijen were closed until Tuesday for the Pinksteren (the Dutch celebration of the Pentecost). We doubled back to a grocery store and scored a nice enough Cabernet.
Still booze-less on Sunday, we ordered some takeaway from a Greek restaurant–a fish platter for two that could have fed four fairly easily. With the spices and no way to chill a white, I grabbed this very light bodied but complex Chianti before dashing back to the hotel to gorge:
Changing trains in Roermond for the trip back to Amsterdam, we stopped in the main square and chose a terrace seat at De Romein for a pile of nourishment. I was disappointed to see the rosé wine pour up when I ordered house red but it was refreshing and complemented the meal marvelously:
The day after returning from the trip, Jackie asked if I got “thirsty” around lunchtime…you can get used to ordering a carafe of wine (or two) after a week on holiday and the house wines we had were very good if anonymous. Here were some of those…
Happy China, Diemen: we ate here a couple of times during our original residence in Holland and famished after the long bike ride around the polders and forests decided to see how it has changed. If anything, the place has improved with some treats like my chicken in mango sauce (and served in the mango):
Casa Pino, Amsterdam: The best thing was the wine. These guys were not Italian and they served up abominations against Italian cuisine (but as Dutch food goes, it wasn’t half bad).
The staff of Napoli, in the Markt Plein Maastricht, were Italian and the food was ever so slightly less Dutch…pasta a bit past al dente (more like al sensitive gums) and a bit gooey but the fish bits in mine were fresh and firm.
On the way to the music festival we stopped off in Heerlen and found a pizza place to take a bit of the hungry edge off. The pies were fine, the wine better than you would have expected and dirt cheap, and the service unusually attentive for Dutch places.
Safely home late on my birthday, we chilled a nice Chardonnay, pulled a bit of leftover pork roast from the freezer and steamed it in some fish broth until it shredded on contact, added a can of black beans and some cilantro, and made some simple and delightful wraps with the last of the tomatoes we left before the trip. Yum.
The final third of May included these wines:
Antichi Borghi Chianti
And, a host of anonymous house wines, a liter at a time.
Even just going to Europe you have to check in to the airport early these days, so once we dropped our luggage we had more than an hour to kill waiting for our plane. ”Where’s the bar?” we both asked at once. With an ale and several lagers on tap, I ordered a burger and pint special opting for Amstel to prepare myself for the trip. An ugly open plan is counteracted by the vast seating area and surprisingly chipper bar staff (the barmaid we had chatted on for what seemed like hours about the camping trip to Zaandam she just returned from).
If you haven’t been in a headshop in 10 years let me assure you they haven’t changed in the last 40. And, if you’ve never explored one outside your hometown, county, district, state, etc I can also assure you that they are the same the world over. That said, The Lazy Frog is a pleasant enough one and has some nice additional features.
I went to the shop in the Swindon covered market to pick up a piece of equipment for a trip to Amsterdam on my horizon. When I moved away from there I stashed a clay pipe but have little hope that 8 years on it will still be there and I don’t want to have to make two stops on my way to my B&B (Coffeeshop El Yamama, one of my past regular haunts, is en route there but otherwise off the beaten path); so, it seemed reasonable to go ahead and get some clean, Customs-proof items to carry over with me.
Travel notebooks, passport, drug paraphenalia…ready to fly.
The Lazy Frog has the items you expect–bongs, papers, reggae playing in the background–but the psychedelica is largely the work of a local pop artist, a Sarah Dixon who I suspect from the accent could have been the person who fixed me up with the little bullet. Go buy some stuff…better than a black light poster of the Zig Zag Man (although I bet you could commission one for a reasonable rate).