Monday, May 31, 2010

Queen of the snowplow

My dear friend Sarah flew over for a visit this last weekend and when the typical Dutch weather kicked in on Sunday (in other words: cold, rainy & overcast) we decided it was a great opportunity to hit the slopes and practice our skiing skills...


Yes, skiing - in Flatland?!?!?! AND only days off summer?!?!?! This beautiful country I am currently calling home might be known for it's lack of hills, but it does boast the worlds largest indoor ski field. We spent the afternoon at a much smaller ski park where I spent hours whizzing down the hill in a snowplow...


It certainly doesn't compare to skiing in the Swiss Alps, New Zealand or Australia but still - for three Aussies from sunny Qld, 'skiing' indoors is an awesome way to spend a rainy afternoon!!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dutch clichés: windmills / windmolen

Mitch and I still get so excited every time we drive past a windmill, see an old clog or spot a lone tulip - so last weekend we decided to embrace this particular cliché and spend an afternoon wandering through these 19 beautiful old windmills at Kinderdijk... Loved it!





Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Home

After nearly 2 months in temporary accommodation, we've now moved into our new apartment and after unpacking and buying out Ikea, I'm feeling quite settled in... I'm loving living in the city centre yet still being so close to the countryside. Our new home is in a typical old Dutch building and I think we'll be very happy here :-)








Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dreaming of the city of lights...

While my very lucky husband is in Paris today for work, I'm at home studying and dreaming of my favourite city...








Paris - there's nothing else quite like it...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The colour yellow / de kleur geel

These endless fields of bright yellow really brighten an overcast day, putting a smile on my face :-)




Friday, May 14, 2010

On the road again...

It's very exciting to finally have a set of wheels again!!! Although the train system in Holland is brilliant and I do love my bike, it's really nice to have our own car and be able to go where we want, when we want! We picked up our new/old little Peugeot yesterday after a somewhat interesting train trip to get to the car dealer...

We made it to the train station with plenty of time to buy our OV-chipkaarts (exactly the same as a Go Card) so that we can benefit from the reduced fares. We buy the cards from the machine, put some credit on them and 'touch on' before getting on the train. An hour into our journey, the ticket inspector scans our cards and all I hear is niet good, niet good. Deciding now is probably not the time to practice my limited Dutch, we both break into frantic spreekt u engels??? spreekt u engels??? We are told by the ticket man that our cards are not activated so we have evaded the fare for our journey. We both instantly break into sweet-and-innocent-I'm-just-a-dumb-tourist mode (while trying to cover my 'Nederlands for anderstaligen' textbook I was reading) and I pull out the wads of receipts the machine gave me, showing the man how I put 30 euros on the cards AND touched the scanning machine while silently wishing we don't get fined! You can imagine at this point how the rest of the train is staring at us! Luckily for us, after inspecting our receipts and coming to the conclusion that we probably are just dumb tourists, the very kind ticket inspector said he'll overlook it but we MUST hop off at the next station and activate our cards.

Red faces slowly subsiding, we hop off at the next station with a 3 minute changeover before our next train. We race down the long platform, down the stairs, out of the tunnel, up the stairs, find a ticket machine, activate our cards, race down the stairs, through the tunnel, up to the platform and voila - the train is still there. Go to hop on and realise we didn't 'touch on' our cards. Look up and down the platform - no scanning machines to be seen. Race down the stairs, out of the tunnel, up the stairs, split up and run around frantically looking for a scanning machine, touching our cards on anything that slightly resembles a machine. Finally, we spot the little scanning machine OUT of the station, touch our cards on, race back into the station, down the stairs, through the tunnel, up onto the platform only to discover our train is gone. Catching our breath, we find out that the next train isn't for half an hour and patiently wait.

Hop on our train, only to remember half an hour later as we go whizzing past our station that alleen means only, not all. Oops. Big oops - as we then figure we are on an express train to Groningen, still another 1 1/2hrs away. Calculating the length of time it will take to get to Groningen and catch a train back, we sadly realise that we may not make it in time to register the car at the post office and so be able to drive it home. Then, the train begins to slow and comes to a stop at another station!!! Feeling unbelievably relieved, we happily hop off and wait for the next train.

I decide all this train changing calls for a visit to the bathroom. I pay my 50 cents and when trying to leave, find that the door won't open. I push and shove and re-lock and un-lock and re-lock and push and strain my arms, all the while imagining how we are never going to be able to pick up this car, now because I'm destined to live in a cramped dingy toilet cubicle. Finally - the door opens! I race out - we run to the platform - hop on the train - hop off at the correct station - and then we both burst out laughing. The car dealer has appeared driving what appears to be a car designed for midgets!!! But, a very cute little European midget car - perfect for the many road trips to be had through the Dutch countryside, I can't wait!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

De fiets / the bike - Part 3

This always makes me laugh - an advertisers solution for the lack of windscreens in the preferred method of transport in Holland...


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poffertjes = lekkere!!!

I've been hunting around for a cheap poffertje pan ever since we arrived - and yesterday, my search came to an end!


I was introduced to these delicious little pancakes as a child and have been in love with them ever since. On weekend trips to Brisbane, Mum and I would regularly visit the Dutch cafe in the Myers Centre with my sisters where I would happily order a feast of poffertjes. Traditionally served with just butter and icing sugar, my favourite combination as a child consisted of chocolate poffertjes with chocolate icecream and chocolate fudge sauce: YUM!!!

Last night we decided to put the new poffertje pan to the test...


Choosing the easy option of a packet mix, I mixed up some batter...


And started cooking...


The first batch were a little overcooked...


But the second batch, served with some melted roomboter and poeder suiker: perfect!!!! 
Mmmm... lekkere!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thinking of Nepal & the prayer flag

All the amazing varieties of bunting I've been seeing in the shops here have brought back memories of our time in Nepal last year and the colourful prayer flags. When I travel to a country, I usually have a few ideas in mind of what I'd like to see. In the Himalayas, I had my fingers crossed that we would see a donkey train (tick!), a buffalo (tick!), a yak (sadly, no yaks - might just have to visit again to cross that one off the list!) and prayer flags fluttering in the mountains (tick! tick! tick!). As we soon discovered, there is no shortage of these flags in Nepal...







Thursday, May 6, 2010

King of the road no longer...

While riding my bicycle, I'm king of the road. I have my own lane, traffic lights, cars must give way to me and I can happily zoom along while people who have chosen the less green version of transport are going nowhere in the notoriously awful Dutch traffic. In short: being king of the road is brilliant, I love it and take it for granted. 

In our recent search for a new set of diesel-guzzling wheels, Mitch and I decided to hire a rental car so we could become accustomed to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road and actually go test drive some potential cars to buy. After a 45 minute walk into town discussing how we MUST avoid the fear inducing roundabout in the city centre, we arrived at Hertz to be handed the keys to what would have to be the most hideously ugly car I have ever seen in my life. Yes, the Fiat Panda is no Porsche, but that's what you get for booking the smallest, cheapest rental car available!

After becoming momentarily confused as to what side of the car the driver should sit, we successfully departed from Hertz and before we know it, we're headed towards our biggest fear: the aforementioned roundabout, our local version of the Place Charles de Gaulle. Much like it's sister roundabout in Paris, there appear to be no consistent rules as to how to navigate this roundabout and much honking can be heard from frustrated drivers. Blaming the usually reliable Tomtom for misleading us, we manage to navigate away from the frightening roundabout just in the nick of time!

Heart rates slowly returning to normal, we make it to the motorway and began to discover the complex labyrinth of Dutch highways on which we will be spending a lot of time in the next few years... Our four days of fun in the Fiat ended with a fantastic result: we bought a car! I'm sure there are many adventures to be had all over Europe in our new-old zippy little red Peugeot and I have to say, driving on the 'wrong' side of the road wasn't as bad as expected, although it's going to take some time to get used to the cyclists. I didn't live up to my expectations and indicate with the windscreen wipers by mistake and didn't attempt to change gears with the door handle although this whole 'wrong' side of the road thing could take some getting used to...

L: *happily exclaiming while driving down a quiet country road* Honey, honey I think I'm really getting the hang of this! This is easy peasy, no worries! I could really get used to this whole wrong side of the car thing!
M: Complete silence. A funny smile on his face.
L: What's wrong?
M: Um, Lu - what side of the road are you on?

What can I say - old habits die hard!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"The world at my feet" - travel writing competition 2010

It's no secret that I have a passion for travelling and writing... With this in mind, I have decided to enter my first travel writing competition! Feel free to click on the link below and have a read, and if you like what you see, please vote!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Suffering from oranjegekte: Koninginnedag!

30 April is a special day in Holland each year: Koninginnedag!

A few fast facts:
  • Koninginnedag is a national holiday to celebrate the Queen's birthday. However, it is not celebrated on Queen Beatrix's actual birthday but on her mothers (Juliana) birthday instead. I've heard this is to honour her mother and also because April is a much more pleasant time of year for a holiday then January. 
  • This year marked the 30th anniversary of Queen Beatrix's inaugaration.
  • Orange is seen everywhere on Koninginnedag! I felt quite out of place in our non-orange clothing and was suffering from a case of oranjegekte (orange fever) by the end of the day. The streets were filled with orange shirts, wigs, jumpers, tracksuits, viking hats, crowns, bunting.... You may be wondering why the national colour is orange while the flag is red, white and blue? Apparently this is because orange is the symbolic colour of the Dutch royal family.
There are a few traditions associated with Koninginnedag. The largest and busiest celebrations are held in Amsterdam, where the city is transformed into party-central, beginning on the eve of Koninginnedag and continuing through the next day. In Nijmegen (and most other towns) there is a vrijmarkt and concerts, both of which we got to enjoy for our first Koninginnedag!

After a couple of weeks of glorious weather we sadly woke up on Friday to miserable grey skies and rain. Dusting off our rain jackets, we braved the weather and headed out for the day to enjoy the festivities. Now, imagine all the opshops in Queensland selling their wares outdoors in a park the size of the Brisbane botanical gardens: this is the vrijmarkt!



The vrijmarkt is a time to make money and spend money. So long as you own a picnic rug or tarp, you can set up a stall in the park and sell off your unwanted goods. We spent hours wandering through the trash and even found a few treasures, enjoying some frites with mayo and poffertjes along the way!

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