Monday, May 30, 2011

Scheveningen ... Are you a Spy?

Scheveningen is one of the eight districts of The Hague. Scheveningen is a modern seaside resort with a long sandy beach, an esplanade, a pier, and a lighthouse.  As the crow flies it is about 6 miles from our place.

Pronouncing Scheveningen was a test during World War II as German spies were unable to pronounce it the same as a native Dutch speaker.  We visited Scheveningen on Easter Monday which is a national holiday in the Netherlands.

A view of the pier from the boardwalk, in the foreground you can see the Tramampoline! Trabapoline! I mean trampoline farm.  Which is officially recommended by everyone's favorite pediatrician.

A view of the beach from the pier.

A fish pedicure which I think is a great idea, but the wife thinks is a terrible idea.

The end of the pier which doubles as a casino!

Another beach shot from the pier.

Why, there is Sir Elton John.  And who is that behind him?

If you guessed John F. Kennedy you would be WRONG!  Before I tell you the answer, know that Dutch supergroup Golden Earring is featured on the opposite side of Elton.  The man in the middle is the headliner!  Yes indeed folks, that is Canadian heart throb Bryan Adams!  Teenage girls from the early to mid 90's are squealing somewhere.  Unfortunately, teenage girls from the early to mid 90's do not buy concert tickets so the concert had to cancelled.  True Story.

 The Kurhaus, a hotel built in the 1880's.

View of the Kurhaus from the pier.

Picture of one of the scores of restaurants along the boardwalk.

Typically I am a big fan of globalization, however the one downside to globalization is that the Jersey Shore vibe seemed to have made it across the pond.

Brussels ... New Definition of a Naked Short?

Being a finance guy I thought it would be interesting to visit the Brussels Bourse (Stock Exchange).  When we arrived we found the culmination of a week long gay pride festival.

I would invest in this guys business, the entrepreneurial spirit was in full effect at the bourse.  He knows how to match supply with demand.

This guy was at the tail end of the distribution.

This guy has fully depreciated and I'm not sure how much salvage value there is left.

Very low material costs for this guy

LIFO or FIFO you make the call.

And finally, there was this guy.  Which gives new definition to a naked short!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mmm... Pannenkoekenhuis

With all of the restaurants in our area, I have yet to see a typical "Dutch" restaurant! Pannenkoekenhuizen (pancake houses), however, seem to be very popular here. We decided on Sunday that it was time to try one. After the perilous bus ride (I think our bus driver was having a horrible, no good, very bad day), we made it safely to the pancake house. We decided on the Oudt Leyden, which is believed to be the oldest pancake house in the world and has served Winston Churchill and the Dalai Lama. A pannenkoeken is much larger and thinner than American pancakes and the toppings range from meats, cheeses, vegetables and eggs to fruit, cinnamon, nuts and sugars. I decided on apple, banana, raisin and cinnamon on mine which I shared with our daughter. My husband wanted apple, cinnamon and sugar.

This is what arrived for my daughter and I...
(No, that is not a minature fork!)

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I thought I would share the newspapers from over here from when Bin Laden was taken out. This one says "Liberated?"

This one says "Supermen" in referring to the SEALS.

And finally a local ad that is promoting "American" food.  I think all you have to do is slap a flag on it or put Texas in the name and it becomes American.

Brussels .... The Food

We spent a recent weekend in Brussels and have a lot to share about our experience.  This post will focus on the food that we sampled during our trip.

I did not know that the "French" fry was originally created in Belgium.  The secret to their cooking is the double dip.  Cook the fries, let them cool and drop them in again.  They were great.

Another item that is a must is chocolate which we also had a nice sampling of.

Mussels in Brussels is also recommended for a tourist so I obliged.

They have lots of beer as well.

The wife enjoyed this one.

And what would a trip to Belgium be without a Belgium waffle.  Unlike in America, the waffles here are more of a snack/dessert and they were as good as they look.

A nice suprise was found at the Giant (a McDonalds clone) where we ate as we waited for our train.  FREE REFILLS!  The first place in Europe that we have found such a thing.  I am a Giant fan and you should be too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Literal Shitstorm

The stop that I meet the train for work is just off of a field that always has horses and cows roaming around.  I see more cows, horses, sheep, and other various animals in the Netherlands than I have ever seen in my "rural" state.  Occasionally the stop has smelled a little like an Iowa farm but not often and not overwhelming.

The view from my stop:

Monday was a different story when it was literally raining shit.  Monday was also the first day that it really rained since we have been here (about a month, and I am told somewhat of a new record).  As I walked up to the station it began to smell like the old monkey "cage" at Bever Park Zoo, but as I reached the platform the stench made the Bever Park Zoo smell seem like flowers.

If you take a closer look at the picture above and the zoomed in version below you will see the root of all evil.


This is what one looks like in action and resembles what was going on that morning:

As it was windy and rainy, it felt as if you were in a shit storm.  I could almost taste it, my only reprieve was hiding behind one of the advertisements on the platform of the stop.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day .... and a Go Hawks

Normally I am very good about getting gifts for my wife prior to the last minute.  However for this Mother's Day I did not make time to get a present.  The shops typically close prior to my getting home from work and on the weekends we are always together so I didn't get away to get anything.  In order to make up for it we went to The Hague to go shopping. 

The trip included Mother's day lunch at McDonald's (our first visit in the Netherlands) for a Stroopwafel McFlurry. 

We took a bus back home, and on the walk home from the bus stop a biker passed and shouted out a "Go Hawks, I like your hat" (I was wearing a Hawkeye hat).  As he continued on he shouted back that he was from Iowa and it was good to see another Hawkeye.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bicycle built for more!

As mentioned in the previous post, we purchased our first dutch bike (fiets). It is a simple, used bicycle that will get me and our daughter around town. I have yet to figure out how she will ride with me. There are several options, some good and some not so good. If your child is between a certain weight and you want them in a seat on your bike they must ride on the front of your bike with the seat either attached to the hadlebars or on top of them (our daughter falls between this weight range). This picture will give you an idea of how many dutch mothers ride their bikes:

Did you notice the little girl asleep on the front or that neither child is wearing a helmet? I have seen several children asleep in their bike seats and only 2 or 3 helmets. This front seat for a little one seems to be the most popular option for the Dutch women. For those of you who know me, you probably know that I am a bit of a klutz! I don't think this option would be the best for me. If you don't believe me let me tell you a little about my first ride to the grocery store on the newly purchased bike...

Since our daughter was napping and my husband was home, I thought it would be the perfect time to try out a biking trip to the grocery store. I hopped on my bike and off I went. It was a quick ride to the store and I was thinking that this was going to be much easier than trying to walk back home with bags hanging all over the stroller (especially since we had been using the umbrella stroller because we had not yet recieved our things from the US). The bike we purchased had the basket attached to the front (you can see this pictured in the previous post) and I had brought a backpack so that I had pleanty of room for my groceries. After filling the basket and my backpack I still had one bag left. Luckily the bikes here also have a small rear rack with bungee type cords attached so I tied that last bag onto the rack. It was all going so well until I was about half way home. All of a sudden I feel the bag tied to the back fall off the rack and hear it hit the ground. I stopped, went back and then things really took a turn. I put the kickstand down and let go of the handles forgetting that the front basket was full of heavy groceries! The bike almost fell over but I caught it... as it hit the side of my body. So as I am trying to balance the bike and pick up the groceries I took a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching. Nope... good! It took at least 5 more minutes to tie the groceries back on to the bike while still keeping it from falling over. I rode very slowly home and made it, smashed yogurt and all!

So, I am thinking this type of bike might have been a better option:
Yes, a tricycle with seatbelts for the little one, THAT is exactly what I need!

Queensday .... The Mother of All Garage Sales

Clark Griswold: Aw, there's Buckingham Palace, kids. That's where the Queen lives and works.
Audrey Griswold: She works? What does she do, Dad?
Clark Griswold: She queens... And she vacuums.

April 30th, Queensday (Koninginnedag) is a huge a event in the Netherlands.  It is the celebration of the queens birthday and is supposed to be a day of national unity and togetherness. Historically the day of celebration has been on the reigning queen's birthday, however the current queen was born in January and that isn't a fun time to party outside so they kept it in April as a tribute to her mother's birthday.

The largest gathering is in Amsterdam where they estimate between 700,000 and 800,000 come to celebrate.

This is the Queen's residence which is about 5 miles away from us and which we pass every time we go into The Hague.

Everything is orange on Queensday as the royal family is the House of Orange, decendants of Willem of Oranje. 

The other big aspect of Queensday is the free market.  People do not have to pay taxes on the sale of goods and are free to set up shop wherever they would like.  On the main shopping streets people set up tables and blankets right out side businesses and sell their old stuff, baked goods, and things they have made. Our town's shopping district felt very similiar to Melrose on gameday.  Except the goods being sold were of much higher quality than that of Gameday Iowa :)

Some goods for sale

As you can see some people would set up shop right outside a real store

What would bargain shopping be without picking up some real bargains!  Our first purchase was the stroller below.  We couldn't see the price so we asked if it was for sale.  The response was, "Yes, for 25 euros but that is negotiable".  We would have bought it for the 25 euros but out of principle now had to negotiate so we got it for 20 euros.  It is almost new and we thought we were getting a good deal, but when we got home and looked it up we found that we got a REALLY good deal.  The stroller sells for $500 and the accessories it came with another $200.  Plus as an added bonus it has an american flag looking logo.

We purchased this toy for 3 Euros from the same lady.

The little one found a new ride for 7 Euro, with the new stroller in the background

Our next purchase is a bike seat we got for 5 euro which normallly retails for 30 euros, more on how it works on a follow up post.

 The wife got a bike for 75 euro. We couldn't tell whether the girl was selling it or had just bought it.  When my wife asked, the girl looked confused because she didn't speak english.  So we found a close by good samaritan who translated our questions and we now have some transportation over here.

 There were also activities for the kids.  This one seemed like a great idea.  Hey kids, you two play over here while your brother shoots an arrow.  Remember, arrows don't kill people, kids with arrows kill people.

 The family in Orange!