An Open Letter (of sorts) to Travel Publications

Molen de Ster

Dear Travel Publications and Websites:

You should apologize to my friends and readers. You see, you’ve got me ranting again. I noticed on Facebook that Travel + Leisure magazine was requesting hotel recommendations in Amsterdam, because they’re sending a reporter there next month. (Let me rant tangentially for a moment. Reporter? Really? That seems a bit grandiose of a term for someone writing about A’dam for a travel magazine.) Anyway, yes, a major travel publication is going to be reportingwriting about Amsterdam. Oh, but they’re going to be writing about some of the neighborhoods of Amsterdam. That’s different and branching out![/sarcasm]

I known I’m becoming a broken record on this topic, but I wouldn’t be if all of the travel magazines and websites weren’t broken records themselves. Just a few weeks ago, Mark Bittman, noted food writer, did a piece about Dutch cuisine for the New York Times. Yet he didn’t actually leave Amsterdam when trying various restaurants for his article and complained that restaurants in the Netherlands weren’t embracing their traditional Dutch cuisine. Perhaps he should have expanded his search. Furthermore, I really feel like they changed the title of that article. It now refers specifically to Amsterdam in the title, but I’m almost positive the original title was something more general along the lines of In Search of Dutch Cuisine. That was one of the reasons the article bothered me so much originally, because it was supposedly about Dutch cuisine, but never went outside A’dam.

What kills me is that we live in an age where everyone is so gung-ho to go off the beaten path and go to places that give you the real feel for the country and people, blah blah blah. Unless you’re visiting the Netherlands, it seems. Then you can’t leave Amsterdam. I sometimes wonder if people even know that there are other cities in the Netherlands. I’m pretty sure most people think that red-light districts and coffee shops are only in Amsterdam, which is very much not true. I mention these two things, because for a certain group of tourists, this is particularly of interest, especially the access to weed/pot/hash/ganja/maryjane/space cakes. People seem to think it’s only available in Amsterdam, when it’s quite the opposite. I can think of three coffee shops, just off the top of my head, that are within a five-minute walk (or much less) from my house. That’s not counting the various ones on the Oudegracht, if you prefer a bit more scenery.

Tall and Thin

Even if that’s not your thing, there’s plenty to do in other cities and you can see the same damn canals and narrow houses that you’ll see in A’dam. You want tourist trinket wooden clogs? Trust me, you’ll find them somewhere in most big cities, and you may actually find some of the trinkets cheaper than in Amsterdam!

Tourist traps aren’t for you? Then what are you doing in Amsterdam?! You prefer elegance, art, or something quirky? We’ve got the one-room hotel (Hotel Nieuwegracht) here in Utrecht on one of our famous and unique wharf canals. We’ve got innovative, modern fashion and homegoods in shops along Twijnstraat, Lijnmarkt, and elsewhere. We’ve got the stylish new Hotel Dom, with it’s attractive restaurant and bar right next door to the cathedral. We’ve got beautiful parks, fine dining, and interesting museums. We’ve got the Trajectum Lumen nightly art light displays that surely top any red-light display. We’ve got windmills! We’ve even got a UFO on top of a building!

But Are They Legal?

I recommend Utrecht, because it’s what I know, but really, there’s no excuse for every magazine and website to constantly focus only on Amsterdam. Den Haag (The Hague) is a beautiful city and more than just an international court. Rotterdam is a fascinating modern Dutch city. Arnhem is the green jewel of Europe. Maastricht gives you a southern take on Dutchness. I’ve worked as a magazine editor. I know how easy it is to run essentially the same story every year, especially if you’ve got a small budget. But when you’ve got Condé Nast and American Express Publishing Company behind you, you’ve got the budget to search out new and interesting places. That means you’ve got no excuse to be doing the same tired article about visiting Amsterdam that everyone and their mother has already published a million times.

If it’s your first visit to the Netherlands, then of course you should visit Amsterdam. You can even make it your base. But if you’re staying more than a day or two, why not visit other places? Especially when those places are sometimes only a half-hour train ride away. You probably travel that long just to get to work each day! Be that traveler who takes the road less traveled, who lives with the natives, who goes off the beaten path. The best part is that here in the Netherlands, you can do all of that in stylish comfort and you probably won’t have to eat anything too weird. Well, except for the herring. Mmmmm. Lekker!

Bullets, Bits, and Bobs

Daily Scenery

There have been a few stories of interest that I thought I’d share in a bullet format today, since they’re all short little bits.

  • The Utrechts Archief now has short videos in their archives and you can see some of them online. This one is from 1929 and shows a tram running straight through the Domtoren and turning into the area pictured above. It’s fun to see how much has changed, even in this very historic section.
  • Utrecht also finally got some recognition from the people at Lonely Planet. We came in at number six on their list of 10 of the World’s Unsung Places. I guess the Toerisme Utrecht people are doing their job!
  • Utrecht is also getting an International School this year, which will be a bonus for the children of people who come here for work with international companies.
  • Finally, in sad news, it was announced today that Prince Friso, the second eldest son of the queen, has suffered brain damage after being trapped in an avalanche earlier this week. At this point, they don’t truly expect him to ever regain consciousness. My thoughts go out to his wife, children, and family.

Utrecht Calendar of Events

They have cupcakes

Sadly, Trippist.com closed its suitcase and packed away its passport at the beginning of this year, which meant I no longer was posting about various events going on in and around Utrecht. Still, out of habit, I kept finding events and such that I thought people might be interested in, even if I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go. So, I figured I’d create my own calendar of events here in Utrecht for anyone wanting to get out and about and see all of the culture the city has to offer. Of course, I can’t guarantee that it will be the most extensive calendar, but I’ll try to keep it updated as much as possible. If you know of something going on, pass along the info to me and I’ll add it if I think it’s something right for my readers.

You can find the calendar up at the top of the page, next to the About and Other Expat pages. I hope those of you who are local find it handy.

Gargoyles and Frothy Mixtures

Gargoyle
This was going to be a Wordless Wednesday post, since my brain’s addled from this awful cold that won’t let go. And to be honest, if I weren’t so familiar with American politics, I might have thought this story was just a figment of my fevered brain. But no. Rick Santorum seems to think that the Dutch are going around euthanizing everyone, especially the elderly, to the point that elderly people are too afraid to go to the hospital and are wearing “Don’t Euthanize Me” bracelets. As bad as I’ve been feeling, maybe I should get one of those bracelets. Just in case!

Get real. As if I wasn’t sick already, this kind of story — and the fact that Santorum is being considered a viable candidate for US president — makes me truly sick. Anyone who would spout those kinds of ridiculous lies — who wouldn’t fact-check the story like crazy before mentioning it in a public forum — deserves no place anywhere near politics, much less the presidency. Santorum and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly need to get their facts straight and stop spouting lies like rain from a gargoyle. (See how I tied in today’s photo? ;) )

Whatever your views on religion and politics, you’re entitled to them. But you are not entitled to lie.

Here’s a nice article that breaks down the facts, if there are any doubts.

Throw Me Sumthin’, Mister!

King Cake Babies
Happy Mardi Gras! I had thought about actually making a king cake this year, but as sick as I am, I don’t see that happening now. Maybe shrimp etouffé for dinner? Or shall I embrace the British Pancake Tuesday tradition? To be honest, it all sounds a bit overwhelming right now. In the words of the immortal Dead Milkmen, “I’m all messed up on cough syrup now, so just like, nevermind.”

Recommended music for today: “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” by Louis Armstrong or Harry Connick Jr. or any number of other singers.

Foto Vrijdag: Tree Edition

Up
A photo left over from our snowfall a couple of weeks ago. Not much to post this week, as I’m still working on this one project and now I’m coming down with a cold to make life more fun.

My thoughts go out to the royal family. The queen’s second eldest son, Prince Friso, was seriously injured in an avalanche today while skiing in Austria. He’s in critical condition, but they say he’s at least stable. I hope he recovers fully.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Regret

Yum

I regret not living closer to Den Haag where my friends run the American Baking Company. Their desserts are delicious! I got to enjoy some of them this past Saturday when I went to help them out with a project. They kindly sent me home with some freshly made cinnamon buns, a mini cupcake, and some Hello Dolly bars. Every bite was fantastic! I saw some of their other treats on offer at the Coffee Company in Den Haag and I regret not buying some red velvet cake and cheesecake to bring home with me!

So, if you’re in Den Haag or in Amsterdam on Sunday afternoons near the Sunday market, go look for American Baking Company. You won’t regret it!
Hellow Dolly

The Stop Not Taken

Dusk in Utrecht
Yesterday, on the bus home from the train station, I pondered getting off a stop early and having a short walk through a picturesque section of the neighborhood. But the cold made me reconsider and I thought I’d just get off at my normal stop. Except the bus didn’t stop there. I was taking a different bus than usual, so I’m not sure if it normally doesn’t stop there, but fortunately it didn’t go that far before the next stop. Best of all, because I was coming in from a different spot, I happened to notice this great view of the Domtoren with the setting sun and the partly frozen canal. I’ve never been happier to miss my stop.

Fun with Frosting

Welkom
I spent a fun day in Den Haag with the American Baking Company. You know it’s a good day when you get home and discover cinnamon bun frosting in your hair!

I really do like Den Haag and want to spend more time exploring the city. It’s got some really beautiful spots and a nice mix of old and new architecture.
Building Den Haag