Two years ago today I came to the Netherlands for the very first time — and haven’t left yet!
Our plane arrived early in the morning on May 28, 2008, and after a bit of confusion with the car rental and a short soak in the morning rain, we left Schipol and headed down to Utrecht. I had never been to The Netherlands before that day, other than a layover flying back from Italy to the US, and that time I never left Schipol. A bit mad, perhaps, to move to a country you’ve never even visited, but I do have my moments of madness. I trusted G, who had been here quite a few times for business and to find us a house. I’ve found that I’m generally pretty happy wherever I live, so I figured this wouldn’t be much different. Fortunately, I was right. I’ve been very happy here these past two years and don’t regret the move at all.
This photo of Orlando, my flamingo, was taken later that first afternoon when we went to the Café de Potdeksel for an afternoon drink on the terrace. G had learned about the café from the couple who sold us the house; they had taken him there after the house closing to celebrate and introduce him to the family that owns it. We were incredibly lucky to buy the house from such a kind and friendly couple; their friendship and help has made our transition here much smoother and happier. They’ve also introduced us to some of their other friends, helping to expand our little social network. We’ll be seeing some of them tonight at the Potdeksel and I’m looking forward to it as always.
Thanks to this blog, I’ve also made some friends of my own this past year, as I’ve gotten to know some other fellow expats. I’m even meeting up with a few tomorrow night for drinks; keep your fingers crossed that the rain holds off tomorrow night!
Have the past two years been nothing but sunshine and roses? Of course not, but that’s just life. Nowhere is perfect, but in general the good has outweighed the bad and I’m very happy here, content to stay for many more years.
This is a partial shot of a series of three sculptural figures over at the nearby Griftpark. The sculptures — Drei Grosse Figuren (Three Large Figures) — are by German artist Thomas Schütte. They’re one of the many bits of sculpture that seem to pop up in random places throughout the city. The Griftpark itself is a former industrial area that was transformed into a nice park. The three figures seem somehow appropriate.
That, my friends, is a picture of Orlando sitting atop one of the apples growing on the apple tree on our back terrace. The picture was taken a couple of months ago, but the apples are finally ripe and ready to eat. In fact, one is baking right now in the form of a simple puff pastry apple tart. I grew up with my own orange tree, but this is the first time I’ve had my own apple tree! If this tart goes well, I’ll have to try my hand at making the traditional Dutch appel taart. The crust of those is to die for!
So that’s the rave part of the title. Now the rant. Albert Heijn, the grocery chain we usually go to, doesn’t seem to be stocking cumin powder anymore, just the cumin seeds. I use the powder so often that I’d prefer to have the powder already made and not have to grind my own. Today, Lizzy kindly suggested I check the Conimex brand, since they make their own cumin powder, just with an Indonesian name. I think Merian was even suggesting Conimex might have a chili powder, too. Unfortunately, when I went to AH today, not only did they still not have their usual brand of cumin powder, they now no longer seem to stock any of the Conimex products other than the kroepoek. (Thank heavens they at least still have those lovely little addictive morsels!) Tomorrow, I’ll either head over to the tokos (Chinese shops) over by Hoog Catharijne, or I’ll see if Plus (the not quite so nice supermarket) or Super de Boers (the slightly more expensive super market) at least carry cumin powder. I’ve heard that AH seems to like to get rid of the products that are most enjoyed; it’s seeming more and more to be true. 😉
Now excuse me while I go take the apple tarts out of the oven!
Thanks to one of my Flickr contacts, I was reminded that there’s a palm tree growing in Utrecht. It can be found in the Flora’s Hof, behind the old gate of the Bisschopshof next to the Domtoren (the big church tower in the background). I was there earlier in the year when Amy came to visit, but didn’t think to get a shot of Orlando with the palm. This weekend, however, since I was over in the Domplein anyway for the Summer Darkness festival, I made a point of going over and getting this shot. More and more I feel at home here: flat landscape, humidity and now a palm tree!
Flora’s Hof stands on the remains of the bishop’s garden but is also the remains of a farm that stood in the area. Amazingly, the farm was established in the early 1800s, on the site of what was the demolished bishop’s court (bisschopshof). Hard to imagine farmland in the city center that recently, especially when you consider the city itself, in one form or another, has existed since the year 45 AD. Over the years, the farm shrank as buildings encroached it, until it folded around 1943. Eventually, the land was taken over and turned into a 19th century-style garden. Along with the central plantings (where the palm tree grows), there is a row of planters that change with the seasons. This spring, they were filled with tulips:
Along the walls of the garden area is a series of bas-relief sculptures depicting the life of St. Martin of Tours. The cathedral is dedicated to him.
Hot. With more hot expected.
I’m pretty sure that’s the forecast through the weekend. Europe seems to be in the midst of a bit of a heat wave recently, and for once, we haven’t been left out. As of right now, I believe the temperature is 31C/87F. Part of me thinks, no, it can’t be that warm. Yet, I’ve noticed today that even downstairs in the coolest, darkest spot in the house, it’s incredibly warm. I’m much more conscious of it than I have been the rest of the week. We really should look into getting a fan.
This warm weather is supposed to continue through the weekend, with bonus rain, to make things that bit more hot and humid. Ah, just like home! Fortunately (for me anyway), the temperatures are supposed to break come Monday or Tuesday. One forcast called for a high of 19C/66F. I’m almost giddy at the thought! I can leave the house again without dying of heat stroke!