Sunday, March 30, 2008

Holland - Easter weekend!

After meeting Ginnie on the Thursday ,we drove back to Harry and Brenda’s for a nice table grill dinner and a chocolate fondue for dessert. Since we had been up since 4:30 am and our coffee machine had broken down the evening before we left, I was dead tired and went to bed around 11pm. I know! Me? On holidays with friends and family and not partying until the wee hours? Unbelievable, right? Maybe we’re just getting older…, or smarter.

After some coffee and breakfast, we decided to go shopping and since the weather was really crap (again wet snow, rain and lots of cold wind), we opted for covered shopping areas. So off we went to Hoofddorp. The stores were not that exciting there, so we took another drive to Amstelveen, where OX bought himself a pair of really nice brown Van Bommel shoes. Shortly after that, I found a pair of dark brown boots just begging to be purchased. A perfect fit. How could I resist?

After our shopping spree, we had a few drinks at Café Hoevel, one of Amsterdam’s brown bars (usually bars with a lot of dark wood that serve simple dishes and of course, beer) along the Prinsengracht. An hour or so later, Brenda went to pick up Pa, Ma and two very good friends of theirs, Frits and Ria for dinner. We had reserved a table at the *Kelderhof, situated about 3 minutes walk from where we were, to celebrate Pa’s 76th birthday. How convenient… (and well planned for the digestive). Once Bren had parked the car, she gave us a call to go over to the restaurant and met them all. We had an excellent Tapas dinner and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I had not gotten the part about not returning home before dinner, so I didn’t have my camera with me. We tried to take a few shots with our cell phones, but with the dim lighting, the quality of the picts turned out too bad to put up. You’ll just have to take our word for it.

Of course, the evening for us younger folk was not over just yet. Ma, Pa, Fritz and Ria took a taxi home and we walked straight over to the Café Heuvel again. Harry and other regulars there lovingly call it “the office” because many of them are into construction and much of the business is conducted there. It’s really interesting place and fun. The owner, Pierre, is an incredible host and makes anyone that visits feel at home. All of a sudden, he’ll take out a huge sausage and a kilo or so of cheese, cut it all in bite-sized pieces, put it on a plate and walk through the café offering some to all his guests. Anyhow, we met a few more people there, had a few more drinks, and came back home around 1:30am. (Don’t worry, Bren was the designated driver that evening, so we got home safely)

The next day (Saturday), we packed our things to drive southwards to Veenendaal to meet up with Jaap and Patricia. But first, we had to drive by Makro, a whole sale service chain, where Brenda and Harry are registered members. Now THAT, my friends, is a shopping experience non-plus-ultra! We bought too much stuff (mostly things that we can’t find here, or just so freaking cheap) that we had to take our luggage on the back seat in order to stack everything in the back of OX’s Volvo V70! I’m still amazed that we weren’t stopped at the Swiss border the next day. Our front wheels must have barely touched the ground from all that weight in the back. LOL!

We arrived at Jaap’s apartment around lunch time and after taking in our luggage, we drove to downtown Veenendaal to meet up with Patricia who was shopping with Jaap’s older sister. Did anybody mention shopping?? Oh, yes. Jaap and OX did some serious spending (it was all 25% off!) in a very nice local shop: Suits and casuals (only in Dutch). By that time, I was getting kinda edgy and went in to the next Esprit store to buy a few things for moi, too.

That evening, we had a really, really great dinner. Jaap had been talking about the **Royal Mandarin for a few years already, and we knew we wanted to go there. OMG! I cannot begin to tell you a) how good it was, and b) how much we laughed. And in this case, the laughter was NOT caused by an excess of alcohol. You’ll see why… soon.

Once at the restaurant, we were lead to an open fireplace, where we took an aperitif and were given the menu card (also in English) to study. We decided to go for the surprise menu. You then tell your Maître d’H if there is anything that you do not eat or are allergic to, and they arrange the menu accordingly. All are pretty fluent in English and so I wonder why their website isn’t. Anyway, the nicest thing is that once you have enough, you simply say: “Stop the food service here, please.” You can eat from 3 to 6 services, not to mention the 2 offered amuse-bouche. They just go on until you say stop.

After 20 minutes or so were taken to our table, chose a nice bottle of wine and the beautifully presented plates started arriving. Just a few courses to let your mouth water… now.

At the end of the meal (the men had a serving more than we did), Jaap started playing around with our camera and was just taking pictures of me without really looking. Unexpectedly, the Maître was standing behind him making “bunny ears” behind his head. You’ll see my reaction to that in the following film.

Otherwise, we laughed so much because of these two clowns.

And what did Patricia think?

Sorry guys, that’s just the way my Jaapie is (I love this shot).

More laughs followed that evening because, in a nutshell:

- Jaap and Patricia ate the four chocolates that were served with the coffee. They brought more chocolates and OX shoved them all in (except for one that I got) one after the other in intervals of about 3 seconds.
- When the fortune cookies came, and after all of the first load of chocolates were eaten, OX’s read his as last: “Don’t worry, Jaap’s taking the bill.” Of course he made that one up, but it came across so naturally that it baffled us all. It became the running gag of the evening. Oh… and guess who took the bill.

The drive back to Basel the next day went very well and got home in 5 hours. No trucks, very little traffic, good weather. What else could we ask for?

*I can really recommend this restaurant. It is fair priced, the quality of the food is excellent, the service friendly and guaranteed that you will sweat garlic for at least another 24 hours.

**Excellent restaurant/service, quite expensive for Holland, but worth every penny. For Switzerland, quite expensive, but not really over the top.


traveler one said...

I used to live in Hoofddorp for FIVE years... long years.. in a boring town. I can vouch for those unexciting shops!

Nice recap of your great vacation! Wish I had been there :)

The Big Finn said...

I just LOVE saying the name Jaap.

Yopp! YOPP!!!!

CanadianSwiss said...

T1: What one won't go through just to get out of bad weather, eh? ;)

TBF: LOL! My Mom loves it, too. If you say it in French, it sounds like "jappe", wich means "to bark".

Ginnie said...

I got tired out just reading all that you did, CS! WOW. Where you get all that energy is beyond me! I have sent this post and the restaurant links to Donica, because she is always looking for new restaurants in AMS. (BTW, I started this yesterday and got waylaid!)

CanadianSwiss said...

Ginnie: LOL! I WAS tired after that weekend, too, butit was fantastic ;) By the way, the Japanese restaurant is in Hilversum, about 20-25 mins from A'dam.

Ex-Shammickite said...

There you go again, eating and drinking and partying your way around Europe.... what a fantastic time you all had!
And hooray for OX's Volvo.... the very best cars in the world... I had a Volvo called Erik the Red (get the Viking connection???) for over 20 years before I sold it to a chap who did ice racing with a fleet of ancient Volvos.

Jay said...

Ooh, I love it when food is pretty. And look how lovely you are!

CanadianSwiss said...

Ex-S: I must admit that OX loves his Volvo! Best company car he's driven up to now, he says :)

Jay: Indeed, even the best food carelessly plopped on a plate doesn't taste as good asn when it's nicely presented :)