cold in amsterdam

Our friend L from Holland sent us a pic of icicles at her deck. Her house is in an Amsterdam suburb and it’s been an extremely cold winter in Europe this year. The canal hasn’t frozen over because it’s windy but the lake nearby has frozen.

lily004house

I took this of her house when we visited a few years ago in April. It was cold then but not icy. I love the house and the deck.

28 February was the coldest 28 February in history in Holland, breaking the record set in 1904. Below freezing temperatures worsened by heavy winds. Photographer Albert Dros took the opportunity to take pictures of canals so frozen people can ice-skate on them, crazy ice formations along the coast, and winter wonderland forests. Here’s before and after pics of a frozen canal. ©Albert Dros

canalbefore

canalafter

I remember this location, I think I have a pic myself with bikes on a bridge in the foreground, looking towards the Westerkerk.

trip pics and writeup

eutrip083trip

I finally got the trip pics sorted and uploaded. From 3267 I whittled them down to just over 2000 in 10 sets:
holland belgium: lily | almere, naarden, oostvaardersplassen, amsterdam | antwerp, brussels, mechelen
italy: florence | siena | assisi | rome
ireland, uk: dublin, cork, ring of kerry | london | cotswolds

 

If I had to pick just one image from each set. First in our friend’s house I’ll pick one of kaocao, her cat, who was instrumental in bringing us close together and a great little cat to boot:
lily053kaocao

Holland will be Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve, it made me want to move to Holland to enjoy the wildlife and running paths:
ams136oosttree

Belgium will be the strangely cosy café at Het Steen, especially after hearing the story of the tyrannical prince who lived there:
ant014steencafe

Florence is difficult, we were there the longest of all stops. So many great memories. I’m going to pick two, the first is hanging out at the retreat house. It was so peaceful and calm that some days, we didn’t want to venture outside: flr061garden

The second is us walking all the way to oltrarno and up the hundreds of steps to piazza michangelo to take in the view of the city:
flr530viewpano

In Siena it’s this strange, rather creepy statue of a semi-naked woman peeping out of a first floor window:

siena122window

In Assisi it’s watching the sunset from our room. There was so much to see and experience in Assisi, it was a blessing to return to our room every night and relax:
asi057sunset

Rome, hands down, seeing the Pope: rom126papa

After the spirituality that was Italy, my memory of Ireland is the breath-taking views in Kerry:
eutrip054valentia

In London it’s cooking at home:

ldn076lambfennel

And not forgetting the picturesque Bibury:
bib182river

We were lucky that we had internet almost every day, so I was able to upload a few pics and post daily reports. Made the writeup so much easier, it was just a matter of grouping by location and fixing some typos. I also added a few more pics. Still came to 6 travel posts: holland belgium | florence siena | assisi | rome | ireland | uk

Quite an epic trip, and memorable too.

europe day 03: oostvaardersplassen, pancakes

eutrip004oostvaarder

I was so tired last night I went to bed at 10pm and woke up at 9am. Still not quite over jetlag, it’ll take a few more days I suspect.

Breakfast was croissants and tea. First stop today was a garden centre, we’re too early to see flowers in bloom in the tulip and flower fields, so our friend took us to the garden centre to look at flowers. Lovely.

The actual destination was beautiful Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve next to the garden centre. It’s a really pretty marshlands with walking trails around a lake area. There are supposed to be deer, ponies and cattle—we saw a herd of something from afar. We did see thousands of birds. In fact the visitor centre has binoculars and bird watching stations.

We had lunch there at café at the visitor centre. I had a ham & cheese omelette that came with bread and salad; mm had ham & cheese toast. Freshly made, we thought it was good value. Worked off the food with a walk around the nature reserve, almost 2hrs we covered around 2-3 miles. Great weather, blue skies and fresh air. It’d be a brilliant place for running.

Went to a supermarket nearby and bought vegetables, snacks, diet coke, stroopwafels and I saw rivella (!!). Haven’t had rivella since Switzerland. I got 2x2l bottles for travelling as well as a 500ml bottle for immediate consumption which, hahaha, got me into a bit of trouble with mm.

For dinner our friends drove to Lage Vuursche to take us to a pancake restaurant. Posh area, beautiful surroundings and buildings. I had a bacon & mushroom pancake. We shared poffertjes (small, fluffy pancakes with icing sugar) for dessert.

We weren’t too ambitious today, it was nice to take it easy, take a walk and enjoy good food.

europe trip day 02: almere, naarden

eutrip002almere

Woke up at 7.20am, after sleeping at 11pm and waking up 3 times overnight. Our friend prepared an absolutely delicious breakfast of croissant, roll, soft boiled eggs, cheese and freshly squeezed orange juice. I made tea from the PG I brought with me. We took our time and we left around 10am. Destination was Almere town centre to look at the shops and explore the market. Our love of markets is legendary. Great produce: fruits, vegs, meat, fish, sweets, baked goods and cheap household items. We bought some veg for home cooking. I even bought a pair of sneakers for €35, as the shoes I was wearing had a hole at the bottom. Lunch was unconventional—cake and tea at a tea shop. It was what we felt like.

eutrip003naarden

Originally the plan was to head to the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve but the lateness of the hour plus poor weather meant a change of plans. Instead, our friend took us to nearby Naarden, a village surrounded by a 17th century fort with pretty streets and buildings. We stopped at a whisky shop, sampled different types of genever and 5 millstone whiskies—5 year and rye. I did not like the genever, it tasted like medicine; liked the rye whiskies best.

Rested for tea at a bar café. I had a small bock beer and we all shared a plate of ossenwurst (beef tartare sausage) and bitterballen (like beef croquettes). Back to the house for shower and dinner at home: roast chicken, frites, salad and traditional dutch apple tart. Great to have homemade food.

millstone whisky

millstone

Whisky isn’t just from Scotland or Ireland, or the American bourbon or the Canadian version. There’s English, Welsh, Australian, Swedish and Indian. Yamazaki from Japan was named best single malt 2012.

I’d read about Zuidam distillery’s Millstone whisky and asked A to buy me a bottle. €60-ish for the 8 year French oak expression. Their special trick is that their casks are stored at a higher temperature than normal so the whisky ages quicker. Their 8 year is equivalent to perhaps 12 year other single malts.

I should have asked for a miniature bottle too. The product comes in a nice wooden presenation box, I’m not sure I’ll want to open it soon but I’d love to have a taste.