Saturday, November 29, 2008

Never again eetcafe Fatiem

Femke is such a sweet girl – today she took me out for dinner. The choice fell on Fatiem, a North African restaurant in de Pip that came highly recommended from a Dutch newspapers food critic. The place was rather simple, which is fine by us. The service was very slow, which is not so nice, but if you are waiting for good food, you can take a lot.
Starters were OK, but not spectacular. A lot later, the mains came in. Feke had a couscous, which was fine, but not very special. I ordered a tajine, which is a slow-cooked clay pot-stew that I normally find delicious. But already at my first taste, I pushed it away. It was as if something was old in it, a very odd an unpleasant taste. I asked Femke to try it, and she had the same experience. So I went down to the kitchen (we hardly ever saw the waiter) and explained the situation. They couldn’t understand it, since they only used fresh ingrediences, but kindly offered me to take it of the bill, which I accepted. By now, I had lost my appetite, so I only had a little of Femke’s dish.

Later, when we went down to pay (still no sign of the waiter, nor the drink I ordered, despite asking for it twice), Femke got a serious verbal bashing from the girl in the kitchen! She said that we knew nothing about food, that they never had a dissatisfied customer before and that we were cheapskates trying to get away with only one dish. Unbelievable! Unfortunately, this was all in Dutch, so I didn’t understand the gravity of her accusations until Femke told me on the outside. Otherwise, I would have told the chef one or two things.
You wonder how they think when they attack customers like this, in front of all the other customers. On thing is for sure – we will never go there again, and we will discourage everyone we know not to go there. After all, you go to a restaurant to have good food and a nice time, and we had neither.

After this debacle, we had a beer at the old-style bar Hoppe (with a history that goes back to 1670). Now, this is my kind of place – good beer, friendly staff and sand on the floor.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Long flight at the coast

Today was one of those surprising days. Despite it being late November, with low temperatures and a grey sky., I decided to go paragliding at the coast. For once, the wind seemed to be right, both in direction and strength.
Going to Wijk aan Zee was not that easy, though. There was a problem with the tracks close to my station, so it ended up taking one hour longer than normal. When I arrived to the coast, I met three pilots that were packing up. Two had not done any flying, they found the wind too strong, while one had a tiny glider that he flew with.
The wind was rather strong, but not too strong I found. It’s tricky to launch here because you need to pull up your glider on the beach, then kite it backwards up onto the dunes until you get into the lift and can fly. And when the wind is strong, the wing is very lively. I’m not very good at this, but after a few tries, I was airborne. Wonderful!

Now, the full length of dunes were all mine – I was alone in the sky, save for some seagulls. I had this idea that I should try and fly all the way to Castricum or Egmond aan Zee. I have been told this summer that it is possible, but I never tried it myself. Today was the day for that. So I started to fly North. Everything worked fine and the few tricky parts, where the dune has collapsed or where the there is a small dune in front of the bigger one, they went fine. Unfortunately, a light rain came in from the sea further North, but it is not a big problem when soaring the very soft and smooth air from the sea.

I past the beach-cafés on the road to Castricum and then a huge mast on the beach. It was a jubilant feeling to reach Egmond aan Zee, after 13 kilometers of flying, it felt great!
Here, I turned around and flew back to Wijk aan Zee. Now, I was flying slightly into the wind, so the speed was much lower. But I did reach Wijk aan Zee and turned around again. Maybe I could fly all the way back to Egmond and take a bus there?
I tried, but it didn’t happen. Just south of the beach-cafés West of Castricum, I landed. I tried to take off again, but only managed a short flight. Now, my wing was wet and sandy, and so was I. I decided to call it a day. After all, I flew 33 kilometers in 1,5 hours ☺.

I packed up and walked to the cafés and started to hitchhike. And after only 10-15 minutes, I was picked up by a very friendly window-cleaner, who drove me all the way to Uitgeest. Here, I could catch a train home to Amsterdam.
Not a bad day, to be in late November.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter-visit in Sweden

The last week was fun but busy. Tuesday morning, I flew to Sweden to combine some business with pleasure. First, the proof print of the next issue of Hypoxia had to be approved at the print shop in Lund. It looked good, so now it is being printed and should reach the readers in time, somewhere around 7 December.

In the evening, I had dinner with my mother, my sister and her husband. It’s nice to meet them again, and so much easier now, when we live in Europe.
As always, I stayed at Bonen’s place in Limhamn. Together with Kimmo, we went out for fika and then some fun on Wednesday evening, doing Malmö as if we were in Copenhagen. That meant going to odd, scruffy bars that we do not normally frequent. Fun!

Thursday morning saw me taking the train to Stockholm, where I had three meetings with different clients, then dinner at Soldaten Svejk (this marvellous place!) together with Lotta and Susann, both friends that we got to know in Jerusalem.

Friday was slower, with an early morning meeting, lunch with old friends Krister and Dag and then dinner at Lotta’s and Per’s place, with sound effects ©Sigvard, five weeks old. He is a little cutie, but sleeps even less than his energetic mother.
Waking up Saturday, Stockholm was dressed in white, and it was still snowing. I ventured out in the winter climate, walking to the old city to try out my new little back up-camera. At lunch, I had a fika with another freelance journalist (or, rather a former freelance, she works with copy now), then went for a museum visit. The evening came with another appointment at Svejk together with another Lotta, also a friend from Jerusalem and a journalist. We ended up spending many hours at Svejk, chatting away, enjoying the excellent beer and food and getting to know other people there.

Sunday was my last day in Sweden, and started with a relaxed brunch together with Anne, a friend from the peace-keeping missions in Kosovo. She reminded me of an idea about a childbook that I had, so now I have written a synopsis and contacted my illustrator-friend Micke. Who knows, we might even publish it.

On the way out to the airport, I stopped for a fika in a wintry Sollentuna, visiting Lena, Ulrik and their children Alexander and Carolina. This was my first meeting with Carolina, being only five months. A happy and smiley little girl!

Continuing to the airport, my train was delayed. Then my flight. The snow storm covered all the runways with snow, and they could only keep one open. That one quickly became to slippery and had to be treated again. In the end, I came to Amsterdam, to discover that the train didn’t go all the way home. Well, after almost seven hours of travelling, I did come home. My sweet Femke had some warm tea and a sandwich ready to cheer me up. She had spent the last five days in Paris on a conference, and came home just a few hours earlier.

Now, I am busy writing. Just about to finish a text about Belgian beer. Tomorrow, I might go flying at Wijk aan Zee, the forecast looks perfect. We’ll see how the weather develops.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Paragliding, dining and a boat

Wow, that was a hectic weekend. But also a very nice one.
It started sportife on Friday, with a day of paragliding at Wijk aan Zee with Andrew and Steve. A bit windy and wet, but oh so refreshing with 1,5 hours in the air.
In the evening, F and me had dinner together with Andrew and Mirthe at a restaurant called Stout on Haarlemerstraat. Nice but a tad expensive compared to what you got. We rounded off the evening with a drink or two at some nearby bars.

Saturday saw Femke and me looking around for glasses. Mine have become to scratched to be comfortable, so I need new ones. It is always a hassle to buy glasses, a bit like buying jeans. In the end we found a decent pair, but unfortunately they wont be ready for a while.

Then, we hurried home to prepare dinner – some of Femke’s colleagues were coming over for the evening. It turned into an enjoyable night with lots of talk about work and other things.

Sunday started pleasantly slow, before we biked over to Maarten and Hanna. They had prepared a delicious lunch for us – just what we needed!
Afterwards, Femke and me biked around a bit to check out some Amsterdam neighbourhoods we haven’t seen before.
In the afternoon, I bought a boat. Yes! A small little plastic boat to go picnicking with in the canals of Amsterdam when the spring comes. Lovely ☺. The evening was spent looking into the waterways in an around Amsterdam, as well as investigating different possible trips to Africa.

Today, I am busy preparing myself for six days in Sweden, meeting friends, family and clients. It’s going to be fun.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Friend in Antwerpen

Sunday, and a very slow start of the day. The breakfast buffet at Hotel Metropole does help to get you started, as did a soak in the bath tub. Then, we took the train to Antwerpen to meet with Tom, an old friend of Femke. Nice.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Palestinian friends in Mons

Living an International life can be exciting. Today, we took the train to Mons to meet Palestinian friends that had an art exhibition there. They were of course happy to be there and not in Ramallah, and we were happy to see them. Later on, some of their friends joined in, mostly Palestinians (or combinations thereof) but also a guy from Afghanistan.

His story was sombering. He was originally from the Helmand province, but had to move with his family several times, as refugees. In Kabul, he worked as a translator for the Canadian troops there. After that, he could not stay in his homeland anymore, fearing for his life (some of the extremists see him as a traitor), he had to flee and ended up in Belgium. Being born in North-Western Europe is indeed a luxury.

In the evening, we all went back to Brussels and partied together – who knows when we will see each other again?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Food, Jazz and beer

Today, I checked out more beer bars, and took more beery photos. Having freshly grilled scallops at Nordzee on Place St Catherine was a delicious re-enactment of my Brussels days. When Femke was ready with her work, we met up at the beautiful art nouvaeu-bar Greenwich, with chess players and locals having a beer. Next stop, live jazz at another favourite, ever-cool bar l’Archiduc, then delicious food at Como como, the pintxos restaurant opposite l’Archiduc.

Continuing the evening, we went to the very nice bar Walvis, then to Mappa Mundo. The latter seems to have lost a bit of its attraction, but Walvis played as cool music as ever. In the evening, we stayed at the old style-grandeur Hotel Metropole.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Back in Brussels!

It’s so nice to back again. There is a special atmosphere, so unlike Amsterdam (which is nice in its own way). I am here to write a story about Belgian beer, and Femke for some business of her own.
Luckily, my schedule is not to stressed. I could start with strolling around, double-checking that my old favourite beer bars are still around (most of them are). In the afternoon, I took a train South to visit the St Feuillien brewery for some photos and a tasting. Nice ☺.

Back in Brussels, Femke and I met at our old local bar on Rue Americaine, Bistro Resto, for a nostalgic drink. Later on, our friend Marianne joined us, and we had a pleasant dinner together and stayed over at her place.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ground-handling on the beach

Being the day after a long and fun wedding, I surprised myself by going out the coast for some paragliding. I even managed to drag Andrew with me.

Of course, I had misread the weather forecast, so the wind came from the wrong direction…
Well, well, it was nice to get some fresh air anyway, and we did do some ground-handling on the beach. There, we met Pin & Jelle, Femke’s parents who were out for a Sunday walk.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wedding of Elsa and Tim

One of Femke’s old friends, Elsa, got married today with her Tim. They threw a great party downtown Amsterdam with good food, lots to drink and then dancing until late together with Mirthe and Andrew. Great fun - thanks for inviting us! I hope you will have success and happiness, and that your honeymoon to Madagascar will be full of joy and awe.

We got the photo from one of the other girls at the party.