October 29, 2010

I have been initiated.

I have been formally initiated into Dutch culture. 

Last Saturday evening, following a great night of dancing and fun with our friends on Friday - Slim and I took one of our friends who crashed with us to the closest tram stop so she could make it back home.

Of course on our bike commute to the stop it was raining, per Dutch usual - but rain can't stop you in Holland or you would end up holed up in your house your entire life.  So clad in rain gear we set off - albeit a little hung over and worse for the wear.

The drop off went great, we said our goodbyes, gave our hugs, and Slim and I rode back home.   

Circa the beautiful church on the way home something not so great happened.  

Not seeing the exact lines of the several and crossing over one another tram tracks while in the rain, the fog of my own head, and the dark - my bike tire went into the groove between the tracks - and I went to turn my bike the other way.

Tram tracks

Unfortunately this meant I was gifted with a trip to the pavement - slow mo' style.  

Slim was a good boyfriend and helped me get my bike up as well as asked if I was OK.  I told him the thing that hurt worst was my pride (I later found out I also had a pretty sweet bruise and a swollen knee).

Later I realized that I was not the only bike riding victim that has succumbed to the wrath of the tram tracks.  One girl I talked to even had chipped her tooth, another got some sweet face road rash - I guess I was pretty dang lucky.

Will someone tell me why in a country where bikes are the main mode of transportation:

1) No one wears helmets (yes mom NO one!)
2) The tram track groves are the exact same size as a bike tire?

Anyone?

October 26, 2010

B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L Bruges (Part 2 of 4)....

We've been busy!

Sorry for the blogging delay but Slim and I have been in a whirlwind of events and are just catching our breath - the whirlwind kicked off with the trip in Bruges.  Here are the quick and delicious deets of day two!

SATURDAY
ZATERDAG in Dutch/Flemish

We started our morning off circa 11am hunting for a fine establishment to fill our bellies (Slim loves " to have a good sleep in" & so do I!).  We stumbled into Jan van Eyck Restaurant and Tea Room and were not at all disappointed!


I had the mussels and chips (fries), both were delicious. Slim went for the steamed sole in some really tasty white sauce.  The fish was cooked so perfectly that it melted right in your mouth!  Not to mention for 12 Euro's a a piece we got to start our lunch off with a warm, flavorful, cup of homemade carrot soup.
Of course we had to top off all the goodies with a Belgium beer.

Although the Belgium beer was definitely delicious, we both agreed as we were walking around the beautiful streets of Bruges that we needed a coffee to kick start our day and counteract our "dinner" from the night before.


We found a delicious coffee at a cafe you won't find on the Internet.  Cafe Brazila is located on Mallebergplaats 1, and served the best coffee either of us had tasted in Europe north of France!  
Slim got his favorite an "Espresso Machiato" - Espresso with a hit of hot milk.  
I got my latte doubled and made "Belgium style" with "slagroom" instead of milk.  
The owner told us his family does it's own roasting, and you better believe we bought a bag to bring home with us.  That prompted us to buy a new coffee maker as well. :)

After our relaxing coffee and brownie (see the post HERE) we set off on a sight seeing adventure.  Bruges is known as the "Venice of the North" for its canals and is a UNSECO world heritage site
(the whole city) because it has been preserved since mid evil times.

 We loved the murals on the inside of the Bruges’ City Hall (1376) which is one of the oldest in the Belgium.  Once inside we learned some really neat history about the political situation in Bruges and it's role as a port city. It cost only 2 Euros a piece for admission and an audio tour of the building.  
Although that said - the tour was very short.









Another neat find was a street side antique market.  Slim picked up some bottle openers that were really unique.  I found a sterling silver necklace for 10 Euros!  We saw some really wacky and very old items.


We spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon walking around, hands held, going into free admission churches and just soaking up all the "romanticism" of the city.



One of our favorite aesthetically pleasing churches  - the Church of Our Lady.
(Outside)


 (Inside)



Look Slim! Is that an Australian didgeridoo on the street in Bruges?!


More to come about the rest of our trip in installment 3 of the B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L Bruges series!

October 18, 2010

Auuhhh Gurken! :(

Man.

What I wouldn't give to have a big, fat, salty, cold, kosher, dill pickle to eat right now.

I love me some dill pickles.

I mean - I would probably pay somewhere in the vicinity of $10 U.S.D. if I found one in a big ole' jar in some convenient store that I could buy.  I would even eat one of those not so crispy, partially questionable, dill pickles in a bag if I found one.

All I can find here in Holland are Ah-nasty Augurken pickles.  The augurken pickles that are those little finger food ones my mom puts out around Christmas time - and I always absentmindedly end up eating thinking they are dill, and gagging on because they are sweet and not salty.

I scoured Albert Hein (the grocery store chain) for some dill pickles.  I thought maybe there is a "salty" pickle that's a gerken.  I knew from accidentally buying microwave popcorn that said "Zoet" that it meant "Sweet", and I wanted a "Zout" jar of pickles.

I didn't find one but I did find a jar that said "Zuur".  That sounded close enough to me. 
I just ate one and gagged.  Turns out "Zuur" means "Acid" in Dutch - nice. 

The jar also said:

"sappig, met een knapperige beet" (juicy, with a crunchy bite) 
 False - next to a dill these things were like sponge cake.

"Een calorie-arme snack" (a low calorie snack)
Alright, I'll give them this one.



Will I ever find a great dill treat here in the land of wooden clogs? 

Or will I be in a "pickle" until I travel back across the pond this winter?

October 14, 2010

Shera & Slim's Favorite Foreign Words (Dutch Edition)

Today's Favorite Foreign Word (Dutch Edition) is:

"Slagroom"

Slim and I like this word because:

1) It looks cool &
2) It's fun to say!

"Slagroom" is a Noun - a very delicious noun.
 A noun that describes something that the Dutch people love to eat.
In fact it's something Slim and I consumed on multiple occasions while in Beligum 
(where they speak Flemmish which is very similar - almost just a dialect of Dutch). 

The "slagroom" is in the photo below taken in a coffee shop in Bruges.

Can anyone guess what it is....?



It's whipped cream!

My cappuccino above was no ordinary cappuccino - it was a Belgium cappuccino, where the Batista uses "slagroom" instead of hot steamed milk - and let me tell ya' this cappuccino Belgium style was super delicious!

More about this, and other "slagroom" experiences, in our 
"B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L Bruges (Part 2 of 3)" post tomorrow! 

October 11, 2010

B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L Bruges (Part 1 of 4)....

It's a sunny morning in Holland, a rarity and maybe a result of Slim and I bringing back some sunshine from b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l Bruges.

The trip went great - I'll draw out the story (as a story teller usually does) into three segments that are full of delicious bites and great sights.


FRIDAY or  
VRIJDAG in Dutch/Flemish

Our trip got started a little late as I, "the great rememberer"  forgot something at the apartment.  If I could only get the whole, "make a list" concept down that my mom always preached to me about maybe I would loose the title for most number of things forgotten when vital to remember. :) 

The only down part about this little side trip back into the city was that we had (not thinking in our current statuts as slaves to public transport every day) brought all of our luggage with us to work.  In hindsight this was only necessary if we were flying or taking a train, and meant we got to drag around our bags, on - bikes, trains, and the sidewalk on the 40 minute commute to work and then on - the sidewalk, train, and a cab on the 40 minute commute to the car rental station. 

The up-part about carrying an extra load around the Dutch streets was that we got a nice workout before consuming literally 1000's of calories in beautiful Bruges.
Hertz was the rental company of choice, and we had no problems renting - with the weekend cost for the car only being 65 Euros, or 90 US Dollars + Gas $.  After looking out the window of the rental company and drooling over a sweet looking VW sports car,  we were informed that our chariot for the weekend would instead be a hysterical looking White Fiat Panda.


Lemme tell ya, the Panda Mobile, she was one mean machine.
But in all seriousness we saved some serious dollars on gas mileage with this little number.


We hit the road running around 7pm - Slim the navigator with the GPS, me behind the wheel for this leg of the trip.
  
Heading through Antwerp, Belgium the ride turned out to be only a short 2.25 - 2.5 hours, and the roads were relatively easy to follow.  Except for when we noticed that, in what would in both the U.S. and Australia be a two laned road, there existed this bizzare middle lane where traffic from either side could pass in Belgium!  All we could think was - that is an accident waiting to happen - but you never know, maybe it is in reality a safer system.

Once we hit Bruges, Beligum it was a serious pain in the neck to find parking!  I fell short on my driving skills here, several times turning down the wrong street and having to reverse back (opps!) - or completely missing a street which meant we had to do a massive 20 minute loop around the mid-evil city to get back to where we needed to be.  Not a fun thing to do after a long day of working and driving. 

A big thanks goes out to Slim for being so patient during my moments of inept driving (although I insisted it was partially his responsibility as "the navigator" ;) ).

After finally finding a free parking space, only to realize we would have to be up a 9am to move the car (something neither of us wanted to do on our relaxing vacation), we decided to just have the hotel valet the Panda Mobile - which was outrageously expensive but probably worth it in the end.

The hotel we stayed at was the Hotel Heritage:



The concierge staff was super nice, and brought our bags to our room which was very much appreciated.  The hotel itself was also very beautiful - but had some memorable moments.  More photos of the hotel to come in installment numero dos and tres of this epic adventure.

 After dropping our stuff off we decided to head out and grab a very late dinner (at this point it was circa 10pm).  Neither of us were too hungry, and the only options around our hotel seemed to be full on dinner servings - so we opted for a delicious dinner of fresh Belgium Leffe Bruin and peanuts at a pub with a beautiful view of the Market Square.

Leffe Bruin

Leffe Brown is an authentic abbey beer that has a delicate flavor of vanilla and cloves, and a full aroma of toffee and caramel. This deep, brown beer is perfect in autumn because of it's dark-roasted malt. Leffe Brown contains 6.5% alcohol and suits spicy, savory and sweet dishes or appetizers such as foie gras on toast. 



One liter of fresh Leffe Bruin a piece, two dishes of salted bar peanuts later and we were full.  The bar was closing and it was time for us to "have a lay down" as Slim puts it so we could be up bright and early (before 1pm) to take on the day in beautiful Bruges.

October 8, 2010

And we're off!

No.... it's not a race we're running.  

No.... it's not a bike seat we've fallen off of.  

Slim and I are off to Bruges, Belgium this weekend!


I was so excited when at work yesterday I got a phone call from my favorite Aussie telling me he had booked us a hotel and had "hired" a car for the weekend!

Life has been pretty hectic for us both with work and our never ending academic careers in full swing.  I'm also sure it won't get any less hectic as the holidays approach, we have some of our favorite people stop by, and we get ready for our big Christmas trip to the "Land Down Under".  

It's so great that amongst all this hecticness we will now have a "just the two of us" reprieve!  I find it amazing how your significant other sometimes knows just what you need without you saying a word. 

While I admit I am a bit nervous to experience for the first time Slim driving on the other side of the road than what he is used to, he's not nervous at all and has done it before.  This gives me confidence that his driving skills will overcome the driving mind backwardness and we will make it out alive and with lots of good memories  

(I also thank God it's not me who's the one driving on the "opposite" side of the road - those of you who know my amazing driving skills can only guess how that would probably turn out).

My excitement for this trip stems from my belief that travel should always be accompanied by new delicious or in some cases not so delicious foods.  It's a great way to get to know a culture.  This coupled with the fact that Slim really is my most favorite person to spend time with - so spending time with him in  a country that's famous for ooggles of chocolate, great beer, and fries (or chips as Slim refers to them as ;)) is a total dream come true!

I will post lots of photos when we get back - but for the next two days the only thing that will be posted up are Slim and I at pubs & chocolate shops.


Have a great weekend!

October 7, 2010

Only In Holland.

Every so often I will post a news story about the foreign country I'm visiting or living in, A story that I - someone who comes from a different culture - find totally crazy and kooky. 


These zanny news updates will be titled...


"Only In ---- (wherever the heck I am)."

Today's piece involves one of my favorite species of animals - the kitty cat.

 

Hunters Shoot Thousands of cats Every Year


Wednesday 06 October 2010

Hunters shoot between 8,000 and 13,000 feral cats dead every year, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday. The paper bases its conclusions on information from the Dutch hunters association. Hunting domestic cats which have gone [semi] wild is legal in the Netherlands. But opponents say it is impossible to tell in advance if a cat is a pet or a stray.  

© DutchNews.nl

 
Original Story Link:

No wonder I never see any strays running around the streets of Holland. 
Side Bar:   I wonder what the legal definition for "semi-wild" is?

October 6, 2010

The Rain in Spain falls Mostly in the Plain's

And the rain in Holland falls mostly everywhere, all the time.

I have never lived or visited a country where it rains more than it does in Holland.  I am not kidding it rains here 75 - 80% maybe more of the time.  Today was no exception.

Netherlands  (Edit location)
Current conditions
your weather
16°
Showers
Hi 17°  |  Lo 12°


This is especially frustrating considering Slim and I, along with most everyone else who lives here uses bikes and not cars as our mode of transportation. 

Rain while you are walking, that's annoying - rain while you are riding a bike now that is just downright frustrating.

I have reverted to the "I don't even care what I look like" look and wear my bright red and yellow, body length, Gortex rain jacket to work every day.  If it's not on my body it's in the bookbag.  

After getting soaked  several times on his bike Slim just invested in a Burton snowboarding/rainjacket/outer shell at the Beaver (great name for an outdoor store right?!).  His coat is definitely way cooler then mine as far as rain jackets go - but who would have thought the woman from the land of transportation by cars and the man from the land where sunshine rules would have had to resort to this.  

Only in Holland.


October 4, 2010

Ain't ain't a word if ain't ain't in the Dictionary.

 

Currenly Slim and I are expats, or expatriates, in Holland.  The land of orange, wooden clogs, rainy days and the glorious stroopwafel.



1ex·pa·tri·ate

verb \ek-ˈspā-trē-ˌāt\
ex·pa·tri·at·edex·pa·tri·at·ing

Definition of EXPATRIATE

transitive verb
2 : to withdraw (oneself) from residence in or allegiance to one's native country
intransitive verb
3 : to leave one's native country to live elsewhere
             — ex·pa·tri·ate\-ˌāt, -ət\ noun
            — ex·pa·tri·a·tion\(ˌ)ek-ˌspā-trē-ˈā-shən\ noun

Examples of EXPATRIATE

  1. <members of the deposed dictator's once-feared political party were expatriated as well>

Origin of EXPATRIATE

Medieval Latin expatriatus, past participle of expatriare to leave one's own country, from Latin ex- + patria native country, from feminine of patrius of a father, from patr-, pater father — more at father
First Known Use: 1768

Related to EXPATRIATE

October 2, 2010

Welcome to the Journey

Welcome!

I'm a veteran blogger who has through experience realized that sometimes the everyday things that occur in our lives are more hilarious than what a sitcom writer delivers to our televisions each week.

 
Especially if our lives are taking place in a different culture.

So, this is the often zany story of my life living, loving, working, or sometimes just traveling as an expat in different lands. You can call me Shera - even though that's not my true name, anominity leads to greater truths and more exciting story's.  My pseudo name also serves as homage to one of the baddest @$$ chicks ever (I've wanted to be her since I was 6 when my mom made me Shera arm bands for Halloween, armbands that I refused to take off in the following months - true story). 


The list of characters will change throughout but one re-occurring  cast member stumbling with me will be Slim the Aussie - my love.  Slim will help you all get a male Aussie perspective on the sometimes insanity of what it means to be an expat.


So welcome! I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy stumbling.