Springtime stroll through The Hague

After a beautiful morning spent at the Keukenhof and a (very) hearty brunch, we headed out for something of a digestive stroll around The Hague.
It’s occurred to me that I’ve never done a proper post about my lovely city – at least not the heart of it – so I thought I’d take you on our stroll! (Consider eating copious amounts of brunch before you read this to get a real feel for the day.)

One of my favourite places in The Hague, and one of the most famous places, is Plein – or, translated into English, ‘Square’. It’s lined with bustling bars and restaurants and is packed with terraces, complete with heat lamps in the winter and twinkly lights all year round.

the hague, plein

It’s a great spot any time of day for coffee, drinks or even delicious food, and at night it’s perfect for dancing – if you don’t like the music in one place, hop on over about 5 metres and check out the next!

the hague, plein

Of course, the Binnenhof (parliament) is a lovely spot in which to linger as well. Plus, there’s always a fish stand set out right outside the Binnenhof so you can get yourself a treat – brined herring for the brave, and kibbeling (deep fried fish) for me!

the hague, parliament

the hague, parliament

Of course, the sight of little babies strolling about never hurt a city’s charm …

the hague, parliament

Neither did lovely embellished bicycles.

the hague

MC is very interested in art, design and architecture, and she really appreciated the beautiful old buildings around the city. It was nice to finally catch bits of information about the details I’d so often gaped at before.

the hague, lange voorhout

the hague, passage

the hague

If you’ve only got a short while to visit, definitely check out the Lange Voorhout – it’s lined with beautiful buildings serving as embassies and law firms and everything in between. You can walk down the middle of the street on a pebble pathway lined with tall trees – it’s absolutely gorgeous in the winter! And, as a bonus, it’ll lead you right to the Escher Museum!

the hague, langue voorhout

the hague, lange voorhout

My mom and MC were interested in visiting the Grote Kerk (big church) – but unfortunately it isn’t typically open to the public. However, a quick Google revealed there is a weekly market held around the building every Sunday, and so we moseyed on over.

the hague, sunday market

the hague, sunday market

It was a great atmosphere and I’ll definitely be returning, though I have to say that it was quite the mixed bag: great looking pastries, delicious food stands, and fun crafty booths; but also random assortments of stuff, all piled up in rather uninspiring fashion. It’s likely more interesting if you’re a seasoned thrift-shopper (Syd I’m looking at you!) – but alas, I haven’t got those skills!

the hague, sunday market

the hague, sunday market

the hague, sunday market

the hague, sunday market

Sadly, I’d already used up most of my battery at the Keukenhof and so, well before our walk ended, my camera died. I guess that’s the perfect excuse to get out on foot once more and explore this beautiful city!

As I type this the city is busy setting up the weekend’s festivities: it’s King’s Day on Saturday! I’ll shamelessly admit that I prefer the normal, quieter bustle of the city, but I’m always in for any celebration that facilitates the consumption of oliebollen and other deep-fried goodies – even if it means elbowing my way through busy streets.
I’m looking forward to snapping some shots of the madness. Happy weekend everyone, and happy King’s Day to those of you in NL!

Easter at the Keukenhof

I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend, whether or not you celebrated! I was so lucky this year, as both my mom and my aunt MC were in the Netherlands for the week. It was a short but wonderful time together. They left this afternoon so I think I’ll be doing rather more showing than telling today! (Ah, expat life.)

On Sunday morning, Pieter’s parents very generously drove us all to the Keukenhof, Holland’s famous flower park, for a sunny Easter stroll through the beautiful gardens. The park is enormous and it seems that everywhere you turn, there is something new to take your breath away. It was definitely very crowded but for once that didn’t really seem to bother me – that is, until the clock struck one-ish … Then we all decided it was about time to go!

keukenhof, easter

keukenhof, easter

We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. (It didn’t hurt that the sun was out, of course!)

keukenhof, easter

keukenhof, easter

(Quintessential ‘head-amidst-the-tulips’ shot)

easter, keukenhof

keukenhof, easter

This adorable fluff ball was having a grand time

The entire park is absolutely gorgeous – and the smell is just incredible. It’s easy to see why it draws such a crowd every year. I think it’s got to be the most perfect way to celebrate the coming of spring. You step in and, before you know it, it’s been three hours and your stomach is grumbling!

keukenhof, easter

There are lots of interactive elements set up throughout, including these giant lily-pads you can hop onto as well as live bird shows and, for the little ones (and myself) a petting zoo.

keukenhof, easter

easter, keukenhof

keukenhof, easter

keukenhof, easter

After our visit, Pieter and I hosted Easter brunch at our place, complete with two hearty pies (thank you Ottolenghi!) and mimosas. It was the most traditional holiday I’ve celebrated in the Netherlands so far and I absolutely loved it! It was a delight to show my mom and MC a typical Dutch Easter activity, and then to show Pieter’s parents a very typical Canadian event (brunch of course!).

If you get a chance, I highly recommend a visit to the Keukenhof – the park is open until 18 May and then closes for another year. Buy your tickets online so you can by-pass the queues and, if at all possible, get there early in the morning – it’s beautiful anytime but you’ll be grateful for a bit of elbow room!

Gluttonous and theatrical in London

I am a huge London fan. Ever since my first visit a year ago, I have been absolutely in love with the city (if you click on that link, I apologize for the extremely bright pictures – I’d just discovered the ‘creative’ mode on my camera!). Something about it is just so inviting, so welcoming. You step off your terrible airport coach, sweaty, groggy and carrying a backpack twice your size, and yet somehow you just feel like you belong.
I also happen to love my amazing friend Steph. So when she moved to London about a month ago, there was only one thing for it: I was going to have to get myself over there, and quickly.

Needless to say, it was an amazing long weekend. There are so many bloggers out there who know so much more about London than I do (and I shamelessly used their knowledge this weekend!), but I hope you’ll bear with my enthusiasm as I highlight some of my favourite parts of my time in that wondrous city.

london

Oh London, you beautiful thing!

After a hectic first morning spent apartment hunting (for Steph, not me!), the eating palooza began at Borough Market.
Steph had raved to me about this raclette stand that made amazing grilled cheese.

london, borough market

As you wait in line, the odour of melting cheese wafts up towards you.

london, borough market

The sandwich did not disappoint. And I’m not even really a grilled cheese kind of a person, as I typically find the bread only gets in the way.

london, borough market

After I’d devoured my sandwich and half of Steph’s raclette plate, we wandered through the market, sampling all we could. We left with bags full of kale, berries, cheese, brioche, and – somehow – fresh donuts filled with creme anglaise. (They were amazing – wish I’d taken a picture, or at least remembered the name of the stand!)

london, borough

There is such an amazing selection of fruits and vegetables, too. If I lived in London I would definitely spend half my paycheck on organic this and local that … I just love Borough Market!

That evening we went out to Taqueria, which I’d been dreaming of since my visit last year. Honestly it was slightly less delicious but still magnificent – and so inexpensive! We ordered starters, meals and – ahem – several margaritas each, and it all came out to under 20 pounds per person. Unheard of in the Netherlands.
I went for the beer-battered fish tacos again … How could I resist?

london, taqueria

Side note: I loved meeting Steph’s friends. They are so open and welcoming and fun!

The next day, we did what Steph calls her ‘yummy mummy’ routine (though why she calls it that I’m not entirely sure). We took a leisurely stroll to Notting Hill, where Anja was waiting for us, and then grabbed little boxes of heaven from Ottolenghi before continuing on out way to Hyde Park. Pretty much my stereotypical idea of a day in London – and I loved it. I so wish we had Ottolenghi in the Netherlands! Until that day comes, I’ve decided to master the entire contents of Plenty.

We may also have stopped at Harrod’s for a highly touristic and extremely expensive ice cream sundae … When in London?

london, harrod's

(Stolen from Steph’s instagram.)

We spent that second evening at an incredible incredible show called The Drowned Man.
If you can go – GO. Seriously. It’s what they call a ‘promenade performance’. Without spoiling anything: as a spectator, you have to check all of your belongings at the door and are given a mask before you can enter. They highly encourage you to go in by yourself and to lose track of your friends. You’re essentially released into this entire new world and left to fend for yourself, and to discover what there is to see. It’s terrifying and exhilerating at first, and then it becomes strangely familiar. There is a main story but there are also secondary characters and so many details to see in the set alone that you just immerse yourself completely. Also, even though the story is definitely spooky and dark, nobody at any time jumps out at you or anything so it’s not too scary, even for me!
Highly recommended. I would actually go back to London just to see it again. (You can check out their trailer here.)

The rest of the night was decidedly less cultural. Steph’s friend Jill had tickets for a party at Cirque le Soir … Definitely an interesting evening! Excellent for people watching.

Our food tourism resumed the next day with brunch at Granger & Co (yum yum yum) and a Sunday roast at Lara’s. I’d never even met her but she was so welcoming and so flexible with my vegetarian needs. I must say that the chicken smelled pretty delicious.

london

Lara set a gorgeous table – very romantic!

My final day was spent around Oxford Circus and Soho, with Steph highlighting the places she knew would be right up my alley. I fell in love with Carnaby street, it’s just so charming and (to me) so typically British.

london

I also loved Joe & the Juice – delicious, fresh and surprisingly inexpensive – for London standards, of course. We grabbed lunch there before I scrambled to catch my coach back to the airport.

london, joe & the juice

Apple, beetroot and pineapple juice

So this is a major novel, and I apologize! In sum:
I ate everything in London. I love Notting Hill. You must go see The Drowned Man. And Steph is an amazing hostess.
Aaand tomorrow the Easter long-weekend starts! Whether or not you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful few days!

Easy, fancy white pizza with gorgonzola & mushrooms

Hello from beautiful sunny London! Today is my last day in this amazing city after a whirlwind (and very gluttonous) weekend. I’m really excited to share highlights but since I have so little time left, I thought I’d share a super easy recipe idea instead. It’s been ages since my last after all, and yet my love of food never diminishes, so!

Basically, this pizza is a copy-cat of my favourite pizza at Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto. I have yet to find one as good in the Netherlands and Pieter and I have been making our own pizza dough so I thought I’d wing it … And it was amazing.

Whether or not you make your own dough, give this baby a try – it’s sure to impress! Porgy actually assisted me with the dough-making process, that’s how easy it is. I learned with this recipe.

white pizza, recipe

The only other technical component is the white sauce, but it’s actually super easy. You can make it over a stove or, as my mum taught me before sending me off to live in my first student house, in the microwave. Melt about 1 tbsp of butter and whisk in the same amount of flour. Whisk it for a minute or so, to make sure the flour cooks. Then slowly pour in some milk, whisking now and again, until you get the thickness you desire. For me that’s about one cup/250 ml.

If you do this in the microwave, first melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Then pour in the milk and leave to heat for about 30-45 seconds at a time, then take out to whisk. Repeat two or three times until the sauce has thickened.
My mom may not like to cook but she loves food, so leave it to her to have mastered a bechamel in the microwave!

When it’s thickened add salt, pepper, and a sprig of fresh rosemary to infuse.

Then prep your ingredients:

white pizza, recipe

Per pizza you need roughly
2 big handfuls of mushrooms (I used button and oyster)
1-2 shallots
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 fresh ball of mozzarella (75-100 grams)
a couple tablespoons of grated parmesan
as much Gorgonzola as your heart desires

Cover your base in a thin layer of the sauce (remove the rosemary first). Then add your shallots, mushrooms and cheeses … And then finish off by popping the garlic cloves and rosemary on top.
Optionally, drizzle a bit of truffle oil on top. It seriously is amazing.
Bake at 215 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the crust gets nice and golden brown.
Then, simply discard the rosemary and garlic before digging in!

white pizza, recipe

white pizza, recipe

Fancy pants and insanely easy – whether it’s entirely Italian or not is a different story!
Let me know if you give it a go. Happy Monday everyone!

Family celebration at the edge of the world

From the moment I first came to visit Pieter in the Netherlands back in 2011, I’ve felt very welcome not only by his parents but by his entire extended family. They’re a funny bunch – intelligent, quirky, and incredibly generous – and they took me in immediately, my terrible Dutch and everything.
At the head of the pack are Opa & Oma, affectionately called Opanoma. Every year they hold three events: a party for Oma’s birthday, a party for Opa’s, and a weekend in the East of the country to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Outstanding circumstances excepted, everyone (all 20+ of us) clears their schedule well in advance for these occasions, and they are always a good time.

This past Sunday was Opa’s birthday celebration, and all over the country we piled into our cars en route to Dronten, a little town in Flevoland (the newest Dutch province, built on land reclaimed from the Zuiderzee last century – fun fact!). The party was held at one of their favourite restaurants: Land’s End.

family celebration, netherlands

Land’s End is located in a beautiful little harbour in the neighbourhood of Ketelhaven, seemingly removed from all other civilisation. To get there, you drive through fields upon fields of farmland, right on the coast, affording you amazing views. It always feels like such a privilege to see areas that are ‘off the beaten track’ in the Netherlands – hard-to-reach areas where there admittedly isn’t much to do if you’re a tourist but which are nevetherless beautiful to see.
In the fall we trecked all the way out to the most Northern point of the province of Groningen for another family gathering and I seriously fell in the love with the place. I often find myself wishing I could live parallel lives so that I could experience living in a small town – in the Netherlands, but also in the US, or Denmark, or … (Anyone else?)

family celebration, netherlands

Warffum, Groningen (stolen from my Instagram)

But anyway … Land’s End has been the chosen place for several family occasions – notably Opanoma’s 60th wedding anniversary – and it’s easy to see why. The staff are all very friendly and professional (which I must say can be something of a rarity around here!), and the place is decked out in a sort of tasteful sailing theme, with fishing nets, maps and other paraphernalia hanging from the rafters and on the white-brick walls.

family celebration, netherlands

We were seated in our own private room with enormous windows overlooking the stormy harbour. The date for Oma’s birthday has already been set and, fingers crossed, we’ll be out on that patio!

family celebration, netherlands

family celebration, netherlands

These family celebrations are a whole world apart from my own family’s traditions – which is great, since I feel like I can love both in their own right without comparison or guilt. (Expat problems.) My mom’s side of the family is French Canadian, so when we meet it’s all about the food, baby! My Mamie & Grand-papa have passed down their love of food and cooking to all of us – we start with appetizers and spend the evening at the table, eating and chatting and drinking, and generally fulfilling French stereotypes. The last time some of us gathered, the night ended with the mother of all cheese plates and literal groans of pain!

With Pieter’s family, there is often a presentation or two, or a musical performance (both Pieter and his cousin are great musicians), and there is always a game. Pieter’s cousins W and M are master game makers, and every event I have attended so far has featured a different homemade game: be it a quiz, a treasure hunt, a puzzle or, this time, a board game. We are always well-fed, but let’s just say that I am always the one who’s most excited to dig into my meal!

family celebration, netherlands

The Opanoma game entailed some rather complicated rules for me, being a decidedly apathetic gamer myself, but it was fun to watch and to generally admire the level of detail the girls went into. How they come up with these ideas in the first place is beyond me!

family celebration, netherlands

The general idea was to get our pawn-selves from a certain point on the map to our final destination, solving transportation problems (such as open bridges or broken-down trains) along the way. There were mini cars and bicycles and also lots of laughs as we tried to decode the cryptic clues.

family celebration, netherlands

family celebration, netherlands

Opa & Oma are both in their nineties now, but they are in fantastic shape and they are so sweet to see together. Oma teases Opa, and he teases her, and they smile so openly. It’s easy to see where the family’s generosity and good nature comes from!
As always happens with these gatherings, the time flew by much too quickly. I definitely miss my family back in Canada, but I’m also so grateful to be so wholly included in to Pieter’s family activities.