Wednesday, October 31, 2012


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!   Will and I didn't get it together to crave pumpkins this year as we usually do, so instead, here is a marvelous photo of my nieces as Rapunzel and an Angel. 

Hope you all got lot more treats than tricks! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Best Meal of My Life (So far)

At Restaurant Blauw, an Indonesian restaurant, I had the best meal of my life.  My friend, unable to join us, sent her husband as my date and guide through the Rijsttafel ("Rice Table"), which is an elaborate meal consisting of several dozen small dishes of Indonesian fare-- hence filing "an entire table."  This is a very popular way of eating Indonesian food, though it is rarely served this way back in Indonesia, a former Dutch colony. It was a way to make the colonial food understandable for those back in the home country.

From what I can gather (from the interwebs and remembering what we had), I think I had the following (though this may may me accurate or comprehensive).

  • Babi kecap – Pork belly braised in sweet soy sauce common in the Netherlands
  • Gado-gado - Vegetables (cooked or fresh) with peanut sauce (sambal kacang)
  • Nasi goreng – Fried rice
  • Nasi kuning - Indonesian yellow rice
  • Pisang goreng - Banana fritters
  • Sambal iris – Onion, tomato and chilli pasta
  • Sambal kacang - Peanut sauce
  • Sambal ulek – Spicy chilli paste
  • Satay (sometimes spelled Sate or Sateh) - Various thinly sliced meats, marinated then broiled on a skewer, such as: Sate Ayam, chicken; Sate Babi, pork; Sate Lilit, seafood
  • Semur daging - A type of stew of beef braised in sweet soy sauce
  • Serundeng - Peanuts with sauted shreded coconut
  • Telur balado - Hard-boiled eggs sautéed in chilli sauce
  • Sayur lodeh - Vegetable stew (spicy) in coconut milk
  • Rendang - Aromatic spicy caramelized beef, braised in coconut milk, chili and spices
  • Opor ayam - Chicken coconut curry

It was seriously the best meal I have ever had.  The tastes were sweet, salty, savory, fruity, spicy, tangy-- every possible combination of flavors.  It was amazing.  And though we had 17 dishes of food (not to mention two types of rice), it was not too much food!  It was the perfect amount.  You got a good taste of the various dishes of Indonesian fare.  I also had very good Indonesian beer(s).  If you are in Utrecht (or Amsterdam), you *must* go to Blauw and have this meal.  You will then be able to say that you have had the best meal of your life so far too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Day in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Centraal Train Station
Working my way north in the Netherlands, I spent a lovely day walking around Amsterdam.  Having never been here before, and taking advantage of the sunny day, I spent the majority of the day just walking the city.  My friend's husband was my guide for the morning, pointing out various changes in the way the city has evolved to cope with the modern world.  He deposited me in front of the museums mid-day, where I wandered through room after room of modern art, classic Rembrandts, or Delft pottery.

Getting to the city at 10:30 am, I was on the train back to Utrecht about 7 pm, having ambled my way around canals, cafes, souvenir shops, and (of course) the Red Light District.  I didn't visit any coffeeshops, but saw plenty of patrons maundering through the Red Light District as the windows started to come to life. 
Vondel Park

I amsterdam-- find me by the M


exhibit in the newly reopened Stedmuseum

William Rex, a huge model tall ship

Central figures of the Night Watchman

what more do you need than Cheese?

clog magnets

Halloween street fair in front of the Dam

bicycles galore

canal tour bus and the sharpest corner house ever

Anne Frank's house

dusk in Amsterdam

a church

the houses go right to the water

The Wag, the old weighing building

Steps, clocks, and neck gables

a gorgeous day in Amsterdam on one of the canals (is it bad that I can't tell them apart?)

flower mart

tulips bulbs

leaning canal houses

Sunday, October 28, 2012


A dear, good friend, E, invited me to visit her in the Netherlands, in her home of Utrecht, which is about 20 minutes by train south of Amsterdam.  Having never been to the Netherlands, I hopped a train in Brussels and was to her in about 3 hours.  Upon arrival, E, being ill, sent her surrogate (otherwise known as her husband, Ferd) out to meet me and then serve as my tour guide on my walk around the ancient city of Utrecht. 

Although there is some evidence of earlier civilizations, which date back to the Stone Age, the founding date of the city is usually related to the construction of Roman walls, probably built in around 50 BCE.  It is a city that has three canals encircling it and is location of the singing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which settled the War of Spanish Succession (which was fought amongst the European powers to prevent a united monarch of Spain and France).

 But enough of a history lesson (though you know I could go on all day).  Ferd and I wandered around this charming town for several hours.  He showed me lots of very interesting architecture, including these beautiful glass porch entries.  Absolutely stunning.  

Dom Tower
 Though we didn't go up, the Dom Tower is the tallest tower in the Netherlands.  It also has the largest collection of bells on the continent. The tower was part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin aand was built between 1321 and 1382. In 1674 the nave collapsed in 1674 the Dom tower became a free standing tower.  The Dom Church is behind the tower, separated by a cobblestone street.
Dom Church
Graf Jan Van Nassau

 Utrecht is home to the largest university in the Netherlands and there were several students walking around with tubes holding their newly-received degree.  We were able to go into the main university building, which has a stunning grand entry way and staircase.
The grey building with the red shutters is one of the oldest buildings in Utrecht and it still functions as a....  museum? government office? I can't remember.  It was just striking though to see the red shutters against the grey stones.

an old CV2 with a trunk!
 The canals really are pretty and unlike in Amsterdam, you can walk right along side them and below street level.  Taking up every possible place for a house, you can even live/work i some of the small dwellings right on the canal. There were several private houses, but also hotels and cafes.  It was fun walking alongside the water and seeing what business was being conducted.

autumn leaves in Utrecht

another CV2

 Another sweet feature is under the street, below every street light is a sort of frieze of an activity that once took place along the canal. This one is a windmill; but there were cobblers, coffee peddlers, saints slaying dragons.  They are meant to tell a story or illustrate a saying.  It was fun picking them out and trying to decipher their meanings. 

And this photo really is for Will. Someone didn't want to waste any run-off water from the street above. They rigged up a shoot to the downspout and now can water their plants.  Because walking two yards to the canal might be too much effort.

 Ferd also showed me this very narrow, close streets with houses stuffed in.  These are close communities and they don't really like to see strangers walking along the picturesque allies, but I think that they are used to it.  It is about 6 streets with similar shutters and it is almost like a rabbit warren of homes.

And of course, this being the Netherlands, you are never far away from a million and one bicycles.  It truly is the preferred mode of transportation.  They are in all sorts of shapes and sizes and adapted to have carts, bags, people attached to them.  You also have to watch out when walking around-- you really could get run over by a bike!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Final Day in Brussels

In Parc de Bruxelles, art as Brusselious!  This is the best Brussel Sprout.
 Spending my final day in Brussels before heading up to see a good friend in the Netherlands.  Just some parting images....
A close-up of the tower on the Hotel de Ville, in the Grand Place.

A clock of moving Burghers of Brussels

Tin Tin and Snowy-- what more do you need?

Pomme Frites with mayo--and as I took this photo, someone took my picture taking this picture.

the Cathedral and the bright blue sky

bronze and cooper Art Nouveau doors

handmade linen and lace tablecloth

Brussels Coat of Arms