April 27, 2009

Weekend roundup

Friday night started with a wonderful dinner in Amsterdam. I didn't even know where we'd be eating, it was all being arranged by a friend of a co-worker. The restaurant turned out to be an Afghan restaurant in the Jordaan that was simple, but looked classy, and was owned by a lovely Afghan family. Everything came out in these little dishes that we served ourselves from. After some simple salad-y starters, there was some filled pasta, which gives the restaurant its name, Mantoe. They were delicious, filled with spiced meat and covered in tomato and yogurt sauces. Then for the main course we were brought a mountain of wonderfully fragrant rice, chicken legs and potatoes, grilled eggplant and zucchini with tomato sauce and onions, a delicious kidney bean dish, and grilled lamb. The potatoes were some of the most flavorful I've ever had, they weren't just hunks of starch. Dessert was cardamom pudding with a lemon granita on top. I wanted another one, heh. I definitely want to go back there sometime... My evening ended with a stroll through the Jordaan back to the station, all the terraces were full and people spilling onto the sidewalks on a still, relatively warm night.

Saturday morning was beautiful and warm. I zipped around Leiden doing errands while also trying to take photos with my film SLR. I went up to the top of the Burcht for only the second time ever and hopefully got some good photos from there. For lunch I got a sandwich and was eating it alongside a canal. A pair of ducks swam over because they spotted my bread loot, so I tossed them a couple of nibbles (and damn, female ducks are pushy. This is twice now I've seen them totally plow over the male to get at food). The female duck then jumped up onto the canal side and came right up to me, eyeing my sandwich. I was afraid she was going to attack me for it. She was not shy at all, she only went away when I shook a paper bag at her, but then she'd come right back.

Saturday evening I convinced myself to go to my upstairs neighbours' housewarming party. They are a French couple and the guy has now lived on each floor of the house. I was rather tired and not really in the mood for going to a party where I'd hardly know anyone, so actually the thing that pushed me to go was that I'd never seen the top-floor apartment that they now live in and I really wanted to check it out. It is lovely, I am quite jealous. It has two bedrooms (one they use as an office), a large back balcony that both bedrooms open onto, a large kitchen, and a huge, light bathroom with a tub under windows cut into the sloped roof. Despite my worrying about not knowing people there, I met a few awesome people, including an English guy who had also lived in Melbourne, so I was chatting about it with him; an older Dutch guy who I had written off when I saw him, but he turned out to be actually rather non-typically Dutch and quite interesting; and the cutest Spanish couple ever, the guy in particular didn't look very Spanish, but he was cool, and the girl was so sweet and so cute. There was also further evidence of the small world that is Leiden: the boyfriend of a friend from work showed up; he happens to be teaching jujitsu to my neighbour.

On Sunday there was another surprise dinner of sorts; this time I knew what the restaurant would be at least, a Mediterranean restaurant in Leiden, but our group would be having a 4-course verrassingsmenu. I was rather disapponted with the dinner; it was tasty, but a bit small, and certainly not worth the price we paid, which was a full 10 euros more than the Afghan dinner had been. Fortunately we had a good group there and I met this sweet Norwegian girl who has lived in the Northwest, in Seattle. It's good to know there are so many cool people living in my town.

April 20, 2009

Out to the fields

On Sunday, a frighteningly large group of foreigners gathered in front of the Leiden train station to venture out on a bike ride around the flower fields. I think there were at least 50 of us, often stopping traffic when we crossed the street as we headed out toward Lisse via Warmond and Sassenheim. It was a gorgeous day, well, at first. It unfortunately did go overcast and a bit cold, but it stayed dry and was good cycling weather. I've uploaded a few photos I took, as well as a video I took while biking.

April 14, 2009

Weekend of epicness

I had a wonderful and busy 4-day weekend, starting with getting out in the sun on Friday and cycling to Katwijk, the first time I've biked to the beach in the time I've lived in Leiden. Before setting off, I got a photo of the trees blooming on my street.

At Katwijk, we glanced at the sea for a bit before heading south into the dunes between Katwijk and Scheveningen. Not before being told off though for climbing onto a bit of dune by a very Dutch guy who had a red, bulbous nose and who was wearing red trousers. He asked if we were Dutch and when we said no, he asked if we spoke German. We said no to that as well, so in the end he reprimanded us in Dutch and even did a bit of finger wagging.

The dunes were a bit difficult for unfit me and my one-gear city bike. There were hill-like things and a headwind that soon killed my legs. I did ok though, it wasn't so bad after awhile, but I still had to get back to Leiden and there was a long stretch where I was pedaling against the wind and that made it a very tiresome ride home.

Saturday M and I went to a large market in the Hague that I didn't even know about until a few weeks ago. It predominately attracts Turks and Moroccans, and even on the walk to the market, the neighborhoods felt like we were in another country. The market was appropriately bustling and overwhelming, with stalls with unique vegetables and fruit and spices and other food on offer.

On Monday evening, E treated us to a Mexican feast and K made his delicious margaritas. I got in some Coco cuddles as he unknowingly enters his last few days as sole cat of the house. It was a lovely evening to close out a brilliant weekend. Work today was indeed hard.

April 11, 2009

Trip photos: drive from Sydney to Adelaide

Next part of my Australia photos are online, from my epic 6-day road trip from Sydney to Adelaide. Some stories about it are here. Pretty photos are here.

April 9, 2009


Oh my god. I finished a book. I have been such a slow reader that I couldn't even remember the book I had read before this one. Looking at my read books list, I'm not doing so well this year; three-and-a-half months in and I've read two books and a graphic novel. Woo. One of those books I read half of last year, and the other book I read was a kids' book with rather large font (though it was about 600 pages long). I'm also stuck about halfway through Maus. *sigh*

April 5, 2009


In order to save money this year, I wasn't planning on taking many holidays. Perhaps even doing some "staycations", to borrow a term coined in the tight-times US, taking time off and not doing much, maybe doing some day trips within the Netherlands. But things change and now I have a long weekend to Stockholm planned with M in July. I'm quite looking forward to it, especially since I've not really been to any of Scandinavia yet and I'm eager to visit that part of Europe.

It is quite freaky, as someone at work pointed out, that this trip is almost twice as far in the future as M and I have been seeing each other, but it has felt like a very long couple of months, in a good way. I remember how not quite a year ago I was with a couple of friends, all of us single, and we were discussing travelling on our own, something I was a bit afraid of despite having just travelled alone for two whole months. I guess it was that Australia felt quite easy and safe, whereas, thinking of where I wanted to go in Europe, I did think about things like the language and what I would feel comfortable doing on my own and how predatory men there would be. I had travelled to Florence on my own years ago and got a bit tired of men chatting to me when I would have liked to have just been left alone. So one of the friends I was talking with sent around some websites she knew of that organized trips for groups, which I thought would be ideal, like the tours I took in Australia, get to meet some new people and have various activities planned. It looks like I won't need those websites though in the near future at least, and I ended up going on only one trip on my own when I went to Mallorca last year (which was a great trip). And actually, all three of us who were discussing single travel a year ago are single no longer.