Sunday, August 21, 2011

A brilliant day out in Rotterdam - watch out for super long post, but lots of photos below :D

During summer, we have a different schedule for Dutch classes, and sometimes the teachers like bringing us out on field trips, which is awesome, so we don't have to sit in class for 4 hours doing the same things.

Last week, we were told that we would be doing the Fire Boundary Walk (Dutch site) around Rotterdam this week. I was quite excited about it, because I'd seen the walk before, and I even brought the map back to KL to show my dad something historical about the city.

And then I remembered that roads in the city centre would be closed the whole weekend for the Bavaria City Race. And I know this because they sent a letter to us to instruct us to move our cars away from those spots. Ah, the joys of living in the city centre can come back and bite us on the ass.

So, being the considerate person I am *ahem*, I informed the teacher about this, and that there might be difficulties in going for the walk. As a result, the walk was postponed to the week after. Which is the week I've planned to go to Spain!! Aahhhh.... :(

I ended up moaning to myself, telling karma that it had better be good to me in return for me being considerate and ending up missing this walk and having to have a lesson in the classroom instead. Hehe.

And karma did return the favour. In leaps and bounds!

This morning, as I arrived at the school for the lesson, I saw everyone milling around outside. How exciting! I love when something out of the ordinary happens.

I parked my bike and a classmate saw me carrying my huge dictionary with me, pointed at it and giggled. Because apparently we were locked out of the school and couldn't have the lesson. Instead, we would walk to a nearby park/playground and have an outdoor lesson. Well, I say lesson, but it turned out to be games instead. Not that I minded. Except for the fact that I spilt Chocomel all over my pants. Sigh.

It was one of the teachers' birthday, and he brought us cake and drinks. Me, being the clumsy, excitable person I am (really, you'd think I'd be more graceful after so many years of doing ballet), totally got excited about something someone said, knocked the paper cup I was holding, and promptly spilt the Chocomel all over my knees and my dictionaries. I can only be thankful that I was sitting next to two girls who, naturally, had tissues and water with them. Ah, girls :)

Anyway, it was a nice and different sort of lesson - weather was great, people I was sitting with were great and the park was great.

Karma wasn't done with me yet, though. After the lesson was over, a few of us wanted to go for a chat and drinks, and we decided to try the newly-opened NAI (Nederlands Architectuurinstituut) cafe.

I love it.

It reminds me so much of bars in KL, with the relaxed and modern al fresco seating!

That's Ihor from Ukraine. Behind him is a huge NAI logo painted on the side of the building. I love the building. I can imagine the kind of pressure on the shoulders of the architect who was commissioned the building that would be the Dutch Architecture Institute ;)

That's Diederik, who was suffering under the heat of the sun. He's not Dutch, I tell you. They normally love sitting out there till they melt like the butter on a poffertje. I normally dislike sitting in the sun, but I really like the fresh air that comes with it. Give and take, I guess.

Slovalenka enjoying the sun.

Ihor still explaining how the height of the Erasmus MC is being increased level by level.

The whole terrace. Doesn't it look like a kind of WIP or 789? Ah, the special treatment I used to get. Hehe.

A strange, but somehow captivating sculpture rising out of the water. I think the yellow pointer thingy looks like a Google Maps pin. I think I'm becoming too technologically-aware. I think I might have liked it more if my first impression of it would be to say that it reminds me of a butterfly discovering a candle flame and being so mesmerised by it that it stayed there day and night till the candle burned out and the butterfly turned yellow in memory of the flame.

Well, Diederik couldn't take the mighty sun anymore, so we moved inside and occupied the long sofa with beautiful cushion covers.

And then we ordered lunch. Mine was a BLT soup (yeah, I've never heard of it either). It was okay. Nothing to shout home about.

After this really lovely outing - I also visited the NAI bookshop, which was sooooo nice - I headed across the Erasmusbrug with Schrobbenmaster to look for a shop for lamps.

In the end, the shop didn't sell lamps, but we stumbled upon some sort of market/festival thing - again. I think I've earned the title of Queen of Stumbleupons :P

It was more of a kid's thing, but the stalls were quite interesting. Even saw an illustrator I've seen at the Swan Market and the design centre. I bought drawings from her before and she remembered us. What a nice girl :) She was there with her mother (I think). So sweet!

It's a really nice-looking neighbourhood. Very family-ish and peaceful. Nothing really for tourists, but it's nice to see a part of Rotterdam that looks more homey, designy and freshly cleaned up.

There was some sort of mashup between hip hop and flamenco from the guys and girls in black and red over there. Uh... I didn't really think they were very good, but everyone else was good-naturedly cheering for them. I actually felt a little sorry for them that they had to watch this substandard Latin-style dancing, when on the poorest streets in Spain or Latin America, you would be able to find really spirited and expressive dancing. But... yeah. That's a whole different story there.

I think a lot of Dutch people like to do these sort of dances just for the fun of it, and not necessarily to be the best at it. I don't agree with that concept, but I can understand that they find it fun and just want to experience it. My disagreement with that comes from the idea that if you want to learn something, you should put your whole heart into it and really want to do it well.

Saw this corner cafe which, I think, is a bookstore/cafe, or some literary cafe, and I am so gonna go back to try it!

One of the acts practising. See the little boy with the bike on the left? He is super cool. He has dreadlocky hair that's tied up into one big dreadlocky thing, which he tucked into his singlet, and it's so long that it poked back out from under the singlet. And it's held together by this steel plate at the tip of his dreadlock. I want a kid like that.

Cosy-looking old-style supermarket.

After having ice cream. I had to take a photo with the bench that matched my pants.

I've recently started watching old episodes of Super Trio Mega Show on YouTube and really enjoying them. Ah, YouTube :) I'm coming to you shortly.

Hope you guys enjoyed this super super long post.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deli by the Euromast and The Day of Romantic Music at Het Park

Note to the reader:
I wrote this yesterday, on Sunday, but halfway through, I had to turn the computer off because Schrobbenmaster was fixing the kitchen light. And I decided not to switch it on again after.

So here's the post meant for Sunday...


For the first time in a looooooong time, I actually got up at 1pm today.

On Friday night, I'd had a couple of friends over to see the new apartment - one of them actually lives a few floors below, and it's taken this long for him to come up. It's always like that, isn't it? The closer you are to something, the later you are.

Anyway, after some drinks, we headed out for some dancing and I slept only at 4.30am. I was hesitant about going out at first, because I had class at 9am on Saturday, but they seemed quite enthusiastic about it, and it's been a while, so I gave in to my naughty side.

Schrobbenmaster told me the next afternoon that he was impressed with my willpower at being able to stay awake all day, when I told him I wasn't going to take an afternoon nap. I guess if there's one thing I got, it's willpower *roaaarrr*.

Anyway, I woke up this afternoon and the sun was out and the day looked absolutely lovely! I wanted to do something different than going to the usual cafes, and remembered a cafe I'd seen in a magazine several weeks ago, by the Euromast. So we headed there.

It's called Deli, and it doesn't have a wide range of dishes, but what I tried was really delicious. The only resemblance to a main meal they have is their tarte flambée, which is made with around 10 different toppings. I chose the tomato, mozzarella and basil leaf. It was light and tasty! And I also had a butter and powdered sugar crêpe. Which was also delicious.

I really like their sugar packets! So perfect for the venue.

While we were there, we noticed many people heading to Het Park, which is the park below the Euromast. It's the main park in the centre of Rotterdam and it was apparently landscaped following the English style, and it's quite romantic in there with the water flowing through it and lots of lanes to walk along. The trees are bigger and wilder than the ones I walked through in the nature bit of Utrecht (where I canoed).

We went to check it out - Hanselem had joined us by now - and as we approached, we heard classical music being played. Calm, moody and expressive classical music, just the way I like it. It was the Troika Trio (I looked at the stage programme), which consists of the clarinet, the cello and a grand piano. It was so beautiful!

As we walked around the park, we noticed more stages with more small groups of classical musicians. I found out that I had stumbled, yet again, on another really cool festival, this time, The Day of Romantic Music (Dag van de romantische muziek). It's a free festival, held on the second Sunday of every August. They were really lucky that with all the rain and generally terrible weather this summer, this Sunday was nice.

Programme for the biggest stage at the main entrance.

Approaching another stage, this one next to the water. So beautiful :)

Didn't fancy this one so much though. They were playing really mainstream pieces that I can hear any time on Radio 4 being played much better.

Did I already mention that people dress up for this festival? There didn't seem to be a particular era in mind, but it was definitely of a more classy class than the Summer of Darkness. More lace, more white, more straw hats, more parasols. Very, very pretty! By the way, it's the two ladies way ahead with the parasols that I meant to take a photo of. This woman with a backache just happened to whiz past me at the wrong time. Tsk!

Distinctly not looking like they belong in the romantic era.

I really like the outfits of the group on the right. Classic and modern at the same time. Love the girl's boater hat and I love the guy's whole outfit.

I think it's kinda great how I also managed to get two men at the opposite extremes of height walking towards each other.

One of the last events was an opera masterclass. That dude on the stage in the diamond pattern jumper was the student - a very nice-sounding one, I might add - and the 'master' was a woman who spoke in half Dutch and English. I think she's American and she's his regular teacher. She was so expressive in the way she taught him and so typically dramatic. It was fun to watch!

Found a ladybug on my dynamo while cycling back.

Note my new sock obsession.

That's it for now, folks. I think with summer almost over, the chances of stumbling upon festivals like these will be few and far between :(

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shrimp pasta - best pasta I ever made

So, several weeks ago, Doc Vicky asked if she could pretty please spend Friday evening with me because Super Harry would be having a night out with his gym buddies. Okay, she didn't sound that desperate :)

It was nice to have a girly night (not that we're both very girly anyway, but I think we tend to get overshadowed by our boyfriends since they are the ones who were buddies to start with). At first we were thinking of going to a restaurant for a nice dinner, but in the end, feeling broke, and me having stumbled upon one of my recipes that Schrobbenmaster never wanted to try, we decided to make shrimp pasta at home.

I rarely cook with 3 pans on the stove, but here you go. Being professional and all.

Albert Heijn had a discount for buying 2 packs of shrimp together, which I think was just fate telling us we'd chosen the right recipe.

Doc Vicky's dad owns a successful catering company and he himself is supposed to be an awesome chef (I'm waiting for an invitation to dinner). She said that he makes the most awesome shrimp pasta (which kinda made me feel a little nervous to be making it from a simple recipe online *ahem*), so she called him up for some tips. He didn't have time to write the whole recipe down, but he told her that adding cream and onions helps.

I have since made this dish twice, and each time I eat it, I'm appreciating the fresh tomato taste (okay, they're canned, but they're better than pasta sauce from a jar) of the sauce over buying ready-made pasta sauce in a jar.

After adding the cream, it has a much fuller and richer taste and it tastes so amazing!

Even Schrobbenmaster likes it, although he refuses to have shrimp and will make me make salmon separately for him. I hope he appreciates it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer of Darkness in Utrecht

What an apt festival to have this summer.

It's a yearly festival (I'm told) in summer, where goths and the like can come out and parade to their heart's content.

I had decided to go to Utrecht for some canoeing that weekend, without knowing about this festival, and when I was walking from the train station to the city centre, I saw this guy with a long cape flowing in the wind just turning the corner. And I was making an excited note to myself: "I must tell Diederik that I just saw a man wearing a cape!"

And of course, a few streets later, I saw many more men wearing capes and leather and chains and all that. And I knew there must be something up.

I suppose the highlight of the festival for me was hearing them play Conjure One's Oligarch on the speakers. It wasn't very loud, but it was nice enough to hear my favourite music being appreciated in public.

I also liked some of the clothes I saw. And the effort and the extent to which these people go to for their costumes is really inspiring. Some of them looked really nice. I don't know the concept of being a goth (and all their subgenres), but it seems that whichever era they're dressed up for, they always have to be the lowlifes, the rejects, the outcasts.

I took some pictures with Diederik's camera -

Diederik: I have a camera, do you want to use it?
Me: Yeah, sure... but why don't you take the photos?
Diederik: I'm kinda shy. I feel like I'm intruding on their privacy.
Me: (thinking that if they dress up like that in public, they would actually want people to admire their costumes)... Okay... and you're letting me do it because I'm smaller than them and they wouldn't beat me up, right?

Even the girls following the Lolita subgenre were giants. Yeah, they were helped by their 10-inch platforms, but still. It crossed my mind not for the first time that the clothes they imported from Japan (they had a fashion show) must have been the largest sizes made. Hehe. Not saying that people here are giants... just that they are so much bigger than the cute, Lolita-type Japanese girls.

Among the Lolitas (which were my personal favourite Goth subgenre), were also 19th-century people-from-the-streets costumes and futuristic alien neon cyber costumes. Those were VERY cool too.

Jack the Ripper would have so gone for her. The red lady. Not the normal-looking one eating.

See what I mean by giant Lolitas?

I took way more photos than this and also a couple of videos, but Diederik said they weren't good :( I'm glad I got a photo of my favourite Lolita and her costume though. The black and dark blue dress! On her dress is a city skyline illustration. I don't know if it was printed or embroidered (didn't get up that close!), but it looks so amazing! And her hair/wig and even her face was so perfect for it!

After the fashion show, it got a little boring, so we took a couple of bikes and biked 15-20 minutes out of the centre to Rijnstroom (I think) to canoe.

In the beginning, we both got rather wet from the oars, being inexperienced and all, but after 20 minutes, I think we really got the hang of it and even took turns (because he kept knocking my oar) paddling.

The scenery was really nice and it was really peaceful. Everyone who passed said Hi.

We eventually stopped and parked on the riverbank and took a walk to get some chocolate cake. Unfortunately, the cafe was already closed, but further up was a pancake house which sells every kind of pancake imaginable, apparently. We weren't that hungry so we skipped it, but we did find chocolate cake at the restaurant/cafe of the youth hostel next door. I say youth hostel, but it really is in one of those big country mansions, surrounded by greenery and of course, the river. So it's a really beautiful youth hostel. I would recommend it to anyone visiting Utrecht and who doesn't need to stay in the city centre and wouldn't mind biking.

After that little break, we canoed back, and it was much faster because we were now paddling downstream and we managed to make it back right on time so we didn't get fined, hehehe.

All in all, I would really recommend canoeing at Rijnstroom in Utrecht for the nature lover. It's only 15 minutes out of the city and is a really nice alternative activity to windmills, tulips and shopping.