Local Heart, Global Soul

July 26, 2013

Sea Food …and Eating it Too…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Velvetinenut) posted with permission

Following yesterday’s post, you are turning the pages of my travel diary as I document our last Summer’s adventures.

We are staying a few days with friends in Folkestone and our host has bought us to “Bob’s Seafood” kiosk at the harbour for a delicacy he thinks will delight us.

He’s right,  Himself and our friend Velvetinenut don’t need asking twice when it comes to partaking of seafood.

I’m allergic to most shell fish, so stick to the smoked mullet which is divine.

You take a tiny sliver, intending to eat it slowly, savour it and  “save some for later” but one tiny sliver becomes another and another and before you know it you are looking at the bottom of an empty plastic container wondering where the contents managed to disappear to so fast and ruing the fact that the container wasn’t bigger.

This place is clearly poplar too, there’s a constant queue which is always a good sign of an excellent food establishment.

It’s so good that we’ve already decided that if by any chance we can pop back in when we are back this way later to go back through the channel tunnel on the homeward journey, that we will definitely try and do so. The day is fabulous, the company of our local Folkstone friends and Velvetine is excellent and the food is delicious… what more to enjoy in life do you need?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 30, 2013

Zooming In to Get Up Close and Personal…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

These recent pages of my diary document our last summer’s trip to the Harderwijk dolphinarium and the interaction with the dolphins that we booked for the daughters of the three families in our group as a special farewell when we found out that one of the families would be shifting overseas in the summer.

The one bonus of not being in the water with the dolphins myself is that I can still get close up with ny lens as they swim close by the edges of the enclosure or under the bridge I”m standing on where the swimming members of our group are waiting by a hidden mesh partition fence with the keeper to say hello.

This is the moment to test the zoom lens of my camera to it’s limits, and also my severely limited photogrphy skills when it comes to taking photos of moving objects and wildlife… and capturing inages through the strange relective qualities of water.

To be honest these amazing beasts are memorising, I would have no trouble returning day after day to try and capture their beauty.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Their fluidity in the water is a work of art, and there is clearly a defined character to each animal… the playful one who’s nudging and flicking water, the bossier (or maybe older one) who commands deference from the others and a set of social rules that govern their behaviour.

And social they are, the interaction is very much enjoyed and even when they have the opportunity and plenty of space to leave the group alone they choose not to, it seems that humans are as much entertainment to dolphins as dolphins are entertainment to us.

How any human being could want to kill or maim such intelligent creatures is beyond me,  these stunning creatures deserve our respect.

Behind the dolphin enclosure is the walrus enclosure,  in the water they look big enough, out of it they are massive. And, to my surprise, amazing quick on their flippers when it comes to moving around.

We have spent all afternoon here and now the dolphinarium is closing for the day… there is still a lot more to see, but no time left today to fit everything in. Everyone agrees that a return trip (even without the extra dolphin experience) is high on our wish list for another day.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Interestingly when I spoke to the keeper who was with our group I mentioned that jobs here must be difficult to get, and probably need a degree in marine biology etc.

“Not at all”  he replied:  when vacancies arise interviews are open to people of all education levels, what’s deemed most important  is how well the staff interact with the dolphins and other wildlife here: if there is no natural ease with the animals, no  “connection” or flair for working with the residents here then no amount of degrees or diploma’s will get you a place.

This is a piece of information that is the last piece in a puzzle  I couldn’t quite put my finger on before, it’s the feeling you get when you are here: the  level of respect between the staff and their charges and clear sense that you get that this is more than “just a job”. For these people it’s clearly a vocation and it shows.

Certainly this special dolphin experience at Euro 125,- per child and Euro 150,- per adult, this is definitely not cheap, but it is a once in a life-time “bucket-list” type of experience, and we also know that a lot of work is done here to help nurse injured wildlife back to health before releasing them back into the wild.

This makes this experience worth every cent… if you can’t take it with you,  you should at least try and spend it wisely and an amazing day out that will be in the memories of three families daughters forever and supports the brilliant work done here… I think that’s well worth it.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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January 17, 2013

Letting Your Own Delfts Blauw Creativity Loose…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We wanted to do something very special with our New Zealand friends when they visited a few years ago so bought them to the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles  (The Royal Porcelain Bottle) pottery in Delft for a unique experience.

In this establishment, where the  famous Delfts Blauw (Delft Blue) has been in continuous production for more than 350 years it’s possible to paint your very own blue and white tile or small earthenware piece.

Since we are not experienced pottery artists we opted for the safer option of the flat surface of a tile rather than the possible Christmas bauble.

The workshops (reservations necessary in advance)  take two and a half hours and the brushes, the paint and the earthenware item to be painted are provided. Our tiles are 13 x 13 cm in size ( 5 x 5 inches) square and cost € 37,50 per person.

The staff provide  papers with various popular patterns  of things like windmills and flowers pinpricked into it and then they dust it with some sort of coloured dust that  goes through the holes and leaves a join-the-dots type of pattern on the tile to give you a starting image to fill in and embellish, or you can simply make your own image free-hand.

I’d made a tile here before with American friends who we also bought here in 2007  for a visit, and after learning from the first trip that there was an option to design your own tile, I took inspiration from my favourite plate: also a small  Royal Delft and designed my own tile ( or “ode to Delft ” since it’s a poor imitation of the professional version), preparing it with a zillion tiny pin pricks before I went and luckily it all worked fine when they dusted it with the coloured powder: the image transferred correctly.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You paint your tile in what looks like thin black paint which turns into the beautiful blue once the tile is fired.

The lighter your paint layer the lighter the colour blue and I now know that if you want really intense dark blue that you need to make several layers of paint because some sections of my tile still weren’t as dark in colour as I intended to them be.

The paint substance kind of soaks instantly into the tile, there is no second-chance for error and no rubbing out so a steady hand is needed and you get a very short practice on some small shards of earthenware before you start your tile design.

A few points worth noting: If you have a complex piece like my second tile you’ll be under real pressure to finish on time, the time zooms by and there are no extensions of time in the workshop possible.

You tend to try and hold your breath a lot as you attempt to keep a steady hand so it’s intense work!

There’s an age limit so Little Mr. who was too young on our first trip here, went to a playground with Himself instead. Also if I go here to make a tile again I will ask if  it’s at all possible to skip the tour of the factory that’s included in the price and use the extra time to paint instead.

After you’ve painted your tile they will take it away to be  fired and you can pick it up in person at a later date or pay extra to have it posted to you worldwide. The others got their tiles posted to their home address overseas since they were busy touring Europe so I didn’t see them finished, but I have “before and after” photos of our tiles so that you can see get an idea of what they look like after firing. (I’ve edited the photos to remove some identifying name information).

http://www.royaldelft.com/index.asp?lang=2

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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Different interpretations of the same patterns: the butterflies were very popular with the kids, windmills with the adults.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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I chose the above pattern as well for my first tile: before, after photo follows…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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Little Mr. was old enough to take part the second time and went for a free-hand design of his own making (incorporating several names)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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Turned out brilliantly!

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My little plate is my beautiful inspiration…

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My second tile…

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 14, 2013

A Very Different Type of Delftware…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A few more posts from my archive stock of photos.

Some years ago we had good friends visiting from New Zealand and we wanted to take them somewhere where they could do something that would provide a lasting memory of their trip to the Netherlands.

The Hague borders with the smaller town of Delft, world famous for it’s blue and white tin-glazed pottery so we took them for a special experience to the oldest  pottery in Delft  still in continuous production after over 350 years: the  Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles.

The company has been in various Delft locations since the 17th century, but has been in it’s current location since 1916.

The building itself is a work of art is is richly decorated in stained glass, tiles and pottery both inside and out.

There are amazing tile murals: even a highly detailed blue and white representation of Rembrandt’s  famous painting  “De Nachtwacht” (the Night Watch).

Delft potteries didn’t only make the blue and white plates they are most famous for:  to pay the bills they also made everything from chimney pots to drainpipes and a lot of  pottery architectural decoration, some of which have been incorporated into their own building over the years.

There’s also a small inner courtyard where the ornamentation continues. Needless to say all of the pottery was made here by the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles staff. So… before we take a look at the pottery that Delft is famous for, let’s take a look at some of this beautiful craftsmanship.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Koninklijke_Porceleyne_Fles

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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January 6, 2013

Our Fears are Extinguished As we Leave a Morning of Fire and Ice…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

For my last post in Schoonhoven we are being treated to  multiple displays from the Schoonhoven Brandweer (Fire Service) as part of National Open Monumentendag (Open Monument Day).

This is where numerous organisations open their doors for the day so that the public can learn more about what they do.

Little Mr. has discovered that this fire station is hosting all manner of activities and so we’ve stayed here to take a look and it’s turned out to be very interesting and well worth the detour.

There’s a trailer here too where two of the sides  drop down and the fire service can take  it out for demonstrations in the community. In this demonstration involves learning what to expect if you ever should need to use your home fire extinguisher and is an excellent way to do it in a controlled environment.

We first watch a teenage girl have a go and then I ask the fireman if he could please do a demonstration so that I can take photographs for my blog,  something he is more than happy to do. He says that if anyone ever has the opportunity to have a go in a controlled situation like this one, that they should do so because it will given you real confidence and an extra element of calm that can be a life-saver should a fire break out in your home or workplace.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m a bit too tired after all the walking I’ve done on crutches today to attempt this, but directly after these photos were taken Himself had a go and said that the experience was a real  revelation: knowing  afterwards what to expect definitely made him far more confident that he could handle our extinguisher at home without hesitation if ever the need arose.

Lastly there was the decompression diving tank, with the duikteam (diving team) divers inside.

It was difficult to get photographs because reflections in the very thick porthole windows showed the background behind me, but I managed a few interesting shots, even right to the other side of the tank where people were looking in windows on the opposite side.

We manage to see everything on display and are only a little behind schedule in getting back to the car and back to Den Haag (The Hague) for our 2.00 p.m. appointment. The whole family is unanimous  this day out has been a total success, even with the combined themes of Fire and Ice (cream)!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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January 5, 2013

When Fundraising Reaches Scary New Heights…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Continuing from the previous day’s post, we are enjoying the displays and events put on by the Schoonhoven Fire Service as part of  “Open Monumentendag” (Open Monument Day) where various organisations open their doors so that the public can gain an insight to what they do.

One of the things that this local Fire Service also does is to raise funds for various projects and for this  they have an brilliant  idea.

The public can take a ride in the cherry-picker “basket” on the end of the biggest extension ladder and in an ingenious twist the ladder extends from the vertical great height to a horizontal one over the roof of the fire station where a large red bucket (or is it an old oxygen tank?) sits waiting for their donation to be deposited.

Himself and I asked the kids if they wanted a ride in this too and confessed our secret relief to each other afterwards when both children looked horrified at the idea and swiftly declined.

Having no head for heights ourselves we reassured them that not wanting to go on this was absolutely fine with us too and I told Kiwi Daughter afterwards that I found the height that this ladder went to rather scary, so didn’t blame her in the least.

It’s certainly a brilliant idea, and I wish I was brave enough to have enjoyed what must have been some fabulous views from so high up. Maybe if the opportunity ever arises again I should stop being a cowardly lioness and summon some courage to give this a go.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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January 4, 2013

Pincers to the Rescue: a Coconut Crab Would be Proud…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Our family day out in Schoonhoven has taken an unexpected detour as we discover that today is also “Open Monumentendag” (Open Monument Day) when Little Mr. found a local Fire Station giving displays and information.

We arrive just in time to see a crash dummy in a car that’s been in a car  “accident” and a demonstration of how the fire service use their tools and training to cut the car open to extract the “victim”.

It’s amazing to see that sometimes a low tech solution is the best one as a firewoman sticks what looks like a wide roll of heavy duty sellotape onto one of the car windows, after pressing it to the glass she then smashes the glass with a special mallet and hey presto, lifts off all the broken pieces of glass (still in the shape of the window) stuck to the tape for clean, easy and swift disposal.

On the other side of the car a fireman is in the back seat keeping the head and spine of the “victim” stable whilst colleagues use massive hydraulic snipper claws (yes thére’s probably do have an official name for them but I have no clue what it might be) to first remove both the doors from the car body and then chop through the pillars between the front and rear seat section of the car.

There’s a dull thud as the hydraulic claw crunches through the metal… children, definitely not a hands-on toy for you to play with, as it would make rather literal short work of fingers or limbs. The spinal board is levered expertly into the back of the car and I’m surprised to see that once al hands are on deck that getting the “victim” out is a smooth operation that only takes a few minutes.

Mission accomplished, the “victim” is stretchered away for “treatment” and we turn out attention to the “claws” used to extract him…

Humans regularly steal brilliant ideas from nature and Tasmanian King or Coconut Crabs may be two of the biggest crab species in the world, but I dare say they would be very jealous of the pinching power of these man-made claws…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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January 3, 2013

A Monumental Turn Of Events…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are still in Schoonhoven and have sampled the ice-cream and had a look around.

We take a look at the bricante second-hand bric-a-brac market that was advertised in the sign nearby.

We walk back to the car, well at least I’m walking, bringing up the rear as the kids run ahead and  Himself  jogs to keep up with them.

They disappear out of sight but after ten minutes or so Little Mr. runs puffing back and can barely speak he’s so excited.

By sheer co-incidence today when we were in Schoonhoven (the 8th September 2012) happens to be “National Open Monumentendag” in the Netherlands (Open Monuments Day) but it’s not just monuments that are open to the public but all sorts of local, national and international organisations as well.

By sheer chance the parking space that Himself secured earlier is right next to the local fire station and the Schoonhoven Fire Service is talking part in Open Monumentendag too, so there’s a whole display of vehicles and a heap of activities.

This certainly did not escape the attention of our seven year old Emergency Services fanatic who’s arrived back smothering me in hugs and  begging and pleading for me to let him detour there.

We have an appointment back in Den Haag (The Hague) at two, so need to leave at 1 o’clock at the very latest to get there on time, and with our spare hour had intended to stop somewhere for a quick toasted sandwich or pancake on the way back but decide that if we are really quick then we could see the events here and then just grab a sandwich to munch in the car on the way home instead.

Little Mr. almost bounces up the street with joy as he dashes back to tell Himself that Mama didn’t mind having her lunch plans shelved in favour of looking at fire engines. O.K.  what actually what really happened is that he ran back screaming  “Ik mag! ”  (I may!) over and over on the top of his lungs and Himself worked out the rest without any difficulty.

I’ve a good mind to tell the Fire Service that they don’t actually need sirens on their engines and that the “greener” version would be the shrieking joy of seven year old boys who appears to easily outdo the siren in decibels. Behind the Fire Station are a grand assortment of vehicles, and actually it’s an education for me too as I see the huge variety of equipment on board.

I knew that axes and cutting equipment would be standard issue but was surprised to see rakes and brooms there too (for clean up after road accidents or something else?) So much to see … Let’s take a look around.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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December 13, 2012

I Spy as Our Kids Get Spaced Out…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are still looking around the Space Expo in Katwijk, which is also the visitor centre and informational arm of the European Space Agency complex situated next door.

The three families continue to discover all the exhibits and there is something for everyone to delight in.

One interesting feature is a set of three reclined seats set into pod-like modules with a large screen in the ceiling and lights and “controls” in front of them.

The kids can make themselves comfortable in one of the seats and as the film commences they get to “feel” and see the experience of what it would be like to take off and return on a Soyuz rocket and to add to the realism their seats vibrate, move and there are sound and lighting effects galore.

What the kids don’t  know is that a short distance away, the same film is played on a screen but  included above the film are real-time camera images of each of the face areas of the pods as they are spied on by three cameras. This means you can secretly watch your kids faces as they experience the surprise and amazement of various parts of the “journey”…  in fact there were also a few startled shrieks and “woooo’s !” at various points as well as some embarrassed giggles.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The children’s images are not recorded at all, that’s for the parent to do on their own camera,  the if there is no kid in a pod then the image area just shows the empty pod.

Because I didn’t want photos of my kids faces on this blog, I waited until they had left the pods and the movie sequence (on a loop) started again and just took some photos of the pods, this time sans kids.

There is a lot of detail in the Exhibition Centre, even the litter bins are shaped like rockets and in one area you can see a corner of a 1950’s room so that you can appreciate the technology of the time (or lack of it, to the astonishment of our kids).

We are lucky in the fact that we’ve come here on one of the hottest days of the year… the beach nearby has what looks horrifically like standing room only as we pass by and yet here we have the place pretty much to ourselves. I think that there may have been 50 visitors in the whole place whilst we were there, so there was never more then one  other kid in front our groups kids for any interactive activity and to be honest they had most of the activities to themselves.  I’d totally recommend this place in the height of summer: cool,  quiet, interesting, unhurried and bliss!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 14, 2012

We’ve Found The Seal Pup Crèche! … But They aren’t Playing the Game…

At last we’ve found the place we were trying to find on more than one holiday here (but missed both the trip before this and on this trip on our way north) This post tells all the details: https://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/new-633/.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We make our way to the track that the sign-post points to, and begin to follow the stream inland.

After a few gentle twists and turns the relatively flat path begins to climb and then all of the sudden we come across an elevated railway bridge that leads directly into a tunnel.

On the other side of the stream we pass under the rail bridge and are immediately confronted with a steep staircase going up to the right.  There’s hand-rail so I gingerly pick my way up to steps but once at the top I see that the track starts to wind it’s way even further upwards between the trees and the path has shrunk to half the size it was below.

Himself and I look at each other… this is clearly no place for me on my crutches as the path consists of the  uneven and still rising muddy leafy forest floor and  I’m still on the slow road to recovery from my accident I’m in absolutely no hurry to add anything new to my injuries.

Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour I leave Himself to catch up with the kids who have bounded ahead and retreat very carefully back down the steps and start making my way back to the car.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The walk to the waterfall is supposed to take ten minutes but they caught me back up before I had reached the road, apparently having sprinted up the track for five minutes, it got steeper and muddier as they progressed and then they met people coming back down the track who told them that the view of the waterfall was lovely but that they were disappointed because there wasn’t even one baby seal up there at all at the moment.

The kids and Himself had a quick confer and decided that if there were no seal pups up there then they didn’t want to continue so they turned around and came back too.

Finally we know where to find the seal pups, but nature likes to keep a few secrets sometimes, and we weren’t lucky today.

The information sign-board at the entrance of the path reads:

NAU MAI HAERE MAI

Welcome to the takiwa (territory) of Ngati Kuri and this beautiful whenua (land). This block of land is owned by individual whanau (families) of Ngati Kuri who, along with the Department of Conservation, invite you to enjoy this unique wildlife experience.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Kekeno / New Zealand Fur Seal

The seals that you see along the Kaikoura coast are unique to New Zealand and are known to Maori as Kekeno. This coastline with it’s rocky outcrops, nooks and crannies provide excellent breeding habitat protection for young pups from storms that hit the coast.

Population Still Recovering

Seals were hunted around the coasts of New Zealand by Maori and European sealer’s for food and skins. Hunting was banned in 1894 but not before the whole population had almost been completely wiped out. New Zealand fur seals are now making a steady comeback in many parts of the country. The current population is estimated to be approximately be 10-20% of the original population.

Exploring and socialising.

Between April and October these pups explore their surroundings, developing their swimming and social skills. They make their own way up to the waterfall and are not lost.

In the middle of winter over 200 pups can often be seen playing together in the water and resting beside the stream and pool. Seals are highly social and gregarious species, so these early playful antics strengthen important social bonds. This energetic physical activity builds powerful muscles and develops coordination: attributes needed to become effective marine hunters.

Returning to the Coast.

Each spring the number of pups at Ohau stream starts to fall once they are weaned (at about 10 months) .

They then stay on the coast and begin to use the skills they developed here to hunt for food at sea.  At four years old females join the breeding colony. Males will remain in the area but will not breed until the they are least 10 years old when they are  strong enough to win a harem (8-10 females). Fur seals live for about 15 years.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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