Local Heart, Global Soul

February 11, 2016

Brownies And Downies: A Brilliant Idea !

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Back on April 29th 2014, I wrote a post about a café that we had been recommended and subsequently tried out.

The name of the place was “De Haagse Traiteur”  and Himself and I went there several times, and Kiwi Daughter went with friends on another occasion.

I also wrote a blog post about it: De Haagse Traiteur; The Menu Might Be Small But It’s Beautifully Formed… .

Later in 2015 one of our neighbours had some news for us, this establishment had closed down.

Himself and I were really disappointed fearing that the economy had not been kind and regretting that we had not visited there more often.

Then we heard the real reason that this establishment was no longer trading: the owners had been the lucky recipients of a large lottery win, one big enough that they had decided to sell up and move on to other things.

I have no clue just how big the win was or what the new lives of the former owners entailed, but the good news is that now the place has reopened under new management and of course gained a new name: “Brownies and Downies” , and what’s more this is no ordinary new start-up café.

The “Brownies” part of the name is fairly self explanatory, one of the cafés specialities are Brownies, but what’s special is the “Downies” part: this café provides employment for people with Down’s Syndrome and helps them to be  functioning part of the working community.

Most of the Down’s Syndrome employees work part time and they have assistance from non-Down’s adults who run the management side of things. Himself and I think it’s a brilliant idea and are just so sorry that it’s taken so long for us to find out about it and come and try it out. The interior is very similar to that of it’s predecessor establishment, but a few changes have also been made. There are large wooden letters in different colours on the tables: some of the staff with Down’s find it easier to remember the colours than the letters or numbers, everything in the small details are done to try and make things as easy and stress free for the staff as possible so that they can focus on accomplishing their serving tasks as well as possible.

When I ask permission to take photographs I am told that written permission has been given by the parents of the young Down’s people who work here for photographs to be taken. Himself’s tea is quality loose tea which is carefully served into the pot by our waitress, with a little help she gives us great service and the food is good too. Since Himself has had a lot of work in and we can not stay for too long, I order a brownie to take home, it is boxed for us to take with us and I get instructions to give a minute in the microwave because it’s even better served slightly warm. They are not wrong. I was too busy eating it later to get a photograph but it was definitely worth getting some to bring home. Back at the café I have a toasted sandwich and Himself an uitsmijter, which is a traditional Dutch item consisting of a fried or poached egg on top of ham and toast and served with a mustard cheese sauce. As soon as Himself has a break in his mountain of work we plan on going there again.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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The words on the pot below translate as “seize the day” …

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

February 10, 2016

Fairphone: A Fair Way Of Making Our Gadgets…

Filed under: LIFE — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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A little while go I decided to join the twenty-first century and finally, finally, finally cave in and get a mobile phone. I resisted for as long as possible because I have a phone in my office, a landline at home and I would never pick up a phone in the car between the two. Himself needs a mobile phone and so has one when we are out as a family, so getting an extra one seemed superfluous.  Then friends told me about a new sort of phone,  and I changed my mind. The phone is called a ” Fairphone” and differs from other smartphones in that every part of it has been as ethically made as possible. No child labour,  no ripping off the producers of raw materials, or paying below market rate wages.  The other reason of course was that Kiwi Daughter now has a phone and I need to keep us, especially now that I am at home and we have been having massive internet and phone connection problems in recent months. Another thing that my kids like about Fairphone is that they take deigns for their phone covers so I’m in the process of submitting their artistic efforts…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Fairphone

February 9, 2016

A Taste So Good That You Want To Come Back For More…

Filed under: Accomodation,ICELAND,Icelandic Cuisine,PHOTOGRAPHY,REYKJAVIK — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Our time in Iceland is coming to an end.

Four days have passed more quickly than we could ever have imagined and to our surprise, even though the weather has been mostly cold, grey, overcast, sometimes rainy and with an added helping of biting gale force winds, even the children are raving about Iceland, wishing that they could stay longer and asking if we could come here again.

It’s certainly not what Himself and I expected, we assumed that this small four day adventure would suit adults rather than kids but we were wrong, our kids are completely and utterly fascinated and captivated by Iceland.

As per the other mornings since our arrival, we brave the wind that is howling around the buildings that make up the Artic Comfort Hotel and navigate the short hop between the two buildings as quickly as we can.

As usual too the kids run ahead and Himself waits in the wind by the door of Reception for me to slowly catch up.

Both of us welcome the now customary wall of heat that greets us in Icelandic buildings and look forward to a good breakfast to start the day. The fare here is basic but totally sufficient, and since we got such a cut price deal on the booking, we are delighted that breakfast was even included in the price. The breakfast room is a kind of upside down capital “L” shape where the shorter part is a small square, the tables filled and emptied so fast that there was no real pause in the traffic for me to get photographs without intruding on people’s privacy so I photographed what I could.All of us start to share our thoughts on the trip, what we liked best, least etc. Top of the list has been the Eyjafjallajökull Vistor Centre, closly followed by joint runners up “everything else” and bottom of the list was the Blue Lagoon, not in a negative way becuase it was an “experience” and we didn’t regret doing it, just that we regretted not managing to fit in other hot pools as well.
The only thing that we have truly missed seeing is the Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights, but the kids are even using this to their advantage, asking if we could please plan another trip so that they might try again to see the Lights and even more strange, both avidly declaring that a winter trip would be just as much appreciated as a summer one. Himself and I are pleasantly surprised, having assumed that without weather for physical activities such as hiking, they would be bored.
Every evening after dinner we have driven far from the city of Reykjavik in the hope of catching a glimpse of the lights and each evening we have been met with a heavy blanket of low thick cloud and no gaps to show us the wonders of the aurora. It leaves us leaving Iceland wanting more… our pocket holiday has given us a taste and we have discovered that we very much liked every bit of what we tasted.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

February 8, 2016

Askur, Worth Coming Back To Again And Again…

Filed under: ICELAND,Icelandic Cuisine,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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We decided on our February 2014 trip to Iceland that we would take things as easy as possible. This meant that we also wanted to make things easy for our kids and their fussy eating habits. Having been recommend Askur Restaurant on the first day of our stay, and found it to be an easy option for the kids, we have been back each evening except one (when we bought groceries and had a picnic dinner in our hotel room). The camera is acting up again, some on more days than others, so the compilation of photographs taken there over the last few days are again patchy but the food at Askur is consistent and they are delighted to see us back again and again.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 7, 2016

The Blue Lagoon Is Really Not What We Expected…

Filed under: Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa,ICELAND,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family Kiwidutch went on a whistle-stop four day trip to Iceland in February 2014, and whilst we really aren’t “winter” people and had big reservations about how we would handle a winter trip to a cold country, Iceland has by far exceeded our expectations.

We have not only heard about Iceland’s famous hot springs, but have also seen numerous signs during our travels advertising smaller hot pools as we travelled around in the car.

On our last day we headed out to one of the main tourist spots that we have both had recommended and have seen brochures for: The Blue Lagoon thermal hot pools.

Of course there will be comparisons for us with New Zealand’s Hanmer Hot Springs thermal pools, which is an hour and a half away from Christchurch in the South Island and which we have been to often as a family but we love hot pools so we are really looking forward to this visit.

The skies are grey and overcast as we make our way to the Blue Lagoon and the wind is almost gale force so it was rather a shock to find out when we got there that the large carpark is a real distance from the front entrance of the pools.

The man in charge of the little office by the car park is friendly enough and tells us that there are free wheelchairs available to get to me the entrance, but there is no way I can be dropped off there by car. Even with Himself pushing the wheelchair at a good clip and the kids racing ahead with the crutches, this has to be by far the coldest stretch of Icelandic outdoors we have experienced the whole trip. We arrive within a minute of the doors opening for the day and are beyond relieved to be inside. Since we have arrived in winter and so early in the day the queues are almost non existent and we are ushered to a separate disabled changing area that is not only big enough for the whole family but includes a big shower and a set of lockers.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We get to take a short-cut from there to an area that leads to the pools, there are two options: the most direct way is via doors and a few steps the other is via an indoor ramp into the water (inside) and through an area that leads outside (whilst still in the water).

It’s a brilliant way to keep warm getting in and out of the pool so it is of course the option that’s both easiest due to my lack of mobility and most luxurious.

We swim through the divide and arrive outside. There we are greeted by the same howling wind which gives us a situation where our bodies under the water are warm but our heads above it are really freezing.

As we get further out into the pool area we discover that the bottom of the pool follows the natural bottom of the springs and that most of it is really shallow.

We figure out that if we stood up the water would only be knee deep in many places and since the bottom of the pool us natural and undulating there are sharp dips and rises which for me and my foot are painful to negotiate.

The other problem is that such shallow water, and such strong winds mean that the freezing gale is cooling the surface centimetres of the water so that it’s actually cold water, and the “heat” underneath us is variable, meaning that we are basically in lukewarm water with a few hot spots that we discover that every other visitor is huddled in. There are a few extras like some overhead waterfalls that are so strong it’s both luxurious and buffeting to stay underneath, saunas (none of us are sauna lovers as it turns out) and other things further over that we are too cold to go and investigate.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I bought a “Go-pro” to use on this trip but neglected to learn how to retrieve the photos (technophobe as usual) so even though we made videos they are still  on the chip (yes, blush, I know I’m really bad).

We end up spending far less time in the pools than we intended and after changing, headed to the Lava restaurant for a lunch. The camera, which I used on the entrance path in, has now seized up again due to the cold so most of my lunch photos are rather ghostly and strange.

The two fuzziest photos are the ones I really wanted to turn out the most… they are of the pool edge outside: the ferocious wind is blowing up gusts of spray off the warm surface which is then freezing solid as it hits the area around the edge of the pool and there is an ever thickening layer of ice in the walking area closest to our window.

Considering that the water in the pools is hot (or in today’s case – warm) it’s quite a feat of one side of Mother Nature over another side.

We brave the icy cold to get back to the car, and while we are pleased we came, we all agree that the depth of the water in New Zealand’s Hanmer Springs, and it’s far more sheltered location make for a much more enjoyable experience even when we have been there in winter and had snow settling on our shoulders, at no point were we cold.

The only thing that the Blue Lagoon does far better is the indoor entrance to the water and the more upmarket lunch. (There was a more café / cafeteria option available but we fancied something more substantial and a longer time to sit down and thaw out).

It’s at this point that we regret not visiting one of the more out of the way hot pool options round Iceland, so my advice on this would simply be: this is one part of the trip where we would recommend NOT following the crowds, even in downtown Reykjavik there are thermal heated public pools, we wish we had our time over and would have tried those instead.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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The bridge goes to a small “island” area in the main pool, the area in front of it is all ice…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa (Iceland)
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa (New Zealand)

November 23, 2015

Shoes, Glorious Shoes! (Well, Klompen At Least)…

Garderen, a small village in the Dutch province of Gelderland, hosts a large sand scupture exhibition by international sand sculptors each year in the Spring and Summer months. One of the two themes in 2015 was “Children’s books” and it ws not only the sand sculptures that followed this theme but also the artists who decorated the large fiberglass “klompen” (clogs) at the entrance of the exhibition. Let’s take a look…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sand Sculpture Garderen / Zandsculpturen Garderen

October 9, 2015

Hey Good Looking! Oooh Err… Might You Be French?

Whilst visiting the small Dutch village of Mechelen in the province of Limburg three years ago, I spied an old building that looked interesting. Regular readers will know that I love old buildings, Several of these were rather French in style and in this photographic post, I’m admiring their beauty…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 8, 2015

An Obsession With Things I’m Not Even Obsessed With…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Three years ago Family Kiwidutch were visiting the Dutch province of Limburg and stopped in the small town of Mechelen.

In the small street by a café I went into earlier, there is a snack bar and outside it, on the pavement there are two large fiberglass models.

One of these was of a creme-freeze ice-cream in a cone and the other was of some French fries. (“friet” in Dutch).

I always giggle when I see things like these because “French” fries actually originated in Belgium, not in France and just over the border in Belgium I have probably seen one of these fiberglass “fries” (they come in different varieties)  in almost every town and village and city we have ever visited.

Keeping the fiber-glass industry going, obviously.

They are around all over the Netherlands too of course, not just here in the Dutch village of Mechelen. There is something about then that I can’t quite put my finger on,  certain photogenic-ness, a certain bravery that they are out on footpaths up an down both countries in all weathers. They appeal and that’s completely logical on one hand because I am obsessed with photographing every day things, but on the other hand I’m not even a great fan of either ice-cream or fries. Or maybe it’s a foodie thing? Then again, once I’ve thought about this a bit it occurs to me that I’m also obsessed with photographs of heavy iron drain covers too so maybe it’s just a severely skewed sense of humor at play.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 7, 2015

Arriving At The Church Because You Just Can’t Say No…

Filed under: CHURCHES,Limburg (Province),PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Belgium has a large city called Mechelen, but there is also a Mechelen in the Netherlands, just over the border from Belgium in the Dutch province of Limburg.

The Dutch Mechelen is a tiny fraction of it’s Belgian city cousin, but they share a feature of stunning architecture.

After I exited the little café mentioned in yesterday’s post, and  had watched a trail of racing cyclists puff their way up the bend, I saw a driver of a van stop and wave for me to cross the road.

It was only at that point that I realised that since I was standing on the curb he must of thought that I was waiting to cross the road, and that it was difficult because I was on crutches.

Yes, it is difficult to cross roads on crutches but I hadn’t actually intended to cross the road at all, I was just taking photographs by the curb. Now I’m in a position where someone is doing me a kindness I don’t actually want and trying to tell him that I don’t actually want to cross the road is going to get awkward. The man is smiling and waves again… so I do what most of us have probably done at some time in their lives, I cross a road I had no intention of crossing and give him a smile and a wave back to say  Thank You for a deed I had never intended for him to do.  Now I’m on the opposite side of the road from our car parked around the corner and that’s how I ended up taking photographs of the local church…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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Small greenery…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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Bigger greenery … chestnuts?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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Yes it’s crooked, standing straight on one leg whilst taking photos: an art-form I haven’t yet mastered.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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October 6, 2015

The Other Mechelen, The Cycling Hub…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family Kiwidutch are back on the road again, sightseeing in the very southern tip of the Dutch province of Limburg.

There is a small village  in this area called “Mechelen“, not to be confused with the large city not too far away in Belgium of the same name, where once again we discover black and white half timbered buildings and charactor galore.

The surroundings are very rural: flat ot slightly undulating fields and then a beautiful little village where we decide to stop and take a look.

It was a sunny summer’s weekend when we visited three years ago and as is not uncommon, the village was full of people at leisure walking, cycling, sitting at the outside tables of pubs and cafés or at work, driving vans, car or tractors as they go about their business.

I stop off at a tiny cafe to see if they by any chance sell local honey or jam because we always promise to take it back for my Mother in Law each new region we visit and so far we have missed buying her something. Himself can’t get a park close to where I want to go so he let  me out, just around the corner and up a small rise and  so I walk slowly down the sloping street towards the café.

A very large group of recreational cyclists clad in Lycra come around the corner at the bottom of the small hill and several of them shout out friendly encouragement as they see me making my way slowly on crutches. The rest of the group behind them quickly join in, even though it’s me who’s heading down-hill and them who are getting up a sweat going up it. Of course it’s impossible to explain to forty or so people who are next to you for only a second or two that I have only just emerged from the car around the corner, so I stop, smile, wave back and offer some encouragement back as they start to struggle to stay in formation as well as make the steepening grade.

A few stragglers bring up at the rear as I try the café, and afterwards as I head back to the car (without honey or jam, they didn’t sell any) I see even more cyclists, families with kids, couples touring and  (mostly men) racing so clearly this is a very popular pass-time in the area. The buildings are beautiful, some obviously much older than others, but all full of character and charm. I zoom in on the quirky details that I find, such as the gnome finials on the top of the signposts or decorative plaques on the walls.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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