Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Netherlands Points of Interest April 10 - 22

Here's a list of the places we plan to visit while in the Netherlands.  Any other suggestions?

  • Hilversum (staying with Dad's cousin)
  • Amsterdam
  • Keukenhof
  • Alkmaar
  • Rotterdam
  • Kinderdijk
  • Utrecht
  • Zwolle (staying in Reuben's aunt and uncle's place)
  • Geithoorn
  • Kampen
  • Hoge Veluwe
  • Het Loo / Apeldoorn
  • Groningen (staying with Mom's cousin)
  • Schiermonnikoog
  • the Hague (back to staying in Hilversum)
  • Delft
  • Deltaworks
  • Den Bosch

Wow! That is a lot of things to see and do.  I don't think we need anymore suggestions.  Thankfully, my Dad's gracious cousin is allowing us the use of her car so we don't have to wait on public transportation too much.  

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Netherlands

Well, Andrew(any other readers out there?), it looks like I won't have to bore you with recipes for too much longer as we've bought our tickets for the Netherlands.  After much hemming, hawing and arm-twisting (of Reuben by me), we're off to explore the land of our ancestors!

Places on my must-see list, which probably varies from Reuben's, are:
Lisse - tulip fields which will, hopefully, be in bloom while we're there
Hilversum - my dad's cousin, Ina's home
Ten Boer - my mom's cousin, John and Seibje's home
Delft - why not?
Terschelling - island, sounds cool
Zeeland - delta project
Zwolle - cool place to stay
The Hague - why not?
Amsterdam - the canals and the Rijksmuseum
De Haar Castle Utrecht - looks cool

etc. etc.

Dates of the trip: Thursday evening April 10 to Tuesday late night April 22.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What's for Dinner? Monday Night

I thought I'd do a little series on what I make for dinner and whether we'd like to have it again in the future since I'm always experimenting.

Last night, I made Honey-Lime Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potato.  I had to make some substitutions because there were some things that I didn't have in the house.

Honey - I used pancake syrup
Corn - I didn't put in as much corn as they called for because I only had a frozen package of mixed veggies.  I separated the corn from the rest of the veggies but the amount was only about half of what I needed.
Sweet potato -  I bought yams.  I'm not sure if there is a difference between yams and sweet potatoes but they sure were sweet.
Monterey Jack cheese - I used cheddar since that's what I had

All in all, it was a pretty easy recipe, although it took quite a lot longer than expected to cook my yams in the oven.  I also halved the recipe and I had about a cup of stuffing leftover.  I really liked the stuffing on it's own when I taste-tested it.  It also tasted good with the melted cheese on it but as I was eating it there was something not quite right about it.  I don't know what it was but I could hardly finish it.  I think it was too sweet with too many heavy ingredients.  Afterwards, Reuben and I both thought we should feel fuller but we ended up having popcorn and hot chocolate just to fill our empty-feeling stomachs.

I probably won't make it again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Last Day

Our last day was a day spent exploring Edinburgh some more.  We were getting pretty tired so we tried to take it easy but we also wanted to pack in as much as possible so that our last day wasn't wasted.  We had breakfast at the hotel, packed up our bags and left them with the concierge.  We had decided to walk up Arthur's Seat which is is this huge craggy cliff on the east side of town with a spectacular view.  I wasn't too keen on it since it was supposed to take 2.5 hours and be very steep but Reuben was convinced that it was doable.  So we tried to catch the bus from the centre of town out to the bottom of the cliff but when we finally found the correct bus stop, we discovered that the bus only started running at 12:30 on Sundays.  It was 9:30am.  So, we decided to walk up to Edinburgh Castle first.  The sun was actually shining for once and we enjoyed our tour of Edinburgh Castle although there were a lot of other people there.  This was slightly frustrating when we ended up in a crush of people trying to race through the section on the Crown Jewels.  We found the military museums especially interesting and well done.

Just as we were about to leave Edinburgh Castle, there was a torrential downpour but we couldn't just stay there indefinitely so we covered up as much as possible and continued along out of Edinburgh Castle and down the Royal Mile.  As the shower ended, we passed a piper in a doorway playing.  How typical, hey?
After all this, we decided not to climb Arthur's Seat but went down to check out Holyrood Palace (we didn't go in because you had to pay admission) and then walked up Royal Mile from that end.  There are some cool nooks and crannies along the way.

After this, we grabbed some lunch at a pub.  I had deep fried haggis balls!!  They were delicious:)  And we shared a burger, which wasn't that great.  We each tried the guest ale on draft. Then we went over to Dean Garden and walked along a small river for awhile.  When the path petered out we ended up in a quiet suburb of Edinburgh and then on our way to a bus stop we happened upon a small, local farmer's market so we had some hot chocolate, a brownie and some Scottish shortbread.  Then we took the bus to Ocean Terminal to try and see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which the Queen uses but you can take tours of it.  We didn't take a tour since it cost money and we didn't get a really good view of it since it is surrounded by a huge mall.  But we did see a French naval ship and a Swedish submarine so that was cool.

It was such a cold and rainy afternoon that we got pretty tired of aimlessly wandering around the city.  We ended up back at our hotel around 5:30pm and grabbed our luggage and hopped on the bus going to Glasgow that conveniently stopped at a bus stop across the street from our hotel.  

The bus was packed but the trip was uneventful.  It took an hour to get there.  We were dropped off at the central bus station and then took a shuttle bus to Glasgow airport.  From there we walked to the Holiday Inn Express. It's a 5 minutes walk from the main terminal so very convenient.  We tried to go to sleep as soon as possible since we needed to be up at 4:30am the next morning. 

The next morning we quickly got our stuff together, grabbed a piece of toast and a coffee from the hotel and headed over to the airport to check in.  There was a bit of confusion because I thought we had to check in with Scandinavian Airlines but the flight was actually being operated by British Midlands.  Fortunately, there were no lineups at the check-in or at security.  So we had plenty of time to wait for our plane at the gate.  The flight over to Copenhagen lasted 2 hours.  We had a 2 hour wait at the Copenhagen airport so we wandered around a bit and when we spied some Danish's for sale we decided that having a Danish in Denmark was definitely called for.  They were scrumptious!!

And then we were on our way home.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scottish Parliament and St. Andrews

This morning we let ourselves sleep in a bit.  Reuben had a shower and we finagled a way so that quite a bit less water got on the floor including jamming a hand towel into the crack between the glass and the top of the tub.  We had some leftovers from dinner as our breakfast and were on our way.

We had originally planned to spend the whole of Saturday on St. Andrews but since the Scottish Parliament building is not open on Sunday and we didn't want to go to St. Andrews on Sunday, we had to do both today.

We had a bit of trouble finding our connecting bus to get to the Parliament from downtown so we ended up walking the whole way there.  The confusion is caused by the major roadwork taking place in the centre of Edinburgh.  They are building a network for a tram system so they are digging up all the roads and the buses have to constantly change their route downtown to go around it.

When we arrived at the Parliament building a tour had just started and since it was free we decided to join the tour.  It was both informative and interesting.  This latest iteration of the Scottish Parliament only came into existence in 1998 and Scotland still has MPs in the British parliament in London.  The building was designed by a Spanish architect and built in 2004.  It's very modern and slick compared to Ottawa's neo-gothic parliament.

We had checked with the concierge and she had told us where to go to catch a bus to St Andrews.  When we bought our ticket they told us we had to catch the bus across the square because of the road work so we found the bus stop without too much trouble but we had forgotten to ask what time the bus departed.  We ended up waiting for 45 minutes so that was a bit of a waste of time.  We also were under the impression that the trip would only take an hour and it actually took 1 hr and 40 minutes.

The trip was uneventful and when we arrived in St. Andrews we calculated that we could only stay for 3.5 hours so that we could catch the last bus back to Edinburgh at 7:00pm.  When it was all said and done it was actually the perfect amount of time to explore St. Andrews.  First stop was a golf store so that we could buy my dad a ball marker from the Old Course.  Then we grabbed a free tourist map and went to explore.  We found the church where John Knox preached during the Reformation.  It was right in the centre of the town.  We didn't get to go inside. Then we happened upon a ruined cathedral that was pretty dramatic with the sea in the background.  We wandered along the shore and in and around the cathedral.  Somehow, we found an entrance into the cathedral and afterwards realized we were supposed to pay to get in.  Oh well, it was closing up anyway so we only spent about 10 minutes walking around.  

Next we walked to a ruined castle but it was closed already so we could just see it from the fence.  Then we wandered through the streets a bit and ended up having dinner at Pizza Express.  We saw Pizza Express franchises everywhere throughout England and Scotland so we thought we should try it out.  It is an upscale pizza place.  We shared a delicious mushroom bruschetta for starters and a prosciutto, tomato and arugula pizza.  It was very good and a nice atmosphere (except for the screaming kid at the next table) to wind down our busy day.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tour of Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Glengoyne

After grabbing a quick continental breakfast at the hotel, we headed out into the pouring rain, again, to catch the bus into town.  The traffic was pretty bad so we ended up having to run to catch our tour bus.  But we made it on time and we were off.

The tour bus was quite small, only 12 other travellers.  The first place we stopped was Stirling Castle.  It is a fantastic mediaeval castle built by James IV, King of Scotland.  It sits on quite a high hill in the middle of Scotland, east/west.  Because of its position between two rivers, and invading armies would have had to take the castle to get to the rest of Scotland so it was quite strategically positioned.  There were lots of exhibits within the castle depicting life at the time.  We only had just over an hour there so we didn't get to explore it too extensively.  The weather continued to be quite cold and drizzly throughout the day but at least it wasn't pouring.

Next we drove along the base of the southern Highlands. We could see the highland mountains souring up beside us.  We drove by some great forests of softwood/pine trees which were imported from Scandinavia to create a huge softwood export industry.

Then we stopped at Loch Lomond where we took a nice hike through the woods beside the lake and got up to a viewing point of the lake and the highlands in the distance.  It was quite dramatic and beautiful!  After the hike we had a chance to eat lunch in Balmaha.  I had creamy skink soup(smoked haddock and potato) and Reuben had a mozzarella and haggis panini and salad.  Both were really good!

Our next stop was the Glengoyne distillery, known as the prettiest distillery in Scotland.  It's right on the edge of the highlands and because the spring where they get the water for their whisky originates in the highlands they can call their whisky 'highland whisky'.  It's also single (not a blend) and malt meaning it's only made with malted barley.  We went on a tour and had 2 tastings.  We, also, bought a bottle of 17 year old to bring back with us.

After that it was just the drive back to Edinburgh.  The guide taught us a lot about Scottish history along the way.  We'd recommend the Heart of Scotland tour company.

We got them to drop us at our hotel and we walked to a local grocery store to buy provisions for a light supper in our hotel room as we were quite exhausted from the day.  We found some hilarious comedy on the BBC to watch.
Its been quite a good stay but the 2 things we've found with the hotel room is that it's pretty cold in the room and when we take a shower the floor in the bathroom gets soaked because they just have this totally inadequate glass half wall as a shower curtain.  It's not connected to the tub but swings on an arm from the wall so water goes under the glass and over the edge of the tub on to the floor.  The poor design is driving Reuben nuts!

Friday, October 12, 2012

And it's out of England and into Scotland

Today was a travelling day.  We got on the train in Southampton just before 10am, made a quick change to another train in York and arrived in Edinburgh around 5:30pm.  Nothing too exciting happened on the way.  The great thing about train travel overseas is that it runs really smoothly and punctually.
When we arrived in Edinburgh, it was dumping down rain and the temperature was definitely cooler than in the south of England.  It took us a bit but we found the correct bus stop and even managed to meet a friendly American (who has lived in Edinburgh for 20 years) who helped us figure out where to get off the bus at our hotel.
This is definitely the nicest place we've stayed at, so far.  We paid about the same price as the other places so I guess things aren't quite so expensive here.  After checking in, we hopped back on the bus to go downtown for dinner.
We found a nice pub on the main strip and had a good dinner.  I had chicken breast stuffed with haggis! The haggis was very flavourful.  It was actually kind of peppery.  There wasn't anything else going on downtown so we just went back to the hotel and had a wee dram for a nightcap.