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November 2004 Archives

November 2, 2004

Elections

Damn if the cable didn't go on the blink. Tonight is the night and I'm not certain I will have a TV.

The news has been pretty constant on the English speaking stations (CNN, BBC, Euronews) about how close the race is. The main items they mention is the record turnout, whether any of the ballots will be marginalized, heavy campaigning to the last moment and all the superstions for predicting a winner (Redskins winning or losing, etc).

The Osama tape was pretty interesting. Did anyone read the transcript? He mentions several items that were also brought up in Farenheit 911; Bush continuing to listen to the school children after being notified of the first crash and how they have not had difficulties dealing with the Bush administration since it is similar to other governments ruled by military or kings and sons. The news mentioned it once when the tape was first released and nothing since.

Coverage will start to night at 10pm here in Europe. I may need to stay up late to check out the results.

Dutch Groceries

I thought I would post a few pictures of a couple of recent purchases at the local grocery store.

Salad mix

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Kip filet (Chicken)
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And my favorite - Free range (vrije polder) egg

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November 3, 2004

Wine Blogging Wednesday #3

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I was worried that I would not be able to participate in this month's WBW. I am currently in Leiden Netherlands for work. I am visiting our European office. This is my fourth trip to the Netherlands for work. I have been provided an apartment in a small city, Voorschoten, just outside of Leiden.

I checked out the wine (wijn in Dutch) in the local supermarket. I didn't find any from Australia. On Saturday, I spent some time in Leiden and I found a wine store near the Saturday Market. I visited the store on Tuesday to find an Australian Shiraz. They had a limited selection. Many of the Australian wines that were stocked in the store were Shiraz/Cabernet blends or Merlot. I also didn't recognize that many labels. So I took guess and purchased a bottle of Capel Vale Western Australia Shiraz 2000.

I did a little bit of research on the web. They seem to have a limited presence in the US and are actually sold under a different brand, Sheldrake Winery, to avoid a conflict of trademark name. The cost was 14.95 Euros (~19US).

The label says

" Shiraz grapes from our vineyards in South West Australia show pronounced cool climate 'black pepper' characters softened with a generous spicy nutmeg mid palate. This wine has been aged for 12-18 months in oak barriques and although ideal to drink now, will benefit from cellaring for up to 10 years."

I found this to be a very tasty wine. I love Rhone wines and I normally do not like Australia Shiraz. I find Australian Shiraz have an over powering berry flavor and fruitiness. I prefer a more spicy wine. This Shiraz is more close to the style I like. I particularly like pepper and slight vanilla tones. It has started to mellow and will be nice in a couple of years. I would definitely buy this wine again.

My apartment has full cooking facilities. I was pretty tired after work so I ended up with having the wine with a boned chicken breast, porcini ravioli with butter and a endive/lollo rosso green salad accented with some goat cheese. It would have been better with the great lamb that I have found here in the Netherlands. Lamb in the Netherlands is more flavorful and tender compared with what I have found in the US.

Bier

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I love the beer in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is so different from what you get in the US. Of course, there are the large commercial breweries such as Heiniken, Stella Artois. But there are so many small breweries and trappistes breweries. It is strong! The commercial beer is usually 5% and the smaller breweries can be anything from 6% to 12%.

biobok.jpgI like Hoegaarden which is a wit (white) beer made from wheat and flavored with spices. I found a 6 pack of the Grand Cru in the supermarket. But I really enjoyed picking up a couple of special smaller breweries at the beer store in Leiden. I got two different brews from Brouwerij 't IJ in Amsterdam. One was their Wit and the other was a seasonal organic bok. Both were excellent. Very well balanced in taste.

Another brewery that I like is Trappistes Rochefort. This time I tried the 6. In the past I have had the 8 and 9. I like it but it is sweeter and heavier in caramel taste.

My favorite this trip is Guldenberg. It is an abbey beer (Biere d'Abbaye in French or Abdijbier in Dutch). It is a strong beer, clear in color compared with the dark brown of the bok or trappistes. It tastes light but is actually 8.5% in alcohol. It is similar to Duval but I did not notice the alcohol and it went down quickly. I wish I could find it in the small size bottles in Seattle. I've only found it in the large bottles.

My time here in the Netherlands is almost over. Tomorrow E arrives. I'll wrap it up at work Friday and the we will have Saturday to explore Amsterdam. Sunday afternoon... Roma!

November 4, 2004

Post Election Blues

Tuesday night I went to sleep not really knowing what would happen. I woke up around 6am and turned on to CNN to see a predominately red map of the US. Bush had a 2% lead in the popular vote but there were still several significant states to come in. But shortly after, Florida was declared a winner for Bush. I knew in my gut that it was all over. Mathematically, yes it was possible and it was hinging on Ohio but I did not really feel it would happen.

Everyone was talking about it at work. We gathered in the hallway (the equivalent of gathering around the water cooler) to talk. I jokingly said that I was going to apply for the opening in the Dutch office and stay in Holland. My co-workers were so amazed that Bush had such support. They did not understand it. Didn't the voters see it? Why did they vote for Bush? As the headline in a British tabloid said today "How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?" What could I answer? I did not fully understand it either.

I talked about how little the average American knows about what happens outside of the US. Here in Holland, I can watch news from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, German, UK and US. I can get many different view points. In the US, you get very little beyond the US news. The international news is buried in the newspaper on page 8. I also talked about how important social issues were for many conservative Americans. But overwhelming, I think the issue was how secure Americans felt. We felt so much at risk after 9/11. Going to war, made many Americans feel like something was going done and we were helping the people of Iraq.

My coworkers mentioned how little support Bush had outside the US. They knew of the internet poll taken by people worldwide which showed 77% support for Kerry. They did not think Kerry was great, but they did not want Bush reelected.

Now they wonder what he will do. Will he invade another country? They think not. The troops are spread too thin. The US may bomb another country but not invade. What will happen in Iraq? They don't see any solution beyond asking for help from UN and they can not see Bush doing that?

I was also amazed that they knew so much about the election process and how the US is governed. I know very little about the Dutch parliament and government. They had several questions about who would remain in the cabinet. Do you think Rumsfeld retain his cabinet position? Everyone agreed that Powell will leave.

But there is also turmoil here in Holland. During their last election, a conservative gay leader Pim Fortuyn was assassinated just before the election. It was shocking to the Dutch. And just this week, a controversial Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh was killed in Amsterdam. He had received death threats since the release of his movie about violence towards Muslim women. There is tension here and a lot of anti-immigration thoughts especially towards Muslim immigrants. I see many more Muslims on the street than I did in 1996. Even then, I knew that some Dutch did not like the increase in immigrants and the changes in the social services such as schools to accommodate the languages and culture. I wonder what the future will bring for the Netherlands and Europe as they struggle with this issue.

November 5, 2004

Wrapping up

E arrived yesterday. She did so well and made it through the day at the office. We went back to the apartment early and had a light dinner before she crashed from jet lag.

Today is pretty slow. The weather is very cloudy. We met up with another former co-worker who is living here in Holland and had a nice lunch at an eetcafe along the canal.

Tonight, we are going to dinner at a co-worker. He is Italian so we hope to get some tips on our trip. Tomorrow we will spend the day exploring Amsterdam and then it is off. It went so quickly

November 9, 2004

Roma

colosseum.jpgHow strange it was. It took almost two days of touring the ancient city to finally feel like we have arrived! It may be that there is not a singular site that defines Roma for us. Finally today after eating at a small restaurant where everyone spoke Italian did we finally feel like we are in Rome.

Nov 7

We had a lazy day in our apartment in Voorshoten. We did a bit of cleaning before the owner Nina arrive to inspect the apartment and finalize the bill. I had an 18 € phone bill. All the surfing. :) She gave us a ride to Schiphol. It was an easy check in and we had a chance to pickup some chocolate (Leonidas of course) before leaving. The flight was fine although it was filled with Dutch high school kids on a trip to Rome. They were so loud!

We were picked up by Maximillian for a quick trip into Rome. We were introduced to the type of driving done in Rome; often he flashed his headlights to get the slower cars to pull over and often straddled the white line.

About 35 minutes later, we arrived at our apartment. Natalia met us at the door and showed us up to the first floor. Our new home for a week; Colosseum View 1 from Dolce Roma. It was much larger than we expected and very tastefully decorated. She even had painted the walls. We also met her husband Walter. She took time to tell us what to see and recommend several places for dinner. What is best about the apartment is how well stocked it is with items to make the stay more comfortable. Amble plush large towels, everything you need for breakfast including coffee and milk and other little touches like hairdryer.

It was time for dinner so we make a short walk down the street to Trattoria Luzzo. They had a section setup outside under cover and heated and we decided to spend our first dinner outside. It was enjoyable and not too expensive. We split an antipasto mixta. I had spaghetti all'amatriciana and E had roasted veal. We split a insalada mixta. Of course, we also had a bottle of Chianti red wine. At the table next to us were another American couple. They had tiramisu and I couldn't resist and order it also. Total bill was 29 €

Nov 8

colosseum2.jpgA good night sleep and up for our first chore. After coffee, we made a trip to the local supermarket Dia a Dia for eggs, snacks, and water. Back to the apartment and the hunt for a cash machine. The first one did not work but I finally found one. It was noon and time for lunch. We made a quick trip around the outside of the Colosseum before going to Cafe Cafe, a wine bar. We each had a salad and a glass of wine. My salad was a mixture of Breaola, arugula, buffalo mozzerella and pear. E's salad was Prosciutto, arugula, cheese, mushrooms and walnuts.

forum.jpgWe headed out to tour the Colosseum. Such an amazing building. I really wanted the sound track to Gladiator to walk along the aisles. It wasn't too crowded. Next we headed out to the Palatine. It was sunny but the wind was very cold and strong. Neither of us had bundled up expecting it to be warmer. But it was almost as cold as Amsterdam. We later saw on the TV that the temperatures were 6 degrees below normal and on Sunday the temperature had dropped 7 degrees in one day. Just our luck. From here we headed to the forum. We struggled to read sections from the guide book with our numb hands in the wind. We left to see a view point and the forum closed so we did not get to finish our visit. Oh well another day.

We went back to the apartment after making a quick stop at the grocery store for a bottle of wine and a couple more cheeses. We warmed up with some Scilian wine and cheese. About 8:30 we mosied out for dinner. We choose a restaurant closer by, Hosteria Isidoro. This was not as good as the night before and was geared at tourists. It was a disapointment. We split an antipasti. E had chicken gorgonzola and I had lamb spedini. We both had mixed salads with walnuts. And a liter of the house wine. It was 37€. They tried to charge us for a tiramisu that we didn't eat. Fortunately, we noticed it.

Nov 9

Today was church day. We walked to Santa Maria Maggiori. It was an interesting church with some facinating mosaics. Several inlaid with gold. We completely forgot to bring binoculars so we couldn't see the details. We did get to see a relic - A holy crib.

From here we walked up by Termini to find the wine store Il Trimani. It had a wonderful selection of wines. The prices did not look extremely good. Several wines that I recognized were priced similar to Seattle once I took the 30% euro conversion into factor. But there were several nice Chianti. E picked up a price list of the Barolos.

It was time for lunch so we walked back down Via Cavour and turned on a side street to locate La Carbonara. It was mentioned on a list given to us by Natalia. It has been in existence since 1906 and made fresh pasta. We split a carciofi alla giudia (deep fried artichoke) which was really yummy. A great mixture of nutty flavor with salt. I had to have pasta and ordered Spaghetti alla carbonara. What else could I order! E had a plate of straccetti (thin sliced beef) sauted with onions, herbs and carciofi (artichokes).

stclements.jpgWe wanted to go back and finish the forum so we headed to Piazza Venezia. We got distracted by Trajans forum and column. I think it is finally starting to hit me that I am looking at 2000 year old works. The column is in wonderful condition for the age and has some stellar carvings. We also meandered through the forum and Augustus's Foro. By now, it had started to sprinkle. I didn't have a raincoat or umbrella this time so we started back around the Colosseum and back to the apartment. By time we got to our street, we remembered that St Clement church was along the way and we dropped in to warm up and dry off.


There are the remains of three places of worship on the site. One pagan from the 1st century, built on top of this in the 4th century is a church to St. Clements with some interesting frescos. Above that built around the 12th century (?) is the most recent. I loved the frescos and painting in the alter. This was the most interesting church this far. It was very cool in the lowest level where the pagan worship was done and the 1st century roman condos. We kept thinking that 2000 years ago people walked the same paths and lived there.

Now we feel like we are in Rome!

November 11, 2004

Soggy Rome

Our luck the weather changed when we arrived. The first day was sunny but windy and very cold. The rain moved in and we have had rain off and on most of the days. It definitely makes it challenging walking on the narrow sidewalks and dodging each others umbrellas. The streets are not too slippery and fortunately, the motos take care not to splash.

November 10

We made our first trip on the Metro. We took the line from San Giovanni which is near our apartment to the Spanish Steps. We were headed to the Villa Borghese. We had reserved a ticket for 11 and gave ourselves an hour to get there. The Metro was still crowded even after 10am. Accelerate and stop - accelerate and stop. It took a bit to get my footing. After leaving the metro station, we wandered a bit in the park trying to find our way. I am always disoriented getting off the Metro.

With the help of some other lost Americans, we found our way and made our viewing time. I didn't realize I would have to check my large purse/bag and forgot my glasses. E had to read all guide book aloud to me. I felt so helpless!

shoes.jpgAfter the museum, we made our way to the Spanish Steps. We found a cafeteria recommended in Slow Eats, Pasticceria D'Angelo and it wasn't too bad. I had pasta with ham, peas and cream and E had a composed salad. It fueled us for some serious window shopping. Gorgeous clothes along Via Condotti. Lots of sharp pointed toed boots. I just dont see how anyone can walk in those. I felt so dowdy with my stubby toe shoes and slightly high water slacks. The other style is some seriously flared pants. I do like those. Nice ones in the Max Mara.

trevi.jpgWe cruised back up the apartment. Along the way we stopped at the Trevi Fountain to throw a coin in the fountain. Now we will return to Rome. E also wanted to look for the Hotel Trevi. She visited Rome when she was 7 and she remembers her mother talking about how she would wake when the fountain turned off. We looked up and down the streets but could not find it. We had given up. I saw a sign to the Pasta Museum and headed to check it out. Around a corner suddenly we saw... Hotel Trevi! We found it.

Another long walk back to the apartment. We were tired. But got inspired after deciding to eat at Da Giggetto in the Jewish Quarter. We love the fried artichokes and we each had one as a starter. We split a fettucini with funghi. E had the tongue and I had the Saltimbocca. We split a chestnut pastry. After a nice Chianti, we were totally satisfied even with the long walk. Total cost 70 €.

November 11

maria.jpgToday, we took in the Pantheon and two churches near by. Santa Maria sopre Minerva and San Luigi dei Francesi with a gorgeous Carvaggio painting. It was raining so Piazza Navona was deserted. We had a quick lunch in Campo di Fiori at Hostaria Romanesea before discovering Roscioli on Via dei Giubbonari just off the Campo. We got a bottle of Querciabella Chianti, pesto, San Martino pasta and the most awesome smoked buffalo mozzerella. We also went to Il Fiorentino butcher shop which was also recommended by Arthur Schwartz. We got some veal. We didn't get the T-Bone but another cut that looked like a spencer steak (rib).

We headed off and took time to tour the Cat Santuary in Torre Argentina. It was inspiring to hear the volunteers talked about the efforts they made to save the cats.

Time for dinner. Our veal and pesto is calling.

November 12, 2004

Vatican

Perfect Satisfaction. That was dinner last night. We decided to cook in the apartment and picked up veal from Il Fiorentino. It was so tender and tasty. And the smoked mozzerella. Both E and I woke up this morning wanting more. But tonight we will dine at Monti. Natalie made reservations for us.

The Vatican and St. Peters was on our agenda today. The museum opened at 8:45 and would close around 1:00pm so we tried to get an early start. Off to the Metro. We both took a double-take when the train arrived. It was crammed full. Oh my - how would we fit in. We squeezed in. It was so packed. I held my camera and purse while we jerked back and forth between the stops.

We got off at the Vatican Museum stop and followed the signs. We arrived just before 8:45. The line extended down around the corned. We got to the corner and the line kept going... and going... finally about 3-4 blocks we got to the end of the line. It moved and finally by 10:00am we entered the museum.

The collection is amazing. We started with the Egyptian collection. It was on par with the King Tut exhibit. Next was the statuary. It got more crowded as we headed to the map room. It was one of my favorite rooms. I loved the perspective and the ceiling. Next was the Raphael Rooms. Stunning. We decided to escape the crowds for a bit and went through the Borgia Rooms. Finally, the Sistine Chapel. Crowded by so inspiring. Slowly as you absorb the painting, the crowds fall away and you are alone with the paintings.

By this time it was after 1pm and we needed food. We decided to grab a quick lunch at one of the restaurants between the museum and St. Peters. Hostaria Dei Bastioni was in the Cheap Eats so we gave it a try. It was actually just what we needed. I had a pasta and salad. They were very friendly owners with a mixed international crowd. The table next to us was a group from France.

On to St. Peters. Again, another line. This time to go through the metal detectors. We decided to climb to the dome. We got tickets for the stairs instead of the elevator and headed up. We were in condition and it went quickly. We took a quick view out over the floor of St. Peters before heading up the final narrow corkscrew stairs. But what vistas. And crowds.

A quick trip down and into the St. Peters. Michaelangelos Pieta was stunning. E and I were speechless and moved.

We decided to walk back to the apartment. It took about hour to go from the Vatican to beyond the Colosseum. We had some time to rest before our 8:30 dinner reservation.

We had high expectations of Monti. Several of the past guest had written highly of the restaurant. It also has some rave reviews on Fodors. It was good but we were a bit disappointed. The staff was excellent. They gave us a menu in English. It had just a bit of description of the dishes. We started by sharing an appetizer dish of deep fried breaded olives with lightly breaded and deep fried zuchini. Next we split the pasta of the day which was a fettucini with a vegetable cream sauce of zucchini, zuchini flowers and pureed carrot. Very nice. For a main entry, E had the lamb cutlets. This was the major disappoint of the night. We expected to get lamb chops but instead she got a rib lamb chop that had been breaded and deep fried. I had the rabbit stuffed with sausage and roasted potatoes. Our wine was a bottle of Montiano by Falesco. It was 70€. Although disappointed with E's main entry, we would recommend Monti's.

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