Things to do in The Netherlands

things to do in holland Thinking of going to The Netherlands. What a GREAT idea, it’s fabulous there. Here are a few nice things to do in NL that will definitely convince you there’s far more to it than weed and windmills!

1) Camp at Duinrell. A campsite with a theme park, what could be better? Set in woodland just outside the pretty town of Wassenaar, Duinrell is great for the ouders as well as the kinderen. Pitch up in your own tent or camper van or rent a Duingalow. Park tickets are included in the price where you can thrill seek on roller coasters or take it slower on the monorail, which you pedal yourself. Karaoke and a kids disco make for quality Dutch evening entertainment and there’s a fantastic swimming pool on site, perfect for flume and wave machine fans.

2) Ride a bike. An obvious one, perhaps, but do make the most of cycling in the Netherlands. Its flat and small, meaning you can cover a fair bit of the country with relative ease whilst taking in the surroundings. Cycle routes are everywhere and cyclists are given priority even in bigger cities. Going with small kids? Pop them in a cargo bike or on a tandem and off you pop.

3) Look around a cube house in Rotterdam. There’s a cluster of these mad houses in Rotterdam and one of them is a show home. For a couple of euros you can see what it’s like to live in a cube tipped on its side, and it’s pretty trippy. These iconic houses are definitely worth a peek at, and are situated just opposite Markthal, which is also worth a visit when in Rotterdam (or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome – sorry). It’s an enormous food hall, selling everything from delightful fluffy poffertjes and crispy churros to Nieuwe Haring, a Dutch speciality! A little walk further on and down the river will take you towards the famous Erasmus bridge and the Hotel New York, too.

4) Go to the beach. You might not associate The Netherlands with golden sandy beaches but it boasts some of the prettiest coastline in Northern Europe. A hot day will see the likes of Zandvoort and Scheveningen crowded. Cycling there will make a dip in the North Sea all the more refreshing!

5) Drink coffee in the Jordaan. Amsterdam’s most famous, and prettiest neighbourhood is teeming with cafés. Order a coffee, sit outside and nibble the cookie it comes with whilst watching the world go by. It doesn’t get much more gezellig than that.

coffeeshop_permit

(A point to note, there is a difference between a coffeeshop and a koffiehuis or café. A coffeeshop is where you can buy cannabis products, and it will be indicated by the sign above which are clearly visible in the door or window. If that’s not your thing, look for one without it, there are plenty of them. Amsterdam is absolutely not the hotbed of marijuana its reputed to be.)

6) Eat Hollandse Nieuwe Haring the way the Dutch do. It might not sound particularly appetising, but trust me on this; raw herring is delicious. Ask for it with chopped onions, open your mouth, tip back your head, hold the fish firmly by the tail and nosh on. Also available in a soft white roll as a “broodje” (bro-dyeh) if that’s more your thing. If you’re lucky, you might get a dinky Dutch flag poked in it. Schattig!

7) Scramble over the I Amsterdam letters at Museumplein for a photo. A touristy one, sure, but still fun to do. Get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

8) Gram the Dam (and the rest of the Netherlands). Enjoy wandering around? Like Instagram? You’ll get a real feel for Amsterdam whilst meandering around the canal belt and beyond. Share the love and snap pictures of the pretty waterways and wonky buildings that Amsterdam is famous for, or the modern architecture you’ll see in Rotterdam. Or the hoards of bikes you’ll see pretty much everywhere. You won’t need to look hard for interesting things to photograph – there’s beauty around every corner. #gramthedam #igersholland #wonderfulholland are all popular hashtags to try. 

9) Take the kids to NEMO. Amsterdam’s science centre aimed at kids makes for a fun trip. Spread over three floors there are plenty of hands on experiments to keep the children, and their parents, occupied for hours. Sit out on the roof terrace and look out over Amsterdam with a drink if it’s a nice day.

10) Coo over Holland’s most famous bunny. Miffy, or Nijntje (from Konijntje – “little bunny”?), as she’s known in NL, comes from Utrecht. Even if Miffy doesn’t float your boat, Utrecht is another pretty Dutch town, and well worth checking out. Not dissimilar to Bruges in Belgium with its winding streets and flower-lined canals.

This list barely scratches the surface. We played at being Dutch for a week, and spent our time at Duinrell and in Amsterdam. Go over and explore the tulip fields in spring, or head north and visit Groningen. Take a walk around the historical town of Maastricht, or stuff yourself full of cheeses. And then come back and tell me about it!

Sometimes it’s nice to sit in the dark

We live in a world that’s bathed in light. Literally, look at this map of light pollution. Woah, Elizabeth.

Image from NASA http://apod.nasa.gov/ C. Mayhew & R. Simmon

 We use mains electricity for power meaning light is always there, generally at the flick of a switch. Just beneath our fingertips. It’s easy. It’s convenient. Light is good for our well being. I, for one, function so much better when things are bright. 

 
But sometimes it’s nice to sit in the dark. Not in a dark house, or in the gloom of a dank day, but outside beneath the sky on a clear night. Last night, we drove out to the middle of the New Forest, where light pollution is minimal, and looked up. You might think you see stars in the city, but you don’t. You see the really bright constellations; Orion, Ursa Major, etc, but it’s not until you go somewhere really dark, look up and let your eyes adjust that you really see the sky. Those bright constellations you can see even in the middle of a city pop out at you. The sky is dotted with tiny pinpricks of light.
 
There are billions of stars up there. Satellites, too. I don’t really have a clue what I’m looking at but I do know that it’s beautiful. Calming. Really incredible. 
 
We went to watch the geminids meteor shower and it was worth bundling up for. I reckon I saw a good thirty or forty meteors in the time I was parked up and lying against the windscreen of my car. I wanted to stay longer but both the children – even my science obsessed daughter – grew quickly bored and once the snacks ran out, it was time to head home. 
 
Next time I’ll go back sans offspring with a blanket and a flask of something and stay much, much longer. 
 

November’s Playlist

November Playlist

November’s playlist is quite small.

Mainly because I’ve been listening to Tove Lo a lot and only her EP is on Spotify. Instead, I was given her album and have been listening to it to death. 

Seriously, I know all the words. It’s an amazing album. I listen to it on the walk home from dropping the children at school, in the car (turned up loud), whilst I’m cooking, even whilst I’m taking a shower. 

I love Tove Lo. She’s my current girl crush. I’m just putting that out there. She might even get her own post at some point, but we’ll see. 

Anyway, here is what I’ve been listening to in November, when I wasn’t singing along to Tove Lo. 

 

You should listen to:

1) Tamikrest. Tamikrest are a group of musicians from the Sahara desert, and their music is brilliantly off the wall. The best way I can describe it is as an epic mashup of traditional African music, mixed with electric instruments and all sung in Tamasheq. I heard them on Mary Anne Hobbs’ show on BBC6 Music, really early one Saturday morning and thought it was brilliant. 

2) Superfood. I found this lot on one of the new music playlists I subscribe to. It kind of reminds me of the stuff I listened to a few years ago. So for nostalgia alone I am recommending them. Also the video for Moodbomb is trippy and oddly creepy. 

 

3) Maxïmo Park. It’s no secret that Maxïmo Park are probably my favourite band ever. They are the kind of band who feel comfortable to me, like a broken in pair of Vans, or a toasty jumper. I know I can put on Maxïmo Park and all will feel right with the world again. I love the way their music is so layered that every time you listen to them, you’ll hear something new. Anyway, I hadn’t listened to The National Health for yonks. I am not sure I ever did listen to it properly, but a while ago I did, and I came across Wolf Among Men, and instantly loved it.

On a side note, I heard Paul Smith talking on the radio the other week about how he gets inspired for his songs and his poetry, and I fell a bit in love with him. (As if I wasn’t already. Lordy, that man.)

So yeah, Wolf Among Men, by Maxïmo Park. Listen to it. Love it. Then listen to absolutely everything else they have ever recorded. Oh, the emotions you’ll feel. 

 

Hamble-le-Rice

Today was a beach day. We went to Hamble, and I took my camera. I’m going to go back at twilight one day and take photographs of the refinery at Fawley, across the water, all lit up.

hamble white dms

I wore my beautiful new boots. 

hamble waves

hamble stone shell

Elliot enjoyed picking up enormous rocks and bits of concrete and lobbing them into the sea. 

hamble elliot

hamble shell 1

hamble shell 3

hamble stick

Someone put a stick in the sand and I liked it. 

hamble shell 2

A dinky shell. Perfect. 

hamble gun

There is a WW2 anti aircraft emplacement on the beach

hamble to fawley

The sky turned a dark grey and the sun shone through the clouds. Snap, snap. 

Ukulele

Here is something not a lot of people know about little me. 

I like to play the ukulele. And by like, I mean, I bloody love it. And by like, I mean, out of all the stringed instruments out there in all the world, I think I have found the one I like the best. This is a fairly new hobby, and I reckon my friends thought it would be a passing phase, as so many of my hobbies turn out to be. So I can’t really blame them for that.

I am flighty. I pick things up, and if I can’t do it easily I give up pretty quickly. Take, for instance, knitting. That was a pretty short-lived hobby. Hand me a crochet hook and I’ll crochet you up something pretty (in basic crochet stitches, natch, hard ones are too tricky) but hand me a pair of knitting needles, and I’ll maybe poke you with one of them. 

Or, here’s another example: a regular, six stringed guitar. I just couldn’t do it. God knows, I tried. I really tried, for a couple of weeks. I even managed to learn how to play that Metro Station song.  Badly. When I played it to my sister, whose guitar it is, she looked very confused. Maybe even baffled. 

“Megan” I said, “It’s Metro Station! It’s bloody Metro Station! Shake it! Can’t you hear it? Look, like this.” And I played it again. I’m playing fast and loose with the word ‘played’ here. 

In my head I looked like Courtney Love (complete with big hair and smudged eye makeup). My sister looked blank. I called it a day. As it turns out, even Metro Station can’t play Metro Station songs well, so I don’t feel so bad about that. It’s the extra two strings, they blew my mind. 

I did, once, try to play bass guitar. Just once. I went into a shop in Denmark Street in London and pretended I knew what I was doing because basses are cool aren’t they? They are such a “I don’t give a fuck” instrument with everything they have going on, and I was about fifteen. The staff straight up knew I was an impostor, my friend looked at her feet, and I haven’t picked one up since.

See? Flighty. It’s okay, I am aware of my faults.

So, I surprised myself when I picked up the ukulele. I only did it because there’s a ukulele in my novel, which I wrote in on a whim. There’s also a bass guitar (or two) and I wanted something pretty much opposite sounding to that. So I picked one up and had a go and haven’t really put it down since. It’s fun to play. It makes a nice sound. It’s not at all scary, and it really isn’t at all hard. I think I’m all right, in any case. I can play a few songs now without even having to look at tabs. Including Post Break Up Sex by the Vaccines. Oh yeah, and Shake It, by Metro Station, because I wasn’t going to be defeated by Miley Cyrus’ brother, no sir. Today I taught myself how to play a Maximo Park song, and now I feel badass.

Last night I went along to Southampton Ukulele Jam, which obviously means I am well serious about ukuleles, doesn’t it? It was great. Hilarious. A lot of fun, and we played some cool songs. Everyone was friendly, and I didn’t even get picked on for being new. I’ll go back, for sure. Plus there was beer. My friend Liv and I walked home in the rain, puffing away on fags and generally enjoying life. It was a good evening.

ukulele love

And look! They come in pretty colours! 

 

 

October’s Playlist

October Playlist

I’ve rediscovered Spotify after a bit of a hiatus. Don’t really know what made me stop using it and I suppose that’s by the by in the grand scheme of things. At the beginning of the month I make a new playlist and add to it as and when I hear something that I particularly like.

It’s not the be all and end all of what I listen to. But it’s nice to have everything all grouped together, isn’t it?

Anyway, here is October’s.

And my particular favourites on this list are: 

Junk of the Heart – The Kooks. Aside from teaching myself how to play this on the ukulele (not easy!) the lyrics are very sweet. I used to listen to The Kooks quite a lot back in 2006ish, and then kind of fell out of love with them. But this, this I really like. 

Cool Kids – Echosmith. I found this lot on one of the Spotify new music playlists they do, and just instantly loved it. The same goes for Geronimo by Sheppard. Someone on the radio described Geronimo as what it was like when an Australian comes to visit, ie, happy and enthusiastic. 

 

Habits – Tove Lo. There was a remix of this on the radio loads earlier this year (the Hippie Sabotage Remix) and it just kind of sums up how I feel about stuff at the moment.  I’m going to see her live on 21st November, and I absolutely cannot wait. High, all the time. To keep you off my mind. Woo woaah. 

(I’m not high all the time. Just incase you were wondering. That wouldn’t be sensible.)

All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor. Basically, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I am indeed, all about that bass, about that bass. No treble. *wags finger* 

Wicked Games – Parra for Cuva. Basically because Wicked Game is one of my favourite songs ever. And I’m yet to find a cover I don’t like.  

Is there anything you’ve been particularly listening to lately? Let me know, I love hearing new stuff.