Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dutch Blog

We have started a blog so we can both write about our year in Dutchland. It's invite-only which means you just need to put your email address in when you click to read it, so if I haven't dinged you please email me and I will add your addy (or if I don't know you please send me your blog). Thanks!

Friday, December 07, 2007

We're Here!

The flight was sooo long and exhausting but we're here! It's 5am now, D is fast asleep but I'm wide awake so thought I'd put it all down before I forget.

Sydney-Bangkok-Zurich-Amsterdam. It was sad to say goodbye at the airport. I miss everyone terribly. It only starts to hit you on the plane what you're actually doing. All the daydreaming and planning in the world doesn't measure up.

After a delay of a couple hours in Zurich, we arrived before lunch on Friday, smelly, red eyes, tired, sick. I've lost my voice. We'd look over at each other throughout the loooong hours of flying and say, can you believe this? We'd be watching the worst movies ever made, like The Invasion and No Reservations, having just eaten some really rubbish food, teenagers running up and down the aisles, and then catch ourselves and ask, can you believe, we've done it! We wanted to, and we did.

We arrived, taxi to our new home in Haarlem. It's even nicer than the photos and description. It's a really beautiful ground-floor apartment, whites and chocolate browns, very big with gorgeous furniture. Actually, we walk in, look around, and start jumping for joy. We can't believe it ours for the next two months. I didn't know a thing about scamming wireless internet but I can get it fast and free here! And there is a wonderful huge kitchen (Kath, five burners, two ovens). I am going to be in cooking heaven!

First showers are the best, even if they are quick so we can get out and take a look. It's cold, but not worse than I expected. 8C. We wrap up and take a walk. Our place is so close to everything, a few minutes' walk to the main drag but on the quiet side. And about 20 metres from a canal :-) I'd read a bit about Haarlem, and many people had told me that it was nice, but we were gobsmacked. Sooo nice! Trying not to get run over by bikes, we walked up to the Grote Markt area which is the centre of things. Lovely interesting shops, and soon it was restaurant restaurant restaurant. I've never seen so many shoe shops, so Haarlem really must be the shopping heart of Holland! Already saw a gorgeous pair of brown boots, and on sale for 80E.

We spotted some markets stalls, and then my heart jumped. There was a mushroom stall! Remember how I'd been banging on about mushrooms? Well this was even better than I could have dreamed (dreamt? I'm tired). Baskets and baskets of different mushrooms, probably a dozen different varieties. And beautiful fruit and vegies. Gorgeous organic breads. And fish. Oysters for 9E, but I didn't have time to have a good look.

Having no idea what time it was and what time we felt it was, we shared a huge cornet of frites with mayonnaise, like everybody else in the city. Then we sat inside at a pretty cafe called Lunch and had a bowl of spicy tomato soup to warm up. I've never lost my voice before, I don't like it! There is so much to talk about! The fatigue hit, so we bought some tea and went home to sleep. We could have slept all night, but had to get up to meet the owner of the apartment. She's a lovely woman our age and we might meet up today as she offered to show us around. Soon enough we were hit with jetlag again so went to sleep, but now I can't, and it'll probably take a few days to adjust.

We have to register with the foreign police so we'll attempt to do that today. It doesn't feel like my birthday at all, all the attention has been on getting sorted and getting here. But apparently it is today, so we might have a nice meal and a drink somewhere. A great way to start a new year!

I am so happy we've done this.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leaving On A Jet Plane (Thai, Then Swiss)

I just want to say...I am feeling so blessed right now. To have so much love, support, friendship from everyone around, and some who haven't been around in a while, is overwhelming. Thank you thank you thank you. You know who you are, I love you.

Almost packed, check.
Will have to sit on luggage to make it zip up, check.
Have come down with a cold, check.
Lasered, waxed, tinted, pap smear, check.
Spent the last day running around like manic, check.
Deciding decided what shoes to take, check.
Getting emotional when saying goodbye, check.
Heart beating with excitement, check.

Look after yourselves x


A took me to dinner at Quay last night. It doesn't get much better than this. It was one of those evenings I'll always remember - such impressive food (because to be honest, eating out so often and being fortunate to eat at many of the 'better' restaurants, it can sometimes feel a bit same-same), perfect friendly service and fabulous relaxed company. Oh, and we had the best table and views in the house, that was really special.

I want to gush about the food. The four course menu is perfection. I could eat bowls of the amuse-bouche, a portion of creme fraiche topped with tiny cubes of jamon jelly and a disc of kingfish, every day. My starter of mud crab congee, hand shelled mud crab, Chinese inspired split rice porridge (I'd been craving congee for months) was light and wholesome, as congee is; the crab so sweet. We both had to have the same next course: rare breed pig belly, gentle braise of green lipped abalone, handmade silken tofu, Japanese mushrooms, chive flowers. Peter Gilmore's signature way of combining pork belly with seafood is so well thought out. Cubes of meaty, then fatty, then crispy pork belly, sitting alongside the silkiest tofu imaginable. Mandolin-thin slivers of meaty abalone curl amongst it and dotted with the tiniest mushrooms and flowers. Truly great. I'd chosen the next course very quickly. Poached White River veal fillet, veal sweetbreads, bone marrow, walnuts, chanterelle mushroom cream. Sauteed sweetbreads are golden and creamy inside. Quivering white circles of bone marrow melt with crunchy sea salt. Crisp walnuts and a delicate cream. All these delights - my favourite things - sit on top of rare veal. The dish takes heed of richness and left me feeling just right - too often I've felt sick from an enjoyable but overly-rich meal. How could I not choose the cheese plate, especially with A choosing another wonderful dessert to share. For me, Edel de Cleron and Marcel Petit aged Comte, toasted hazelnut brioche. There are few French cheeses I haven't tried but both of these were new and so exciting, instant falling in love. The Edel de Cleron was grassy and earthy, spreading all over the toasted breads. Equally smitten with the Marcel Petit comte, I'll be seeking both out again. Between the two cheeses, the prettiest divide of hazelnuts and micro flowers. A's white nectarines set above vanilla pannacotta was so simple and a joy. It had to be left simple to highlight the blushing sweetness of new season nectarines with the fragrant vanilla and soft pannacotta the perfect compliments.

Alongside was a gorgeous bottle of Philip Shaw No. 19 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, it couldn't have been a better choice. We both fell gaga for the dessert wine, Lustau San Emilio Pedro Ximenez.

The service was wonderful, friendly, welcoming, and uncrowded. We could eat and chat and sit back and laugh and it was easy. Our lovely waitress brought out the petit fours, with a chocolate message of 'bon voyage' on the plate, and even sang a little song.

We sat down, with a beer and a sparkling wine, and we had presents. I gave A a frisbee. It's a cool frisbee! He blew me away with a beautiful card and a House Of Cashmere scarf in the prettiest pale blue. So soft and warm. Cashmere, wow. It was such a thoughtful, beautiful present. We get along so well, and we both have our own lives to live, especially now. I only want him to be happy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Thank You

Thank you dad and co. for a lovely lunch on Saturday x

And thank you Kath and Jay and mum and Will and Marianna and cousins for a truly wonderful farewell lunch on Sunday. Thank you for beautiful food, for sitting on the gorgeous deck for a few relaxed hours and for a beautiful present (a Pandora charm bracelet of three of my favourite things, a shell for the beach, a shoe! and a suitcase for travelling). I'm really touched. Shame we didn't get a group photo, although Kath you know how chuffed I am to have this one...

Cherry dress girls

2 Days In Paris

In my dreams, it would be wonderful.

In reality, it was.

I loved it so much, so funny, and so spot on, and then, the cherry on the cake, those genius raw insights.

Thank you Julie Delpy. Thank you again and again and again.