Modern Dutch city Eindhoven, The Netherlands

EINDHOVEN, THE NETHERLANDS: Eindhoven is a thriving ultra-modern Dutch city with lots of bold and futuristic buildings. The actual city is very spread out and big but the city center is walkable to all the main spots. Unlike many other European cities, Eindhoven doesn’t have an “old town” per say; look of its city center is very up-to-date and stylish.

Walking towards St. Catherine Church in Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Walking towards St. Catherine Church in Eindhoven, The Netherlands was very empty that Sunday

TIME of TRAVELING: We visited Eindhoven when my elder sister and her family came to visit us in Belgium. It was one Sunday in May of 2013. It was a very pleasant day but empty in the city center.

EATING and SHOPPING: We had lunch in an Egyptian place beside St. Catherine Church. It was some good food for good price.

Since we were there on a Sunday, everything was closed! There were lots of stores in the city center but too bad we could only do window shopping.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent only half a day in Eindhoven since everything was closed and crowdless, we decided to go to Antwerp in Belgium before heading back home. It seemed like there wasn’t anything to do except looking at some good-looking buildings and some squares. I think, the nightlife here can be very lively…but that didn’t suit us really. Some of the great buildings of this city are De Admirant (the highest building in Eindhoven), Evoluon – a mushroom/UFO shaped building from 1966, and more sexy architectures in “Around the Admirant” which are basically shopping area.

Evoluon - an UFO shaped futuristic building in Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Evoluon – a UFO shaped futuristic building in Eindhoven, The Netherlands

“Around Admirant” is one of the most stylish squares I’ve seen in whole of Europe with many creative looking buildings. Small streets from this square have many shops and some fast food places. I can’t imagine what it would be like on Saturdays when everything is open and people are gathering in to hangout in this cool place.

Another cool architecture "The Blob" in "Around Admirant" in Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Another cool architecture “The Blob” in “Around Admirant” in Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Sint-Catherinekerk located in Catharinaplein. Exterior of it looks fascinating but couldn’t go it (forgot that most of the churches in the Netherlands are closed on Sundays).

Markt looked the liveliest place while we were roaming around the city center. It is probably one of the best places for lunch with many options.

Restaurants in the Markt in Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Restaurants in the Markt in Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Another Dutch city Maastricht, The Netherlands

MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS: Unlike some of the other Dutch cities we’ve visited recently, i.e., Gouda, Leiden, and Delft, Maastricht is more like a modern city with some old touches. Ofcourse it has old churches, a prominent town hall, and a big market place, but somehow it didn’t feel like I am in The Netherlands. Either way you look at it, this is a great place for a day trip if you are nearby.

Maastricht by the River Maas, The Netherlands

TIME OF TRAVELING: We drove to Maastricht in end of June, 2012 on a Saturday. It’s about little more than an hour drive from Tervuren, Belgium. The weather forecast said it was going to rain, but luckily it didn’t and it actually turned out to be bright and sunny day.

WHAT TO EAT AND BUY IN MAASTRICHT: We really didn’t try any Dutch food this time. We saw KFC in the Markt and we were missing some American good food…so, there we were eating some fried chicken with fries (they don’t sell biscuits here) while enjoying Dutch environment.

Maastricht is a great place for shopping. The small alleys from Vrijthof to the Markt and towards the river Maas have many brand name stores, local boutiques, and sweet treat places which are hard to pass by.

Fashion streets in Maastricht near The Markt, The Netherlands

PLACES WE HAVE VISITED: We reached Maastricht little bit later than we intended to around 1 pm. By the time we had lunch and visited all the churches and other sites, we figured that we didn’t have enough time to explore the museums, which I really wanted to do in this trip.

A white Cadillac waiting for the newly weds outside Basilica of St. Servatius, Maastricht

1) VRIJTHOF SQUARE: This is a huge square featuring 2 of the main churches of Maastricht, St. Jan’s Cathedral and St. Servaas Church. The square has couple museums which we didn’t cover this time. It’s a perfect place for to have drinks or meals or just simply admire the atmosphere. When we went there, this square was a playground for the kids with some bouncy castles, music, and other play areas. The surrounding is beautiful with the churches and long red tower of St. Jan’s in one side and all the cafes and restaurants on the other side.

Cafes and restaurants in Vrijthof, Maastricht, The Netherlands

a) BASILICA of SAINT SERVATIUS: This church was built on the site of the grave of St. Servatius. This Romanesque style church is beautiful both inside and out. It’s a huge church when you go inside with many doors and small chapels. We didn’t go to the courtyard of the church (costs about 4 euros). There was a wedding going on when we went there, so couldn’t get near the altar or walk around the church freely, but it is absolutely gorgeous inside with its blue and white high-ceiling. The altar looked sophisticated with pretty lights and shiny decors.

Inside Basilica of St. Servatius

b) ST. JAN’S CHURCH: This Gothic church can easily be recognized by its unique 70 meter high red tower looking over Vrijthof. The church, built in the 12th/13th century, is rather simply inside with stone pillars, memorial stones on the walls, and a few murals. There are 115 tombstones dating from 1378 to 1771. The new organ, built in 1992, replaced the original one which was built in 1780.

St. Jan’s Church on the left with red tower and Basilica of St. Severatius on the right, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2) STADHUIS & MARKT (TOWN HALL & MARKET PLACE): Another great place to hang out in Maastricht is the Markt, not too far from Vrijthof…just follow the signs. The Stadhuis is standing right in the middle of this big square, surrounded by many shops and cafes. Every Saturday there is a farmer’s market in the market place selling fresh produces, flowers, fish, and bakeries. The only souvenir store we found in Maastricht was here near McDonald’s. You will find some American fast food here like Subway, Burger King, KFC, and McDonald’s along with many local restaurants. On one side of the square, there is a statue of Johannes Petrus Minckelers holding a torch with eternal fire.

Stadhuis (Town Hall) of Maastricht, The Netherlands

3) RIVER MAAS: You don’t see small canals making their ways to the different parts of the city in Maastricht like many other Dutch cities. Here River Maas is the heart of the city. It is only 5 minutes’ walk from the Markt. It is amazing to stand on the pedestrian bridge that continues from the street Maastrichter and enjoy some great moments by the river.

City of Maastricht by River Maas in The Netherlands

City of blue and white – Delft, the Netherlands

DELFT, THE NETHERLANDS: Delft is the type of city where I don’t mind going over and over again just to hang out and enjoy Dutch people and their culture. Yes, it is a typical Dutch city… meaning small canals running thru the city, old windmills here and there, cheese stores (one of my favorite features of Netherlands), and not to mention the crazy bikers. It is not a heavily touristic city, like Amsterdam, but the charm here is no less than Amsterdam. This small town is world famous for its history, famous University (TU Delft), and its tradition with blue and white ceramics. Even if you are not into ceramics, you will love watching master painters working on their projects and how they have kept their traditions alive over the centuries. Delft is also very close to (less than half an hour drive) Rotterdam, Gouda, Leiden, Dan Hague…perfect to combine these places.

Old town of Delft, the Netherlands

TIME OF TRAVELLING: This month my sister and her husband came to visit us from the USA. They’ve visited Amsterdam before. Delft being only hour and half drive from our home in Tervuren, Belgium, Delft was where we wanted to go before their flight back the next day. Although it was almost mid-June, it was a windy and cloudy day, no sun at all.

WHAT TO BUY AND EAT IN DELFT: The most memorable (and expensive) souvenir you can buy from Delft is of course the blue and white Delftware. If you want to be cheap or don’t care about real stuff, you can get these ceramics in replica items in any store in the old town. But if you want real hand-painted Delaware made in Delft, then you gotta empty your pocket bad. But hey, who knows when you will go back there again…so why not get the authentic Delft porcelain for some a lot more extra cash? Other than that, you will find wooden shoes, tulips, Dutch cheese, miniature windmills in almost all the souvenir shops.

Original hand-painted Royal Delftware

If you want to try typical Dutch dishes, have a raw herring fish sandwich with onion, or battered deep fried fish. You will usually find people selling these in the open marketplaces on weekends. We had our lunch in a restaurant little bit outside of the old town. I had a croquette (kroket in Dutch), which is a deep fried Dutch snack prepared with minced beef, potato, and breadcrumbs. It looked like a hot dog when the lady put it on a bun with ketchup and mustard.

PLACES WE VISITED: We spent about half a day in Delft, mostly in the old town. I just wish the weather was more favorable. If we had more time we could have check out some other famous pottery places in town. Another fun thing to do in this town would be taking a boat tour around the canal, which we didn’t do this time.

1) ROYAL DELFT (KONINKLIJKE PORCELEYNE FLES): Royal Delft, established in 1653, is one of the original 32 Delftware manufacturers and is the last remaining Delftware factory from the 17th century. The world famous Royal Delftware is still entirely hand-painted according to centuries-old tradition.

Master painter at work in Royal Delft

Royal Delft is about 20 minutes of walk from Delft Stadhuis or New Church. It is open every day from Monday to Sunday and all public holidays from 9-5pm (closed on Sundays and public holidays from November to March). There is an entrance fee of 12 euros per person to enter the factory that includes an audio tour (available in 8 different languages). The tour starts with 2 short films (1st one is the history of Blue Delft and Royal Delft and the last one is more like an interactive movie on its development and production process). After that you get to see the master painter at work, antique Delft pieces, building ceramics, ceramic tiles, one of a kind courtyard, the factory and finally their showroom. The museum also features a collection of Delftware that was owned the Royal Dutch families. Good part about the showroom is that while it has a comprehensive collection of hand-painted Delft Blue by Royal Delft, it also carries an extensive selection of earthenware and souvenirs from other Dutch companies. There are other stores in the old town which sell Royal Delft products and what I have seen, prices are the same.

Historic garden of Royal Delft

2) TOWN HALL (STADHUIS) & HUGO de GROOT MARKT: Delft Town Hall is located in the heart of old town, surrounded by many old buildings, Blue Delft shops, cafes, and other souvenir stores. Facing the town hall is a big bronze statue of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), a jurist in the Dutch Republic.

Delft Stadhuis (Town Hall) in Groot Markt

3) NEW CHURCH (NIEUWE KERK): New Church was built between 1383-1510. Its present spire dates from 1875 and is 375 ft. in height. Many famous Dutch citizens and royal members were buried in this church including Hugo Grotius. The church is huge inside but rather a simple one with no grand alter or eye-catching ornaments. The stained-glass windows are also beautiful to look at. But the Mausoleum of PRINCE William of Orange, the FOUNDER of Dutch independence, in the back (1st to be buried in this church) is the focal point of this church. The tomb is nicely decorated with marble pillars, coat of arms, 4 female figures on the 4 corners, and then an image of the lying, dead Prince in the middle.

New Church (Nieuw Kirk) of Delft

New Church is also located in Hugo de Groot Markt, facing the Stadhuis. The church is open from Monday to Saturday 9-6pm. It is 3:50 euros to go inside, which covers entry to Old Church too.

Tomb of Prince William of Orange in New Church of Delft, the Netherlands

4) OLD CHURCH (OUDE KERK): This Brabant-Gothic style church is Delft’s oldest church, being built in 1246. This looked very similar to the New Church, especially its floor, organ, seating arrangement, altar, and the stained-glass windows. This also houses tombs of famous Dutchmen including famous Delft painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). All the way in the back is the tomb/monument of Lieutenant-Admiral Piet Heyn, which is there since 1639. The most INTERESTING FEAUTRE of this church is that it’s 75 meter high brick tower, built in 1350, LEANS about 2 meters from the vertical. During the construction, it became apparent that the base soil was not strong enough to support the building, so the church began to lean. Eventually they had to compensate for the tilt by building counter curves on the upper part of the tower.

Inside Old Church (Oude Kirk) of Delft, the Netherlands

Je suis tres excite!

Oui, I AM very excited to finally start my French class. Its a relief, because atleast now I know after 10 lessons I will be able to communicate with that lady in the cash register or ask for direction when I am lost in small villages of France much easily. Living in a country without knowing their language (in our case its plural…languageS, because in Belgium, you have to know both Dutch and French to get around) is not only hard, but its kinda irritating going to the grocery where you don’t know what you are buying 90% of the time. I still can’t find many things that I want when I go to the supermarket; sometimes it happened that I even bought wrong stuff.

Its been about 4 months now since we moved to Belgium. All this time I tried to get by with my 1 year of high school French that I took some 14/15 years ago. Few things that I still remember are Bonjour, Au revoir, Merci, Vou parlez anglais (do you speak English) and Je ne parlez pas francois (I don’t speak French). You really can’t do much with these few phrases/sentences especially when you are living amongst the French/Dutch. After all, we will be here for a while, so its wiser to just get out of the comfort zone and start getting involved with this new culture. And you can’t really enjoy a culture thoghourly unless you can interact with the locals.

I tried taking some free online courses, but it doesn’t help much with the pronounciation and doesn’t teach me any interesting facts about French culture. Whereas, my teacher (its a lady) not only corrects when I am wrong, conversates with me one-on-one, she also gives me lot of insights on this very sophisticated and rich language.

So, my plan is to first get done with this 10 lessons of French, then if I want to continue and move on to the next level, at that time may go for some more advance French classes, where hopefully I can actually read a French newspaper/magazine/understand French lyrics…WOW. Then after I am done with French, will start with Flemish (Dutch) lessons. I get too excited thinking that by the time I leave this country I will be able to speak/understand 2 more languages very well, these will be my true assets for the whole lifetime.

Ok, Au revoir (bye) for now and Bon nuit (goodnight). A bientot (see you soon)

Friday Market in Tervuren, Belgium

I love going to farmers’ market. When we used to live in Buffalo, NY, there was a farmers‘ market every saturday morning near an old church. I remember driving 10 minutes to go there and buying fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, bakery, and lots of other good stuff. I didn’t get that in Portland. There were lots of farmers’ market where we lived but nothing really close-by nor their prices were cheap.

After moving to Tervuren, I finally found a market that is very cozy, diverse, full of friendly people, offers great price, and has variety of items. There is a lively, outdoor market every Friday in Tervuren village center. It’s open every Friday around the year from 9 am -12 pm. I have been there couple times and I am making a habit to go there every Friday and do my weekly grocery from there. I saw Dutch, French, English, German…people from everywhere in this market. Some of the vendors here are permanent while others come once or twice a month.

You can find fresh fish, fresh meat, cooked meat, fruits, vegetables, cheese, egg, fresh oven-baked breads (many different kinds), sweets, chocolates, candies there. On the other side, you can also find household items, clothes, jeans, socks, sleepwears, purses, wallets, and many more items here. And the price is unbelievably reasonable.

There are lots of other stores along the street selling interesting and fun items. Everytime I go to the Friday market, I make sure that I go to my favorite pastry shop, where I can pick up some waffles, pastries, chocolates, and fresh baked goods for the family. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but its hard to resist the mouth watering delights in that bakert. I look forward to go to this patisserie every week.

The thing that I mostly enjoy when I come to this Friday market is that there are lots of elder ladies who come for their groceries too. They bring their large trolley bags, do their weekly shopping/grocery. Then they stop at the nearby cafe/pastry shop with their girl friends for some coffee or treats. I hear them talking in Dutch or French, laughing there lungs outs, enjoying the weather, sipping their coffee/tea. I leave when my work is done there, may be go to couple shops on my way to the car. But these ladies may sit there for hours. Then when they are done chatting, they will just pay the bill and go to another restaurant for lunch. So beautiful … wish when I age I can have a similar environment to go to relax and sip my cup of tea with a piece of dark chocolate. You don’t need a perfect place to have good time, just need to enjoy little things in life that can give you some perfect moments.

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