Sunday, May 31, 2009

Castle Hoensbroek

If you are mad about castles like I am and are ready to drive up to two hours leaving Amsterdam direction southeast Holland, I then highly recommend you visting castle Hoensbroek. It is in excellent condition after works of renovation (still in process), the entrance fees are reasonable and during special dates you can enjoy shows and an open air theater with your kids. Already by the main gate we were greeted with medieval songs played by these enthousiastic troubadours that would tell stories of princesses and dragons !

There is a free parking nearby, but you can also park near the lake around the castle like we did
(we had bags with chocolates from Lindt - see my previous post - and were desperate for some shadowy place). The entrance fee is 7,50 euros per adult and 4,50 euros for chidlren from 4 -12 years old. We also bought a brochure for 2,50 euros with the history of the castle.

By the main gate there is this pretty restaurant ("Tot Slot") with and amazing garden and lake views. There is also a self service restaurant near the inner patio of the castle where you can go for some beers, ice tea, sandwiches and snacks.

Going further than the big inner patio there were lots of tents in medieval style with actors and musicians from different nationalitites (French, Dutch and German) selling their products or making demonstrations of instruments, potions and perfumes, gadgets and clothes for kids and grown ups. I had never seen or heard this instrument before played by the woman above. It was magical and soothing, very exquisite !

There were many medieval tents (see above) selling stuff for kids. Because my son is mad about knights and has already his collection of swords we bought a hard paper helmet for him with a feather on top. He is ready to fight dragons and rescue princesses now !!

Kids could also learn from the actors how to properly hold a shield and weapons or use a bow and arrow.

Ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, nobles & paysants, old & young, dogs & cats, horses & pigs: the show (oops I mean tournaments) must start ! And this is Theobaldus and his horse Marie announcing what we are about to witness: the bravest knights have came from Limburg, Brabant, Luxembourg, Champagne and different corners of the world to compete and practice their skills during these springs days.

Theobaldus had hilarious remarks and was never tired. Our medieval host explained in Dutch what we were going to see and also made fun of English/American tourists: "Are there people who came from faraway Anglia here today ? Any boring English people ? Where are you ?"

Grown-ups and children were disputing avidly the best places near the fence. Most kids were sitting on the ground righ behind the fence and most adults were filming and photographing frantcly. We were there on the 23rd May and it was packed (5000 visitors, a record). It was difficult sometimes to make decent photos. I absolutely adored the shows and and camping around it.

Below you can have some ideas of what to expect. It was a very hot day and the actors were using heavy, complete costumes. They took very serious the whole play ! Theobaldus and another presentator, on the contrary, were all the time making funny and cynical remarks in Dutch, French and German.

And below you can see what happend to a knight who offend a lady and was punished with death:

Well, but life is not only made of competitions and fights. There is time also to be gentle and celebrate...

and dance...

There are also exhibitions and shows with owls and hawks or workshops about how to kill a dragon (and transform his green blood into magical potions, of course). The visit to the castle interiors had a slow begin, but it was worth all the queueing. We haven't made many pictures of the interiors because our mini-princess was sleeping on my shoulders, my allergy was back again and it was so packed with tourists. I do recommend visiting the kitchen and attic. Castle Hoensbroek has a long history starting in 1375 and was builded in several phases along the centuries. If you wish to know more about its history and important facts and also other sorts of shows along the year do not forget to visit their site: . I had a great time in Castle Hoensbroek and when hosting members of my family or friends visiting Holland I shall certainly come here again !

Friday, May 29, 2009

Aachen [Aken, Aix-la-Chapelle]

Last weekend hubby and I planned to take the kids to visit an amazing castle (which I will be talking about during my next post). It is located in the NL, between Maastricht and the German city of Aachen. Because we had already visited Maastricht four times. We considered discovering Aachen this time. Driving from A'dam it took us exactly two hours to make it.

This pal was just near the City Hall. I couldn't photograph the building because a wedding was happening at the moments and I did not want to disturb the guests and photographers.

Aachen is much bigger than I thought it would be: 260.000 citizens being 40.000 students. Aken, Aix-la-Chapelle, Aquis Grana, Oche... the city has been populated since the Neolithic times and was well known by the ancient Romans who channeled the hot springs at Aachen into baths.

The bakery houses in Germany are completely different from Dutch and French ones. There are frequently heart shaped chocolates and it is super packed with products ! They are also much bigger than Dutch bakeries and more glamourous (but everything is relative, I know, I know...)

The Cathedral of Aachen is historically considered to be the principal ecclesiastical treasury north of the Alps. It had lots of an oriental palace, with golden mosaics on the celinig and striped pillars in black and white marble which reminded me of Granada in Spain.

The Cathedral was extremely packed and was dark inside, almost impossible to make pics.

And our Brazilian Giselle Bundchen is always omnipresent in Germany. I frequently bump against Heidi Klum but frau Bundchen is always pictured in huge posters and outdoors. She is really an ├╝ber model, top, top, top ! She can sell summer flip flops to Germans or fridges to eskimos...

After visiting downtown Aachen we went back to the hotel crossing a huge park. The following day we decided after breakfast to visit the huge shop of chocolates Lindt. Amazing discounts, especially heart shaped tins and boxes that were not sold during Mother's Day.

Off to castle Hoensbroek !

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Trash Container # 9

For cats and dogs lovers...
And I never get tired of being surprised.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stamppot [Dutch Mash Pot]

A Dutch colleague of mine and blog reader Froukje Wijnsma sent photos and text to be pusblished as a post. It is about one of her favourite Dutch meals: stamppot, which literally means "Mash Pot". It consists of preparing a potato mash and adding vegetables (generally endive). It accompanies meat or smoked sausage. So simple is that. It is wonderful traditional comfort food, especially adored by the Dutch during winter months.

Some variations of stamppot:

mashed potatoes with apples (called "Hete bliksem")
with spinach, bacon and pine nuts
with white sour kale: "zuurkoolstamppot"
"Hutspot" : with carrots and onions. In Belgium it is called "stoemp"
"Hawai" stamppot: a mashed pot of potatoes where you add pieces of pineapple, apple and paprikas served with barbecued chicken. Sometimes people add also corn to the pot.
Salm stamppot: baked white endives are mixed to cooked potatoes, raw filet of salm, creme fraiche and dill.

Now, back to Franka's contribution...
Here below I copied ipsis literis her text which was sent to me by e-mail:

"Anita, the first picture I am sending to you is of my new kitchen. How do you like it ?
I make this stamppot usually when I have some people coming over for dinner and I do not have much time to prepare a meal in advance. But it is also very handy, if you have lot of people coming over, making it in advance and just warming it up in the microwave before serving.

I prepared it this time with cooked meat (stoofvlees) but you can also eat it with meat balls or Dutch smoked sausages instead.
For this stamppot you need: bacon, onions, mushrooms, endive and mashed potatoes. And optionally some cream-cheese to give a special texture to the dish.
I start frying the bacon and then I add the chopped onions and mushrooms.

When that is all well-done and golden brown, you then add the washed and dried endive - otherwise the stamppot gets too wet. I just stir-fry the endive and then you add the mashed potatoes.

It is better to make the mashed potatoes a bit dry, for the endive still leaves some juice and it makes the stamppot more tasteful. Add a spoon of creamcheese, salt and pepper.

This is all done by personal taste. Some people like a lot of onions and few mushrooms, some people like a lot of potatoes. "

Thanks a lot Franka for your participation in this blog !!!!
This stamppot of yours looks very yummy and I've became so hungry from editing this post.