HERMANO SEGUNDO GOES DUTCH: TWO WHEELS GOOD, FOUR WHEELS BAD
I love the Dutch, but.
I have to come straight out with this. The Dutch are nuts. I don’t mean pleasingly eccentric or beguilingly odd. I mean howl at the moon, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, barking Doollally.
Evidence? Well as if it was not enough to point to their over and incorrect use of the word “ also” and the fact that they chose orange to be the colour of the shirts for the national football team long before they became the gay capital of Europe, I point you to their obsession with bikes.
They love ‘em. In all shapes and all sizes. Mountain bikes, racing bikes, sit up and beg bikes and bikes with contraptions on the front for carrying babies which would have your kids taken off you by The Social in the UK before you could say “ Cathy Come Home”
Everywhere you go there are hordes of them and, in Utrecht, where I finished up today, the two wheeler is king and to hell with any poor unsuspecting pedestrian who dares to walk on the pavement in the mistaken belief that this would be a safe place to be.
The girls are the worst. Speeding along with maniacal intent, they barely give a glance as they brush you aside and into the gutter. If it were not for the fact that they are the tallest nation on earth and fundamentally quite scary, I would have taken them to task.
They seem to park them just anywhere too. They are scattered around like flies around the proverbial. Hundreds and thousands of them. Against railings, bus stops, shop fronts. You can’t move for the bloody things.
Despite all of this, I do have to say that I do like the Dutch a great deal and Holland is one of my favourite countries to come when I am in Willie Loman mode.
After a 4am start and four meetings with people for whom the use of vowels is purely optional, I found myself at my hotel. Decent enough ,but through my own lack of ability to read the internet blurb, about 30 minutes walk from the centre of this lovely town.
Still, I needed the exercise after spending the best part of eight hours in my Toyota Hybrid and set off in search of supper clutching a handful of computer printouts a customer had given me with her suggestions on the best places to eat.
Restaurant Opium seemed to be closed for repairs, Restaurant Mas seemed to be so far away that every one I asked for directions just gave an audible breath of disbelief and Restaurant Luce just laughed in my face when I asked if they had a table for one.
I was beginning to get a little weary by now and tired too of dodging the crowd of be-wheeled young folk on their way to a night out. I was almost desperate enough to try one of the tourist traps by the canal but luckily found myself, purely by chance, outside De Garde, the last of the suggestions I had in my hand.
A stroke of good fortune compounded when it turned out to be rather nice. Cosy and buzzy, the service was friendly with them speaking English to me from the get go as if they had recognized my muscular body as the norm for people from the UK. Just as well as my attempts at Dutch need the rest of the room to be wearing water proofs.
While I sipped a small dark beer I was brought a small amuse of a tiny bloody Mary. Quite odd really.
I was given an English menu which had the usual, er interesting attempts at translation from which I chose a Roe deer carpaccio to begin with. I thought it would be quite expensive as the menu said it was “ a little dear” but it was only EU12 ( see what I did there?)
Not bad at all and topped with some wild mushrooms and red cabbage it got me off to a good start.
By the time my main course arrived, the small restaurant was packed with the resultant fug of smoke that gives testament to the other great Dutch passion, smoking ( anything they can get their hands on it would seem )
Still, it did not stop my enjoyment of a gamey saddle of wild hare with a rich reduction and more red cabbage. The vegetables at the side remained untouched and quite right too. The glass of red wine I had with it was so grim, it too was barely looked at. Ho hum
No room for pudding, so I paid the bill ( about EU40 ) and nipped out into the, by now, chilly night air and made my way back to the hotel while trying to avoid being hit by some bright young thing on a sit up and beg bone shaker. Feeling the whole while like I was in a life size version of Donkey Kong.
Gotsta love the Dutch, er, also.