Paris has always been in my mind, especially the sparkling bright lights of the Eiffel Tower and the stories about romance and romantic getaways in this city. To be honest, I don’t know so much about Paris except for the image of the Eiffel Tower and the city’s perennial association to love.
I should be doing my homework right now because I still have three oefening (exercises) to do and the Niveau 2 is not as easy as the first course. Instead I am blogging about the undeniable Dutch weather which seemed to be encouraging my laziness these days.
After a fairly good weather last Friday and the great sunshine on Saturday which permitted MK and I to have a good time in Rotterdam, the Dutch weather is back, wet, gloomy and cold. As far as I can remember, it was like this for almost a week and a half already, preventing anyone to enjoy the outdoors and bringing back the thick jackets and the layered clothes.
I was suppose to go to an engagement this morning but discarded the idea because I work late last night to finish three scripts in one sitting and have to stay at home today to do my homework. Although I can devote a little time to this engagement (which I will talk about here one day) I decided not too, partly because the weather is so bad. It was already raining last night, with lightning and thunderstorm and I bet this weather will continue until the end of the week (hope not). Sometimes the clouds permits the sun to peek in the afternoon but still the weather is damp, making you loose the mood to stay outside.
Slowly, I am getting use to the weather. I have learned to anticipate whatever changes that might happen within the day. I always bring a jacket whenever I go out so if it rains, I won’t be like a wet chicken biking in the rain. I do complain about “het kut weer” from time to time, like any a typical Dutch but I have learned to accept that if I want to live here, I might as well let the weather grow in me.
During a conversation few months ago, this Dutch guy said “het weer doet wat ie wil”, the weather does what it wants. That was the first Dutch idiom I’ve learned and how appropriate it is about a country whose life depends on its weather.
Oh the sky is letting up and I am going back to my assignments. I hope everyone a good day!
After depositing our bags in Hotel Campanile, our home in the next two days (hotel review here) we hurried outside to look for a restaurant. There are not so many choices in Boulevard Berthier, most are burger joints or Moroccan/Middle Eastern fastfood. We walked in to the first restaurant that we saw which offers real food. As amusing and ironic it may sound, we decided to eat Japanese food as our first meal in Paris.
The restaurant of choice was Soleil de Kyoto, a dimly lit dining establishment that offers genuine and very delicious Japanese cuisine. When we entered, the French speaking Japanese waiter greeted us with in his heavily-accented “bon soir” and ushered us to a four-seater table. Like the usual Dutch customary in restaurants, he first asked what we would like to drink. We ordered half a bottle of Cote du Rhone as our bodies are aching for something that can relax it.
The ober (waiter) came back with the wine and asked us to sample it. But hey with a stomach yearning for food, the need to decide on the quality of the wine is the last thing on our mind. Although the wine didn’t disappoint anyway. So we ordered right away, the Petit Bateau, a plate of sushi and sashimi. It doesnt sound that much (yes, it is petit) but after devouring the plat, we realized that we’re not that voracious when it comes to pigging out.
And of course like a true Asian, I have to eat my food with the rice, I ordered two cups of Gohan. I was thinking that maybe I can also eat half of MK’s rice since he is not that fond with it. I was wrong, he ate half of mine!
As as side ordered we had Ravioli Japanese, a dish that I have learned to love despite the initial hesitation while I was still in my country.
You can say that it’s just our stomach speaking and not our minds but we really find the food very delicious. The fishes were fresh, especially the tuna and salmon, the ravioli is nicely done, not undercooked or overcooked and the wine is fantastic. I don’t know if Cote de Rhone is the best pair for seafood but I couldn’t complain, and so does my stomach. It was a sumptous meal.
We finished the dinner with an order of Lychees and another order of half a bottle of the same wine which we took back to our hotel. When it comes to good wines, half a bottle is not enough for me. Our total bill? EUR42.90! Not bad eh, not expensive at all and we went out fulfilled.
Soleil de Kyoto
3, Boulevard Berthier
First thing I love about Paris: The availability of half bottle wines. I haven’t seen any half-bottle wine selling in Gall n Gall, Albert Heijn or Lidl here. It can be very helpful especially for people like me who doesn’t know when to stop when it comes with wines.
How would you like to live in a country where you have to schedule one month ahead to have dinner or coffee with a friend, where you couldn’t build your dream house without first being approved by the government’s architect, employees are charged up to 52-percent income tax, almost all stores closes at 6 p.m. and on Sundays and everything is expensive save for the bread and milk? Not the best place to live in right and not inviting at all! Ironically, The Netherlands, where I am currently residing, is the third happiest place to live in the world.
According to the latest survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development based in Paris, Northern European countries like Belgium (10th), Norway (9th), Switzerland (7th), Ireland (5th), Sweden (4th), Finland (2nd), Denmark (1st), along with countries like New Zealand (8th) and Canada (6th), are top places where residents find fulfillment in their every day life. The survey quantified the overall satisfaction of citizens 15 years old and above from 140 countries in terms of six different forms of positive or negative feelings within a day. Included are questions that relate to earning respect, feeling of accomplishment and productivity and enjoyment of every day activities on a scale of 1-100. The median was 62.4. The organization concluded that economic health, as these countries score higher Gross Domestic Product and less unemployment rate than the rest, plays a key role in the happiness of the people but that’s not all to it.
The Dutch hardly look like they are the most satisfied people nor are they happy folks. In fact, they are often typecast as a close, cold, and stingy race. They are perennially complaining about the weather, the government and its rules and taxes and how prices are so expensive. But generally, they, as well as other Europeans, live in a balanced work-life attitude. Work is treated not just as a moneymaking venture but with utmost respect and genuine concern for the growth of the company hence the high productivity of Dutch/European workers. It’s unlikely that you would find them answering messages or calls which are not work-related. In return, companies do their best to make sure workers are happy, giving as many benefits as they can afford.
The 40-hour work week is strictly dedicated to performing their jobs. The rest of the time is devoted to rest, having an early dinner, watching the 6 p.m. news, and retiring to reading or drinking a glass of wine afterwards. Weekends are devoted to gardening or attending family or friend’s affairs. Travel is part of the yearly itinerary, at least twice a year, in summer break and winter for the average citizens—more often for the moneyed. They don’t worry about getting sick because health insurance covers everything or being jobless, sick or invalid because the government gives enough subsidies. The environment and security are top priorities of the government, employing enough personnel to keep The Netherlands a safe and healthy country to live.
But is satisfaction measured by such a boring routine or well-structured system? Don’t we always need to have friends around, reachable anytime of the day? What about the liberty to build a pink or orange house, have access to the malls, cinemas, and coffee shops 24 hours a day or at least till bedtime?
Probably not but those were some of the things I had to learn to live without in order to survive the Dutch way of life. Coming from a very democratic country, it was quite depressing at first to have so many rules to live with and not having as many fun activities as I was used to. Coping with the system (rules included) taught me how to value more essential things in life rather than settling for most of the time senseless things that only offer temporary happiness.
In The Netherlands, schedules are strictly observed because people want to have their own privacy to do the things that they love to do alone or with loved ones, like spending a quiet night drinking wine and talking about how the day went, a sunny (rare thing) afternoon sipping tea or coffee in the garden, enough time to enrich the mind with books or the daily walk or jog in the park to keep body and mind fit. These are the things that Filipinos generally enjoy in the company of friends but as I’ve found out, more enjoyable doing alone or with the closest person in your life (husbands, wives or children) as it gives more opportunity for family bonding. The Dutch value their immediate family, giving as much time as they can because these are the people that will truly stick with them through thick and thin.
It’s hard to make friends with the Dutch as it is with the French, if you don’t talk their language, and with the English, if you don’t get their droll wit, because they don’t forge superficial friendships. It takes long years and lots of trust to have one true Dutch friend, but he or she is also the one who will protect you at your lowest point.
In terms of money, the Dutch are very frugal to the point of being stingy. And it’s not only practiced by the people but by the monarchy themselves. Having an apartment with the basic amenities, money to travel and buy the basic needs, and a car to ferry oneself or family to office or school is usually enough to be considered a comfortable living. They don’t aspire for luxury cars, branded clothes, shoes or bags, the latest gadgets or expensive pieces of jewelry (in fact, they seldom wear one) as a means of happiness. But they put very high regard on education, as many of them pursue a double master or doctoral degree while working. I’ve learned to prioritize what I actually need over what I desire and persevere to learn as much as I can about the culture and the language.
Rules are a big part of the society. Although they are liberal in most matters like with sex, soft drugs, and religion, rules make sure that everything is kept in moderation. I have been questioned many times about my age when buying cigarettes because 16 years old and below are strictly not allowed nicotine or alcohol. You can’t buy them anywhere unlike in the Philippines and smoking in restaurants is prohibited to protect the lungs of non-smokers. The rules on garbage, cars, houses, and buildings makes the Dutch landscape organized and avoid unnecessary chaos including congestion and pollution.
While they complain about the taxes, they diligently and honestly pay it nonetheless because as a country operating in a socialist system, they know that taxes benefit the country and themselves in the long run. They have strong opinions about other religions (like Islam and Purists) and immigrants flocking to the country but keep it among themselves so as not to offend anyone. Most of the Dutch have either one or two international organizations they regularly help like World Wide Fund, Amnesty International or Children’s of War as their way of giving back to their otherwise comfortable life.
In conclusion, living in a wealthy country really does its part in keeping someone satisfied but generally, respecting other people, living a productive life and following the rules, is the key to finding satisfaction, in a well to do society or otherwise.
Remember the old Western adage from the Murphy’s Law that goes like “Whatever that can go wrong, will?” That is exactly how the start of my Paris trip went.
Thursday, March 19th was Mijn Knap’s birthday and we have already planned that day a month ahead. He booked the ticket and I have saved up enough money to buy him some gifts. Everyday for the last two days before his verjaardag, I bring him cadeautjes, from a Spa Set from Douglas, a striped blue and white sweater andon the day itself, a fruit tartje from Bijenkorf . I also planned to cook a very special meal for dinner with a good red wine.
Unfortunately, I forgot that I have to send my video for my story on Filipino games to the TV station for editing that same night. I was relax about it since I know that it only takes maybe a couple of hours to cut to cut the whole thing, record the voice over and send it to Manila. Turned out that it will be a whole lot of trouble.
I discovered that most of my shots are shaky and there’s no effects on the editing software that can cure that mistake. I was already on the verge of crying while imagining how the quality of my first story would suffer because I wasn’t able to figure out how to fasten the tripod to the camera.
Sweet and thoughtful as he is, Mijn Knap took over the cooking and spent half of the night with me trying to find a software that can correct the problem. I was already irritated, ready to throw a tantrum but unlike when I was a younger, I kept silent while we scout the internet for possible softwares to rescue the videos. But no matter how I tried to supress the frustration, it came out at one point and sparked an argument. When he retired to bed at around 11PM, out of exhaustion in arguing with me on the night of his birthday, I let the tears flow. At that point, I have only two options, finish the editing and send it even with the terrible shots or not do it at all. I realized that its better not to be a perfectionist the first time rather than risk my reputation as being late in submission. I sent a very big video file, recorded my voice over, packed my bags and joined him at about 2PM. I was praying for the best before I dozed off.
At 5AM I was already up checking if the upload was complete and thank heavens it was. I decided to go back to bed to sleep some more and woke up 2 hours after. Our bus will be leaving at 9AM so I woke up Mijn Knap, rushed to make bacon and ham sandwhiches, checked our luggages and took a shower with him. We were ok already the following day and all excited about the trip.
After shower, he pulled me close, lovingly kissed my forhead and asked, “How do you feel now that your dream is finally coming true?”
A little frustrated, I said,”I don’t know”, which is true because no matter how I tried to be happy, I can’t feel that way. “I think I wouldn’t believe it until we are there already. It’s just unbelievable even to be living here in Europe.”
He gave me a smile, squeezed my hand and off we went to catch the train to Rotterdam, leaving a little too early at 8:09. We arrived in Rotterdam fifteen minutes after in a cold Holland morning with nothing to do but wait for the Eurolines bus in Kruisplein. After smoking several sticks of sigarettes, we cant bear the cold anymore and decided to have coffee. In between our conversation I was texting somebody to get the mother who was included in my report but forgot to get the name and my mother to ask for load for my cellphone. At 8:50 we went back to Kruisplein to wait some more.
Oddly I couldn’t see any other tourist looking person standing int he waiting area, an indication that the bus might not come there. I bugged my boyfriend to call Eurolines already but the call center opens at 9AM, the same time that the bus is suppose to come. I was agitated, worried that we have already missed the bus. Suddenly, a Eurolines bus passed by in the street at the end of Kruisplein.
“That couldnt be our bus, or could it,” I asked him, even more worried at that time.
Before he can process my question, somebody from the Eurolines. And yes I was right, we just missed our bus because they have already changed the bus stop. From Kruisplein, it was moved near the Eurolines office near TNT (I cant remember the name of the street at the moment).
I was angry and disappointed, willing to cry once again for another failed expectation. The guy Dennis from the call center told us that he will call the driver so he can come back for us. The driver actually was supposed to circle around Kruisplein and look for passengers in the old stop. But he didnt.
Well to cut the ranting short, the driver didnt go back and we ended up waiting some more amidst the cold at the door of Eurolines office. They open at 10.30AM, just when the first bus to Paris is probably already in Belgium, leaving a customer no time to complain and still catch the trip if something goes wrong.
In fairness to the company, they tried very hard to make things better. The lady behind the counter told us that nobody in the call center knows how to speak French while hers is not so good so maybe the driver didnt understand. So the driver was French-speaking and hailed from Belgium.
I joked “Oh that’s terrible combination!” and had the first good laugh since the night before. Our best choice is to catch another bus leaving at 1PM from Breda and that’s 3 hours to burn. Since we dont have so much choice, we just let things flow.
It was in the Eurolines office that I got a text message from Manila that my video can’t be read. It was in .avi file rather than .mpeg so their system couldn’t read it. I could go back, changed the file extension and send it again but I just told them Im already on my way to Paris. Ill be able to send it Monday evening the earliest. At the ticket station in Rotterdam, we also learned that the train to Paris, Thalys which we were contemplating on taking has been canceled!Well, if things can go wrong, they will!
The good thing out of the trouble was that, I still have some time left to buy the software to correct the shots and make my video a bit better. God’s little way to make things smoother for us.
While waiting in Breda, we have another round of coffee in this small cafe near the train station. By 12.50 I was already worried again of not seeing anyone with a big bag waiting for the bus. But at exactly 1PM, the Eurolines, Paris bound finally arrived.
When settled in the cramped seat, I whispered to my love, “Finally, I am going to Paris.”
Note to my readers: Please bear with me if this story will be in long installments It takes a lot of effort to write about such a beautiful experience.
I'm Dheza, raised in a barrio in the Philippines, immigrated to the Dutch polder and travelling through running. This blog documents my life, to which I would like to look back to with tears and smiles when I am old and unable. Drop me a line email@example.com.
Follow me @thisgirlfromthebarrio
A working mom who run marathons, cooks, blogs and travels on weekends. Sharing #reallife stories.
Art Belgium Birthday Czech Republic Dagje weg Daytrip Detox diary Expat Life France Germany Hotel Review Italy Japan Learning a language Letters to my daughter Life update Luxembourg Mama Marathon Training Minimalism Morocco Musings Netherlands Norway Personal challenge Philippines Portugal Published Race report Recipes Restaurant review Rotterdam Marathon 2015 Russia Snapshots St Petersburg Sustainable Living Tanzania the weekend traveller Torshavn Marathon 2016 Travel Stories Travel tips Ultramarathon training Weekendje weg Working mom Youtube