Friday, December 28, 2007

Y Tambian...Ibiza, Mi Amor

Magical things happen in Ibiza. But you don´t expect them to happen in winter, when the skies are blue and the palm trees barely sway in the warm air, but the island is sleepy and hardly anyone has stayed for the season.

But magical things do happen. We had an amazing long Christmas lunch at Romagna Mia, an Italian restaurant down the road from our apartment, sitting on the terrace all afternoon, nibbling on tomato and quivering mozzarella salad, homemade ravioli, and just-sparkling white wine. Overlooking the Med. Bliss.

And then the other day, when a few cafes started to reopen and the terraces were filled with fur coats and parkas and boots (it´s not cold!) and we had a saunter around the port, and enjoyed some more tapas and canas, and on our way home popped into the newsagent for our beloved trashy UK mags. And bumped into the DJ! We caught up with another summer friend that evening, over a delicious dinner and more crazy times.

We doubted if we should come here - what would we do in cold, quiet Ibiza? But we are so happy we are here, surrounded by water and nice weather. In a few days, the island will be loud with NYE party people and that will be muchos fun. In the meantime, we´re enjoying the island´s beauty.

I sleep in the bed in our living room with the wall-length windows, just to fall asleep to the few lights along the d´en Bossa coast and to wake up to the apricot sunrise. It´s truly magical.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter In Ibiza

Madrid, Mi Amor

When we left home at 4.30am to catch the first plane to Madrid, it was warmer than it was during the day, we didn´t even need gloves. A very strange feeling.

But then, there we were, Madrid! Beloved Madrid. And only a few streets away from where we stayed in June, which we loved and is more central than we realised. It was warm, the sky was royal blue, everyone was out, the shops and music pumping. For all those playing at home, we went to have lunch at the Diablo´s, but, he was not there. We´ll be back. We went to Museo de Jamon and tucked into a fat bocadillo laden with deep red jamon, as well as some cute tuna and salda empanadillos and washed down with a cold beer. All this for 4.80E.

We walked around the shops, picked up a few essential jumpers, then in the evening trudged out to the Spice Girls concert. When they played their hits, it was great great fun. That´s what they do best and the crowd - at least 65% boys? - were really into it. Posh was the best (not as skinny as you´d think). It was very cheesey but to our great disappointment, Becky did not make an appearance. Boo hoo! A fun night in all.

Friday, December 21, 2007


We got a call from the tax office this morning confirming an appointment for the first Monday in January to get our sofinumber so that's great news.

We're going to Spain on Sunday till just after the new year. We got tickets for The Spice Girls concert in Madrid, then flying over to our beloved Ibiza, which we can't wait to see what it's like in winter. It's all so cheap, flights and an apartment on the beach, and right now 16C sounds like balmy heaven!

I'd read that the Netherlands had the biggest Ikeas in the world, and there is one not far from here, so today we went to check it out, hoping maybe to find a mattress and not come away with the ubiquitous knick-knacks. Well, it was the same size with the same stuff and the same Swedish meatballs - which we had to finally try. Spongey, processed but strangley edible, with fries, gravy and cranberry sauce. Curiosity killed.

Pretty homes in Haarlem.

Outside Ikea.

Ta da!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My First Snow

It snowed today.

We woke up this morning and there was frost on cars and homes, and by the afternoon the whole city was in monotone. There is a cafe on the top floor of the department store in the centre of Haarlem, and from above the city looked like a snapshot out of Dickens.

Today it's tiny white particles...when do the pretty snowflakes come down? For a beach bunny like me, it is amazing and still hard to believe it's real.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Yesterday we really felt the cold. Our fingers and toes were in pain and on the way to the train station, 10 minutes walk away, we had to stop and have a hot drink. Today is -1C and it felt ok. I'm excited to know what minus temperature feels like, especially as I'm finally starting to feel better, and especially if a hot chocolate isn't far away.

There's a real Chrismasy feel to this place, which is very charming and what I'd always dreamt of experiencing. Christmas lights shine all day and beautiful thick real Christmas trees perfume the air. The apartment across the road from us has a gorgeously-decorated tree in it's window and it's just like a Hallmark card.

We went to Amsterdam yesterday and squeeled at how pretty it is. Walking down the canals looking at the beautiful old buildings is better than any museum. Then you stop in an eetcafe, which is a cosy, old cafe where you can warm up on tostis (toasted sambos) and big bowls of soup for very little. And then you're ready to face the cold again.

Albert Heijn is the major supermarket here and at first I was gaga. But then we tasted the tasteless fruits and vegetables, watery cream and butter and yucky pasta and knew we had to find something else. Today we found a halal butcher and store stocking groceries from every corner of the world for the same prices so we're very happy, and Dani made a delicious warming vegetable soup with organic tomatoes, corn and yams that will be a staple for sure.

We went back to the town hall and were told we can get a sofinumber from the tax office without registering, which is contradictory to everything we've read or been told before, so we're going tomorrow to try our luck.

More Photos

Quiet street in Haarlem

Chrismas markets in Haarlem

Red oranges from Italy

Jordaan area, Amsterdam

Dusk (aka 4.30pm)

Can't get over how beautiful the buildings are

Church in Haarlem

Clementines from Morocco

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Past Few Days

Our local canal from the other side

Home-made cauliflower soup with bacon and 'popcorn' cauliflower

The mushroom stall, every Friday. Chanterelles, trompettes, everything. Heaven.

Tulips everywhere!

Blue sky.


Still sick which isn't fun!

Our free wireless suddenly disappeared a few days ago so it's back to internet cafes.

There is a funny phenomenon here. Curtainless, open homes. That is, from the street, you can see right in. Most of the time we're walking down the street and something catches our eye, and we look in. Then we realise it's someone's living room or kitchen. Dani thought she was checking out a cute shop yesterday, and then caught a woman on a comfy armchair staring right back at her. Our own place is wide open, apart from some frosting on the window, but no one looks in.

I almost got run over by two bikes the other day, but that was due to happen.

Last night we went into Amsterdam for dinner with two lovely girls who have helped out with inane questions about moving over email, local Mathilde and expat Louise. It was a nice restaurant in the Jordaan with modern Dutch food - modern Dutch food being quite similar to mod Oz - and we took the train home in the absolutely freezing cold. We both dolled ourselves up and wore heeled boots but won't be doing that again; Amsterdam's cobbled streets being bike-friendly but not heel-friendly.

Today were the Christmas markets in Haarlem and we've just had a potter around. Unfortunately it was mostly the same markets that they have on Saturdays - 3 pairs of socks for 10E and more frites and more waffles - but with a cup of hot, mulled wine, it made the can't-feel-my-fingers ice cold bearable. We've been lucky, as much as it's been cold, we've had almost nothing but crisp blue skies and no wind, which we've been told is very rare for this time of year.
Our problems with registering in brief: we were told all we needed to register and therefore receive temporary residency (and a sofinumber = tax file number) was our passport with the visa, and that we had to register at the local police within 3 days. We went to our local police station, which didn't have an 'aliens police' section but gave us a number to call for the station that did. We called, and were told the police don't look after regsitering anymore, that it's the town hall. So we went to the town hall, and were given forms to fill out, including a form for the woman who we've rented the apartment from. She came over to sign the form, but when we took it in the next day, they also told us we needed a copy of her ID or they couldn't register us. The next day she was leaving for her holiday, and was becoming suspicious that we needed all this information from her (she might think we want her to sponsor us, plus there are taxes you pay from 1 January which depend on how many people live in your place). When she called the town hall to ask about it, they weren't open. But the lady we are dealing with is telling us not to worry, that there's no time limit on when we can register, so it seems it has to wait until the owner of our apartment comes back in mid-January. It's a little annoying, as we were hoping to have work by that time, but we'll have to wait another week. All our expenses are paid and we're not spending much here. If only the consulate in Sydney had told us we needed proof of where we were living, we could have arranged it months before.

Apart from that, it's beautiful here. I wish you could all come over and share it with us x

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

French Onion Soup

Had a craving to make French onion soup tonight, with the proper cheese croutons. Warming and yummy.

And now we're eating Albert Heijn banana caramel icecream!


This may not look like much, but it's 1C, and that's as cold as we've known so far.

Registering with the town hall isn't going to plan, as the information the consulate/internet gave us is very different, but we're soldiering on.

On Monday afternoon we went into Amsterdam. The train is very easy from Haarlem, every 15 minutes and it takes 20 minutes, 6.20E return. Lots of people, tourists, shops - a step up from our adopted hometown! We had a nice walk around the Jordaan area with it's gorgeous shops and Christmas lights sparkle. Very pretty.

Thank goodness for (free wireless) internet. Google Maps is a lifesaver.

We're obsessed with The Hills. Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Waiting on the platform at Amsterdam Centraal for the train to Haarlem, everyone starts running, literally everyone, in one direction or another. We decide to start running too, and get on the train everyone is running to. Luckily it took us to Haarlem.

We have become the creeps we feared we would, talking about what a nice day it is when we see a spot of blue sky or that it's nice and warm when it's 7C.

Don't assume you can get cold and flu tablets in the most freezing place on earth. Because you can't. The most you can get over the counter is Panadol Plus which luckily is slowly helping but for anything stronger it's a visit to the doctor.

Slagroom = cream, just so you know.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Our Place

Camera phone photos of our place...






Living Room


Sunday, December 9, 2007


Our backyard, with sweet blueberries

Our local canal

Rugged up

Favourite outfit

Grote Markt - centre of Haarlem

Cute shop near our place

First Few Days

Not sure how long we've been here, still very tired and the short days are playing with our minds (light after 8am, dark at 4.30pm). Yesterday we went over to the main drag and there was a real carnival atmosphere, families and friends out on foot and on bikes, it felt like a real European village. We sat in a cosy cafe and had chunky pea soup with ham on rye bread, very warming and filling. Then we did our first shop. Albert Heijn is the biggest supermarket here and we were suprised that the prices were lower than we expected, a bit less than Sydney. It has lots of prepared foods, from sandwich fillings and sushi to amuse-bouche to serve at dinner parties. We bought some basics - eggs, wine, meat, cheese, milk and (half-loaves of) bread. It started to rain so we scurried home, then went out for my birthday dinner. We couldn't locate the restaurant I read about that sounded nice, so went to a tapas place near the main square, Grote Markt. The food was ok but we had a great time, and were meant to meet the owner of our flat for drinks with her friends but that overwhelming wave of fatigue hit suddenly and we both fell flat asleep the minute we got home.

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes x

Today we went for a walk along the Spaarne river to find and register with the local police and realised that nothing is open on Sundays, which is nice. I'm used to hustle and bustle and if there's nothing to do, jumping in the car and going somewhere. The foreign police is only open Monday to Friday so we kept walking, found the train station (and H&M - we have our own H&M!) and had some more frites. Everybody eats frites here. Even today two police came by while we sat on the bench chomping away and placed a big order for HQ. The cornets come in different sizes and a kleine - small - is 1.5E and gives you each plenty of delicious, freshly-fried chips, with your choice of about a dozen sauces. I tried curry today but will stick to mayonnaise, although there are Dutch and Belgian mayonnaises. Will try both and report back.

We met the owner in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day inside. My cold is worse, but I'm getting my voice back. We are dressing very nicely and warmly, so it's the jetlag and germs from the plane latching on to me.

Speaking of dressing, it's much easier than I feared. For example my favourite outfit is my skinny jeans and a turtleneck with Icebreaker thermals underneath, my black flat kneehigh boots and a coat.

We love Haarlem, it's the perfect meeting point of big and small town. It has enough shops and cafes and buzz to keep it from being a small town, but has the charm and peace of a big village. We thought we'd be going into Amsterdam every other day, but this place has everything we need so we probably won't go in that often (work aside).

It's 7.45pm and the dark and rain are sending me to sleep...

Friday, December 7, 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.