Monday, November 3, 2008

Great weekend in Den Bosch

Thanks to our friends Lex and Maria, who we met here at Marina Westerdok in September (see our blog post from that time), we just spent a wonderful weekend in 's Hertogenbosch (or Den Bosch as it is commonly called). They invited us to join them for one of the winter regattas that their yacht club has.

We, including Märzen, took the train from Amsterdam to Den Bosch, where Maria met us at the station. The train trip only took an hour, and Märzen behaved very well. She spent part of the trip in her Sherpa bag sleeping, but mostly she sat on my lap on top of the bag.

After we had coffee with Lex and Maria at their house, the four of us went downtown to see the sights and try a Bossche bol, a famous dessert that, by definition, is only available in Den Bosch. It’s a huge creampuff sort of thing filled with whipped cream and covered in dark chocolate. We had ours with coffee sitting across the street from the St. John’s Cathedral, which we visited next. (To get a better idea about what a Bossche bol is, you can enter it in Google. When I tried it, I got several articles and pictures.)

In the evening Maria prepared a feast of different kinds of stompot, which is potatoes mashed together with various vegetables. When the potatoes are mashed with carrots and onions, it’s a unique variety of stompot called hutspot. Besides the hutspot, Maria served a stompot with boerenkool (curly kale) and one with sauerkraut and pineapple. In my previous experience, stompot was served with smoked sausage called rookworst, and Maria had that, but she also served some other sausages and fried Dutch bacon. The Dutch bacon really doesn’t translate. John says it’s sliced pork belly; it isn’t cured at all. Anyway, it was delicious!

Sunday was the regatta. After a nice breakfast we went to the yacht club. Every member helps with the work of maintaining the club, as well as paying dues, and it’s a very nice facility. We sailed on 32-foot boat whose owner, Goos, lived in Wisconsin for a couple of years when he was a boy. There wasn’t a lot of wind, but it didn’t rain (except for a few sprinkles) and it wasn’t too cold, so the race was just right as far as we were concerned. After three times around the course on the lake, we finished sixth, not last, and enjoyed some wonderful soup and a salad at the clubhouse after.

The photo shows Lex at the helm during the race with Goos running the main sheet and starboard jib sheet. I had the port jib sheet. Maria is on the foredeck where she helped the jib across in the light air.

In between eating and sailing, we had several interesting conversations with Lex and Maria about the differences in the way things are in the Netherlands and the U.S., and of course, we also talked about politics. It was all enormously gezellig, a Dutch word I may have used before. There really isn’t a direct translation. It’s something like warm and friendly and cozy. We feel really lucky to have been welcomed into the home of this very kind Dutch couple and to have experienced a real Dutch weekend.

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