Britsoc: The British Society of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Serving the British Expat community since 1920.

Archive for September, 2015

Britsoc Chairman’s Blog Sept 2015

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Dear members,

Welcome back from your summer rest –I hope that you all enjoyed some down time and did something you always wanted to!

We approach our busiest time of the year and preparations are in full swing. Our website has all details, but you will need to note some dates to be sure not to miss the action.

September 24th is our Annual General Meeting.

November 8th is our Guy Fawkes night.

December 12th sees the return of our Gala Xmas Ball.

We would love to see you and your friends at these events, so please spread the word.

 

On a personal note, I have decided to pass on the baton of Chairman of this Society.

After a few years at the helm, I am happy with what we have achieved, but feel that new blood is needed to take us on to the next stage.

I believe that we should be taking stock of our status and what it is that we do, why, and for whom.

The new leader should have or make some new plans to revise our position.

The quest to find the right person need not be rushed – I am happy to stay on in name for a maximum of a year or until, in the eyes of the committee and members, a suitable successor is found.

Check the website for ticketing details for the events and see you soon.

 

Ian

Ian Cherington

Chairman

Gay Pride Amsterdam 2015

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Benji

By Photographer Benjamin Arthur

 

The party in full swing

The party in full swing

Showing the love. Pride 2015

Showing the love. Pride 2015

‘Fish n Chips for the Soul’ magazine wanted an inside look at what really goes on during Amsterdam’s Legendary Gay Pride Boat Parade. That’s why we sent our intrepid photographer, Benjamin Arthur, onto one of the boats to find out.

I have to admit to feeling a bit nervous about joining one of the Pride boats for this year’s Boat Parade. Firstly, I’m not gay though have many gay friends. Secondly, I didn’t know what to wear. A worry that is in itself quite gay I suppose!

Our boat is packed full of plastic fantastic pink people

Our boat is packed full of plastic fantastic pink people

Thirdly, hi-spec cameras and boats don’t normally mix well – especially when you throw in the inevitable alcohol that accompanies any big Amsterdam party.

Close up of the boat’s footwear. Can you spot a theme here?

Close up of the boat’s footwear. Can you spot a theme here?

In the end, I needn’t have worried about a thing. My friends – old & new – were incredibly welcoming and delighted to have some proper photos of their big day out. They dressed me up all in pink! And, in spite of the flowing booze and the hot day, everything went off perfectly and nothing got lost in any of the canals. It was an extraordinary day.

All those hours in the gym have to be good for something right guys?!

All those hours in the gym have to be good for something right guys?!

Prinsengracht. Packed, sunny and happy

Prinsengracht. Packed, sunny and happy

Riding ON the boat gives one a completely different perspective both on the actual parade itself but also just on how much this day means for Amsterdam’s large and growing LGBT community. When one is on the canals looking onto the parade there’s a lot of people and it just feels great to be in among such a festive atmosphere. On the actual boat one passes through all those people quite serenely and its pretty overwhelming how packed is the Prinsengracht and the Amstel. I hope the photos capture that.

One of another boat’s Transgender representatives

One of another boat’s Transgender representatives

It just goes to show what a spectacle this is and how Amsterdammers have taken the LGBT community into their hearts. All in all huge props to all concerned and thanks for putting up with the straight guy for one day boys!

Passing through the canals one is overwhelmed by all the people everywhere.

Passing through the canals one is overwhelmed by all the people everywhere.

Benjamin Arthur | The British Photographer in Amsterdam – Britsoc Sponsor

Categories: Britsoc Sponsor/Advertiser, Photography
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The British Photographer in Amsterdam

WEDDINGS  | CORPORATE EVENTS | PORTRAITS  | PARTIES | WALKABOUTS | CHILDREN’S  PORTRAITS | EVENTS | FINE ART

DSC_4262_pp-Version-2

About Benjamin Arthur
I’m a leading independent freelance photographer, working with corporate & individual clients in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, UK and elsewhere. Capturing the spirit of you or your event is my first priority.

Passion, creativity and professionalism
The areas I focus on can be seen in my galleries and I love each individual commission with the challenges they bring and the fun we have together. Passion, creativity and professionalism are the three things above all that I bring to my work. I love it all … from the dreaming and planning through to the execution & delivery. My approach throughout is 1000% focused on you – placing you and your needs at the centre of everything.

Reportage photographer
Successful outcomes are the result of strong relationships. In terms of style, I describe myself as a reportage photographer. I like to work as far as possible with natural light and that applies as much to my portraiture work as it does weddings, events and parties.

I try to blend in rather than stand out
I quietly observe what’s going on around me. Then, when I need to step up for a large group photo, I’m lucky to have a strong voice that can marshal everyone into shot.

Well travelled
Based in the stunning city of Amsterdam, I also regularly work in Prague and will happily travel across continental Europe and the world on assignment. I’m blessed to be married to Leigh Ann who helps me in a thousand ways and is a true partner. When not behind my lens, you’ll find my nose in a book or a saucepan or, too rarely, tramping around England’s stunning landscapes.

I look forward to working with you
So, whatever your photographic needs please do contact me using the details below. I look forward to hearing what we can do together!

Contact Photographer Benjamin Arthur
I try to respond to all enquiries within 24 hours and, during the working week, am available for one on one appointments.

www.benjaminarthur.com

Britsoc Photo Lesson #13

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Work with diagonals to create striking pictures

Benji

By Benjamin Authur, Photographer

BritPhotShot of the Month

There is an abundance of beauty in Amsterdam, but using it as a photographer to create striking images with people can be a challenge. Couple of tips here from this recent walkabout I did in town.

As we were walking around, I noticed this line of olde worlde shop signs and thought they looked nice. So work with what’s in front of you to bring out the beauty.
Then I placed my client in the middle of the row.
And, lo and behold, the diagonal comes to the fore.
The reason this shot works aesthetically is precisely because of that diagonal, which creates the pleasing line from bottom left to middle of the lower right-hand third.

If you are interested in having you, your family or a friend photographed in Amsterdam why not give me a call?

Technical details: Nikon D700. AF-S Nikkor 50mm (1.4) @ f/2, ISO 800 @ 1/320s

Benjamin Arthur
The British Photographer in Amsterdam

Benjamin Arthur's email
Email Benjamin here with your questions, requests and ideas

 

Are you a CAD?

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Picture2

 

CADS is a friendly Anglo-Dutch club in Amsterdam that promotes goodwill and understanding through commercial contacts.

 

 

CADS Christmas DinnerFounded over 40 years ago by the British Consul-General and Anglophile business people, the Commercial Anglo Dutch Society provides an informal meeting point for Dutch and English speaking professionals, to help members improve commercial and cultural contacts and promote good practice.

How to join – If you are a Dutch, British or Commonwealth citizen, then you are eligible to apply for membership, subject to acceptance by the Society’s board of members.

 

Fill in the ‘contact me’ form on our website or email info@cads-amsterdam.org

 

Beth’s Book Blog Sept 2015

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Beth-web

 

by Beth Johnson, owner of Boekhandel Van Rossum, Amsterdam

 

51MHqt44whL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Elena Ferrante, the mysterious Italian author whose identity remains closely guarded, has been gaining increasing attention in the book world – and her popularity is certainly justified.  Her novel, The Days of Abandonment written in 2002, is the hard-hitting, detailed account of the period after Olga’s husband announces he is leaving her.  It is a raw, unsentimental depiction of loss of family and loss of self, written with a searing touch.  The four Neapolitan novels:  My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child are all being re-issued this September. Ferrante’s work is quite astonishing!my brilliant friend ferrante Those_who_leave The-Story-of-the-lost-child

T.C. Boyle, the California author who has been forcing me to face confrontational literature since my early 20s, recently spoke to members of the John Adams Institute during an evening at my home.  His latest novel, The Harder They Come, focuses on the paranoid, addicted Adam who fancies himself as soldiering mountain man, HarderTheyCome hc cindependent of modern society.  His idol, the 18th century trapper John Colter who outstripped the Blackfeet Indian pursuing him on foot, is a real-life mountain hero whose statue I encountered across Wyoming and Montana this summer. This 15th novel explores the modern relationship of guns and violence and can be chilling, shocking, and disturbingly revealing about our society today.  Boyle himself is cultured, amusing  and charming with a touch of the Davy Crockett mountain man about him. This is a many-layered, masterful piece of work – if often hard to accept.

wolf-border-coverWolves are popular in literature at the moment.  Rachel Caine, a zoologist working with wolves in Idaho, returns to her native Cumbria to assist a local lord in re-introducing wolves to the wilds of the Lake District.  The story is an ode to natural beauty and the freedom of animals to live in untamed areas; it  touches on the turmoil of human lives, on love, politics and the general public’s fear, outrage and simultaneous delight in blurring the borders between civilization and wildness. Sarah Hall, author of The Wolf Border, has produced a passionate, topical and compelling novel which thoroughly delighted me.

Deborah Moggach, author of  Tulip Fever and These Foolish Things which was made into the hit movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has just produced a complex but accessible story of four women desperate to protect their secrets but also get their lives back on track. Something to Hide moves across continents, linking the characters in unexpected turns of fortune.  A delightful book, primarily for the ladies.

23270216For ten to thirteen year olds, Penguin has just published the first in a new series of historical thrillers which has left me most impatient for the next instalment! Young Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to a respected apothecary in London just after the restoration of Charles II to the English throne in the 1660s. A rash of grisly murders leads to whispers that a Cult of the Archangel is trying to wipe out the apothecaries in the city.  Full of chemical potions, explosions, wild chase scenes, secret codes and deep mystery, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands is guaranteed to get your children reading!!

 

Artist – Paul Ellis

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Alison

by Alison Smith

 

DSC00619Catching up with Artist – Paul Ellis

About two and a half years ago I went to have a chat with Paul Ellis, who had just left his life career as a Head Teacher and had taken early retirement to follow his other passion, painting.  He had just given up the 9 to 5 to become a full-time artist and I remember sensing Paul’s nervous excitement as he plunged into a new bohemian world. Back then we spoke at length about the change in routine and the hidden skills needed to be a successful artist, as well as taking a peep at some of his amazing work.

Since we spoke Paul has been very busy exploring and developing his talent, putting his artistic as well as his marketing and organisational skills to good use and has been very busy garnering successful exhibitions and private commissions.  Since we met back in February 2013 he has exhibited in The Hague,  Margate and this autumn he will achieve one of his stated goals, to have a solo exhibition in Amsterdam at the Amstelkerk from 13th September to 4th October.

I was looking forward to meeting Paul again, to see his new paintings and to find out more about his upcoming exhibition.

DSC00616 copyAlison: I remember watching a YouTube video of you giving a speech back in 2012 where you say that you don’t yet feel comfortable calling yourself an artist, that you prefer to say “I paint”.  3 years on is there still a part of you which remains a teacher or Headmaster, or are you now 100% artist?

Paul:  100% artist without hesitation.  I would now say I’m the artist formerly known as Headmaster.

Alison: Two and a half years on and has the daily routine changed much from when you just started out?

Paul:  Enormously. I’m still very disciplined and get up quite early and start to paint, usually listening to Radio 4 until Woman’s Hour comes on and irritates me enough to send me out for a coffee at a local café where other artists gather.  I’m a lot more efficient and pro-active than in the beginning and spend a lot of time visiting galleries and looking at other artists’ work, plus a lot of time in the Rijksmuseum examining technique and finding inspiration.

DSC00613 copyAs we are talking about this we are looking at one of the paintings which will be shown at his upcoming exhibition.  Entitled ‘Paddling by the Palace’ it depicts the Rijksmuseum on a rather grey day with a curious group of youths who appear to be about to dunk someone in the large paddling pool behind the museum. Paul explained that this group of people were not originally observed in Amsterdam at all but were a group of people he spotted and observed on the beach at Zandvoort.  The explanation for what they are doing becomes another story when transposed from the beach setting to the centre of Amsterdam.   This is a question for the viewer of the painting to ask themselves.  What are these people doing?  Is this fun, or aggression?  One youth is wearing a hoodie. Does this stereotype suggest aggression? Paul explained that the scene at Zandvoort had an unusual story but he wants his audience to think about it and come up with their own story.

To me that is what makes a Paul Ellis painting distinct and original.  There is always a question posed.  The setting may be the beach, or the Scottish Highlands, or an Amsterdam street.  There will usually be a fabulous sky, great clouds and a richness of colour, but there will also be something else, a stray figure, a lonely beast, a symbolic group of objects or characters, which makes the observer of his paintings ask “why”? What are they doing there? What are they thinking? Why are they looking at me like that?

DSC00615 copyI asked Paul about this and his answer was simple.

“I want my paintings to say something about the human condition”

A great example of what he means by this, and my personal favourite of Paul’s newer work, will also appear in his new exhibition.  Humorously entitled “Look, Sea Walker”  it is a vast sunset seascape of vibrant oranges and yellows and depicts two paddle boarders who appear to be walking on water, one man spotlighted, as if chosen, by the sun.  The thin dark stripe of the horizon suggests what? The abyss? The end of the world? The Dark Side?  The great expanse of sky and the golden hue of the sunset on the water depicts nature at its most majestic, with man looking small and rather isolated in its vastness.

DSC00609 copyMany of Paul’s paintings have this theme in common.  Other common themes, which will be found in the exhibition, are philosophy; ask him about finding Spinoza on a bridge in Amsterdam, Scotland; from curly horned sheep having a chat on a boggy glen to serene seascapes depicting a ghostly ferry disappearing into the mist, and of course Amsterdam and The Netherlands landscape, all with a twist and a question mark.

I had to ask Paul how he thinks his technique has changed and developed since we last spoke.

Paul:  My style has evolved and matured more than changed.  I have developed a more thorough technique of underpainting more layers of colours to achieve a more intense and sensory effect.  When I was painting “Look, Sea Walker” I had an incredible empathy with how Mark Rothko might have felt as I applied layer after layer of paint to achieve the perfect feeling of sunset sky.  It was a very emotional experience applying the paint, more sensory than visual in a way,  When that happens it’s a moment of clarity, being able to capture the essence of what it felt like to be there, and translating it into the paint.

DSC00610 copyAlison:  How do you choose your subject matter?

Paul: An idea has to grab me in the beginning or it just doesn’t work.  I get a snapshot of what I want to achieve but I never know how it will end up.  It has to somehow balance.  There has to be a harmony in the end result or it doesn’t work.  Quite often the end result can be very different from my original idea.  I like to push the boundaries and I’m constantly learning and trying new techniques to see what works.

Alison:  You seem very content with your new life.

Paul: Finding success as an artist requires more than just artistic talent, you also have to be savvy in business and not afraid to pursue your goals.  I’ve learnt a lot in the last few years and feel more comfortable now with what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  I’m constantly learning and developing and that is very satisfying.  I now understand what I am about and I’m certain that I must carry on.  Getting an exhibition in Amsterdam was a major goal of mine and it’s very exciting to have achieved it.  That doesn’t mean I can now rest on my laurels and  I’m already planning the next 5 years.

DSC00614 copyIt was wonderful chatting to Paul and hearing all about his work and his plans.  I will certainly attend the opening on Sunday 13th September at the Amstelkerk and I recommend anyone who can get there to go along and see his work for themselves.  The exhibition is on until 4th October, and if you would like Paul to walk you around the exhibition and tell you about his paintings, he is happy to do so.  I have to say that it’s worth it as there is a lovely story behind each one.  You can contact him via his website to make an appointment.  www.paulellis.nl

Exhibition:  Paul M Ellis, Solo Exhibition, Paintings UKNL

Amstelkerk,  Amsterdam

13th Sept – 4th Oct 2015.

Mon – Fri  09: 00-17:00  Sundays 13:30 -17:00 (Sat Closed)

 

www.paulellis.nl

www.stadsherstel.nl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick’s Nosh Sept 2015

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Nick goes mental

by Nick Nugent

Lastage ***

Geldersekade 29

1011 EJ Amsterdam

Tel: 020-737 0811

E-mail: info@restaurantlastage.nl

 

pandIf you want to go for a posh meal on Sunday there’s not a huge amount of choice in Amsterdam these days with only four Michelin starred restaurants opening their doors.  Lastage is one, Sinne the new one in the De Pijp is another, with a couple of Ron Blawue’s establishments making up the rest.  We made our decision at the last minute to go, so there was little choice and in the end we picked Lastage.  As is customary with these places doing seasonal food they always ask for any dietary restrictions.  We don’t have anything in particular, but we sent them our list of dislikes, which seems to grow after every visit to a posh place.

Lastage is a pretty and petite restaurant near Nieuwemarkt with simple interior on two levels.  The interior is white with decorative art, wooden floors, solid looking wooden tables and comfortable chairs.  It is a nice place to be.

The meal was a sort of a celebration, so we plumped for the six course menu for 73 euros.  There is an also a flight that you can choose, but it was Sunday evening after all and work was tomorrow.  That said we did also choose the matched wines.  The service was friendly, and just about okay for attentiveness for a place such as this, but being ultra critical it could have been a bit better.

We started with sparkling wine from Spain.  As with all these multi course meals I will give the highlights only.

Amuses

Hummus with breadsticks

Rilette red gurnard

Pillow of creamed leeks

Crispy ring filled celeriac puree

These were all a bit brown except for the Hummus which was coloured with pea puree.  The crispy ring with the Celeraic was my favourite out of the amuses.

image1_Fotor-620x360First starter

Ossenworst with baby tomato and Ras el Hanout cream crispy kir seeds

Ossenworst is not my favourite thing from Dutch kitchen, but this was pretty ok and served with a light crisp Bandol 2012 from Provence.

Second starter

Sea bass tartare, haricot beans wrapped in leek with horse radish, prawn wrapped in kataifi pastry, lemon cream fraiche, cream corn, radish cone and crispy pillow.

This was nice enough, and the pastry wrapped prawn sent me memories of the first time I had such a thing during our tour of Ireland in 2007.  The purees on this plate I think made the dish for me.  The wine chosen to go with this was a MA’D Tokaji Furmint dry white from Hungary.

Intermediate

Cured tail end of pork with apple pickled cucumbers, garam masala sauce, lettuce, pumpkin seeds.

This was by far the prettiest dish served all night and I could have eaten two of these. It was lovely.  Classic pork with apple and pickle, but cooked to perfection and spiced up with the garam masala.  This was served with a Notari Montepulciano from Italy.

Intermediate

Fresh pea soup with black pudding

I love a good pea soup, and this one was good.  The soup had some whole split peas in there for added texture, and the black puddling gave a nice metallic counter point to the sweetness of the pea.

P1040845

Fish course

Turbot with broadbeans, wild garlic leaves, Ras el Hanout cream, shrimp, beetroot, sauce from soy.

If I love pea soup, then I adore turbot. It’s truly the king of fish for me.  It was beautifully cooked, and the accompaniments worked really well.  The sauce was damn good adding a very smoky umami flavour to the whole dish.  This was served with Condo D’ Evideria Reserva Branco from Portugal.

 

Offal

Sweetbread terrine with wild asparagus, puy lentils.

I’m a recent convert to sweetbread after my meal in Rotterdam at FG labs.  You can read that review also.  This style of cooking it in a terrine I thought was only okay. I think I would have preferred a simpler style.  It was tasty enough. This was served with red wine a Morgon Bernardo a French Beaujolais.

 

Main

Beef seasonal vegetables, separate artichoke and pea artichoke purées, pata negra, BBQ sauce & potato puff.

After all the courses, there was not a whole lot of room left for main, which was a good job it was only a small slab of beef.  It was cooked well, and their purees again were good.  The BBQ sauce I felt was a bit too strong for the dish overall, and after a while I got sort of bored with it.  This was served with a della Lucania Damaschito Aglianico del Vulture from southern Italy.

 

image_FotorDesserts

Cheese

Brioche bun filled with camembert, sheep cheese, apple pieces with balsamic, muscovado sugar powder.

Brownies

Hot chocolate liquid sponge, chocolate, white chocolate aero.

I’m not really a dessert sort of person, and so these are a little lost on me. They were nice enough and served with sweet white Chateau Loupaic-Gaudiet from Entre Deux-Mers from France.

You might have noticed that I haven’t said anything about the wine yet!  Well that’s because I wanted to save it all for the end.  The choices were brilliant. I was so happy with each match.  The sommelier Elise Moeskops did a cracking job on this, and in addition gave me some advice for my trip to Budapest on grapes and tasting venues.  Great job.

Overall, it was a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a Sunday evening. If you are in need of this level of food, then it’s a great choice.  I pondered long and hard about whether to give them four stars. This is still my highest accolade to date. In the end, I gave them three.  It didn’t quite make it to the heady heights of my La Rive experience, but it was pretty darn close.

 

Cyclists Beware

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Andy

by Andy Symmonds

 

routeverwijzing_fietsdepotThe Amsterdam Gemeente have managed to develop another money raising scheme that may also bring some benefits to the somewhat congested areas of Amsterdam. You may have noticed that parking areas for bicycles (and those pesky scooters) have been allocated with the drawing of white lines to designate these spaces.

Parking outside these boxes, even if they are as packed full as they usually are, now leads to the risk of your bike being kidnapped and held for a €15 ransom. This happened to me last week when I popped into the Apple store on Leidseplein to buy a new router. Service was prompt and I left the store in less than five minutes to discover media_xl_2138559that my bike was missing. My immediate thought was that it had been stolen, then I spotted it on the back of a Gemeente vehicle along with several other just kidnapped bikes. Pointing out that the bike had not been there for more than five minutes and that the neighbouring designated parking areas cut very little ice with the hostile kidnappers – their idea of help was to point me to the nearest board showing the details of who to call. Many bike owners will naturally assume that their bike has been stolen and report it to the police first, thus wasting time and effort for everyone.

After several attempts I was finally able to connect to the phone line that informed me of where my bike would be taken. This is where the adventure began. Once I had confirmed that my bike was at the fiestdepot at Bornhout, I had to take the wonderful combination of tram, train and bus to reach this destination (not a particularly swift img_7525process). Arriving at the fietsdepot then led to the search for the bike, and after paying the €15 tax we were reunited. The cycle home wasn’t exactly short or fast but at least it was quicker than public transport and healthy as a bonus.

The reason for writing this piece is to alert Zine readers to the fact that they now need to be more careful where they park their bikes, no matter how short the stop is. The Gemeente are clearly taking a hard line and will kidnap your precious transport in the blink of an eye. The focus is likely to be in the city centre, but as another revenue opportunity who knows how quickly this initiative will spread.

You have been warned.

Beer Hunter – On Your Bike

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Andy

 

Andy Symmonds

This month the Beer Hunter ventured slightly further afield than the outskirts of Amsterdam in pursuit of different beers and some new sights. To achieve this a small crew was formed with the plan to cycle from Lille to Amsterdam over three days and sample some local beers on the way.

The first part of the journey was by far the easiest – Amsterdam to Lille on the Thalys train with bicycles in bags on the storage racks. There we met another team member joining us from London, also by train, and set out in the direction of Brugge. The French do have a cycle path system but it has to be said that some repairs are overdue in some places, and the padding in our shorts was given a thorough test in the early parts of the journey.

It did not take that long to reach Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium (we are firm fans of the Schengen benefits), where we first paused to visit the Menin Gate, a memorial to the many soldiers from the Commonwealth that gave their lives during World War 1 but whose graves are unknown. The monument is inscribed with the names of 54, 896 officers and soldiers and really brings home the scale of the death during this conflict. It is notable that there is a Last Post ceremony held at 20:00 every day, a remarkable and moving tradition.

Westvleteren_XII_900The Menin Gate gave us time to reflect, after which we went in search of the necessary fuel to keep our journey going. We managed to find a very nice café just off the main square where we found some hearty food and sampled our first beer of the trip. We were not that far from the Abbey of Saint Sixtus where they make the Westvleteren XII and VIII but both of these beers can be hard to find and are not necessarily the best choice before cycling for the rest of the day, so we opted for a pils style beer from the Sas brewery. This was an excellent tonic and helped us on our way towards Brugge, where we were very confident of finding more beers to sample.

The centre of Brugge offers an amazing selection of establishments offering an almost bewildering selection of beers. We opted for a restaurant away from the main square with a good selection of beers from the tap and much more from the bottle. We sampled several and I can confirm that the Brugse Zot Brugse_Zot_900is a fine beer that is increasingly available in the Netherlands, La Chouffe will always be a favourite and the Westvleteren XII is indeed a very fine beer but should be sipped like a fine wine, not quaffed. Knowing that we had more kilometres to cover the next day tempered our enthusiasm for too many samples, but it was a nice way to spend the evening.

la-chouffe-artisanal-belgian-golden-aleSaturday morning arrived with the prospect of our longest day in the saddle ahead. After breakfast and some world class dithering, we were finally in the saddle again, pretty much convinced that someone had been sharpening our seats through the night. The forecast was wet and windy so there were some gritted teeth as we set out. We cycled up to Breskens (crossing the border without realising) then took the ferry to Vlissingen. Having just missed the boat we retired to the local café for coffee and snacks as it was a 50 minutes wait. Once on the boat we had the joy of watching the cloud cover get darker and lower, then the heavens opened. It was already windy and this seemed to intensify as we crossed the water, making a combination that drove us straight in to the nearest café for an early lunch. Broodje gezond washed down with a Leffe blond Leffe-Blondemay not be the default choice for many but it certainly went down well as we watched the wind blow in some slightly brighter weather.

The rain finally stopped so we set off again, destination Brielle. When planning the trip we had hoped for the more normal southerly winds, but we were now cycling into winds from the north west that were directly into our faces for many sections of the journey. Crossing the first section of the Delta Works storm barriers was as tough as it gets on a bike but we persevered knowing that there were more beers to sample when we arrived in Brielle. As we ground our way up through the Delta Works we saw many kite surfers from various European countries all enjoying what looked to be ideal conditions for their sport, who in turn looked at us as though we were completely mad. 20km from Brielle we stopped again for an emergency snack and the chance to sample a glass of Brugse Zot again, which gave us the energy to complete our journey.

Showered and refreshed, the quest continued. Our hotel had a good selection of beers so we warmed up with a 4.2.Bavaria_SwinckelsSwinckels pils. This beer is from a brewery that dates back to 1680 and is now part of the Bavaria stable. For our taste Swinckels is far superior to the parent brand and it was the ideal palate cleanser to get the evening going. We defaulted back to Trappist beers, but this time from a Dutch brewery (De Koningshoeven Brewery) near Tilburg. We tried the blond and the dubbel and both styles were well received. Our next stop was the bar / restaurant t’Kont Van Het Paard as the reviews of their food and beer selection were good to discover that we were not the only ones to read this, and that no reservation meant no table. There is thankfully an excellent restaurant just round the corner called De Smaeck van Breille that offers great food and friendly service, so we dodged the threat of starvation for another evening.

The final stage our beer tasting adventure was to return to t’Kont Van Het Paard for some digestif beers. We sampled a beer that none of us had heard of before, label-visual-Bootjes-1024x710Bootjes Bier, a couple of Trappist beers and a stout. The Bootjes Beer was tasty if a bit sweet for some palates, and the note taking sadly ground to a halt at this stage. The final leg of the journey took us up through the lovely city of Delft, but fatigue was starting to creep in so we opted for caffeine over beer. It was a fascinating trip through three countries leaving the impression that Belgium still makes an amazing selection of fine beers that spans all styles and tastes but the Netherlands still has some fine beers of its own. Many people believe that Trappist beers only come from Belgium so it was good to taste beers from a Dutch Trappist brewery. That said, the Westvleteren XII is going to take some beating as it is an exceptional beer.

Lille to Amsterdam by bike