Oliebollen, fireworks and Dutch Masters

by Ollie, 11-01-2014

Happy 2015 everybody!!

Apologies for being absent so long, but I'm afraid work, a bit of traveling and surfing trumped writing blog posts lately.
It's our latest bit of travel I'd like to talk to you about today though. This year we celebrated the new year in the Netherlands!

On St Stephen's Day we flew from Dublin to the Netherlands and our first stop on our travels through the country was Willemstad, the town I grew up in, to visit family and friends. It was fantastic to see everyone again!
I think my mum got a bit of a shock when she found us on her doorstep unannounced but she did seem delighted to have us over for "Second Christmas day" diner (that's what St Stephen's or Boxing day is called in the Netherlands) and staying with her for the next couple of days.

Our next stop was Rotterdam, where we stayed with our very good friends Roel and Marloes. It was in Rotterdam that Alison got her first taste of "oliebollen" a snack that is traditionally only eaten during the run-up to New Year. Basically they are deep-fried balls of dough with raisins in them and covered in a feck-load of icing sugar. What's not to like about them?
Roel took us to the new "Markthal", which is a very funky building by the way, and treated us with some oliebollen and mulled wine. After a cycling tour through the city we ended up in the Captain's bar on the s.s. Rotterdam where we enjoyed g&t's and whiskey.

The next day, after a considerable amount of faffing, we went on to Amsterdam where we stayed with my little sister, who incidentally is a very talented young woman. You can see her stuff here: www.nathaliemadethis.com 
We spent New Years eve at a house party in Amsterdam which was good craic and at midnight the signal for the new year was given with another Dutch tradition.
In the run-up to New Year people can buy their own fireworks which are then lighted at the stroke of the New Year. The whole country basically turns into a fireworks display for about an hour, if you have a slightly elevated vantage point it is a spectacular sight.
Literally hundreds of thousands of Euros went up in smoke and all of this was accompanied by copious amounts of champagne, hugs, kisses and New Years wishes.

The next day, slightly hung over, we decided to start 2015 with a proper cultural experience, a visit to the Rijks Museum, which neither of us had seen before.
The Rijks Museum is home to the works of some world famous Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, Jan Steen and Pieter de Hooch.
I probably spent ten minutes in front of The Night Watch in a trance, admiring Rembrandt's masterpiece, but my personal favourite is Vermeer's Milkmaid. 
Vermeer's work is pure poetry and seeing his masterpiece with my own eyes made the hairs on my arms stand up, it is that brilliant. 

On that high note we caught the plane back to Dublin again.

In Willemstad we were lucky enough to see the first snow of the winter
Ali and Roel on the wooden yellow road 
Rotterdam: the city with one of the world's largest port is a bit gritty, but also has style

The very funky new "Markthal" in Rotterdam, this is where Alison got her first taste of oliebollen

Rotterdam's "Kop van Zuid" and Erasmus Bridge, or as the locals like to refer to it, "Manhattan on the Maas"

Rotterdam is a port city

The s.s. Rotterdam is the former flagship of the Holland America Line, built in the 1950s. In my mind she is the most beautiful ship ever built on a Dutch shipyard. She is now permanently moored in the port of Rotterdam and serves as a hotel.
s.s. Rotterdam

s.s. Rotterdam

The Captain's Bar on board s.s. Rotterdam
Happy New Year!! 
Two famous icons of Amsterdam: the canals and the Rijks Museum

Inside the Rijks Museum, Rembrandt's Nightwatch is drawing a crowd.

My personal favourite in the Rijks Museum, Vermeer's Milkmaid. Pure Poetry.


  1. It was a very pleasant shock to found the both of you on my doorstep
    heb er van genoten juist het onverwachte maakt het zo geweldig

    1. Happy to entertain :-) het was goed om weer thuis te zijn!