Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Day Off in The Nederlands

Once at the hotel, I had to decide whether I’d be going to sleep or if I’d be getting dressed and heading out to spend the day with Persephone, one of my dearest friends…we’ve been great friends since college. I chose the latter. I always enjoy spending time with Persephone, and try to whenever I’m in this part of the world. Persephone met me at the hotel and we traveled to Gouda via train. What a quaint little town! It’s simply beautiful and scenic. As it happens, this weekend is Open Monument weekend, so we were able to visit several buildings, each hundreds of years old, for free!

The most incredible of the buildings was the Sint Janskerk Church. The church is filled with dozens of gorgeous stained glass windows. The colors in the windows are breathtaking and mesmerizing. I couldn’t stop staring at them.

After visiting the monuments, and a quick stroll through the shopping district, Persephone’s husband, father-in-law and I all went to a Gouda Culinary Festival. The food was tasty, but the service aspect of the festival didn’t function very well. First of all, visitors were compelled to sit at tables and place orders with overwhelmed wait staff, which made for very long delays before getting any food. At most festivals in the USA, visitors are invited to form a queue in front of whichever booth or booths appeal to their palate, pay for a plate of food, and either walk around with their food, or find a table. That way, waiting extended periods of time for food isn’t an issue. The competition for seating at the Gouda festival was intense! As soon as someone stood up from a table, someone was there waiting to take over their seats. Once seated, people tended to linger in their seats, even after finishing their food, despite the teeny, tiny portions.

Nonetheless, the event was fun, except for the prevalence of chain smoking, nicotine addicts all around us. The number of people carelessly and casually smoking amidst the diners was overwhelming. As I was attempting to enjoy a delicious plate of grilled scallops, the woman at the next table held and occasionally took a drag on cigarette, after cigarette, after cigarette, sending her noxious plumes directly towards our table, causing me to nearly gag. We Californians, with our decades of laws directed towards protecting the non-smoker, are simply not accustomed to how oblivious some smokers remain about their habit. I can’t imagine being so addicted to any substance. I could barely taste my food over the stench of the various cigarettes in the environment. However, I’m not in California, so I didn’t raise a fuss. I certainly didn’t want to offend the woman. Besides, perhaps oblivious smoking is simply part of the culture, and had she realized how horrible her smoking was making me feel she would have ceased. Ah well…c’est la vie. At least smokers aren’t allowed to smoke indoors at restaurants anymore in Holland. That’s a huge plus! I’ll be a bit more observant before choosing seating in an outdoor dining situation again!

1 comment:

Stanimal said...

Victoria, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks (and change) in Holland this past summer for work. Wonderful time and wonderful people. The Dutch take their caffine and nicotine seriously!