Today’s post is about my travel to three European nations – The Netherlands, Germany and France. It was the year 2011.
We stayed for a week each in these countries, Monday to Friday were in the office and a little time in the evening for the local sights. Saturday was our one day of out of our small towns to the Big cities – Amsterdam and Paris. Sunday was our travel day.
The Research Centre is in the City of Nieuwegein, Utrecht. We were put up at the Van Der Valk Hotel in Houten, our good fortune. The hotel suits were definitely a high-class experience. Due to another event in the city, the budget stay places were unavailable and
our luck would have it, We lived in a real posh place. And there I got to try a master chef style presentation of a Salmon Dish for roughly €20 ( the price was in the high range). Although the visual was quite appetising, the actual dish wasn’t. It was a bland meal. The fish was cooked great. I couldn’t really taste any flavour. While watching Masterchef and other international cooking shows I have wondered as what goes into enhancing the flavour of the dish. Coz salt and occasionally some ground pepper are all that they use as condiments. The salmon dish that day reaffirmed this. Maybe I was nescient enough to not appreciate a good fine dining experience. After an arduous day of travel, the reality of the meal was this – little portion, not filling, not tasty and no place else to go to search for a meal.
From the next day, we requested for a taxi service to the city’s main commercial area. We found an Indian place and we stuck to it for the next 5 days! Mornings as always, the breakfasts are amazing. Afternoon meals were from the cafeteria ( it actually served some tasty food, at least we had fries and pasta, if not anything else).
The Friday night of our week in Nieuwegein campus, our hosts took us on a tour of the city of Utrecht – the church, the eateries, and some other sights were all covered on a walk. It was walk-the-city tour. Even more interesting was that they took us to 3 different restaurants for the 3 courses of the meal. The first course – appetisers, were in a Mediterranean cuisine restaurant where we were served little bits of shrimps and goat cheese. Then after few sights, they took us to an Indian place called Gandhi for our main course. Finally for the drinks and desert, another place.
The next day, the Saturday we took a train to Amsterdam – “everything” is legal in Amsterdam. I ended up ditching the company of my colleagues (they acted crazy and
started pointing fingers at those funny (you get what am talking about) shops, but didn’t dare to go in). I sought out to see Amsterdam on my own took a boat cruise that gave a beautiful tour of the city. I met a bunch of women travelling from the UK to celebrate one their friend’s birthday/anniversary. I had a jolly good time. Then off I went to see the Anne Frank House. For lunch, I chose to eat from a Lebanese place and opted for shawarma kind of a wrap. Was hungry and wanted to play safe. Walked all over Amsterdam and took the train back to Nieuwegein and packed a decent tasting pasta in the train station.
So Sunday morning, we took a flight to Frankfurt and a taxi ride to Schweinfurt. Schweinfurt is a small town. Its main industries are the bearing industry.Historical Fact: During the World War II the factories manufacturing the Ball Bearings to Third Reich Army’s was bombed by the allies.
So the Sunday went in Check-in and for food, we ended eating at a fast food restaurant- chicken nuggets and burgers and Coffee-Macchiato Latte (This is was as close to a Nescafe coffee as I could get). The Cafeteria food was just bad! No comments. Don’t even remember the food. The supper we ended up eating at the local Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurant. I experienced snow for the first time in Schweinfurt.
Out of excitement of seeing the snow, I put on my warm clothes and walked out to the street. The time was past 2 am and I ended up locking myself out of the Hotel we stayed. Lucky for me, a taxi guy helped me to figure out that my room key was also a key to the hotel! Friday night, again the host arranged for a tour of the city which culminated at an Indian Restaurant.
Yet again, we travelled on Saturday to the City of Tours. It is very difficult to get any directions in France if you are speaking in English. On point, they don’t help the English speaking tourist. So we just scouted the area and stuck to an Indian place for our supper meals. In the Cafeteria, I literally did a hand flapping gesture to ask if the meat served was chicken. I truly understood then, how difficult it is for people who travel not knowing the local language. The Friday, the hosts took us on a tour of the City of Tours – Saint-Gatien Cathedral, Loire Valley Chateaux, Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the River Loire
and the dinner was at a French Restuarant, lucky for us we had our host who helped us figure out the menu. The city of Tours was famous for its own bubbly ( champagne kinda white wine- am not sure what they explained). We had a taste of it and I had some amazing Oysters in a white wine sauce and the world famous Creme Brulee for desert.On the Saturday of our week in France, our hosts obliged and we went to the city of Paris. We went to see the Eiffel Tower and stayed there till the cold hurt my bones. Later I had dinner with a friend from college, who was living in Paris. Then back to my room.
This although was not a complete gastronomic journey. It was a Journey nonetheless. Hope you have enjoyed the read, as much as I enjoyed the nostalgia. I wish I remembered more and a travel journal would have been helpful. A note to myself.
PS: the photos attached here are my own. So pardon the angle or composition of the photo.