Date night: Rotterdam edition

It’s Date Night. And the crowd goes wild!

WWE Live in Rotterdam Randy Orton

With a beer in one hand, a cone of mayo-slathered frites in the other, I navigate the sea of neon-clad 10 year-old boys who are crazed with the first hormonal stirrings, accompanied by gym-ripped dads dressed in the tiny muscle tees and leather chokers they seem to have saved from their gigolo glory days.

I sidestep pimpled teens who are communicating to each other entirely in football jargon and curse words, and push past a handful of (surprisingly large) women sporting big blond hair, fake tans and slick faux-leather leggings.

I hand the beer and frites to my husband, who’s as excited as a puppy, and settle down for the main event. As sweaty brutes in one-shouldered Spandex onesies toss each other into the air and smash metal folding chairs into each other’s ridiculously muscled backs, as a wife, I wonder: “Whose idea was this again?”

Oh yeah. Mine.

WWE Live in Rotterdam

When I first bought tickets to WWE Live in Rotterdam as a Christmas present for Marlon, a lifelong WWE fan, it seemed like a stroke of genius. Hey, I liked Hulk Hogan when I was four, so I totally get it! I boasted, feeling like a cool wife. Let’s go to Rotterdam! We’ll make a weekend of it!

Sitting in that teeming mass of testosterone, I wasn’t so sure. My eyes clung desperately to Randy Orton (above), the wrestler who seemed the least like a caricature and most like a real person. Also, he’s cute. Eye candy makes a world of difference.

Somehow, I made it through the evening without turning into a hormonally crazed tween or an ex-gigolo dad. We left Ahoy Rotterdam with Marlon looking chuffed and acting suitably grateful for my wifely sacrifice.

Rotterdam Erasmus Bridge by night

As for me? I needed a stiff cocktail. Let the real Date Night begin!

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Rollende Keukens, Amsterdam’s food truck festival

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam tosti camper van

If there’s a time of year that makes me glad we live in Westerpark, it’s every last weekend of May. That’s when over a hundred food trucks roll into our neighborhood for Rollende Keukens, Amsterdam’s very own food truck festival.

From 20 “rolling kitchens” in 2008, Rollende Keukens has grown bigger, better and yummier every year. This year’s festival was an extended five-day foodie extravaganza with 130 food trucks featuring both tried-and-tested Dutch favorites and cuisines from all over the world.

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam tortilla truck

Westerpark becomes packed to bursting with people from all walks of life: kids and toddlers squealing on the Ferris wheel, and crusty old men living out their rockstar dreams—or reliving their rock n’ roll pasts, who knows?—on the live music stages dotting the festival; trendy hipsters and young families (and that special hybrid, trendy young hipster families); the ever-practical Dutchies who stock up on cheaper drinks at the nearest Albert Heijn before coming, and Amsterdam expats seeking a taste of home.

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam sweet dreams are made of cheese

There’s something for everyone at Rollende Keukens, whether it’s simple Dutch fare like grilled cheese tostis and kroketten presented in a fun, creative way, or flavors from a dozen different countries and cultures.

If you don’t enjoy the food, which is highly unlikely, you’re sure to enjoy that untranslatable Dutch gezelligheid—a feeling of belonging and fun that comes from being in the right place with the right company. I know I do.

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam

With all this food truck fun just around the corner from our house, it was so easy to stop by every day for a quick bite. Here are my foodie favorites from this year’s edition of Rollende Keukens.

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Weekend wisdom: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou quote: My great hope

What weekend? It’s only Thursday! you might wonder. It’s a public holiday today in the Netherlands, so I have an excuse to start early.

Truth be told, I’ve been crawling towards the weekend. Tala’s gastouder is closed for two weeks, so I’m back to being a full-time mom. And whew! I’m constantly surprised by how much motherhood demands on a daily basis. It’s been a challenge for me to put aside all the creative momentum I’ve built up over the past few weeks and say to all my newfound plans and ambitions, not now. My daughter needs me: my energy, my patience, and well, pretty much everything I’ve got. I’ll get back to you later.

Next week, I’ll be back to tell you all about Rollende Keukens, a fabulous brunch discovery, and a most unusual date night in Rotterdam. For now, let me leave you with this quote from one of the great writers of our time. The world may have lost Maya Angelou this week, but her words, soul and voice will remain with us for all time.

It’s my great hope to get my work done, too. But that can wait. Till then, have a wonderful weekend!

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Where to eat in Copenhagen: Hallernes Smørrebrød

Don’t these Danish smørrebrød look absolutely delicious? If you’re wondering where to eat these in Copenhagen, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Torvehallerne smorrebrod Copenhagen

First, I have to say: If there’s one way you don’t want to end a weekend away, it’s spending three hours in a hospital emergency room. But that’s exactly how I spent the hours of 3 to 6 a.m. on my last morning in Copenhagen.

I woke up i gasping from an excruciating pain right below my ribcage, and after an hour in godawful pain (like, vomiting and unable to stand up straight kind of pain), I hopped in a taxi to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. I got asked several times if I might be pregnant, and when the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me they wheeled out an ultrasound machine. You cannot imagine how terrified I was that I might see another Little Mango waving at me! Yeah, yeah, I’m not ready for Baby #2, but that’s another blog post all together.

It turned out to be a teeny tiny gall stone. Whew, yay, it’s not a baby! The doctor gave me extra strong painkillers and sent me home in a taxi. “My Copenhagen weekend cannot end like this,” was my last thought before I passed out in my hotel bed at 6:30 a.m, exhausted and miserable.

All this is why the last thing I did before catching my flight back to Amsterdam was drag myself to the Torvehallerne, the biggest food market in Copenhagen. I had to have something Danish, something delicious, and something good to remember Copenhagen by.

Torvehallerne market smorrebrod Copenhagen

I got all all of that in the fresh, flavorful and artfully stacked little package known as smørrebrød. Hallernes Smorrebrod at Torvehallerne makes these traditional Danish open-faced, brown bread sandwiches from a selection of local ingredients that changes daily.

Hallernes smorrebrod Copenhagen

They all look so appealing that it’s hard to choose! In the end I filled my plate with three, which makes a light and satisfying lunch. I chose juicy roast beef topped with pickles and crispy fried onions…

Hallernes Smorrebrod Torvehallerne Copenhagen

… and leverpostej, or chicken pate with bacon, home-pickled cucumber salad and beets (at the top). It was surprisingly tasty considering I hate chicken liver! My favorite was the laks, or citrus-marinated salmon with fennel cream, lemon and dill.

Now this is the way I like to leave a city: with its flavors on my lips. If you’re wondering where to eat in Copenhagen, look no further than Torvehallerne… and be sure to give Hallernes Smorrebrod a try!

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Copenhagen: first impressions

“Don’t believe it. It’s not always like this!” said the natives of Copenhagen, their expressions lying somewhere between delight and suspicion. They were referring to the brilliant summery weather that welcomed me (and fellow bloggers at The Hive) to Copenhagen last weekend, a perfect invitation to walk around and explore the city.

One free afternoon wasn’t enough, but here are a few things I got to do and see in Copenhagen.

Nyhavn Copenhagen

Probably the most photographed spot in Copenhagen, the 17th-century harbor of Nyhavn is a picturesque heritage area lined with old wooden ships and colorful townhouses. It might be touristy, but it sure is pretty.

For genuinely good dining on the waterfront, the stylish restaurants and jazz bar of The Standard—housed in an Art Deco building of Danish design—are just around the corner from Nyhavn.

Copenhagen The Black Diamond Royal Danish Library

Being a total nerd, the first place I went to see was the Royal Library and its sleek modern extension, The Black Diamond. Covered in black granite from Zimbabwe, this library is a contender for the coolest public library in Europe—a serious challenger for even my beloved Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam.

I would have been all over this place had it not been closed for Great Prayer Day, an actual Danish public holiday. I had to content myself with sprawling out on the waterfront deck beside the Black Diamond and reading a book in the sun. Oh, it’s a tough life.

Copenhagen Holmens Kanal

Perhaps Copenhagen and Amsterdam could be siblings: Copenhagen the prim, buttoned-up, neat freak older brother, and Amsterdam the shaggy-haired, relaxed, slightly wacky younger one. Like Amsterdam, Copenhagen is a waterfront city criss-crossed by canals, although the buildings are older and wonkier here.

Copenhagen bicycle

And like Amsterdam, Copenhagen is crazy about cycling. In fact, Denmark has the second largest number of bicycles per capita, ranking just below the Netherlands.

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