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March 14, 2009

An item with suspiciously plan-like characteristics
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:51 PM * 49 comments

It’s just over a week till the meetup in Amsterdam, and despite the best efforts of the universe, we have managed to make a plan. Here it is in its cunning entirety.

  • The place: Cafe Ot en Sien, as recommended by Martin Wisse.
    It looks to be about 10 minutes’ travel from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Take the Buikslotermeer ferry from the back (north side) of the station; it goes every five minutes or so and is free to ride. Follow the road north from the ferry dock until you get to the second right hand turn. Take that and the cafe should be not too far along the road.
  • The date: Sunday, March 22, 2009
  • The time: Fashionably late for 2:00
  • The plan: Eat. Drink. Be merry. Ignore the inconvenient parts of sayings.
  • The contingency plan: Communicate on this here thread if plans change before the day itself. If we are delayed en route, post the information to my Twitter stream.

Be there or be…elsewhere.

Comments on An item with suspiciously plan-like characteristics:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:38 PM:

In the words of S. J. Perelman, I'll be wearing a hamburger in my lapel.

#2 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 10:09 PM:

The next Sunday, March 20 is in 2011..... Have a great time, though!

#3 ::: Nicholas Whyte ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 02:10 AM:

I'll be on mission next weekend, but do give me a shout if you venture southwards during this trip!

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:22 AM:

Date fixed. Sunday the 22nd.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 08:46 AM:

Be there or be…elsewhere.

Rub it in.

#6 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 09:52 AM:

Next year in Fluorosphereland....

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 09:54 AM:

On the other hand, there will be a gathering of light in Montreal less than 5 months from now. Nyah nyah nyah...

#8 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:03 AM:

So near yet so far! Fie on undesired family-related duties.

Here's to you having a smashing time. Happy milestones once again!

Despite my limited Dutch, I perused the partial list of beers on the cafe website. My recommendations: the Bourgogne des Flandres*, Verboden Vrucht, Mort Subite Kriek (or Gueuze if you want to skip the fruit beers) and, among the trappist beers, Orval**. You should be very merry at the end of the day.

*I prefer Duchesse de Bourgogne, though.
** The other trappist beers are good too, but I'm guessing Chimay is fairly easy to find back in the US.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:06 AM:

Pnendrift @ 8... The other trappist beers are good too

...and the bad ones are death trappists?

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Pendrift #8: Chimay is fairly easy to find in the US. Mort Subite Kriek may also be encountered. I haven't come across the others. I suspect that down here in the Bible Belt, a beer with a name like Verboden Vrucht would be frowned upon, and definitely verboden.

#11 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 02:08 PM:

Serge @9,

Don't monk the stuff if you're a novice. Prior acquaintance with the brew should make you contemplative. Ah, but some people might take a swig and say "Cenobite, this stuff is divine!"

Fragano @10, thanks! I really have no idea which Belgian beers are widely exported outside Benelux and France.
Here's my partial list of favorites:

Rochefort 10, Orval, Kwak*, Chimay Bleue, Blanche de Hoegaarden, St. Feuillien, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Kasteel Bier (blond and brun), Rodenbach, Delirium Tremens, Pecheresse, Lindemans Kriek**, Barbar (a honey beer), and Silly Pils***.

Several are on the cafe's beer list.

Will there be photos of the festivities?

*served in its special glass
**Belle-Vue Kriek is easier to find but it's a bit too sweet for my taste
***nothing extraordinary, I drink it for the name. Living in a town called Silly would fill me with pride.

#12 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:54 PM:

I was seriously tempted to go, but there were too many reasons not to. Now, as it turns out, there's a new baby in the family. Maybe I'll get to meet her next weekend, if her parents are up to it.

Have a great time, everyone!

#13 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:55 PM:


Somewhat off-topic, but I have a Netherlands travel question which I hope you can help me with. Sadly I can't get to Amsterdam next Sunday, but I am heading for Tilburg (actually, Safaripark Beekse Bergen, for a conference) in May and was thinking of travelling by train: Eurostar to Brussels, then to Tilburg. I've been looking at the website First question: can you confirm that I need to look for trains from Brussel Zuid? Second question: do I need to book online (and if so, how do I get the ticket etc. - do they post it, is there somewhere I have to collect it at the station?) or can I just buy at the station when I get off the Eurostar? I'll be travelling out on Wednesday 20th May, which is the day before Ascension day. Is that a big deal? Will it be difficult to get a train?

Many thanks.

#14 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 04:39 PM:

Eat. Drink. Be merry. Ignore the inconvenient parts of sayings.

I'm nowhere near Amsterdam, but thanks for making me pause and remember exactly how many times I've seen just that phrase cheerily half-used...

#15 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 05:23 PM:

dcb @14:
I'm not Abi (am useless at poetry) but I can help with your questions.
1) Yes, you need to look from trains from Brussels Zuid/Midi (Dutch and French names for the same thing), where your Eurostar train will be arriving.
2) No need to book online, although you can if you want to. Just buy tickets once you reach Brussels Midi. I checked the SNCB website (Belgian national railways, you can consult it in English) and there are trains every hour. You'll need to change once, at Roosendaal. Travel time is 2 hours.

#16 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 06:37 PM:

Pendrift @ 15

Thank you for this (and I've now realised I can get the other train info. site in English as well).

Any one know whether it being the day before Ascension day will be a problem (in terms of trains being extremely busy) in Belgium or the Netherlands? It's irrelevant in the UK, but I'm aware it's more important in some countries in mainland Europe.

#17 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:02 PM:

dcb @16:
It won't be a problem in Belgium, as regular train schedules apply and it's a working day. (People are more likely to take Friday the 22nd off, as it'll give them a 4-day weekend.)

To NL-based readers: Belgium has weekend reduced-rate (40% off) return tickets for Benelux destinations (frex Brussels-Amsterdam for 23 EUR) for journeys between Friday and Sunday. Do the Dutch National Railways offer a similar package?

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:29 PM:

I am still almost entirely ignorant of the Dutch train pricing systems. I tend to just pick a departure date, check and go.

I don't travel much by train, though. Work, family, house, all that get in the way.

#19 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:45 PM:

your house is in the way of trains? Does it lift out of the way with clanging bells when a train comes?

#20 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 01:33 AM:

There are also some other solutions to that situation . . .

#21 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 03:38 AM:


The Dutch railways are going in for discount cards instead (which I should have signed up for, but didn't). If you sign up for a discount card (which is based on the new chipcard and has a photo) you get 40% discount on off-peak travel.

You need to get the brochure 'Het Voordeelurenabonnement' for the application form (doesn't seem to be online or in English), and the process takes up to three weeks. Looks to me like a cunning plan for giving discounts primarily to non-tourists.


#22 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:10 AM:

Pendrift @17

Thanks again. One last question: if I wait and buy a ticket on the day, will the price go up compared to what is quoted online at present? At the moment it seems to be 46.40 (Euro) return, since I'll be travelling in offpeak hours.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 09:00 AM:

John Houghton @ 19... Coming soon, Abi's Moving Castle!

#24 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 10:33 AM:

If you spend any time in Belgium, be sure to order a Dame Blanche for dessert. It's just vanilla ice cream, a crisp cookie, and dark chocolate sauce. But it someone manages to be the apotheosis of ice cream with fudge sauce.
You should also get some frites (french fries). It's a mysterious thing, but you cross the border,and those two items just aren't as good anywhere else.

#25 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:11 AM:

You should also get some frites (french fries).

I second the recommendation. If you do, be prepared for a mind-boggling array of sauces. In addition to ketchup and mayo, there's andalouse, samourai, curry ketchup, tartare, américaine, brésilienne, pitta, provençale, cocktail, and at least 10 others I've forgotten.

#26 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:26 AM:

Belgian-style fries are not unknown in New York City; there generally seem to be a few eateries specializing in them. But I'll try them in their native context if I get the chance.

We're currently looking at popping over the border for a quick visit to Liege, as part of a two-day side trip taking in Maastricht and Koln as well.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:55 AM:

Patrick @ 28... popping over the border for a quick visit to Liege

So, you'll be popping the cork?
Did you know that 'liège' is the French word for 'cork'?

#28 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 12:14 PM:

I'd have loved to be there, but I'm on call Friday night. I was looking at tickets anyway, but it just didn't work out.

#29 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 12:38 PM:

One word of advice for the ferries. There at the back of Central Station (which is usually where the trains from schiphol come in as well) and you need to take the ferry that goes more or less straight over the IJ, NOT the ones to NDSM Werf or IJplein, as that will leave you miles from where you want to be.

22: unlike in perfidious Albion, railway ticket prices (barring special offers) are fixed, so buying them now or on the day doesn't matter.

#30 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 01:19 PM:

Martin Wisse @ 31

Many thanks for this info - very reassuring.

#31 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 02:50 PM:

A friend of mine writes a detective fiction blog focused on non-American books (despite his location in Philadelphia, PA). He has some thoughts and quotes about a Dutch book he's reading, and the comments to the post have a few informative items about the Dutch culture.

Peering into Amsterdam windows is not rude, apparently.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 02:55 PM:

Martin Wisse @ 31... perfidious Albion

...on one side, and the heinous Hun on the other?

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Linkmeister @33:
Peering into Amsterdam windows is not rude, apparently.

Well, in De Wallen, it's part of the business.

As for the rest of the Netherlands, no, not particularly. There is a subset of tradition that says that one shouldn't have curtains up at all*, and indeed many of the older people in our village do not. We do, but if they're open, I expect to be looked at.

This is particularly entertaining because my bindery/workroom desk faces the street. So my neighbors know I make stuff (though I've bound so few books lately that I think they haven't twigged to what I make most often.)

* I am informed that it is to prove that you're not Up To No Good, but my informant could have been pulling my leg.

#34 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:11 PM:

Well, I may not be making it to the meetup in Amsterdam this weekend, but, properly informed and reassured about my onward travel, I have now booked my Eurostart tickets and I am ready for my train journey. I'm rather looking forward to it. So many advantages over a certain budget airline: reasonable departure times, no extra charge for luggage (particularly useful since I intend to camp at my destination conference), not feeling guilty about flying, being able to watch the scenery and see a bit of the countries I'm travelling through - AND I shouldn't have any problem about bringing bottles of good beer back.

Any suggestions where to buy decent beers (a) to drink at the time; (b) bottled, to bring home, within easy walking-with-wheeled-luggage distance of (i) Brussels Midi (ii) Tilburg railway station? Are there any restrictions on buying alcohol on a Sunday (my return date)?

#35 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:38 PM:

(b)(i): No restrictions on buying alcohol on a Sunday, aside from the usual EU allowances on alcohol and tobacco. Your biggest problem may be finding an open shop. There's a small grocery with a decent selection of beer inside the Brussels Midi station but it's probably closed on Sunday; I'll check the next time I'm there.

#36 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:11 PM:

It used to be that there was a high-speed ferry running on the Harwich/Hook-of-Holland route, and they still have through ticketing with the railways, though just with ordinary ships.

Even with conventional ships, it's worth considering. If nothing else, they have better food on the ferries.

#37 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 04:15 AM:

Pendrift @ 37

Thanks - that way if I know it will be closed, I can always buy beer on the way out and just lug it to the conference and back (and try not to get it drunk while I'm there).

Is there anywhere worth spending a couple of hours in Brussels on a Sunday?

#38 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 05:32 AM:

dcb @39:

Oh, if you've got a couple of hours to kill on Sunday, that solves your beer problem. On your way back, get off at Brussels Central station (it's between Brussels Nord and Brussels Midi, and your train from NL will stop at all three), pop over to the Grand Place, and look around. Cafes, museums, and restaurants abound. A lot of shops will be open as well.
I monitor the address I use here, so feel free to email if you have more questions.

#39 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:24 AM:

Patrick @28:
We're currently looking at popping over the border for a quick visit to Liege, as part of a two-day side trip taking in Maastricht and Koln as well.

A friend from Liège recommends the Café Lequet along the Meuse river for the fries and a local specialty, the "boulet sauce lapin-frites", described as meatballs with a sweet beer-and-Liège-syrup-based sauce and raisins or prunes.
L'Industrie was voted "best fries joint in town" and is also highly recommended.

#40 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 07:02 AM:

Pendrift @ 40

Thanks again. This is the sort of very-useful-information which is much easier to get from a person who knows the area than from the internet (no doubt available on the right websites, if you can find the websites).

#41 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 01:32 PM:

I won't be able to make it, but I will get me some Old Amsterdam cheese. Oh, and Dutch chocolate. Have fun!

#42 ::: Antiquated Tory ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 05:56 PM:

Well, I'm only an occasional lurker here, though my wife is a regular reader. Just popped in to give a good word for either the Westmalle or Grimbergen Dubbel.
I'd second the suggestion for Orval, but only if the pub has an Orval Ambassadeur sticker. That's not only snobbery--that also means that they keep a supply of Orval cellared for 3 years. The 3-year Orval is a tremendous beer.
Mort Subite is OK for fruit beer, though I prefer a style they don't have called Oud (Old) Kriek--the drier, the better. Boom makes a very good one, as does Drei Fontainen. There's a new (!) gueuze brewery called De Oude Cam (in the delightfully named village of Gooek), and their Oud Kriek is amazing--slightly sour, bone-dry, over 35% cherry.

#43 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:08 PM:

I trust our illustrious hosts have arrived safe and sound in the low countries?

#44 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 01:34 PM:

Abi, a post from you! I'm not going to read, I'm just checking things out. I expect to be home next week and then I can read the more recent posts!

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 01:41 PM:

Hey, Marilee!
Welcome back.
I've missed you a lot.

#46 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:21 PM:

Marilee! Hooray!

Keep us posted.

#47 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:44 PM:

Marilee! Welcome back!

#48 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 07:42 PM:

Marilee, welcome back! YAAAY!

#49 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2009, 02:42 AM:

Marilee!! W00t! Huzzah, Hooray, Calloo-Callay!
It's so good to 'see' you 'out and about' :)
<is too happy to do happy dance, so sits smiling & claps hands>

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