The good life in Leiden

A week trip is actually only 6 days/nights, with the two transatlantic crossings, and so it went much too fast. On Thursday we settled into our lovely little boutique hotel on the main canal (Rapenburg) in Leiden, and then hurried to Scheveningen to see my sister and her husband in the construction site that will become their new house – only the heating system was installed, to help with the drying of the plaster. For the rest it required a great deal of imagination to see what they had bought. Decades long unpruned bushes had grown into large and ugly trees that towered the house. One had fallen over in the near hurricane that swept over Holland some weeks ago. But in this town you cannot just cut a tree, even if it used to be a small bush – once the diameter of the trunk exceeds a number of centimeters it is considered a tree, ugly or not, and you have to ask for a special permission which can take months.

In the evening we obeyed Tessa’s rules about researching where you are going to eat but the number 1 and 2 wouldn’t let us in without a reservation, and reservations wouldn’t be taken until Sunday night, when we would have moved on already. Later we discovered that it was a special ‘dinner’ week during which participating restaurants offer 3-course prix fixe dinners hoping to attract people to go out during what is otherwise a very dead time of the year. We learned our lesson and reserved for the next night in the first restaurant that was actually taking reservations – it was not participating in the week’s specials. It was the most expensive dinner I can remember, but memorable indeed, if not for the amazingly creative cuisine and skilled plating, then also for the young and inexperienced waitress who dumped a fancy champagne/liqueur cocktail over one of the guests. The girl was mortified and close to tears for the rest of the evening. We kept smiling to here, sending oxytocin her way in the hope of counteracting the high levels of cortisol; a practical application of all the neurochemistry I have learned this past year.

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