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The Smallest Detail

Sometimes it all begins with the smallest detail.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the recent visit of my brother’s family, and how visiting non-expats help us see our expat life with fresh eyes. Showing them the sights and sharing our daily lives cause us to look anew at the little things that we no longer notice.

This past weekend I had another ‘light bulb’ moment as Husband and I were walking on ‘the Fred’ (our shopping street, the Frederik Hendriklaan) with Oli on Saturday. We were headed for our bank ATM, and many people were out running their late morning errands.

We ambled down the sidewalk past the hardware store, wine shop, used book store and the new drug store that has taken the space of our former post office. Suddenly Husband stopped in his tracks.

‘When did this open?’ he asked, while restraining Oli from wrapping his leash around my legs.

When did what open? I thought as I turned to face the restaurant entrance before us.

And then it clicked. A new Italian restaurant had opened up, taking the place of what Husband has described as ‘a pretty mediocre lunch place’. I will say that the place never seemed very busy. In a word, it had always seemed nondescript.

I’d never eaten there, but Husband and Son did once, so I’m taking their word on this.

The new Italian place was buzzing with customers: some catching the sun’s rays at the few tables outside, others inside lined up to place their orders, still others at tables in the back of the restaurant.

What immediately registered was that there must be large skylights in the rear of the restaurant as the animated faces of the diners there were bathed in bright sunlight.

The next day we were on our usual Sunday midday stroll. We like to get in a couple miles of exercise for Oli as well as us, while exploring nearby neighborhoods and parks. We eventually work our way around to Paagman’s, the only bookstore open on Sundays and sole seller of the Sunday London Times on the Fred.

As we headed home, we happened to once again pass by the new Italian place, Pastanini’s. I wasn’t paying attention again (seems to be a recurring theme in this story), when Husband stopped short.

‘Look! It’s open on Sundays.’

Now to many of you around the world, you may think that is no big deal. But it is here in Nederland. With the exception of some of the downtown areas of Amsterdam and the largest cities, restaurants and stores in many towns, villages and neighborhoods are usually closed on Sunday.

The Italian place was packed with customers enjoying a nice meal of homemade pastas or pizzas hot out of the enormous stone oven. By virtue of being open on Sunday, our dining options for a leisurely lunch on the normally active Fred had just tripled.

But it gets better. I inquired about the hours. As with most restaurants, the new place is closed on Mondays. But it’s open six days a week until 9 pm.

Which means we now have two, count ’em, a whopping two restaurants to choose from should we ever want to eat out on a Sunday evening. And this place is only two blocks from home! (The other restaurant is a few blocks further down the Fred.)

Despite being late afternoon, in that nether world between lunch and dinner, the new place was once again crowded with diners. Everyone was smiling, chatting, chewing. Enjoying themselves.

Later that evening we decided to seize the opportunity and wander up to the new restaurant for dinner. Oh the rapturous joy of telling Son and Daughter, lightly disgruntled to be pulled from their respective studying for exams, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only two blocks away, across from the Albert Heijn’!

And how was our first dinner at Pastanini’s?

We wouldn’t know. It was still packed, not a table to be had.

Sigh…

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