Tag Archives: pieminister

Amsterdam – part 3

Amsterdam – day 3 aka Friday

One of the reasons why we were looking at going to Amsterdam in the first place, wasn’t the drugs or the prostitutes. It was for a tulip event that takes place between March and May at Keukenhof.
Of all the years we could go, ironically, this year the theme is “British”. Clearly that was a sign that we should go this year.
We could go any day during our trip (the tickets are valid for any time they’re open between March-May), but of the days we have left, a combination of different weather websites would seem to suggest today is the day when it’s least likely to rain, so today we go to Keukenhof.

Before leaving the UK, we booked the Keukenhof combi-ticket which is not only your entrance fee, but the buses to/from the place. It requires two buses – one to the airport, and another from the airport to Keukenhof. But we can’t use our combi-ticket on all buses, and sadly not on the much-more-convenient train that goes to the airport.
We made it from our hotel to Leidsplein. It tells you to catch a bus from there. But as we went via tram to Leidsplein, we’re at Leidsplein tram stop now, not Leidsplein bus stop. Where the hell do the buses stop?
After a bit of wandering around, we found a bus stop, and got our bus to the airport. (The taxi waiting area maps show where the taxis are, the tram stops show where the trams stop, but without knowing where the buses go already to find the bus stop, how are you meant to know where they are?).
I’ve said this before, but the airport is enormous. Our bus is due to make about 10 stops at the airport. The next part of the ticket/Keukenhof website instructions say to go to something plaza, and get a bus outside of arrival hall 4. We waited til we saw the plaza, and got off. Where is the OUTSIDE of arrival hall 4? It’s impossible to find, without going back into the airport, following the signs for the arrival halls, then no.4, then coming back out of the nearest exit. There’s no outside signage for this bus, really.
Maybe what the instructions should have said was “pick up the bus round the corner by the bins, in the bit that isn’t really a bus stop”.
Anyway, we found our next bus, and half an hour’s (quite warm and sweaty) journey later (due to no opening windows), we were at Keukenhof.


It’s very nice. It’s lots and lots and lots of tulips.
There are some other things like daffodils and a reasonable-sized collection of orchids, but the vast majority is tulips.
We’ve come so late in their season that some parts of it were closed. There’s no boat trip to see the tulip fields (because they’re no longer interesting to look at), and some of the plants are dying off.
Despite this, it’s still impressive and so enormous that we got lost and double backed on ourselves several times.
We saw lots of interesting things though. And we’ve got some ideas for improving our garden at home (and not just by filling the entire garden with tulips).
If you exclude the Chinese people (and why would you do that? What have you got against the Chinese?), we dragged down the average age of visitor by quite a lot of years. There was lots and lots of Chinese people of all ages, all taking photos. Much like with the sex museum, a lot more women than men. So Chinese women like penis-shaped ornaments, traveling, and tulips, it seems.

I took quite a lot of photos here, but here’s a handful of them.
















The “British” themed section was dreadful. Think of a terrible “British” cliche that you would put in something you were trying to make British. Go on. What would you have?
Bowler hats? Yep.
Umbrellas? Of course.
James Bond? Definitely.
Will and Kate? Yep.
Mr Bean? Never mind that he hasn’t been on British tv in probably 20 years, why not.
The Beatles? Really? Seriously though? (Yes they’re in there.)
A red bloody phone box? When was the last time anyone in Britain used a payphone? But yes.




And talk about London-centric. Why don’t you just name the displays after London tube stations or something.

Oh.. you have.

They have multiple cafes, and with a British theme, and one of the cafes apparently serving British food, you couldn’t fail to get a nice cup of tea, could you?
I despair. I really do.
The first place had only mint and lemon tea. What the fuck.
Rooibos? Come on. Nobody really drinks that piss.
Where’s the Twinings English Breakfast?
We found one of the cafes selling Ceylon, and while it’s a bit weak, it’s not too bad.
But hot water, teabags and milk all presented at the same time pre-payment. Children’s-style beakers without handles as per usual (does nobody drink hot drinks, yet not want to continually burn themselves, in Holland?).
My girlfriend had the novel idea of taking an extra cup to fill with milk, so our tea had a bit of time to brew. It ended up a bit weak, but other than that, not completely awful.

Possibly worse than the tea, and worse than the British cliches, was the RHS building. There’s several buildings. One has orchids in for example, and one had a lot of lilies. And one was stipulated as being set up by the RHS. I’ve never seen such a disappointingly dull garden-themed thing.
It was all printed cardboard backgrounds, and handy garden “tips”. There was a written piece about all the things people consider typifies a British garden. And that was it. Just words and pictures. Not a single real flower or plant in the building.


It’s a disgrace, considering the sort of artistic flair and clear expertise had been displayed elsewhere at Keukenhof, and how good RHS gardens usually are.


After a lot of flowers, we had two exhaustingly-crammed bus journeys back to the centre of Amsterdam, where we found somewhere for dinner. And after all that walking, who can be bothered to go looking for restaurants?…especially when there’s a branch of Pieminister we’ve already found.
Pie and mash each, and two cups of tea.
Two cups of hot water (with handles), with black tea teabags, and milk in a tiny motorway services milk jug.
I’m home at last.

Interestingly the pies are apparently still made in Bristol, using local ingredients (presumably local to Bristol, not local to Amsterdam). I can’t quite figure out how that’s possible. Do they make a load and get someone to ship them in, frozen? Do they fly them in, daily? They tasted great, anyway.
The tea was a tiny bit weak (builders tea just doesn’t seem to exist in Amsterdam), but the best we’ve had in a cafe here so far.


They all look the same, those lot

Earlier, I’ve commented how the buildings all look quite similar/aren’t that interesting to look at. I mentioned this today to my girlfriend, who was appalled at this suggestion. Then later on, her usually-incredible sense of direction failed her, when we got lost and she proclaimed “these streets all start to look the same”.
To be fair re buildings, I think maybe I’m just spoilt. If I lived in Swindon, I’d probably think these buildings were quite grand. But big doorways, finicky edging, etc. is easily and readily seen in Bristol. Meh.

Amsterdam – part 2

Amsterdam – Day 2

This morning we got up, had our Weetabix and Jordan’s Fruit and Nut cereal mixture in our hotel room/tent, and went in search of central Amsterdam.
We caught a tram, after asking a helpful pensioner where to buy tickets. (I’m not being ageist by the way. She told us a few times about her age, and showed us what is presumably the Dutch equivalent of a pensioner bus/rail/tram pass.)
She also complained about how expensive it was. It was €2.80 for a single into town, or €7.50 to use the entire tram network as much you want for 24 hours. It seems quite reasonable to me.

After a fairly pleasant journey into the centre, we spent the day wandering.
We shunned Madame Tussaud’s immediately. I think I’d be rubbish in there. I don’t even know who the (presumably well-known) waxworks are on the outside of the building.

It has to be said that there’s not a lot of what I’d call interesting architecture. One building looks a lot like another, really. A lot of buildings are grey/dark, which makes them all look a bit drab. It didn’t help that a light drizzle turned into more of a constant heavy-drizzle, that got heavier (and windier) as the day went on, getting greyer and greyer by the minute.
Fans of Blockbusters will like the pavements at least.


More tea oddness

We stopped in a cafe called something like Le Caffier. We ordered two sandwiches and two cups of tea. So we ask for this at the till, then get ushered towards the teabag selection to make our choice. English Breakfast tea it is.
Upon choosing them though, I notice that this tea is laughable. It claims to be Devonshire tea.

This must be made for American tourists. I’ve never heard of Devonshire tea? It’s also made in the USA, so I don’t have the highest of hopes for this.

(No offence to the USA, but decent black tea comes from places like India or China. It just does. Even very British companies like Twinings make blends from tea they get from India/China/other places renowned for tea expertise.)
After a short wait, the girl in the cafe brings us…two tumbler-style glasses of boiling water (no handles!), and a metal jug of hot steamed milk.

Slightly odd, but we dunk our drawstring teabags. She asks if she can pour the milk in, but we’ve not dunked or squeezed enough yet. I ask if I can keep the milk jug til it has brewed. She reluctantly lets me.
Later on, she says that she’s always just poured the milk straight, but another (British) customer recently asked if she would wait a bit (while the tea brewed) first.
The tea was…ok. I wouldn’t say nice. It’s not quite as weak as the ones in our hotel though. Note to self: we must buy some decent teabags later.

Familiar brands

A bit more wandering. I’ve spotted loads of brands I recognise here. Obviously clothes brands are international, along with places like Vodafone and Tmobile, but I saw a Waterstone’s bookshop earlier. And a branch of M&S.
These are all large well-known brands. But then, when we were a bit lost, looking for a supermarket, we found a branch of Pieminister. What are the odds? Bristol’s finest pie shop, in the middle of Amsterdam?
And it’s open til 9.30pm every night. I’ve never got to eat-in at the one in Bristol on an evening because it shuts about 7pm and I’m too crap at organising myself to get there in time, but I’m sure I can manage this.

We had a look around some smaller shops. Who knew there was a Fifty Shades of Grey board game? For “3+ players”. Kinky.

And Hello Panda biscuits come in Strawberry flavour? Who knew?

(Probably a lot of Chinese people do.)

The sex museum

We were looking for something to do inside as it was pissing it down, so we went to the sex museum. It’s an odd experience. In some ways, a lot of it is quite bawdy. There’s a (cheap) animatronic lifesize model of a man getting pulled off by a prostitute, complete with moaning, in the doorway on the way in. But it’s not all as bad as that. Although some is.
If you like statues, pill boxes, walking sticks, or really MOST other things shaped like penises, you’re in luck. There are a lot of that sort of thing.
There are also a lot of pictures of naked people. When I say pictures, that includes paintings, drawings, and photographs. Some solo, most having sex. Some are good, some aren’t. The most interesting thing for me was just how long people have been taking photos of each other having sex. There was pictures of people from the 1920s, looking just as bored as some of the people you see in porn today (so I hear, from my friends who look at that sort of thing).
I also found it weird that the photographs are separated into professional studio shots, amateur photographs, and private photos. Whose private photos are these? Did they donate them, or is this like an early version of sexting, where someone shows a photo of his girlfriend, to his mates, and before they know it – it’s in a sex museum?
As well as some quite impressively detailed statues and mannequins, there are also a few rubbish/weird animatronics in the building. As well as the guy by the door, there’s a few of men flashing, and a guy who pisses against the other side of a piece of glass. Some of them seem to be done in the same sort of style as that shooting gallery thing at Weston Pier.
There are also a few exhibits that fall into the same trap as many museums of thinking that any old shit in a glass cabinet makes an interesting exhibit.
They allow photos to be taken, interestingly. I didn’t, because I thought it a little odd, really..taking photos of other people’s naked photos. However, the place was full of Asian people keeping the stereotype alive by snapping away continually.
And if anyone is wondering the same thing I was, no – the sex museum does not sell sex toys in the gift shop. It doesn’t have a gift shop.
(Admission €4 each, and I’d have to say it was worth it for the sheer volume of stuff in there. Also, use the toilets. Apparently the mirror in front of the sinks shows a film (I didn’t see this, but my girlfriend apparently did.))


We’ve found a supermarket. There doesn’t seem to be that many really, but this is definitely one.
It seems very reasonably priced.
1 litre of milk for 85 cents.
We’re making sandwiches for a day out tomorrow, and we needed some sandwich bags. They were 20 cents, for 100. Ludicrously cheap.
Teabags? I don’t recognise any of the brands of black tea. We were trying to decide between a box of 50 and a box of 80 (given they might be as bland as the hotel teabags/the American ones), when I spotted a box of 20. 20 drawstring teabags (from India). For 31 cents. Unbelievably cheap. (And if you’re wondering, it didn’t taste bad.)

Takeaway – Pieminister

Ok, so I’ve mentioned before I like pie and chips. A friend of one of my housemates works in a shop in St. Nicholas Street Market in Bristol called “Pieminister” which oddly enough, sells pies.
Because the guy who works there spends a lot of time round my house, I happened to hear of the place, and apparently its all fresh ingredients (meat and vegetables), free range, locally sourced, etc.
Anyway – I took lunch today, wasted 55mins arsing about, bought a sausage roll from Parsons and ate that, then I was passing St Nicholas Street Market and remembered Pieminister, so thought I’d go and check it out. And maybe buy something. A double fat-bastard lunch, as it were.

I was slightly concerned at the menu when I got there.
Me being a bit fussy about my food was expecting to see some basic pie favourites – chicken and vegetable, etc, but they were surprisingly extravagant.
Kidneys, asparagus, spinach, sweet potato. There were plenty of things putting me off their pies – plenty of things I might not like.

I decided on the “Chicken of Aragon” pie.
It is described as “free range british chicken, smoky bacon, roast garlic, vermouth and fresh tarragon in lovely pastry”.
I’ve not the slightest clue what vermouth or tarragon taste like. Isn’t vermouth used in cocktails?

I asked about how long it took for a pie when I got there, and was disappointed to hear they were cooked as ordered – in order to make sure they weren’t all dry and crap like most takeaway food generally is. As I only had 5 mins left of my lunch, I wouldn’t have time to wait. As luck would have it, they had just cooked a load of Chicken of Aragon pies and somehow had wound up with one left over.
I purchased that one, declined mashed potato, gravy, mushy peas, and whatever other sides they had, purely because I was in a bit of a rush.

I ate it while walking to my next place of business, and enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say I noticed the garlic in it, which is a definite good thing – and the chunks of chicken were very nice. It did taste very fresh and as you know – my tastebuds aren’t really acquainted with such cuisine, having grown up on a diet of jam sandwiches and luncheon meat. That said, the pastry was superb.
Someone who enjoys freshly cooked food made properly will probably enjoy it more than I did, but I certainly didn’t dislike it. It will require further visits in the future when I have more time to sit down and enjoy it, and maybe try some of the rest of their range.

I was under the impression they only had one shop in Stokes Croft. Not having been wandering through St Nicholas Street Market in a long time, I wouldn’t have noticed that one if it weren’t for a guy working there frequenting my house. Turns out they’re doing better than that though – and they’ve expanded from Bristol – with lots of them now all over the country. So if you happen to be reading this in Oxford for some reason (or any of their other locations) – go check out Pieminister.

See www.pieminister.co.uk for more details. Some vegetarian options are available.