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[PUBLIC] Here Comes The Rain - The Cover Story
October 2013
Wed, May. 9th, 2007 10:08 am
[PUBLIC] Here Comes The Rain

On Day 44, it finally rained here. A right proper rain, too. For nearly tweleve hours straight the skies poured forth all manner of water, from a fine mist to a torrential downpour. Tuesday also had intermittent rain, in which a cloud would burst and shower the ground for just a few minutes. That is, until we went into Utrecht for dinner. Walking down the canal past the game stores, the sky suddenly grew that color of dark that can only mean a storm, and that vague rumble you can only hope is a train in the distance echoes over the horizon. For a few minutes you could only hear the thunder, but soon the sky lit up with lightning, and the first drops of rain seemed to form on my skin. By this stage, we still hadn't decided on a restaurant, and as we hurried across the canal, the mist became a soft drop of water from the sky, reminding us we only had a few minutes before the stormfront reached us.

With enthusiasm, we moved down the brick street until we came to a bridge across the canal with a restaurant at either end. One was Greek, the other Chinese, neither had menues displayed in English. We stepped inside the Chinese restaurant, being the better appointed of the two, and stopped to look at the fish pond, and waited to see what the two women in front of us did to get served. After a few minutes of waiting, we didn't see any obvious way of being seated, and we turned to investigate the Greek restaurant. The stormfront had reached us, though, and outside was almost impassably wet, so with renewed vigor we confronted a waitress for instructions, at which point we were directed to a seating area toward the front of the restaurant.

To our great joy, there was actually an English Menu available, although that term could be used loosely. Indeed, the text was in English, but clearly written by somebody who was working from a dictionary, as the grammar and spelling were very Dutch in construction. It was enough, though, and using the internationally accepted convention among people speaking in languages they rarely use, we communicated with the waitstaff entirely in nouns, trusting our meaning to come across properly if we stayed within the primary use case of the restaurant.

The food was splendid, very flavorful indeed. Unlike many places that I've encountered here, the restaurant accepted my American Express card (which, while it is indeed everywhere you'd want to be, typically fails once you reach a location you really don't want to be). One of the most frustrating things I've encountered in Europe is that you don't get kicked out of a restaurant, you have to find an opportunity to flag down a waiter and request the check before you can pay. It often leads to staying at a table devoid of food for some time before you have the opportunity to leave.

Once we left the restaurant, the rain had again subsided to a half-hearted dribble, and remained so until we reached Utrecht Centraal and boarded the bus back to the hotel, at which point the rain began again in earnest, only subsiding shortly before our stop. Remarkably, despite not wearing any form of outerwear, I was quite dry when we walked back into the lobby that evening, and by morning the clouds had taken on a less threatening quality altogether.

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Current Location: Utrecht, Netherlands


Wed, May. 9th, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC)

From what i understand of European culture, it's considered to be quite rude for a waiter to bring a check before you ask for it. Part of a dinner, or any meal, is enjoying the social time before and after.

Robert Bronzite
Wed, May. 9th, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)

That's the impression I'm getting. Its just taken a bit to get that it wasn't an oddity of the particular restaurants I had been frequenting, as the service here is generally of wildly variable quality depending on the particular serving person you get, even in the nicer restaurants.

ReplyThread Parent
Wed, May. 9th, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)

That's true throughout Europe since waiters are payed are regular salary unlike in the US. The whole idea of tipping is totally different and a much smaller percentage (I think the standard is 5% instead of 15%).

I've heard many of my Father's European clients mention that they like service in the US beter since the waiter is actually trying to earn your tip as opposed to just getting paid by the hour. I'd double check that in a guidebook though as it might be inconsistant and I'd hate to have you accidentally gip some poor waiter.

ReplyThread Parent