The Dutch imagination has always been expansive, looking beyond the borders of its own small territory to acquire perspective and influence of global dimensions.  The Golden Age in Dutch history (17th c.) established The Netherlands as a dominant force in world trade, commerce, science and the arts.  
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Replica of Dutch East Indies merchant ship
Our  three week stay in Amsterdam reveals that the Dutch still regard themselves in a privileged position within the EU and in the global community, with strong ties to foreign places and exotic cultures.   They maintain a fascination for the new and different that is as genuine as the cabinet of curiosities we viewed in the Tropen Museum with its multiple drawers containing labelled samples of minerals, plants, spices, feathers and animal skeletons brought back from voyages to far off shores during the 1600s.  

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Vendor at the market
When Robert, who was born in The Netherlands, speaks his mother tongue, Amsterdammers listen carefully to his accent and intonation.  They clearly understand him, answer his questions politely and then invariably remark, "You speak excellent Dutch, sir, but I can tell that you've been away for a while."   This line, as intended, prompts a brief life history from Robert, an account that traces his emigration to Canada at the age of 18, his career as an art dealer and his path to retirement on a farm in Argentina.  On a day of touring around Amsterdam, the tale gets told many times (and gets better with each repetition. )  Mention Argentina in this city,  and Dutch faces instantly light up.   

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The heir to the Dutch throne,  Prince Willem-Alexander married  Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in Amsterdam on February 2, 2002.   Princess Maxima hails from Argentina, from a wealthy Buenos Aires family of Basque/Italian heritage.  She has captured the attention of the popular press and appears in the Dutch newspapers almost every day attending official functions, enjoying family gatherings, opening a new arts centre or christening a new ship in the harbour.  Her inclusion in the Dutch Royal Family has sparked a wave of interest in things Argentine and on this trip we note a string of newly-opened steak grill restaurants in Amsterdam with names like La Pampa,  Gaucho, and El Rancho.  

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Maxima is featured in De Telegraph
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The Argentine connection also has business interests in San Rafael.  Princess Maxima is producing and marketing  a line of wine under the label 1830 which is elaborated by Bombal y Aldao bodega, the winery that offers a buy-your-own-barrel program.  1830 is the year that Finca los Alamos was established, and that's where the grapes for this wine are grown and harvested - a vineyard right in our own backyard.   

The more one travels, the more foreign threads are woven into the fabric of your own personal history.  The traces of other lives and past events become a part of you.   We take a walk along the canals of Amsterdam and end up buying cheese, fish and flowers at the same open-air market where Robert's grandmother used to shop.  

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

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My eldest son Aaron Nutting married Julie Lawrence in Halifax, Nova Scotia exactly one week ago.  The happy event was celebrated with friends and family who gathered for four days of intense partying, marked by plenty of socializing, dancing, good food and fine wine.  Even Hurricane Earl's direct hit on the Maritimes did not dampen the hospitality and high spirits of the wedding entourage.  
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Family feast
The rehearsal party was held at the Lawrence family cottage overlooking the Atlantic ocean, with food prepared by Nicholas Nutting, brother of the groom and chef from the Wickaninnish Inn.  Nick  brought seven sockeye salmon in his luggage,  flying the catch fresh from West coast waters to a sizzling hot East coast grill.  He and his skilled assistants Rhonda Rusk and George Wrobel shopped for ingredients at specialty markets and spent a whole day in the kitchen preparing huge platters of zucchini and eggplant,  tomato and basil salad, fresh corn and green beans, barbecued pork tenderloin, watermelon and a blueberry custard dessert.  The menu was a testament to the quality of seasonal produce, lovingly prepared with an East meets West fusion theme. 

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Sockeye Salmon
The extraordinary B.C. sockeye salmon run  this year is a scientific mystery that clearly demonstrates how little is known about fishing in Canada.  A record amount of salmon, topping 30 million,  returned to the Fraser River this year after a 3 year moratorium on commercial harvesting. Last year,  in comparison, yielded only 1.5 million.    Was it the cooler water temperatures, or the reduction in sea lice that breed in fish farms that facilitated this windfall?   No one is sure, but Canadian chefs are now confident about reintroducing this variety to their menus, and serving it up in style.  

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Bride and Groom
The bride and groom were married at Pier 21, the historic entry point for groups of immigrants arriving by boat to Canada.  For many newcomers, this port marked the end of a long voyage and the beginning of a new life in a foreign land.    Safe passage across the Atlantic to Halifax harbour was a transition leading to a host of challenges,  opportunities and rewards that may never have been part of their experience had they decided to stay home.     On September 5th, I watched my son Aaron standing at the front of the hall, waiting out the few moments before his bride appeared.  There was  a tangible sense of anticipation in the air, and Aaron displayed a quiet confidence fostered by the certainty of true love, pride and great expectations.   He was about to step off the boat, take the plunge and begin a new stage in his life.  When the radiant and beautiful Julie glided toward him down the aisle, tears welled up in his eyes (and his mother's.)  The assembled guests and extended family witnessed Aaron's poignant emotional passage to the grown-up, demanding, fulfilling role of "husband."

Like the salmon run, love remains a mystery, and no one knows why some marriages blossom for a lifetime and others wither and die.   I pray that this young couple will be blessed with many years of steadfast devotion, caring and meaningful experiences.   They have so much promise;  so much to offer one another.  

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Quail's Gate, a Canadian Pinot Noir
We toasted the bride and groom with Quail's Gate Pinot Noir 2007 from B.C.   This wine has enough gusto to complement the strong flavours of the West Coast salmon. It has a rich ruby red colour, aroma of cherries, chocolate and crushed flowers, a spicy palate followed by tart fruit and cedar notes.   The estate winery in the Okanagan Valley is owned and operated by the Stewart family, whose ancestors arrived in Canada and settled in B. C. in the year 1908.  A bottle of  Quail's Gate Pinot Noir costs $24.99 (Canadian dollars).

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Sails in the harbour, Halifax, Nova Scotia