Searching for the fields of flowers.

IMGP8290Tulip fields in Holland probably rank in the top 10 of stereotypical landscapes around the world. When I found out that I was moving to the Netherlands I imagined that pretty much the entire country would be covered in colorful flowers year round. Ok maybe not year round, but at least the flowers would be everywhere. Upon arrival I found that certainly isn’t the case. Much like the sakura or cherry blossoms in Japan, there’s a 2-3 week window in the year where the flowers come out in a dazzling display before wilting away. However this dazzling display is restricted to a small area between the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam. So in order to see witness my ideal Dutch landscape there would have to be a day trip in order.

IMGP8328Vic and I made plans to take our bikes on the train to the area and ride around. However on the morning of we were feeling especially adventurous and motivated and decided to cycle to the flowers instead of taking a train. And we were just going to cycle, we were going to take the scenic route. The day started out fantastic riding through the dunes, making great time, even stopping for a mid ride hot chocolate.

IMGP8294 IMGP8296When were were 3/4 of the way our great travel karma ended. Vic got a flat. Normally that isn’t a huge deal in Holland as you’re never more an a few km away from a bike shop. But it was a Sunday, on a holiday weekend, and the town we were in was completely shut down. Vic couldn’t ride far on a flat, and there wasn’t a train station nearby, the outlook was pretty grim. We found a community bike pump and she managed to get her bike to the next town over, Noordwijk.

IMGP8275 IMGP8269Luckily Noordwijk was one of the only towns open in the area, not only were most shops open, bike repair shops were open. Thanks to our lucky stars, Vic got her tire fixed and we were able to move on. Or so we thought. Shortly after pulling out of the bike shop, a cyclist cut me off, slammed into my front wheel leaving me horizontal in the middle of the road. I pulled myself off the ground, out of traffic, and examined Alan (my bike) and I for injuries. I got out of the ordeal unscathed, but Alan didn’t share in my good fortune. His wheel bore a stronger resemblance to a banana than a circle leaving Alan unridable. We were still walking distance from the bike shop, and returned to get Alan straightened out. Along he wasn’t as good a new, he was functional, and we would be able to continue our quest for flowers.

969496_10151355192580947_1691088465_n 942260_10151355192190947_1596037762_nOnce on the road again, it was less than a 15 minute ride from the flowers. If it was much farther I can only imagine what other messes we would have gotten ourselves into. We had the obligatory photo shoot to prove that we made it then picnicked, before beginning the journey home. (We had to hurry home to beat and oncoming storm) While the days events were much more than I bargained for, the flowers were everything that I expected and hope for. Between the ride distance, finicky weather, and bicycle issues, it was one heck of a day. Was it worth it just to see some flowers? Absolutely.

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Cheeky trip to Londontown

216344_971707463649_1020388948_nLast weekend I took a quick little trip to London to visit my pal Jacob. (yes the same one that came to visit and cheat on his monarchy for queen’s day) Although I’ve already been, I was told by Dutch immigration that if i wanted to stay in Europe till July I would have to leave the European continent, and get my passport stamped and re stamped. Luckily there’s a bus service between Amsterdam and London so I was able to take a weekend jaunt on a low budget. Well, low budget does not mean fast as far as transportation is concerned. Roundtrip I clocked 30 hours of travel to stay in Londontown for 32 hours. But who’s complaining, I just took a quick weekend trip to London, that’s still pretty rad.

907834_10151436918218526_729835617_n-polaAs for my drive-through speed impression of London and its inhabitants: its certainly more diverse than the Netherlands. There’s a a huge amount of cultures that collide in the city to make an interesting mix. People jay walk like nobody’s business. Not only do they cross whenever they please they make you seem like a fool when waiting for a crossing signal. Never mind the approaching cars, they’ve got to get to the other side of the street. Even though most people are speaking english it doesn’t mean I can understand them. Riding on the double decker red buses is not nearly as magical as it seems. Especially when its the night bus and someone is sick all over the exit. Those iconic red buses are best left to be observed from the outside. Hopefully its not the last time I’m in the city, however there’s plenty of places for me to go that I haven’t been yet. Its also great to see a friend that I made in Japan, even after we’ve both been away for more than a year. Its comforting to know that I will still see the friends I’ve made abroad, and there’s still more adventures to be had with these pals.

Happy Anniversary Holland

254317_10151118174743597_594964340_nIts been a year today since landing in the lowlands and what a year it has been. I’ve been spit on, puked on, peed on, and other various child related messes. Despite the vast quantity of diaper changes I have performed, this has been one incredible adventure. Luckily there’s still a few more weeks of fun, and just a couple more days till the beginning of the Team Diekman Euro Tour.

Amsterdam’s Orange Sea of Humanity – Queen’s Day

944959_10200180228963335_1725666117_nAmerica has 4th of July, Ireland St. Patrick’s Day, the French Bastille Day, and the Dutch have Queen’s Day. I feel like I may be losing what little there is left of my patriotism when I say that Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) could be even better than the 4th of July. The entire country of the Netherlands seems to come out to party in a giant mass of orange. Each year Amsterdam welcomes an additional 700,000 visitors to celebrate the royal house of Orange. This year was an even bigger deal because it was the day that the Queen Beatrix handed down the thrown to her son Williem Alexander. It was both the inauguration and the last Queen’s day, as next year will be Kings day.

225643_10151432549803526_1514070040_nI had heard about the magic of Queen’s day since I arrived in the Netherlands nearly a year ago, there were some serious expectations to live up to. My friend Jacob also heard about the magic and decided that it was a grand time to come visit me. We teamed up with a Vic and John (team JJEV) to take on both Den Haag and Amsterdam for 24 hours of Royal celebration. And celebrate we did.

262339_10151432551303526_1574245492_nTeam JEVV started out the celebration on Queen’s night, the night before Queen’s day in Den Haag. The city was in full festival swing. There were 8 stages set up throughout the city, and a constant flow of people frolicking the streets dressed in their finest orange attire. We caught a few of the live performances and took in the general atmosphere of the city before retiring for the night.

943052_10151432550998526_1578719571_nOn the day of the Queen we dragged ourselves out of bed and onto a train bound for Amsterdam. Although we weren’t fully recovered from the previous night’s celebrations, we dove straight into day two, using the train ride to catch some additional rest. We started in Dam Square to watch some of the inauguration ceremony. Although the actual ceremony took place inside the Nieuwe Kirk, giant screens were set up around the square to give the public a view into the ceremony. The atmosphere in the square was pretty remarkable, a feeling of composed celebration mixed with a dash of anticipation, and a pinch of patriotism. We didn’t stay too long as none of us were terribly attached to Miss B and we couldn’t understand the Dutch speeches.

The new King and Queen

The new King and Queen

We met up with a few more friends and went on our way through the city navigating the canals and streets finding various adventures. Along the way there was certainly an air of enterprise throughout the city. During Queen’s day the licensing and tax laws have been placed on hold for sales, thus making it possible for anyone to sell just about anything. People had tables and tarpes set out selling everything from fine antiques, to old McDonald’s toys. There were even houses selling use of their toilets. In addition to the road celebrations, the famous canals of Amsterdam were filled with orange boats. People took the party to the water and cruised around the city in a riggata of celebration.

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toilet salesman

 After walking through the streets our ultimate destination was a music festival in the Olympic stadium. Since the Queens’ day street celebrations generally end around 5 we thought that we would extend the party at a festival. We danced around like maniacs to a collection of sounds created by DJ’s until the sun went down, and decided to take our tired selves back home.

261944_10151436135123526_1801794821_nKoninginnedag certainly lived up to my expectations, I’ve got a whole new appreciation for the Dutch as well as the color orange.

 

*photos curesty of my pals John and Jacob.

Pillow Fight!!!

69471_960870985039_661002325_nOn April 6th, Ria, Vic, and I marched into Dam Square, Amsterdam armed and ready to face the flying arms and clouds of feathers. Our weapons were pillows and we were ready to participate in one of the world’s largest pillow fights. The 30 minutes we spent in the fray were some of the happiest minutes of my life. Seriously, that was sheer joy, just laughing and getting hit in the head with fluffy pillows and covered in feathers. We were in  a group of several hundred strangers gathered for the simple purpose of play. There weren’t  people that hit too hard or other malicious intentions.  I was either smiling or laughing the entire time. We had to pull out eventually because we had inhaled too many feathers to function and our faces hurt from the constant expression of joy.

 563862_10151313946905947_575650286_nDid I do a good enough job selling the genius of a giant grown up pillow fight? Well lucky you, these shin digs actually happen all over the world. April 6th is actually international pillow fight day and there’s a whole website with designated sites in over 20 cities around the world, as well as information to start your own pillow gathering if there isn’t already one in your area. http://2013.pillowfightday.com/  Think about it, you could start the pillow revolution in your area. How sweet is that.

2996_10151313947050947_683110750_nAs if a day centered around a pillow fight wasn’t great enough we found a proper ramen shop in Amsterdam. The first good Ramen I’ve had in a year. Bliss would really be the only appropriate word to use for that day.