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.

947033_10151355193060947_1403630856_n

Advertisements

Shots of Amsterdam

IMGP8191Last week I took a solo trip to Amsterdam on a day off to check out the reopening of the Rijksmuseum. Along the way I took a few snapshots of the city. Goodness, I’m going to miss this place.

IMGP8142 IMGP8203 IMGP8164 IMGP8163 IMGP8137 IMGP8178 IMGP8111 IMGP8134

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.

922933_10151432550088526_1624237534_n

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.

I love Delft

386145_908785100569_857120293_nSure when people think of the Netherlands or Holland the first city to come to mind is Amsterdam. I do love AMS but its not actually my favorite city in these parts. I love Delft. I’m not even sure if it counts as a city, as its quite small. That may be part of the charm. There’s all the old architecture, and canals that you want to see in a good Dutch town, but the entire city center is walkable. In fact most of it is a pedestrian only zone, that means you can stroll, skip, or cartwheel to your heart’s content. Just look out for the bikes.

65210_938565630149_1301219293_n There’s a great market here on Saturdays with food, little shops, and tons of great antique finds. Delft is famous for its blue and white ceramics, as well as the home to Johanas Vermeer (painter of the the Girl with the Pearl Earring), and last but not least IKEA and the 1euro breakfast. As its just a short bike ride away I take advantage of nice weather by biking over and having some hang time in the central market square.

21693_938565450509_1511071485_n

kit-fea-bluewhitesplash3A-435

14680_908499462989_1367668957_n

Winter (China) lights

IMGP7588 There were several times while I was in Japan that I saw Asia trying to do Europe, food, festivals, architecture, but last week was one of the first that I saw Europe trying to do Asia. (Other than the several all-you-can-eat tabehodai sushi dinners) The Euromast Park in Rotterdam put on a China lights festival. For three weeks a series of instillations lit up the park, adding some radiance to the January/February gloom. 

IMGP7560 IMGP7572 The displays were much bigger than I anticipated, many of them were more than 12ft high, and the dragon was more than 50ft long. A few other friends and I braved the freezing night air to take in the Asian festivities, and it was well worth losing feeling in my fingers and toes.

IMGP7589 IMGP7628

See ya Later B!

Queen Beatrix abdicates

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the latest news in the world’s monarchies, there’s been quite a shake up for the Dutch Royal family. (Yes, the Netherlands has a royal family) Last week Queen Beatrix announced that she will be abdicating her crown for her son William-Alexander to take over. Miss Beatrix has been Queen for 33 years, and loved by much of the country. This announcement came as no surprise as there has been talk of her stepping aside for the last couple years. The inauguration of Prince Willem will take place in April while I’m still in the country. You better believe I’ll be going to that party. (well not the actual crowning as I’m not the member of a royal family) This will be the second royal encounter I’ve had since moving to this fine country. If only there could be a royal wedding I think my royal encounters would be complete.