May 10, 2013 25 Comments
More images from Keukenhof. If you are unable to make it to Holland in spring, let me bring Holland to you with these pictures…
and loving it
May 8, 2013 59 Comments
After a bit of absence from this space, I am back with some colorful spring pictures from our trip to Keukenhof last Sunday. Weather was fantastic with lots of sunshine, blue skies and pleasantly warm temperature. Spring has finally arrived after the long wait!
We were there at 11 in the morning but the park was already bursting with visitors from all over the world. Funny enough, it was like being at a UN summit in a park setting.
Perfect time to be at Keukenhof as most of the blooms are already out and at their prettiest. My fingers kept on clicking so this post and the several to follow will be from this one lovely spring outing.
April 14, 2013 48 Comments
It’s springtime again and I can’t believe how fast the year went by. It’s been almost a year since we made this amazing journey through time by boat and steam train through the Medieval towns of Enkhuizen, Medemblik and Hoorn in the province of North Holland (West Friesland to many). This is one exciting journey to take if you happen to be in Holland in springtime because the whole trip takes just a day and these towns are within easy reach from Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to Hoorn, a direct train ride takes about 33 minutes and costs € 7.60. From Hoorn, you can then take the steam train to Medemblik and from Medemblik there is the museum boat that will take you to Enkhuizen. From Enkhuizen, you can take a direct train to Amsterdam that will take about 58 minutes and costs € 10.30. Here’s the link to the Dutch railway: www.ns.nl
I got the idea to do this trip from a colleague of mine who lives in Hoorn which in spring, is lovely to visit passing through tulip fields that seem to go on forever. For more information, here’s the link to the site of the museum: http://www.museumstoomtram.nl/en
Because our originating place was Dronten where my parents-in-law live, we approached the trip from the other way around. Our journey started in Enkhuizen where we boarded the museum boat “Friesland” headed to Medemblik. The trip was a very sentimental journey for my parents-in-law who used to travel in this very same boat over 40 years ago when they lived for a while in the island of Terschelling and this boat was still plying the Harlingen-Terschelling route. My husband, then the same age as Francesca also travelled in this boat so you can just imagine how sentimental that is. My parents-in-law checked out the boat and were amazed that many of the original features were still very much intact. The whole boat trip took a good hour so when we arrived in Medemblik, we looked for a restaurant to have a quick lunch to be in time for the steam train trip that will take us to Hoorn. We opted for a typical Dutch lunch favorite, the “Uitsmijter” which consisted of bread slices topped with ham, fried eggs, grated cheese with tomatoes and cucumber on the side. Francesca found another use for the cucumber though.
The steam train journey was interesting as we were joined by museum volunteers who were dressed in period costumes. They were very enthusiastic at explaining the culture, norms and traditions of the people in West Friesland back then. Another interesting aspect of this train journey was the amazing landscape we passed through — from tulip fields in full bloom to orchards and quaint villages. Too bad that the weather was not on our side though.
April 6, 2013 55 Comments
Every country seems to have peculiarities in observing religious holidays. In the Philippines where I grew up, Good Friday is a holiday. Apart from church activities like the observance of the “Seven Last Words”, the country comes to a standstill. Basically all establishments from schools, offices, shops, etc. are closed for business on this day. Activities would resume to full speed comes Easter Sunday when everyone feels that as the right time because “Christ is risen after triumph over death”. The opposite is true here in Holland because for many establishments except schools and banks, Good Friday is a normal working day. Easter Sunday and the Monday after, on the other hand, are observed as religious holidays. Second Easter day is like Sunday with all establishments closed for business. It is on this chilly second Easter day that I will take you with me to a little known charming place here in Holland called Elburg.
After the Easter egg hunt and dropping over at the place of my friend Marie for Easter dinner, we went over to my parents-in-law’s place to spend the night and celebrate second Easter day together with a nice brunch. It was a beautiful day, the sun shining brightly that it was a pity to spend the day indoor. We opted to go out for a bit of fresh air and headed to the lovely Medieval town of Elburg, just some 11 kms. from my in-law’s place. Francesca was happy to stay with Opa and Oma.
This is just my second time here in Elburg despite the frequency of our visits to my in-laws and its close proximity to their place. What a big difference it was to be here on a very chilly day when my earlier memories were of a very nice warm summer day when flowers were blooming all over and it was such a joy to see this town filled with locals and tourists alike checking out not just the town’s attractions but also the many local produce on display. That first visit happened to be the town’s annual celebration of their market day.
With very few people out and the shops closed saved for restaurants and cafes that opened their doors, we had a rather quick exploration of the town. It was interesting to discover new places that we never saw the first time we were here such as the Jewish cemetery which was just a short distance from the huge Protestant Church.
I look forward to coming back when the weather warms up, when flowers start to bloom as this town will be even far alluring then.
April 3, 2013 46 Comments
The chill was unmistakable and the forecast was true to the dot that the temperature will not rise beyond 3 degrees Celsius but to the kids, that was no excuse to enjoy this year’s Easter egg hunt.
The whole adventure started with the egg painting that I organized at home last Saturday and punctually at 3pm, I have them at the door ringing the bell. It was fun to have all six of them — my Francesca, brothers Evan and Ilyaz, brothers Luuk and Job plus their soon to be three-year old sister Vera. Together at the table, they all took to the work at hand, painting the 40 hard boiled white eggs and showing off their creativity and artistry.
The Easter egg hunt was agreed to be at the same place as the previous year…at Soesterduinen. We love this place which is just a few kilometers away but is simply perfect for very energetic kids to run around as it is a wide expanse of sand dunes with sparse islands of pine trees that are perfect for climbing and also for hiding the Easter eggs.
We stayed in the usual place, a perfectly shaded area of several pine trees with branches that spread far and wide. The grown ups enjoyed the usual catch up conversations over everything — family, career, holidays, etc. while the little ones were crazily looking out for the eggs hidden all over.
It was a lot of fun save for the chilly wind that made the 3 degrees Celsius felt even far colder.
March 29, 2013 68 Comments
Spring is always a much awaited and celebrated season in Holland. In this very flat country, the Dutch ingenuity of creating flower wonderlands in spring has always attracted millions of visitors from all over the world.
As soon as March starts, I’m already in extreme anticipation of the new season with plans to hit the flower fields and visit to Keukenhof topping the agenda. This year, however, that usual enthusiasm is tempered by the current reality of freezing temperature which if forecasts are to be relied upon, is very discouraging as it is expected to persist till most of the month of April.
What happened to spring? Why the big snub this year? Will it still ever come or are we just going to progress to summer and skip spring all together? I hope not….
We had an infinitesimal glimpse of spring three weeks ago for two days with the mercury tipping at 15 degrees Celsius at the warmest and enough to awaken the croci from their winter slumber. My little girl and I went out as she wanted to pick a few blooms and that was all that spring has been so far from our end.
September 27, 2012 116 Comments
Don’t we oftentimes look far beyond the horizon for many exciting things to see and miss what is right under our noses?
This would seem the case with me for having been to other places to witness interesting cultural phenomena and overlooked what was simply amazing in a place that is even just cycling distance from home.
On this post, let me take you to Spakenburg, a fishing village which to this day still clings to age-old traditions and way of life. Many of its older generation of women for instance, still go about their daily lives wearing traditional costumes. Sundays are still strictly observed as day of obligation to the Lord so apart from going to church three times, all establishments are closed for business and typical Sunday activities like football games are forbidden.
Considering that we’ve lived here in Amersfoort for almost seven years, I was never aware of the Fishery Day observance in nearby Spakenburg. Thanks to a tip from our friend Tammy, we were finally able to witness this wonderful spectacle last 1st of September (Fishery Day is every first Saturday of September so we learned). Wooden fishing boats had the sails on their masts raised and the local men, women and children were dressed in traditional costumes. (Normally only the older Spakenburg women wear the traditional costume on daily basis.) Every aspect of the traditional way of life here was out in the open and it was amazing to see how this village is able to keep the traditions alive and well to this very day.
June 8, 2012 66 Comments
I take a bit of a break from my Tuscany series and bring back a bit of Dutch flavor to my post.
Two weekends ago, we had this long weekend due to the observance of Pentecost. The Dutch may not be that religious but there are a few Church holidays where an extra day of holiday is observed the following day such as Christmas (Second Christmas Day), Easter (Second Easter Day) and Pentecost (Second Pentecost Day).
The Pentecost weekend had the best weather we ever saw this year with summery temperature that hit beyond 30 degrees Celsius. After the wet, grey and chilly spring, we were just so glad to finally be able to get rid of our coats and wear light clothing and to be able to enjoy sunshine to our hearts’ content. We opted to go camping and put to test the new tent which we were pretty curious to check out. Our old tent suffered irreparable from the mistral last year when we camped in the South of France.
We camped in Heidepark, Lemelerveld which was about an hour’s drive from our place. No special reason to choosing this camping place except that it was a good distance away from home and that there was also a pool which the little girl was so excited about.
I love combining such an adventure with castle hunting and in this country, it is not impossible to find a castle that is within easy reach. The Nijenhuis Castle proved to be a good choice because it had a wonderful sculpture garden and amazing collection of contemporary Dutch art as well. The sculpture garden was a big hit with the little girl who found it a wonderful place to explore and simply perfect for hide-and-seek.
May 22, 2012 64 Comments
Let me take a break from my Tuscany series of posts and tell you of my royal encounter yesterday with our lovely crown princess. I was lucky to get an invite from my alma mater, the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) to attend the inaugural lecture of Professor Stella Luz A. Quimbo from the University of the Philippines School of Economics following her appointment to the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity.
The Prince Claus Chair which is chaired by Princess Maxima was established by Utrecht University and the International Institute of Social Studies in early 2003 in honour of Prince Claus of the Netherlands (1926-2002) who has been deeply committed in promoting development and equity throughout the world.
This was actually my second time to attend this event and the second time to see the crown princess in person. It was just amazing to finally shake hands with her and introduced myself as being from the Philippines. Something to tell grandchildren in my old days that I had this real meeting with the princess (she’ll be queen by then) and finally documented with this one picture.
These pictures were taken by Piet Gispen, the official ISS photographer and lifted from the ISS Flickr site.
May 5, 2012 121 Comments
I know that my posts lately have been more on the Dutch flower fields but seeing that much beauty makes it impossible to not be carried away and have that overwhelming desire to share them.
On this particular day that we celebrated Queen’s Day (30th April) we were simply super lucky with the weather of warm temperature and blue skies as the days after were again chilly, wet and grey. That day was a one-off and I am glad that we had these pictures as reminder of that one seemingly rare warm spring day.
May 1, 2012 95 Comments
“Never let an opportunity pass by without giving it due consideration.” Weather-wise, this is my standing motto these days because in the whole month of April, we’ve hardly seen the sun and the temperature has been for the most part, chilly.
In yesterday’s Queen’s Day celebration, the weather did an unusual turn-around. Less than 24 hours before, I was still in my winter coat and then it was off to temperature soaring to as high as 28 degrees Celsius during the day. The party mode was on fever-pitch for the Dutch.
Not wanting to waste such a lovely day, I managed to persuade the Mr. to also do a side trip to the flower fields in nearby Flevo polder where we saw the tulips already in full bloom when driving through last weekend. We normally go to the Noordoost polder for our annual foray into the flower fields and our original plan to do that is still next weekend but seeing the blue skies, I just can’t wait for almost a week for that. Besides, there is no guarantee about a nice weather either and who knows, most tulips would already be gone by then when the farmer cuts the flowers to enable the bulbs to grow further. These fields are just a short drive of 20 minutes from our place so I see no reason why we can’t spare some time on this day.
Under sweltering heat at the height of the day, we were at the tulips fields in the polder. My little girl changed outfit to something close to the Dutch royal color and reigned over the fields in her faux jewelry ensemble which were hard won from throwing balls to a stack of tin cans from a distance in the fancy fair we went to the other weekend.
Year after year, I remain amazed by this staggering vista of tulips in various colors and varieties. I try not to give this sight a miss and why not, it is all for free, gratis et amore.
May 1, 2012 58 Comments
A turn around in the weather spelled the big difference and great fun in this year’s traditional Queen’s Day celebration. The day before, we were still in our thick winter coat but on this day, we could go out in summer outfit, my husband even in his shorts.
The 30th of April has been celebrated as Queen’s Day during the reign of Queen Juliana (mother of Queen Beatrix, the reigning monarch) because that was her birthday and the gates of Soestdijk Palace opened up to the Dutch people who would come to bring her presents. She would be with the royal family in full force to meet the people in her very own down-to-earth manner. This has of course endeared her to her subjects. Queen Beatrix’s birthday is in January but the April 30 celebration has been retained because weather-wise, this is the best time for the Dutch to party. Holland on this day explodes in orange as the Dutch family belongs to the House of Orange-Nassau (Oranje-Nassau). The manner of celebration has also taken a different route. On this day, Queen Beatrix and the members of the royal family visit two towns/cities and participate in the many organized activities. The younger royals literally let their hair loose by joining in the many fun games, much to the amusement of the people who normally don’t get the chance to see them up close and personal and in such a very relaxed and playful manner.
This celebration has seen rough times in recent years. Three years ago, at the celebration in Apeldoorn which is also a royal stronghold, a drama unfolded right before the very eyes of the Dutch royals. A black Suzuki swift driven by a man suffering from depression drove through the crowd in full view of the royal family who were in an open bus. Eight people died from this incident which has always been viewed as a fun and safe activity.
This year, the royal family visited the towns of Veenendaal and Rhenen. The mood was sober especially when the queen addressed the crowd that unfortunately the royal family was not complete. Tragedy struck the royal family when the queen’s son Prince Johan Friso was buried in an avalanche while the family were on a skiing holiday in Austria last February. He is in coma and in long-term care at a specialized hospital in London and to which the doctors have already declared that he’ll never wake up again save for a miracle. He is the smartest of the queen’s three sons and father to two very young daughters who will never get to live normal lives again.
Apart from the festive mood, Holland is also one big flea market on this day. Anyone with second hand stuffs to sell is out to make a few bucks. It is a case of one’s junk can be another person’s treasure. Old clothes, shoes, toys, music records, DVDs, delicate chinas, books, etc. which have been segregated for disposal after spring cleaning can maybe still earn a few bucks. To my little girl, the big attraction was the merry go round and the chance to eat her favorite “olliebollen” which is normally something that is on sale around Christmas and New year. Some enterprising young girls were offering nail polish for 50 cents with several designs to choose from. My little girl showed her patriotic side asking for the colors of the Dutch flag.
After the walk through the busy Langestraat, we had enough of this Orange madness and decided to already go home. I suggested to the hubby that it is not a bad idea to head to the tulip fields in Zeewolde for our annual photo session since the weather is just fantastic for that.
April 27, 2012 149 Comments
Hubby and I always love our cheap spring date where we would normally drive around the bulb field areas in the Noordoost Polder, have coffee by the flower fields sold by some enterprising farmer’s children and have lunch of fries and kroket in a snack bar that we would find open in one of the village centers along the flower route. We don’t see the need to go to any fancy restaurant for what can we ask for when already surrounded by so much beauty that we are literally drowning from the sight of millions of tulips in full bloom.
It is kind of funny that this activity that we do every springtime comes as too corny and tacky to a lot of people. Many Dutch would not want to be seen in the flower fields, more so, to have their pictures taken in such a setting. I don’t mind being branded as corny and tacky in my appreciation of this incredible beauty. To me, seeing this amazing wonders of nature every spring is a testament of God’s existence and infinite love for us.
April 25, 2012 40 Comments
April is about to draw to a close but this month which used to be in recent years the nicest time in spring has been for the most part wet, cold and grey. I still can’t say “Adieu” to my winter coat with the temperature still too cold and oftentimes unpredictable. Still, spring is inching its way forward but I haven’t really managed to take new pictures.
Here are spring pictures from last year, a continuation of my Tulips series.
April 21, 2012 92 Comments
We first laid eyes on each other around sunset over 15 years ago on the shores of El Nido in the Philippines. Call us incurable romantics but sunset still weaves its amazing magic to us each time.
Being parents to an overly active 4-year old, we are constantly busy and in a rush but we found ourselves enjoying some quiet moments together last month when our little girl was fetched by the grandparents for the weekend. Finally, a bit of time for ourselves and those sleep-outs that we badly needed after many short nights.
On this seemingly warm early spring day, we enjoyed a quiet walk along the dike not so far from our place. On this dike is also a steam mill (Stoomgemaal Hertog Reijnout) which was built in 1882 and drains the water from the polder.
I love it there to just watch the many birds that converge on the flood plains in the polder and the tranquil view of the setting sun in the distance. On this particular day, the birds were mostly sea gulls but there were times when I’ve seen an incredible number of geese. Oh, they’re still in flight this time of the year from Africa where they stay till the cold season is over here in Europe.
April 15, 2012 69 Comments
We are still to have that annual visit to Keukenhof and our usual foray to the flower fields. Weather lately has been pretty weird as the disturbance up north sent chills our way these last couple of days.
Still, spring is here and frosty nights and chilly days haven’t dampen our spirits. I share with you more tulips pictures from last year.
April 13, 2012 92 Comments
My blog stood silent in the last couple of days as the frenzied activities during the Easter holidays left me with hardly any time to sit in front of the PC.
We sure had a great time doing this year’s Easter egg hunt though the temperature was not as warm as it was the year before. Thanks to the suggestion of our neighbor, we did the egg hunt in the sand dunes of Soesterduinen, a lovely nature reserve area which is pretty close to our place. The kids had a great time being let loose in a seemingly endless sand box. There were also trees that were just perfect for climbing and before long, all of them were up in the tree.
This place is one perfect paradise for kids and one cannot help but be charmed by everything it has on offer. To us parents, we could enjoy moments of lively conversation without worrying about our kids who are safe in all the games that they can think about in this place.
We will surely be back again when the weather warms up and all of us have a free Sunday to spare. The kids can hardly wait…
April 7, 2012 94 Comments
Busy time right now preparing for tomorrow’s Easter egg hunt. The little ones are already so excited. We will have the egg hunt in the sand dunes of Soesterduinen which is just a few kilometers away from our place. It sure will be a lot of fun because there is so much space to run around for the very energetic and hyper kids. Lots of secret places to hide the eggs as well.
Nonetheless, let me share with you these tulip images which I took last year from a showcase of various types of tulips which we chanced upon while driving through the Noordoost Polder.
April 5, 2012 118 Comments
Ask a typical Dutchman if he/she have pictures in the flower fields and you will get that bewildered look. It is also against their “principle” to go to Keukenhof which they say is just meant for tourists.
My husband never really cared about the flower fields nor ever been to Keukenhof before we met. It was like, “Why would I go to Keukenhof or why would I have my pictures taken in the midst of the flower fields?”. Being in the midst of flower fields or standing in front of the windmills are simply the most uncool things to the Dutch, especially the younger generations. They prefer to travel abroad and have their pictures taken in the most exotic locations. Don’t get me wrong there. I was the same, wondering when I was still in the Philippines and my husband (then still the boyfriend) wanted to have our pictures in the middle of rice fields or his pictures on top of the jeepney or among coconut trees.
Human nature I should say… We take for granted those things or places which are familiar and ordinary and we give more importance to those which we do not have or are unusual.
These days, we appreciate what is within reach, what is right before our very eyes. Our daughter provides us with a different perspective in looking at things through her young eyes. She shows appreciation and enthusiasm in everything around her. We hope that she will continue appreciating nature and its beauty and the many simple things in life.
These pictures were taken last year in the area around Zeewolde. We were on our way home after spending a lovely weekend with my parents-in-law in Dronten when we took a different road (a secondary road as opposed to the usual highway that we take) and saw these fields of tulips. It was already late in the afternoon but with the nice weather, we were seduced to have this photo session with our little girl.
April 3, 2012 122 Comments
Another spring, another foray into the flower fields. Unfortunately, this was one weekend when the weather was not on our side. It has been raining for days so the tulip fields were very muddy. Still, we were not dissuaded to get our feet into the ground and have this photo shoot.
As I am going through my posts this week, it is a funny realization that I had been unintentionally documenting my little girl’s development through the years through these springtime pictures. Before her, I have been going to the flower fields and to Keukenhof almost on a yearly basis but hardly realizing what is different year after year.
Honestly, these forays into the flower fields are our family’s cheapest form of entertainment in spring as getting to these fields does not cost a single cent.
April 2, 2012 51 Comments
It used to be that the years went by without us noticing. Spring year after year would seem the same. We hardly noticed the passing of time and the difference in each passing year. All that changed with Francesca as since her birth, she became the benchmark and timescale for everything in our lives.
Certainly all parents will agree with me that children become the focal point of our lives, the beacon of hope on those dreary days, the source of strength when the hurdle seems too much and the source of laughter that cheers us up especially on those times that we can hardly summon a smile.
On this post you will see how much a year means in the life of a child. From the 6-month old baby in the previous post, she was 1.5 years in these pictures. This time, she was running through the flower fields and plucking the odd flowers out.
We spent the Easter weekend with my parents-in-law in Dronten where some of the big tracks of flower fields can be found. There were tulip and hyacinth fields and all were very exciting for our little girl.
April 1, 2012 160 Comments
She’s half Dutch and living on Dutch soil so she should connect with everything Dutch. That’s the point I raised to the Mr. when dragging our little girl (she was 6-month old at that time) to the flower fields for this photo shoot 4 springtimes ago.
What a great spring weekend it was! We were at a nearby family reunion and we could combine a little escape to these flower fields to take some gorgeous pictures.
I will be going down memory lane in the next few posts, showing the springtime metamorphosis of our little girl as we hit the flower fields year after year.
The love for flowers is something that would become natural with her. These days she finds pleasure at picking flowers and have them assembled in a vase at home.
March 31, 2012 96 Comments
Time flies, it’s almost Easter time again! Where did the year go? Memories of last year’s Easter egg hunt are still fresh in my thoughts but it is time for the next egg hunt again. To my daughter, life is moving forward and wanting the years to roll by so quickly while I am hanging on to every bit of her childhood — carefree days under the sun hunting for Easter eggs, blowing dandelion seeds away, climbing trees, going back and forth at the slide, running around with the other kids and many more.
One of my little girl’s favorite time of the year is Easter and the delightful event of Easter egg hunt. It is something that has become a tradition with us having started this on the first Easter when she could walk. At that time, the eggs were hidden in the confines of our small back garden.
Last year, we organized the Easter egg hunt with the involvement of children in our neighborhood. We were blessed with the perfect Easter weather — warm and sunny and the kids really had so much fun searching for the eggs hidden in the grass and other not so obvious places. I baked cupcakes while the other moms brought in the refreshments.
One more week to go and it will be the same frenzied activity again. My daughter can hardly wait…