as promised – the grote kerk

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A week or so ago, I promised to share pictures of the inside of the Grote Kerk. So, it seemed like the perfect place to go on this Good Friday – and it’s official – this is my favorite spot in Breda. The architecture, the detail, the stained glass windows, the pipe organ (I could go on… and on) – will all leave you speechless. It’s hard to believe this church was built in 1410 and remains in pristine condition. A favorite, I’ll share with you at a later time, are the church bells – every hour, on the hour, the city is filled with a lovely melody that is sure to leave you smiling.

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Even the floors are a site to see –

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A site I could see a thousand times and still be in awe – absolutely love pipe organs –

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Bible from 1660 –

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While many of you (Americans) enjoyed Good Friday as a holiday, we in the Netherlands will have Monday as an extra day of rest – so, everyone wins with a three day weekend!

Until next time – hope you have a wonderful Easter filled with love, family and friends.

XX – Whitney

i’m so dutch

Hoi! Hoe gaat het? Mijn naam is Whitney en ik kom uit Amerika… And that’s a wrap. Maybe I’m not so Dutch afterall. But, it’s a start!

Yesterday was a pretty eventful day, as I put on my backpack and headed back to “school” to learn Dutch.  Excitingly, a number of things were crossed off my Holland Firsts’ List – taking the bus alone, traveling to another city, navigating from the bus stop to my tutor’s home (I’m not the best with directions, so this is big), and most importantly, my first language lesson (you know it’s a successful day when you learn your ABC’s)!

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I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about my one hour and 15 min commute  (25 min walk, 35 min bus ride, 15 min walk), which consisted of taking the bus (what if I missed my stop?!) and walking to my tutor’s home (where did this lady live? was it safe? what if it rains?)… Ok, nervous might have been an understatement. Wonder what the fellow passengers were thinking when they saw a young lady, sitting in the front seat directly behind the bus driver, staring at the destination sign (never looking away), with directions in hand (along with multiple routes mapped out on her phone) – I actually am a little embarrassed now that I think of it. However, in this crazy American’s defense, we don’t have buses or trains in my hometown (and if you ride a bike – good luck).

But, I made it (hooray!) and am now hoping I can travel in a more peaceful state of mind in the future… Well, more like tomorrow as it’s Day #2 of learning Dutch!

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I wanted to make a good first impression and dress nicely, but one small problem – the commute aka 40 min of walking. So I opted for an oversized shirtdress (belted for definition), a super comfy cardigan and floral scarf for warmth – all very travel friendly, but still fun and presentable. As for the backpack, I might have stolen this from my sweet boyfriend (I mean, I did buy it for him; so it’s partly mine, right?).

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Cool sights from my first leg of the journey  ::home to bus station::

Cafe in the park – love the floor to ceiling windows (and the quite ‘nautical-inspired’ building in the distance)

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Valkenberg Park – links the city center to the railway station

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Lighthouse that marks the park entrance

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Bike much?

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Continuous flow of ‘Stretch Armstrong’ buses – the center is like an accordian to help with turns (I’m fascinated by the small things)

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Sea of bikes at Breda Centraal

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Until next time – I will be burried in never-ending homework.

XX – Whitney

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sunday best

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Few learnings from the weekend –

1. When wearing heels – if you’re planning to walk for more than five minutes and the roads are anything like the above picture, bring a change of comfortable shoes (FLATS!) – or be prepared to walk out of your shoes – literally.

2. The cobblestoned streets will win in a fight against heels, thus leaving chunks of your pumps suedeless, leatherless, whatever-your shoe-is-made-of-less.

3. My new name should be Mary Poppins, as the very common, hurricane strength wind is perfect for umbrella flying.

4. Breda is home to the oldest Beguinage (Begijnhof in Dutch) in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in Europe (see below for more info)!

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During our Sunday stroll (in our Sunday best, of course), Joost and I discovered a secret garden-like place and as curiousity killed the cat, we let it get the best of us as well. After pondering around for a bit, we found this semi-secluded little area is actually the oldest beguinage in Holland.

In 1267, Lord Hendrik van Nassau began the beguinage in Breda. This area was dedicated to unmarried or widowed women, who vouched to stay single to devote their lives to God. The beguinage was moved to its current location around 1535 and is still home to many women. The two churches and 29 little houses survived World War II and were the only Catholic institutions that survived the religious oppression in the 17th century.

Look forward to visiting again when the courtyard is in full bloom and the church is open for touring.

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A few cool, random finds during our walk –

Lamp post + orange bicycle – I’ll take both!

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Chicken + roosters in the park – apparently they got the memo it’s spring. Question is, when will the weather realize…

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Door heading + massive door.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

welcoming the lion

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Happy 3rd Day of Spring! This year I finally understand the phrase, “Spring comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”, as I’ve traded my bikinis, strappy sundresses and brightly-colored platforms for cups of hot coffee (RIP Starbucks iced coffee with sugar-free caramel and a little bit of nonfat milk), wooly sweaters and my current best friends, fleece-lined leggings. While I wouldn’t mind baking on the beach (I am borderline albino, which is a total Florida disgrace), I’m quite thankful for the ‘burr, it’s cold’ weather – could be because my closet, amongst other things, are on a ship somewhere in the big pond between America and Europe; so all I currently have is what fit in three suitcases (ie. all winter clothing). However, if there was a Holland heat wave, that would force a shopping spree… Hmmmm.

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Anywho, since moving to Holland, I like to begin my mornings outside on the balcony, warmed by a cup of coffee, down-filled blanket and cozy PJs. I’ve lived a majority of my life in a rush, going from one thing to the next, so it’s been nice to switch gears, take in the new surroundings, listen to the church bells and start the day on a calm and relaxing note. I encourage everyone to incorporate some ‘down-time’ into their lives – you will notice a difference. For those of you who already do this – where’s your favorite spot to gear-up for (or unwind from) the hustle and bustle of everyday life?

And no, these pictures were not taken in the ‘just waking’ hours and no, pictures will never be taken in the AM hours, as it will scare off readers.

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Being without cable and internet (thank you McDonald’s for the free WiFi), you learn to become creative with entertainment – also remember Holland is in the ‘lion’ phase of spring, so many outdoor activities are a no-go. When Joost visits, we oftentimes play games – board games, cell phone games (love RUZZLE – although I’m awful), card games… obviously any type of game. We recently played Ticket to Ride and even though I lost (and had to watch Joost gloat in victory – we are very competitive), it’s become one of my favorites – makes you think and strategize, but not too much. However, the best game will forever and always be Scrabble!

What’s your favorite game? Call of Duty or anything of the like is not a suitable answer. Any other ideas for entertainment as I wait for cable and internet hookup?

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

calling all camels

Expensive lesson learned: My first time visiting the Netherlands (Europe in general), I didn’t think twice about things I was so accustomed to being different in other countries – call me a ditz, that’s fine. During my vaca, Joost being the gentleman that he is, took me to a nice restaurant so I could experience ‘European fine dining’ (and yes, the rumors are true – dinner will last hour(S)). Of course, I assumed (always a mistake) refills were complimentary as they are in the US. As I kept ordering drink after drink, I noticed the ‘do you know what you’re doing’ look on his face, but of course I did! I was thirsty and taking advantage of the refills. How could you not? Especially since they came in the fancy old school glass bottles with the cool pop off tops. Well, long story (remember the dinner was almost 3 hours) short – many, many euros were spent on water and Cola Light (aka Diet Coke) and yes, I said water. Oops. Thanks babe for the nice dinner… and multiple orders of H2O!

Moral of the story – if you’re a camel like me, hydrate before dining (fast food joints included), as there are no such things as refills. OR you can take advantage of this wonderful, wonderful place in Utrecht that offers not only, all you can drink (wine and beer included – WHAT?!), but all you can eat sushi! You can imagine my astonishment as Joost told me about this place and then my excitement as we planned a night out in the city, which included Sushi Today.

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We had a great night out with two of Joost’s closest friends – indulging in neverending sushi and Cola Lights (Heineken for the boys). I even tried caviar and ostrich for the first time. Ostrich was surprisingly delicious, whereas caviar… eh, not so much.

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Isn’t my boyfriend a babe? Geez, love him. Little background – we’ve been dating for nearly two years, which have been long distance (lots of plane tickets were purchased – Delta, thank us later). So when I finally made the move to Holland – I got a closer look at a lot of things – closet included. Many of his ‘presents from Whitney’ still had tags on them. I simply can’t comprehend this as tags last no time in my closet. Anywho, reason for the tags, he just didn’t know how to wear these pieces. So, while us ladies dress to the nines, we can’t forget our guys. One of my favorite winter looks for men is a v-neck + button-up – great for work or date night or anything really. For our night in Utrecht, I used this combo as a basis. The end result – absolutely love this contrast shawl collar sweater, layered with a complimentative button-up and paired with slim fit (flannel-lined) dark denim. While some guys might be intimidated by trying something new, with a little encouragement and leadway, they’ll learn to love it and work it. And my oh my, Joost worked it (he’s going to kill me for this).

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

Noah’s Ark

            The animals went in two by two, hurrah! hurrah!
The animals went in two by two, hurrah! hurrah!
The animals went in two by two, the elephant and the kangaroo
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A Noah’s Ark replica? Could this be true?! Why yes, yes it is. It’s home is in Dordrecht – an old Dutch city, harvested in the southern most part of Holland. Words can’t describe how excited I was to see this wooden boat. Sure, I was a bit skeptical and my expectations were (I thought at the time) unrealistically high, but wow. The moment we pulled up, my expectations were exceeded and precious childhood church memories began flooding my mind – I might have sung the song above a couple… ok, ten+ times. The size, the architecture, the detail, it was all unbelievable… and to think, we still had the entire inside to explore.

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The story behind the ark: Johan Huibers’ began dreaming of building an exact replica of Noah’s Ark in 1992. After much planning (and saving – this feat was not cheap), Johan built a mini version, which was equivalent to 1/2 the size of the original ark. He sailed the mini ark through the canals of the Netherlands, bringing the story of Noah to life… but he felt that wasn’t enough.

In 2009, he began building an exact replica, in which he used the Bible as his guide and only resource. He and his team worked over 20,000 hours (WOW!) on this project and finally completed in 2012. The doors of the ark were first opened in summer of 2012. What an amazing story of dedication, determination and perserverance.

 To help convey the massive size, the ark weighs in at almost 3,000 tons and is made from Swedish pine (dimensions – 427 feet (130 meters) long, 95 feet (29 meters) across and 75 feet (23 meters) high – that’s a lot of Swedish pine) and reinforced with steel. And for those of you wondering, yes, the ark is in fact, seaworthy.

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Apologies in advance for the picture overload – felt as though everything was worth sharing, but unfortunately had to draw the line (was a bit scared my blog might actually blow up if I continued to add images). As you can imagine, this doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the amazing things included in the ark (think multiple movie theaters, a restuarant, LIVE animals, explanations and demonstrations of how Noah built the ark and their food supply, models of Bible story after Bible story… I could go on and on)!

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How I envision Noah hanging out with the animals – no big deal.

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40 days and 40 nights later, the rain stopped!

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Whether you call Holland your home or are touring the country (happy vaca!), this is definitely a site to see and one that’s friendly and entertaining for all ages. No matter what your religious preference or belief, put this on your agenda – you’ll be glad you did.

XX – Whitney

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No Luck O’ the Irish

 Joost: “Babe, no blogging on the weekends.” (Oh, Europeans…)

Me: “But it’s a holiday! Therefore, it’s my blogging duty to post.”

Joost: “And what holiday is that?”

Me: “Uhmm, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Ireland is a part of Europe. Show respect, babe.”

Joost: …Blank stare… Blank stare continues… & continues to continue.

With that being said, Holland does not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. However, did that stop the American? Oh no. I went full force, dressed head to toe in green and had my pinchers ready for attack (my poor boyfriend).

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We decided to take advantage of the clear skies and warm weather (it was a steamy 8 degrees Celcius aka 46 degrees Farenheit) and take a stroll through one of the local parks. Even though we’re still in the midst of winter, the park was surprisingly somewhat lush with trees, green grass and overgrown plants.

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Along the way, we passed the Royal Military Academy of the Netherlands, where Joost has spent countless hours studying and training. I am always in awe of the architecture and detail of the buildings and the Academy did not disappoint (loved the moat)! The castle of Breda, where the academy lives, was built in 1350 – amazing it’s still standing and in usable condition – kudos to the builders. The Royal Netherlands Airforce and Royal Netherlands Army Officers both began training there in 1828.

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As I am always fascinated with ‘the details’, the same goes with my daily ensemble. The finishing touches complete a look and take you from good to great, cute to chic, instantly. Today’s details included military-inspired epaulettes, a faux fur shawl, over-the-boot socks, belted waist (firm believer in showcasing the waistline), loads of wrist candy and rings – yes, even with gloves.

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Until tomorrow (hooray for weekend highlights!) – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

Oh! PS. While many of you are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at a local Irish pub or delighting in your St. P Pintrest treats, I’ll be festively green in a healthy way. Darn you diet. Darn you.

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