a flower rainbow

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Imagine. Thousands of flowers – all in full bloom, every color of the rainbow included and the sweetest yet freshest scent you’ve ever smelled in your life… Welcome to the flower fields of Holland. While I’ve seen dozens, or maybe hundreds of pictures, none compared to having all senses totally engulfed by the fields (well, all senses minus taste). I would have to say, the luckiest people of Holland (from late March to mid May) are those whose homes overlook the fields. I could see myself, book in hand, pillow in the tractor seat, feet propped and coffee in the cup holder (tractors do have cup holders, right)?

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The Netherlands continues to hold the honor of ‘World’s Best Flowers’ and ‘World’s Best Flower Gardens’ (coming soon to a Sequins and Bow Ties post near you). As you can imagine, flower enthusiasts from across the world flock to Northern Holland to experience these magnificent sights, which I totally get, as I’ve already vowed to visit every year (hopefully more than once and hopefully with my green thumb family members :: hint hint ::).

From a business standpoint, the Dutch own the horticulture market. Not a surprising statement, but what you might find surprising are the figures involved. Over 4.32 billion (yes, billion with a b) tulip bulbs are exported each year, which brings in a hearty €16.2 billion (which is over $21.2 billion US dollars). WOW! And just think, these numbers are specific to tulips.

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Until next time – tot ziens, my friends!

XX – Whitney

graffiti on graffiti

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Spring’s powerful presence brings a sense of rejuvenation and revival. Flowers are in full bloom. Bright colors fill the streets. The sun’s warmth tinges our skin. Smiles replace the dreadful winter blues. A feeling of newness for all. Spring is finally here. Life is good.

Sidenote – life will be even better when I can toss my tights (however, beware of the nearly albino legs).

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

sprinkles from the sky

My experience with rain is nonexistent, hence my background – grew up in Florida aka the Sunshine State, went to school in Virginia (not a lot of rain, but there was one snowstorm that scarred me for life), spent a summer in NYC and lastly, lived in Texas, where rain is considered a myth. So, when it did rain, it was a great excuse for a night-in – complete with a movie marathon, never-ending popcorn and PJs.

Living in the Netherlands is quite the opposite – always expect sprinkles from the sky and never leave the house without your trusty umbrella.

Miraculously, during my short seven weeks here, I’ve grown to have a slight appreciation for rainy days and nights (nights especially), as long as I’m prepared. There’s somewhat of a mysterious beauty to the glistening cobblestone streets and reflecting lights.

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I was a bit bummed when I noticed, the uninvited, precipitation was going to be a part of date night (after straightening my hair of course). But to my surprise, the city center was packed, busy as ever and the mood unscathed. Guess I’ll have to continue working on my love/hate relationship with the drizzle, because it’s true, a little rain never hurt anyone.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

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boston tribute

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While there are hardly words to describe what happened
I have a few to say
My heart weighs heavy
As heavy as the clouds, cold and gray

Why do people do these things?
That’s one thing I’ll never understand
How one can take so many lives, all so innocent
Welcomed too early to the Promised Land

As reality sets in
Some will never be able to say
“I love you”, “Goodnight”, “I’m so proud of you”
Or walk their daughter down the aisle on that very special day

To those who helped save a life
One, two or three
You are America’s heroes
And for your efforts we salute thee

United we stand
United we fall
United we will always be
All for one and one for all

Sending my prayers and deepest condolences to those of Boston and all affected by Monday’s tragedy.

Until next time – hold your loved ones a little tighter and a little longer, for we should all be thankful for yet another day.

XX – Whitney

ungraceful ballerina leaps

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A Florida girl’s dream – well, add the beach and 10 degrees, but close enough for me! Spring has finally sprung in the Netherlands, where temps reached a heavenly 72 degrees. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it felt to pull a white tee from my closet (not as a layering piece, but as a standalone) and trade my boots for skimmers – there might have been a few ballerina leaps (minus the grace) through the apartment, coupled with shouts of “I’m free! I’m free!”, but I’ll never admit to it.

Basking in the sun and soaking in the rays was not a question, but a given. But what were we to do? Then I remembered – last year when Joost and I were long distance, I “Just Because” gifted him with a picnic pack (much more manly than a wicker basket and complete with everything you need, including an insulated bottle holder and pouch), with a card saying nothing but, “can’t wait for picnics in the park + you in my arms.”  So, we packed our handy little pack and were on our way, hand in hand, to enjoy our first picnic together.

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We found a perfect spot in a nearby park and delighted in the sun’s warmth, a fresh lunch and each other’s company. While Joost began to study, I decided to people watch (one of my favorite past times). I found it heartwarming to see families biking, playing soccer, and throwing frisbees together; kids skateboarding, laughing, and playing tag; and of course, what’s spring without love birds? So yes, I enjoyed seeing love birds doing what they do best – be in love (I might have enjoyed being one myself).

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

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a tale as old as time : caught red-handed

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Welcome to the small, quaint city of Hilversum, where to my amusement, you’ll find 98% of homes, shops, churches and buildings with the exact same (or appears to be) roofing. As you drive through (or bike, or walk – I often forget about those two options), you can immediately feel the coziness and small town vibe. Hilversum’s literal translation is ‘houses between the hills’ and if you’ve ever been to Holland, you know the entire country is as flat as a pancake, so I would assume its name is in reference to the location. Hilversum is conveniently located just south of Amsterdam and just north of Utrecht (two of Holland’s largest cities). I’m sure the residents agree it’s nice to have the perks of neighboring city life, alongside the small town peace and quiet on any given day – sounds like the best of both worlds to me. Hilversum is also referred to as Media City, since most of the broadcasting for television and radio happens here (speaking of radio stations, can country and hip hop please be introduced?!).

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Beware: the roads are smaller than small in this cute, cozy city (see below). The colored, outside lanes are for bicyclists, whereas the middle lane… wait for it… is for two lanes of traffic! Would love to see an Escalade take on a Suburban in this scenario – Dutch monster truck derby, anyone?

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Sorry in advance for bursting your bubble, but the photographed building below is not the castle from Beauty and the Beast (please tell me I wasn’t the only one who put the two together), but in fact, the St. Vitus. This beautiful (which has nothing to do with Beauty – or ok, everything) church was built-in 1892 by P.J.H. Cuypers and is the second tallest church in Holland, as the tower reaches a sky-high 93 meters (279 feet). Sadly, the church was closed for touring, but never fear, I will be back (Terminator voice), as I’m sure the inside is nothing less of magnificent.

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Across the street from the church, I spied a gelato shop (if you ever need to find ice cream or Starbucks, I’m your girl – anything else, my navigation skills are quite possibly the worst in existence). Of course Joost and I were able to say no to all of these delicious, scrumptious, worth-every-calorie flavors…

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

:: caught red-handed with a scoop of stroopwafel (yes, it exists and is divine) and pistachio gelato ::

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color burst

Before making my international move, a few friends joked that I was going to be a ‘ray of sunshine’ to the Netherlands. Stereotypically speaking, Europeans are known for wearing black and neutrals, where in my case, nothing is too bright, too bold or too blinged (Joost took a picture during one of my visits last year – you’ll find the Florida girl in a bright yellow coat and literally everyone else, decked in all black). However, I do have to give props to the men of Holland – colored pants are beginning to pop up everywhere and I love it (Joost’s, of course, still have tags).

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Speaking of color, you can imagine my excitement when Joost mentioned the fair was in town! What better place for bursts of color, neon lights, nearly impossible, yet addicting, games and an overdose of sugary goodness? Naturally, I threw on my brightest (neon kiwi to be exact) sweater and was ready to bounce from ride to ride and game to game.

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I was surprised to find the rides to be nearly identical to the ones I grew up with in America. Who remembers the one below? My childhood favorite, The Himalaya! I do have to say, I have no idea how my friends and I rode these rides for hours on end – the continuous spinning had me woozy from the ground – oh the joys of getting old.

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Post fair, Joost and I decided to settle down from our sugar high and enjoy the beautiful spring day. We obviously weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the sunshine and 50 degree weather – the city center was packed and full of life. I find it funny that most terraces face outward toward the streets – so when walking by, you feel as though rows and rows of people are looking at you, waiting for a slight trip in the cobblestone street (or maybe I’m paranoid as I trip every 20 steps – darn cobblestone). On the flip side, when dining at the terraces, it’s a perfect place to be entertained, as ‘people watching’ never lets you go away without a chuckle.

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After a short search, Joost and I found an open spot at one of the terraces and sat down for a drink (Cola Zero and Grote Koffie), natural Vitamin D and relaxation. A very important FYI – when ordering coffee in the NL, you always get a free, little treat – typically a small cookie or chocolate, but this cafe (now my fav), gives stroopwafels. Score!

Random tidbit – you never feel rushed by the waiters or waitresses and they certainly never bring the bill until you ask – so, you could sit and enjoy the terrace for hours with your one Cola Zero if you’d like. Why? Because they receive a base pay (tips are an extra bonus). Pretty sure we would have gotten the death stare in America if we camped out on a busy day with our one drink. Holland wins on this one.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney