sun, sand and saltwater

Spontaneous road trip to the beach? You can always count me in – even with a breezy high of 60 degrees. Tossing my bikini aside (tear), Rockanje essentials included: a light sweater, waterproof jacket, fleece-lined leggings and rain boots. Yes, rain boots (Florida people – please cease your laughter).

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We’re here! Wait… Are we at the beach? Or in the forest? Well, the answer is both! Never seeing anything like this before, I was in love with the little pre-beach walk – most certainly did a great job building my anticipation for the sun, sand and saltwater that lies ahead.

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Finally! After the longest walk ever (ok, it was only 4 minutes), I had the salty air upon my face, the ocean in my sight and the sand in between my toes… I mean, under my rain boots. To say the least, I was like a kid in a candy store. The calm waters, fresh breeze, dunes (quite possibly the biggest hills in Holland – really, this country is like a pancake) and instant tide changes were all noteworthy Rockanje attributes that quickly had me head over heels. I also loved how the beach is not only forever long, but also forever wide (which works in everyone’s favor – apparently once temps are considered beach weather appropriate, the entire country flocks to the coast – and when that time comes, I hope Joost is ready for a 5am departure). Even though the temps were cooler than your typical beach day, Joost and I had a wonderful time walking the beach, drawing in the sand, looking for shells, watching families build sand castles, laughing at dogs chase after sticks (apparently the water wasn’t too cold for them, brr) and ending our day with a beautiful beach sunset.

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I thought this was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen (which is apparently common)… and they call us rednecks?

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

two years strong

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Last week marked Joost and I’s two-year anniversary (hooray!) and I have to say, this one topped them all – mainly because it was our first major holiday/anniversary where we both lived in the same country and it gets even better – the same city. It felt good to celebrate without a pricey plane ticket (international relationship problems) and without our beloved friend, Skype.

We decided to keep things low-key, no fancy dinners or elaborate gifts, but instead, enjoy our time together and each other’s company. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything fancy and elaborate, but in this moment, it was nice to sit back, relax and simply, be in love.

Just because we agreed on no elaborate gifts, didn’t mean we couldn’t do a little something. After all, nothing makes me happier than personalized surprises, planning surprises and seeing surprised faces. So, I decided to shower J with all of his favorite things (had to add a touch of ‘Whitney’ with colorful balloons – originally planned for 24 – total # of months we’ve been together, but had to remember the non-elaborate pact, flower petals and sparkles). Capturing Joost’s ‘surprised’ face as soon as he walked in was the icing on the cake – these photos have been stored in case of a future need for blackmail (his expressions were hilarious).

When asking Joost if he saw this coming, he replied, “I know you, so I knew you were going to do something… but I thought you were going to cook me dinner.” Has he been dating another Whitney the last two years? Nevertheless, dinner was on him. Feeling the need for something a little Americana, we treated ourselves to the ever-so-romantic, Subway.

In our eyes, May 14, 2013, couldn’t have been more perfect.

((Favorites included – Coke Zero, Autodrop – Total Loss (licorice and gummy candy), Hertog Jan Xs 3, Nutella, popcorn, woorstenbroodjes (YUCK), Drop Fruit Duo (more licorice and gummy treats) and a homemade picture frame labeled, ‘Two Years Strong”))

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

Oh! Can’t forget to share our ‘I love you because…” frame I update every time Joost visits –

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branded by the storks

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Our stay in the country also included a visit to the nearby village of De Schiphorst. Thankfully, we had our very own tour guides (Joost’s dad and Margreet), who are locals of the area and know the must-see sights. We enjoyed visiting Castle Havixhorst, which dates all the way back to 1753. The castle (moat included), along with the beautiful grounds and fabulous landscape gives an old-timey feel that puts you right back in the 1700s.

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Castle Havixhorst is not only known for their wonderful food, beautifully catered events and luxurious hotel, but also their storks. Yes, the bird. Each spring, hundreds migrate from Africa to the northern parts of the Netherlands. I was surprised to learn that the birds return to Castle Havixhorst each year, seeing as there’s millions of other places they could go to spend their summers.

While walking the grounds, you’ll notice storks and their nests everywhere – even in the chimney of the castle (if you look closely at the first picture, you’re able to see a nest settled in the right-side chimney)! My favorite sight was watching the birds build their little homes – truly amazing how many supplies can fit into their beaks. Naturally, the birds will not allow you to get too close, but if you’re as lucky as I was, they’ll be sure to drop a present or two or three (explained in detail below).

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Unfortunately, there are no fun fashion pictures to share, as the storks associated my brightly colored attire for a toilet. Of course, I was the only one of the group to receive a stork branding(s).

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

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land of the wooden clogs

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Welcome to farmer’s land – also known as the small village of Nieuwleusen! After spending last Thursday at the (very busy, very crowded and very loud) jazz festival, Joost and I decided to pack our bags, head north and get away for a little R&R. Obviously I have no idea what the future holds, but if the words “homeowners” and “Netherlands” are in the same sentence – I can only hope it’s somewhere of the like. Besides, where else am I going to raise my pet sheep?

After two hours or so of driving, we finally made it and were surrounded by green pastures, typical farm animals (even Belted Galloway aka oreo cows), and most importantly, Joost’s dad and Margreet! Our visit consisted of great conversation, learning how to drive a stick shift (only stalled out 7 times), highly intense board games (yours truly won every game – insert evil laugh), jogs through the forest, eventful bike rides (to be explained in just a moment), tending to the horses in wooden clogs, shopping, visiting a mansion (coming soon to a S&B post near you) and peace + quiet (minus the 9am Saturday morning tractor show, where every farmer felt it was necessary to lay on their horns… not honk, but lay). All in all, Joost and I had a wonderful weekend and can’t wait to visit again soon.

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The weather looked promising – blue skies, white, fluffy clouds and sunshine – so we decided to take a bike ride through the forest. Dear little Mother Nature proved my statement, “never trust Holland’s blue skies and sunshine” to be exactly right. About 15 minutes into our ride, the clouds turned dark, the flood gates opened and we were drenched (I should really invest in waterproof mascara) – and I’m not talking sprinkles, but a full on torrential downpour. Joost joked that I am now, officially, a Dutch woman as I’ve been initiated into the culture. But really, once was enough.

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The downpour only lasted 10 or so minutes, so Joost and I decided to head back, change and continue our cycling adventures. I gave up on ‘being cute’ and immediately went for my running gear (in case of any other wet surprises). We enjoyed ‘baa’ing at the sheep (yes, we are those kind of people) and taking in all of the beautiful country sights.

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Everything about the country agreed with me – except Ollie the Cat. He obviously wasn’t a fan.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

cool cats gathering

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If you’re a ‘cool cat’, you were in Breda for the 43rd annual jazz festival, as it attracts jazz and music lovers from across the country (and performers from across Europe and even Japan). The festival began Thursday morning (which was yet another national holiday) and the last tune was played late Sunday evening. The four days was filled with non-stop gigs (roughly 180 – there were nineteen stages/locations throughout the city center), dancing, yummy food and lots of beer… Really, I’ve never seen so much beer in my life.

Being the ‘cool cats’ we are (pretty sure saying that downgraded us to uncool), Joost and I decided to take on the crowds and enjoy some jazz. Playing the clarinet in middle school (yours truly was the Band Captain in 8th grade), I’ve always had a tapping toe for music with a good beat – and if the good beat includes a scratchy voice, sax, trumpet, guitar and/or drums (just to name a few of my favs) – you’ve got yourself a happy, dancing girl. And a happy, dancing girl is exactly what I was.

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While I thoroughly enjoyed the concerts and listening to all of the bands, my absolute favorites were the walking bands that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Depending on location, they would stop, play a couple of tunes, take a beer break and march on. I feel like their motto was boogie-woogie, as that’s exactly what they did (tuba players included). It was so much fun dancing (and watching everyone dance) to the jazzy tunes with the band.

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Of course we ended our day with a few scoops of delicious gelato – how could we not? Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

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snapshots along the way

Who’s that girl with the camera plastered to her face? If she lives in Breda, why yes, that could quite possibly be yours truly. I’ve gotten in the habit of never leaving home without my camera (and umbrella – don’t let the blue and cloudless sky fool you), because you never know when something might catch your eye and let’s face it, the perfect photo opp is never planned.

This week has been quite busy thanks to family, friends, holidays (there have been three in the past week and another tomorrow), festivals and of course, my Dutch language lessons, but I wouldn’t have it any other way (ok, maybe I would wish that I could learn Dutch in a blink of an eye, as the very common Dutch sounds are not agreeing with my southern drawl). Because of everything that’s been happening around me, I decided to share some of my favorite sights, tastes and fashions from the past few days.

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Saturday, May 4th marked Dodenherdenking or ‘Remembrance of the Dead” (same as America’s Memorial Day), as the Netherlands paid tribute to the fallen soldiers of WWII and wars since. At 8p, the entire country stopped to show their gratitude through two minutes of silence. A beautiful ceremony was held in De Dam in Amsterdam in which the King, Queen, WWII soldiers and civilian survivors were among those in attendance. The following day, May 5th, was Liberation Day, in which the country celebrated being free of Nazi Germany control during WWII.

Memorial in Breda for the fallen soldiers

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Delicious dinner party appetizer – beef carpaccio

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Enjoying our new gourmet set

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Potted plant from Joost’s mom – perfect addition to the balcony

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Park Valkenberg

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Tasty treat on the terraces

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Festive Queen’s Day decor still colors the city

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Enjoying maxi dress and ballet flat weather

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Super cute cafe I found while pondering through the city – Coffee & Cream will be seeing me again soon

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Loving the mobile gelato shop in front of Nassau Monument Valkenberg

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney