boys and their planes

Born and raised in a small town outside of Pensacola, Florida, I grew up watching (and loving) the Blue Angels. Some of my favorite childhood memories include boat rides with family and friends to Destin, Panama City and Pensacola Beach to watch their spectacular shows. I was always (and still am) amazed at their precise, flawless and suspenseful maneuvers, that leave you thinking, “did they really just do that… in a F-18 jet?” Knowing my love for the Blues, Joost knew exactly where we’d be this past Saturday as soon as I got wind of a Dutch air show… And he knew exactly who had dibs on the Blues cap.

DSC_0007

DSC_0019

DSC_0024

DSC_0054

DSC_0056

DSC_0059

DSC_0068

DSC_0070

Not knowing what to expect, I was definitely in for a treat – seventeen countries were in attendance with their best pilots, aircrafts and tricks up their sleeves (some which made me ‘ooh’ and ‘awe’, while others I could watch with only one eye open due to the ‘dare devil’ stunts). Aircrafts ranged from a Finnish F-18 to the Dutch Apache helicopter (apparently this is the only Apache demo team in the world). Shows were nonstop from 9-5p, but that wasn’t the only entertainment. The grounds were packed with open aircrafts, obstacle courses, military-style face painting, simulators and much, much more (of course I loved the apparel stands – the best seller of the day had to be the flight suits for kids (so precious), as every little one seemed to be running around in them). There were also a lot of ‘demo stands’, which gave a closer look at the Air Force’s day-to-day operations, training (the wilderness, water and snow survival trainings – oh wow), equipment and weapons used. At the different stands, there were representatives from the Royal Netherlands Air Force to answer questions and provide personal insight on the subject – which I found to be super nice and a great way to make a connection.

DSC_0122

DSC_0138

DSC_0210

DSC_0222

DSC_0236

DSC_0258

DSC_0259

DSC_0301

DSC_0410

DSC_0417

DSC_0423

DSC_0315

DSC_0356

DSC_0362

DSC_0365

DSC_0489

DSC_0565

DSC_0634

DSC_0647

DSC_0674

DSC_0667

DSC_0709

DSC_0712

DSC_0747

DSC_0035

DSC_0015

To not leave any team out, below you’ll find all who were in attendance for the air show, along with the 150,000 spectators (special shout out to the RNLAF, Italian Air Force and French Air Force as your shows were my favorites! Oh, and can’t forget the Italian announcer, whom the crowd and myself loved) –

Hawker Hunter, DHHF

C-47, BBMF

Saab Viggen, Swedish AF

Bolkow 105, German Army

C-1301, Royal Danish AF

MI-24, Czech AF

Red Arrows, Royal Air Force

SU-22, Polish AF

Pilatus PC-7, Austrian AF

Curtiss P-40, Fighter Collection

MIG-15, Fundacja Polskie Orly

F-16, AH-64 Demo and Launch Air Power Demo, RNLAF

F-18 Hornet, Finnish AF

Frecce Tricolori, Italian AF

Saab Gripen JAS-39, Czech AF

Patrouille Suisse, Swiss AF

Ramex Delta, Frech AF

Spitfire Formation, BBMF/RNLAF

F-16, Turkish AF

Patrouille de France, French AF

Jet Formation, RNLAF

DSC_0798

DSC_0679

DSC_0792

Happy 100th birthday, RNLAF and until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

cool cats gathering

DSC_0027

DSC_0030

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.

DSC_0136

DSC_0089

DSC_0094

DSC_0097

DSC_0117

DSC_0065

DSC_0109

DSC_0139

DSC_0035

DSC_0018

DSC_0151

DSC_0206

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.

DSC_0195

DSC_0199

DSC_0167

DSC_0165

DSC_0246

DSC_0169

DSC_0178

DSC_0186

DSC_0185

DSC_0190

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

XX – Whitney

DSC_0218

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.

DSC_0065

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

DSC_0021 (2)

DSC_0036 (2)

Delicious dinner party appetizer – beef carpaccio

Clipboard01

Enjoying our new gourmet set

DSC_0006

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

Clipboard03

Park Valkenberg

DSC_0023 (2)

DSC_0078 (2)

Tasty treat on the terraces

DSC_0040

Festive Queen’s Day decor still colors the city

DSC_0046

Enjoying maxi dress and ballet flat weather

DSC_0048

DSC_0064 (2)

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

DSC_0059 (2)

DSC_0069 (2)

Loving the mobile gelato shop in front of Nassau Monument Valkenberg

DSC_0071 (2)

Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

the greenest of the green thumbs

DSC_0113  DSC_0236  DSC_0235  DSC_0171

Welcome to the world’s largest flower garden – Keukenhof! Located in South Holland, in the small town of Lisse, this amazingly lush garden attracts millions of visitors from all over the world each and every year. When visiting, be sure to dedicate an entire day for touring as it lays across 79 acres (32 hectares) and has over 9 miles of foot path (15 kilometers) – Joost and I were there for 5 hours and weren’t able to see everything. Annually, the ‘green thumbs’ of Keukenhof plant over 7 million bulbs – making sure to update displays and layouts to bring a new look to the garden. Keep in mind, Keukenhof is only open from March 21 – May 20 (same with the tulip fields – any earlier, they won’t be in bloom; any later, they’ll already be harvested).

DSC_0100

DSC_0593

DSC_0214

913997_10151361917306636_2097477210_o

DSC_0197

DSC_0207

DSC_0268

DSC_0271

Clipboard01

DSC_0375

DSC_0180  DSC_0318  DSC_0336  DSC_0330

At first glance, you might think this place is only for the ladies (and flower enthusiasts), but you couldn’t be more wrong. Keukenhof is a wonderful place for all ages, male and female. In the midst of the millions of flowers, you’re also able to rent bikes, take a boat tour, fly over the tulip fields (yes, in an airplane), endulge in Dutch sweets (homemade stroopwafels, pies, pancakes, waffles – the list is endless) and cuisine, play games, visit the animals in the petting zoo, picnic, attend a parade (Bob the Builder will be in town later this month), relax, enjoy nature and so much more. Year after year, Keukenhof does an outstanding job making this one of the most beautiful and family/pet friendly places to visit in the world. Already looking forward to visiting again in 2014!

DSC_0397

DSC_0414

DSC_0137

DSC_0447

DSC_0479

DSC_0485

DSC_0526

DSC_0548

DSC_0554

DSC_0573

DSC_0575

DSC_0585

DSC_0347  DSC_0361  DSC_0362  DSC_0244

Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

handing over the throne – queen’s day 2013

A day filled with breathtaking, exciting, historical and fairy tale moments was none other than Queen’s Day 2013. For the first time in 122 years, the Netherlands witnessed an inauguration of a King, formally known as Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. The very well-liked, former Queen Beatrix, now 75 years old, reigned for 33 years and followed in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps with the decision to abdicate. Being new to the country, almost like an outsider looking in, I sense the country will miss having the beloved Beatrix as Queen, but sights are soaring for King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima – it was so refreshing to feel the genuine love, emotion and devotion, not only from the people of Holland, but the royal family as well.

DSC_0006

Pre-Ceremony –

After only two hours of sleep, the day began ridiculously early (initial alarm – 330am, snooze button Xs 6, rise and shine at 4am; it really should be illegal to be up at this time of day, as I am no morning person). Holding my eyes open with toothpicks, I decked myself in the appropriate Queen’s Day attire (never forgetting the sparkles) and caught the first train to Amsterdam. One connection and two hours later, I finally made it and was ready to work my way to the front of De Dam (The Square) and enjoy my front row seat – and boy oh boy, it was work.

485539_10100846145255478_1633366633_n

DSC_0034

DSC_0024

DSC_0041

Part I – Signing over the Kingdom, The Palace

Just before 11am, all of Holland witnessed the first and last sights of what was then and what is to come, as the former Queen Beatrix signed over the kingdom to her son, now King Willem-Alexander. Emotions were running high as the signatures were signed by the royal family and 30 witnesses.

Random sidenote: I do have to say, the book in which everyone signed, was quite possibly the biggest book I’ve ever seen in my life. I have a feeling the crowd agreed with me, as you could hear light chuckling throughout De Dam.

DSC_0052

DSC_0059

Part II – Balcony Speech, The Palace

Shortly after the signatures were signed, we were greeted by the new King, Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix. King Willem-Alexander gave a very warm and heart-felt speech, focusing on the work and dedication of his mother, which brought tears to many eyes. The crowd responded by singing, “Bea Bedankt, Bea Bedankt, Bea, Bea, Bea Bedankt.” Princess Catharina-Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane then joined their parents on the balcony, waving, smiling and looking totally adorable. Princess Catharina-Amalia is the oldest of the children and is heir to the throne and received the title, “Princess of Orange” yesterday – wow, not too shabby for a 10-year-old.

DSC_0091

DSC_0098

DSC_0106

After the speech, we then had FOUR hours until the next ceremony took place. But even with four hours on our hands, that left no time for grabbing a bite to eat or going to the restroom – only making our way to the front. My friends and I are proud to say, we eventually wiggled our way to the second row and quickly became statues – impossible to be moved and/or shoved.

DSC_0145

DSC_0155

Part III – Walking the Blue Carpet

Might not sound like it, but watching the royal families walk the blue carpet to the Nieuwe Kerk was so exciting (think Oscars Xs 100). Two thousand guests were invited to attend and witness the new king swearing allegiance to the constitution of the Netherlands before the Dutch parliament. Other monarchies were represented by crown princes and princesses from the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and Japan – along with many others. The 25,000+ crowd stood silent, only ‘oohing’ and ‘aweing’ as the guests made their way into the church (I so wish I could have been in there). While all of the Crown Princes, Princesses, Head of State and others looked absolutely fabulous, Queen Maxima was radiant, stunning, breathtaking – really, there are no words to describe how beautiful she was. Can’t forget about King Willem-Alexander – he was very handsome as well.

One thing I loved was how Princess Beatrix, Queen Maxima, Princess Catharina-Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane all wore royal blue. Not sure if this was planned, but Princess Beatrix wore a dark shade, whereas Queen Maxima wore a medium shade and the Princesses an even lighter shade – maybe signifying the past, present and future? I unfortunately can’t copyright the thought, but my lovely Italian friend, Jules sure can.

DSC_0011

DSC_0256

DSC_0285

DSC_0289

DSC_0290

DSC_0179

DSC_0189

DSC_0193

DSC_0199

DSC_0200

DSC_0208

DSC_0214

DSC_0217

DSC_0220

DSC_0300

DSC_0315

DSC_0324

Part IV – The Investiture, Nieuwe Kerk

Once everyone was seated, the King and Queen made their unforgettable entrance and the ceremony began. Long story short, the King gave another heart-felt, reassuring and positive speech, was sworn in and was then (individually) sworn in by the members of parliament.

DSC_0326

DSC_0178

DSC_0327

DSC_0330

DSC_0336

DSC_0329

Part V – The Walk back to the Palace

To conclude the exciting day at De Dam, we were given another blue carpet runway show, as the Dutch royal family, along with the other royal families walked from the church to the palace. Truly an amazing and unforgettable day.

DSC_0385

Part VI – Travelling Home

I don’t even want to go there (let’s just say I missed my train stop and got a little lost). Typical Whitney.

DSC_0407

DSC_0414

Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

a flower rainbow

Clipboard01

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)?

DSC_0003

DSC_0011

DSC_0017

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.

DSC_0048

DSC_0055

DSC_0062

DSC_0078

DSC_0083

DSC_0604

DSC_0652

DSC_0661

DSC_0662

DSC_0664

DSC_0680

DSC_0682

DSC_0687

Until next time – tot ziens, my friends!

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.

DSC_0007

DSC_0008

DSC_0026

DSC_0028

DSC_0034

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.

DSC_0016

DSC_0053

DSC_0062

DSC_0098

DSC_0075

Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

DSC_0080