bye bye, breda

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The past month has been a complete whirlwind and by the look of things, they are unlikely to slow down. On the bright side, whirlwinds bring excitement, new adventures and everlasting memories; while on the flipside, time flies.

The craze started the moment I heard my apartment sold. In a quick three weeks, I was packed, moved (or should I say stored), on the hunt for a new place and ready for my travel back to the states. My last few days in Breda were certainly bittersweet, as this cozy city introduced and broke me in to all things Dutch. It was truly the perfect place to begin my living abroad journey (not too big, not too small), and thanks to Breda, I am ready for the ‘too big’ city.

Stay tuned for a few more very exciting details… But until then, I hope you enjoy a few of my favorite Breda snapshots taken over the past six months.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

belgium brews, chocolates & waffles

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Feeling the need for a mini road trip, Joost and I spontaneously decided to take off to Belgium this weekend (and when I say mini, I mean it, as the Belgium border is about 25 minutes from Breda). When crossing into a different European country, you’ll find it surprising there’s no border patrol, flashing lights or police waiting to check your passports – it’s much like driving state to state in America. Many European countries are about the size of US states (fun fact of the day: Belgium is roughly the size of Maryland), so I guess driving through Europe is comparable to driving through the US, just with obvious differences, such as culture and languages. Speaking of different languages, Belgium has a few of their own. Half of the country speaks a dialect of Dutch called Flems, whereas the other half speak French (and apparently the two sides do not get along, but at least they both make great chocolate and waffles!).

Our road trip took us to the cute, cozy city of Antwerp (shopper’s paradise and second largest city in Belgium). When driving through Antwerp, you can’t help but notice the beautiful church planted in the city center – so it was a given that would be our first stop. The astonishing ‘Cathedral of our Lady’ was built-in 1352, although it’s never been completely finished, and the highest steeple reaches 404 feet high.

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While walking along, you can’t miss ‘the building with the flags’ also known as the Town Hall. Many sights of the city were blocked off and set up for a triathlon, so please excuse the random tents and car display. Joost and I will most certainly have to come back when the skies are brighter and no events are in place. On the other side of the square, you’ll notice tall, narrow and intricately decorated buildings, known as the guild houses. These were homes to the most skillful guilds of the 16th and 17th centuries and the beautifully gold crafted decor are symbolic representations of the guilds who lived in each.

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As our journey continued, we passed the cutest little cafes and shops – oh how I wish I could have delighted in the chocolates and waffles, but I’m currently watching my carb and sugar intake, so a warm coffee on a rainy day sufficed.

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Before the light drizzle turned into a monsoon, we were able to visit the river and even on a rainy day, the sights were beautiful. The Port of Antwerp is actually one of the largest in Europe (believe the Netherlands and Germany are the biggest) and continues to be a solid moneymaker for Belgium. The ships, cobblestone bridge and beautiful views had me at hello.

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Hopefully our next visit will include sunny skies and warm weather, as there were so many things we weren’t able to capture through a lens.

Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

29 degrees (celsius)

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Happy Thursday, everyone and TGIAF (thank goodness it’s almost Friday)! This week has been spectacular as temps have reached a high of 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) in Breda – really though, it’s about time since it’s mid-June. So, in celebration of the sunny warmth, I pulled for my most favorite nautical wear and came up with this oldie, but goodie anchor dress from last summer. Adore. Can it get any better? Why yes, yes it can. No clouds in sight, I decided to take a chance and unpack my calf-hair heels (was really thinking I would never be able to wear them or anything of the like due to the very common and unforeseen surprise showers). Miraculously, there was no rain, only sunshine and smiles.

Well, I must go now and work on tanning these legs (as you can see, it’s much-needed – sorry Florida, I know I’m letting you down).

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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

making a house, a home

From giving gifts, to sending packages, to decorating for a party – I like everything to be personalized and to tell a story. So, of course, the same goes with my new apartment in Breda! Below are just a few of my favorites (and once the sailboat makes it across the ocean with my decor, I’ll be sure to share more).

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One of my favorite things to do is update our, “I love you because…” frame. When I know Joost is coming to visit, I make sure to jot down yet another reason why I love him so. It’s a small effort and nothing extravagant, but Joost has said time and time again how much he enjoys the thought. I mean, who doesn’t love to be told why they’re so great?!

Of course you can write sentimental phrases, as I often do, or have a little fun and write something totally off the wall (I decided to share fun phrases and spare you of our ooey gooey details – you’re welcome).

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This little craft is super simple – all you need is a picture frame (purchased mine at V&D for one euro), piece of paper with “I love you because” written on it, dry erase marker and an eraser (cotton rounds work just fine).

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[[achievement frame]]

What does a girlfriend give her boyfriend that’s graduating from flight school and getting his wings (sidenote: we had only been dating three months)? Of course, slightly over-the-top options crossed my mind, but decided to shower him with personalized gifts instead. So glad I did. The signed frame is one of Joost’s (and my) favs. Almost two years later, I still enjoy looking at it everyday, as it brings back warm memories (and nervous ones – first time meeting his family and BFFs).

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[[firsts]]

We were super lucky to find an affordable, furnished apartment in the city center of Breda, but as with most things, there was a small catch. And ours – we aren’t allowed to paint or hang anything on the walls (so, unless there was already a picture or mirror hanging, there’s no room for fun). Bummer.

With that being said, yes, below you will find a lavender wall! While I would love to change it, at least it adds a little color to the room (trying to focus on positives). And since we can’t hang anything, I was happy to find these six picture frames at the top of the stairs and decided to showcase all of our ‘firsts’.

From left to right –

Frame 1 – first time ever meeting (Uncle’s farm in Citronelle, Alabama!) + first time seeing each other post farm (randomly ran into each other in New Orleans during Mardi Gras the next weekend… crazy, I know)

Frame 2 – first date (Joost rented a hotel at Pensacola Beach, so we could see each other multiple times during the weekend – he was stationed in Alabama and I was living 2 hours away in Florida) – McGuire’s Irish Pub, jet skiing and a night out at Flounder’s

Frame 3 – first weekend getaway – Destin, Florida

Frame 4 – first time visiting the Netherlands!

Frame 5 – first vaca together – Paris

Frame 6 – first vaca together pt. 2 – Venice

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[[memory box]]

When I arrived back in Texas after our first vacation (sad day – hate when vacas end), I had accumulated so much ‘stuff’ in those two weeks. So, it only seemed right to make a Memory Box! Inside you’ll find our receipts, pictures, brochures from places we toured, tickets, trinkets we purchased and small pieces of paper that list individual memories, quotes, places, new foods we tried – literally any and all memories we made during our trip.

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[[fun frame]]

Yes, American Dream and My Dutchie are our nicknames for each other – let the jokes begin. This is one of the first crafts I made for Joost – so no matter how ‘kid-like’ this frame appears, it will always have a place in our home, as it brings back great memories – oh, the power of pictures.

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[[where we’ve been]]

Confession: I might have gotten Joost addicted to Starbucks. Oops. No matter where we go, Joost’s iPad is searching for the closest SBUX, so it only felt right to begin a mug collection of all the places we’ve been together. Again, another easy way to tell our story and rekindle memories.

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Hope you enjoyed the read and hope a few ideas were sparked to showcase your own personal story as well.

Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

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