First year living in NL

Moving abroad was a huge step for me. I was always the daughter that my parents thought of as the one to stay close to home, continue at my full time job and find a little house to rent on the Isle of Wight. Back in August 2011 that changed and within a few months planning I was moving to the Netherlands for a 1 year job opportunity as an Au Pair. I sold my car, quit my job, enjoyed my leaving party with friends and had one big suitcase packed for the year. The idea of this job was to test the love of my relationship with Lennart to see if we could make it work, as well as trying new experiences in another country. Lennart and I were already in the long distance relationship for 4/5 years and so it felt right to test ourselves at the next level.

Life as an Au Pair

I stayed with a lovely family in Kralingen, Rotterdam. They had two amazing children, a boy and a girl, who at the time were aged 3 and 4. The mother was Canadian and the father was Dutch, so the children already had a very Basic English language level, so my duties included that I taught them English. My Dutch was non-existent so everything we did was in English.

I arrived to a new house, to which it was also new to the family as it was just having the final touches done and boxes still needed unpacking. Even in the first 3 days we had no hot water. So we were all in the same situation to adjusting to a new place to live.

Within the first week of working I had lots of ‘firsts’. First time riding a bike with a 3 year old on the back, first time driving their car on the right side of the road (instead of the left in the UK) and the first time I tried Sushi, which was the children’s favourite meal!!

Once I was in the routine and after a few weeks had passed, the children had adjusted with me in their lives, it felt perfect. They could really open up to me as they would with their parents, and would also test me to see what their limit was!

I helped the children get through their morning routine and got them to school. Once the school day had ended I would be picking them both up and taking them to their swimming lessons, to the park for the swings or straight back home to draw/colour/play.

I had my own room and I basically became the 3rd child in the house. Joining them all with breakfast and dinner, helping out with the washing, ironing and cleaning, and also joining in on the family activities like seeing the grandparents and going out to dinner together. For Christmas dinner I was also invited to join the family on 25th December at the Euromast. Delicious food at a height of 185meters.

The year passed and I had experienced an amazing time with the family. Before my time was up I was invited to join the family at their 2nd home in Haamstede, Zeeland. They have a beautiful house close to the beach and in the nature. Here we were out of the routine and play time was all day. I am very grateful and lucky to have had this opportunity.

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‘Me’ Time

During the one year I also focused on myself, attending Dutch lessons at the CBE Languages, with small groups of 8 and lots of interaction with each other it boosted my level of Dutch to know all the basics. If you’re looking for lessons in Rotterdam I would definitely recommended them!

At the weekends I was free, which meant I was spending most of my time with Lennart. Cinema dates, grabbing some lunch/dinner and relaxing at his place. It was also fantastic to be able to meet his whole family, though it was extremely scary in the beginning being the English newcomer!

The weekends together really taught us that we could make the relationship work, not just long distance but also with seeing each other on a regular basis. It was a good choice to become an Au Pair first though, so it wasn’t so full on that we were living together straight away. The one year as au pair was perfect to come accustomed to each other and really know what it’s like in a relationship.

One Year Completed

Before I knew it, it was my time to leave and for the next Au Pair to experience what I had. I would really recommend becoming an Au Pair if you want to travel to a new country for a set period of time. Make sure you have good contact with the parents/family before you join them and do your research of the place you want to go to. Most families give you your own time to be free, like I had with the weekends. It gives you the amazing opportunity to explore the city and country you go to, meet new people and learn who are as a person. You may also find love and never end up leave the country like me.

In the beginning I never thought of my long term plans. I was really focused on living there for 1 year. But as August 2012 came closer I moved in with Lennart (and his mum at the time) and started looking for a new job. My last studies from England graded high enough for me to enroll in university too, also in Rotterdam, for an international course that I started in 2013. Everything was going fast but I was on the right track. It seemed deep down that I couldn’t leave Lennart after one year of actually dating not long distance, and I’ve been living in Rotterdam with Lennart ever since.

“Distance means nothing when Love means everything.”

Long distance relationships are branded as a tricky thing, with most people believing that they simply do not work, but we had proved people wrong. Trust is the most important thing to have and without it, it would definitely not have worked out.

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Vienna, Austria 2014

We had two words for Vienna on our first day, beautiful and busy! Travelling here by train from Innsbruck was a beautiful experience as we never saw so much lush green grass before! The train from Innsbruck took around 2 hours but that time was well spent researching museums and activities to do on trip advisor.

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I normally take lots of photos but in this city the camera battery was running low sooner than expected. We immersed ourselves in the culture, like eating bratwurst with mustard in a roll on the main shopping street – delicious! We couldn’t sit down anywhere as the whole city buzzing with shoppers and all the locals were drinking coffee on café terraces. We squeezed some time in to do some shopping, but mostly focused on exploring more of the busy streets and open squares of the city.

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We booked ourselves into the AllYouNeed Hotel-Vienna2 which was fine for a decent night’s sleep and a fresh well-assorted breakfast the following morning. It wasn’t luxury, but it was good for what we needed with regards to location and price, plus the free WIFI was good, so we could plan what to see in the following days.

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As we only had 2 full days we were limited to what we wanted to do. We were rewarded with warm sunny weather and were able to spend both days out late exploring. One evening did bring some heavy rain and thunderstorms but luckily we had just made it back to the hotel.

Some highlights of visiting Vienna firstly was the Schönbrunn Palace, with beautiful fountains and gardens that you could spend hours walking around in. The whole grounds were free to enter. There could of been more places to buy cold refreshments as the weather was reaching 40°C and most things were selling out to other tourists, but we were prepared and had some snacks and water with us. The flower arrangements were done beautifully and most statues and water fountains were being restored so once its done it will be strikingly picturesque. I took hundreds of photos here so it was hard to choose the best one. A beautiful recommendation!

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The Technical Museum in Vienna was very enjoyable to visit, as they had a wide range of scientific, communications and industrial artifacts which we found interesting. It was not very busy when we visited during lunch time hours so we managed to appreciate all the artifacts on show without having to rush or miss out on some parts of the museum. Not expensive to enter so check it out if you are there!

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The Prater Amusement Park is also a highlight. Like most amusement parks, they are expensive and full of flashing attractions trying to make you spend all your money to win a teddy bear. But I am positive to say that we had a really good night here. We spent a perfect clear night high above the park by first going in the famous ‘Riesenrad’ Ferris wheel, with views of seeing the whole city. We managed to keep to our budget, but one ride (that was priced at €5 each!) which we just had to try was the ‘Prater Turm’. Leaving your shoes and bags below you are taken up slowly and half way up to the highest point of 117 meters you start swinging in circles until you reach the top, lasting for up to 3 minutes. It was a great experience so high up but I definitely admit it was a little scary swaying in little flimsy metal chairs, while you’re holding on as tight as possible to your partner.

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Vienna was a beautiful city, and we would definitely love to return in the future, maybe in the winter season when the city is covered in snow and they have their famous christmas markets.

It was good to have good warm weather and a variety of attractions and museums to keep us active. However we were definitely looking forward to getting back to the mountains in Innsbruck with the train and to check in at our new hotel with a swimming pool and sauna.

Innsbruck, Austria 2014

We decided to step out of our comfort zone of capital cities for our summer destination in 2014. What sparked the idea was that we had never been to the mountains during the summer season and after doing some research with our budget in mind we chose Innsbruck, Austria as our destination.

We started our first few days in the Basic Hotel Innsbruck, keeping in mind our budget and to explore the city for the first few days on a cheap budget. We were greeted warmly after arriving late, all of our questions were answered well and what we always base our sleeping arrangements on, a location with good free WIFI.

With our new walking mountain boots ready to be worn we decided to spend our first day going straight up the beautiful mountain on the cable car. We took the Nordkettenbahnen to Hafelekar, the highest point of 2256m above sea level. It was amazing to see the city down below on one side and the amazing views of the mountain range on the other. Our photos show how fantastic the weather was and what gorgeous views we encountered at the top!

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After reaching the ‘touristic’ part of the mountain and having our photo taken together by other tourists and hikers, we decided to break in our mountain boots more and follow a walking route with a red dot. Unknown to us we didn’t know where this would lead us to or how long it was, resulting in getting us very far away after a good 3 hours of exploring! (We were oblivious to amount we had walked!) We were so immersed in the beauty of our surroundings we finally realised that we were going to have to find a safe path down the mountains, as the cable car would have stopped running by the time we walked back the same route. Luckily we had some snacks with us and we had a good feeling that we would come across a pathway down within another 30mins as it seemed that we were slowly descending. Well 3 hours later and we seemed to be in the middle of the mountain range with no one else but the famous Austrian cows with their bells in sight!! I must say at this point I was getting very worried as it would only be a few more hours until dark.

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We came into contact with a solo Belgium hiker, who had some knowledge of the paths and directed us to a small pathway that led us down the mountain. This pathway was not a pathway as he described, it was half falling away and with one wrong step we would have gone flying down. It was also overgrown and used only by the most experienced hikers but it was our only close option to getting down the mountain after 6 hours of hiking. Even our comfy new mountain boots were tired and we were starting to feel our knees hurt in every step. Our snacks and water was completely gone and our energy levels reached very low points.

You can see the red spot that we were following in this photo!

After 1 hour slowly trekking downwards and darkness beginning to fall we finally made it to a tarmac road with a little hidden café. At last we could stop worrying about being stuck and grab something to eat and drink before following the tarmac road back to Innsbruck city centre. Within the following 1 hour we had made it back in the dark, crashed on our beds and slept until 1pm the following day! The 8 hours of hiking had knocked us out. We had a great sleep but our leg muscles were aching for the next couple of days.

After all the exploring up the mountain and getting lost along the way, we feel that our first day was the highlight of the whole vacation. However we have learnt that we shall never follow a walking route with a red dot ever again!

Keeping the capital cities goal in mind, we took a 2 day trip to Vienna in the middle of our 10-day vacation. Travelling by train, we read some new chapters in our books and watched the beautiful famous green nature of Austria pass by. Check out my Vienna post about our visit!

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Once back from Vienna we booked ourselves into Hotel Innsbruck which we reserved for some luxury feeling to use the relaxing indoor swimming pool and sauna, and because of the excellent reviews. We requested a view of the mountains and that’s exactly what we got, opening the curtains every morning to the stunning views of where we got lost at a few days before. Throughout the time spent there the service of this hotel was fantastic, even letting us check in our big suitcase early when we left the first hotel in Innsbruck to leave for Vienna, and stored it safely until we arrived back 2 days later.

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Innsbruck is a picturesque city, small enough to explore within a few days. The Golden Roof was a 5 minute walk away from both hotels and the main restaurants were buzzing with locals and tourists. One little restaurant/bar that we found in a side street behind the hotel served a delicious meal of schnitzel and chips. It was where the locals hung out, so we joined them instead of spending twice as much for the same dish near the Golden Roof. The city was very pretty but we booked this destination for the experience of hiking in the mountains, which we certainly experienced!

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Our time here was a wonderful experience, one we will definitely remember. If you are ever visiting Austria, I’d recommend a few days to Innsbruck!

Together In Innsbruck, Austria