Kings Day Celebrations 2016

Since moving to the Netherlands, Queens Day was one of my favourite public holidays. A day to dress up in orange and go shopping for second hand items is something I love! Two years ago Queens Day changed to Kings Day for the first time, celebrated now on the April 27th as it marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander.

What I love about Kings Day is that most shops are closed and the city becomes more alive than usual with people wanting to make money from selling their belongings or people wanting to buy! I also love that the Royal family visit a different village each year where they see local talent from schools, art displays and games that they join in on. They get so close and personal with everyone who attends that village to see them and get involved with trying the local cheese or dancing to a performance.

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Back in 2011 my mum and little sister were visiting me in Rotterdam and they got to experience how much the Dutch love celebrating in orange! Lots of stores start selling orange coloured clothes, accessories and food three weeks before the official date, with a favourite treat being an orange coloured tompouce! (a Dutch pastry cake with cream filling).

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My little sister also loved the day, pictured below with my partner’s mum. It was so fun for her to dress up in orange and spend her money on random stuff she liked, that would also fit in her suitcase back to the UK.

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I’m a big fan of recycling and shopping for second hand items for the house or my closet. A week before the holiday I start getting excited and checking out the weather hoping for the sun. I also start thinking of all the things I want to find or plan on looking for, with hope that I will succeed with as little money as possible!

People who decide to sell their belongings start setting up their stall/area in the city from as early at 6am, with the latecomers joining around 10am. By 9am I am normally already looking at peoples stalls to see if I can buy some great stuff before other buyers do!

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Since running 10km for the Rotterdam Marathon I have been extremely motivated to reach my fitness goals and invest in new active clothes. So the main thing on my list for 2016 is to find anything related to fitness! Clothes, weights, accessories etc.

Tomorrow is the day I have been waiting for. Hopefully the weather will be dry and sunny for tomorrows Kings Day, because today the Netherlands has had rain, hail and even places of snow! If your joining in with the celebrations, don’t forget to wear orange!

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Rotterdam Marathon 2016

On April 10th the Rotterdam Marathon was full in swing. Starting at 10am the city was buzzing with runners and supporters. A few years ago this was something I would watch on the tv of the helicopter view and look out the window when the runners were close. It never crossed my mind that in 2016 I would be running alongside them!

I started training back in December 2015, but have been very sportive the last 2 years already with group lessons at my local gym such as Zumba, Bodypump and Bodyshape. So running was definitely not my thing!

When I signed up for the 1/4 Rotterdam Marathon I couldn’t even imagine what 10km was like so when I first got on the treadmill for 30 minutes I was in for a big shock. By January 2016 I was running up to 3km within 30 minutes, which was good but not good enough.

The goal for the marathon was to complete the 10km within the 1 hour and 30 minutes but as April got closer by I was pushing myself to finish within 1 hour and 20 minutes. The weeks leading up to the marathon I focused 100% into running and stopped all group lessons that I was attending, as those last few weeks to push myself was needed. Using the Nike running app I had tracked that during practice I was reaching 4km within 30 minutes. So I knew that I was running a good speed to be within the 1 hour and 30 minutes – but this didn’t stop me being nervous.

Waking up on Saturday April 9th I felt good and nervous. Within 24 hours I would be starting at 10am at the start of the Rotterdam Marathon. I had no fitness plans as I was worried that I would twist my ankle or something stupid the day before, so I stayed relaxed and only took a nice walk. Even though I wasn’t running the whole 42km Rotterdam Marathon I felt it was also important that I also eat pasta for dinner, like the pros! But of course to help with my energy.

On the day of the marathon I woke up at 8am with plenty of time to have breakfast, stretch and also to prepare myself with courage! Lennart joined me to the start line, where I met my fitness friend called Bee who I would be running with. He took some photos of us and wished us both luck, which I know I definitely needed. The last few months of training had been good and improved, but I had never actually reached running 10km in one run… making 7.5/8km the most I had ran in one run without stopping. Now you can see why I was nervous!

Turning my new Fitbit Charge HR on active sport mode and waiting in the starting stage I was ready. We all lined up and the countdown began, trigged by a starting gun and a green waving flag that its go time! Right from the start it was an amazing experience, people cheering, music blasting out on different streets along the route and a strong sense of community between other runners.

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By 3km another ginger person tapped me on the shoulder and started taking Dutch, to ask if I had remembered to put suncream on!! It made a few people laugh around us when I replied that I forgot, since it wasn’t suppose to be so sunny. We were luckily that it wasn’t raining but that it also wasn’t too hot.

By 6km we had made it to the drinks, and you can see on the photo below that I slowed down and the colour changed to orange due to a lower speed. Oh was that water refreshing! By 7.5/8km I was starting to struggle, I wasn’t surprised as this is what I had reached during training and I would always stop from lack of energy. However now I could not stop and I did not want to stop either. You cannot see it on the photo but I did start walking at one point to catch my breath, but I paced my walking at a fast pace and counted to 10 seconds where I started running again. It is super difficult to get back to the same running pace once you start walking so I refused to walk fast more than 10 seconds.

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By 9km I started walking fast again for 10 seconds, but with a push from Bee I was straight back into the running pace. We were back in the city where lots of people were watching and cheering, so this also gave me a big strength to finish the last 1km. I also knew that Lennart would be waiting at the end for me with a massive proud smile on his face!

Oh what was the last bit fantastic, running down the main city street Coolsingel and seeing the finish line in front of you! Knowing that you are only one more minute before you finish and strangers from both sides cheering you on. My name was on my bib with my number and Zoe without the diaeresis (the “two dots” like Zoë) is spoken in Dutch like Zoo, and so every now and then on the last 1km I could hear strangers shouting “Go Zoo!” and “Wooo Zoo!“. So funny to thinking back about it!!

That goal of 1 hour 20 minutes was broken with my finish time of 1 hour 18 minutes!! O-M-G I was so proud of myself! (& still proud) Fantastic!! Unbelievable! Even now when I think back its hard to put into words that feeling of crossing over the finish line, such a sense of accomplishment. Bee and I had done it!

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Barcelona, Spain 2015

My flight was on time and I arrived in sunny Barcelona excited to see Lennart, who was already in Barcelona for work, so it was a perfect idea to join him for a cheap long weekend.

We had booked ourselves into the Hotel Acta Atrium Palace which is perfect walking distance from the Plaça de Catalunya square. Great hotel with comfy clean beds and very spacious. We tried the pool and jacuzzi during our stay which was relaxing but could of been a little warmer. We didn’t try the breakfast as we prefer going straight into the city and finding a bakery.

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We had a rough idea of attractions we wanted to see, however there was also many attractions that we were personally not interested in. For the first day we decided to just go for a walk, and check out the city and the atmosphere. Since Lennart had already been there for a couple of days he had a good sense of where things were, and took me on a route to the harbour. Las Rambles is definitely the busiest street in Barcelona, even for November! All the tourists were found here. We enjoyed the warm 22c degrees walking with our sunglasses on and a bottle of water in my hand.

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We planned the next day to visit the Montjuïc castle by getting to the top with the Telefèric de Montjuïc cable car. We got there fairly early (plus it wasn’t busy at all for November), resulting in us having our own cable car carriage to ourselves! We had a good clear sunny day so the views were good.

The castle was pretty simple, paying only €3 to get in and walk around to the top. There was no café and we had no drinks, so we decided to walk around the castle and walk back down into the city to find some refreshments. Behind the castle we found a hidden family café who only took cash, which we luckily had €5 left, just enough for two cold drinks. If we had more we would have tucked into a delicious pancake or something fresh from their BBQ.

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The following day we headed to Park Guell for a relaxing walk on the hillside through the ruins and gardens. We decided not to go into the paid part of the park, as we had read that its rather expensive and not really so much to see. Plus this was also a popular place for all the tourists so we didn’t want to queue up and wait to get in. We could see parts of the beautiful architecture from our walk around it and really enjoyed our morning here.

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In the evening we headed to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, which was nice to see but after 5 minutes it wasn’t gonna get any more spectacular. They did use some of the latest music which entertained the crowd though. Even in November it was good to get early if you wanted to sit but we ended up standing and leaving before it was ended.

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By the third day we visited the Mercat de Sant Josep. A very colourful place with a large variety of delicious things to eat. We enjoyed walking around it, but didn’t stay long as we were off on another walk around new areas of Barcelona.

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A recommendation of dinner, even though you should be eating some of the delicious Spanish cuisine, we found ourselves a unique indian restaurant near our hotel called the Surya Barcelona. Every chair and table was different with the bar in the shape of a bus. Friendly staff and great service. We must of only spent about €30 in total for our corona beers, the curry’s and a warm nutella pancake for desert. Gezellig!

Our long weekend had come to an end and we were satisfied with all we had seen. However it’s a place we wouldn’t return to so fast due to the lack of attractions.

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Our flight back home was rather rough, with turbulence most of the journey. When it came to landing, the strong winds that had been battering the Netherlands were giving the plane some troubles. We ended up landing with one wheel on the runway, cruising sideways for a good part of it before landing the other wheel and breaking. We always seem to be on the flights that have problems landing. Check out our vacation to Dordogne, where we so close to landing before the pilot took us back up to try again!