Cycling Not Just For Transport

Now that I have lived here for 6 years I feel like I am allowed to turn into a road bike fanatic. The Netherlands is a great place for road biking due to the safe bike paths and the lack of hills. After stalking many Marktplaats sellers (Dutch version of Ebay) I was lucky to find one that was the right size and price range. So it’s now official! I have bought my first ever road bike, in a new-ish condition all shiny and red.

Learning all aspects of cycling on a road bike sure is a learning curve, such as what all the different components are as well as the ‘do’s and dont’s‘. A Dutch book that I still need to read is ‘Vrouw & Fiets’ written by Nynke de Jong and Marijn de Vries, which has been recommended to me by at least 3 people this week.

As well as buying the bike this week, I bought some gloves and cycling glasses at the Decathlon and researched into what size clip-in shoes I needed. I also scored a new helmet via Marktplaats and ordered some sexy cushion-padded shorts to protect my butt and a cycling shirt with pockets at the back.

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For my first route I decided to take it easy, cycling only 11km around the Kralingse Bos park in Rotterdam. Within 10 minutes I felt so hungry and realised the unhealthy lunch probably wasn’t the best idea before some fitness. As a gym junkie that I am (minimum 3 days a week at the gym + home workouts sessions) I should of known better! However overall happy that my average speed was faster than my city bike as well as being able to pratice the gear changing and the overall feel of the bike. P.S I didn’t have my ordered cushion-padded shorts in time for this route either so it was a bumpy experience!

I’ve started using the app Strava, perfect for tracking your route with GPS. Gives you information about your speed, elevation, estimated calories and more importantly the time and distance. What I also love is once you do the same route more than once, you can challenge yourself to beat your old time and make some personal bests!

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For my second route this week it was right after fuelling up with some pasta, also prepared with my cushion-padded shorts and the correct gear. The plan was to do another small route for practicing, but with a beautiful sun setting it was too good to end it to quickly. I cycled with my partner exactly 32km, and even at the end I felt like I could of gone further but it was dark and we had no lights!

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For my third and last route this week, we decided to travel to the De Biesbosch National Park. Based on the western wind, we cycled all the way there with the wind. The plan was to do a few laps around the national park but I was rather tired once we reached 60km, and knew I still had to cycle atleast 10km back towards to the boat to take me back to Rotterdam. We stopped at the De Brabantse Biesbosch for a delicious pancake and a cola, as my partner needed some energy as he cycled all the way back!

But WOW, so proud that within a week I managed to do a long trip of 67km in one go! A lot faster than I ever imagined too within only 3 hours!

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The total this week I cycled is 116km (including a short 10km I forgot to record). I couldn’t of done it without those padded shorts thats for sure!

I still need lots of practice until I can call myself a real road bike fanatic, but I’m making a good start!

My wish list of things to get (and need) to feel like a complete road bike user:

  • New matching water bottles and holders
  • A bell
  • Clip-in SPD Shoes
  • Spare inside tyres
  • A multitool kit
  • A bike computer/sensor to measure and see my speed, distance and time
  • (and whatever else I need that I don’t know about yet!)

Any tips & tricks, related books or apps, or even decent shops or websites to buy gear would all be appreciated!!

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The Dutch Korps Mariniers

Since living in the Netherlands, I have often seen the mariniers training throughout the city of Rotterdam. Training and hiking with their 40+kg backpacks or at the local swimming pool in all their gear. The Van Ghentkazerne Military Base is in Rotterdam near my previous school too.

The Korps Mariniers are the Dutch amphibious infantry component of the Royal Netherlands Navy, who can be deployed anywhere within the world within 48 hours in all circumstances.

Their motto is Qua Patet Orbis (“As Far As The World Extends”)

Their final week of training is the hardest, with no sleep hiking up to 125km a day, abseiling down the Van Brienenoordbrug bridge, peddling with a boat down to Zealand for different scenario trainings and also climbing up and abseiling from the Hef bridge. Unfortunately it was pretty much raining their final week too!

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Source: Defensie Magazine
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Source: Ad.nl
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Source: Ad.nl

On Friday July 14th I watched the ceremony at the Schouwburgplein, where they exchanged their training beret for the official Mariniers dark blue beret. It was pretty interesting to hear what they had gone through since February 6th, and how their final week went. They arrived at 12pm just as the rain got worse, carrying all their gear and weapon.

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DSC_4275The ceremony wasn’t too long before they were done, wearing the new beret and greeted by loved ones to celebrate. It was great to see the final ceremony in Rotterdam, even with the rain.

Graduating Abroad

Wow!! What an amazing feeling it is to say I have passed my graduation project as well as four years of school abroad!! Studying in the Netherlands has been pretty amazing.

At the beginning I was against the idea of going back into studying and attending school, as I had already been working full time for nearly a year at a previous job in England followed by my 1 year Au Pair job in Rotterdam. But I knew I wanted, and needed, a degree.

My time as an Au Pair was ending and I needed to see my options into studying in the Netherlands, else my next option was to go back to England, which I didn’t really want. I started by making a pros and cons document listing everything regarding my present and future options.

When I think back I must have been crazy, but I hated the idea of going back to school for 4 years for my degree. At the time all I wanted to do was find a full time job, which would give me and my partner the option to move forward, such as a place to live together, travelling to destinations and having the extra money for saving, date nights and future plans. Plus, I was already 20 years old, rather young of course, but I couldn’t imagine being 25 by the time I graduated with the thought of still attending school. I think I got this impression from England, with only a few friends attending university straight from school at 17 or 18 years old, who would have graduated by 22 years old.

Realistically the pros outweighed the cons and I had started my search of a university that taught something related to business in English, since my Dutch was nowhere near ready to study a degree for!

Before leaving England I completed a 2 year certificate in Business Administration at college, which was not high enough for the specific degree I wanted to complete in the Netherlands, so I first had to pass an economic class during the summer, which would allow me to enter the 4 year course of my choice.

September came around quickly and with my economic class passed I was ready with my school books, pens, laptop and notebooks to start the scary process of my first semester at Rotterdam Business School. My chosen study was the International Business and Management Studies (IBMS) with topics such as marketing, logistics, economics and finance.

Rotterdam Business School - Rotterdam, Neherlands

Studying in the Netherlands requires you to pass all exams in your 1st year before you are allowed to continue to the following 3 years. This 1st year certificate is called a Propedeuse. Getting into the rhythm of having exams every 9 weeks was a little difficult, and after needing to resit a few exams I finally received my Propedeuse in time to continue on to the 2nd year the following September. What a relief that was!

propThe main challenge for me was that I did not receive student finance, the nice low interest loan from the government that you pay for school and transportation with. This was due to the rules of needing to work at least 56 hours a month as an EU citizen, with proof of contract. Since year 1 of my studies I have actually always had a job, such as working in a fast food restaurant, but with always a 0-hour contract I could not prove the 56 hours. However I still managed to pull through each year by working my ass off with more than 56 hours to pay off the costs of school and either cycle or walk to school to save transportation costs. So I’m also very proud to say that I have no debt from my 4 years of study!

Now looking at the present time, it’s the end of June and it’s the end of my 4th year at school. I have officially had my defense presentation for my graduation project. The last few weeks have been increasingly stressful but I got though it AND I can officially say that I will soon be able to pick up my certificate for my Bachelor degree!! Wohoo!

Graduated!

I don’t think it has truly sunk in yet that I am actually done with school, but this weekend I’m going to sort out all my old school books to sell (or burn!) and throw away old notebooks. I was taken out to dinner by my partner and I will celebrate more with family soon! For now I’m going to get stuck in with planning our next holiday too!

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Feyenoord Champions Once More!!

More than 18 years ago, on the 25th April 1999, the Rotterdam team Feyenoord won the Eredivisie Championships. Today, they have made history again by becoming the 2017 Champions!

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The Champions Festival of Feyenoord on the Coolsingel on 25 april 1999
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Another photo from 25th April 1999

Since the last two weeks there has already been preparations for the celebrations, such as a 500-600kg flag hung up at Hofplein, projecting the logo against the 5th tallest building in the Netherlands, cakes with the logo and Rotterdam harbour workers making the letter F for Feyenoord with red and white containers. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention even cheese!!

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Source: RTV Rijnmond Twitter Account

Match One

Last Sunday was the first chance to become champions, with their match against Excelsior. Since the morning from 10am there were already cars tooting past the house, flags hanging out the windows. Fireworks heard going off all around the city and everywhere you look there were people in red and white.

The city was prepared for the match, with big screens and public areas completely filling up ready to watch! Containers were put around the city in place for security measures but most people used them to see the big screens!

DSC_3683DSC_3680The match started at 14:30 against Excelsior in their home stadium, but not that far from De Kuip, home stadium of Feyenoord.

The first half wasn’t the best, making a few tries but nothing really special. By half time they were 0-0 so it wasn’t looking too good for them. The 2nd half caught them even more off guard as Excelsior scored 3 goals within 9 minutes of each other. Unfortunately Feyenoord didn’t make a single goal and lost the match 0-3 to Excelsior.

It sure was disappointing feeling walking back through the city full of supporters, who were ultimately starting riots against the police with so much alcohol in their system. The riot police were already ready for the rioters.

DSC_3727Match Two

This match was the deciding factor of whether Feyenoord would be champions of not. The pressure was on them even more, but there was a sense of confidence throughout the fans as Feyenoord would be playing at home, in De Kuip.

This time they were against Heracles starting at the same time of 14:30.

More regulations were set this weekend in the city, such as tickets needed now for certain open areas and all supermarkets within the center were banned to sell alcohol during a specific time limit. But that didn’t stop the supporters, bringing alcohol with them obviously bought the day before.

Well what a way to start a match! 40 seconds into the start was the first goal scored by Dirk Kuyt, followed by the second before half time. The last goal was scored also by him in the second half, making it a perfect hat-trick. Heracles managed to score a goal in the second half but with a strong defence the championships were already won. Finishing the game with 3-1 to Feyenoord!

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Kuyt Celebrating in De Kuip! Source: Feyenoord Twitter Account

Once the match was ended, the whole city was crazy!! Now I’m not really a big football fan, but to experience this was unbelievable!! So much energy and excitement from EVERYONE. The one place all supporters go to visit is Hofplein, the fountain shown in the third photo. It is a well known spot to celebrate victories!!

DSC_3786DSC_3805DSC_3794DSC_3800As you can see below, you actually cannot see the fountain any more!!

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Source: RTV Rijnmond Twitter Account from Bart Luters

DSC_3837Tomorrow supporters and the team will celebrate on the Coolsingel for the champions ceremony, just like in the first photo 18 years ago.

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Source: Feyenoord Twitter Account

Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

After 5 years of living in Rotterdam I finally got the chance to visit the beautiful Kinderdijk. I took the opportunity to visit Kinderdijk at the same time as my family visiting me in the Netherlands, combining both was a good chance for us all to visit something new together.

Day One (8)Planning our visit we decided to take the Waterbus from the Rotterdam stop at Erasmus Bridge that takes only 30 minutes to Kinderdijk. A perfect mode of transport to also enjoy the views Rotterdam from a boat, as you can stand on the open section at the back of the boat as well as sitting inside if it’s cold. You can use your OV chip card or buy a ticket on board.

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Arriving at Kinderdijk you will know exactly where to walk with the first windmills in sight. Paying only €8,00 for adults and €5.50 for children (4-12 years) to get in it’s well worth it. The main path takes you past the first restaurant along the walking route to see all 19 windmills that stand there since 1740. The whole route is 15km which can be done in a day with sensible shoes.

Day One (62)Kinderdijk is not just a pretty site, it’s actually needed for the land. Since most of the Netherlands is below sea level, including Kinderdijk, the function of the windmills are part of the water management system to prevent floods.

Day One (34)We took some lunch with us, stopping on a bench to each and drink while other tourists walked by. There are a few restaurants and a cafe too, where you can buy souvenirs, refreshments, lunch or some typical Dutch snacks like bitterballen while waiting for the boat trip back to Rotterdam.

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I plan to go again this summer, but then by bike like a true Dutch person!

Turning 25

Currently sat on the balcony of my beautiful apartment. The sun is shining and I’m wondering whether I need to get my sun cream out. Turning a quarter of a century old has definitely given me time to think of some things I am proud of so far in life.

Passed my driving test… 3rd time. Wow I remember being so nervous for this! The first time I failed due to hitting the curb while trying to park and second because I pulled out of a junction in front of a slow tractor that was apparently too close. No one wants to get stuck behind a slow tractor.

I left home at 18, not just around the corner but to a whole new country. This year I’ll be celebrating 6 years in the Netherlands (and deciding whether to become a Dutch citizen depending on Brexit).

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Learnt Dutch, although consequently losing all my French and even some English!

I have a caring, trustworthy and not to forget HANDSOME partner who shares the same tastes in food, interests like music and travel, and can have a really good discussion.

I ran 10km at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2016. Pretty amazing achievement for me!

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Plus I am more active than ever, with up to 4 days in the gym follwing a fitness programme and easily reaching my 10k steps every day using my Fitbit.

I’ve rode a bike since I was little, but have acquired the skills to cycle with two children on front and back, with an IKEA 4×4 Kallax and up to 6 full bags of shopping. Not all in one go of course!

I’ve become less fussy with food. Like there is fussy and there is MAJOR fussy, which was me, so this is pretty big. I grew up only liking potato waffles and fish fingers. These days I still surprise my family with what I eat!

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I’ve NEARLY completed my bachelor degree in International Business and Management Studies, how exciting!

I have been to more than 15 countries. Even with little money over the years it’s always been possible to explore! Check some places I’ve visited here.

Goals before turning 26…. (and 27, 28, 29 and 30)

Travel more! maybe a place from the list of future travels.

Receive my degree, hopefully by July 2017! -> Wohoo graduated!

Learn to make more delicious meals.

Keep up the fitness goals -> New road bike hobby!

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Christmas & New Years Celebrations in NL

Spending the Christmas holidays away from family always has it’s hard moments. Missing things like the delicious cooked roast dinner with all the trimmings, all sitting together sharing old family stories and watching the good english comedian shows, followed by a fresh wintery Boxing Day walk. It’s always even harder if I go back to the UK for the holidays too, as not all family members live in one place. So it always depends on who was last, or who I haven’t seen in ages!

The last time I was home for Christmas was in 2014 to the city of Norwich, Norfolk. Time has gone by so fast that it doesn’t feel like it was 2 years ago!

Christmas in NL

However it’s not all bad to stay in the Netherlands for the festive holidays. One of the best things I love about Christmas in the Netherlands is having gourmetten for dinner. A typical Dutch tradition of using a special hot cooking grill on the center of the table, with everyone able to reach and cook their own meal. From the middle of November you can buy lots of mini dishes to cook on your gourmet, such as mini hamburgers, steaks, slavink (pigs in blankets) and marinated chicken slices. You combine your meat/fish choices with grilling your own vegetables too, like peppers, mushrooms and onions. Lastly including a range of delicious sauces and some french bread with garlic butter… and for me also a glass of wine to wash it all down!

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I find that its always very gezellig to eat this type of way as you can take your time with no rush to eat.

Last year we officially had our first real christmas tree in our first official home together. It felt so good to celebrate together and hand up our pretty purple and silver christmas decorations.

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New Years in NL

Once the Christmas festivities are out of the way, its already time to prepare for the new year and set some new resolutions! The week between Christmas and New Years Day is celebrated with listening to the Top 2000, an annual radio programme of the top 2000 voted songs and eating Oliebollen, a warm fried doughnut with raisins shaped in a ball  and topped with icing powder.

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Throughout November and December a competition takes place with all the stalls who sell oliebollen in the Netherlands to be ranked as the best. The Algemeen Dagblad national newspaper will be doing the competition again for the 25th time!  The test includes up to 115 contestants in the Netherlands and each oliebollen is tested based on how well it is fried (fat %), the weight, if it has a good amount of raisins in the mixture and of course if its delicious or not!

Oliebollen can only be bought at this time of year so I usually indulge way too many of them!! (Not so great for next year’s summer body!)

My favourite place to buy oliebollen is in Rotterdam. The stall from Richard Visser’s Gebakkraam came 4th last year, but has been 1st a total of nine times in the competition. Even if he is not number 1, you can still expect to stand in the queue for up to 2 hours waiting to pick up your fresh oliebollen for the New Years celebrations! (He opened at 6am last year and there were people queueing at 4am ready for the first oliebollen!)

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Richard Visser – Source: AD News
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The front of queue at the stall – Source: Rijnmond News

He has become so famous for his oliebollen that his stall has been created for the Miniworld Rotterdam!

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Top 2000!

The Top 2000 is an annual radio show that plays the top 2000 songs of all time. People can vote on the songs which are then played between Christmas and New Years Eve, with the top song of the votes being played just before everybody shouts “Happy New Year!!!”.

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The most popular songs include Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (13 times number 1 and 3 times number 2) and Eagles – Hotel California (2 times number 1 and 8 times number 2). You can see the whole list here! This year Queen has again been voted first!!


The last few years it has rained into the new year, but that doesn’t stop thousands of people heading out to the Erasmusbrug in Rotterdam to watch the fireworks. It’s usually a good show and people are pretty sensible with setting off fireworks in the streets – Just keep your distance to be safe!

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.

Becoming Dutch

Gezellig

This word has become one of my favourite words to use since living in the Netherlands. It’s one of few words that cannot be perfectly translated into English, as there is simply no English word that is the same. If I had to describe it in my own words I would have to describe a situation.

Some of my examples:

  1. A cozy evening on the sofa with a film or series playing from Netflix, while underneath a warm blanket, a bowl of crisps on my lap and candles lit.
  2. A lively party full of family members celebrating someone’s birthday with cake, wine and a great mix of music playing.
  3. Sitting in a small restaurant with friends while stuffing your face with delicious food, while being provided with great service.

One word to describe these situations is definitely gezellig. It’s about feeling comfortable in the situation and being confident with the people you are with. The pleasantness of being with that someone or the inviting fun feeling that a party offers is also gezellig. The moment has to be right.

“Gezellig; cozy, nice, inviting, pleasant, comfortable, time with loved ones, relaxing atmosphere, fun.”

Cycling

I bought my first bike from Queens’s day a few years ago, now officially King’s Day. It was for about €25 Euros, didn’t need much work and perfect to get from A to B. Lennart fixed the lights for me and I gave it a good clean. It was just what I needed and intended to buy that day, as well as clothes.

Cycling in the Netherlands is pretty different to cycling in England. For a start there are no hills, unless you live in the south. You don’t have to worry about cars passing closely to you, as there are separate bike lanes basically everywhere. So you only need to avoid other cyclists and the occasional idiot on a scooter. You also have to avoid getting your tires stuck in the tram rails when crossing over them, as you will literally get stuck. Finding a spot to park your bike in the city can also be a nightmare.

Bikes are pretty much most peoples first mode of transport in the cities, unless it’s really bad weather and you catch the tram. The Dutch love using their bike to transport stuff too, like children on the front/back or a dog. But there is also some crazy things that I have seen being transported by bike, like a matress, a built billy bookcase from Ikea and full grown christmas trees.

After a year my first bike was the subject of drunken thieves. I had not used my bike in at least two weeks, but I checked on it often to make sure it was still there, as it was chained to a lamppost near where I lived. Well the third week came as I was actually going to use it. Arriving at the lamppost I had emotions to laugh and cry at the same time. During the night thieves had taken basically every part and left only the frame, attached to the lamppost with my chain still there.

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My latest bike was bought on Marktplaats, a dutch version of Ebay. I definitely keep it safer, with two locks and I use it daily so its less likely to be stolen. But you never know…

Flowers

Flowers are popular in the Netherlands. On a sunny market day the flower stalls are so popular you may have to wait a while for your turn to be helped. Plus they always have so many different types and colours to choose from, beautifully making a bouquet of your choices. I’ve definitely become a fan of buying flowers every month!

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Even though tulips are originally from Turkey, it has become the flower of the Dutch. The Keukenhof is exreamely popular in the spring months when it’s open. If you love tulips and walking around decorated gardens then it is well recommended. The gardens have more than seven million tulips each year growing and well worth a visit.

Three Kisses

Having travelled to France yearly as a child, i knew their tradition of 4 kisses to greet someone who they knew well. However I didn’t really do it as i was still young. Since arriving in the Netherlands and being greeted by Lennart’s family, it’s something I have got used to. Going round the room and greeting everyone in this way is definitely welcoming. The usual three kisses goes left-right-left, but every now and then theres someone who wants to do it differently and you clash noses.