Losing Loved Ones From Afar

Losing someone you know is hard, but losing someone you love is harder. ❤

It was something I never really thought about in my future when moving to the Netherlands at 18 years old. So many happy moments and future plans did not involve the death of a loved one, but its so natural and the worlds way of making room.

Back in 2012, I got a phone call that I never expected. I was woken by my partner’s mum with the phone in her hand, telling me to speak to my mum on the other end. It was already strange that she was waking me up as my alarm was always set, but even more strange that my mum was calling the house phone instead of a Skype call or a Whats app message.

My granddad had been receiving treatment/chemotherapy for Cancer for a while. All was going so well and after multiple treatments he was officially cleared and on the long road of recovery. But unfortunately from being so weak from the treatment he caught a sickness bug while at the hospital, without a strong immune system to fight it, fatally sending him to sleep overnight.

He is someone I will always look up to, knowing how proud he would be. He would put a smile on everyone’s face no matter what situation it was and never had a bad word to say. My love of puzzles was through him, who always had a new puzzle being put together every week. Also with the love of cycling, we explored the island, but mostly to Cowes to watch the yachts and eat either some fish & chips or an ice cream together.

I’m not looking forward to more phone calls abroad like this, but life goes on and we will handle it as it comes. I believe that family is the most important thing in life so cherish those moments together.



United Kingdom

Here are a list of blogs written about locations in England.

Innsbruck (8) Innsbruck (7) Innsbruck (6) Innsbruck (5) Innsbruck (4) Innsbruck (3) Innsbruck (1) Innsbruck (2) Isle of Wight v2 Innsbruck


Coming soon!

  • London

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!


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!



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.

Day One (16)

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.

Day One (83)

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

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!


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.


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.


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!)

Richard Visser – Source: AD News
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!


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!!!”.


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!

Norwich, England 2013/2014

First Visit – November 2013

The first time we went to Norwich, it was to visit my Dad, step mum and brother in their new house. It wasn’t recent, as they had move at least 10 months before, so we were fairly late with checking it out and visiting, but we finally had some time for a long weekend in a cold November.

We didn’t want to fly this time, and seeing as we still had access to a car we booked the Stena Lines boat from Hoek van Holland to Harwich. On the day of the sailing it was all a bit hectic! We left our house rather late and it was a lot busier than expected on route. The boat was set to depart at 13:15 and we were not yet on it!! Racing around the last roads and silly roundabouts, Lennart put his foot down to race for the boat. My phone started ringing and it was Stena Lines asking if we were going to make it or not as they willing to wait for us. I told them we were about 5 minutes away but it was more like 15! Thinking back we know it was rather dangerous, but if we weren’t speeding then we wouldn’t have made it! We got to the border security to check our passports and tickets but they waved us to go straight onto the back of the boat as there was no time, they were seriously waiting on us. There was some dodgy looks from the staff on the boat, as they were instantly raising the drive on part of the ship, but we were so grateful that they waited for us in our little car. What an exciting start we had to our long weekend away. Plus they never did check our passports or tickets.

Rotterdam to Norwich 2 - Google Maps - Internet Explorer

Reaching England we were very excited! Firstly because we would be driving our little Dutch car on the left of the road, secondly because it felt like I was already home in the country I know so much about, but thirdly because within a few hours of driving from Harwich we would be parked on the driveway of my family’s new home. Seeing as we were the very last car on the ship in Holland, we ended up as the first off in England.

Arriving at my parent’s driveway and tooting the car horn, the front door was opened and I saw my dad and their new dog Murphy greet us, followed by my step mum and brother. Bringing our suitcase inside from the rain and also a box of delicious Dutch treats we brought with us, we all went through to the front room. The plan for the weekend was to catch up and enjoy each other’s company, and of course we got to check out the area they now lived in.

During the weekend we had a tour of the city centre, checking out some of the shops and grabbed some warm lunch in the main shopping centre. It wasn’t snowing but it sure was cold outside! Just like all cities, shopping on a Saturday is crazy. So many people were already shopping for their Christmas gifts and checking out the deals. It’s a very pretty city with lots of unique shops as well as the big chains.

For a walk we went to the grounds of the Blickling Hall, a beautiful stately home built in the 15th century. We didn’t visit the inside of the hall but we have since read up the history of Anne Bolyen living here and how she apparently haunts the estate since her beheading from King Henry VIII. The grounds were massive, and also welcoming for walking dogs there. The rain was only just holding off for us so we decided not to take the longest route, but a route that would end up with us back where we parked the car.

2013-11-24 13.23.44

On Sunday we headed out for a walk to the beach. My dad drove us to Wells-on-Sea, in the north of Norfolk. It was cold, it was windy, but it was dry and great conditions for a winter walk along the beach. Murphy had a blast running over the sand and hiding in the small dunes. Afterwards we got back in the car and stopped by a local fish and chip shop. So delicious to dig into the warm chips covered in salt and vinegar that I hadn’t eaten in what felt like years. Mmm makes my mouth water just thinking about it! In the Netherlands it’s strange to put vinegar on your chips, and I have come accustomed to their chips with mayonnaise. It was a nice beach and little town to walk in and the sea air definitely helped us sleep well that night!

2013-11-25 13.15.37

It was really lovely to spend time with them all again after such a long time. Before we left we gave the gift that we bought for my brother, a Norwich football team scarf. Since moving there he has become a local fan and has been to a few games too. It’s always hard to say goodbye, but we were looking forward to the journey home, and planned our timing better to not miss the boat back to Hoek van Holland.

2013-11-24 20.30.18

“Missing someone gets easier every day because even though you are one day further from the last time you saw them, you are one day closer to the next time you will”

Second Visit – December 2014

The second time was for the Christmas period. It was a bit of a squeeze getting everyone into the front room. Both my Dad’s parents and my step mum’s parents had moved to Norwich by this time, so they were there, my step sister, her boyfriend and their dog Alfie were also visiting for Christmas from the Isle of Wight, and lastly my step mum’s brother and his fiancé were there. The house was full for Christmas & dinner.

It was such a great time to spend Christmas with all the family, sharing out gifts with each other, eating (too many!) sweets out from the typical sweet tins and drinking a new type of alcoholic beverage!

One of the best things I love is that my step mum makes the most delicious roast potatoes there can be, and I literally stuffed my face full with them when she presented them for the christmas dinner. She did amazing with cooking for 14 people!! We did it buffet style as we definitely wouldn’t of fit around the table. This really was one of those moments of gezelligheid.

During this visit we stayed at my dad’s parents house. They are renting a lovely little house with a garden since moving back from France. My grandparents haven’t given up their travelling yet though, as they are taking their camper back to France and Spain yearly.

We did some more shopping in the city centre and a few more walks around the area. My grandparents took us to Sheringham and Cromer, in the northern part of Norfolk. The sun was shining but we had our winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves ready! As soon as we opened the car doors we were hit by the cold winds coming from the sea. Our plan was to walk down the cliff hill path, towards the Cromer pier that was being battered by the waves, and back round to the car via a café for a warm drink. Many people seemed to have the same idea, as we were lucky to find a place for 4 to sit down in the warm. With hot chocolates all round we were blessed to be spending time with my grandparents.

Both places had lovely little shops full of books or antiques, locals selling jewellery and a few little cafés for a drink and a slice of cake. Check out the photo below of the height of the door from the book shop we found, my granddad just fitted but Lennart preferred to stay outside to not get knocked out or get a stiff neck. We also managed to see one of the steam trains leaving the station from Sheringham. Definitely not something you see in the Netherlands!


The couple of days flew past and we were already heading back to the airport, with thanks to my Dad and granddad for driving us. It was lovely to catch up with all the family. We are not sure when we will be back in Norwich, but we can’t wait to see all the family again at my sisters wedding on the Isle of Wight in August 2016!

Dordogne, France 2012

As a child I have visited the Dordogne more than 10 times, as my parents had a motor home placed on a beautiful campsite in Belvés. We would visit every year, and spend every day keeping active, visiting a castle or heading to the local French markets before heading back to the campsite for a swim and some table tennis with my brother and sister. We would end the afternoons with a delicious BBQ with salad and French bread prepared by my step mum. I always remember watching the clear sky at night in a lounge chair next to my dad, hoping to catch a shooting star, and also seeing the International Space Station (ISS) fly over.

Good memories were made here, so when my grandparents bought the motor home from my parents I wanted to take Lennart to the place where all those good memories were made. So for 2012 our summer holiday was for 8 days in the south of France with my wonderful grandparents.

Zoe and Dad France 2003
Dad and Me back in 2003 by the river Dordogne, France

This trip was special for me as I was able to spend time with my grandparents. When I lived back in England I would see them very often, but when they retired early to move to France I was still very young. I had a strong bond with them both and with every holiday to France with my parents included a visit to my grandparents in their French home in Normandy. They had a beautiful old mill house with lots of land to grow vegetables and a little stream for some fishing, they were in their element. Since growing older and moving to the Netherlands the holidays stopped to France and I was travelling with Lennart more. Plus my travelling grandparents had lived in France for up to 10 years so last year they moved back to England to be close to family again. So this opportunity to have a vacation together felt perfect to rekindle the strong bond and to make more good memories with Lennart in the Dordogne.

Grandparents and Me

The week started off perfect with 35°c and a cool breeze. We were met with a warm welcome by my grandparents at the airport, as they were picking us up with their car. It was very exciting to be back, and I couldn’t wait to show Lennart what my summer holidays used to be like. For the week we had planned a day for renting canoes, a day for a visit to a castle or two and the rest of the week to enjoy the French markets, eating French bread and drinking French wine.

Well we first decided to get away from the warm weather into some caves called Gouffre de Proumeyssec. It was a perfect choice as we were literary baking outside in the sunshine! My grandparents also joined us inside to see the crystal formations and the pure crystal water. Since Lennart is 6ft 4 he found certain parts of the cave extremely low, but enjoyed the views and the coldness deep underground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA beautiful little place to stop for a drink and eat some ice cream is La Roque-Gageac. We took a walk to the top to see the amazing views of the Dordogne. It was so lovely to walk up and down the paths with Lennart and my grandparents that I had walked years before with my dad, step mum, brother and sister. From this little picturesque town we watched the canoers and kayakers go past, enjoying every second of our time together.

The castle we decided to visit was Castelnaud. To get there you need to walk up the hill, and by this day it was 40°c so we were all knackered as we reached the top! It was a little too much for my grandparents, so while Lennart and I paid for the tickets to explore the castle they slowly headed their way back down for a coffee and a slice of cake by the water. The last time I visited the castle was more than 6 years ago, so experiencing it again with Lennart was really nice. The exhibitions were explained well in English and from the castle grounds you have a fantastic panorama view of the Dordogne. A must see for all ages!

Me and Lennart at Castelnaud

Half way through the week we booked ourselves with a canoe company to take us to the starting point of the river where they sent us on our way. We decided to choose kayaks so we could both have the experience of our own boat and paddling, but we knew it would take a lot of energy and strength, so it was our vacation challenge. It was an extremely hot day so we were happy to have a big supply of water and sun cream with us. We had chosen to do 8km, where we followed the river Dordogne to finish at the canoe company, also where my grandparents would pick us up after their relaxing day. Lennart loved the adventure, catching glimpses of the fish through the clear water and viewing the castles and the little towns from our kayaks.

Lennart on his kayak

Me on my kayak

I had such a positive feeling with how we were having a great vacation, similar to all of my childhood vacations in France, and I was so pleased to share it with Lennart and my grandparents. My grandparents loved our time together too. The Dordogne is definitely a place we will find ourselves at again.

The view

On the flight home we had some bad weather entering the Netherlands airspace. Some of the worst turbulence we have experienced and we still had to land! We circled the airport a few times while we were in the queue to land as we had to take a different runway where the wind would not push our aircraft the wrong way. Well we got down so low with the wheels out that we must have been less than 5 meters away, until all of a sudden a massive boost of power took us back up into the sky. Everyone was clutching onto their partners and seats as it felt like we were on a rollercoaster! After another 10mins circling the airport the 2nd attempt was better and we landed. Well done Transavia. Such a great way to end the holiday!