we’ve got some catching up to do!

Dearest family, friends and assorted readers –

Oh my, am I behind on blogging or what?  My sincere apologies for my disappearance.  I had promised you details of the remainder of Andrea and Jamie’s time here with us, and we have had some fun since then as well.  So much to discuss.

I would like to first point out the new face-lift to the blog.  If you came from Facebook or otherwise directly to this post, check out the home page.  I hope you like the new look!!  There is also a convenient new link at the bottom of the page for you to become a follower of the blog.  By giving me your email, you will get automatic notification emails whenever I post something…wouldn’t that be amazing!? 🙂

Let me also start by saying that summer has hit The Netherlands!  I’m talking about sunshine and the 80’s…  (Well, for the last few weeks any way.  This week, I guess fall has started?)  SIDE NOTE: There are very few places with air conditioning here, including our apartment and BC’s office…that’s been an adjustment.  But we have been thoroughly enjoying the change in weather, even the 90 degrees we had last week!

Ok, back to what I came here to tell you.  Andrea & Jamie came back from Prague with us.  We had a nice day touring around The Hague, including a stop at our favorite cafe, the Peace Palace, the city center, a little shopping, and an afternoon beer at a lovely little place called Rootz.  After that, we headed back to prepare for dinner out at The Harbour Club, a nice meal to celebrate Andrea’s birthday!!  We got lucky, as apparently Monday’s are lobster night, so they had significantly discounted prices on lobster and surf & turf options.

Official Arrival Shot.

Official Arrival Shot.

Peace Palace

Peace Palace

Pit Stop

Pit Stop

Knight's Hall

Knight’s Hall

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DELICIOUS!

DELICIOUS!

We aslo spent a day in Antwerp, Belgium…one of the last major Belgian cities that BC and I had not yet ventured to.  We hadn’t really made any plans there, so it was primarily wandering around.  We saw the Church of Our Lady, the main square, and the castle along the river.  We did of course have a waffle for lunch and picked out some delicious chocolates to take home!  Then we hit up the serious shopping area of Antwerp.  There was an Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, people!  I was in shock.  I did some damage in H&M. (yeah, I know they have them in the states too, but they are cute clothes and cheaper than most places here.)

Queen of Waffles!

Queen of Waffles!

The church.

The church.

The main square.

The main square.

The castle.

The castle.

Antwerp is known for diamonds.  There was an area near the train station with jewelry store after jewelry store.

Antwerp is known for diamonds. There was an area near the train station with jewelry store after jewelry store.

Seriously amazing!Seriously amazing!

We got some unique chocolates this time!

We got some unique chocolates this time!

The next day, we went to the Louwman Car Museum (where I had taken Curtis during his visit).  I won’t post the 75 photos that I took, since I had my camera this time around. 🙂  But it was an enjoyable visit.  Then dinner that night was at the beach with our friend, Jan!  Unfortunately, it was cloudy and a little chilly, so not ideal for beach sunsets.  But the food was tasty as always, and it gave us a reason to dress up a little, which is nice these days.

Along the boardwalk.

Along the boardwalk.

Doen - our favorite beach-side restaurant.

Doen – our favorite beach-side restaurant.

The last day of Andrea & Jamie’s visit (sad face) was spent in Amsterdam.  Unfortunately, we had not gotten Anne Frank tickets in advance, so that wasn’t happening.  So, we wandered around the city and through Dam Square where we did some souvenir shopping and got their photo taken in a giant wooden shoe (of course).  BC and I spent some time in Museumplein people-watching while Andrea & Jamie took a canal boat tour of the city.  Then onward towards the Heineken Experience!  We stopped at an Irish Pub nearby for a tasty lunch before hitting up the tour.  Then we slowly made our way back towards Central Station, and back to The Hague.

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We had such a great time with Andrea & Jamie!  Love having our family here to experience our new home and life in The Netherlands!!  Thanks for coming!

Some assorted activities since then include: 1. soaking in some sun at the beach, 2. Delft ceramics festival (purchases were made!), 3. getting my butt kicked at a bootcamp twice a week, and 4. a trip to the Frisian Island of Texel!  Let me tell you more about that one…

So a couple weeks ago, we headed on the about 1.5 hour drive to Texel on a Friday afternoon.  Getting there also involved taking our car on a 20 minute ferry ride…that was a new experience for us!  We were joined by six other American expats, and one Dutchman on the trip, and we were staying in apartment rentals (seemed kind of like a hotel, but the reception reminded us a few times that it was not a hotel when they were charging for towels and reluctantly supplying additional TP.) but it worked great for having a big group together.  Friday night, we ventured into the nearby Den Burg for dinner.  We foolishly forgot that everything in The Netherlands closes super early, so we struggled to locate a place to eat and a place to sell us a few beers to take back to the hotel.  But we were eventually successful at both!

The ferry!

The ferry!

The next morning, the girls headed back to Den Burg on a mission for groceries.  Drinks, waters and breakfast foods were on the list.  Meanwhile, the boys rented bikes for us, as the plan for transportation around the island would be biking.  (PS – I was probably least excited about this, given that I’m super out of shape and rarely ride my bike, but it is the way of life here and needed to be done!)  We started the morning off by visiting Ecomare, a seal sanctuary and aquarium nearby the hotel.  We watched the seal feedings and swooned over the adorable baby seals, then went inside to check out the aquarium.  They had seals ranging from 1 day old to 40 years old at the sanctuary.  It was really cool!

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From there, we headed into De Koog, another neighboring town, for lunch.  We stumbled upon an “American diner” and thought it was only appropriate that we stopped in.  We enjoyed some burgers and coca-cola’s while a downpour took place outside.

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We then headed back to the hotel for a quick outfit change.  My white dress wasn’t working for biking in the rain for some reason…?!  Then onward to Texel Brouwerij (Brewery).  It was about a 20 minute bike ride, which I struggled through and complained during, but we made it and didn’t even get too wet in the process.  We did a quick tour (which was in Dutch, so we were glad to have our interpreter, Evert, along) and then enjoyed a few samples.  It was a really small operation (even closed down production on Saturdays and Sundays), but the beers were pretty tasty!

Preparing to ride!

Preparing to ride!

Our lovely guide.

Our lovely guide.

The sample platter.

The sample platter.

Then we headed back to our apartments for a little pizza party and some tasty bean/salsa dip that Chelsea had made!  The weather decided to cooperate later in the evening, so we decided that we should take our party to the beach.  So we hopped back on the bikes and headed out for sunset beachside.  It was really pretty and calm, and oh so fun!

Brad's panorama of the group crowded on our tiny patio.

Brad’s panorama of the group crowded on our tiny patio.

Pretty beach.

Pretty beach.

It was lined with these adorable little huts.

It was lined with these adorable little huts.

The boys.

The boys.

The girls

The girls

Candid camera.

Candid camera.

Saturday was such a fun day filled with Texel adventures!  But Sunday, the adventures continued.  We had decided that we would take the ride from the hotel to the Northern most tip of the island to see the lovely lighthouse and visit the town of De Cocksdorp (because we’re immature).  For some reason, the group didn’t lie to me about the length of the bike ride, so I was nervous for the 1 hour trek.  But it ended up being a pretty easy ride, given the strong tail wind, a coffee break and a lot of coasting.  And it was really beautiful!  We rode through the dunes, which were pretty and it was so great to be out in nature for a while.

Cappuccino break!

Cappuccino break!

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The winding path.

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Such a great view.

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The crew.

We made it!

We made it!

A short climb to the lighthouse.

A short climb to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse.

The lighthouse.

View from the lighthouse.

View from the lighthouse.

Seriously pretty!

Seriously pretty!

We stopped in the restaurant at the beach for what turned out to be quite a long lunch stop and nice break from the crazy wind.  BC was excited to have some chicken nuggets! 🙂  Then we boarded our bikes again for the continuation of our journey to De Cocksdorp.  We think we may have gotten mixed into a parade or something, as we rode our bikes through town along with a line of horse-drawn carriages.  Then the fun part started…a massive head wind and up-hill ride back through the dunes!  I have never attempted something so insanely difficult.  I definitely had a break-down about 1/3 of the way into the attempt.  There were multiple stops for me that included walking my bike and taking in the nature instead of biking.  It took me forever, but eventually we made it back to the hotel and drove to the ferry to round out the journey.  I think we calculated somewhere around 32 miles for the weekend on bike!  What?!?  That’s more than I have biked in my entire life.

Beach restaurant.

Beach restaurant.

Nuggets!

Nuggets!

View from lunch.

View from lunch.

Group Shot.

Group Shot.

So it begins.

So it begins.

This is me walking my bike by myself.

This is me walking my bike by myself.

It was a ridiculously fun weekend and it was so great to have some social time with our expat crew!!  I even threw out the idea of a 10-year reunion at the same location. 🙂

In other news, we hit up Amsterdam last weekend for the Gay Pride Parade.  This isn’t just some little parade through the streets – this is 80 giant boats (with corporate sponsorships) filled with people in various costumes going down the canals of Amsterdam with a TON of people in attendance!  We met a group of expats for brunch before making our way canal-side, although we never got closer than about 10-12 people from canal-side, meaning my camera was basically worthless because Dutch people are tall.  The crowds were huge!  It was really fun, and it was nice to see that everyone in town was embracing the day.  I didn’t see any protesting or people trying to make trouble.  Here’s a couple shots from my phone:

This was without any parade boats - so many people!

This was without any parade boats – so many people!

Best I could do of a passing boat.

Best I could do of a passing boat.

Banner on the church (next to Anne Frank House).

Banner on the church (next to Anne Frank House).

This was a post-parade boat.

This was a post-parade boat.

The group!

The group!

So there you have it folks, that’s what I have been up to.  Sorry for the neglect that you may have felt over these past few weeks.  I promise to make it less lengthy of a break next time, promise!  We have another low-key weekend coming up, but after that…the fireworks festival and a trip to the Champagne region of France with another couple from home!!  Looking forward to it.

Hope everyone’s summers are wrapping up nicely, and please, do not remind me that I’m missing Iowa sweet corn or the Iowa State Fair!  Thank you. 🙂

Until next time,
-MK-

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