Three Dutch Cities, Three Faces of the Netherlands

During our month in the Hague, we took a few side day trips to other Dutch cities: Groningen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

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The Netherlands is a small country. Slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. So, to us, taking a day to visit each of these places was a no-brainer. Rotterdam is a 20 minute train ride from den Haag Centraal. Amsterdam, 45 minutes. Groningen, the farthest of the three, gave us three hours of quiet time on the train to get work done.

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People seemed a little shocked that we rode a train for the interminable length of three hours to visit a city for 24 hours, but I’ve driven 4 hours each way to and from Jacksonville in one day just to hang out with people. And there’s no wifi in a car. The train ride was lovely.

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Guest Post: Our Home Swap Partners Share Their Southern Experience

For four weeks, we swapped homes with Cora and Hans, a sweet and fun-loving couple from the Hague. We got to experience city life in the Netherlands (bikes, history, gin and very tall people), and they got to try on Southern living for a minute (heat, churches, music and hospitality). They wrote up a few thoughts about their time here in the States for me to post here. It’s always interesting to view your home through the eyes of an outsider. So take a look at what they saw.

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The Hague, den Haag, Helluva Town

How do you sum up a city? How do you convey the sense of an entire place, made up of so many people and buildings and cultures? How do you explain how this places makes you feel without veering into cliché territory?

Photos won’t do it justice. Words only capture opinion. If we could bottle the smells of the city, that might showcase the worst bits. Audio recordings would accentuate the loud and obnoxious, and video can show a lot but without a great camera, it’ll miss the lighting, the shadows, the colors.

For now, I must settle for words and pictures, and hope that I can convey some of the beauty, some of the attitude, some of the pace of a place you might never have even heard of until recently: the Hague.

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Home Exchange: Living in Someone Else’s House

20160826_094907The birds wake me up, their incessant morning chatter yanking me from a lovely dream. I roll over, and for the briefest of moments I think this isn’t my bed and then I remember where I am. My husband is next to me, but no this is not our bed. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I grab my phone, stumble down the steep, unfamiliar stairs. One of these days I’m going to fall down them, I’m sure of it. When I get to the kitchen, I make a cup of strong, black coffee. I sit down at the dining room table I did not buy, drinking a coffee brand I can’t pronounce, in a house built at the beginning of last century.

I am living in someone else’s house while they live in mine.

The concept of a home exchange might sound a tad bizarre. Instead of staying in a hotel or renting an apartment, you host guests in your home while they host you in theirs. It’s kind of like AirBNB without any monetary exchange.

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Bruges in Pictures

(Fair warning: the videos in this post have a lot of cursing in them.)

Someone recently told us that they thought Bruges was beautiful but like a museum. We didn’t really know what they meant and had no preconceived notions about the town. (Well, not many, at least. All I ever think of when I hear “Bruges” is Colin Farrel’s thick Irish accent saying, “Bruges is a sh*thole” and Voldemort saying, “It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s f***ing thing?”

 (Sorry for the NSFW language but this movie is pretty funny and all the best quotes have many F-bombs.)

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Paris avec mon amour

A lot of people don’t like Paris. Whether it’s bad experiences with rude French people or confusion on the metro or witnessing homeless guys peeing on the side of a building, plenty of dirty or frustrating experiences can ruin a trip to the City of Lights.

I’ve had my fair share of hair-pulling moments, dealing with French bureaucracy or trying to get myself understood (or ruining a family trip), but for the most part Paris and I have always gotten along. I love everything about it from the old cobblestone streets and 19th century architecture to the tiny cafés and numerous crêpe stands. I love speaking in French, even when I stumble, and walking along the Seine on a sunny day. I love cheap, delicious French wine, and eating croissants every morning. I love the layout of the city, how easy it is to find your way from one arrondissement to the next, and getting purposely lost in the winding side streets. Continue reading