Thursday, 22 May 2014

Biking with high heels in the Netherlands

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Biking in the Netherlands
Biking with heels
(not mine heels though in the picture).

On Tuesday I really felt I'm starting to get integrated into the Dutch culture.

On Tuesday I did bike wiht my high heels!

Weather was of course helping, and giving me the inspiration to bike in first place: it was one of those sunny and warm day.... Sooo delicious.

My outfit for that day was including heels, and I didn't want to change it. But I also wanted to take my bike!

In the end I told to myself "if they can do it, why cannot I?"

I mean, if Dutch women can ride their bikes with heels, why should I not be able to do the same?

It cannot be that "only" because they are used to bike every day, in whatever weather condition, since the age of 2 (or maybe even earlier...), while last time I did ride a bike before coming to the Netherlands was probably almost 10 years ago.... This cannot be the only reason why I could not ride a bike with heels.

So in the end I decided to give it a try.

And, surprise surprise... It was not that bad! Yes, it is true, every now and then I risked to loose the grip on the pedal, but in the end I managed to keep it, and everything was fine. And I discovered that when stopping for a traffic light, it is even easier to keep the balance with heels!

So, all in all, balance of biking with heels, is positive!

Next step will be sending a text from my phone while biking. Possibly under the rain.

That will be the moment in which I will say "Now I'm really getting Dutch".

And you? Which was your more "Dutch" way to ride a bike?


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Rotterdam Marítime museum - visiting with kids

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Maritime museum
Maritime museum
If you're in Rotterdam with kids, and in a rainy day you don't know what to do with them.... Maritime Museum is a good option.
You can easily trigger them telling they will find a nice playground area there.
They can go fishing from a "pirate boat", they can sailon a sailboat, work in a harbour, extinguish a fire on a boat, repair a ship engine, and finally, when they will be too tired, they can get some rest on a hammock.

Before you get to the playground at the second floor (or deck...) you cannot miss the immense  plastic of Rotterdam city and it's huge port.
And if kids are patient enough, you can even understand a bit about its history.
maritime museum
Maritime museum
Maritime Museum is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and on Sundays and public holidays from 11am to 5pm

And now until September 2014, every Sunday you can get on one of the historic ships of the Harbour and create a unique trip through the harbor of Rotterdam. Check their website for more details.

We have not done this trip yet.
Maybe a good idea for something to do with kids in Rotterdam in a bit more sunny sunday.

Tot ziens

Monday, 5 May 2014

Flower parade in Holland.

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Still about flowers...

Living in the Netherlands it is difficult not to fall in love with flowers!

Last Saturday there was a beatiful "Flower Parade". It started in Noordwijk and ended in Haarlem, passing the Keukenhof garden.

Going there we saw many floats built and decoraded with millions of flowers: an amazing show.
Wonderful colors, beautiful smell.

And if that was not enough, we also have been lucky enough to get a sunny day!

If you will be here around next year, definitely worth while to consider a visit to the parade!

Here some pictures.




Monday, 28 April 2014

Koningsdag - King's day

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If you decided to leave in the Netherlands, you should celebrate at least once the Koningsdag, the King's day.

It is an easy way to get closer to Dutch people and to their habits.
It is an incredible party, and celebrating it from a boat could be great fun if you're with the right company.

In our first year in the Netherlands, we decided to celebrate it in Amsterdam.
Since I left my house in the morning I noticed something different: many houses had a dutch and an orange flag, doesn't matter if small or big.

And while going to the station was funny to see that everyone was wearing at least something orange: kids with a t-shirt, old ladies with a scurf, or maybe with small details like ear-rings. It doesn't matter using what,  the important thing is bringing to life "orange-ness" in some way!

Once we arrived in Amsterdam, we jumped on a boat, to live the party from the canals.
At the beginning I was even scared: I couldn't believe our boat could handle all the people that was waiting to jump on. And actually... it could not!
After a smooth starting, our boat had to stop for technical reasons, no better identified!

But despite the technical stop.... it was anyway amazing. Sun was shining, music was loud, and beer was fresh. So no worries!

And after a while we were finally able to leave again.

There were sooo many boats in the canals....
It was like being in a huge dancing party. All the boats with music, and people dancing and cheering from one boat to the others. Music everywhere.
There was a feeling of joy and sharing. People was looking at the boats from the bridges, and waving at people on board. Everything around painted orange.
And from the boats, we were watching at people from balconies also celebrating. Was nice to see people from the house-boats also participating to the party.

Again, a nice day lived in the Netherlands.

Tot ziens.




Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Visiting Keukenhof - the botanic garden close to Amsterdam

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Finally is the time to talk about Keukenhof.

What to do in the Netherlands
Spring at Keukenhof
I was looking forward for spring to come, to be able to visit this wonderful botanic garden.

And finally we've got the opportunity to go there. We were waiting for the nicest and warmest weekend of the month!

We went there by car - not really Dutch style! - but you can also go there by train and then there's a bus from Schipol to the garden (see Keukenhof website for more infos on how to get there).

Some of us bought theticket on line, to avoid cueing at the entrance. But we discovered that even the Dutch efficiency from time to time can fail: the ones who bought the ticket on line had to wait more than the ones who have bought the ticket at the entrance.

Despite initial difficulties, we manage to get inside, and we have been welcomed by a funny music and a nice water fountain.

Keukenhof is open from 20 March until 18 May 2014. Every single day! That also means every Sunday and public holidays throughout this period, including Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, King's Day and Liberation Day!

What to do in the Netherlands
Flowers in Keukenhof

So, Sara, how did you find it?

Sara: I liked it a lot. It was nice to walk in this garden, surrounded by tulips, narcissus and hyacinths.

Simona: What always strikes me, is that here despite you are in a place with so many people, it is always silent around.

Sa: it is amazing to see all these flowers forming nice figures with different colors and types.

Si: I have to be honest: now I understand why many dutch don't like to come here, as they consider this place too touristic. Actually it is extremely touristic. But in the end, we're also tourist in some way, right?

Sa: yes! Absolutely, let's get the most out of being tourist while here!

Si: what I like here is that, as in many other parks I visited in the Netherlands, you can choose if either buying your food here, with many different alternatives - not really the cheapest solution! - or eating something you bring from home. There are always nice picnic areas.

What to do in the Netherlands
Spring in Keukenhof

Sa: and it is amazing to see that Dutch always think about family with kids, and always find a way to include a playground area for the smallest one. The area here was really cool.

Kids enjoyed a lot the games, and also the small animals present here: sheeps, goats, hens, cocks, pigs....

Si: I think kids also enjoyed the labyrinth!

Sa: You're right...

Si: I enjoyed the windmill. It's a pity though we didn't manage to go for the boat tour.

Sa: we have to come back! Next time we do the field trip on a bike (it is also possible to rent the bikes directly here), and maybe even the boat tour.

Si: Yep. Let's see also if we will be able to make the Amaryllis bulb we bought growing.

Sa: otherwise we come back to complain! :) But also to see more tulips, like the amazing and huge ones we saw in the green house.

All in all, despite not cheap entrance (15 euro)  - but we're getting that here, it's not easy to find something cheap! - I think it worth, and we spent a nice day surrounded by the beauty of wonderful flowers.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Ready for the World Pillow Fight Day?

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What to do in Amsterdam
Wordl Pillow Fight Day

Are you going to be in Amsterdam next weekend?

Don't know what to do? Maybe you need to let off some tension from the week.

Then you may want to join a crazy event, and see how Dutch can turns into happy kids and have good fun when they are free of rules.

On April 5th Amsterdam will be one of the city celebrating World Pillow Fight Day

The event will take also place in many other city around the world: Italy will also be represented with Rome and Milan. And then Paris, London, New York, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Saigon, and any other cities (find out more here). 
Everyone is invited to grab its own pillow and join, bringing all it's right to have fun.

"The Amsterdam Pillow Fight is a free event that's devoted to freedom, creativity and happiness. Today's world is increasingly dominated by regulations, security and commercialism. That’s why we must reclaim the streets as a place where we can simply have fun - free of regulating authorities and corporate sponsors."

Here the rules to join the Pillow Fight Day:

0. Invite all your fluffy friends 
Friends. Lovers. Kids. Neighbours. Grandmas.
1. Dress for press and mess 
Wear something fun and feather-proof.
2. Bring your own pillow 
We recommend soft pillows with feathers!
3. Get there in time 
Arrive before 3pm and wait for the signal.
4. Fight fluffy 
Don’t hit anyone without a pillow and swing subtly.
5. Clean up after yourself 
Treat public space with respect. It is not ours only.

The importance of cleaning up our fluffy mess can not be overstated. The pillow fight happens around our War Monument, so we have a big responsibility to clean up as good as we can. Please bring rubber gloves, brooms and garbage bags. Join the cleaning crew, so that we deserve to return next year.

See you on April 5th. Enjoy the fun fight and... may the best win!

Check out this website for beautiful pictures of previous events, and get inspired!

What to do in Amsterdam
World Pillow Fight in Amsterdam

Join the event on facebook as well.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Rotterdam with kids

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Rotterdam with kidsNo ideas on what to do and where to go with kids in Rotterdam?

Plaswijck park could be perfect solution for a day out with them.
It is in the north part of Rotterdam (here how to get there).

It is an amazing place that mine kids adore.
The park is really thought to be at kid's size, with respect for adults at the same time. It has many different playing areas, both outside and indoor. The thing that impressed me is that even when the park is really crowded, you never really have the feeling of being overwhelmed by people. But this is maybe linked to the fact that I come from Rome, a very big city, where whatever you decide to do, there will be other thousand people there with you, and you always feel a bit stifled by others.

One of the first thing kids will get crazy about are 2 huge slides at the entrance of the park.
To slide down they have to climb a big wooden tower.
If it is nice weather - belive it or not, sometimes it is good weather here as well! - you can sit on nice tables while watching your kids sliding down.

One of the other crazy thing you have there is an amazing trampoline: kids start jumping up and down and then the only issue is having them getting off from it!

Rotterdam with kids
Plaswijck - outdoor trampoline

he other thing that drives my kids crazy is the car area: they can "drive" small pedal cars and going around a small city, where there is also the petrol pump.

There's a nice carousel kids will also love.

And when kids are tired of jumping up and down, you can always take them for a tour of the park in the small train.

Before leaving you have to visit Plaswijk zoo!  There are also some cangaroos.

If you want to get some relax, assuming your kids are old enough to sit quietly for more than 2 minutes, you can always opt for a tour on the pedal swans on the lake.
Be careful because with good season there's also a slide for boats: kids may ask to go there :)

And what if it is bad weather?
You still have the option of the indoor area.
First time we went there my older son said excited "there are thousand games here!".
They can easily spend hours there.

And everything is so well thougth that you can also stay hours there without getting bored!

If you want to spend the whole day there, it would be easy to do it. There's also a restaurant, with many - Dutch - alternative for kids, but you can also choose to have your own food in one of the many tables outside.

You can buy online tickets
If you live closeby, could be useful to consider the annual family subscritpion: if you go there a couple of time, it will be already worth while.

Now we're looking forward to the good season: there is an amazing pool as well, and we still have to try it!

Will you join us?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Rest and relax in Rotterdam.

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Wellness centre Rotterdam
Elysium wellness centre

Have you got a crazy week?

Do you need some rest and relax?

You have to visit the spa Elysium.

It is a top class spa in the north of Rotterdam, 5 minutes from Hillegersberg, close to Rotterdam airport.

There are several different swimming pools, hot and cold, many bathing areas and Jacuzzi.

There are over 25 saunas. Not really sure about the difference between one and the other... but anyway you can choose among many of them, and they are all beautiful.

As an alternative to sauna you can also experience the Arabic hammam.

There is also an outside saltwater pool - I didn't dare to visit it last Sunday.

There's a nice bar and restaurant.

To conclude the relaxing day you can also have different kind of massage and treatments.

Overall extremely positive experience….

If you manage to survive to the cultural chock of having everyone going around completely naked!! :)

Not really the most common thing around Italy.


Monday, 17 March 2014


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In Rotterdam

Did you ever heard of Restaurant Week? Is a trend very popular in NYC, and I happily discovered that even The Netherlands are feeding the foodies.
The concept is very simple: for a week (usually more than a week in reality) the restaurants are offering their 3 courses menu with 60% off.
If you are fast enough you can even get the chance to book some Michelin starred restaurant, where you can eat a real gourmet meal for something like 50 Euros per person.
I’ve already tried one in Rotterdam last week: Quartier Du Port, the restaurant of the Quartier du Port hotel on Van Vollenhovenstraat 48-50.
The atmosphere is nice and warm, food was good (even if honestly I am not sure worth the full price menu) and well presented.
We definitely had a good time!
My next try will be a 2 Michelin star restaurant: FG, and I will share my opinion on that one next week.
For now, give a look to the link below, you will find the Restaurant Week program and the link to the Quartier du Port.


10+2 good reasons to learn Dutch

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Living in the Netherlands you can actually decide not to learn any Dutch: here everyone speaks quite good English.

Even when you do your grocery it is very common to find someone that would gently answer to your “Sorry I don’t speak Dutch; do you speak English?” with “yes a little bit”. And their “little bit” is better than any average English spoken in Italy.

Even Dutch people are not encouraging to learn Dutch. Some of them would ask “why would you bother??”

Despite that, some of us decided to take some Dutch lessons.

Is definitely not an easy language; and probably not the most musical one.

We anyway think that learning a new language is more than only learning few new words.

And here are our 10+2 good reasons to learn Dutch.

1)      It is a way to better understand the culture and the way of thinking of the population that for a certain period is hosting you.

2)      It is a way to get more integrated: it can help feeling “a part”, rather than “apart”, slightly reducing the feeling of no belonging that expats may sometimes have.

3)      If you want to meet people here, it is always nice to start the conversation with some local words. Then of course it would take some time before you can actually properly continue the conversation….but this could be a good excuse to continue talking even if in another language.

4)      And despite the will always deny it is useful, Dutch people will appreciate the effort you are making to learn their language. And as soon as you will show some wiliness to learn, they will immediately help to practice and learn new words.

5)      Learning new things, facing new linguistic obstacles, it is a safe way to get out from your comfort zone, without too many risks. It can become a sort of gym to get trained to face more difficult situation in your life.

6)      If you are here to find a new job Dutch would definitely help, and it will be anyway good for your CV.

7)      Even if people in the streets speak English, majority of the documents you receive via mail are in Dutch. It would be better to understand what they are asking you when is the moment you need to pay your taxes, or your water bill.

8)      When the man cleaning the windows of your house is coming.

9)    Learning a new language make you feel younger: you feel like going back to school time, when you had not time to study and the teacher was looking at you like you were really behaving badly 

10) When your sons will start speaking Dutch before you, even if they go to an English school.

11)  If you find the right people joining you in the adventure of learning the new language… it could be good fun!.

12)  And… you never know how long you will remain in this country….

Tot ziens!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Discovering Haarlem

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North of Holland

Time to start.

Time to start writing.

And what better than a Sunday spring day to start talking about the Netherlands?

Yesterday was wonderful weather here.

And it is important to underline this, because as an expat coming from Italy, I would always refer to the weather. My expectations on Dutch weather before moving here were soooo horrible, that anytime I see a bit of sun, I think is wonderful.
Yesterday was anyway not only about expectations: yesterday was really a sunny and warm spring day.

We took the opportunity to go and visit Haarlem, without actually knowing a lot about it.
It is actually quite close to Amsterdam (20km west from it). And it was a very positive surprise.
Here some more tips on things to do and visit in Haarlem.

We arrived around 13.00 and not many people were around. We sat for a quick lunch in a bar in the main square: Grote Markt. A fabric market was held. Nice because was making the city alive. I was though not really positively impressed by fabrics quality. Was anyway funny to walk there.

In the Grote Markt square there's also St. Bavo Cathedral: wonderful.

We got a nice hamburger with cheese and bacon at the Grand Café’ Brinkmann: one of the sunniest and hence most crowded places.

After lunch the town seemed to get alive: also taking advantage of the nice weather, everyone was in the streets. We went walking around the town and we discovered it is full of nice restaurant, and interesting shops. You can still breathe the artistic and cultural atmosphere that was here in the 17th century.

Immediately outside the city center there’s a nice canal with boat. A couple of families were just on the point to go for a tour with their boat. Three kids lying on couches, parents in t-shirt to enjoy the nice weather, a couple of wine glasses …. Sometimes Dutch people seem to be really able to enjoy life in the proper way.

Walking back from the canal we discovered Frans Hals Museum in a delicious street, a bit far away from the crowd of the city center.
But the most important thing we discovered about Haarlem is that is very famous for its tulips cultivation, and, we learned that in May there will be the 2014 flower parade.

On Saturday May 3rd at 9.30, the annual Flower Parade will travel its 40-km route along the main roads from Noordwijk to Haarlem where it will arrive at about 21.00. The flower parade is free of charge.

On Sunday 4th of May it will be possible to admire the flower floars in Haarlem until 17.00.

Check here for more infos.

Absoltely must have visit from my point of view.


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