Posts tagged ‘Netherlands’

December 14, 2016

Amsterdam Reunion

My last stop in the Netherlands was Amsterdam. I decided to stop in Delft on the way to meet up with Laura and Emily who are two old colleagues from my undergrad who studied their masters in Delft. We caught up over a nice lunch at a cafe, walked around a bit through the old center, and then I had to head out already! Once I arrived at Amsterdam Centraal I walked to my cousin’s place where I would stay for the last two nights. That evening I caught up with them and also took note of some things to see in Amsterdam for the next two days. I was super excited because the next day I would be reunited with my good friend Andrea who has been working for several years in Switzerland. In the late morning the next day I walked to meet her at the train station and we went straight from there to explore the city! First we went to the Jordaan neighbourhood to look for a place to grab a coffee. We also had delicious apple pie! Yum! From there we decided to explore the north part of the harbour that neither of us had seen before. We took the ferry and visited the Eye Film Institute by Delugan Meissl Architects, then we took the ferry back and walked to the Palace of Justice building by Claus en Kaan Architecten. I’ve never seen so much marble in a modern building before! Then we took a different fairy to another area on the north side called NDSM Wharf. Well actually, that’s where we intended to go but it brought us to a place called Distelweg instead but we decided to walk to to the wharf instead of wait for the ferry back! NSDM is the historical remainder of the largest shipyard in Amsterdam. We explored the NDSM Warehouse, a large building that houses creative ateliers and exhibitions. It was a patchwork of different mini constructions inside the larger building. NDSM presented a very different side to the Amsterdam (primarily the old center) that I had experienced before!



Shipping container room complete with balcony at NDSM. Can that be mine please??

By this time our feet were tired from walking and we needed a break! We took the ferry back again, this time to the central station. From there we decided to head east towards a few more buildings I had on my list (yes I’m nerdy like that), but planned to stop at a lunch place on the way. We ended up going up to the Sky Lounge at the Mint Hotel by Bennetts Associates. It offers a beautiful view of the city even if it hurt my wallet a bit! We explored the building a bit afterwards and found that there were some nice spaces and details. The next building we came across was the Amsterdam Public Library by Jo Coenen & Co Arkitecten. We only went in and out quickly, but we both decided that though there were some nice spaces in the interior, the building as a whole had way too many architectural languages happening at once! Our next building to see was the NEMO (the National Center for Science and Technology) by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The building looks like a boat launching into the harbour and is built on top of one of the tunnels that connect the North and South shores. Also nearby was Architectuurcentrum Amsterdam (ARCAM), the city’s architecture center and exhibition space.


Enjoying the view from the Mint Hotel’s Sky Lounge

Lastly we walked Southeast towards the zoo and then followed the canal Southwest to the Museumplein. On the way we passed the Hubertus House by Aldo van Eyck and the Sarphatistraat Offices by Stephen Holl Architects. The offices have perforated metal cladding that extends past the wall and has a beatuiful weathered green patina! Another great thing to see was that the Rijksmuseum at the Museumplein is finally complete (it has been under renovation for years), and I also liked the look of the new addition to the Stedelijk Museum by Benthem Crouwel Architects. Few! That about covers our architectural explorations!


Sarphatistraat Offices


Stedelijk Museum

The following day Matthew and his aunt joined us for one more foray into the city. This time we walked more into the old city. We went past the palace where there was a big carnival midway set up! I directed us to a small enclosed courtyard called the Begijnhof that was built as a sanctuary for the Begijnhofjes who were a Catholic sisterhood. Because it was a rainy day, we took the tram to the Rijksmuseum where the others intended to spend the afternoon. Andrea and I took a remake photo in front of the I amsterdam letters before I headed out to go and catch my flight home! We were reminiscent of the time we spent wandering around Amsterdam on Christmas eve back in 2010. It snowed that day (a rare thing in Amsterdam) and the city was deserted! Not this day! There were people everywhere! I felt so fortunate to be able to spend this time in the Netherlands and have this quick reunion with Andrea. It was a nice way to transition from my time in Uganda to home. img_20161014_182654

November 29, 2016



Els and Ron surprised me by taking me beach sailing or “strandzeiling” in Dutch. It was their first time to try it too. It must have been a good day for it because the beach near Ouddorp was humming with activity! It felt very different than two years ago when Tante Els took me earlier in the year and the beach was as almost deserted and we saw only one person kite-buggying. I learned that beach sailing is when the buggy is attached to a sail on a pole and kite buggying is when the buggy is pulled by a person holding a large moon-shaped kite. Kite buggying is more complicated but can be done in lighter winds, whereas beach sailing requires higher winds but is easier for beginners. We were taught by instructors and it was way easier than I thought it would be. You simply steer with your feet and control your speed by tightening or loosening a single rope that pulls the sail taught or lets it go. The biggest challenge is to pay attention and always know where the wind is coming from. That task was made easy for us as our instructor had us drive between two pylons. It was important which way we turned around each of the pylons in order to catch the wind in the turn. I’m guessing this is something that you would eventually get the feeling for with practice. We took turns in the buggies so that there was someone to push at either end in case someone got stuck in the turn! At first the wind was strong and sometimes you could even feel a rear wheel lift when making a turn (I loved that feeling!), but later on the wind slowed down and we had to stop a bit early. I enjoyed beach sailing and hope I will get the chance to do it again (I would like to try regular sailing too)!


On our way home we stopped for tea at my Oma and Opas. Then we headed back to Ron and Els’s and Opa and Oma came a few hours later for dinner the second day in a row. I feel so blessed to have been able to stop in and visit my family every year or so for the last several years!


November 26, 2016


Upon arriving at Schipol Airport I took the train to Rotterdam. I had arranged to stay with my cousin Geertien for the first night in the Netherlands. I found my way right to her house which is in the city proper. Oh how I love how easy it is to get around the Netherlands without a car! The flight was a red eye and so I was running on only a few hours of fitful sleep! I enjoyed breakfast with Geertien, cleaned up, did some research to decide what I wanted to see, and then Geertien generously offered to take me to see some of the places I had on my list. I also asked her to take me to one of her favourite neighbourhoods!

It was fun to experience Rotterdam by car. First we drove down to the center and visited the Markthal by MVRDV and then went to the Central Library across the street so that we could get a view of the square. I can’t decide what I think about the area. In one way I like it because it is an architectural laboratory of creativity and experimentation, but at the same time I wish that the designs were less alien and responded more to one another! Because each building is so self-focused, the space in between feels very accidental and without meaning. Next we walked to Timmerhuis that was designed by OMA. I thought this building responded well to the surroundings and has a form and facade that are beautiful but not overdone. Lastly we went to the Luchtsingel bridge that is an urban infrastructure project that was crowd-sourced and provides a backdoor access that connects three or four converging neighbourhoods while reinvigorating what was a more deserted, “sketchy” area. We met a man on the bridge who could tell we were tourists and wanted to know what we thought of the project. He used to work at the city and we learned from him that the project was quite controversial. From there we walked back to the car and Geertien brought us to the riverfront where we could get a good view of the Erasmusbrug. Beside it is another building by OMA called De Rotterdam. It is part of the redevelopment of the old harbour district on the southern side of the river. By then I was beginning to fade, but still wanted Geertien to bring me to one of her favourite neighbourhoods where a lot of Turkish immigrants live. It is a place where she has been engaged in community projects as a social worker, and she shared with me about a community project that was recently completed to transform an old church into much needed housing for Turkish girls in the community. I really liked the look and feel of the place, and think it is a great thing when a community takes it in their own hands to improve their neighbourhood.


View of Central Rotterdam and the Markthal




Erasmusbrug and De Rotterdam

The following day I took the metro and wandered around Rotterdam on my own. I brought my bags with me and put them in a locker at Rotterdam Centraal so that after exploring I could head to my next destination that was my aunt’s place in Middelharnis. To get there I had to take the metro and then the bus. Again, I found my way to her house and as I walked up I could see Tante Els, Ron, and my Oma and Opa sitting down to dinner! It was wonderful to see them all again! Els informed me that she and Ron had something special in store for me the following day! We were going to try an activity called beach sailing!

January 6, 2015

Layover Jaunt to Amsterdam

On my way home to Canada before Christmas, I had an eight hour layover at the Schipol airport in Amsterdam and so decided to go for a quick jaunt into the city. Even if I could only be there for an hour or two because of the time in transit, it would still be better than sitting for hours in the airport. My only pair of shoes were left in Beni so I sported socks and sandals with my winter running jacket. The thing I didn’t really count on was how late the sun rises and how late the old town wakes up. At first I thought I had the time wrong because it was seven thirty and the city was dark and deserted. I walked into the old town in search of a cafe only to discover that most cafes don’t open until 10. It was strange to be surrounded by dense infrastructure again! Right when I was at the point of deciding to give up and go back to the station, I finally came across a cafe that was open. The place had a great atmosphere. One architectural detail I was very pleased about was a foot rest at the bar that was also a radiator pipe. I warmed my feet while munching a fresh croissant and sipping a cappuccino. I hung around for an hour and then already had to head back. At nine I was already waiting for the train to go back and finally saw the sun rise! It was a wonderful jaunt that reminded me of the many times I have enjoyed travelling alone in Europe.

Deserted Streets


Proof that I made it as far as the Torensluis

Proof that I made it as far as the Torensluis

Sunrise over Amsterdam

September 20, 2014

Louvain-la-Neuve and Leuven

Grand Markt

Stéphanie lives an hour outside of Brussels in Louvain-la-Neuve. It is very much a student town that is only forty years old. It is an interesting town because it was built on top of a valley and so the cars drive beneath the city center. The whole city center is pedestrian and the academic buildings are mixed with shops and restaurants. Since Stephanie had to work during the days, I took one of the afternoons to visit the town of Leuven. Stephanie had recommended I visit the town of Bruges, Leuven, and Nider, but I had to be content to visit only one because I wanted to stay within my stopover budget. Leuven is a really nice city. It is smaller than Brussels but has wonderful historic buildings. It is also a university town that had a vibrant energy. I was confused at first because I thought Louvain and Leuven where different places, but one is just the french spelling and the other the flemish way. Supposedly the university used to be flemish and french until they had conflict and split up. The french part moved out and built what is now Louvain-la-Neuve (the New). The first evening I went to choir practice with Stephanie and the next night to have dinner with her family to celebrate her sister’s birthday. I didn’t mind the social interaction because I was happy to have the chance to practice my french before moving on to african french. Les amies et la famille de Stephanie étaient sympa!

Leuven Town Hall


September 16, 2014


Favourite View

The next person on my itinerary to visit was Stéphanie who I also know from my exchange in Lausanne. Because she wasn’t free until the evening, I decided to arrive early in Brussels, store my bags in a locker for the day, and head out and see some of the city. It was fun to test out my new camera and experiment with more of the settings! From the station I headed toward some spires I saw in the distance and found la grande place where the town hall and the museum are located. There I found an information table and got a map of the city. I decided to follow a path that the map suggested for seeing Art Nouveau architecture. It was a nice way to explore since I really didn’t do any research of the city in advance. My favourite place was the Place d’Albertine because it had an interesting fountain, the statue of the Belgian queen Elisabeth, steps to chill out on, and really nice views.

Fountain StepsChurch Interior Church Old and New Flags Quaint StreetTin-Tin Statue Elisabeth

September 15, 2014

Bulsink Family Reunion

From the 5th to the 6th I stayed in Rotterdam with my friend Anne who I know from my exchange in Switzerland four years ago. We went to the Beergarden with her boyfriend and another friend and had a nice time catching up. The next morning I slept in until eleven (jetlag + stress) and so sadly we didn’t have as much of the day as I would have hoped. We had a nice brunch, walked around some of the shopping areas, and then it was time for me to head to Ede. They kindly drove me all the way there so that I didn’t have to take the train!

I didn’t stay long in Ede because Jacques and Gesina had arranged for me to stay at the Bulsink family reunion. It so happened that I timed my visit very well! We went to a park area where the family had rented a bunkhouse for the weekend. There were a few familiar faces and many unfamiliar faces. I already knew many people from their visits to Canada: the Koelmans, the van Zwets, the Bulsinks, and of course the Ploegers. I met tante Jo for the first time and told her that I was the granddaughter of her sister Jannie. I definitely see the resemblance between all of the Wikkerinks near and far. They had a whole bunch of photo albums to look through. That evening there was a crazy game prepared that involved us teaming up into groups of three or four, running around looking for numbers that were taped all over the place both inside and outside, and performing funny tasks and games. I was on a team with Gemma and her boyfriend and we had to do things like tie our wrists together for the rest of the game, hang a string with a nail from our rear end and try to get it into a beer bottle, and make a joker out of craft materials. I learned that there was something called Bulsink Rules which actually means that most people break the rules! Canadian Wikkerinks beware! This game is coming to you next year!

The next day was very relaxing. We mostly just socialized and played games. I enjoyed playing several rounds of Wizard. I learned that it is Bulsink tradition to go and have pancakes on the last day. Instead of eating out they hired Bram’s Pannenkoeken to come with his bike cart to make them for us right there! There were the options of naturel, appel, kaas, spec, or any combination! I offered up a bottle of Canadian maple syrop for everyone to enjoy. It was a memorable weekend. If any Bulsinks read this and have any good photos, please send them my way!

On Sunday evening I had a change of plans and stayed with my cousin Margreet (daughter of Geerteit) who I had just met that weekend. She and her two boys hosted me at their home in Breda. It worked out well because the next stop on my journey was to be Brussels and so I was already quite far south. The next day it was a simple trainride from Breda to Roosendaal and then Roosendaal to Brussels Centraal. Now it was time to play tourist!

September 12, 2014


For three days I visited my dad’s family in Middelharnis. They live close to the sea and so on one of the days my aunt took me to Ouddorp and we walked along the beach. I enjoyed spending time with my Opa and Oma just sitting having coffee or playing games. On the final day we drove up to Noordwijk to visit my other aunt and uncle and two cousins. We went to a restaurant called the Zeemeeuw (seagull) and shared a delicious meal! On the way home Els and Ron dropped me off at the Rotterdam Central Station to meet up with my friend Anne from my time in Switzerland. It was a lovely start to my trip! RipplesKite buggyJellyfish

Oma en Opa Tantes

September 21, 2010

Visit to the Netherlands

I had a week of holidays between the end of my intensive french course and the beginning of classes, and so I decided to make the trek to the Netherlands to visit friends and family.  I took the train in the early morning from Lausanne to Geneva Airport, and from there flew into the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.  I spent the afternoon in Amsterdam, two days in Ede, one day in Scheveningen, and a final three days in Zeeland.

When I was in Ede I went with family to visit the town of Aalten, which was where my grandmother grew up.  I got to visit a museum there that honors my great grandfather for his efforts in the the resistance during the second world war.  I also visited the little town of Dinxperlo which lies on the border with Germany, and got to straddle the two countries on a street that runs right along it.

During my time in Zeeland I took a day trip with family to Rotterdam and got to see the Cube houses for the first time by dutch architect Piet Blom.  We also went to the Museum Park and got a tour of the Sonneveld house, which is a house in the ‘Nieuwe Bouwen’ style – a dutch branch of functionalism.  Designed in the 1930’s by architect Leendert van der Vlugt, it follows many ‘Le Corbusian’ ideas.

The only downside to my trip is that it rained and it rained…. and it rained!  No matter though because I had a great time and it was so nice to see the family that I had not seen in over a year.  I learned quite a few dutch phrases as well and was amazed at how much I could understand.  Now I have to begin planning the next trip for Christmas… : )


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