A Day Out in Giethoorn

A Day Out in Giethoorn

My in-laws are here visiting, and we wanted to take them somewhere picturesque and typically Dutch. When I heard about Giethoorn, the pretty little village with canals instead of streets, I knew it would be perfect. Especially since we were also planning to go up north to visit Groningen, so it was right on the way. We're trying to do some more exploring and get to know this tiny country we call home.

Giethoorn is another corner of the Netherlands that somehow recalls the Shire to mind.

We rented a boat, as one does. They happened to be out of the basic metal boats, so we were forced to get an amply sized one with cushioning. Which in retrospect was totally worth the extra €15 anyway.

Here's our skipper and our mini skipper, at the wheel.

The place is unbelievably quaint and photogenic.

House after immaculate house surrounded by flowers.

The houses themselves are quite colourful as well, with many of them sporting the typical brightly painted shutters.

And of course, since the "streets" are actually canals, instead of cars they have boats.

The waterways are periodically crossed by wooden bridges.

We stopped near one of these bridges to find a shop to buy fresh bread for a boating picnic.

Tony, bless his heart, followed directions and ended up walking all the way back to the boat dock for bread. But meanwhile we discovered a cheese shop with tasty samples.

Right next door was a mineral store full of all sorts of treasures.

It was almost like a small museum, complete with impressive fossils.

Axa and Raj took the opportunity to find a surprise gift for Grammy.
Next to the town is a wetlands nature preserve with a miniature lake.

Here's a closeup of that traditional boat someone is sailing off in the distance.

There's some cute farmland. Even the horses were miniatures.

We also found a little treehouse.

At only a couple of hours by train from Amsterdam (and less by car) Giethoorn is a perfect day out if you want some delightful and unique countryside. We definitely enjoyed our time there!

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Graduating from Dutch Primary School

Graduating from Dutch Primary School

Dutch education is neatly divided into primary school (ages 4-12) and secondary school (ages 12-18). So there’s no in-between. The kids basically go to high school at age 12.

Now, I’m not usually one of those moms lamenting that they can’t just stay little.


But I admit that this whole school thing sort of threw me for a loop, hitting as it did (not uncoincidentally) squarely simultaneously with puberty. Yesterday she was a little girl. And today she’s a grown up young woman going off to high school in a couple of months.

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A Day Out in Gouda

A Day Out in Gouda

Several months ago my kids’ school started offering free Dutch lessons to parents. I jumped at the chance, not only to help reinforce to my kids that learning the language is important, but because I actually do want to learn Dutch. Juf Ricky, who teaches the lessons, also teaches the kids Dutch as a second language. She’s not only a great teacher, but also a really nice person. Today she took us on a tour of her hometown, Gouda.


Yes. Gouda, as in the cheese. What a delightful little town! We all met up at the Amstel train station and took the train there together. It’s about 45 minutes by train.

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A Little Update on Italian Citizenship

A Little Update on Italian Citizenship

Well, the road to true love never did run smooth. Which is the ongoing refrain of this decade-long quest for Italian citizenship. As I mentioned several weeks ago, I did submit all my documents using the Italian Ministry of the Interior’s online application process. Not having heard from them in a while, and being concerned about the six month document expiration rule I mentioned before, I emailed the extremely helpful Adrianus at the consulate, and politely asked how things were going. 

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Avondvierdaagse: the Redemption

Avondvierdaagse: the Redemption

On Wednesday it was Tony’s turn to walk the Avondvierdaagse with the kids while I went to a writers’ meet up in the city. And of course the weather was perfect for him: sunny until after nine o’clock, as it is here when it isn’t pouring rain. 

Last night I had a second chance myself. I thought about holing up in a café while the kids walked, but in the end I decided to give  it another try. And I’m glad I did. This time the weather was much better; it was even a little too warm at first, which I didn’t mind at all. I rolled up the sleeves of my cotton shirt and set off at a run after the kids, since I’d been left behind because of a last minute bathroom break. 

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The March of Death (aka Avondvierdaagse)

The March of Death (aka Avondvierdaagse)

There are quite a few Dutch customs that would seem, frankly, crazy in the U.S. Some of them involve the impressively wide range of stuff Dutch kids are permitted, nay, encouraged to do (cycle several kilometres to school by themselves, take public transport all over the city, etc.) Others involve acts of defiance against the weather (the impossibly long ice skating race, Elfstedentocht, which happens only when the ice is thick enough on waterways between eleven northern cities, or the wildly popular leap into the frigid North Sea on New Year’s Day). 

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My Podcast Career So Far

My Podcast Career So Far

I was not a podcast early adopter. A couple of years ago when Serial first broke, it took several of my friends raving about it for weeks if not months before I finally got around to listening. And for years, it remained the only podcast I had ever listened to. It’s not that I was opposed to listening; it’s just that I was accustomed to reading instead, having left National Public Radio and audiobooks behind with my hour-long car commute when I moved to Amsterdam.

So the first time I appeared on a podcast, I didn’t really have a huge frame of reference. And I was incredibly nervous. Give me a keyboard to hide behind, and the eloquence will flow. Make me actually form the words out loud with my own voice? Heresy!

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Easter at the Keukenhof 

Easter at the Keukenhof 

One of the things we’ve been meaning to do since we moved to the Netherlands is go to the Keukenhof, the most iconic tulip garden in a country famous for its tulips.

The Keukenhof is open only from March to May. It tends to be crowded on weekends, and ridiculously crowded on Easter weekend, but by all accounts the tulips were in perfect bloom, so we went for it. And sure enough, the place is spectacular. Usually I’m more of a thousand words type of person, but in this case I think I’ll go ahead and stick with the picture(s). Enjoy!

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Personality, Language, and Why I Don’t Speak Dutch Yet

Personality, Language, and Why I Don’t Speak Dutch Yet

Before I start I just have to say that this is kind of a vulnerable post. It’s a topic that is fracturing my entire self-concept and leaves me feeling very open to criticism. I don’t know why I’m writing it at all, except that I spend so much time thinking about it. So anyway.

A few weeks ago, an article titled Are We Different People in Different Languages? was circulating Facebook amongst various of my international friends. It’s a brilliant article on creative writing and multilingualism, and I recommend it if you’re interested in either of those subjects. But the discussion online was centred mostly on the title of the article. Several of my friends agreed that yes, people had told them their personality changed based on which language they were speaking. Some languages, it seems, brought out people’s funny side, while others made them more assertive or outgoing. Personally, I recall being very flirty in Arabic (a million years ago when I used to still be able to speak Arabic), which was not necessarily the ideal personality emphasis for a young Western woman in the Arab world.

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Weekend in Maastricht – Fort St. Pieter, the Zonneberg Caves, and the Best Bookstore in the World

Weekend in Maastricht – Fort St. Pieter, the Zonneberg Caves, and the Best Bookstore in the World

If you look at a map of the Netherlands (which I should do more often, since I know many of its cities only as final destinations for the trains I take), you see that Maastricht sits in what Wikipedia refers to as an “eccentric location” on a little extra tail that dips down between Belgium and Germany. Of course, as always, there are a variety of strategic historical and military reasons for this, which you can read about in Alexandre Dumas novels and various other places. In more modern times, it was chosen as the location for the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, establishing the European Union, which I hope we can all agree to go ahead and continue to keep intact. Please.

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