Oh hi, it's me! I'm aliiiiiive!
I didn't intend to take a summer break from blogging, especially after getting on such an awesome roll last month, but hey. Summer happens, life happens, motivation and focus goes out the window and the social calendar lights up.
Oh yeah, and Ben and I spent a couple weeks traveling through Holland, which was amazing!
It's taking me a little longer to bounce back from our first international trip together than I expected. Combine Europe Letdown with a plague I contracted on the way home, a 4th of July weekend, an intense (and successful!) apartment search, living with a teacher on summer vacation, and all motivation to do anything vaguely related to "work" will go out the window. I wanted to write this recap last week, but the more days that passed, the harder it seemed to pick up the pieces and START again already. But I'm back and I'm excited to get back into the blogging routine!
Our trip was amazing, and I'm definitely still processing it all. As a hyper-sensitive introvert, I'm learning that I usually prefer vacations that involve lots of laying around and doing nothing.
This trip was the OPPOSITE! We attended my aunt and uncle's 35th wedding anniversary party, caught up with old friends and relatives, went to a backyard BBQ and a pancake party, biked everywhere like locals, visited a flower auction warehouse, explored TEN different cities, and ate our weight in bread, Heineken, ice cream, and pastries. All in just eight full days! No wonder I'm still exhausted haha.
Since I have so many pictures to share, I've decided to break up my Holland recap into a series of posts that I'll spread out over the next couple of months. This first one will be the most personal, and then I'll break down the major cities we visited into mini travel guides. I want to be able to do it all justice, share travel tips beyond Amsterdam, as well as process everything myself. Here we go!
I'm not sure if you know this, but I'm actually half Dutch and officially a dual US/Dutch citizen (as of last fall)!
My dad was born and raised on a bulb farm between two small towns named Voorhout and Sassenheim, in a bulb growing district next to the sea about 25 minutes south of Amsterdam. My grandparents' home was in a building that used to be the stables for the neighborhood medieval castle. Because, Europe.
Sidenote: The country is officially called the Netherlands and Holland is technically a province, but most people (...including me) use the names interchangeably to refer to the country as a whole.
These are some scenes from my grandparent's road and the surrounding neighborhood, and the old castle Teylingen! Lots of people with gardens set up roadside stands and sell their plants on the honor system.
The roads are extremely narrow and canals are everywhere. Lots of my family still lives in the area. The Netherlands is such a tiny country, roughly the size of Massachusetts, and so the population density is a lot greater than here in the US even in the "rural" areas. Most people seem to live close to their families and were shocked to hear that Ben and I are 3 hours away from both of our parents!
One of my favorite things about Holland is that it's such a social country. Neighbors will pop by for mid-morning coffee (an awesome cultural tradition) and everyone seems to know everyone else around town. My grandparents each came from large families with 10-12 children, so it seems like I'm distantly related to almost everyone in my dad's home town, through either blood or marriage.
While I was growing up, my family would visit at least every other year to visit my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I hadn't been back since high school though, and this was the first time traveling to Europe as an "adult" and the first time Ben had been to the Netherlands. It was weird and amazing. So many old memories, but seeing it all from a completely different perspective!
We stayed with my dad's cousin and his wife, we're close enough to call them Ome (Uncle) Maarten and Tante (Aunt) Coby. They live in a beautiful house with an enormous garden, since Ome Maarten is also involved with the flower industry.
Here are some scenes from around their house and garden. Their neighbor across the canal has a menagerie of goats and roosters which kept us entertained (and woke us up in the morning!) We borrowed a couple of old bikes so we could get around like locals.
There are bike lanes and paths throughout the whole country, and it's the primary mode of transportation. We ended up biking to the nearby train station almost every day to visit a different city!
Here's the bike parking lot at the Sassenheim train station. And yes, there are McDonalds too :)
Summer is bulb harvesting season, so most of the fields looked like freshly plowed sand.
Flowers and bulbs : The Netherlands :: Soybean and corn : Illinois
Holland is an extremely neat and tidy country in general, which suits Ben's personality perfectly. Everything is organized, designed, and engineered to perfection, and most of the country lies below sea level so if you dig down just a few feet you'll hit water. No basements!
On our first full day, we biked to the nearby beach town, Noordwijk. It was the coolest day we had, so we didn't spend a lot of time on the beach but it was fun to hang out and explore the pavilions, restaurants, and shops.
The weather throughout Holland is breezy and mild, similar to the west coast of the US, but it does heat up in the summer. Since the country is at a high latitude, the days in summer are extremely long, and we only saw actual darkness a few nights! The sun rises before 5 am and doesn't set until 11 pm, and the light has this indescribable bright and clear quality that's reflected in the seaside paintings of the old Dutch masters.
Things I ate: Lots of smoked salmon salads, lots of sandwiches and bread, tiny cups of strong coffee, lots of stroopwafels, cookies, and of course Heineken! I love the little baby glasses of beer that are served everywhere.
When I travel I usually do my best to stick to my normal routine and prioritize workouts and eating as healthy as possible, but while we were in Holland I pretty much went with the flow and indulged in all my favorite sweets and treats. It was also hard to stay hydrated since restaurants don't give you free water, and I didn't want to have to pee all the time.
I did sneak out for a morning run a few times and obviously did tons and tons of walking, but other than that I took a couple weeks off my workouts. I was surprised to find that even though my nutrition went out the window, because of all the muscle I've built over the past couple of years, my metabolism is super resilient! Even though eating like crap makes me feel like crap, I don't have to worry about gaining vacation weight.
That being said, next time I travel I'm definitely going to make more of an effort to control the sweet tooth because I didn't feel like myself! It really made me realize how I've completely shifted my entire lifestyle. Living healthy doesn't feel like effort or work anymore, it's just what I do.
Stay tuned for my next Holland installment! I can't wait to share more stories and pictures of our adventures.
In the meantime, I'm packing my bags yet again to head down to Nashville this week for my first ever Beachbody Coach Summit! I can't wait to meet some of my coaches in real life for the first time and share the experience with them.
This has most definitely been the summer and YEAR of comfort zone busting! Thanks for following along :)
Have you ever been to Holland? What was your favorite part?