Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Me & Mom
I am homeward bound. Land of the free, home of the brave! Today I am traveling to New York for a nice long summer holiday, two weeks of which will be spent taking a course in Rochester, NY (while visiting my great friend Deb and her husband) followed by two weeks of vacation with Jaap, family, and friends. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and of course being back in America for a few weeks. The land of oversized everything, bad chain restaurants, and decent shopping! It will be nice not having to worry about a language barrier for a month. :) 

Here are some pictures of our vacation last summer in New York. (The Pardo family picnic and our visit to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC). So, tot ziens for now! Veel plezier met jullie vakantie! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Efteling & a fun weekend

Rewind to two weeks ago, Jaap took a Friday off from work and we went to visit the Efteling. It was one week after my big concert at school, which marked the end of very stressful month for me at work. It was time to unwind and relax. We decided to take a trip to the Dutch version of Disneyland...the Efteling. The Efteling is in Noord Brabant and pretty close to where Jaap grew up. He has lots of childhood memories of this place and it was nice to hear him retell all the stories and show me all the things he remembered about the place when has younger.
Train ride around the park
This guy below is actually a trash can that says, Papier hier! And then when you throw the trash into his mouth he says, Dank je wel. 
Papier hier...Dank je wel!
We hit all the big rides in the morning. First the Bob, Piraña, De Vliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman), and my favorite for the day Joris en de Drak, a beautiful wooden roller coaster.  

Here's a video of us on the Piraña. Obviously we don't know the teenagers that were with us, but you get a glimpse of me getting soaking wet. It doesn't look that bad on the video, but my right leg and half my body was completely drenched for the next hour and a half after riding it. Jaap said we wouldn't get wet. Hmmm? (Pardon my French in this clip). 
Jaap enjoying the Piraña
The Vliegende Hollander & Jores de Drak
Live music
Views from the top of the Pagoda ride
Carnaval Festival...almost like It's a Small World
As much fun as the roller coasters were, I have to say that I really enjoyed the rides that are more tame. I think I have outgrown the thrill factor of roller coasters. It's a sign that I'm aging.

Next came the Sprookjesbos or Fairytale Forest. It's a wooded area with small cottages, mushrooms that play music, and characters that depict  stories and childhood fairytales. That's Little Red Riding Hood below. Jaap was taking a stroll down memory lane. His childhood favorite was the Langnek. His neck grows really tall when something happens, but  I can't remember the specifics. :)
I loved the Efteling. We had such a nice together and it was something very Dutch that I wanted to make sure we did before the end of the summer. Our fun weekend continued with our joint birthday party the next day. Somehow the party evolved into a salsa dance jam session. Let's just say the neighbors weren't too happy. Oooopps.
The next morning we walked into town with Jaap's parents, Jan and Trees. Here we are outside the Bisschopsmolen. It happened to be a special/religious day in Maastricht called Heiligdomsvaart. It only happens every seven years where some holy relics from the Saint Servaas Basilica are paraded throughout the city. We sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee and some vlaai while waiting for the procession. However, Jaap and I were running on limited sleep having stayed up really late at the party. After I asleep on Jaap's arm at the café, we knew it was time to go home. What a great weekend!

Here is part of the procession. These pictures were taken by Jan and Trees who stayed to watch the procession.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Turning 30 at North Sea Jazz

I have officially left my 20s behind and have entered my 30s! Turning 30 at North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam was a great way to celebrate my birthday with Jaap, good friends, and great music. Thank you Jaap for a wonderful weekend of music and good times.
Jaap is a big jazz fan and thanks to him, I'm starting to become one too. He usually goes to North Sea Jazz with his friend Joost and now this year, I got to go. Once we saw the line-up I was anticipating this weekend for several months. Unfortunately, Joost could not attend on Friday, so Jaap decided we should go for two days. Friday night was important for us because Paul Simon was one of the headliners. Not exactly jazz, but who cares? We were so excited. We were only three rows away from Paul. Here's a picture of us waiting for the show to begin. That's Jaap's head on the bottom. Hee hee.
Paul Simon reminds me of my parents and how they made us listen to Graceland in pretty much every car ride when we were younger. I'm thankful though because now I'm a big fan. I wish my parents were there for this concert, they would have loved it. Here are some videos that Jaap made of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. They're a little shaky because Jaap was dancing along. You can hear my ridiculous singing in the background accompanied by some girls next to us. 
The great thing that I like about these jazz festivals is the ability to hear so many different types of music from so many great artists in one evening. It's perfect for someone with ADD tendencies like myself. If you don't like one performance, you just get up and walk to another room to hear someone else. Paul's performance was great and the venue was packed. After him came B.B. King and you pretty much couldn't room the place was so crowded. We saw bits and pieces of it from the outside while enjoying some drinks.

Later on we went to a big venue to hear Rubén Blades perform some salsa with famous salsa trombonist Jimmy Bosch. From Paul Simon to Latin jazz in one hour...good stuff!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Day two at Jazz Fest, started with a birthday breakfast and a nice long bike ride. Both Friday and Saturday we borrowed Joost's and his wife's bikes to get to the festival. It took us about 35 minutes each way by bike. (That's 140 minutes of bike riding for you math whizzes, something I would have never done before living in the Netherlands). Jaap complimented me on how my bike riding skills and tolerance level have improved. Tolerance level meaning, I don't complain as much as I used to on the bike. That's a huge compliment coming from a Dutchie. :)

Joost suggested we ride the bikes through Erasmus tunnel to see a different part of Rotterdam. To get into the tunnel you have to take your bikes down an escalator, a first for me. Dutch people do everything with their bikes. 
Erasmus tunnel
Joost is a jazzer himself and a tenor sax player. He suggested that we see Joshua Redman perform on Saturday. We got there early and had good seats. The tone quality, technique, and control this guy has over the sax is incredible. What a great performance. During his last number something happened to one of his keys on the sax, so he didn't add an encore at the end. Joost said, "That's why you don't give your sax to a roadie." :) Despite that, we all agreed that it was greatest performance we heard all day. 
Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau
 Throughout the day we saw a lot more artists after Joshua Redman including: Chaka Khan, Seal, a bossa nova artist named Adriana Calcanhotto, and Kurt Elling 'Swinging Sinatra' with the Klüvers Big Band. 

Here is a video of us enjoying one of the outdoor sections with DJs on the roof. My friend Erika from NYC and her boyfriend Kars met up with us as well. What a great evening! Thanks again to Joost, Marina, and family for hosting us and special thanks to Jaap for making my 30th special. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Meet our new neighbors: The Squatters

Geen leegstand meer in dit pand!
How is possible for someone to 'legally' break into an apartment or house, that they don't own, and call it their new place of residence? Well anything can happen in the Netherlands! But actually, it is no longer legal to squat apartments/houses, but apparently it's still happening. Here's proof of that. Haha! The idea that you can do this is and not get arrested is absolutely ridiculous to me. 

Behind our apartment complex is a row of houses, some of which have been sold, bordered up, or knocked down. Enter the squatters and our new neighbors! One day when Jaap came home from work he told me to come look out the balcony and see the squatters in action. There they were, knocking out the cement blocks that cover the windows one by one, which by the way took them many hours. The pictures that you're looking at were taken from our balcony. 

Here is a little progression of how the squatters made this place their new home. First you have to break in with at least one chair, bed, and a table to claim residency. Jaap says that once you're in the apartment or house, you have to notify the local police. Haha. Sometimes an arrangement is set up to pay rent, but I don't know how this works and if it actually happens at all.
The sign that they hung next to it says, Geen leegstand meer in dit pand, which means, No vacancy anymore in this building. 

You're probably wondering why squatting was even legal to begin with. too! According to Jaap, squatting can help alleviate a housing shortage crisis by allowing people who need housing to move into vacant buildings. I still don't get it, but it was fun to watch someone break into a house in broad daylight. FYI...squatting is now illegal in the Netherlands, so we're still trying to figure out how this happened.

Here is the finished product! Tah dah! Poof you have an apartment!