Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Amsterdam!

Oh Amsterdam! I have fallen in love. First with my Jaapie and now with you! Where do I begin? Jaap and I just spent Pasen (Easter) in this incredible city. I feel like I keep repeating myself whenever I write about a new place we visit, but this city is different. There is a different vibe here that makes you feel relaxed and put at ease. It's something that I haven't experienced in other cities. Maybe it's all the pot smoking? Or all of the young travelers and backpackers. Whatever it is, Amsterdam is definitely a city you can come to unwind in.
I feel so lucky that we can hop on a train and 2.5 hours later arrive in beautiful European destinations. After researching hotels in Amsterdam for the weekend we actually decided to stay at a hotel at the airport, Citizen M. My Dutch teacher recommended it and I read about it online. Hotels for Pasen weekend were so expensive and we thought we would get more for our money. I'm glad we stayed here because the hotel was excellent. I highly recommend it! Very modern, beautiful design, and super friendly staff. 
I had to take some pictures because I thought it was so unique and interesting looking. I felt like we were living with the Jetsons for the weekend, minus the robotic flying machines. The fancy lighting and pod-like showers and bathrooms make this place feel futuristic. There is a Phillips touch screen remote in each room that controls the T.V., lighting, and temperature. Very cool!
After we stopped playing with all the lights in our hotel room, we decided to start exploring Amsterdam! Our first stop was at the Rijskmuseum. This beautiful museum houses many works by Vermeer and Rembrandt and their pupils, among other artists. We saw Rembrandt's Night Watch and Vermeer's Milkmaid which I also saw while it was on special exhibition in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I think the museum is still under construction, but I'm happy we were able to visit. It's a must-see in Amsterdam.
So in anticipation of visiting a big city with more culinary options, I did some research on restaurants before we arrived. One of my biggest gripes about living in Maastricht is the lack of diversity and it's small size. Even though Maastricht is a university town with a large expat community that makes the city 'international', there are many aspects of big city life that I miss. I love where we live, but living in such a small place makes culinary adventures  limited when you are looking for something different. Maastricht is known as the 'culinary city' of the Netherlands, but many of the good restaurants come with a big price tag. I was so excited to see what Amsterdam had to offer. I have been craving Mexican food and thought that this would be a good opportunity to satisfy the craving. 
I read about Los Pilones in some online reviews and thought we had to get a taste. Jaap made a reservation for us for Friday night and I was looking forward to it all day. Holy margarita!!! I haven't had a margarita since we left NY (that's about 9 months ago). It was the highlight for me. The food was different than the Mexican-American food I'm used to, but it was definitely yummy. 
Saturday morning we went to the Albert Cuyp Market. Jaap had fun exploring the comic books at a book stand and I enjoyed visiting a large spice market. With the hundreds of spices to choose from I ended up buying baking powder and baking soda! Hahahaha! The things you come to value when living abroad. 
Afterwards, we met up with Jaap's friends from high school. Two of his friends organized a little reunion and we all met up for a picnic. Spring is here! In fact, it really felt like summer. We totally lucked out with great weather the entire weekend.
The afternoon was spent hanging out with Jaap's friends and then the evening was spent hanging out with my friends. My friend Erika from NYC was in town with her boyfriend Kars (another Dutchie). We enjoyed a fun evening of dinner and drinks outside on a canal. A perfect ending to a great day. More about Amsterdam next time!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lammetjes in Margraten

Although the temperature has dropped here the past few days, last weekend was absolutely perfect. With weather like this, you have to take advantage of it and venture outdoors. We decided to go for a scenic bike tour through Cadier en Keer and Margraten. Once you leave the city center you're surrounded by a beautiful, green countryside. Heel mooi! Rolling hills, bike trails, farms, horses, sheep, orchards, flowers, and fresh air. Spring is officially here and we're enjoying.
Jaap planned our route that would eventually take us to the WWII Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial. We stopped several times along the way to admire the scenery and farm animals. The cutest stop of the day was behind the Margraten cemetery with a family of sheep and their baby lambs or in Nederlands...lammetjes. Even the word is cute! At first we thought the baby lambs were bags of sand or some type of sheep pillow, but when we looked closer, we realized they were lambs. (Why should sheep have pillows anyway?) They could not have been more than a few weeks old. So adorable! Not to mention the galloping horses in the next pen over. It was a peaceful moment to remember.
 
American Military Cemetery in Margraten
Living in South Limburg must be a cyclists dream. Even for bike riders like us there are so many places to go and so many different ways to get there. Our route to the cemetery was not the most direct, but Jaap chose a scenic course for the spectacular views. We approached the cemetery from behind and had to drive about 2km around to get to the main entrance. The cemetery is quite a sight. I'm glad we made it there. It looked so far on the map, but I forget how close everything is. The American military cemetery in Margraten is a beautiful and serene place. I definitely recommend Maastricht dwellers visiting and paying tribute.
Saturday evening was spent having some drinks along with bitterballen and a slice of vlaai at an outdoor café in Onze Lieve Vrouweplein. The perfect ending to a great day with Jaap. Here are some pictures of the sunset on our way home.





Sunday, April 10, 2011

Meet the Parents


Meet the Parents: The Pardo Invasion has officially ended....sadly though. It was great to have family close by. Having the close contact is so nice and being able to make long conversations that don't have to take place over the phone. It's really great. Showing my family all of the places and people I've been talking and blogging about in person was special. I think my parents are more at ease now knowing where I live and that Jaap and I are happy together here in Maastricht.
When the family returned from Bruges we had a nice relaxing weekend planned. One of my favorite things to do in Maastricht is go to Markt on Friday mornings. Even if I don't buy anything I like to walk around look at the flowers, food, and clothing. I took the family there knowing they would be able to buy lots of Dutch goodies to take home. Lots of things to see at the market and we could have spent much more time there, but it was time to visit the Jansens! 
It's a rare moment to have the Pardos and the Jansens in the same house, let alone the same country. Our parents have met once before in New York and now we got to meet at their home. Trees and Jan hosted a beautiful day for us in Oirschot. 
My mother quilted placemats for the Jansens and they came out beautifully. I can't wait until we get ours. :)
First a delicious lunch at the Jansen home complete with Jaap showing my family parts of his Muppets collection, which was especially enjoyed by my mother.
Afterwards, we were lucky to have a private tour of the cathedral in town. Thank you so much to Trees and Jan for arranging everything. 
The Oirschot tour continued with a visit to another chapel and other Dutch things including an old water mill, a break for tea, and an old windmill. Here is a picture of everyone sitting at an Oirschot landmark. In the evening, we went out for dinner with the entire family and het was gezelligDank je wel Trees and Jan! We had such a special visit with everyone thanks to you.

Back to Maastricht....We could not have asked for better weather. Warm, sunny, and blue skies. For a minute I thought that we weren't in the Netherlands! One of my favorite places in Maastricht is walking around the old fortifications. First stop...Helpoort. Did you know it's the oldest city gate in the Netherlands? 
Next: Bisschopsmolen along the Jeker river...the oldest working water mill in Maastricht. The attached bakery has been around since the 15th century and they sell pastries that are out of this world. Of course we stopped for a quick munch. Lekker alert! After our snack break, we went for a relaxing visit at Onze Lieve Vrouwe basilica.
A quick stroll around the Vrijthof, St. Servaas, and St. Janskerk...

Pop admiring the sites...
Uncle Angel and Titi Vivian pose for the shot...
And off to Eijsden...
Eijsden Castle. That's Aunt Carol all the way in the lower right hand corner.
Exploring the gardens...
Pop admiring the water works...
Pop admiring the doors...
Lunch and beer in Mheer.
The final day of the Pardo/Dalrymple vacation was spent in Clermont, Belgium not far from Liege. Sunday was a special day and I'm happy that I was able to come along and share it with my family. 
My Uncle Vinny's father, Vincent Dalrymple, fought and passed away in the Ardennes region during World War II. He is buried very close to Liege in the Ardennes American Cemetary and Memorial. Being that my uncle was only nine months old when his father passed away learning more about his family's history is very important to him, as well as honoring World War II veterans for their service. It was recommended to my uncle that he visit the Remember Museum in Clermont. I'm grateful that I was able to come along for this trip. We spent several hours at the Museum with one of the curator's, Mathilde Schmetz who told incredible stories of survivors, war heros, and the effects of the war and living in an occupied  country. We could have stayed there all day and listened. The history and memories this museum holds is powerful. Thank you to our tour guide Mathilde who opened her home to us.
Afterwards we visited Uncle Vinny's father at the Ardennes American Cemetary. I'm glad we were able to pay our respects. Thank you Uncle Vinny for sharing this special day with us. 
The Pardo/Dalrymple tour of Limburg, Belgium, and Paris 2011 has officially ended. Until next time, whenever that will be. And in true Chris Pardo fashion, Bye bye--Buy bonds! Tot volgende keer!