Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunny Sippenaeken

Last weekend was the annual 'Ardennes trip' to Belgium with the friends of Jaap's sister and brother-in-law. Except this time we were not in the Ardennes, but in sunny Sippenaeken. It's very close to Maastricht, only 35 minutes by car, but it kind of felt like we were far from home. We had perfect weather, great hiking, time to play games, and good company. Het was gezellig!
I was super excited that we got to bring friends with us. There were a few last minute cancellations from the group, which left it open to others. Luckily our friends (Jacob, Pete, Jenny & Arie) were able to come along. They have become our 'game buddies'. We get together about twice a month for drinks and games. It's a nice mix of American and Dutchies. I'm happy Jaap and I have made mutual friends that remind me of my friends back home and America. Our community of friends have made me feel more at home in Maastricht.
Jacob, Pete, Jenny & Ary enjoying the hike
Magellan pointing the way
Another great part of the trip is the Saturday night 3 course meal. Everyone cooks something to contribute and we have a slow paced meal with candles and wine. Too many cooks in the kitchen is an understatement, but I'm always impressed at how organized the weekend runs.
Saturday night's 3 course meal. Lekker!
This annual trip is pretty relaxing and laid back. People break off and pretty much do whatever they feel like. We decided to do some light hiking and saw some pretty spectacular views along the way. 
Our weekend with friends in Belgium was the perfect way to start our October break. Next time...adventures in Germany in the Mosel & Rhine river valleys!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fun Fridays

Friday was the perfect day! Hiking in Belgium, beautiful sunny weather, and an evening of dinner and jazz with and friends. The weekend started off on a good note.
On Friday I drove to Belgium to visit my Australian friend, Rosalie, from my Dutch class. I still think it's cool that I can say I drove to Belgium for the afternoon. It sounds quite far, but it's only 3 km away.
We went for a hike through part of a Belgian national park. It's really close to Maastricht, so I definitely want to take Jaap back. The park has a series of trails that you can take that are connected in a huge square shape. I could have easily gotten lost here. It was the perfect fall day and really reminded me of home. Thanks to Rosalie for showing me this part of Belgium and for lunch!
Jaap and I made plans to hear some jazz at Café Forum in Maastricht on Friday. I read about the Jeker Jazz weekend on Forum's website. There were many jazz performances at various clubs and bars throughout the city over the past three days. We saw a local group called the New Orleans Brass Connection. Coincidentally our friends Céline and Guillaume were going there the same night. An added bonus! 
Living with a brass/jazz guy has turned me into a jazz lover. I pretty much had no interest in jazz before I met Jaap and now I really enjoy our jazz nights out together. The New Orleans Brass Connection was great and would definitely see them again in Maastricht. Good musicianship, great sound, and very entertaining. 

Isn't this a great view of Maastricht? Another reason why I love our little Dutch city. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last day of summer

Two weeks ago Maastricht was warm and sunny. We knew that it was going to be our last warm weekend, so we went outside to enjoy it. Fall is officially here now and it's my favorite season. I feel bad for the Dutch though. Their autumn season is ruined with all this rain. Bummer. I used to look forward to fall every year in New York. Central Park in September and October is the best place to be. Enjoying some people watching with my friends at the Sheep Meadow, followed by some glasses of wine at the Boat Basin on a Sunday afternoon. Oh New York, I miss you! Now I just have to get used to rainy fall weather. That's why we flock outside every chance we get. Sunny fall days in the Netherlands happen less often than in New York, but they still remind me of home. 
Jaap & our neighborhood Céramique behind him
We took a walk to get some fresh air and lunch. On our stroll we were lucky to find a group of musicians rehearsing for the Tuna Festival that was in Maastricht that weekend. The Tuna Festival is a celebration of Spanish and Portuguese music. We found this group on the other side of the Hoog Brug and watched them for about a half hour. 

It was a nice way to enjoy the last few days of warm weather. I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks. We have lots of nice things planned. Weekend getaways with friends, our upcoming vacation to the Mosel valley in Germany, and of course quality time with Jaap in Maastricht. Good-bye summer!

Walking through the Stadspark
Leeuwenmolen
My favorite view of medieval Maastricht, the Hellport Gate and the city walls

Friday, October 7, 2011

More Roman Adventures

Now for the last bits of our Roman holiday... The main reason for us traveling there was for Jaap to attend an epilepsy conference, which left me to entertain myself part of the time. 

One morning after breakfast I walked over to the Pantheon, enjoyed some gelato, and did a little bit of shopping on via del Corso. Yay for Italian shopping! I found a great Italian make-up store called Kiko. It's very similar to the American version of Sephora, but with better prices. I was in heaven. (Make-up in the Netherlands is ridiculously expensive.) So that was the shopping portion of my trip to Rome!
I love this picture below. The fountain with the water coming out of his teeth looks like my father. LOL. Perhaps we have some Roman roots somewhere. 
My stroll continued to Piazza del Popolo and Villa Borghese, the Central Park of Rome. I kept thinking, I gotta bring Jaap here tomorrow.
So we went back to enjoy Villa Borghese together. We visited Museo e Galleria Borghese and spent the afternoon biking and walking around the grounds and public park. The weather was perfect.

In the morning, we visited the galleries at the museum complete with works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, and many other Italian Renaissance painters.

The Villa used to be a private estate built in the 1600s for a religious head. Now it's open to the public, but be warned. They are EXTREMELY STRICT and vigilant about visiting hours. Our reservation told us to arrive between 9 and 11. We showed up at 10:30 and didn't realize we were only going to have 20 minutes to view all the galleries. They completely clear out the museum every two hours. It was strange and I was very frustrated, but afterwards we took a nice relaxing bike ride around the park and I chilled out. :) Not to mention, Jaap has a calming effect on me. (But, I think he was secretly happy that we only had 20 minutes in the museum.) :)
We rented this bike built for two and rode around Villa Borghese for an hour. It was fun and an interesting way to see the park.
An action shot of Jaap on the bike
We also made a quick stop at a Leonardo Da Vinci museum. Here is my cute scientist admiring the Renaissance Man's work. 
And of course...another relaxing lunch with Jaapie at an outdoor café. What an amazing holiday and a beautiful city. Rome is a special place and it was a great way to unwind before going back to work again for the new school year. Arrivederci Roma en tot volgende keer!
Sunset from our hotel room in Trastevere