Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carnival, Breda - February 21, 2009

In the south of the Netherlands (where there used to be predominately Catholics), they celebrate Carnival the weekend before Lent starts. It's a similar celebration to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They have parties all weekend, and on Monday or Tuesday cities will have a parade with big floats. One of my co-workers, Tyer, lives in Breda, which is a city about 45 minutes south of Rotterdam. A group of us, including Anna, Simo, & Marianna, met up at Tyler's house to get dressed up in our costumes. Unfortunatley, Chad was sick, and not feeling well, so he couldn't come.

We made our way to downtown Breda, and it was a mad house. It was really crowded outside and inside. It took a while to get everyone a drink, because the lines were very long. The lines were also long to get into the bars, because they were all completely full. There was a stage in the market plaza with bands playing all sorts of horrible Dutch music. Haha. It was funny to see all of the costumes. It is basically like their Halloween. I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind wearing a costume for Carnival, but people got pretty creative with them. Eventually Anna and I met up with Rene and his friends, and we found a Pub where we could chill. All in all it was a fun night, but I don't know if I'd go again, at least to the same spot, because the crowd got sort of annoying towards the end. We'll see what happens next year. ;)


More pics from Carnival:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Valentines Day in Bruges (it's in Belgium)

- February 13-15, 2009

Anyone who has seen the movie In Bruges, after you stop laughing, has probably thought to themselves, "you know, that town does look like a freakin' fairy tale." ;) (if you've seen the movie, you'll get the joke) Chad and I had been wanting to go to Bruges since we saw the movie. Since it is touted as the most romantic city in Belgium, what better time to go than on Valentines Day?

Once again, the major convenience of living in Europe pays off, as Bruges is simply a 2.5 hour train ride away from Rotterdam (with a train change in Antwerp). We arrived on Friday evening, so we could have the entire day Saturday, and most of Sunday to explore the city. When we arrived, it was already dark, and as we made our way from the train station, it appeared as though we were walking through an abandoned city. At night, there are not many people on the side streets, and all tiny shops are closed. The town is so old, and the streets are narrow and windy, with buildings or walls lining either side. The sidewalks are only wide enough for one person. I liked it, though. I already felt like this was a quiet little place where you could really relax, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Chad had booked a nice little hotel very close to a plaza that had bars, restaurants, creperies, and even the local Bruges brewery. The Half Moon Brewery makes Bruges Zot beer, blond and dubbel, and it's pretty good. On Saturday we took a tour of the brewery, which was interesting. We even saw an old Yeungling can in their "beer museum," which had walls full of rows and rows of cans of beer from around the world. We spent the day slowly wondering around the city. It was beautiful and sunny, though a bit chilly, as it was still February. Everywhere you turned there was a beautiful canal, winding cobble stone streets, Belgian chocolate shops & lace shops, creperies, the clop clop of the horse drawn carriages, outdoor cafes, buildings that were hundreds of years old, a church bell in the distance, people kissing, swans… man, this place really is a fairy tale!

The beer stores in Bruges were really impressive. They have hundreds of types of beers, each with their own special glass. We had fun picking out a couple new ones to take home and try. Chad tries to find the ones that look like they'll be the strongest, or have the most hops. I pick the ones with the cool labels. Haha. Our backpacks were definitely a bit heavier on the way home.

We also went to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and saw the vile which is said to contain Christs blood. A clergy man is always sitting behind it to protect it, and to wipe the glass shield of any fingerprints. It was hard to tell what exactly was in the glass vile. It looked like a piece of cloth with a reddish brown stain. There was also a large cathedral in Bruges, that we went in. They happened to have an incredible art exhibit of paintings of the Stations of the Cross. It was painted by an artist who spent time as a monk in the Westvleteren Monastery (the ones who make the best beer in the world… literally). Chad liked them so much that he bought a book of the paintings.

Unfortunately, we did not see any midgets during our time in Bruges, which was a bit disappointing. Though, all of our other expectations were met and exceeded. It is a beautiful, small, historic town with many surprises. Bruges is one place we definitely want to visit again.


Photos from Bruges:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Watching the Super Bowl in Amsterdam

February 1, 2009

One thing we definitely miss being in Europe is going to football games in the fall (and hockey, baseball, and basketball). Once Football season rolled around this year, we were feeling a bit home sick; missing the tailgating, and the atmosphere of the game. We can't complain, though, because at least we have Slingbox, so we can watch any game we have taped. If we had moved to Europe 5-10 years ago, we wouldn't even have that. But, it's not the same as being at the game, or in a pub in the home city.

So, wouldn't you know it, the year we move overseas the Steelers go to the Super Bowl! Not that we would actually go To the Super Bowl even if we were still living in Pittsburgh, but when we won it 3 yrs ago, we were in the South Side, and it was the best place on earth to be next to being at the game itself. People were cheering and pouring out into the streets after the game. I'm really glad we were there for the One-for-the-Thumb!

This year had it's own unique experience though. Since the game started at 12:30 AM in the Netherlands, we had to find a bar that would stay open late enough, until about 4, to show the whole game. With a quick search online for Steelers bars, we found Coco's Outback, an Aussie bar in Amsterdam. It's true what they say, Steelers Nation extends around the world. Coco's has a Super Bowl party every year. Bingo! So, Chad and I got a cheap hotel room next door to the pub, so we could stumble home after the game. We arrived in AMS around 4 PM, checked in… and the waiting began. We had planned on walking around the city all day, as we normally do in AMS, but it happened to be freezing cold this day, and a bit rainy. Not tolerable walking weather. So, we went to grab a bite to eat, and then just laid around in the hotel room, relaxed and had a couple beers. You know… resting up for the big night. ;)

We decided to go to the bar around 7:00, so we could get a good seat. And I'm glad we did because we found an awesome spot with our own table, and about 6-8 TV's surrounding us. Picture this, though, you are at the pub at 7:00 PM, ready for the game, and it doesn't start for 5 hours! Sort of reminded me of the first Super Bowl when Kyle, Karen, Chad and I went to the South Side at Noon for an 8:30 kickoff, and still barely found a table. Ahh, the things we do for our team.

The rest is history, as they say. We all know that Sixburgh won the big game! Yeah! It was definitely the most exciting Super Bowl I have seen in my life. There were about 150 people there watching the game, and Chad and I were the loudest ones in the whole pub (you're shocked, right?). The Australian bartenders got such a kick out of Chad, that they started to offer him free shots at the end of the night. As if he needed any encouragement. We had a blast. Not many people can say that they watched the Steelers win the Super Bowl while in Amsterdam. Hopefully we can do it all again next year! -S