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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Like it Hot

We have found the ultimate luxury in Holland; the Elysium Centre for Well-Being. We spent our entire Saturday at this sauna/spa extraordinaire, just north of Rotterdam.

This center has more than 23 saunas, steam rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, Jacuzzis & jetted tubs. They had several shower areas which had wonderful lavender shampoos, body gel, oils, lotions, and even salt scrubs. They also had a couple restaurants, where we had a fruit smoothie and a snack, and ate lunch in our robes. How cool is that?

This was my favorite steam bath. I loved the beautiful blue tiles.

(Of course I couldn't go around taking pictures of this lovely place, so I pulled these from their website.)

Let me back up one step and preface this experience with some background info. As you probably know, sauna's and steam rooms are huge in Europe & Scandinavia. It is almost a way of life for some people. Chad and I had never really been into them in the States, but our gym here in Rotterdam has both, so we tried them out, and we've been growing fonder of the experience. It is a great way to ease sore muscles after a workout, or just to relax and clear your mind.

One thing we had to get used to, though, is the nudity. Bathing suits are not allowed. It has less to do with lack of modesty, and more to do with hygiene. Whatever the reason, it is a big adjustment at first. You can wear a robe or towel to and from the sauna, but you leave it all behind when you go in, just taking a towel to sit on. At the gym, I just leave my towel wrapped around me (because I might actually see someone I know!). But on Saturday we did as the natives do, and went au naturel. I haven't been naked around that many strangers since the day I was born!

Picture the below scene, but with everyone sitting/laying On their towels, instead of keeping them wrapped around them. In the end, you just get used to it.

This was the beautiful Moroccan themed sauna, that had a fireplace in the middle, built under one of the dunes in the garden.

Elysium has a huge indoor facility where most of their saunas and pools are. There is also a large outdoor area with gardens, pools, and saunas hidden in the dunes. Our favorite sauna was the Russian Banja, tucked way in the back of the garden. You walked on stepping stones across a pond to get to the cute little cabin, and it was surrounded by green plants and trees. Very peaceful.

It was a relaxing day, going from hot tubs, to saunas, to the cafe and resting room. But, we did have some playful fun, too, in the salt water pool. The salt water is much more concentrated than sea water, so you easily float no matter what position you are in. We flipped & floated & pushed each other around the pool for a long time.

We really enjoy going to the sauna, and if you are considering partaking in a European sauna we do highly recommend it. Just be prepared to leave those North American modesty issues at the door, and step on in.


*Here's their website, if you're interested (though it's in Dutch):,,,,,,/

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Foggy London Town - Round Three

It's hard to believe this was my third trip to London! It's a huge and fabulous city, though, so there is always something new to see.

Let's get this obligatory photo out of the way ;)

Pop Quiz: What is the name of this tower?

Raise your hand if you said Big Ben... well, you'd be wrong! It's official name is the Clock Tower (very creative).

Big Ben is just the nickname of the bell inside the tower, which is officially named The Great Bell (again, very creative). Though yes, of course, people generally call the entire tower Big Ben (but now you can top your friends with this trivia tid-bit when you need to win a quick bet).

Sista Time!
This time, what brought me to London was actually Christy. She had to teach at a conference, and she extended her stay so that we could have some time to hang out together.

Because Christy was there for work, she was staying in a super posh hotel near Russell Square; The Montague on the Gardens. Sounds totally British, huh?

Check out the lobby (all of the rooms were this fancy):

Her work was on Friday, so Wednesday and Thursday we mostly just chilled. We ate delicious pastries, ordered room service, and even had tea in bed in our bathrobes! ;-)

On Thursday, we did walk around for a bit in Covent Gardens, Soho, and the South Bank with her friend Simon. I love the store fronts and names of the British Pubs and cafes. They always have names like "The Blank and Blank," for example, The Slug and Lettuce (I love that one).

These are some good ones:

Chad's favorite, the Lamb & Flag

And, I loved this old fashion sweet shop:

It also happened to be the Chinese New Year, so China Town was buzzin:

Shut the Front Door! Is that MJ?
Needless to say tickets for Thriller Live were purchased, and the show was a lot of fun.

I had some time on my own to play around with our new Gorilla tripod, too. Here's a series of pictures I took of Tower Bridge as the sun was setting.

A Super Weekend
Christy and I had planned our trip months beforehand, but to throw an added twist to the weekend, we later realized that we would be in London for the Super Bowl. Since it is not possible for Chad and I to watch a Steelers Super Bowl apart (I mean, come on!), Chad decided to get a cheap flight to pop up to London for the weekend. We found a fun Steelers bar with a lot of other fans... but I'll just leave it at that, as we all know how the game unfortunately ended. Quite a disappointing loss. We did have fun staying up until 3am though.

Until next time, take care, and don't forget to Mind the Gap!


*The full set of pics is on Flickr: