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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Commencing Repatriation...

It's hard to believe, but our 3+ years in Rotterdam is quickly coming to an end. We have cancelled all of our utilities, our gym membership, and or apartment lease. We found a removal company to ship all of our boxes to New Hampshire (no easy task). We have scrutinized our clothes the way Donald Trump does his Apprentice contestants--if they convinced us of their worth, they would make the cut. Over half didn't succeed, and were given to the Red Cross.

Today, we made another huge step, and moved the furniture out of our apartment. Another American Expat couple is making the same move to Rotterdam in a couple months that we made 3 years ago. So, we arranged to store all of our furniture, kitchen equipment and dishes, sheets, towels, etc. for them, which should help them get a good start.

We felt really productive after today. We rode our bikes across town to the rental car office, rented a moving truck, drove for the first time in Holland (which I'm glad we never have to do again), and the two of us carried all of our disassembled Ikea furniture down our two steep flights of stairs by ourselves. This all may seem simple enough, but any day here that we accomplish exactly what we set out to achieve seems like a huge victory, because nothing went wrong- even the weather agreed (something that rarely happens).

Since the house where we are storing this stuff is having road work done soon, this was the only time we could take everything over with the moving truck. Which means, until we leave in 3 weeks, we have the following: 1 air mattress, two chairs, our TV, some towels, 1 pan, and a few dishes. Not to mention the dozens of moving boxes. It is fun in a way, though. Like 'indoor camping,' with all of the comforts of running water.

The next few months are going to be an adventure. Handing over our final boxes of things to the removal company, packing our suitcases and saying goodbye to our apartment, Meagan's wedding, a month apart while Chad wraps things up in Rotterdam, and finally, taking our life out of storage in Pittsburgh and making the long drive up to New Hampshire, and to our new rental house which we have only seen in photos.

We're looking forward to all of the above... and we'll be just in time for Leaf Season in New England!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Porto, Portugal

For one last amazing European trip (at least for a while), I met up with Stacey, in Porto, Portugal. She is studying in France for the summer, so we planned this trip to meet up for a fun girls weekend. (Chad stayed back in Rotterdam, working hard to finish up his work at Erasmus.)

Porto is a unique, old, and authentic Portuguese city. Steep hills line both sides of the river, which is linked by a double layered bridge.
We hiked up the hill one afternoon, walked across the top of the bridge, and were rewarded by a beautiful view of the city.
Porto is known for it's beautiful tiles. There are painted tiles on buildings all over the city, such as this chapel,

and the beautiful train station.
Even the local homes and buildings are covered in colorful square tiles with various patterns and textures.

We found a great hostel to stay at called Dixo's. The location was perfect, between the river and the train station, and the old well-renovated building had a lot of character and charm. We met some cool people at the hostel who we explored the city with, and also enjoyed some wine, Port, and cheese on the gorgeous rooftop deck.

That's right folks, for just 20 Euro a night, this view can be yours!

I liked the fact that Porto was not a huge tourist destination. The buildings were old, and in many cases abandoned and crumbling. One of my favorite things we came across was this great old market that we found in town, Mercado do Bolhao. Each stall was run by a cute old lady who looked like she had been working there for 70 years or more.
This lovely granny waved as I was taking her picture. Can I put her in my pocket and take her home with me?
Also, please note, each and every stall had pictures of two things hanging in the back: the Portugal football team (which the country is crazy about) and Jesus. Jesus and Football... what else do you need?

The south side of the river, across from the city, is packed with Port wineries. We spent one afternoon walking between the wineries and sampling the varieties of Port. We went to Taylors, Croft, Offley, and Kopke.
They often paired the tastings with chocolate or dried fruit. I was in heaven.

While we are on the topic of delicious sweets, I fell in love with one of the local pastries called 'pastel de nata,' or custard tart.

I really enjoyed Portugal. It felt authentic and hard working, yet friendly, and I have a new found understanding of Port. I would be happy to go back with Chad, and possibly check out Lisbon, or other cities in the south. Will have to put that on the future list... along with so many other places.


- See all photos from the trip on Flickr:

Monday, July 11, 2011

North Sea Jazz Festival

What if I told you that you could see Prince,

Snoop Dogg,

and Tom Jones

all at the same venue on the same night? Strange, but true... and awesome!

Each year, the North Sea Jazz Festival brings an amazing variety of artists to the area. This year was no exception.

We are fortunate that the festival is at Ahoy, in Rotterdam, which is only a couple metro stops from our apartment. We spent the day with Erin and Hanna, walking around, checking out the different bands and artists, and sampling all of the good food... and maybe a few beverages (OK, and I may have had 2 ice cream cones, too).

We heard some bands that were new to us. We really enjoyed the crazy, dancing big-band conductor Kyteman, and The Jamsessions. That's Jam Sessions, not Jameson's, as I originally read it (you can see where my mind goes). One of our other favorites was Raphael Saadiq. He's R&B, hip hop, soul, funk, etc. And, we didn't realize it at the time, but he was a member of Tony! Toni! Tone! We've already bought one of this albums.

Craziest performer of the night unanimously goes to...

Bootsy Collins!
Look Out!

It's Not Unusual to enjoy a great performance by the great Tom Jones.
(Sorry, this is the best my little point-and-shoot can do at a dark concert)

He is a classic, period. Maybe if I was 20 years older, and had seen him 20 years ago I could see myself screaming and throwing my bra on stage. But now, I just enjoyed his deep, soothing voice, and countless old stories of Frank and the gangsters in Vegas.

And, of course there's the one and only D O double G - Snoop Dogg! One of my favorite rappers ever. I've been a fan since I was 13, and lucky for me, this show was all of his old classics from Doggystyle. Warren G was even there to help Regulate. Hanna was brave enough to walk up into the standing crowd for Snoop. It was great. He played all of the great hits, and we also got to hear his new song with David Guetta, Wet. He was really fun to watch, and everything you would hope to expect seeing him live.

And, I got a kick out of the two Huge security men that stood on guard at each end of the stage for the entire show.
At the end of the night, after a long day of standing and "jumping around," we saw a true legend. Needless to say, Prince was well worth the wait. I've always liked his music, but I wouldn't call myself a fanatic (I reserved that for MJ when I was younger). However , after seeing him live, we understand what all of the hype is about. Anyone would enjoy his show. He is really a true performer, and incredibly talented singer, dancer, and guitarist.
The show got started around half past midnight, and went for over 2 hours. He started with a lot of jam sessions, and more abstract music that I've never heard, for the Jazz Fest crowd. After changing into his iconic blue suit, he came out and set the stage on fire with a lot of classic songs and fancy footwork. It was a blast. We were truly impressed.
Not sure who has higher heels: him or her.

Walking home from the metro around 3:30, we just kept saying to each other how we couldn't believe we saw Snoop AND Prince in the same night. Not to mention all of the other great music. I'm glad we're taking advantage of all that is available in the area while we're still here.

- S

More pics on Flickr: