Friday, December 31, 2010

Fun in the Snow

Jessica, Dad and I walked to a local park in Nijmegen, which was wonderfully transformed by the snow. We saw zebra walking in the snow, found a football (soccer) stadium, watched hundreds of kids and kids-at-heart sled and make snowmen, had snowball fights, helped move stuck cars, and met a cross-country skier.

Fortunately, I brought my DSLR and both my long and walk-around lenses, so all of the above were photographed.

Find the set here or the slideshow here.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Morning Photos

I think the title says it all in this case. I have uploaded photos of Dad, Jessica and I opening the presents Dad brought with him from the US. We each have also been given gifts from others that either have already been opened or are of a kind that is not opened, as in ripped out of wrapping paper A Christmas Story style. Those are not pictured here.

Find the set here, or the slideshow here.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dortmund Hostel Photos

Hey all!

Just a quick post to link anyone interested to a photo tour of the hostel we stayed at in Dortmund, while visiting the Christmas Market. I took these to share on hostel review sites, in an effort to contribute to the online community.

Find the set here, or view a slideshow here.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weihnachtsmarkt Photos!

Dad, Jessica and I made our second trip together, this time to Dortmund, Germany to visit one of the many famous German Weihnachtsmarkts, or Christmas Markets! Many German towns, really all of them of a reasonable size, host a Christmas Market during December each year. Our European friends have been excited about visiting them for months, and hearing them talking about the Weihnachtsmarkts so positively, we decided to visit one as well.

Well, it was everything they had hyped it up to be and more!

I did quite a bit of reading about camera care in very cold temperatures, and brought my DSLR along this time. That turned out to be a very good decision, as just about everything at the market was worth a photo, and many of those photos turned out quite nicely.

Find my largest set of photos so far here, or start viewing them as a slideshow here.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Utrecht Photos

Dad, Jessica and I traveled to the beautiful Dutch city of Utrecht. Utrecht is one of the more prominent cities in the Netherlands, and is especially known for its beautiful old city center. Canals rivaling the beauty of Amsterdam's seem to never be out of site, and the bells of the famous Dom tower are a regular reminder of the city's history.

You can start viewing our photos as a slideshow here, or find the set here.

These photos were taken with my pocket HD video camera instead of my nice DSLR because of the very cold weather. The quality of well lit pictures is fine, but indoor photos of the dark Dom church are not as nice as I normally post.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Whirlwind Holiday

Happy Holidays!

Well, today is the day after Christmas and although we were not able to celebrate with family at home, it still turned out to be enjoyable and particularly special, as we celebrated in the Netherlands. Not only were we able to celebrate with Farrell's dad, which was nice in and of itself, we also did a great deal of traveling visiting Utrecht, attending one of the famed German Christmas Markets in Dortmund, Germany, and participating in a candle-light Christmas Eve service in the 14th century church located in Nijmegen's city center. Of course, the fun is not over. Tomorrow we leave for the Hague, followed by a day in Amsterdam, then a flight to Manchester where we will stay the night, followed by a train ride to Edinburgh on the 30th (where we will celebrate the New Year and explore for six days), ending with a three day stay in Ireland, arriving back in Nijmegen on January 8. On the 9th we will be relaxing in Nijmegen and preparing for our veritable food journey at the restaurant De Hemel where we have reservations for 5:30. Then, wrapping up this whirlwind holiday, Frank leaves on the morning of the 10th, which is when I will begin studying for my first exam on the 13th -- yes, unfortunately it looks as if I may be studying instead of celebrating on my birthday this year (the 12th), but in light of all our travels, I am okay with that.

Stay tuned for pictures from our day trip to Utrecht, our visit to the Christmas Market, and a few pictures from Christmas morning and snowy Nijmegen.

Until Next Time,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dressed-up Flat Photos

As Jessica promised a few posts ago, I have finally found time to organize and upload some nice, seasonal photos of the flat. As we are obviously separated from our respective long-time Christmas traditions, all forms of decoration included, we thought it would be fun to create some decorations of our own from cheep materials poor collage students have laying around (notebook paper). Jessica, with trivial help from myself, did a great job, resulting in the decorations pictured here.

Note that these photos are grouped with others from around the flat in the same Flickr set, many of which have not been linked to from the blog before. As always, feel free to look around.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snow Photos

As Jessica mentioned in the 's-Hertogenboscht post, we have been fortunate enough to have quite a bit of beautiful snowfall in the last few weeks. Especially with respect to the typical three to four light snow events eastern North Carolina experiences each winter, Dutch snow is noteworthy for two primary reasons.

First, snow events seem to 'stick around' much more gracefully than NC snow. Eastern NC snows seem to always be struggling against only slightly sub-freezing temperatures, which all two often (from a snow lover's perspective) destroy a beautiful snowfall in a matter of hours. There is also the 'rare-snow paradox' to deal with in NC, or any region that really looks forward to snowfall. If it is unusual to have good snow accumulation in an area, residents are more likely to get out and play in the snow. Playing in the snow, although loads of fun, accelerates the rate of snow destruction. For example, NC State's ~500 person snowball fight in the Court of North Carolina my Sophomore year, although one of my best snow memories, nearly cleared North campus' snow accumulation.

The second strikingly cool thing about Dutch snow is the temporal span over which snow actually falls. For example, it has been snowing here off-and-on for about two days, and our last 'snow event' was actually off-and-on snow over approximatively four days. This comparatively long snow-fall window gives snow lovers like Jessica and myself opportunity after opportunity to get outside and do things, even just routine tasks, in a crystalline water wonderland!

Although I am limited by DSLR camera recommended operating conditions, I have taken a dozen pictures of beautiful things my lenses can frame from the windows of our flat. This set of snow pictures, like some of my other photo sets, will continue expanding as I take additional snow photos. Find the set here, or start viewing a full size slideshow here.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Elfstedentocht

One of my professors is from Friesland, a region in the north of the Netherlands with tons of canals, but not particularly urban and with only eleven official cities. The region even has its own language, Frisian, which I only recently learned is the second official language of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. (And, for those who do not know, the country is still a monarchy with Queen Beatrix as the current head of state.) Anyway, Friesland is apparently a very beautiful area of the country of which the people there are very proud as evident by there enthusiasim for giving tours -- by foot, bike, bus, boat, and occasionally by ice! It does not happen often, but at least once every ten years or so the canals freeze over completely and the ice skating tour of the eleven FrieslChristmas, decorations, Dutch, Holland, Netherlands, picturesand cities begins...and the people go nuts! Dr. Slootjes says it has only happened three times in her life (she is probably somewhere in her thirties), but their are rumors it may happen this year. The 'Elfstedentocht' as it is called, is cerca 220 kilometers (about 150 miles) and can be done either as a race or just for fun. Feel free to check out this website to see the route, maps, and other information. 

Also, Prof. Slootjes sent out this video in an email (she thought it was funny and had told the class about it). The music is kind of weird, so just ignore it, but it gives you an idea of what Friesland looks like, the ice skating culture, and what Frisian sounds like. So, all around it is worth a look and/or listen. 

Truly, the 'Elfstedentocht' is a rare experience that seems like so much fun. Needless to say, if the canals freeze up, I will take my professor's advice -- skip class and head for the ice!

Until next time,

Friday, December 10, 2010


Fortunately, in spite of all the work (or perhaps thanks to), this week has managed to go by fairly quickly. Today is simply a study day for me, but Farrell has an exam later this afternoon and we both have one on Monday. So, my day should be comparatively relaxing: just studying, running a few errrands, and drinking peppermint tea and coffee.

Yesterday we got an unexpected fresh covering of snow. I am not sure what time it started but it was a good hour or so in the morning at least, which led to a beautiful and festive start to the day. No surprise snow today though, not yet anyway. I took a video yesterday of the snowfall because it was such an interesting and pretty snowfall, but we have not had a chance to look at it yet to see how I did or if it is worth putting up on the blog. However, our snow pictures and Christmas decorations will be posted over the weekend.

 For now, I leave you with these pictures from our trip to 'S-Hertogenbosch to pick up our visas. And, no, I cannot pronounce it properly. The few times I have said it, people usually just laugh and say something to the effect of "Oh, that was close!" or "Yes, something like that..." Although, it is always a little hard to tell if they are being sarcastic. And, of course, more than half the time the response is usually just a "No, not at all." (So, I guess that answers the sarcasm question.) Regardless, the Dutch always seem amused about it rather than annoyed, unless of course you happen across some crochety old man that believes everyone should speak Dutch, as does occasionally happen. Perhaps, I will write up that experience and post it this weekend as well. Anyway, enjoy the 'S-Hertogenbosch pictures -- it is a beautiful, old city with tons of canals, winding streets, and interesting canal-side statues.

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

♫ ♪ A Lot Like Christmas ♫

After our unintended month-long hiatus, we find we now have a great deal to talk about. We celebrated our first bizarro-Thanksgiving, met the Dutch winter a bit earlier with a week-long snow, and became official residents of the Netherlands -- with the i.d. to prove it! As per usual, we have plenty of pictures of all these events which we will put up in the next week along with any associated stories. This post, however, is dedicated to more recent and upcoming events. 

The semester is beginning to come to an end, though a bit differently than usual. Here, classes continue until December 17, when Christmas break commences, with exams held throughout the month of January, though usually at the end. At the moment we are supposed to be registering for courses next semester, although this is proving more difficult than at the beginning of the year...or, at least stranger. Experience would prove that perhaps not posting dates and times for classes, or not assigning fixed locations for classes/meetings is some sort of annoying, though otherwise benign, byproduct of some mysterious Dutch culural characteristic. Either way, experience has also proven that it will eventually be worked out. As for the next two weeks, we have some early exams and final papers, but nothing to unmanagable, though we will not be going on any day trips during this period.

It is perhaps all the more fittng that on the day I turn in my final paper and Farrell finishes his final exam (before break), Farrell's Dad (Frank) will arrive, as we intend to do a great deal of travelling. Plans before Chrstams are not final, but the goal is to explore the Netherlands more, visit a Christmas Market in Germany, and maybe a short trip to Paris. Of course, after Chrstmas we have concrete plans flying to Edinburgh for New Year's, explore Scotland, and then hop over to Ireland to explore for a few days. It's all very exciting! Yet, as you can see it has taken a great deal of time and planning -- one of the many activities diverting our attention from the blog, and one of the many reasons we are so appreciative. Though, I think we are most looking forward to simply showing off Nijmegen a bit, particularly our favorite places, which include two delicious restauraunts that I look forward to revisiting. 

Fortunately, for those nights that are simply too cold to go out, the flat is warm and inviting, expecially with the Christmas decorations up. As you can see, they aren't much,  but it was fun to do. What has really put us in the Christmas spirit is the Christmas tree lot in fron of the windmill behind the flat. Needless to say it is pretty awesome being able to look out your window and see such a sight, especially with the snow on the ground -- though it it not really as exciting to talk about snow now that it has snowed back in North Carolina as well. However, it is worth mentioning that this snow event was unlike any other in our experience, though it is thought to be typically Dutch -- it snowed constantly (but very lightly) for about a week, with high wind and temperatures in the teens and single digits. It was an interesting experience riding our bikes in the snow for the first time, but it is not too bad as long as you are careful. 

Returning to the topic of Christmas trees, we have been debating buying a small, "Charlie Brown" tree, but I haven't yet visited the lot to even confirm that they sell such trees. It does seem odd that they are only now beginning to sell trees though, especially since the Dutch just celebrated their SinterKlaas this past weekend. As far as Sinterklaas and the Dutch Christmas I could not possibly explain it better than David Sedaris -- American author and comedian -- so, please follow the link and learn a little about this interesting holiday tradition. 

Hopefully this post was both informative and entertaining. In the next week look for uploads of new pictures and updates.

Until Next Time,
Jessica (and Farrell)
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