Video Blog – May 2016

Inspiration, Study Abroad, Travel

Instead of uploading photos and telling you about what I’ve been up to, I thought this time I would show you. In three minutes and forty two seconds, you will glimpse into a month of my adventures in Breda, Tilburg, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Den Hague, Kinderdijk, Gouda, Brussels, Sliema, Gozo, Valletta, Mdina, Rabat… and maybe a few other destinations.

“I had a dream so big and loud.
I jumped so high I touched the clouds.
I stretched my hands out to the sky.
We danced with monsters through the night.

I’m never going to look back. 
Whoa, I’m never going to give it up. 
No, please don’t wake me now.
This is going to be the best day of my life.”

When This Adventure Ends

Study Abroad, Travel

Hallo vrienden!

I was inspired to make a short film about my life here in the Netherlands. You can see a bit about what my every day looks like, from my friends, to transportation, to festivals, studying, arts and culture, and other activities. Most of the footage used is from the city where I live (Breda), Amsterdam, Den Hague, Utrecht, and Den Bosch. Genieten!

“When this adventure ends, your next one will begin.”

Kings Day. Best Day.

Events, Study Abroad, Travel

Kings Day is by far one of the best days to be in The Netherlands!

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Kings Day (Breda, April 2016)

I was lucky and one of my very best friends surprised me with a gift for my first of hopefully many Kings Days to come. In the gift was assorted silly clothing to wear, all orange of course, orange tinted sunglasses, a crown, balloons, chalk, and tasty Dutch treats. For breakfast, we had a puff pasty filled with slaagroom called tompauce. These are decorated with orange icing especially for this holiday. Fun fact, there is a 600% increase in sales of tompauce on this holiday compared to any other day. I shared much of my candy and sweets with my room mates as well, and we decorated our flat with orange balloons.

The holiday is a celebration for the Kings Birthday, and all throughout the country there are city wide parties with a sea of people dressed in orange. As I mentioned before, I went to the 538 KoningsDag festival which amazing beyond my expectations. But in the city centre there were multiple free stages that people could enjoy and the terraces of many restaurants were open.

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Sunset Over Eva Simon’s Set (Breda, April 2016)

The weather was not the best, with some rain, some hail, and some cold wind. But that didn’t stop anyone from having an amazing time! I had so much fun spending time with my friends and dancing the entire day away. Artists like Martin Garrix, Tiesto, and Hardwell perform all over the country with multiple shows. Martin Garrix performed around one o’clock, and unfortunately we missed him as we were waiting in line. After his set, he was off into his helicopter for another set in Amsterdam. Unreal!

I was the most excited to see Armin Van Burren during this festival as I had not seen him before. His music was great, and he played one of my favourite songs by Alan Walker called Faded. The ultimate highlight was seeing Tiesto and Hardwell (both Breda born Djs) perform at the same time during a rainstorm. Easily 20,000 people dressed in orange were moshing and thrashing to heavy beats, and cheering in the rain. Seriously, that’s a moment to remember! I am so grateful to be living in a country where there is such a prominent festival and electronic dance music culture. This REALLY is my kind of place!

There truly is no party like a Kings Day party!

 

Ultimate Guide To Celebrating Dutch Carnaval

Events, Study Abroad, Travel

Guys, you have probably heard of the carnival that is celebrated in Brazil every year. Well, just in case you haven’t heard… The Netherlands also is known to celebrate this holiday! And it’s like North America’s Halloween mixed with Dutch music, Thanksgiving and lots of partying. (Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this.)

Carnival in the Netherlands is called Carnaval, and its traditionally celebrated in the Catholic region of the Netherlands in the south around the provinces of North Brabant and Limburg. Carnaval starts on Sunday and follows through to Ash Wednesday. Although, most students use this holiday as a reason to party and will often party every single night of the year. In 2016, Carnaval falls on February 7th to 9th.

Everyone looks forward to Carnaval each year. There are some people who take a week off work and school simply to celebrate! Dutch Carnaval can be confusing for International students on exchange in the south of the Netherlands. It’s up to you to make this week incredible, by stepping up, committing to the Carnaval spirit and going all out. By wanting to make it the best carnival of your life you will easily find other Dutchies also wanting to do the same. You can decide to remain clueless and remain in your home city, from the outside, you won’t “get it or “understand it”, but don’t be this person, jump in and embrace it!

So, here are some tips that I have learned from my Dutch friends on how to make the most of Carnaval.

  1. Embrace Dutch Music!
    I try to love Dutch music, I really do. But it’s hard when I can’t understand a lot of Dutch and some of the beats come across as very ‘cheesy’. Nonetheless, buck up, smile, and start listening to Carnaval music in advance. Try to learn some of the words. Get familiar with some of the songs. Every club, cafe, pub, and place you go during this week will be playing this kind of music. If you haven’t been able to learn Dutch yet this is this a fun time to learn some of the lyrics, the locals will happily translate them for you. They might go something like: “Have sex with a bald guy” or “There is a horse in the hallway”. Really random lyrics that are either dubbed over a recent chart song or a rip off of a German classic with a Dutch twist.
  2. Dress Up!
    Carnaval is just like Halloween. Do not be lame and say that you are not dressing up. Every single person dresses up every night with different costumes. Imagine going to a music festival like Burning Man, where people put a lot of effort into how they look. It’s like that – or even, like a Halloween party. There will be plenty of sugar skulls, pretend police officers, pirates, and other great costumes all throughout the city centre. A lot of people wear onesies. The whole point of Dutch carnival is to become someone else, let yourself go and have a great time. This is why all Dutch people during carnival will dress up in crazy costumes, the more creative and home made the better.

3. Do Not Wear Clothes You Love!
This is important. Do not wear shoes that you like. The floors of every cafe will be thick with gooey used drink cups. The coat check lines will be long. Keep it simple and wear a jacket that you can live without if its lost and prepare for alcohol to be split all over you in the heat of the moment. Go with the flow and accept that this might happen at least once.

4. Taste Local Beer and Cuisine!
Yes, local beer is delicious – like Heineken, Amstel, Hertog Jam, and Grosch. The craft beer selection in The Netherlands is even better. But don’t forget to stop and eat every once in a while. Dutch snacks are so greasy, salty, and mouthwatering. They are also quick, cheap, and easy to find. Sample a Frikandel XXL special, Kaassouffle, krokets, and hopefully you can find a loempia van for some authentic tasty spring rolls.

5. Buy A Dutch Carnaval Scarf
If you can find a shop that sells these orange and green scarves, pick one up. Often if a local cafe or club is really full, you can still be allowed in by the bouncers if you are wearing one of these.

6. Have Fun!
There is usually lots of great activities and events going on in each and every city in the South. Scout out what’s going on online or download the local city’s app with an agenda. There are often parades throughout the centre. Also, there is a ceremony where the Carnival celebrations start after the mayor symbolically hands over the key to the city to Prince Carnival. For three days, the Carnival Prince has control of the city and, together with his subjects, celebrates the temporary establishment of their Kingdom of Fools. Merrymakers make their way from pub to pub and greet Prince Carnival with three cheers of “Alaaf”. Also, it’s said that if you haven’t kissed at least one person during Carnaval then it wasn’t a Carnaval after all.

A Week In Review (October 11th to 18th)

Study Abroad, Travel

With crunch time of school related deadlines and trying to keep up an active social life, I am having a hard time trying to update my blog often; however, I thought I would update on how my past week was.

On Monday, I began my first seminar class. The structure of this week long class was quite loose, and one could say it was an equivalent of a ‘crash course’ in a topic. This week’s class was called Host Guest Relations; where in a few short lectures, we analyzed how tourists interact with the destinations that they visit. We looked at a variety of topics, such as the tourist gaze (how the visitor interprets a destination’s images and his experiences), as well as the tourist bubble (how tourists interact with each other and reaching out of a programmed experience to really grasp a concept of the host community). Overall, this topic was quite interesting, but I found there was a lot of research to be done.

My partner and I wrote a report about how local stakeholders (such as the local destination marketing organization, residents, and tourism businesses) contribute to realizing the tourist gaze for international visitors. Throughout this research, I learned that many tourists visiting Amsterdam are actually domestic visitors from around the Netherlands. It was also quite fascinating to learn about that the image that guests have of this city is mostly of canals, architecture, the sex industry, and consuming marijuana. As I have only spent a short amount of time here, I can agree that these images are a part of the city, but there is also so much more to absorb, including typical Dutch foods, incredible museums, street art, markets, events, festivals, and green spaces.

On Thursday night, as part of the Amsterdam Dance Event, my roommate Grace and I traveled into the city to see Martin Garrix perform live at the Heineken Music Hall. For those who may be unfamiliar, Martin Garrix is a famous DJ, who is known worldwide for being one of the youngest mainstream DJs in the world. This show was nothing short of amazing, and included excellent production throughout the entire performance. It was also exciting as other famous DJs, such as Tiesto, Afrojack, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike also made special performances. The show was sold out and the venue’s capacity was 5,500 people – needless to say it was an exciting adventure! We didn’t end up arriving home until 7:30am the next morning due to traffic on the public transit system.

In comparison to a concert venue in Canada, the Heineken Music Hall differed in several ways. For example, there was no seating, although there was two levels with a main floor and a balcony on all three sides facing towards the stage. There was also a lifted VIP section at the back that probably had the best view of the stage. There was also several areas where people could relax, many bars to purchase drinks and refreshments, and an excellent sound system throughout the entire building. If someone wasn’t in the concert hall, the music still sounded as though one was standing next to the stage.

The Amsterdam Dance Event took place all over Amsterdam for the past week and included performances from 2,200 artists and 450 events in clubs all over the capital city. During the day, there were many tours, special events, and a conference focused around electronic dance music to attend.

Here is a video of Martin Garrix performing at the same festival last year!

Other than that, I can only report that I had another week of amazing meals with my friends. On Friday night, we feasted on a delicious Bulgarian dinner cooked by Yana, Victoria, Dan, and Mark. One evening Ishay came over and cooked traditional Islamic cuisine as well. And though autumn is slowly disappearing in Breda, Cosmin and I went out for lunch and chose to sit on the terrace (with many layers on) to embrace the last bit of great weather.

Sunday brought great company as I traveled to the nearby city of Eindhoven to enjoy a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving meal with my friend Vicki, and her husband, Leon. It was such a treat to enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, and other home cooked delicacies that my friends and family enjoyed last week. We also had some traditional Dutch food, such as spicy pears.

The last bit of exciting news for me is that a package arrived from Canada and I can now also enjoy my favourite .99 cent meal, the President’s Choice version of white cheddar macaroni and cheese! Hooray!

Sunday Funday

Study Abroad, Travel
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Mediterranean Dinner (Breda, The Netherlands, September 2015)

 The term ‘sunday funday’ rang true today, as after a relaxing morning, I joined my friend at a festival in Valkenberg Park. The entire park was transformed with a “grassroots” kind of atmosphere. The layout, stage design, and co-creation based artwork. This was the second day of the festival. Last night as I was coming home from the train station, I saw many boats in the canal as a form of a parade. It was quite dark out and the boats were illuminated with colourful lights and energetic people dancing to a different beat upon each boat. There were hundreds of people wrapped around the canals watching, dancing, and participating in the fun. Today, I had a chance to walk around the festival grounds and listen to a variety of music. Most of the music was in the Dutch dialect, but I enjoyed an energetic punk rock band call The Deaf. They are a self proclaimed speed beat band from Den Hague and were a lot of fun! There was another stage themed after the board game Candy Land with DJs playing electronic dance music and another stage in the centre of the park with more of a low key rock kind of groove. I heard from a friend that were was a silent disco party the night before as well. Maja and I tried a delicious treat called Poffertjes, which is like a small pancake with icing sugar and butter on it – YUM!

Later on, I joined many friends in the lounge of our building to cook a large, and very delicious, Mediterranean dinner. It was really lovely to spend time with friends, cooking (and dancing) in the communal kitchen together.

The Hague

Travel
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Den Hague, The Netherlands (September 2015)

My roommate Grace and I took a break from a long week at university and took a day trip to Den Hague. It was about an hour and a half journey by both bus and train. Also known as The Hague, this seaside city has the most cultural attractions per square meter. Did you know the Netherlands has two capital cities? Amsterdam is the national capital – the largest city and cultural capital of the Kingdom – and Den Hague is the seat of government.

We caved and had Starbucks twice in one day – once on the way there and on the return trip. We spent part of the afternoon window shopping and aimlessly walking around the city centrum. Without any planning, we came across a wake board festival and a celebration hosted by the United Nations for International Peace Day called Just Peace. We also found the Royal Home of the Dutch King and Queen, lots of monuments, and a few green spaces. One park near the Centraal Station had a gated area full of trees and reindeer. Apparently, The Hague is one of the greenest cities in the country.

We were sure to visit the Binnenhof, which had a fairy tale like appearance from the outside overlooking the water. We also ventured inside to find stunning architecture straight out of Hogwarts. The Binnenhof is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, next to the Hofvijver Lake. It houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as resident of the counts of Holland and became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584. It is counted among the Top 100 Dutch Heritage Sites. The Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use (Source: Wikipedia).

We also made a special trip to The Mauritshus, the Royal Art Gallery. Dear readers, don’t be sad that you haven’t visited it yet, as you can also view the royal collection online! This incredible art gallery has many pieces from the Golden Age (dating back to the early 1400s). Highlights included The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, The Girl With A Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, and Self Portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn. This building was so beautiful from every angle with artwork decorating the walls, fireplaces, and ceilings.

The Goldfinch is a 1654 animal painting by Carel Fabritius of a chained goldfinch. It is an oil painting on a panel of 33.5 by 22.8 cm. In the painting, a goldfinch is sitting on its feeder, chained by its foot. Goldfinches were once popular pets, as they could be taught tricks like drawing water from a bowl with a miniature bucket. This is one of the few works known by Fabritius. He painted the goldfinch with clearly visible brushstrokes. He depicted the wing in thick yellow paint, which he scratched with the handle of his brush (Source: The Mauritshus).

Girl with a Pearl Earring is an oil painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is a tronie of a girl with a headscarf and a pearl earring. This piece is claimed to be the Dutch version of the Mona Lisa. This painted was created entirely from the imagination of the painter – which is makes it even more immaculate to see in person. It was such an amazing experience to see this painting from 1665. I even wore my pearl earrings in honour of this exciting moment! Words cannot express how amazing this experience was for me… Lastly, the self portrait on display by Rembrandt van Rijn is claimed to be one of the last self portraits known to be painted by the famous Dutch painter. He painted the most self portraits in his life time which totaled more than all the painters from the Golden Age.

We finished off the day with a shopping spree at one of our favourite clothing stores, Primark. Needless to say, I will definitely be back to the stunning heart of the Netherlands. There is so much I have yet to explore!

HBO Intro Festival

Study Abroad, Travel
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Breda, The Netherlands (September 2015)

Well, I was told that the HBO Intro Festival would be great, but it certainly exceeded all of my expectations! For one night, the City of Breda and collective sponsors, host an annual open air music festival for all of the new (and returning) students during the first week of classes. There were four stages scattered throughout the centre with a variety of promotional businesses, food from local restaurants, and open bars. And the best part was that the entrance was completely free! Alcohol was flowing freely and guests were allowed to bring in their own drinks provided they put it in plastic containers at the security gates. The stages all closed by 23:00, as guests normally go to nearby clubs to continue the party. The festival even hosted five different after parties at popular clubs like De Boulevard, Proost, and Coyote Bar.

It was so much fun to listen to the awesome music and watch thousands of people having an incredible experience. I was lucky enough to meet a new friend who rents a flat above the Main Stage. The view from up there was incredible! I was thrilled to see the festival from awesome heights and sit in the window frame high above the action. During the last fifteen minutes of performances at the Main Stage, the famous DJ Hardwell made an appearance and everyone went absolutely wild! On my way home, I caught a few minutes of a video mapping project being projected upon Kasteel Van Breda. I must say, it is incredible to see so much arts, culture, and social experiences always available in such a beautiful city. I’m falling in love with Breda!

International Night

Study Abroad, Travel

On Tuesday, Compass Breda hosted an International Night at Cafe Vulling. Compass is a club that helps international students meet each other through parties, events, organized trips, and much more. Every week they host themed gatherings in honour of different countries. This week’s night was called “The Worldwide Edition”. There were many flags from different countries on display, as you can tell from my photo, I found one from Canada! We had a contest to see which team could mummify their teammate with toilet paper in the quickest, fashionable manner. And before the night was out, we played Twister out in the streets of Grote Markt! Tons of fun!

In other big news, Cosmin cooked his first meal here in the flat for myself and four other guests. This was his first time cooking away from home and it was a huge success. He said it tasted just like his grandmothers’ amazing meals. So adorable!

First Day At NHTV

Study Abroad, Travel
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ADHD Event at De Boulevard (September 2015)

This morning marked my first day studying at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences. I have a good overall impression of the school and my classes. There is a large mixture of Dutch students and a small amount of international students. Most international students are from Germany or larger countries in the European Union. I am enjoying my classes so far, although I have lots of readings to catch up on already! My class schedule will change weekly, but I think I have most Fridays off. …Hooray for three day weekends! All of my classes, except for one, have about fifteen students. It is interesting to see such small class sizes, as in Canada, the class size ranges from 30 to 50 – and I always thought that was quite small!

I was told today that NHTV has the largest library of tourism related documents in the world. I am definitely going to utilize these great resources! On Saturday night, my friends and I went to De Boulevard to watch some DJs. Did you know that Tiesto and Hardwell both call Breda home? Hardwell now owns the club in the city centre where he first started out. Hopefully, I can see him live while I am here! Martin Garrix, another well known EDM artist, and Afrojack are also from the Netherlands.

I have been enjoying some amazing meals with new friends. Natalie cooked an authentic Mexican meal with tortilla chips, cream, cheese, and a delicious blended tomato and vegetable sauce. She paired it with Corona in a glass with fresh lemon and a salted rim. Last night, Grace and Laura (both from the United Kingdom) cooked dinner with me. We made mashed potatoes, vegetables, and fried Dutch sausage. And tonight, I shared dinner with my roommate Cosmin (from Romania) and his friend Ishay (from Israel). They cooked curried meat in a sauce over rice. Yum! On a final note, this past weekend, there was a festival celebrating all gingers. People with red hair traveled from around the world to make new friends and indulge in Dutch culture. After all, Vincent Van Gogh was a very famous red head!