Monday, January 28, 2013

The Netherlands & I


It's been a bit more than five years since I first set foot on The Netherlands. It was a rainy November day, I had gone to Amsterdam for a day with some friends and I was quite disappointed as I didn't really like the city. I didn't dislike it either, but after having heard so many people talking wonders about the Dutch capital I was somehow expecting more. Maybe it was the bad weather, maybe it was the apparent chaos to be found everywhere, maybe it was its vague resemblance to Bruges or maybe it was just the fact that I was following someone not paying much attention and after an hour of walking I had the impression that I was walking along the same canal for the fifth time. Whatever the reason, I wasn't taken on by the many Dutch charms the first time and the thought of exploring more of the The Netherlands didn't cross my mind for a long while. I did, however, go back to Amsterdam for the Queen's Day and although I had a superb time it didn't change my mind about the city but I began to feel curious about this little country that could go totally mad to celebrate the queen's birthday (not the current queen, but her mother's or grandmother's) So, one thing led to another and before moving to Maastricht I had already been two or three times holidaying in The Netherlands. And at some point, subtly but surely I fell in love with the country. I learnt to love the sometimes monotonous landscapes, I began to appreciate the Dutch gezelligheid, I fit into their relaxed way of life and I was thirsty of knowledge about the rich Dutch heritage and culture. 

It's been a bit more than five years since I first set foot on The Netherlands. Ever since I've travelled quite extensively around the country, I've discovered many beautifu places which I would love to visit again sometime and there are still some others which I'm looking forward to going to someday in the near future. So far, my been-there list is quite amazing! Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Maastricht, Utretch, Nijmegen, Den Bosch, Tilburg, Eindhoven, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Workum, Hindeloopen, Haarlem, Zandvoort aan Zee, Bloemendaal aan Zee, Edam, Volendam, Bergen op Zoom, Groesbeek, Zeist, Valkenburg and Heerlen. Not bad for a country I was never passionate about! And I'm still hungry for more. I don't know how long I'll stay in Maastricht but there are a couple of places I really have to see before leaving, so this is my to-do list for The Netherlands.

THE NETHERLANDS' to do list
  • Seeing the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam (and showing Amsterdam to my boyfriend, who's never actually seen it!)
  • Visiting the Keukenhof tulip fields. A must for this spring!
  • Leiden and Delft, two iconic cities I haven't been to yet.
  • Going for a weekend to the Waddeneilanden. Texel and the Frisian Islands seem like the perfect destination to enjoy a nice rest amid the nature.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snowy Maastricht

Last week it was snowing for a couple of days and as result Maastricht was beautifully covered by snow for almost a week. It was like a real Winter Wonderland and I realized that this current city of mine never looks more alluring than when it's dressed in white. I couldn't resist to just watch from my window so I put on my coat, took my camera and went into the cold to take some pictures of Maastricht's best looks. Sadly, snow is almost totally gone or simply turned into ice, which is not so nice when walking, but I still have some beautiful photos to reminisce the moment I fell in love with Maastricht, once again. Hope you like them!








Monday, January 21, 2013

# 50: Fifty random facts about me

It's been a bit more than half a year of blogging and I just realized that I'm reaching the humble milestone of 50 posts. Wow, who would've imagined it?! So, to celebrate I've decided to write a special post containing 50 random facts about the blogger, i.e. me, so that you can get to know a piece of me a bit better. But before I start selfishly blogging about myself I have to thank you all, my wonderful readers, who've been so supportive by sharing your love in the form of comments, follows and daily pageviews. Also a big thanks to fellow bloggers who take a minute to stop by and read my posts and for sharing so many other inspiring and wonderful stories. Now, let's get down to business!

  1. I was born and raised in Santa cruz de Tenerife and I'm very proud of my home island.
  2. Besides Tenerife I've also lived in Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands, so far.
  3. I've never been outside Europe, though some people might disagree as they regard Tenerife as part of Africa.
  4. I graduated in Mathematics at university and I am currently doing a master's degree in Econometrics.
  5. My favourite subjects at school were English and Maths.
  6. I was amazed when I first experienced the seasons changing in Europe: I discovered the colours of autumn, loved the snow in the winter, cheered up when the spring came and actually longed for the summer.
  7. I don't drink any coffee but I cherish a good cup of tea (with a lovely biscuit, please!)
  8. The best moment of the week is enjoying a long brunch on Sunday with my boyfriend.
  9. I'm obsessed with Australia, it's the number one destination on my travel wish list since I was ten years old.
  10. When I was a teenager my biggest ambition was to become a fashion designer.
  11. My favourite films are Gladiator, The Matrix and Jurassic Park.
  12. In fact, I love dinausaurs, I think they were really fascinating creatures.
  13. One dream of mine I might never fulfill is relocating to London for a while, I think the British capital is so gorgeous!
  14. The Simpsons is my favourite tv show ever! Even though the new episodes might not be that good anymore, there's nothing like a good marathon of brilliant oldies.
  15. The only series I've watched from the first episode till the very last one was Lost, in spite of the continous disappointment season after season. Still, the first season is simply perfect.
  16. I have a massive crush on Usher since I was a teenager, can't help myself!
  17. I had severe insomnia from 8 years old till I was 16, hence I didn't grow up much and I'm just 5'2''
  18. I'm terribly scared of flying, I hate flying!
  19. My favourite seasons are autumn and winter. 
  20. I'm allergic to cats and dogs and to some other unidentified allergens. Funnily enough, the only place I get sick from my allergy is Tenerife.
  21. I've started writing three books but I haven't managed to finish any of them. Yet. The ideas are still incubating in my mind.
  22. My favourite books are Mararía (Rafael Arozarena), This Charming Man (Marian Keyes), Cien Años de Soledad (Gabriel García Márquez) and the Foundation saga (Isaac Asimov)
  23. I actually love anything sci-fi, especially B movies from the 50s and 60s.
  24. I really enjoy learning foreign languages. I can speak English, Dutch, German and French, I've tried Russian and Icelandic, Swedish is on my list and lately I've been quite tempted by Arabic.
  25. I love bellydancing! There's something hypnotic about those rhythms and moves. And those embellished clothes, aren't they beautiful?
  26. I don't have a favourite song but I like a bit of everything. I'm quite into The Beatles lately (maybe I'm just growing old and turning into my dad)
  27. I learnt to play piano when I was a child but I was never really good at it. Later at school I had to play flute and guitar as well. I was even worse at that.
  28. I go crazy when I see the first snowflakes falling down. I can't stop smiling and I always have to go outside to take some pictures.
  29. I have never tried any winter sport. Well, I've done some ice-skating but I'm not sure if that counts.
  30. I like staying in with a good magazine when it rains. British Cosmo and Glamour and Spanish Vogue are my favourites. Spanish Cosmo isn't bad either.
  31. I truly believe in karma. If you're good to everyone and true to yourself good things will happen to you.
  32. I would love to travel around the world.
  33. And I regret not having backpacked when I was younger.
  34. I like cooking exotic meals and I will hardly ever cook anything typical Spanish. 
  35. I have been collecting travel guides since I was eight years old when I received my first two as a Christmas present: London and New York. I should own around 20 now.
  36. I go window-shopping when I'm bored. Or taking photos.
  37. I could eat pizza everyday. And ice-cream. 
  38. I hate working-out. I even failed Sports when at school.
  39. But I did Mathematics Olympics.
  40. I recently had my hair cut and wear a fringe now, which makes me look like a teenage girl again. And I kinda like it!
  41. The person I miss the most is my little brother. I even cried when I first spent my birthday away from him.
  42. Anyways, I cry quite a lot, especially when watching movies. I cry at almost every movie I watch.
  43. I love daytripping. The highlights so far: Leukerbad, Luxembourg City and Lichtenstein. Well, and many other beautiful places but these three ones were quite cool and fun (maybe I should write about it sometime)
  44. I do believe in global warming and I try my best to contribute to mitigation as much as possible. 
  45. Since I got my first camera ever 6 years ago I've become a passionate amateur photographer. I'm looking forward to upgrade my camera to a bridge one and to improve my skills.
  46. I sometimes draw sketches of my planned outfits for a whole holiday. I enjoy packing but I dread unpacking when I'm back and my luggage can lay in the floor for more than a week.
  47. I still go quite often to the movies and despite complaining about the rising prices of tickets I love the feeling of sitting there when the lights go off and the magic starts in the screen.
  48. The longest time I've been outside Tenerife was eight months last year. I used to think that I would like to grow old there. Now I'm not so sure anymore.
  49. I like karaoke bars. And giving the singing a try.
  50. I feel very grateful for the life I live and I try to make the most of it.
Phew, that was it! It's taken quite a long time to come up with such a long list, so I hope you enjoy it and appreaciate it! Feel free to write your own 50 facts list and let me know to take a look. I will have to come up with some other cool idea for post #100, but that's still quite far right now.

Love,
Irene

Thursday, January 17, 2013

First day in Heerlen

When I was writing about my resolutions for this year a couple of weeks ago I didn't imagine that I would start fulfilling my wish to discover a bit more about the Belenux so soon and so close to Maastricht. To be more precise, today and in Heerlen. I had never been to Heerlen before but as I had a meeting there this morning I took sometime afterwards to wander around the streets of Heerlen and find out what's there. However, the city didn't seem so interesting nor appealing or maybe it was just too cold to stay outside for too long making a real effort to get to know it. Maybe I'll give a second chance to Heerlen some day later, hopefully some sunny spring day!


Heerlen is the second largest city in the Dutch province of Limburg (I would have never guessed!). It was founded by the Romans and it was a prosperous mining spot in the 19th century. Nowadays Heerlen is no longer an important industry center neither an interesting touristic point but its proximity to Maastricht and to the German border make it an atractive residential area. 


One of the most interesting buildings is the Glaspaleis (Glass Palace) designed by architect Frits Peutz. It now hosts the public library and it was listed under the 1000 most important buildings of the 20th century. I didn't find it that special, but 1000 buildings are too many buildings for all of them to be outstanding. Another interesting feature is the Thermenmuseum (Museum of the Thermal Baths) dedicated to a Roman bathhouse which was discovered right in the center of Heerlen.


Well, that's all about Heerlen so far. Maybe I'll find a more alluring side of Heerlen later in the spring. Or maybe not. Let me know if you know some interesting place around!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Back to reality

Late Sunday evening. It's high time to acknowledge it. Holidays are already over and tomorrow my alarm clock will ring at 7am again. It's been a long time of freedom, happiness and relax that started with four nice days in Switzerland, continued with three warm weeks in Tenerife and has just ended with a lovely weekend in Maastricht with my boyfriend. But before going back to reality I want to share and enjoy again the highlights and the not so big but cheery moments of my holidays. So, this is a list of the usual things I did that put a smile on my face everyday!

  • I spent some time with my girlfriends. I've known most of them since I was two years old, we grew up together and even though we don't see us very often anymore nothing beats a good get together with the girls from school.
  • I slept. A lot! After 6 weeks of stress during which I didn't sleep for more than four hours in a row I was really needy for sleep so a good lie in everyday was almost mandatory. Anyways, I've never been a good sleeper so I was already up at 10am the latest, but fully recovered and ready to get back to my study duties.
  • I finally read some books that didn't contain any equations or mathematical derivations. And it felt sooo good! I laughed and cried reading This Charming Man (Marian Keyes) again and I also took a look at my old Australia travel guide. And after complaining out loud of it being so old that it contained no single internet site on it I got a brand-new Australia guide as a travel present. Hopefully it'll be useful sometime ...
  • I caught up with my fave series. I got my daily fix of The Simpsons and I'm really considering getting some DVD boxes as I haven't been able to find them nowhere in Dutch tv. I shared my love for The Big Bang Theory nerdiness with my parents and my mother actually started calling them physicists instead of nerds, so mission accomplished! And I kept on discovering Grey's Anatomy with my boyrfriend. Never watched it before him but I'm getting hooked. Just started on the first season after having watched seasons 6, 7 and 8 on and off.
  • I baked the yummiest biscuits ever! I don't have an oven in Maastricht so I'm actually craving homemade cookies, cupcakes and pastries all year round. But it turns out to be good for my figure, mind you. After three weeks of copious eating and indulging in every sweet treat that Christmas had to offer I'll have to start dieting tomorrow.
  • I enjoyed a lot of window shopping. There are too many nice Spanish retailers which don't have shops in Maastricht. Stradivarius, Sfera, Pull&Bear, Blanco are just some examples and I really miss those shops when I'm away. Anyways, I'm good at finding subtitutes when it comes to clothing stores. I also wandered around the ever-growing Chinatown in Santa Cruz a lot. I'm always amazed at how many new chinese shops I can find everytime.
  • I watched two wonderful sunrises from the sky. I flew to Tenerife on Christmas Day and I came back to Maastricht yesterday. Both flights were scheduled really early in the morning (or should I better say night!) While I totally disliked the idea of getting up at in the middle of the night to make it to the airport, I was rewarded both times with the amazing experience of seeing the sun rising right in the sky. And I can tell you that the sun seems brighter and feels warmer when up above!
  • I gazed up the sky to see the stars every night. It is no wonder that the Canary Islands are home to some of the most important telescopes in the world. After all, they enjoy a very clear sky at night thanks to the legislation ruling out light pollution. Every night when I walked home I delighted myself looking up to the sky and getting my bearings among a thousand stars.
  • I walked three weeks in my ballet flats in the middle of the winter. And I loved it! I once read that Sophia Coppola's favourite bit of arriving to the south of France was letting her feet slip into a pair of summey sandals. Well, Tenerife might not be as glamourous as the Côte d'Azur but my feet appreaciate the same sense of freedom they get from being back to my beloved ballet flats as soon as I set foot on my home island.


And that was my holiday in a glimpse. Maybe I didn't do too many interesting things but I enjoyed every single minute of it and now I'm sad it's over. But the good thing about it is that time is already counting down for the next holiday, whenever that might be.  
Did you also have a wonderful Holidays? Any fond memories to share?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bajamar & Punta del Hidalgo

Since I arrived in Tenerife I was craving a swim in the sea but despite my boyfriend nicknaming polar bear for being brave enough to get myself into the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, I haven't dared to put on my bikini and get somewhere near the sea. So, after having decided that even in Tenerife it is not warm enough to take a bath in the sea, I went this afternoon for a walk at the seaside and I enjoyed a wonderful sunset while going from Bajamar to Punta del Hidalgo, two small coastal towns in the north of Tenerife. 


Bajamar was always more tourism oriented and its main attraction are the natural swimming-pools that lie beside the ocean while Punta del Hildago was a tiny fisher village right at the northeast endopoint of  Tenerife. Both of them used to be important touristic points some decades ago but nowadays none of them is really interesting. Still, the views are quite impressive and some interesting hiking routes end up in Punta del Hidalgo. There are also some wild beaches in the area which are not the most beautiful nor especially safe but some people like them as the waves are quite good.


Today I went with the bus to Bajamar and the day wasn't especially beautiful as it was really cloudy. However, as I walked to Punta del Hidalgo the clouds began to roll away and the sun to shine. The sky was then painted in many beautiful shades of mauve and baby blue. Eventually, the low lands of Tenerife appeared in the distance and even El Teide volcano could be seen above everything else. I was totally mesmerized by such a beautiful picture and I couldn't stop taking pictures. When the sun began to set it became a golden disc, the sky turned red and the clouds were purple and blue. El Teide seemed to be growing every minute until reaching its magnificent 3718m above sea level. 

Here are some photos of this evening, hope you like them!






Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Three Wise Men

Today Christmas holidays are officially over in Spain. The reason why we enjoy a some days more of holidays than many other countries is because we celebrate Epiphany and Spanish children wait until 6th January to receive their presents from the Three Wise Men. 


Despite the many different legends and tales accounting for different numbers, names and origins of the Kings from the East, in Spain we believe them to be three, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar. Melchior is an elderly man from Europe and brings gold to baby Jesus, Gaspar is around his forties, comes from Asia and gives frankincense to baby Jesus, Balthasar is a young African man who offers myrrh to baby Jesus.

Every year they leave the Middle East behind and come to Spain to give Christmas presents to all Spanish children. They arrive on 5th January and are greeted in every city and town with big parades. Later that night everyone will leave their shoes nearby the Christmas tree (though traditionally shoes were placed on balconies) and the Three Wise Men will leave presents to those who have been good and charcoal to the naughty ones. After opening the presents the morning of January 6th families get together to enjoy the roscón de reyes, the traditional bake to celebrate Epiphany. Really delicious and with candied fruits on top, it contains a small figure and a bean. The lucky person to find the figure will be crowned king for the day and the one who finds the bean will have to pay the bill.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

My 365 Project

In my last post I wrote about taking up one big challenge this year which consists in taking my camera out everyday to take some pictures and complete a daily photo journal. I was inspired by the photographic journey of As the Bird flies, a travel blogger who works on the go while travelling the world and has a blog full of travel and life inspiration. After seeing her achieve this goal month after month in 2012 I thought that it was something fun to do, a good method to improve my photography skills throughtout a year and a great way to put together some lovely memories of a whole year. So I decided to take up the challenge and take part in the 365 project during 365.

I know it won't be easy. First of all I worry that I might not get inspired everyday or that I'll feel too lazy to go out with my camera when it's freezing outside. I might even end up with a boring collection of cups of tea and study notes snapshots and that would be like a failure ... I'll try to make them look good, anyways. Another issue would be choosing the right photo. If the day is exciting I would make quite a lot of photos and then it would be a nightmare to choose the most memorable or maybe just choosing the least worst one out of tons of terrible pictures. However, boring days can also be difficult, just like yesterday.

Should I upload a beautiful but meaningless photo like these Christmas lights for my project?


Or should I choose for the most memorable moment of the day? Yesterday it was being stuck in a parking for 20 minutes.


Or should I choose a photo I would love to see in a year time, like my beautiful hometown?


Ahh, it's a tough call. In this case I went for the last option, but I don't think I'll be giving it much thought in a couple of months or weeks. And another thing I won't care about, at least for the first half year, is to photoshop them. There may not be perfect photos, not even good ones, but if I really want to keep track of my progress I think it'll be better to just upload and compare raw material.

As it is a photographic project I expect that it will help me to improve my poorish photographic skills, I still have so much to learn, even if I'm just using a compact digital camera! I want to actually use the different modes it provides, I want to take better pictures at night, to improve my understanding and use of light and to be able to take good close-ups. Besides photography, my other reason to join in the 365 project is to create a beautiful photo journal of memories and to somehow keep the spark going in a more routinary life. I don't know if you have noticed this as well, but I've realised that, while I go crazy taking pictures everytime that I visit a new place, I get very lazy when I settle in the same place for a while. I get used to it and I don't bother to get out of my comfort zone or to keep on taking pictures of the sights that impressed me before. But I don't want work or study duties to be an excuse not to have fun and I want to keep on discovering new lovely corners of the places I kow and love. That's why I'm looking forward to this 365 project: to taking silly and edgy photos again, to falling in love with Maastricht again, to learning something new everyday (or at least once in a while), to putting together as many new cities and countries and possible, to looking back in a year time and smile while remembering all those wonderful or ordinary moments!

You can follow my 365 project here. Let me know if you feel inspired and dediced to do a 365 project yourselves. And any advice is welcome as well!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January 2013: Wishing for a Happy New Year

First things first, happy new year to all of you, my dear readers! Did you have a big party with friends? Or a cosy family celebration? Whatever you did, I hope that this 2013 that has just started will be a memorable year full of magical moments and that 2013 will be the year when you decide or continue to pursue your dreams and see them coming true. And to all fellow bloggers I wish you a year full of inspiration to keep on blogging about dreamy destinations and trips, beautiful clothes, wonderful make-up or whatever you fancy, but in short, to keep on writing as many lovely posts as in 2012 about the stuff dreams are made of!

I don't know why but I'm particulary excited about the year that has just started. Maybe it's because it'll be full of changes, maybe it's because I'm looking forward to taking on some new interesting challenges, maybe it's simply because I'm in a glad moment of my existence. Whatever reason it is I am happy that a whole new year lies ahead of me and I'm looking forward to making it at least as good as 2012. And just like every other year I've taken some time to reflect upon the good and bad of last year and to write some new year's resolutions. This time I've kept my feet on the ground and I have a very down-to-earth list, so it shouldn't be terribly burdensome to achieve my goals. The most obvious are finishing my master's degree and moving out of Maastricht (and in with my boyfriend). Hopefully, these are simply bound to happen. And for the rest, this is my short list of resolutions for this year. 

  • Improve my knowledge of German: once upon a time I completed my German studies and I was fluent in German (really!) but then I moved to Antwerp, started learning Dutch and my German fluency went to hibernate somewhere in the back of my mind. While being fluent in Dutch proved very useful to find a job in Maastricht and to satisfactory integrate in the Dutch society, I think it's about time to bring my German back to the limelight. So, this yearI'll be studying German on my own with the ambitious goal of taking the C2 level exam in 2014. Ok, maybe it'll be just be level C1, we'll see ...
  • Get to know the Benelux area better: I have no clue about where I'll go next after leaving Maastricht, but just in case Brussels is not the chosen city, I want to explore more of Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg. I want to finally visit the Keukenhof, a wonderful park full of colourful tulips fields that just opens just two months a year. I want to dedicate some time to discover Wallonia, a part of Belgium I totally neglected when living in Antwerp. And I want to go back to Luxemburg some time and get further than Luxemburg city.
  • Complete the 365 project: a real challenge of taking a not so ordinary photo each day and build a daily photo journal for a year. I got this idea from travel blogger As the Bird flies . Let's see how far I get!
And that's all for 2013. Even though it's a small list I know it'll take lots of effort and time to complete some of them, so I decided not to overdo it this year. Do you also make a list of resolutions for the new year? If so, what's on your list?

Have a happy January and an even happier 2013!
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