Nobody is an indoor person

If you’re Dutch, and you listen to the radio or watch TV every so often, you may have caught the latest advert campaign from a major outdoor sports retailer: Niemand is een binnenmens, or Nobody is an Indoor Person! Do what you want, but do it outside. It’s a great slogan! How many of us spend all of our time indoors and on our butts? And seeing as the weather today was absolutely gorgeous, I grabbed my bike and went out the door for a breath of fresh air. With my camera, of course!

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It’s a national holiday today (liberation day), and everyone has the day off, so the roads were busy with people who had the same idea as me. Catching a moment when the road was actually empty was pretty difficult!

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Bright greens and yellows and blues: summer is really just around the corner. Last weekend I was at a festival where the temperatures didn’t rise above 10 °C, today it was around 18°C and lovely. Such a difference!

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I’d love to chill out on a boat on days like today. There’s mooring spots all along the canal and lake over here.

4It wouldn’t be a national holiday without waving flags everywhere!

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I might talk shrooms, but we’re not cooking today

Oh man, do I love Autumn. It’s the feeling of cold, crisp air on my face and the colours in the trees and the leaves on the ground. And it’s the prospect of cozy evenings curled up on the couch with a blanket and a hot coco. The smell of home baking which always features a lot more cinnamon when the weather turns colder (at least it does in this house!). Oh man, do I love Autumn.

Part of it is because I love to go for walks in the forest. We drive out to just past Utrecht, park our car at a visitor’s centre, and hit the trails. We don’t even have to go far! And it’s the best when it’s cold and slightly misty. My mum and dad agree. So this morning, we did just that! And there’s proof, too! We saw the strangest mushrooms, the prettiest trees, the best coloured leaves… Take a look.

 

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A real red and white mushroom! We didn’t find any gnomes, though. They probably weren’t at home.

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These were massive! They were the size of pancakes!

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There was a real abundance of chestnuts this year! Which made up for the complete and utter lack of beech nuts.
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This was a shroom! Can you believe it? It looks like someone left a loofah lying around in the middle of the forest!

The only downside to walks in the forest this time of year? I have so much mud to clean off my shoes…

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A day at the zoo

Tim and I took 2 weeks off this summer for a get-together with friends in the UK and some much-needed downtime from work, and on our final real vacation day, we took a trip to the Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam. I can’t remember ever having been there, since our family usually went to the Burgers Zoo in Arnhem (and I may be biased here, but that still is the best zoo in the Netherlands), but Blijdorp is an adorable, well-planned little zoo that was well worth the visit! Even though we took our time, it only took us about 3.5 hours to see all the animals, so it’s a nicely sized zoo for an afternoon visit.

I brought the camera, of course, and felt a bit self-conscious about hanging it around my neck until I saw what some people drag along in terms of equipment; their mega-sized zoom lenses and special heavy-duty tripods made me feel wholly undergeared! But also less awkward about taking pictures. Which is what I did. A lot. I took well over 250 pictures in those 3.5 hours! Don’t worry, I know how to trim down to a more bite-sized collection. Here, have some cute animals (and animal butts) to brighten your day!

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Cologne

I spent my pre-Christmas weekend in Germany! We went to Cologne for a few days with my in-laws and my sister-in-law and her boyfriend to see all the Christmas markets. I’m not even kidding. I think we missed one, maybe. It was crowded and cold and not quite as wintery as I would have liked, but it was lovely nonetheless! Cologne is a very nice city. It kind of reminded me of Utrecht, so I felt right at home: the old centre is built around a centuries-old cathedral, there’s little squares and markets everywhere, the narrow old streets are criss-crossed with wide new lanes, and there’s bars on every corner. It’s slightly bigger than Utrecht, though. We walked so much we all had no feet, legs and backs left by the end of the weekend!

The Cathedral itself is amazing! It’s huge! I thought it was the size of St. Paul’s Cathedral, but that’s tiny compared to this behemoth of a church. Apparently you can climb the tower, but they were preparing for a service inside so visitors were only allowed in the back. That gives you all the views of the inside you really need, though.

The outside is blackened after ages of standing in polluted city-air, and looks really ominous in the dark, making the interior all the more spectacular.

The stained glass windows in this place are spectacular. So detailed and colourful!

But we didn’t just go to Cologne for the Dom. We came to see some Christmas markets! Germans love their Christmas markets.

They’re made up of wooden stands that are built like tiny houses, lavishly decorated with lights and ornaments, where they sell all kinds of goodies! Candles, statues, Christmas ornaments, jewellery, paper crafts, puppets or toys…

And weird-as-balls art stands.

And let’s not forget the food! Chocolates, candies, cookies, fudge, but also cheeses and sausages.

Even though the crowds were sometimes downright impossible to navigate, overall, everyone seemed very friendly and happy to be there. I spotted a few carollers (not including the drunk British lady who got on the same tram as we did on the way back to the hotel on Sunday), lots of people in Christmas hats, and even dogs wearing snazzy Christmas coats.

There were large stands selling hot mulled wine (Glühwein) and various types of hot cocoa everywhere, and they were without question the most crowded spots on every market. They sold the hot drinks in adorable little mugs, which you paid a small deposit for at the bar. You could then either get your money back when you finished your drink, or get a new drink in the same mug! Or take it home with you as a souvenir, like I did. Cheers, Cologne! I had a great time.

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Not entirely autumnal

Last Saturday was the hottest beginning of November ever, here in the Netherlands. Down in the south, temperatures went up to in the twenties! In November! Over here, it was only around 17°C, which is still a significant change from the 10-12°C we are used to. It was a gorgeous day, though. It was sunny and warm, there was virtually no wind and the sky was a bright, cloudless blue. It almost felt like the beginning of summer instead of an autumnal Saturday.

I took the opportunity to go out for a nice, long walk around town. I’ve been doing a lot of that, lately. Strap on my hiking boots, fire up my GPS app (what can I say, I like stats. My app tells me where I went, how long it took me, how far I went, and what my speed was!) and head out the door. You don’t need much for walking, just a good pair of shoes and a decent pair of legs. You don’t even need company. In fact, I much prefer to go out by myself: I can choose my own pace, I can listen to music or just to the sounds of wherever it is I’m walking, I can stop for pictures along the way without feeling like I’m holding up the group.

 

But I also like it, because it’s been taking me to places in my own town I’ve never been before. This Saturday, I walked across the golf course to the other side of town along a public footpath, all the way to the other side of town. It was a lovely route to walk! It wasn’t busy on the golf course, I think I saw 10 people in total, but there were an enormous amount of swans and ducks swimming in the ponds and waddling across the grounds (and getting in the way, I’m sure). There were pheasants, and I saw rabbits. And I hadn’t even left town!

 

You could tell that it was already November though, there was a thick carpet of brown and yellow and red and orange leaves covering the fields and the roads. But the sun was warm enough that I could take my jacket off, roll up my sleeves and soak up some much-needed rays. What a contrast with the walk I just took this afternoon, when it was only a measly 7°C, it was just windy enough that the soupy fog of the morning was just about starting to dissipate, and I kept pulling down my sleeves to stop my hands from getting too cold. I can appreciate the more ‘normal’ November weather, though. There’s something about a gloomy, frosty, grey, fogged-up morning that just fits the time of year.

So I’m happy if this was the last we saw of the summer of 2014. Let Autumn reign for a bit, now. She deserves it.

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