Summer Send-off (in Belgium !)

I’m not gonna lie. I had a fantastic summer.

No work. Lots of travel. Still got paid (thank you bankruptcy settlement).

Mid-September I started a new job and you’ll be happy to know that I have been paying the price for my idyllic summer.

Nice to meet you up-at-6-am-with-a-45-min-one-way-commute.

Long story short, I’m still re-adjusting to working life and my other half has that whole ‘I need to finish my PhD’ thing going which means there was little motivation left for the blog – despite the fact that we had a fantastic trip with our friends through The Netherlands & Belgium!

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Side note: the new job is going well. I’ve been there for a month now. And yes, I must learn Dutch for real this time! I’ve started with a tutor – so hopefully there will be more speaking soon. Right now I do a lot of listening… 

Ben & Jen’s visit concluded our summer of visitors. Our first few days were spent in Leiden and Amsterdam where Holland greeted our guests with beautiful weather nothing but rain. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in Leiden city center which had the cutest garden we were never able to use.

At one point it hadn’t been raining for a while, there was blue sky, nice temperature, so we thought “Hey! Let’s sit in the garden!”. We were outside for literally a minute before it started raining again – blue sky and all.

We did eventually get a break in the rain and were able to wander around Leiden.

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We also spent a little bit of time in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Jen picked up a stomach bug on the way to Europe, so she had to sit this one out.

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While showing Ben around, Shane and I were able to get in some ‘Amsterdam firsts’ too.

We went to a local brewery that we’ve been eyeballing for a while, Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Good beer + cool location (in a windmill) makes it a pretty popular hangout.

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We also made it to the Foodhallen, which is an indoor food and drink market located in a converted train depot. We all really enjoyed the Foodhallen because it has anything you could ever want – food and alcohol alike.

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Bitterballen variety plate. Not pictured – the ‘Monkey Balls’ (aka: bacon wrapped meatballs) – which were gone before I remembered to take a picture.

After a few days in The Netherlands, we rented a car and headed to Gent, Belgium with one slight detour on the way. A little backstory, when Shane and I visited London we walked across the upper portion of the Tower Bridge which has the glass floor. Up there was a small exhibit of famous bridges around the world. One of these bridges was the ‘Moses Bridge’ located in the south of The Netherlands. It’s called the Moses Bridge because the bridge itself cuts through the mote around Fort De Roovere. When you cross the bridge, you’re walking through the water – get the name reference now?

Anyway, I needed to see it, but it is in a location that isn’t necessarily easy for us to access from Groningen and particularly so without a car. Luckily for me, it was essentially on our route to Gent, so we stopped!

And boy was I disappointed.

IT WAS FLOODED.

(insert reaction inappropriate for a blog post)

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I don’t wanna talk about it anymore.

Next stop – Gent, Belgium!

Note to anyone visiting Gent. If you see the sign below don’t drive any further or all the grandmas walking in the streets will glare at you while shaking their fingers.

Turns out, Shane was driving in a pedestrian only zone. In his defense, this was the only sign and generally the road color changes when you enter a pedestrian zone. Not so in this case. Oops.

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Once the car was safely parked, we headed off on foot to see Gent like everyone else we passed in the pedestrian zone earlier.

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Waffles were a necessity, naturally.

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Belgium day 2 took us by train from Gent to Brussels for the day. I was particularly excited for Brussels because we scheduled a beer and chocolate tour which was 5 hours of awesome! If you find yourself in Brussels I can’t recommend this tour – The Brussels Journey – enough!

It’s advertised as a two part tour: part 1 – chocolate, part 2 – beer. I honestly expected that during the chocolate portion of our journey that we would have one, maybe two pieces of chocolate per place.

NO MA’AM! (or sir)

In each of the 4 chocolate shops we tried 4-5 pieces each, and our guide – who I unfortunately can’t remember her name because she was FANTASTIC – knew. her. chocolate!

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You know what else our guide knew about? Beer.

Living in Holland, we have tons of Belgium style beers. Dubbel – Tripel – Quadrupel. After three years did I have any idea what that actually meant? Nope. But I do now! And, in keeping with chocolate portion of our tour, the beer part did not skimp on the tastings.

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Additionally, this tour was also part walking tour. As we made our way around the city we were able to see some of the major sites – like the the Grote Markt and Manneken Pis.

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Manneken Pis is surprisingly small and has so many outfits! Over 200 to be exact – enough to dedicate an entire museum to them. As you can see from the pictures below, when we passed by Manneken Pis during the morning he was wearing one outfit.

HE CHANGED CLOTHES by the time we went back with the tour in the afternoon.

Magic I tell ya.

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That night, we said by to Brussels and hopped on the train back to Gent.

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The next day, it was back in the car and back to The Netherlands. This time, to Den Haag and the neighboring beach, Scheveningen.

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Den Haag city center.
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Scheveningen Pier.

It was a little chilly and a little rainy, but the beach was a nice backdrop for our last evening with Ben & Jen.

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And of course, even though it’s really cold they had to at least touch the North Sea.

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And that’s a wrap on Summer 2017!

As always, thanks for coming to hang out with us, friends! 🙂

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Tot ziens,

Whitney

The Best Darn Mom & Sis Trip Ever: Part 1

You know when you anticipate something for so long and then when it’s over you feel like ‘wait…how did that happen?!’ ?  

That’s how this trip felt. Mom & Sis were always going to come visit but we needed to wait until the fall of 2017 (more on that later), so to think we’ve all been waiting for 3 years is kind of crazy!

They packed their bags and came Crosson over the Atlantic for ~2.5 weeks of family fun!

First stop – The Netherlands!

They just COULD NOT wait to get their hands on Meatball!

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She obviously felt the same. 😉

We spent the first few nights in Leiden, which is a city about 40min south of Amsterdam by train. This was perfect because Amsterdam was still accessible, but they were also able to see a city with fewer tourists. Holland was also extremely kind, and gave us sunshine and summer-like temperatures!

Leiden city center

We did, of course, spend time in Amsterdam. We visited the Anne Frank house, the Rijksmuseum, got mom in a clog…

Sidenote: if you ever find yourself visiting the Rijksmuseum I would highly recommend the ‘Highlights of the Rijksmuseum’ guided tour which can be booked through the museum itself. It’s only 5 euros and an hour long, but if you’re like me and tend to look at art and go ‘ooohh…. cooooool’ and move on, it’s nice to have someone explain some of the main pieces.

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Hanging out with Rembrandt and the Night Watch.
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After a few days in the south, we made our way to Winterfell (Groningen) via Bitburg, Germany. I’m not gonna lie. I was not excited about an ~8h car ride versus ~3h but my mom was born in Bitburg and wanted to go back so back we went!

And look how happy that lady is drinking her Bitburger beer in Bitburg!

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She’s giving Dany a run for her money…

After our detour, we spent the remaining days in Groningen showing off our adopted hometown. Most importantly, they braved the crazy and toured around town on bikes! With the average household owning 3 bikes, and the city nicked named “The World’s Cycling City” it’s easy to understand why biking here might be viewed as intimidating.

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Last, but most certainly not least, I couldn’t let them come to The Netherlands without having some proper Dutch food things. This is an area in which I feel that I’ve shorted our previous visitors, and I sincerely apologize.

Dutch food things such as…

Bitterballen!

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Frietjes!

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Hagelslag!

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& Stroopwafels!

And that, in a nutshell, was our week in The Netherlands! Next up, Part 2: London & Scotland for a Harry Potter & Outlander adventure!

Stay tuned…

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Good Times Happen For Those Who Visit

First, I’d like to apologize to my Auntie R for my blog posting slackness. My only excuse is that the weather has been perfect.

Two weekends ago (already?!), Shane and I were thrilled to host 2 new visitors, my Aunt Rebecca and her friend, Marlee!

These two were at the end of ~2 week trip through Slovenia and Croatia and were able to extend their layover in Amsterdam on the way home. Shane and I met them in Amsterdam for the day and then brought them up to Groningen for the weekend.

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We always forget how nice it is to have familiar faces around. 🙂

Our main goal of this trip was the Van Gogh museum.

I’m not gonna lie… Shane and I aren’t exactly the best at art museums. We both like to go, but generally, we move through pretty quickly. This museum was an exception, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Amsterdam!

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 After our day in Amsterdam, we headed north to play tourist in Groningen!

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The Martini Kerk & Martini Toren (church & tower)

As I mentioned before, we have had exceptional weather this year. For the first time since we’ve moved, we were not wearing jackets on June 1st. We even wore SHORTS over the weekend. Trust me, it’s a big deal.

So, taking advantage of this beautiful weather, the four of us spent Saturday walking around Groningen. I must say, it was so much fun to watch Rebecca & Marlee in the market here! The two of them are seasoned travelers and, unlike us when we first started market shopping, were not intimidated at all. Lucky for them, Saturday market generally has a lot of free samples too! 🙂 We also checked out the Prinsenhof Gardens, and, of course, the cheese shops!

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On Sunday, we rented a car and headed about 40 minutes outside of Groningen to the Vesting (Fort) Bourtange. In case your not familiar, it’s a fortified village near the German border and known for its unique shape.

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Arial view of Bourtange. (not my photo, you can thank google images)

Bourtange was first built in 1593. Its original purpose was to protect the only road between Germany and Groningen (which is the province, not only the city), and was controlled by Spain during the 80 years war (1568-1648). It remained in use as a fortress until the late 1800s, when it was converted into a village. Eventually, it was left to deteriorate, but in the 1970’s it was restored to its former glory.

(read this next part dramatically)

Now you can step back in time, to 1742!

And step back in time we did! Rebecca and Marlee happened to be visiting on the annual “Battle of Bourtange” weekend, which is a 400 person reenactment of some of the battles between the Spaniards (who controlled the fort) and the Dutch (who were trying to reclaim it).

Sounds cheesy, but it was actually really fun. The fort/village itself is also really nice and worth a day trip on a sunny day.

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…people were really keen on getting a good view of the reenactment.

(If Shane wasn’t careful, he would have also gotten a good view.

Personal space? naahhh.)

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Come Monday morning, they were on the train heading home.

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It was a quick, but fantastic weekend, and we are so happy you came to visit!

…particularly Meatball. (hah)

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This weekend we are heading to Venice, Italy to meet up with our friends Michelle and Steve! More on that soon.

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Groningen, Paris, & Amsterdam Too !

Guess who came to visit?

If you guessed Shane’s family, then you guessed Wright!

My almost in-laws and nephew (6 more weeks! – not that anyone is counting) made the trek from southwest Virginia to spend 10 days in Europe with Shane, Meatball and me.

Two planes and a train ride later put them here in Groningen for the first portion of the trip. This was their first time to Europe, and I think Groningen was the Wright place to start! They were able to relax a little, recover some from the jet lag, and see our stomping grounds!

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Night 1 and Alex was asleep before dark. In his defense, dark is at 11pm…
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Linnaeusborg at the Zernike campus – Shane’s work.

On the last day in Groningen, we rented a car and hit the road! We drove about 45 min northeast to the village Pieterburen. Groningen, the province, is bordered by the Wadden Sea and the North Sea which are home to Harbor seals and Grey seals, respectively. Pieterburen is most known for it’s ‘Zeehondencentrum’ – translated ‘Sea dogs center’ – aka Seal Rescue Center!

Go ahead, mentally prepare for the cuteness….

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Ohhh Emmmm Geeeee! Told you!

Meet Alice the Harbor seal. Darn adorable Wright? Unfortunately, she made it to the rescue center because she was trapped in a fishing net. She, and the other seals at the facility, are rehabed and then eventually released back into the wild. You can actually sign up to go on a ‘seal release’ expedition, and travel with the rescue center staff to the Wadden Sea (in this case) and watch/help with their release. I’m 100% sure we will take part in this sometime before we leave The Netherlands!

After 4 days in Groningen we packed up and headed for

The City of Light… Paris!

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4 Wrights and a wrong Crosson at the Arc de Triomphe!

Heading to Paris I had three goals:

  1. Macaroons.
  2. Crêpes.
  3. Escargot.

Priorities, am I Wright?

Goal #1 – Macaroons: Check!

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So pretty, so delicious, so expensive!

Goal #2 –  Crêpes: Double Check! 

Goal #3 – Escargot: Fail

…but that’s OK because we ate dinner ON the Eiffel Tower!

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I must give Marsha all the credit here, because she was the one who first told us about this. We spent our first night in Paris on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, enjoying a beautiful sunset view and a delicious dinner. This is something that Shane and I would have seen, and talked ourselves out of doing  had it been just the two of us so thank you Marsha for requesting it! It was definitley the Wright choice!

After dinner we spent some time enjoying the view. Because of dinner, we were too late to go to the summit. Maybe next time.

Oh, and this perfect (completely coincidental) picture happened.

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The next day we headed to the Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It’s located on the highest point in the city, and therefore you have quite a view from the front steps.

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As one might imagine, to get to the highest point in the city you have to climb some steps. By the end of the day we had tallied 65 flights of stairs. There were reasons I needed so many crêpes…

And because we’re a glutton for punishment (OK, I was – Shane and Alex were just drug along for the ride) we hiked up some more steps and into the dome of the basilica! Worth the stairs in my opinion.

In keeping with the church theme, we made a pit stop by Notre Dame on the way back home (and no, we didn’t see the hunchback… unless you count the creatively dressed begger out font). And we ended the day at the Catacombs! These were REALLY cool! I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed this.

The catacombs started out as a limestone mine, but after extensive unregulated mining they ran into the problem of cave-ins. Long story short, in the 19th century the mines were reinforced and turned into an ossuary – aka: Bone house – for approximately 6 million Parisians. The femur bones and skulls were arranged throughout and turned into a public attraction for the privileged and eventually the public. It’s so crazy to walk these passageways and know you’re looking at ACTUAL HUMAN BONES!!! Super cool & I guess kind of creepy?

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Notre Dame!

We started our last day in Paris with a lovely walking tour! (Be proud Aunt Ann!). This one was called ‘Paris Landmarks’. We started at the original Opera House and then worked our way through the Place Vendôme (where the Ritz, Chanel, and other way way fancy stores are), the Tuileries Gardens, and ended in The Place de la Concorde.

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We added to our walking tour with a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens after lunch.

And to wrap up our time in Paris, The Louvre!

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One thing to note about the Louvre. We heard it was huge. No one anticipated just how HUGE this place is! I think the hardest part was finding the Wright entrance once you were inside, and then navigating to where you wanted to go. You literally needed the map. We heard stories of people getting lost in The Louvre, and I can absolutely see why! It took us about 20 min to find the exit once we decided we were ready to leave.

Attention spans and museum opening times only allowed for a few hours here, so we hit some highlights. The Mona Lisa (of course!), Nike, Napoleon III apartments, and the statue room (don’t know what it’s really called).

Last up, Amsterdam!

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Shane and I were so curious for the fam to see Amsterdam and hear their impression. It’s just such a different city than Paris, and even Groningen. Compared to Groningen it’s much busier, more tourists, and a little dirtier (because of the tourists). Amsterdam’s size though can’t really compare to Paris, it’s definitely smaller, and I think it feels more friendly and welcoming. Perhaps that’s just the nature of the Dutch. Anyway, the first two days we hit some major spots.

Dam Square, The Royal Palace, Anne Frank House and THE letters. We even caught a canal cruise! Which was a fantastic decision! I know you can’t catch my oozing sarcasm in that statement but it was a total bust. The heat wave + no breeze + cheesy pre-recorded commentary made for a not so pleasant experience. I mean, Alex fell asleep.

Ya win some, ya lose some, Wright?

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The final day we took a little side trip to Zaanse Schans which is about 30 minutes by bus from Amsterdam. It’s a small town that has kept the same 18-19th century feel, and they have 9 traditional windmills that are still functioning today!

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So! I think that about sums up our trip! I think we picked all the Wright stuff to see for our mini-European vacation!

All in all, this really was a fantastic trip and we were happy to play hosts and tour-guide! I asked the Wrights, which of the three cities they saw was their favorite? To my surprise, it was Groningen! I think I can speak for Butch, Marsha and Alex when I say that they seemed to really enjoy the the ‘city-but-a-small-town’ feel that Groningen has, as well as the variety in the buildings – the old historic houses mixed in with the new.

Like we say after any visitors… who’s next?! The door is always open, and Meatball is waiting!

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Oh, and sorry for the extra long post…

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Look Who We Found !

The Sufrinkos! 😊

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And they were here for 9 days of Shwitastic European fun!

The trip was split into three parts. We started in Groningen, jetted off to Rome for a few days in the middle, and ended in Amsterdam. I’m going to take The Netherlands portion of our adventure. Shane will continue with Rome in another post.

So, like I mentioned we started the trip in Groningen. They got to experience a particularly fun train ride up. First, they started some weekend construction on the route we usually take. Our 2h 15min non-stop train was discontinued for the weekend, and instead we had 2 trains with almost a three hour total travel time. To top it off, we were later than expected because someone cough:shane:cough left for the bathroom then came back on a different escalator. Naturally, he didn’t see us and assumed we were on the train. Do you see where this is going? He watched us standing on the platform through the window of the train as he left for Groningen.

It is beside the point that another someone forgets that they have a functioning phone here in The Netherlands and missed 4 calls and 2 texts.

So, he got off one stop later & caught the train back to us, all before our next train to Groningen arrived!

Here are a few things we did!

(Public Service Announcement: I’m attempting to get fancy with this post. Groups with 4 or more pictures you should be able to click on to view larger and scroll through all at once. Fingers crossed this actually works!)

Gave Brian a Welcome Package

All we’ve heard about for months is how we better have a large stock of Kinder eggs waiting. I think 30 was sufficient. And no, he didn’t make it through all 30.

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Rented Bikes

Shane and I decided renting bikes here in Groningen was better than in Amsterdam. Here, people actually know how to bike as opposed to Amsterdam where (at least where we would have been biking) it would have been mostly tourists and a complete mess.

Ate Pannenkoekens on a Schip!

Obviously they needed a Dutch pancake, and where else better than on a ship! It did come as an unfortunate surprise to Alicia that the ‘Dutch Baby’ pancake she loves at home is absolutely nothing like actual Dutch pancakes.

Drank Fancy Coffee

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Climbed the Martini Tower

Shane and I were pretty excited to take them to this since we had been saving it for their visit! The tower has been in the city center for more than 500 years, but the one we have today is actually the third version. We learned that the first collapsed, and the 2nd was struck by lightning. 311 steps later we made it to the top!

The Martini Toren from the ground.

Now, hop in your time machine and hold on tight. We’re traveling three days in the future….

…to Amsterdam!

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We stayed in the same hotel that Shane and I stayed in during our trip in January, and so we were about a 15 min walk from everything. We…

 Ate Delicious Brunch!

at Bakers and Roasters.

Saw Some Famous Paintings at the Rijksmuseum

Got the Full Heineken Experience

Kind of surprisingly, this was awesome! I guess we assumed that it was going to just be a brewery tour, which it kind of was, but there was a ton of things to do! You start out learning the history of the Heineken brand, then you see an example of the brewery, taste the various parts of the brewing process, and go on a 3D “Be the Brew” ride! Towards the end there were at least 3 different rooms full of ‘Heineken themed’ games or activities.

Alicia Wore Cloggs

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Got Sherlocked!

This was seriously awesome. It’s an escape game called “Sherlocked“. It’s set in Amsterdam’s old stock exchange building. After you’re briefed on the history of the building & the story you’re locked in a room set up with a series of clues and puzzles. The goal? To escape in an hour! Which we did by the way. Well… sort of. We made it to the point where we had the exit key, but none of us thought to put that key in the door marked ‘Exit’. It still counted though.

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Walked (a lot)

A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t have been complete without a little canal walking. This was actually really enjoyable because the weather was fantastic after 5 days of non-stop greater than 100°F/40°C heat. I know, I know, if you’re in the U.S. reading this then you’re rolling your eyes at me right now. I can’t help it! I’ve adjusted to cooler temperatures!

Overall, this was a fantastic trip! We were excited to finally show off Groningen and get some quality friend time! We’ve been here by ourselves so long you forget nice it is to be with old friends.

Stay tuned for Rome!

Tot Ziens,

Whitney

Sooo… This happened last night

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Yep! Shane and I went to Amsterdam to see Taylor Swift in all her 1989 World Tour Glory!!

I know what you’re probably thinking. “You went without your sister!?!” Ok maybe you weren’t thinking that at all, but I feel the need to explain because our sisterly love for each other and Taylor is a bond that can’t be broken. The first time we saw Taylor was during her Red Tour, in Nashville, on Sissy’s birthday, we had pit tickets, and LUKE BRYAN was her guest star (and he touched my hand!) . Basically, we know we will never top that combination so we’re allowed to go without each other if we have to. It’s not the same, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do I suppose…

I digress. What you were probably thinking is “You got Shane to go to Taylor Swift?!?”.

Short Answer?

Yes.

How you ask?

I bought the tickets while he was in Africa.

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But for real. He was excited. While I can say for certain that he would have never purchased tickets for himself, he was curious to see what all the Taylor-mania (mostly coming from me) was all about. So Sunday night we trained down to the Ziggo Dome just outside of Amsterdam!

Observation #1. The Ziggo dome is horrible at getting people in the door!

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Maybe this was a unique circumstance, but there were only 2 entrances. 3 doors for the south entrance & 3 for the north. If you happened to be so lucky as to get in the wrong line then your ticket wouldn’t scan and you were promptly sent to the back of the other line. Made no sense, but we did end up with some time to kill which brings me to ‘why do cool things never happen to us’ story number 1.

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Oh, you know. That’s us. Just casually having a few pre-show time-killers. What you don’t see in this picture is that sitting directly behind us is TAYLOR SWIFT’S BASS PLAYER.

I know right?!?!

We’ve gotten pretty good at picking out North American accents, and I noticed this guy talking to a couple of girls by the door. I noticed him because his accent was clearly not Dutch, and because he kind of looked like Ben Stiller. So, a little time passes and Ben Stiller and co. move from the door to the seats next to us. Shane and I are debating at this point if we wanted to get another time-killer or if we should suck it up and brave the line when we both overhear this other guy say he’s not worried about getting in yet. Taylor’s bass player is still sitting there (nods in Ben Stiller’s direction). Huh. Interesting, but we didn’t really think too much of it since really, what would be the odds of that? Well they were pretty damn good because here’s our good friend Ben up on stage!

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So yeah, that happened.

And this happened!

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Turns out I accidentally bought tickets in the section next to the catwalk!

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Which brings me to ‘why do cool things never happen to us’ story number 2! In case you don’t know, after every show Taylor meets with a group of hand picked fans in a special meet and greet (called Loft ’89 this year). When I say hand picked, I mean usually by her mom. We (I… Shane had no idea what she looked like) saw Mama Swift walking around the floor and I knew what she was up to. Later during the show, as I’m dancing and singing my little heart out Mama Swift and 2 guys helping her stop right next to Shane. He turns, curious about what’s going on, and TALKS TO MAMA SWIFT! They have a brief little ‘Hey’-smile-and-nod interaction and then they leave to go find some other lucky fan. As they are walking away I happened to turn to Shane, see her walking off, and tell him who that is. His response? ‘Oh! We just said hey to each other’!

I know. What’s the big deal right? I get it. There really wasn’t much to that story, but it was the closest I’ve ever been to almost maybe getting picked! Therefore, it was cool.

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Instead of going to Loft ’89 we took this incredibly creepy picture during the show. See that platform? She’s on top of it directly above us. This is a “OMG this is the closest I’m ever going to get to Taylor!” selfie. Shane’s going to be disappointed that I just used the word selfie.

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Long story short, 1989 was just as impressive as the Red tour!

Taylor, if you ever happen to read this, your golden glitter catsuit was the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Speaking of Kitties. Couldn’t go a whole post without one.

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Tot Ziens!

Whitney

Happy New Year !

  We Went to Amsterdam!

The view from central station.

Well, not for New Year’s Eve. We stayed here in Groningen for that which was an experience in itself. Fireworks are legal here for only three days (Dec 30 – Jan 1) and during that time you can expect to hear them non-stop. The legal fireworks aren’t so huge but they make a lot of noise. To top that off you can easily drive over the boarder to Germany and buy the giant ones we are accustomed to. The difference is they aren’t set off in a controlled situation. They are set off in the middle of the streets and in between buildings resulting in the city sounding like its being bombed. Granted, I’ve (fortunately) never been in an actual bombing so I realize it’s not the same, but the point is it’s non stop fireworks for 24 hours. Enough to scare the sh*t out of the cat and make her needier than usual. Top that off with bonfires (that included bikes) in the streets and ya got yourself a Dutch New Year’s Eve party!

Cat’s opinion on the fireworks… Not. Cool.

Anyway, back to Amsterdam!

For my birthday Shane surprised me with an overnight trip to….. somewhere! All he told me was to pack a bookbag because on Saturday we were catching a train at 10am. We had to change trains about 30 min away, but until then I had no idea where we were going. We arrived around noon, and started walking to find our hotel.

Unbeknownst to him, the hotel Shane booked is a historic landmark!

We stayed in the Hotel Amstelzicht, on the Amstel Canal, and is one of the “Dancing Houses”. Apparently, when it was built in 1659 (whoa) it was built on wooden stilts. It’s location next to the canal and the sandy/swampy land caused the houses to shift and “dance”. They have been fully restored so you don’t feel it, but you can see the obvious tilt in the house!

After checking in and dropping our stuff we headed out to wander. First stop was Dam Square, which is the historic center of the city. On one side of the square is the Royal Palace which was first constructed as the City Hall during the 17th century. Later it became the Royal Palace, home to King Louis Napoleon, and now is used for Royal events amongst other things. Across from the Royal Palace is the National Monument dedicated to World War II. Dam Square is also home to the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) which we forgot to get a picture of.

From Dam Square you could wander straight into the Red Light District. We sort of knew what to expect since Groningen also has a Red Light District, but Amsterdam’s was much larger, and looked to be… aahem… of higher quality. If you catch my drift. One thing we didn’t anticipate was the number of families walking through with their children. I mean, I realize that we as Americans are very conservative as compared to Eurpoeans with this stuff, but I just can’t ever picture saying ‘Hey! Family stroll through the Red Light District?…. Sure!’.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Rembrandt Square people watching and playing around.  Oh, and we found a hole in the wall (yes, sounds sketchy) sushi place which ended up not only being delicious, but our table overlooked the canal.

In the evening we headed back towards Central Station for Shane’s surprise birthday activity. A canal tour! Amsterdam is currently holding it’s third annual Light Festival, and Shane booked a tour specifically to see the various art displays. Needless to say, I was excited!

It was hard to get good pictures in the dark on a boat….but it was fun! Each piece of art was representative of the city in some way, and a lot of them were interactive with the public. For example, the tulips are originally under the water, but as pedestrians pass by they can pedal certain bike pedals on the bridge. This causes the flowers to rise up out of the water and light up. They stopped pedaling, and the flower went back into the water. We both agree we would like to do another canal tour, but one that is more focused on sightseeing or history of the city.

Day 2: Woke up to SUNSHINE!

This is kind of rare this time of year so we were up early to take advantage of it!

First stop, the I amsterdam sign at the Rijksmuseum! We unfortunately didn’t have enough time to go in this museum because we THOUGHT we were going to see the Anne Frank house (more on that soon), but its a must see when we come back.

Next stop, Anne Frank House!

Just Kidding! Yeah, if you look closely across the canal you will notice the line to get in. It turns the corner and goes all the way to the next block. We heard it was this crazy during peak season, but we thought we would be ok this time of year. Didn’t take into consideration it was a holiday weekend. Oh well. Note to self: buy tickets ahead of time. I guess technically we did seeeeeeeee the Anne Frank house. (1st house on the left in the picture above).

Since that was a fail, we decided to get breakfast then check out the Amsterdam Museum. This was nice since we were both wanting a little history after the canal cruise the night before. Wrap your mind around this: Amsterdam was an established city 789 years before the United States had it’s first president. It’s crazy to think about it like that!

After that, we headed home. For only 28 hours I think we really packed in a lot. We certainly walked a ton, and we didn’t even get close to seeing everything there is. Hurry and come visit so we have an excuse to go back!

Tot Ziens!

Whitney