Airport Anxiety

Every time I approach an airport, my stomach flips and then fills with butterflies. Big ones. It’s that kind of feeling you get when you are sitting on a roller coaster that’s about to begin. It doesn’t matter which airport, if I am coming or going, or if I am dropping someone off or picking them up. I always have the same feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach as soon as an airport comes into sight.

I’m not afraid of flying, actually I love it, and surprisingly over the past 20+ years of frequent flying, I have never missed a flight. So I cannot say that this is the cause for my airport anxiety. There is something else that is sparking this automatic response every time I am in the vicinity of an airport.

I began to notice this feeling about fifteen years ago when I took my husband (then boyfriend) to the Melbourne International airport. He was about to begin a contract onboard a cruise ship and, for the first time, I would not be going with him. I had recently begun a business administration course and fully intended to complete it. Which in turn, also meant that we would be apart for almost six months. Six months! That feeling of pure dread as we approached the airport was so strong. I had felt nerves when heading to the airport before, but nothing like this. My stomach was flipping, I felt sick to my stomach, my heart was pounding and the tears were overflowing at the thought of saying goodbye. We parked the car in the short term parking and went inside the terminal with him to check in his luggage. We knew that we needed to head to the departure gate and security, but that also meant having to say goodbye, so we delayed and avoided heading in that general direction for as long as possible. This hour or so was torturous. From this point onwards, I would always have a feeling of dread when driving into an airport.

I began to associate airports with saying goodbye to someone I loved. Being Australian and having a Dutch partner meant that we have often had to say goodbye to each other at one airport or another over the years. Not to mention the countless times I have had to say goodbye to my family when flying out of Australia. This now means that even when flying together with my husband and children for a family holiday, or picking someone up that I am excited to see, I still have that same feeling in my stomach! So it seems that this response has been imprinted and no matter the reason for being at the airport, my stomach always flips and the nerves set in as soon as I see the signs for Arrivals and Departures.

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The Emotional Turmoil of Terminals

Airports are simply oozing with emotions. Whether it be couples waiting for each other at the arrival gates, or families separating at departures. Wherever you are in any airport, you will always see both happy and sad tears all around you. I am convinced that this is the cause of my airport anxiety. It’s the anticipation of the emotions that come with being there, at the airport, in the first place. Over the years, I have found a couple of simple tricks that seem to help with my airport anxiety.

Drops Offs – Make them Quick

We have since realised that a quick drop and go works much better for us. We don’t even park the car in the airport parking garage anymore. If we ever need to drop each other off at the airport, we simply drive up to departures, stop the car where we can (keeping the ignition on), unload the luggage, give a quick kiss and cuddle goodbye, then leave. Short and sweet is the key to an easier goodbye.

Just Breathe

Taking a few deep breaths can make all the difference. I know, it sounds so simple, but it’s often the simplest things that are the most effective. As soon as I begin to feel anxious, a few deep breaths really do wonders. Once you’ve arrived at the airport on time, have gone through security and found your gate, take the time to find a seat, put your phone away, close your eyes and breathe. Breathing deeply can slow down your heart rate, relax your body, and ease you out of anxiety mode.

Recognise Your Trigger

So I have figured out the root to my airport anxiety. However, there are many other reasons why people suffer from airport anxiety – which is an actual thing by the way. A few examples of other triggers can be getting there on time, the crowds, security, the queues, finding your gate, taking off and landing, and finding your bags at the other end.  Once you recognise what your trigger is, you may be able to discover a way to minimise the anxiety associated with it; arriving early with plenty of time to spare, or traveling with hand luggage only when possible for example.

Do you suffer form airport anxiety and, if so, what do you think the main trigger is for you?

Kristen

Ships in the Port of Rotterdam

Did you know that the Rotterdam harbour is actually the largest port in Europe, stretching over a distance of 40 kilometres? From 1962 until 2004 it was also the world’s busiest port, now overtaken by Singapore and then Shanghai.

Not only is it one of the busiest and biggest container ports, but the port of Rotterdam is also a very popular cruising destination, with several ships visiting on a regular basis throughout the cruising season.

Between April and October 2017, you will regularly see ships such as the Aida Prima (the one with the giant red lips), the MS Rotterdam from Holland American Line, and the Queen Elizabeth from Cunard cruising in and out of Rotterdam, plus many more!

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Love to travel, but hate to fly? Cruising could be the perfect solution and here are a few examples of the possibilities from Rotterdam in 2017!

-This Summer, the city of Rotterdam can look forward to the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth from Cunard. The Queen Elizabeth will make several 14 day cruises from Rotterdam to the British Isles, then back to Rotterdam.

-HAL offer various 7, 14 and 21 day cruises on the MS Rotterdam, that include ports of call in Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Scotland. Most of the itineraries for the MS Rotterdam this spring and summer begin and end in Rotterdam.

-The AIDA prima runs 7 day cruises from and two Rotterdam, visiting Hamburg, Brussels, Paris and Southampton.

Temping hey?!

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However, you do not necessarily need to go on a cruise to enjoy the ships coming in and out of Rotterdam. Just as we love to do, find a nice spot along side the nieuwe waterweg and simply enjoy the view. You can check out the anticipated arrival and departure dates and times here on Rotterdam’s Cruise Calendar:

http://www.cruisekalender.eu/Rotterdam/

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Enjoy the upcoming 2017 cruising season!

Kristen

Dutch Courage

When you speak more than one language, you tend to have slightly different personalities when speaking each one. For example, in English, I am usually quite an outgoing, social person. However, when speaking Dutch, I can be quite reserved and lack confidence. Last Saturday night, once again my Dutch was put to the test….

One of my neighbours invited me over to celebrate her birthday. I walked in to a room full of Dutch woman, all sitting around the living room and I soon realised that this was going to be a 100% dutch language kinda night.

The first hour, I was a little reserved. I just enjoyed sitting back and listening to the conversations around me. You see, listening to Dutch being spoken is no problem, I can understand almost everything. Speaking on the other hand, is a whole other ball game. Plus, it can be quite intimidating in a group setting. As I took my first sip of wine, I slowly began working up the courage to speak out loud in front of these ten or so Dutch woman, most of whom I’d never met. Occasionally I would add a few words to the conversation here and there, but I intentionally avoided long sentences or long stories. I needed more wine for that.

As I sat there in the circle, sipping on my second glass of wine for some more dutch courage, I slowly began speaking more openly. Telling them who I was and answering questions about how on earth an Aussie can end up in the Netherlands. I told them my story, but the whole time I was secretly imagining them internally critiquing my bad grammar or choice of words.

With each sip of wine, my confidence was slowly growing. But still, before speaking, I would go over each sentence in my mind, fix it where I thought may be necessary, and then finally speak it out loud. After my third glass of wine, I began to care less about what they might be thinking of my language skills, and became more like my normal chatty self. Less withdrawn, and more impulsive.

After my fourth glass, all restraints had gone out the window. My mouth began chatting away before my brain had even had a chance to evaluate a plan of action (which is how I typically function in English, getting myself into trouble sometimes). When this happens, it can sometimes mean that my Dutch is actually better. But it also means that I can sometimes talk myself into a corner.. I begin my sentence with full enthusiasm, only to realise half way in, that I actually have no idea how to say what I wanted to say! But it’s too late, I had already started talking and end up, stuck for words, with twenty eyes on me, waiting for the rest of my sentence that either did not eventuate, or came out eventually – completely wrong. But it’s all good. Thanks to the lovely wine I’d been drinking, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn, and I laugh it off. Temporary brain fart. It’s ok, I’ve got this, my Dutch is fabulous!…. onto the next conversation!…. thank you lovely wine.

Cheers,

Kristen

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Fun Fact:  “Dutch courage” is basically alcohol induced self-confidence. To have an alcoholic drink right before a task you are dreading. This term originates from a time when England was fighting a war alongside the Dutch. The English soldiers noticed that Dutch sailors took their alcohol allowance just before battle, whereas the English Royal Navy men drunk throughout the whole day.

*By no means do I condone the excessive intake of alcohol for the sole use of increasing one’s abilities to speak Dutch – but it sure does help 🙂

Vienna with Kids

Yesterday we celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary in Vienna! We usually celebrate our anniversary each year with a child-free weekend away, but this year we decided to take the kids along. We were able to find flights with Transavia for just 33 euros from the Rotterdam airport to Vienna, so we thought..why not!?

Vienna, Austria’s capital, is surprisingly child friendly; making this very formal European city a nice choice for families. Even though the kids insisted upon climbing up onto every single art sculpture and fountain we passed, overall, they were pretty good. We spent an enjoyable two nights and two days in this city and this is how we explored it.. kids in tow.

Upon our Arrival..

We arrived in Vienna in the evening around 20:00, and a taxi from the airport into the city centre cost us €35 (an alternative option is the train for €7-11 p.p). The idea of the four of us bunking into one hotel room together did not appeal to us at all. We have tried and tested this several times before and every time it’s a total disaster. For the same price as a hotel room, we were able to find a fabulous two bedroom apartment in a beautiful historical building in the centre of Vienna; an easy ten minute stroll into the inner city centre, and just around the corner from the university, closest bus stop and metro station!

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Knowing very well that the kids would not be up for too much walking, we bought a 48 hour pass for the city’s hop-on-hop-off bus service. This allowed us easier access to all of the main sights in and around the city. You may also opt for the city ring tram, which is more affordable than the bus; however, it is a non stop 25 minute tour giving you a quick overview of the city without the flexibility of the hop-on-hop-off bus. There is also the metro of course, which is super easy to use but then you see nothing on route from A to B.

Beware: the bus stops are a single pole, which can be easily overlooked. The first morning, we misread the map and accidentally went on an hour long walkabout trying to find the closest bus stop, which ended up being just around the corner from our apartment! Whoops! My bad. But we definitely walked off those croissants! On the bus there is free wifi and you can listen to an audio in your choice of several languages (a new kids channel is also available). Even though we still did a lot of walking during our time in Vienna, the bus passes were fantastic and I was very grateful for them. It is also worthwhile looking into the Vienna Pass, which not only includes access to the hop-on-hop-off bus, but also free entry to over 60 top attractions.

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The city of Vienna is full of so much history. It’s artistic and intellectual legacy was shaped by residents including Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. More famous composers have lived in Vienna than in any other city – music is literally in the air. Waltzes, musicals and operettas have their home here. The Vienna Philharmonic orchestra for one, acts as ambassador of Viennese music around the globe – at concerts such as the New Year’s Concert and the Summer Night Concert. The Summer Night Concert is an open-air event for 100,000 visitors, with free admission and set against the fabulous backdrop of Schönbrunn Palace. Which then brings me to the first stop of our adventure…

Day 1: Palaces and Animals

On the morning of our first day in Vienna, we did a full round trip on the bus, which gave us a good overview of the city. From there, we could decide what we would like to discover first!  There was one particular building that really caught our attention. Our first stop was at the impressive Schönbrunn Palace.

Schönbrunn Palace

More commonly referred to as “Sisi’s palace”, as this was Empress Sisi’s former summer residence. The 1500-odd room palace has a 300 year history as a former imperial summer residence and is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in Austria. The palace is quite a way out of the city centre, but completely worth the trip out!

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A Children’s Museum is also located on the ground floor of the palace, where you can learn more about the everyday life of the imperial family. Children can also try on imperial clothing and play with imperial toys. But there is so much more. The gardens and forests surrounding the palace are massive. The kids would have loved running through the “labyrinth” but unfortunately the maze was closed for the winter. Also located on the palace grounds, is the worlds oldest zoo, Tiergarten Schönbrunn.  Although it was a beautiful zoo, many of the animal pens seemed to be empty for the winter. The young panda twins were definitely a highlight though!!

The old pavilion at the centre of the zoo

Really, you could spend a whole day here on the palace grounds. But as we only had two days in Vienna, we continued on with our exploration of this beautiful city. You can find out more about the Schönbrunn Palace, including ticket prices here. You can also buy tickets combining entrance to the palace and the zoo.

Belvedeere Complex

Located along the same bus line as the Schönbrunn Palace is the impressive Belvedeere Complex. Composed of two Baroque palaces and surrounded by stunning gardens; once again, one could spend an entire day at Belvedeere and still not absorb all of it’s magnificence. Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), successful general and art connoisseur, had Belvedere palace built as his summer residence, which now houses Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present day.

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State Opera Theatre

Our next stop was the Vienna State Opera Theatre, which is considered one of the most important opera houses in the world; in particular, it is the house with the largest repertoire. We decided not to see a concert during this trip – our children are not quite at the age where they would fully appreciate it.

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Purchasing the bus passes also enables you to join a short guided walking tour free of charge (which begins and ends at the State Opera Theatre each day). However, by this stage we had already walked quite a lot, the kids were tired and so we decided not to skip it and sit down for a nice dinner instead.

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Day 2: Prater and City Centre

For our second day in Vienna, we wanted to explore more of the city centre. However, first we had promised our kids something that they were really looking forward to…So after breakfast, we hopped back onto the bus, and our next stop was of course.. the iconic Vienna Ferris Wheel.

The Giant Vienna Ferris Wheel

Located in the area of Prate, this giant ferris wheel marks the entrance to the Prater amusement park, heaven on earth for children. The ferris wheel was originally built more than 100 years ago! During the war, it was burned down, but luckily in 1945 it was rebuilt (at the same time as St. Stephen’s Cathedral, State Opera House and the Burgtheater). I knew very well that a ride on this iconic ferris wheel would be inevitable for our family, so I had pre-purchased tickets online to save time at the register. The views over the city were breathtaking!

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Entry to this huge amusement park is free, and then you pay a small fortune for each ride you go on. We discovered upon our arrival that most of the rides do not open until March 20! Which for our kids, felt like going into a candy store and not being able to have any candy. Luckily one or two other rides were open to keep the kids happy.

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Once we got that out of our system and the kids were satisfied, we then headed back into the centre to explore some more historical buildings.

From the bus stop, it was a short walk through the pedestrian zone, the Kärntner Strasse, to the famous St. Stephan’s Cathedral. Vienna was badly damaged during WWII. Many of the old buildings were bombed to the ground and were later rebuilt. You can see this clearly as you stroll the streets; old and new buildings almost alternate. Vienna is a very impressive and wealthy city, full of beautiful buildings and beautiful people. The streets are lined with the kind of high-end stores of which you do not dare to enter with kids (Prada, Louis Vuitton etc.).

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the symbol of Vienna and also where Mozart was married. Construction commenced in the 12th century and today it is one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria. While heavily damaged in WWII, the church survived. Entrance to the cathedral is free, and for a fee (if you are feeling up to it), you can climb the 343 steps up to the tower and enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. On the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, colorful roof tiles were laid to create the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna. A visit to the very impressive St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a must for every visitor to Vienna.

Hofburg

The Hofburg is the former imperial palace. In the photo below you can see some of the old city wall which has been discovered and is over 2000 years old! Inside the Hofburg, you can also find the famous Sisi Museum.

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Rathaus (Town Hall)

Built between 1872 and 1883, this neo-Gothic town hall is the seat of Vienna’s municipal administration. The City Information Center offers tours of the State Rooms three times weekly. The square in front hosts year-round events, including the world-famous Christmas Markets. While we visited, a huge ice-skating rink was set up in this area between the Rathaus and the Berg-theater.

We noticed that in Vienna, there did not seem to be very many restaurants or cafés compared to other cities we’ve visited. If you felt like stopping for a drink or something to eat, you really had to go hunting for somewhere to do this. We found this quite unusual. But once we did find a nice place to eat, the kids enjoyed some delicious Austrian foods such as Frankfurter sausages and Kaiserschmarrn pancakes.

After all the walking, if you are tired and need to sit down, it may also be handy for you to know that the only place you will find bench seats to rest on are in the parks. There are no seats in the city centre along the streets or in the shopping district. Luckily there are some lovely parks close by, such as the Wolksgarden, Stadt Park, Rathaus Park or the Donaupark across the river where the kids can play whilst mum and dad sit for a moment of rest.

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Rathaus Park – A great park for the kids to play between the Rathaus and the University.

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Overall, we enjoyed our time in Vienna but I think it would be nicer to visit during the warmer months when the parks and gardens are greener, and more cafe terraces and attractions are open.

If you are a lover of classical music, then Vienna should most certainly be added to your bucket list.

When I think back to our time in this city, I will fondly remember sitting with my family at a little table in front of a restaurant, eating a Wiener schnitzel and listening to a woman singing opera music in the music-arts school next door. The window to the room she was singing in was wide open and we were enjoying it…. until our son spontaneously sang back to her in a loud operatic over the top style, and then the window was quickly closed haha! I guess they didn’t appreciate his singing after all.

Kristen

When in Bruges….

There is a small Belgium city that has captured my heart. There is just something about the city of Bruges, or Brugge as the Dutchie’s call it, that I love. Maybe it is the canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Or maybe it’s the beer and chocolate. Whatever it may be, I have visited the city twice and want to go back yet again. It is a city that is full of character and cosines, and just seems to be bursting with romance.

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Here are my top three tips of what to do when in Bruges…

 

1. Horse and Carriage Ride and/or Canal Boat Tour

When in Bruges, one must experience either a horse and carriage ride or a canal boat tour. Both are wonderful! Its certainly not a huge city, but doing a tour at the beginning of your visit will give you a good idea of where everything is located. The horse carriage ride is expensive (50 euros) but sharing a carriage with another couple/family and splitting the cost makes it more affordable. The tour will last about thirty minutes, giving you a great overview of the city. A canal boat tour is about 7 euros per person and a wonderful way to see the city from another perspective.

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2. Taste the Local Beer

Just off the main town square, set inside the narrowest street of Bruges, visit the De Garre Beer Tasting Cafe. Very cosy and very old! Loved it. They have hundreds of different beers to taste and delicious little snacks to go with them. Be sure to taste their very own beer and also the beer from city of Bruges, the Brugse Sot. This little hidden gem with its charming wooden interior is right in the heart of the historic centre, yet hidden down this quiet and very narrow alleyway, so it’s easy to walk right past without even knowing it. De Garre is one cafe not to miss.

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3. Eat and Drink Chocolate

A bit of an obvious tip when visiting Belgium, but I think I may have discovered the best chocolate cafe in Bruges, De Proeverie Tea-Room. Go there and order the hot chocolate with chocolates on the side. Their scones are also a.maze.balls! You will not regret it. Their Belgian chocolate is to die for — my mouth is literally watering just thinking about it — and their ‘hot chocolate on a stick’ is made from some of the highest quality chocolate in Belgium. The tea-room’s sister store, Chocolaterie Sukerbuyc, sits right across the street, and produces the chocolate used in this amazing drink. This store is the oldest chocolate business in Bruges and uses 100% pure cocoa butter.

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Bruges is just a two hour drive from Rotterdam! So if you have a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion coming up, perhaps even for Valentines Day, I’d suggest you try to find a babysitter for the weekend, and visit the city of Bruges with the one you love. Yes, it is also a great city to visit together with your kids, but let’s face it, the romance level will be inevitably higher when in Bruges child free  🙂

Kristen

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The Hell of ’63

Have you heard of the Elfstedentocht? Literally translating to the Eleven Cities Marathon, this is a 200km ice-scating race held in the northern province of Friesland. This marathon is the biggest natural ice-scating tour in the world and it tours through eleven historical cities.

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The thing is, it is only held when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimeters thick. When the ice is thick enough, the tour is announced and then it begins within 48 hours. Every year, the Dutch hope with all of their hearts that the race will be able to go ahead. History has shown that the Elfstedentocht was somtimes held on consecutive years, but then at other times, there can be gaps of 20 or more years where the event could not be held. We are currently in one of those gaps, with this year marking 20 years since the last race (in 1997). It was a great event and a spectacle that attracted an estimated two million people to the province of Friesland and approximately 2,000 reporters from all over the world.

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The year of 1963 was a significant one. The Elfstedentocht of 1963 became known as “The hell of ’63” when only 69 of the 10,000 participants were able to finish the race! This was due to the extremely low temperatures that year, with the average temperature hovering around -18 °C, and there was also a very harsh easterly wind. Conditions were so horrendous that year, that the 1963 winner, Reinier Paping, became a national hero, and that year’s tour itself became legendary.

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So legendary in fact, that the Dutch have made a movie about it. ‘De Hel van ’63’ is a fantastic movie. It gave me a real insight into the Elfstedentocht, what is involved in completing this race, the determination required, rules to abide by, and the pure Dutch pride felt by all those who take part in the race. Even if you think your Dutch is not up to it, please give it a go and watch this movie. You will enjoy it more than you expect!

Kristen

To be, or not to be (Dutch)?

To become a Dutch citizen or not?  That is the question.

To apply for a Dutch passport via Naturalisation (the legal act or process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country), you must meet at least the following two main requirements*:

  1. Be living in the Netherlands for five years (three years if married to a Dutch citizen)
  2. Show that you can read, write, speak and understand the Dutch language. One method of proving this is by passing the inburgeringsexamen (civil integration exams).
*There are additional requirements you must meet in order to become a Dutch citizen, which you can read here.
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Due to the fact that;

  1. I have now been living in the Netherlands for almost six years.
  2. I have been married to and living together with a Dutch citizen for ten years.
  3. I have passed the inburgeringsexamen.

..it means that I have actually been eligible to apply for a Dutch passport for over two years now. I was aware of this; however, due to the cost of applying for a Dutch passport via naturalisatie (almost one thousand euros!), I have been putting it off.

Now that my five year temporary residence permit is due for renewal this year, I am re-evaluating my options.  After speaking with the IND, they have confirmed that I have two options…

  • Apply for an onbepaalde visum to become a permanent resident for a fee of 159 euros (and 51 euros every five years thereafter to continue to renew).
  • Apply for a Dutch passport via the gemeente (with the IND making the final decision). The fee for this application is now 855 euros and I would be required to attend a naturalisatieceremonie (naturalization/citizenship ceremony). NOTE: This whole process can take up to ten months, so check when your visa expires!

Either option allows me to remain in the Netherlands. As far as I can tell, the only main differences between the two (apart from the significant difference in cost), is that with a Dutch passport I could vote (meh) and work for the police force (not happening). If I had been living in the Netherlands for fifteen years or more continuously, the fee for citizenship would have been significant less. Like 800 euros less.

In any case, the sense of comfort and relief that would come with having an EU passport is priceless and I am the only member of our family who does not hold a Dutch passport. As a non-EU citizen, it would be wonderful to be in a position where I can hold an EU passport in one hand and my Australia passport in the other.

For many, to become a Dutch citizen, it also means that they must be prepared to renounce their nationality. Thankfully, as an Australian married to a Dutch man, if I were to apply for Dutch citizenship, I would not be required to sacrifice my original nationality, as unfortunately many others must. To me, that would be an impossible choice, so I’m relieved that I am in a situation where I no not have to make it. I am proud to be Australian and would never want to give this up. At the same time, I really like the idea of being part of a citizenship ceremony here in the Netherlands. I think it would be a very proud moment.

So…to be a Dutch citizen, or a Dutch resident??  Decisions, decisions…

I will let you know once I decide. What did you decide on if you were faced with this decision?

Kristen

 

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Remembrance Tattoos

During my most recent trip back to Australia, my sisters, mum and myself wanted to do something really special together to remember and honour our youngest sister/daughter that we lost to meningococcal meningitis in the year 2000.

The four of us agreed that we would like to get a small remembrance tattoo. We had been talking about it for several months and in the end, we all agreed upon the following design…

15492440_10155569302997542_577546107262250199_nFour swallows to represent four sisters/daughters. The fourth little ‘bird’ is not fully there but will always be with us in spirit. The swallow represents love, care, loyalty and affection towards family and friends.

As far as location goes, we wanted the tattoo to be somewhere where we could always look at it, so we chose the wrist.

So on December 20th 2016, on what would have been Caylee’s 31st birthday, we did it!! For mum, even though it was her first ever tattoo, she jumped right in and offered to go first without hesitation.

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The tattoo artist did such a fabulous job, keeping the birds as small as possible without loosing any of the detail. We love our little birds!

Although I live on the other side of the world to my mum and two sisters, this tattoo makes me feel constantly connected to them; as though they are always with me and that we are always thinking of each other.

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Tattoos are not for everyone and it is so important to think carefully about what you put on your body before you do it. They are permanent after all. Tattoos can however, be a great way of preserving memories, expressing yourself and remembering those you love. Do you have a remembrance tattoo? Perhaps a tattoo to honour someone or somthing? If so, I’d love to hear what you chose and why.

Kristen

Making Time to Play

Last weekend, my six year old son was given a bright orange balloon. He brought it home, and we played a game together where we hit the balloon to each other across the living room, not letting it touch the ground. We laughed our heads off as we dove for that balloon. I really enjoyed playing with him.

Every day since, all he wants to do when we are home is play that balloon game. Now that’s good and all, but I have things I need to do when I’m home from work. Things I need to get done around the house. I work full time, so for the little time that I am home, there is a list of tasks that must be done. The majority of times that he’d ask me to play with him, I’d respond with I can’t right now, I have to fold the laundry, sorry I need to empty the dishwasher, I’m cooking dinner at the moment, sorry I have to make the school lunches etc. etc. etc. You get the picture. Believe me, I’d much rather be playing with that balloon and my son, but my mind convinces me that I have too many other responsibilities and chores to get done first.

He is so happy when I do play with him, which is why he keeps nagging me to do it every ten minutes. It would be a sad moment if he didn’t want to play with me anymore. I know that I should make the most of it while it lasts. Yet, I still find it difficult to make it a priority when other things still need to be done.  So often I think, first I will get all my jobs done around the house, and then I will play with him. But before I know it, I’ve run out of time.

But what is more important? Getting the laundry washed and folded, serving dinner on time, or making special memories together with my son? I guess that I still need to learn that some things can wait, but I find it so hard to just put it down and play. Us adults do need to play more often; Forget our daily duties for a moment, and take some time out to enjoy the little things in life such as swinging on a swing, or hitting a balloon. It’s not being lazy, it’s being smart and it’s being a good mum. I’m still working on that.

Kristen

Winter Wonderland at Efteling

Efteling is a fantasy-themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel, the Netherlands. The attractions are based on elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, fables, and folklore. Truly a one of a kind theme park that the entire family can enjoy.

Every year over the Winter months, Efteling transforms into a magical Winter Wonderland! No matter how many times you have visited this theme park, ‘Winter Efteling‘ is a whole new experience that should not be missed. The park really does transform. Although we visited Efteling just last summer, the last time we have visited the Winter Efteling was December 2010, so I’d love to go again soon. They make it so warm and inviting with thousands of twinkling fairy lights, open fires are scattered throughout the park to warm your hands by, Christmas tunes are playing, and there is hot chocolate, pea soup and Unox sausages in abundance to keep your tummy’s warm and satisfied.

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In addition, there is also an indoor ice skating rink called the Ijspaleis (skates can be rented for €4.50), a super fun snow slide (for children up to 12 years old) and a 450 metre cross country ski track!!

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Why not make the whole experience even more memorable and stay overnight in  one of Efteling’s fairy-tale themed hotel or apartments! The themed suites at the hotel are always a hit with the kids. An overnight stay at Efteling always includes unlimited access to the park, free parking, early access to the park to beat the crowds, and free entry for children up to 3 years old. More information on accommodation options can be found here.

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All rides will remain open for the Winter Efteling, with the exception of ‘De Vliegende Hollander’ water coaster and the Piraña river rapids ride. There are rides for the biggest dare devil and also plenty of options of their youngest guests or not so brave alike 🙂 Take a walk through the fairytale forest, watch a Christmas play, or check out the fairies inside the Droomvlucht chairlift ride. You can see the full list of attractions here.

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Winter Efteling is open from 14 November 2016 – 31 January 2017 (including Christmas Day!), from 11:00 – 18:00. So brave the cold weather this Winter, rug up, and head to the Winter Efteling. Let’s hope for snow this year.

Have fun!

Kristen

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