Sunday, July 5, 2015

Happy 4th of July and Spring Break Part 2 (I'm a little behind!)

Happy 4th of July, Y'all! It was so fun to see all the fun posts on Instagram and Facebook of everyone's festivities.  We gathered with fellow American friends and had a picnic in the forest, rode bikes through "Narnia," ate ice cream, jumped on the trampoline with sprinklers, and just had a grand old time. So much fun, in fact, I didn't take a single picture!

Most of June was pretty cool weather in the Netherlands. It was getting a bit frustrating, because I was ready to bust out the shorts and flip flops and kick summer into high gear.  Well, summer arrived in the form mid-90s temperatures. When air conditioning isn't a thing here, and the houses get hot, and there's just no relief--I decided I'm ready for summer to be over. I'll take the school break, just not the heat.  This week is the last week of school for the kiddos. It's been so weird to have them in school so far into the summer months. They take more weeks off during the year, and have a shortened summer holiday--only 6 weeks. I'm still deciding whether I like that or not. I mean, I love all the breaks during the year, don't get me wrong. It just feels really weird to still be in school.

Anywho, I'm completely behind on this blog.  I did a Spring Break part 1, and now I'm finally doing part 2--Ireland!  We flew into Dublin on a Saturday afternoon, with the intention of picking up the two rental cars and heading straight to the west coast, since that's where we were staying all week. We had rented two small cars because we had Trevor's parents with us. No sooner had we left the parking lot of the rental agency, one of the cars had the clutch burn out. Several hours and a tow truck later, we decided to just stay the night in Dublin. Sunday, we were able to attend church in Dublin, had great pub grub and explored the city a little bit.  Then we headed west.  We stayed in a tiny town called Tulla, in a beautifully renovated farmhouse. Actually, we stayed in what used to be the stables of the farmhouse. We had plenty of space for the 8 of us, and it was just really nice.
exterior of stables

Kids bedroom

Living Room and Dining Room


Since we were staying in one place the whole week, and Ireland is very prone to rainy weather, we didn't plan too much in advance what we were going to do. We tried to look at where the weather was going to be the best on any given day, and then that's where we headed. It worked out pretty well! We had sunny portions of almost every day.

Monday, we visited the Cliffs of Moher, aka the Cliffs of Insanity (from the Princess Bride). They were spectacular.

O'Brien's Tower (overlooks the cliffs)

 After the cliffs, we explored the Burren and watched a sheepdog demonstration.

Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

And of course, visited a castle.

And we ended the day in Galway. We ate dinner at a delicious savory pie shop.

 Tuesday, we headed to the Dingle Peninsula.  It's a scenic loop, where the movie Far and Away was filmed.  Before we started the drive, we had lunch in a pub in Dingle. I should say, the parents ate in the pub, while the children played cards. They preferred the hotdog from the street vendor outside.
card sharks
 The scenery was just breathtaking. There's a reason it's called the Emerald Isle.

See what I mean?

Gallarus Oratory--1300 years old--one of Ireland's best-preserved early-Christian churches
We loved Dingle!
 Wednesday, we headed to the Rock of Cashel, an ancient castle that was the seat of the kings of Munster. We did get rained on, but it was still very impressive.

Thursday, we drove to Killarney National Park. Muckross House is a beautiful Victorian estate that sits in the park.

built in 1843

This is the view from one of the bedrooms in the house

 After we toured the house, we took a horse-drawn carriage to Torc Waterfall.

the forest path leading up to the waterfall was so beautiful

Torc Waterfall

 We also visited the Muckross Traditional Farms, and got to visit some farm houses that have been preserved. We got to sample delicious bread straight from the fire and freshly churned butter. Yum! The kids loved the petting zoo, too.
 Friday was doomed to be rainy the whole day. We didn't let that stop the fun, though. The kids got to take a horseback riding lesson. They got to learn how to groom the horses, as well.

He didn't ride backwards, I promise.

Lots of rain, means lots of beautiful rainbows!
 One of the evenings, we left the kids at the house, and the adults enjoyed a local pub dinner with traditional Irish music.  The beef in Ireland was so great. That's something we've missed in the Netherlands. So, of course, we ate way too much the whole week. Also, James was thrilled when we went to the grocery store and they had Frosted Mini Wheats. It's the little things, really. :)
We loved Ireland!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Spring Break, Part One

Spring has arrived here in Holland, and we couldn't be more excited to see the sun again. The days are getting longer, and I find myself basking in the sunlight that is streaming through all the windows in the house. The kids have two weeks off of school, and we've been partying pretty hard. Kate turned 8 in February. But we decided to have her baptism in the spring, so the grandparents could come and enjoy the nicer weather and the tulips, of course. Get ready for a picture overload...

First stop was the Kinderdijk. It's just south of Rotterdam, and a UNESCO world heritage site. It was fun to see inside a real, working windmill and learn the history of the family that used to live in it.

While the kids were finishing up their last week of school, before break, I took my parents to Bruge, Belgium for the day. What a beautiful city. Everywhere was postcard-perfect. We climbed the bell tower, ate Belgian frites (fries), bought chocolate, and wandered around. The weather was just perfect.

This is Michaelangelo's only sculpture to leave Italy during his lifetime--The Madonna and Child. It's also the same sculpture that was in the movie, The Monuments Men.

Next stop...TULIPS! This is our first spring here, and the tulips definitely didn't disappoint. Keukenhof Gardens were spectacular. While we were there, we got a few pics of Kate in her baptism dress. And I think I have more pictures of flowers than I'll ever need. :)

Vincent Van Gogh in flowers (did you know he was Dutch?)

Getting them all to get in the picture and sit still, and smile at the same time is not fun!

The Grandmas liked Keukenhof

Not just tulips were in bloom--look at those hyacinths!
The next day was the main event. Kate's Baptism. We are so thankful that all of her grandparents were able to come and share in her special day.

I love this pic of everyone together.

Another first for us was experiencing Kings Day here in The Netherlands.  Everyone gets decked out in their orange gear, and it's basically one big garage sale. It's the only day in the year that you can legally sell stuff on the street. It was fun to experience it--crazy outfits, street food, and junk-selling. The kids loved it.

All of us in front of the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam in our orange

My parents headed back to the States, but Gary and Michelle are retired, so they get to stay a while. Yipee! We spent a day in Amsterdam at the Rijksmuseum and Hard Rock Cafe (that was the bribe to get the kids excited :), they explored The Hague on their own, and today, we visited De Haar Castle. Only 45 minutes from our house. It was really pretty, and totally worth a visit. The kids have been so overloaded with castles while we've lived here, that sometimes they're like, "A castle...not another castle!" But they really did enjoy it. They loved getting lost in the garden maze and listening to the audio guide on our tour.

I mean, who doesn't love a good castle??  Tomorrow we are headed to Ireland for a week. Here's to hoping that it doesn't rain every single day!