Thursday, 10 June 2010

Our own Elfstedentocht: Stop # 2

harbour town by the shores of the Wadden Sea

The harbour town of Harlingen, in the province of Friesland.

Last year I started a series I called Our own Elfstedentocht to show you the province of Friesland in the northern part of The Netherlands. The idea was to post pictures of the circuit we did during the summers of 2008 and 2009, visiting the eleven cities that take part in the Elfstedentocht, a speed ice-skating race held during the winter in the northern province.

The Town Hall in the city centre of Harlingen.

Our first stop was Leeuwarden, the capital of the province and I covered our visit to this city here. Our secound stop in the Elfstedentocht brought us to the city of Harlingen, the most important harbour in the province of Friesland, situated on the shores of the Wadden Sea.

The busy harbour by the Wadden Sea.

Now that summer has arrived and that we can finally enjoy longer and hopefully nicer,warmer days out in the open, Harlingen is an excellent option to either take a daytrip or to stay for the weekend.

A lighhouse in the harbour area of Harlingen.

Taking the time to walk around the town can really be a pleasant surprise, for Harlingen has not lost the atmosphere of the olden days. Manyof the still beautiful old buildings in the historic city centre are reminders of the times when the town had very close commercial links with Great Britain, Norhern Germany and Scandinavia. Many of the warehouses you see around the city still bear names such as "England", "Poland", "Russia".

A street of Harlingen lined with old warehouses now restored and remodelled.

a pretty bridge crossing over one of the canals that traverse the city.

Maritime activities flourish here: the harbour is the home port of a huge fleet of charter vessels and hundreds of sailing and motor yatchts. Sitting on a terrace by the marina, you will be witness to the intense traffic of boats, big and small coming and going along the canals and sailing away into the Wadden Sea.

A boat entering the harbour in Harlingen.

A sailing boat in the Wadden Sea.

One of the canals that traverse the city.

From the ferry terminal in the harbour you can take one of the many boats that connect Harlingen with Vlieland and Terschelling, two of the islands on the Wadden Sea. On the website of the shipping company Doeksen you will find all the information you need to plan your boat trip to the islands, including day arrangements that include boat tickets, a rental bike or bus tickets to get around the island. You can choose the slow (2 hrs. to Terschelling) or the fast (45 min. to Terschelling) service, depending on your preferences or the time at your disposal and you can even take your bike or car on board!

The ferry just leaving the harbour, heading towards one of the islands on the Wadden Sea.

Another fun thing to do in Harlingen is to take a boat trip on the Regina Andrea, which will take you seal watching on the sandbanks of the Wadden Sea. The round trip takes about 2 hours and on board the guide will tell you all about the Wadden Sea and the seals, of course.

We spotted first a solitary seal basking in the sun.

Then we sighted dozens of groups of seals resting on the sandbanks in the Wadden Sea.

We have been now three times to this beautiful harbour city and I have to say, that I am looking forward to going back there again this summer. A good opportunity to visit Harlingen again will be during the main event of the year: Visserijdagen or Fishery Days, a festival that has been named the Carnival of the North. This year this event will be held between 25 and 28 August and will offer more than 70 different activities, like live music, handcrafts, dance, folklore, sports and of course, food. More information about the event can be found here (in Dutch).

Monday, 7 June 2010

Oh, I'm lovely and loyal - also beautiful, talented and awesome!

Don't worry - I haven't had anything strange for breakfast this morning and I haven't become insufferably arrogant, conceited and spoilt all of a sudden! It's only that I have received a very nice award:

It came from sweet Sandra, from the blog "Presépio con Vista para o Canal" who nominated me and six other loyal bloggers of hers and asked us to answer the following questions:

1- Why did you start your blog? Did you expect it to become popular?

I started this blog to share (I wasn't sure with whom yet) my experiences as an expat living in The Netherlands. I also wanted to have a place of my own where I could show the places I have been lucky to visit here in The Netherlands as well as in other countries in Europe. Finally, I started it to indulge my nostalgia for my country, Argentina; I wanted to write about it too - to let people know about its beauties, oddities, habits, people...

When I started blogging, I wasn't really thinking of becoming popular or attracting lots of followers either. In fact, I didn't know how blogging worked at all!!
I got inspiration from other blogs that I found interesting and that I had been reading form time to time, like Isabella's A Touch of Dutch or Anita's Greetings from Holland.

2- When exactly did you start your blog?

I actually started it on my birthday last year: 12 August 2009!

3- Who are some of your most loyal followers?

Here I am going to change the rule a bit. Many of the people that follow my blog are not expats and then those who are, have already been nominated or are not into the award exchange thing, so I will name some of my loyal followers, in no particular order. I think it will be a nice way of sharing with everyone some of the beautiful blogs that I like reading and have been following for some time:

JaPRA, from Just a Plane Ride Away - a Texan currently living in NL (The Hague) with her family but who will soon be moving to the UK where they'll continue their big expat experience!

Alison, from A Flamingo in Utrecht - also an American - who writes about her thoughts and experiences living in The Netherlands and who takes really good photos, especially of her city, Utrecht.

Aggie, from on what concept - a friend and Flickr lover like myself, with whom I've explored some of the most beautiful cities in The Netherlands! Her photos are the real deal - want to see for yourselves? Here's her extraordinary photoblog too.

Leti, from Diving into life below sea level - a fellow Argie blogger who -just like me- recently moved to The Netherlands for love! You will find her stories really sweet, funny and full of that renowned Latin flair!

buday, from immateur! Excellent, witty writing with a touch of humour - I just love her posts! (plus, she recently gave me the most ultra-modern looking gadget as a vitual present: an Air Multiplier Fan... thanks, buday - that was such a cool -wink! wink! present!)

For those of you who can read Portuguese (the blog has an online translator, too!), Vagamundos, from Crónicas de "um" Vagamundo - if you visit the blog and take a look at all the places they have been to, you will ask yourself: "is there a corner of the world that these guys have NOT been to?". Seriously!!

And for those of you who can read Spanish, Patricia and her blog Fotos y relatos de viajes - Viajando por mi país: ARGENTINA, another Argie friend of mine who is truly passionate about one of the most beautiful places on earth: Patagonia.

Thanks to all of these blogger friends (feel free to take up the challenge and answer the questions and nominate your loyal followers, if you want) and thanks to all of you out there for visiting my blog!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Best Portuguese hostess in the Netherlands!

Train station in Almere city.

A few days ago I received an invitation from a fellow blogger that I could not resist: a day out in Almere, a city at about 85 km from Zwolle. I had made a mental note to visit this part of the Netherlands many times, but somehow the opportunity to go there never presented itself.

Finally, this invitation came and with an extra bonus: I was to have a de luxe tourist guide. Have you guessed who it could be? Yes! Blogger Sandra, from Presépio con Vista para o Canal!

We met at the train station -Almere Centrum- and from there she took me to see the sights in the city. What a pleasant surprise Almere was! I found it very modern-looking - but then in a nice way!

Almere bus station.

Almere is quite a new city. It was built on reclaimed land -that is, the polder- in the also young province of Flevoland. The first inhabitants of Almere moved into their new houses in 1976 and today, the city has approximately 188.000 inhabitants making it the fifth largest city in The Netherlands.

Colourful megashop in the city centre.

While Sandra guided me through the shopping streets pointing at her favourite winkels (shops), we were at the same time busy talking, picking up where we left it the last time we had seen each other and shooting pictures all the time.

Shopping street in Almere city centre.

All the roads lead you to... the HEMA?

Modern achitecture is outstanding in Almere. Everywhere you find new trendy mega-blocks, leisure and shopping complexes, reflections, colours and originality of forms...

Blue and orange reflections in Almere city centre.

I couldn't resist taking this shot...

The Apollo hotel in Almere city centre.

Modern architecture in Almere.

More reflections - the Utopolis cinema complex.

For lunch, Sandra suggested a very nice eetcafé: (coffeehouse) "Bobbie Beer", where we had a delicious boerenomelet (omelette, farmer style) and rested for a while by the water.

Bobbie the Bear was waiting for us...

Then we took a long and relaxing walk in the Koningin Beatrixpark (Queen Beatrix Park) ...

I spotted this man sitting by himself next to a grafitti that reads enig, meaning "unique" or also "single" in Dutch:

And I also visited a historical site in Almere... a historic site in Almere? Well, yes: a place where a "baby" was born in a presépio ("Nativity stall" in Portuguese) Here I present to you ...the birthplace of Presépio con Vista para o Canal!

The canal that inspired Sandra to create her blog!

After spending a wonderful day with Sandra, talking a lot, walking around Almere, relaxing in the park and also practising a bit of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and of course, English - it was finally time to head back to the station and say our good-byes. But not without first stopping for coffee and cake at Granny's. Delicious!!

Espresso and apple tart at Granny's. Photo taken by Sandra.

Muito obrigada, Sandra, for a lovely day! You are a wonderful hostess!