Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wait, there are islands in the Netherlands?

Yes, people, islands. No palm trees, coconuts, or sunshine, but real (and manmade) islands. We had our weekend-long team retreat on Vlieland, the largest of the islands. October isn't the best month for Dutch island-hopping, but we made the best of it. 

We were there for a potential assignment, so it wasn't all fun and games (biking and cranberry-picking), we actually worked hard (in Dutch, mind you!). But the landscape was lovely. Long sandy beaches, a variety of lush green, autumn colors, and nature tours by locals. We stayed in the small main town, on the small main street. It was quaint and quiet, relaxing during our off hours. And the sunrise views were amazing! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Berlin: poor but sexy

First off, what a cool city. Too cool, actually. I headed to Berlin with about 40 other Dutch urban planners, architects, and entrepreneurs on a study trip. My company (read: I) planned the trip and we spent about 3 days examining their strategies around temporary use, among other topics, ie,  bottom-up initiatives, user-driven transformation, organic urban planning, vacancy, co-working, urban agriculture, innovation, participation, the civic economy. 

We also really wanted to explore Berlin's unofficial motto: Poor but sexy. Why? How? 

We'd arranged guided walking/cycling tours and discussions with Berlin leaders pertaining to the specific theme. Of course our goal was to learn and see, first-hand, what makes Berlin a special place in terms of the themes of our trip. We intended to discuss challenges, opportunities, unexpected results, and the history of temporary use, development, and public participation in Berlin. We hoped each site visit and conversation revealed a concrete lesson that we might be able to apply to our own challenges in Rotterdam. You can read more about this trip and the conclusions here and here. The highlights were: walking through Neukolln, the Klunkerkranich rooftop bar and Farbfelder garden project, the city model at the urban planning department, and of course cycling through the city to the old Templehof Airport, now used as a giant park and kite-flying hotspot. Yep, cool.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A little blueberry, before a wedding in Dublin

One week before we were setting off to Dublin for two good friends' wedding, we found out that I am pregnant! Right now the baby is the size of a blueberry and the estimated due date is April 24, 2014. We are both in a bit of shock that it happened so fast, but of course are also excited for the journey ahead.

This also changed my plans a little for thoroughly enjoying what Dublin has to offer -- that's right, no Guinness for me! And how would I hide my alcohol-free weekend from our 20+ friends who would also be attending the Irish/Danish wedding?!

Elliot and I stayed in an adorable little B&B in Dublin center for the first 2 nights in order to see the sights. Cool city. Loads of fun shops, cafes, and historical buildings like Trinity Library. In the evenings we met up with friends for drinks and dinner.

I loved all the colored doors in the city center!

On Saturday morning, the whole gang got together at the train station for the trek up to Graystones, the wedding venue, about 30 minutes away. We barely had time to settle in to our rooms and change before the bus arrived to take us to the wedding.

The ceremony was held in a small church. Everyone looked gorgeous, especially the bride. Beautiful flowers, singing, and a bit of Danish woven into the ceremony. Afterwards, the busses took us the reception venue.

It was a lovely place for a wedding celebration. Like a small Versailles, Irish style. Stunning views of endless gardens and rolling hills. Very romantic. The celebration started with a live band, some light dancing (especially for the groom who'd just torn his achilles!), and prosecco drinks. Then the party moved inside for a fabulous dinner, speeches, and then of course dancing our hearts out until 3am. 

The cake was made by the bride's grandmother: a special Irish fruit cake recipe. I mistakenly took a 'regular' size piece (as if the cake was not fruit cake) and it weighed about 1.2 pounds. I could only eat a few bites, it was so rich and filling (and contained some booze I was pretty sure). But delicious!

The next morning, we went for a walk along the ocean front. And the boys decided it was a fantastic idea to take a dip in the freezing cold ocean! Perfect ending to a fabulous weekend in Dublin.

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