Visiting The Kelpies with the Family

Visiting The Kelpies with the Family

The Kelpies

I visited The Kelpies with my family

The Kelpies

The last two weeks my family was visiting, and  we visited a bunch of places together. I’d been wanting to visit the Kelpies for a while now, and them being here provided the ultimate opportunity to pay a visit to these equine sculptures.

I’d seen pictures of the statues, but nothing really prepares you seeing it with your own eyes. Each of The Kelpies stands up to 30 metres tall, and each one weighs over 300 tonnes! (Read: they’re MASSIVE). They’re also incredibly detailed, beautiful, and completely dwarf you.

I have always had a thing for mythology, and I love how Scottish legends depict kelpies as shape-shifting water spirits who inhabit the lochs and waterways of Scotland. Supposedy, they appear most often as a horse, and can also take on human form. These massive sculptures reflect the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses. 

We visited The Kelpies on quite a rainy day, but it didn’t impact our visit at all. I had no problem walking around in the rain, admiring the great detail in these sculptures (especially since there’s a cafe close to the sculptures where you can get a cup of coffee to warm up a bit). You can go inside the sculptures as well, although I didn’t do this, as I was content just walking around snapping plenty of pictures.

I’d love to go back and visit the sculptures on a sunny (or just less rainy day), or during the night when they’re a lit up! For those of you wanting to travel Scotland: if you’re in the area, it is defintely worth putting a visit to The Kelpies on your to do list!

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Alternatives to Amsterdam when Visiting the Netherlands

Alternatives to Amsterdam when Visiting the Netherlands

The places you should be visiting in the Netherlands

The best alternatives to Amsterdam

Alternatives to Amsterdam

Whenever I tell people that I’m from the Netherlands, people often reply by saying that they’ve been to Amsterdam. Which is cool! Amsterdam has a lot to offer: the Anne Frank house, tons of art museums, a rich history, beautiful architecture, and lovely canals. However, it is also so very touristy and busy (not to mention the ever present smell of weed).

Amsterdam is a very popular destination for tourists. Personally though, I am not really a big fan of the city. Which mainly has to do with the characteristics I mentioned before: it’s absolutely packed with tourists and the smell of weed is incredibly hard to evade. A lot of people I talk to commonly mention two things when talking about Amsterdam: the Red Light District and weed. Which is a shame, because that’s not at all what the Netherlands (and our culture) is about. 

The Netherlands has many beautiful cities that have so much to offer. It’s almost a shame to limit your experience in the Netherlands to Amsterdam (and the above mentioned characteristics). Cities and things to do that, in my opinion, you should definitely consider when booking a trip to the Netherlands.

 

My favourite cities in the Netherlands:

1. Leiden

I might be a little biased here, because I lived and studied in Leiden. But if you want the canals and the beautiful houses along them (also known as ‘herenhuizen’), Leiden is the place for you! It’s much smaller than Amsterdam, and almost has that small town feel to it, in the sense that it makes you feel welcome right away  Map

2. Utrecht

Utrecht is quite similar to Leiden. It has the canals, the beautiful houses, but also the beautiful gothic Dom church, which should be way up on your list to visit! Make a visit to the botanic gardens, visit a museum, or one of the countless art galleries  Map

3. Delft

Another Dutch city that has as much to offer as Amsterdam in terms of canals, ‘herenhuizen’, and art galleries. I haven’t been here as many times as I should, but the times I’ve been I absolutely loved the look and feel of the city Map

4. Maastricht

Another beautiful city, with one of my favourite bookstores in the Netherlands: the Dominicanen bookstore. It’s a bookstore inside a church, and it’s an absolute dream for those who love history and reading (preferably both together at the same time) Map

 Also worth a mention and visit: The Hague, Nijmegen, Den Bosch

 Note: This list is not exhaustive, nor does it mention the more modern/industrial cities, like Rotterdam. I aimed to offer alternatives that are similar to Amsterdam. I personally love Rotterdam and would highly recommend a visit. It has a very industrial and modern look, and doesn’t have a lot of the typical canals and architecture (because the city was bombed during the Second World War). There are some though, if you you know where to look (askt the locals!)

Recommended things to do in Leiden, Utrecht, Delft, and Maastricht:

Kinderdijk

Close to Leiden there’s this little village called Kinderdijk. You can walk amidst the famous windmills that keep the land dry (as it is all below sea level). It’s rich with history, as it tells the story of the Low Countries, and how its people have worked with windmills to keep the water at bay. 

Museum of Ethnology

Called the museum of ‘Volkenkunde’ in Dutch, this museum is one of my favourites to date. It’s located in Leiden and has a standard exhibition as well as changing themed ones, making it very appealing to come back whenever a new exhibition starts.  

Dominicanen Bookstore

I mentioned it above already, but when in Maastricht you need to visit Dominicanen Bookstore. It is a bookstore in a gorgeous gothic church. For those among you who love history and books, it is an absolute must see!

Maastricht Underground

Maastricht has a very large network of historical caves and tunnels. In the past these tunnels were developed to defend the city and during WWII, they provided shelter from bombing raids. Some go on for kilometers and are most definitely worth a visit!

Churches 

I’m not religious myself, but I love to visit churches as they show and tell so much about the history of a city. Go visit the Dom church in Utrecht, the ‘Oude’ and ‘Nieuwe’ church in Delft, or the Pieterskerk in Leiden. There’s plenty of them to go around, and all absolutely stunning inside.

Botanical Garden(s)

Leiden and Utrecht have beautiful botanical gardens that you shouldn’t hesitate to check out. I’m not sure about the other cities (if they have them I’ve not visited them myself). If you want to escape the city for a bit, botanical gardens are the place to go.

Disclaimer: I usually only share my own pictures, but since I no longer live in the Netherlands I opted to use photos (from Unsplash) by other talented photographers! Giving credit isn’t required, but I would like to do so anyways: Amsterdam canal photo by Adrien Olichon, Amsterdam bike photo by Tabea Damm, windmill photo by  Jean Carlo Emer, bookshelves photo by Annie Sprat, church photo by Derek Story, museum photo by Nicole Baster, underground cave photo by Luis Vidal, and leaf photo by Daniel von Appen.

To Edinburgh and Beyond!

To Edinburgh and Beyond!

At the beginning of May, my dad and I booked ourselves a trip to Edinburgh. We were there for a long weekend and found ourselves right in the middle of cherry blossom season. Princess Street, The Meadows, and many more sights were colored pink with all the cherry blossoms in bloom and it might have been the prettiest sight I have ever seen.

I honestly love anything that has to do with Scotland, and Edinburgh has stolen my heart. The people, the architecture, and the whole feeling to the city. What’s not to love?

I felt pretty gutted that I had decided against bringing my SLR camera after one day of walking around (and we walked a lot) because even though smartphones take good enough pictures, pictures taken with an SLR camera are just clearer and brighter than any picture I could take with my phone. Translation: the former picture will just have to do.

The objective

Those of you that follow me on Instagram might know this already, but we made the trip with a very specific goal. About half a year ago I was admitted into the MSc Publishing programme at Edinburgh Napier. The academic year starts in September and I needed a place to stay (preferably where cats were allowed, because this crazy cat lady is taking her cat with her). I scouted ahead and had two appointments scheduled during my 4-day stay. The rest of the time we could spend whatever way we wanted… and that we did!

The weekend

The weeks leading up to this weekend were quite stressful. Something to do with life handing you lemons, as I was handed a lot of them. However, I got through them and on Friday, fresh out of work, I headed over to Schiphol (where my dad was waiting) and boarded the plane to Edinburgh. One flight and a taxi ride later we arrived at our hotel and I pretty much fell asleep a second after my head touched the pillow.

Fast forward to the next morning, where we woke up to 20-degree weather (say what?) and the whole day ahead of us. If I had to sum up our trip in just one sentence, it would be something along the lines of ‘lots of walking and good food.’ But that wouldn’t do the trip justice, of course, so prepare for a (slightly) more detailed account.

The first morning we didn’t really have a plan and decided to just walk in the direction of Princes Street. Armed with a cup of coffee we headed into the direction of Princess Street and wandered through St. Cuthbert church cemetery. It offered a beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle and became our next destination. We didn’t go in, mainly because the line was ridiculously long, but we people watched for quite some time and just took in the sight of Edinburgh stretched out before us.

There was so much to see that we pretty much just wandered around the whole day. Beautiful weather, good food, plenty of museums, and a pitstop at Waterstones. That Saturday was the bomb!

On Sunday we visited the campus that I’ll be studying at, made a visit to Nelson’s monument, and had an apartment viewing. We were really early (as in two hours early) and because the apartment is right next to The Meadows, we spent the remainder of that time on the grass. Did I mention that The Meadows was fully decked out in pink? See for yourself!

We had our flight home on Monday, but we didn’t have to be at the airport until 5 pm. Wonder above wonder we actually did have a plan for that morning. We walked to Holyrood Park and climbed Arthur’s Seat. Now, I did this the last time I was in Edinburgh as well and it was one of my favorite activities. It takes about 30 minutes to climb to the top, and the view is so beautiful!

Fun fact: we almost added another day to the trip (that’s how relaxing it was), but alas, the next day it was back to work for the both of us!

What about that apartment?

When I returned home Monday evening I had an email waiting: the room was mine if I still wanted it. So not only did I spend a glorious weekend in Edinburgh that had me returning ultimately relaxed, it also resulted in me finding a place to stay for the upcoming academic year. The best part? Fury (the cat) is very welcome as well. I’d call that a win-win situation.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh (or Scotland)? Tell me about your experience!