I used to be able to read in the car for hours and hours. When my family and I were on the Cabot Trail, I missed most of it because my nose was stuck in Tom Sawyer. Sadly, I can’t even be a passenger in a car now without feeling ill, and I certainly can’t read.
Before our road trip around the Toronto area last year, I decided to buy some anti-nausea wristbands. The online reviews were mixed, but I figured it was worth trying since they aren’t drugs and, therefore, have no drowsiness or other side effects, they’re reusable, can be machine washed, and have little to no waste associated with them. Plus the ones I bought weren’t expensive; less than $15 for a pair of the home brand from Shoppers Drug Mart.
The anti-nausea wrist bands work by applying pressure on points on each wrist. In Chinese Medicine, acupressure is the technique of applying pressure to acupoints and meridians in the body. Acupoint pericardium 6 (P6), the one we’re interested in, governs the movement of energy in the chest, harmonises digestion and stomach, regulates blood flow and calms the mind. The bands apply pressure on the pericardium six (P6) acupoint on each wrist by a plastic stud.
There have also been some ‘Western medicine’ studies on done these types of bands, which concluded that accupressure could be using the gate control theory of pain relief. This theory proposes that non-painful signals, such as pressure on the acupressure point, closes gates to the central nervous system to pain signals. This means that you and I feel less pain.
Regardless of what Chinese and Western medicine have to say, my experience with these bands is that they WORK! I can now travel in the car without a headache or nausea. Plus, I can read on my phone if necessary without worrying too much that I’ll start to feel nauseous. Sadly, I still can’t read in the car or bus for long periods, but I’ll take what I can get.
Today RB and I are on our way to Canada for some holiday festivities! While I was packing, I thought it would be fun to share what’s in my bag for this trip!
While all the things I want to bring onto the plane would likely fit into one bag, I like the ability to organize them into two. I carry the Fossil Morgan Top Stitch as my every day purse, and I love its size and the size and location of the outer pockets. In it, I keep all of the things I need quick access to while in the airport.
Clockwise starting at the top you’ll find:
phone & ear buds
e-reader: It took me a long time to decide to get an e-reader, and I’m so glad I did! Except for when I get asked to turn it off during take-off and landing, which rarely happens, it makes travelling significantly more enjoyable and is way lighter than lugging around a couple of books.
reusable bag: In case I’m in the mood for some chocolates or aperitif from the duty-free.
super warm socks: I usually wear a pair of compression socks for travel, I like to supplement them with some super soft and warm merino wool socks during the flight when temperatures can dip to sub-zero it seems.
sea bands: I’ve only ever once had nausea while on a plane, and I sure wish I had these with me at the time. They’re such a small and light item that I almost always have them with me now.
wallet: Gotta have that credit card handy while at the airport where everything costs 3x as much as normal!
business cards: you never know when you might meet someone who can help with a job search
water bottle: airplanes can be extremely dehydrating, and it beats paying for (and throwing out) a bottle. Just make sure it’s empty when you go through security!
handkerchief: I inherited my grandma’s handkerchiefs, and I love that there is such variety in them. This Christmas one seemed like the perfect one to throw in my bag for this trip. Check out my post on how to make your own Handkerchiefs!
sunglasses: If I’m on top of things, these get moved to my checked bag as soon as I get to the airport. I’m not on the ball too often, unfortunately.
mints: I’m really not a fan of gum, so mints are my go-to when the pressure change gets to be too much for my ear drums.
hand wash: I’m not huge on these things, but in airports and airplanes, where there are extra germs flying around, I like to have this around just in case.
nail file: Inevitably I chip a nail once I’m inside security, so I was super stoked to discover that while clippers are a no-no, a nail file is perfectly legal.
passport wallet: This keeps all my travel documents handy while going through security. Added bonus is the pen, which I usually end up loaning out to others while filling in customs forms.
I keep the bulky things I’ll need in the plane and the things I don’t want to put in my checked baggage in my carry-on bag. This time, I’m using my Everlane twill tote, but when I’ve got a lot of things to transport, or I’m going carry-on only, I’ll use my Everlane twill weekender. It’s the perfect size for the overhead compartments!
This time around, I’m bringing
Headphones, inflatable pillow, and eye mask: I don’t usually use these on the flight to Canada, but I throw them on during the flight back to try and get some sleep on the red-eye.
Portable Charger: I’ve been caught on flights before where the USB in the entertainment system didn’t charge my phone, and I was in a bit of a pickle when I arrived at the airport with no ability to call my parents to tell them where to pick me up. I’ve had this portable charger for about six months now, and it’s saved me a few times.
Camera: I’m already excited for all the pictures of my niece’s first Christmas!
Planner: This will be exchanged on this trip for the 2016 compact Passion Planner. I’ve been using this for about six months, and I’m a big fan. I found the planning tools very helpful to give me some direction, and it keeps me on track with all of my job search and blogging activities.
Old Phone, chargers & cable: My Canadian SIM card won’t fit in my new phone. I’m a bit nervous about cutting it up, so I’ve brought along my old phone to use my Canadian Number.
Laptop & charger: This trip, I’m going to try downloading some of the Coursera content onto my laptop and do some learning on the plane.
Each time I’ve gone back to Canada, I’ve decided only to use about half my bag so that there’s space to bring some stuff back with me, and, this time, is no exception. I try and follow my grandma’s rules for packing, which are well summarized in the One Suitcase series from Outfit Posts. In short, make sure everything goes with everything else, so it’s easy to mix and match your clothes. I use a Heys 26″ Sprinter, and I find it to be a perfect size! I can pack whatever I need to in it without it being overweight. When it’s time to replace my carry-on sized suitcase, I’ll be looking for its 21″ sister!
For the past few years I’ve been very aware of reducing the amount of stuff that I have, so my Christmas list usually included things I’ve needed but haven’t bought in October, November or December because I knew Christmas was coming up and I could get by without them for a few months. This year, on top of not wanting to have too much stuff, I have the added challenge of making sure everything fits into my suitcase size and weight restrictions.
So I put together this little list of gift ideas for expat friends and family. It might seem weird for a self-professed eco-geek to be putting together a list of ‘stuff’ but these things are all useful and mostly digital or endlessly reusable.
Stuff from home
There’s nothing like wrapping yourself in something familiar when things aren’t going well, which is why I’m so glad to have my HBC Point Blanket and self-made throw with me here!
It seems to me that expats travel more than the average bear, so things to make that travel just a bit more comfortable are always welcome. I love my inflatable neck pillow, eye mask and headphones for long plane rides. I’m also a big fan of my sink plug and braided clothesline recommended on OneBag and my PackTowel for long trips. My Pack Towel turned out to be so awesome that it’s now my main towel for drying my hair!
Along the same lines as the travel goodies, a passport wallet can be insanely useful for keeping passports and other travel documentation together. I made the above based on a pattern I bought on Etsy, but if you’re not handy, there are also tonnes of beautiful handmade ones on Etsy. I also like these from Bellroy and Pacsafe.
If you have travel points laying around and no plans to use them (which I can’t imagine anyone doing but, hey, you never know!) why not gift them to someone who wants to travel home to see their family?
I never thought I’d convert to an e-book reader, but I did it and I’m glad. It means I could read as many books simultaneously as I like. Not that I ever do that, but it’s possible! It also means I don’t need to bring an extra book in case I finish my first. Books and gift cards can be purchased from Kobo and Amazon, but also from your favourite author’s or publisher’s website.
Music iTunes or Spotify gift cards are always a great gift, no matter who you’re giving to!
Movies & TV shows
The holidays always make me want to curl up and watch some old but great movies and television series’. And a digital movie purchase or rental from iTunes, Google or Amazon means I don’t need to rummage around my parents’ basement for my old DVDs anymore! As an added bonus, these movies are available on your cloud, but can also be downloaded and viewed while on a long flight home.
I’m lucky that my favourite make-up and solid shampoo and conditioner are available where I live. When that’s not possible, why not gift these items to your favourite expat?
Rotterdam has a very different look than most other Dutch cities, like Amsterdam, Leiden or Delft. This is because it was destroyed during the 2nd world war and as such there is a wide architectural landscape to the city. The city is now home to some world-famous architecture.
Our time in Rotterdam was somewhat limited, so we decided to do two things to get a sense of the city: a trip up the Euromast and a boat tour of the harbour. As an added bonus for the day, we discovered we could combine our tickets for both events in one combi-ticket!
Our first stop was the Euromast, a 101 m tower that was built in 1960 to mark the occasion the international flower and garden exhibition Floriade. The trip up afforded us some beautiful views of the city!
After we’d had enough of the wind (it was really windy up there!) we came back down and walked through a beautiful park to catch our boat trip through the Rotterdam harbour.
The port of Rotterdam is the largest cargo port in Europe. The success of the port is due to it’s location at the mouth of the Nieuwe Maas channel, which leads to the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers. These rivers’ provide access to the heart of Western Europe through the extensive distribution systems, including rail, roads and waterways .
Our boat trip included pre-recorded tour information in Dutch, English, French and German. We travelled along the main canal as well as a smaller canal.
I took about a million photos, once again, and here are some of my favourites:
It’s not every day you have the chance to visit a Unesco World Heritage Site! RB and I took the chance to spend an afternoon in Kinderdijk visiting the Mill Network when my parents were visiting in October.
The outstanding contribution made by the people of the Netherlands to the technology of handling water is admirably demonstrated by the installations in the Kinderdijk-Elshout area. Construction of hydraulic works for the drainage of land for agriculture and settlement began in the Middle Ages and have continued uninterruptedly to the present day. The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills.
According to the Kinderdijk website, the Mill Network is accessible on the #90 bus departing from Utrecht Central Station or Rotterdam Zuidplein Station. Since getting there with public transit from our house would take over 2 hours, we decided to drive!
The site is beautiful and includes a walking/biking path along the water and through the windmills.
There are two Museum windmills on the site – Nederwaard and Blokwer.
The Nederwaard windmill is in its original state and includes a history of how the Miller families lived.
The museum also showed how the windmill worked. Of course I took about a million pictures of the mechanisms that run the mill, including these cool wooden gears!
We didn’t visit the Blokweer museum, but I understand that it’s a more traditional museum geared towards children – you get clogs and overalls to wear on the tour! I also understand that there’s a much more in-depth view into how the mill works, and that the mechanisms have been made as visible as possible. This makes me wish that I’d gone in!
I feel like Leiden is an underrated city. It’s not as well known as Amsterdam, Rotterdam or even Delft, but it’s one of my favourite cities in the Netherlands. The canals, historical buildings, alleyways, and treasuries of knowledge, culture and science make Leiden definitely worth visiting.
Leiden is very accessible from Amsterdam; there are frequent trains from Amsterdam Central Station to Leiden Central Station.
I downloaded the App to try it out, and my phone vigorously notified me when we were approaching any of the locations, when we were at the locations and when we were leaving the locations.
Each location on the tour had a plaque with some additional reading about the history.
Our first stop was at the Heilige Geestweeshuis (Holy Ghost Orphanage), built in 1583. The size of the complex shows how many children were orphaned. They came from not only the surrounding areas, but from as far as Aachen and Liège, to learn a trade. Leiden had a thriving textile industry, which had use for skilled workers.The complex now houses an organisation for children’s rights and the Archaeological Centre of the Leiden Municipality.
Our next stop was at Burcht, Leiden’s citadel, one of the city’s most distinctive monuments. The man-made mound on which the citadel stands dates from 1150, making it older than the city itself! The municipal council bought the mound and the building in 1651 and turned it into a town park.
Leiden is known as the City of Keys and the keys motif can be seen all over the city. This dates back to 1293, when a city seal depicting Saint Peter holding a key was featured on official documents from the ‘stadt Leyde’.
The Rapenburg canal was dug not long after 1200 to provide the still young city of Leiden with a strong defence. However, in the 17th century it became one of the most fashionable canals in the city! According to some 18th-century geographers, Rapenburg was the most beautiful spot on earth, and it’s not hard to see why!
After our walking tour, RB, mom and I went for dinner at the most delicious Thai restaruant I think I’ve ever been to! If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Siri Thai! It’s small and gezellig, and you’ll definitely want to make a reservation to be sure there’s a spot for you.
The light was absolutely gorgeous while we were in Leiden and I took about a million photos. Here are some of my favourites:
The 3 Oktober festival commemorates the anniversary of the relief from the Siege of Leiden during the Eighty Years’ War. In 1573 the Leidenars were prepared for the siege; large supplies of food were stored within the city walls. Leiden withstood the siege without any issues, and when, in March 1574 the Spaniards suddenly withdrew, Leiden celebrated. Unfortunately for the Leidenars, the Spaniards returned in May – the siege had only been lifted temporarily.
The supplies that had sustained Leiden during the first siege hadn’t been replenished, and soon provisions began to run out. During the siege, one-third of the population died and the rest were dangerously close to starvation. On the morning of October 3rd, the army of Watergeuzen led by William van Oranje, entered the city and fed the citizens herring and white bread, and Hutspot, a dish made of boiled and mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions.
Leiden is the closest city to us, so I hopped on the bus to celebrate a friend’s birthday and to see what all the hoopla over 3 Oktober Festival was all about!
The festival sort of reminded me of a bigger version of the Kermis in Roelofarendsveen. There was a huge midway, lots of live concerts going on at the bars in the downtown area, a parade, and lots and lots of people on the streets having a great time!
I was hoping that I could try some of the traditional meals, but the Hutspot was being served on Friday at dinner time and the herring was being served early on Saturday morning, neither of which worked for me. Plus, I needed to register on Thursday to partake! Maybe for next year’s 3 October Festival!
Back when my parents were here, we decided it would be nice to visit some places nearby. And there’s no bigger or better-known city nearby than Amsterdam!
We started our Day Trip Amsterdam at the Central Station, in the heart of the City. There are tonnes of trains travelling from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Centraal every hour; just make sure you jump on the right one!
My mom and I agreed that we like to do a walking tour of any city to get a sense of how it’s laid out and a feel for its vibe. We signed up for the City Free Tour Amsterdam, and were not disappointed! The tour runs daily at 11:30 from the Beursplein beside a beautiful cafe where we used the bathrooms before heading out.
Our guide, Kim, took us on a fabulous walk that included visits to some of the main landmarks in the city as well as bits of history about each place. If you’re considering taking this walking tour, you may want to know that we spent some time in the red light district. It’s an interesting part of the city and has some fascinating stories to go along with it, but know that you will likely see some scantily clad ladies in windows.
The tour was supposed to be about 2 hours, but ours was a bit longer because of a family whose pace was a bit slower. Kim, our guide, was very accommodating and made sure we all enjoyed the tour. She let us know when the two hours had passed, and a few of the guests needed to leave because of other engagements.
The tour is tip based, and the site recommends €10 per person. We agreed the tour was worth at least this, based on the job Kim did, especially considering most walking tours are closer to €20 per person!
The tour ended in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam where there are tonnes of restaurant options from which to choose. Trip Advisor lists 153!
After eating, we made our way to the Amsterdam Museum. This was one of the first places that RB and I visited together, and I remembered loving it!
Mom and I walked through the Amsterdam DNA exhibition, which gives an overview of the history of Amsterdam. My favourite part was learning how the city infrastructure grew, and why the city is laid out as it is. The installation for each era includes a map showing what part of the city existed in white, and what part of the city grew during that period in grey.
We also visited the Graffiti exhibition, which is the first in the Netherlands to be dedicated to New York and Amsterdam graffiti from the 80s. While it was interesting to learn about, my attention span at museums has an expiry, and we were getting close to it.
While mom and I went back home for dinner and to hang out with RB, there are also about a million options for dinner right near the Amsterdam Museum. Well, actually, Trip Advisor lists 338 in the Grachtengordel area, but who’s counting?
Do you have any favourite attractions or restaurants that are worth visit during a Day Trip Amsterdam?
Having lived in Toronto for 9 years, I never thought too much about taking a day trip there. But now that I’ve moved away, it was fun to plan a small day trip with three friends to my favourite places!
We started the day in the Distillery District, walking in and out of the small shops that are there and snapping some pics at the new lock wall.
We then made our way to the St. Lawrence Market, but I forgot it was Monday and the Market is closed on Mondays. Whoops! It’s worth a walk around.
By that time we were all pretty hot and hungry, so we stopped for some apps and ciders at Fionn MacCool’s.
We then walked to the ferry to spend the afternoon on Toronto Island, my favourite place in the whole city!
The ferry affords some amazing views of the skyline, and was nice and refreshing after the heat in the city.
I think my favourite part of the day was renting this quadracycle!
It was an amazing way to see a bit more of the island, since our time there was limited.
We rode all the way to Ward’s island, where we took a few more pictures.
We were all a little surprised how well we were coordinated, all the way down to our bags!
We had a fantastic time!!
We timed our return to the ferry perfectly, and walked right on to head back to meet a few more friends for dinner and trip back to the Sky Dome Rogers Centre to watch David Price and the Blue Jays. Sadly, this game wasn’t nearly as excited as the one I attended the Saturday before, but I don’t think any game this season has been.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Dutch town of Delft. I had been thinking that I should be spending some of my free time exploring my new home, and the town where RB works seemed like a great place to start.
First thing in the morning, RB took me to his work, showed me around his building and introduced me to his colleagues who weren’t on vacation. There weren’t many since it was August in the Netherlands!
RB works at the TU Delft in the aerospace engineering department. It seemed everything in the building was related to flight, including the wing-shaped lighting fixtures and rocked shaped garbage cans!
I walked along the main road through the TU Delft Campus (Mekelweg), which looks a lot like the main roads of other university campuses I’ve been to. I was very surprised at how busy it was seeing as school had not yet started.
My favourite part of the campus (you’ll have to forgive me) is the Aula Congrescentrum, which RB had told me looked like the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. I was surprised to see just how much it does! Now if only there was a transporter in there to take me back to Canada at will.
Once in the old town, I headed to the Delft tourist information point. I decided it was best to do an ‘official’ walking tour of the city, and picked up my Historic Walk through Delft guide book for € 3,75. The walk took me through all the important parts of the binnenstad (city centre), including city hall, the old and new churches, Burgwal, Beestmarkt, and Museum Prinsenhof. The tour had 3 add-ons that I chose not to walk based on time, but I understand from RB that they go through some interesting areas of Delft, so I might come back to try them!
The tour started in the maket square, where the City Hall, the former seat of the city government, sits across from the Niewe Kerk (new Church).
The Niewe Kerk (new church) was constructed between 1381 and 1496. Makes you wonder how old the Old Church is, doeesn’t it?! (Hint: keep scrolling!)
At first glance, the blackened top section looks like it could be fire damage, but that’s not the case. Bentheimer sandstone was used to build this section, and acid rain is the cause of the darkening. If you look at it from the side, like the slightly grainy picture below, you can see that the discolouration is worse on one side. This is because of the direction of the prevailing winds. Science at work!
The tour took me past the Maria van Jesse church, the Roman-Catholic parish church in the city centre.
I also walked along the Burgwal, a former canal with plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops.
The Beestenmarkt (livestock market) was the site of the livestock market in Delft from 1595 to 1972. For about 20 years afterwards this space was used as a parking lot, but was converted to an entertainment centre. This square is surrounded by restaurants and cafés, and is a great place to sit and relax on their patios.
Along the east side of the Beestenmarkt there is a row of dark iron poles, which pay tribute to the former use of the square. These were used to construct wooden stalls to house pigs and sheep at the market.
I walked along lots of beautiful canals and bridges!
You can see how goods were delivered by canal to some of old buildings, which have been converted to restaurants. These all made me laugh and cringe at the same time – what happens if the water levels rise by more than 10 cm?!
At last I arrived at the Oude Kerk (old church), and satisfied my curiosity of just how old it is! It was founded in 1246, with the central spire and four corner turrets added between 1325–50.
The church stands directly on an old canal, which was filled in to make space for the church. The fill wasn’t stable enough to support the building and the church began to lean during construction. The builders managed to stabilize the foundations and carried on building, which is why there’s a kink in the tower!
The smallest house in Delft was residence of the private Doctor of Prince Willem van Oranje.
At this point in my tour, I stopped for lunch at the Cafe Oude Jan. I had the tomato soup and a peppermint tea, and both were delicious and very reasonably priced!
At this point in my walking tour I stopped in at the Princenhof Museum, which is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 to 5. It costs €10, and I added the audio tour, which was an extra €2,50. I usually find adding an audio tour to be worth the price, and this was no exception!
The museum has 3 foci: Willem van Oranje, Father of the Nation; Masters in Innovation, Delft creating history; and Delftware, the making of a global brand. I was particularly interested in the portion of Willem van Oranje, which discusses the formation of the Netherlands. Willem van Oranje was assassinated at the location of the museum, a former monastery, and 2 of the 3 bullet holes are still visible.
According to the audio tour from the museum, a forensic analysis was conducted to confirm the story of the assassination. It was determined that the gun was likely able to fire three times in close succession, kill the target and end up in the wall. The audio tour also indicated that the holes are much bigger now because visitors keep putting their fingers in them! I opted to take a photo instead.
Back on the walking tour, I found a fine example of crazy Dutch parallel parking. If I ever get my driver’s license (all about that in another post) you can bet that I will not be parking in any of these spots! I will be likely to either a) put my car into the canal or b) be so afraid of putting my car in the canal that my vehicle will still be in the way of passing traffic. No thanks!
At this point in my tour, I stopped at a cafe where I had a coffee and apple pie while I waited for RB to meet me.
From there, we went into the Niewe and Oude Kerken for a visit. Each costs € 3.75 to visit, but you can do both for €6.50. Included in that price is a trip up the stairs to the tower in the Niewe Kerk, which has 376 steps and reaches a height of 85 metres. Keep in mind that this was finished construction in 1496 and was probably not designed for tourists. The stairs are narrow and there isn’t much space to pass those going in the opposite direction. It was pretty full when we were there and there were a few moments where I wasn’t sure we would be able to make it! But we did, and it was worth it. Despite some haziness, the view of Delft was incredible!
The crypts in the Niewe kerk house almost every member of the Dutch royal family since Willem van Oranje, and are not open to the public. The most recent reconstruction of the crypts was the addition a heavy slab of natural stone at the entrance of the crypts, with four copper rings in the corners. The stone is etched with the Oranje-Nassau family coat of arms and the Latin inscription: ‘Here William I, Father of the Fatherland, awaits the resurrection’.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Delft, and I would recommend it as a day trip if you’re in the Amsterdam area and want to see something a bit different.