Thursday, 30 June 2011

Castles and Churches

No trip to Europe is complete without at least one castle and a few old gothic churches. On one of our drives through the country, we followed a castle sign that led us to the Verwolde estate. In the 1600's there was a castle here, but now there is a lovely large manor house that has been preserved from the 1700's and contains many of the family's heirlooms and historical items.
It was interesting to see the differences in how the well to do family lived compared to the lives of their staff.

In Belgium we found this 11th century castle, called the Count's castle. It is very rare to find such a large castle in the middle of a city. Because we were there so late in the day, we didn't get a chance to go inside, but it is open to the public. It served as the seat for the Count of Flanders until the 14th century, fell into disrepair and was restored in the late 1800's by the city of Gent.
Gent - view along the canal with the castle in the background.

The Gravensteen (Count's castle) in Gent.
And the 3rd castle we found was near Domburg in Zeeland. There are not many castles in this area, so finding this one was a surprise for both of us. The wood watch tower is a replica of the original and the castle is open as a youth hostel where you can spend the night.

Westhove Castle, Zeeland
Although this castle's origins are in the 13th century as part of the properties of the Abbey in Middleburg, it was partially destroyed in the Spanish war and again in WWII, and much of what remains dates only from the 17th century on.

It is totally amazing these buildings that were built before the modern conveniences that we enjoy today. The craftsmanship is awesome.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011


I've always been interested in family history and searching out my ancestors was something I wanted to do on my recent trip to Holland. Besides meeting real live family (my mom & dad's cousins), we looked at archives and spent some time looking through cemeteries for family names.

My dad's family is from the province of Gelderland and we found birth records for my grandfather there and found this is the cemetery:
Tombstone from my dad's great-grandparents
The house my dad grew up in. The bottom floor was for my grand-father's bicycle business and the family lived upstairs.
 My mom's family is from the province of Zeeland and are descended from French Huguenots that fled France in the last half of the 17th century. In Aardenburg, we found the marriage record for my grand-father's great-great grandparents from 1798.
Aardenburg was a beautiful town, full of history as it has been in existence since Roman times. Before the surrounding land was claimed from the sea, it was an important port on the European coastline.
Town gate still stands from the middle ages
Stones mark the foundations of the gateposts from the Roman Fort
Do you have stories from the past?


Monday, 27 June 2011

It's All About the Food!

Many of the best memories I have are of family and food - whether a special occasion or just a picnic by the lake, food is always part of the memory. On our vacation to the Netherlands, my Mom and I tried to find as many authentic Dutch meals as we could and savoured the tastes and smells of all that goodness. Here were some of our favourites:
Vla - pudding sold in a carton in the dairy section.

Croquettes - served with fries or bread, always a tasty treat.

OK, these aren't Dutch. These are Belgian waffles sold right on the street with syrup baked right in.

Nothing beats a bowl full of steaming mussels fresh from the sea. Especially when you can't get them in rural Alberta!

Poffetjes - puffy little pancakes dusted with icing sugar. Yummy!

And here's me stuffing my face with another croquette and fries with mayonnaise.
Do you have favourite ethnic foods? Please comment and let me know what they are!


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Back from Vacation

As the 5th child in a family with 6 kids, I have never had much one on one time with my mom. For the past 3 weeks, I have been on vacation with her in Holland, sight-seeing, visiting her relatives and discovering my roots. We had an awesome time, but I think we were both ready to get back home to our regular routines and responsibilities.
My Mom with the beach and coastline of Zeeland in the background.

While there, I kept my eyes open for inspiration for upcoming projects and opportunities to photograph them. Other than the windmill, these are not typical Dutch tourist photos, but were sights that I wanted to remember when I got home.
Driving through the Veluwe (National Forest)
Typical Dutch windmill

Poppies blooming everywhere!

Carillon bells

A tranquil pond
Will be posting more pics of my vacation in the next few weeks.