The feast of Sinterklaas is celebrated elaborately in The Netherlands on December 5th. There are many stories on the origin of the feast, the person Saint Nicholas and possible links to Santa Claus. I didn’t think it’d be that interesting to post one of the many variants of the story here, but would like to share a very creative website with lots of information about Saint Nicholas and the traditions surrounding the feast people have created to honour him. One of the highlights I think that can be found on this website and sums up the story and Dutch Sinterklaas traditions is this Flash Greeting Card created by

The Sinterklaas feast is not at all new to Zoé as it is celebrated in Belgium too and she loves it. Although we didn’t celebrate it at home, she could enjoy celebrating it fully through scouting, the exchange organisation (no pictures available) and scouting 😉 .

The second adventure made her a very direct part of the tradition as she and the exchange student living near us were invited to be “zwarte piet” (black peet) and visit families at home with Sinterklaas during the day and evening of the 5th of December. Zoé enjoyed it very much as can hopefully be seen in the gallery below…


Mmmmmm…. (not)

As the October’s food poll dictated, we had to let Zoé eat “erwtensoep” (pea soup) at some point… And as we pointed out before, Harald and I just don’t “do” pea soup. So my mom offered to have Zoé over and make a traditional Dutch pea soup. We dropped Zoé off and fled the house once they started cooking. We visited other family while they were brewing what is considered delicious by so many Dutch people. Ow well, you can’t argue about taste, right? Click any of the pictures for more info on what’s in them.

Run like h…

No, wait, not an appropriate song for this occasion 😉

Anyways, today Zoé participated in a running event with our brother-in-law and two nieces. They weren’t too serious about it, but eventually they did of course want to perform well. Our brother-in-law normally runs much faster and farther so he was there to help the girls. Zoé hadn’t practiced that much really, but she gave it her best and did very well. Hopefully the pictures and video will give you a nice impression of this event. Click the pictures for some more info on what’s in them.


Since the begin of the scouting year, we were speaking about this two days camp by an earlier member, Margrethe. And it finally happened last weekend! It was two wonderful sunny days that we spent mostly in our bikes. I tell you what we did…

On Saturday morning we met all five at the designed meeting point on the Wageningen campus. To achieve Margrethe’s house, we had first to be able to understand a really complicated route, invented by Lisa. We had actually to “translate” images in words, to move the letters in the phrases… We tried to follow what we understood, but it wasn’t successful. After seven kilometres we realised that we were very far of our previous route! Happily we were lucky with the weather. The sun was shining and we decided to enjoy the journey instead of come back and to try to find the right way. But first we had to eat! Yes, we were very hungry due to the bicycle tour. We drank also a warm coffee (the Dutch people NEED coffee to spend a good day) and then we rode to Margrethe’s house in Driel.

After our installation in her cosy shed, we ate delicious “poffertjes” together. It was for me the occasion to meet Margrethe. She is very nice and also very hospitable. We talked a lot with her and it was simply convivial.

Then it was time to buy our evening meal. We took again our bikes and went to Arnhem, the biggest and closest city of the province. It was quite early in the evening. So we decided to go to the cinema and we chose as film “De Nieuwe Wildernis”, a wonderful documentary about the nature in the Netherlands. We enjoyed the film and then we bought our meal. We intended to “gourmetten”.

But we first had to come back to Driel… under the rain this time. We arrived all wet! We got warm with preparing the meal. The rule with “gourmetten” is that you have to cook your own thing on a big device. Everybody does it at the same time and it’s really great. Later we played cards and we spoke a lot before we fell asleep due to this busy day!

On Sunday we woke up quite early because we had lots of plans again. After a big breakfast we tidied up the place and we left Margrethe. We went to the castle of Doorwerth, a beautiful place along the river Rijn in a wood. We spent there the whole day. This castle is a museum that we visited of course. We learned a lot about its story, but also about the agriculture and the hunting through the centuries for example. After the visit it was time for a coffee that we drank at the café of the castle. We went then for a walk in the surroundings and in the kitchen garden of the castle. It was still sunny weather…

We finally left this place to come back to Wageningen. We finished our trip there, under a cloudy sky. I found it really successful. We have done so many great things in only two days!


Fall break

Finally, after a very busy couple of weeks during which I couldn’t really find (or didn’t want to have to search for) the time to create elaborate blogposts, here’s our fall break story. You’d think school breaks are about sleeping in, relaxing, walking around in your pyjamas all day, stuff like that, right? Well, not if you’re an exchange student. This was Zoé’s fall break schedule:

Saturday: taking a long walk in nature near Breda, collecting sweet chestnuts and going out for dinner to celebrate my dad’s 65th birthday.
Sunday: finish reading a book for school (this counts as chillin’ doesn’t it?).
Monday: going into town and to the movies with a classmate.
Tuesday: shopping in the beautiful city of Utrecht with another classmate.
Wednesday: THE trip to Amsterdam 😉 .
Thursday: doing a Geocaching winter trail of 31 caches in a forest near us.
Friday: visiting a friend in the nearby town where the scouting meetings are also held. Leaving for a hike with the scouting group later in the afternoon.
Saturday: hiking with the scouting group.
Sunday: yes, finally sleeping in and walking around in pyjamas all day 😉 .

The following galleries will hopefully give a nice idea of the activities that we did with Zoé. Please click any of the pictures to go into a gallery for more details.

And this is what I made later that week with our sweet chestnut harvest:

We’d also planned to (finally!) visit Amsterdam this fall break. Although the outcome of the September poll actually required us to include a visit to the Artis zoo, we skipped that. There was so much to see in the city centre alone and our guide had so many stories to tell and showed us around so many well known and lesser known beautiful spots that we didn’t feel like spending our time in a zoo. For that same reason we didn’t go on a canal tour either. We explored the city on foot and it was perfect. We took loads of pictures, the following gallery is only an impression of the day. Go inside the gallery for more information with each photo.

Thanks Dad for taking us on such an interesting and personal tour around Amsterdam!!!

On Thursday it was time for some serious Geocaching. We had actually introduced Zoé to this adventurous game before, but this time we were aiming for 31 finds in one go through a recently published winter trail. The area where these geocaches are hidden used to be a sand quarry and has been transformed into a recreational area. There’s a height difference in this area of about 50 meters and the land varies from wet marshes to dry moors, so moving through it was a bit of a challenge sometimes. But most of all we enjoyed the company and the beautiful autumn views. And Zoé did SO well! I’d say she found at least a third of the caches all by herself!

The weather was  just wonderful for the time of year, on the warm side even! So we were far from the only ones enjoying this trail. We ran into other geocachers all day and later found out that 20+ teams had logged it that same day 🙂 . Thanks Team Tabak for the superb preparations and fun day 🙂 !

That’s it as far as we can share in pictures and stories. An update by Zoé herself should be on its way in the near future and will be about the next big adventure: a scouting weekend “Margrethekamp” with activities yet to be revealed…

One day in Utrecht

Last Saturday morning, I took the train to Utrecht. Travel Active was organising a day for all the exchange students who are now in The Netherlands. The programme was to go to the skating rink and then to finish the day eating a pizza together.

I arrived in Utrecht one hour too early, so I walked in this huge station, looking for the meeting point. An half hour was necessary before I found somebody of Travel Active. The big departure board where we had to meet had disappeared… Luckily I went to the right place!

After an hour waiting everybody arrived, we left the station, took the bus and came to the ice-skating place. It was really great to see again all the people that I had met during the orientation week. We had lots of things to tell to the others. Everybody wanted to speak about his school, his family, his city… I think that in general everyone was happy with his first month in The Netherlands! And further, it was also a pleasure to speak French again! But it was so strange too! I couldn’t avoid saying “Ja” or “Wat…” in a conversation. Speaking English with the students from Thailand or Brasil was simply impossible for me. My brain can only speak Dutch anymore… Only for a while, I hope!

So we began to ice-skate, some very good, others very bad. In any case, it was very funny! A bit ice-skating, a bit speaking, but maybe more speaking than ice-skating. When everybody’s feet began to hurt, we stopped and went to the pizzeria. It was in the city centre, along the canal. A pretty place, near a bridge.

And then it was officially time to go. But we (all the students) didn’t want to already separate, so we decided to stay one or two hours more in the centre of Utrecht. We walked along the canal (which was really very pretty) and we glanced at the shop windows. But eventually it was time to go… I spent a really good time in Utrecht with all the exchange students. We have now to wait the next meeting, in November, to see us again!

Time flies

Last Tuesday, the 24th of September, Zoé was with us exactly one month. Wait what? Yes, it was already a month ago that we picked her up! It looks like she’s getting pretty used to her Dutch life and she enjoys exploring it further in all kinds of ways every day.

Zoé asked if she could take us out for dinner on Tuesday night to celebrate this one month anniversary and we thought that was a wonderful idea. She asked us to pick a restaurant, so we took her to our favourite pancake restaurant “Hey!Pannenkoek“. It’s situated in an old farm. We think the crew is wonderful and the pancakes ánd the desserts are superb…

Turns out Zoé’s now a fan too 😀 Thanks for taking us out to dinner!

You’ll find descriptions of the pictures if you look at them inside the gallery (just click one of them).