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living in europe

2 Years and Counting

Two years ago today was the most nerve racking day of my life. The boy I had been talking to online on and off for nearly four years was finally flying in from the Netherlands and we would get to be face to face for the first time. As nervous as I was, it probably was nothing compared to what Loek was feeling flying all the way across the Atlantic. 

The plan was simple, I would meet him at the top of the arrivals gate at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Unlike many airports, the Atlanta airport has two terminals but everyone comes up the same way to collect their bags  and met the people who are waiting for them. Everyone that is except Loek. Somehow, and I still don't know to this day how he possibly accomplished this, but Loek came up an entirely different way. We completely missed each other, and of course my phone was on silent. It was about 30 minutes before I looked at my phone, I thought perhaps there was just a very long line in customs. I had 7 missed calls. Poor Loek, had already got his luggage and in his first time to the US, I wasn't where I said I would be. He thought that perhaps I had decided that I didn't want to meet him after all. 

Of course, this was not the case and finally we found each other. The rest is history, four months later we got engaged and 6 months after that I moved to the Netherlands. Perhaps, not the most ordinary of love stories, but it is ours and we like it. 

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3 Ways to Beat Those the Winter Blues

It is freezing this week in the Netherlands. Beautiful, but freezing. Which means that trains aren't running as frequently, causing me to have to leave two hours early to make it to my final. I also totally ate it and slid like a meter on the snow leaving my whole body sore. See that kids, I said meter, I'm becoming so European. All these factors can come together to create some winter blues. 

I'm doing my best to combat these, here are some of the solutions I have found:

1. A nice cup of tea. In the States, the only tea I would drink was sweet. Hot tea was just something I did not do. Lately, especially since working at a company with so many European Internationals, tea drinking is part of the culture. I am pleased to say that I am now an  avid tea drinker. Personally, I find that the tea I favor tend to have flowers or mint in them. My mom recently sent Loek and I the yellow submarine tea strainer, I can't wait to get some loose leaf teas to try it out.

2. Sweaters. I just bought this Mango sweater from Mode Republik. Having enough sweaters to layer is key to staying warm this winter. I love the embellishments on the sleeves. Hopefully it will come today so I can make sure it fits!

3. My kindle paperwhite. When my old kindle broke, I was heartbroken. I use it everyday! Which id why I am so glad I splurged on the paperwhite. Plus, it has the added bonus of being backlit and the ability to turn the light down so that I don't disturb sleeping people. Some of the other features I love are, the ability to change font, the touch screen, the timer for chapter, and the book covers instead of just names of the books, so I can remember why I selected the books in the first place to add to my collection. Since I have a smaller reading goal of just 75 books this year, I am curling up with the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

What keeps you from beating the winter blues?

Image credits: 

1,2,3

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The Kaiserslautern Fountain

Back in August, my mom and I went to Germany to visit some longtime family friends. You might recall our bus tour in Frankfurt. Most of our time however was spent in Otterbauch, Otterburg, and the larger town of Kaiserslautern. 

Kaiserslautern is a charming town in Rhineland and is located on the edge of the Palatinate Forest. It was the favorite hunting spot of Holy Roman Empire of Frederick I who lived in the 1100's. Kaiserslautern is located on the Lauter river, hence the name. 

Nowadays, Kaiserslautern is home to 50,000 NATO employees. I want to show you more of this charming place, but today, I want to show you one of my favorite featured of the town. This lovely fountain is a representation of all the industries through out time that made Kaiserslautern thrive throughout its very long history. Check it out!

The fountain topped by a king, actually 2.

I just love this owl with its glasses and gears, very steampunk!

The elephants are another of my favorite features. I have no clue what industry they represent, but they are charming!

I actually love these insects, and the fact that the water is coming out of their bums. 

It wouldn't be K-town without the Kaiser fish!

Mom and I joking around. This photo is to remind me to never have bangs again!

This was one of those pieces of art that you could stare at for hours and still find some new detail you hadn't seen before. This has got to be one of my favorite fountains. Do you have a favorite fountain? 

 

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6 Reasons Trains are Better than Cars

Audrey Hepburn

I do not miss driving. Seriously, the process to get a driver's license in this country is insane and I have no desire to have one again. I quite enjoy my daily commutes by train. Sure, it can be annoying when they are slightly late, and I hate not finding a seat, but these things are rare enough that the trade isn't even comparable. Here are 9 reasons trains are better than cars. 

1. I get more done in my daily commute. When I lived in the US, I would drive to work each way for at least 30 minutes. In that time, I could only accomplish one thing, drive. In the same amount of time on a train, I can read, study, or do my homework from the night before. I can also eat my lunch or dinner. I can plug in my computer. My commute is no longer a time suck, I am more productive. 

2. There are bathrooms on the intercity's. A little background, in the Netherlands there are sprinters which stop at every train station along the route, or there are intercity's which stop only at major stations. Intercity's have bathrooms on board. While I have never used on personally, it is comforting to know that if I needed to I could. Unlike in a car where you have to find somewhere to pull over and go. 

3. Trains are better for the environment. If there are 100 people on a train, that is 100 cars that are not on the road. The carbon footprint is less.

4. Traffic sucks. Let's face it sitting in traffic is a bummer. I would much rather be the person in the train whizzing past the cars stuck in traffic. 

5. The view is better. Even though I take the same train from Utrecht Centraal to Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena four to five days a week, I always see something new when I glance out the window. If you are going to a new city, this can be even more exciting. 

6. Trains are romantic. For me, traveling by train makes me feel more European. Like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Or another equally glamorous film star of Hollywood's Golden Era. For me train travel is like being in an old movie or reading Agatha Christie. There is a pure sense of romance about being on a train.

I love trains, for me they are the best way to travel. My ultimate travel dream is to do all the great train routes of the world.

Who's coming with me?

 

Image from http://vintagelifestylemag.co.za 

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A Bus Tour Through Frankfurt

I think I mentioned that when my mom was visiting we went on a very brief trip to Germany. Even though I live just next door for almost a year now, I had never actually visited the country. So, we decided to take a weekend trip to Otterbach, a tiny town just out side of Kaiserslautern, in order to visit one of my mom's greatest friends of the last 35 years. We decided that we would go by train. We left Utrecht and took the ICE high speed train to Frankfurt. We had about a three hour layover in Frankfurt so we decided the best way to see it in such a small time would be a bus tour. Here are some of the pictures I took. 

 

The Train Station

Despite what you might think, German is not actually that similar to Dutch.

Europeans everywhere love the terrace garden. 

I take lots of pictures of churches...always. 

That's it, just a few short hours and we were back on the train to continue our journey. I would like to return when I have more time and visit some museums. Have you ever been to Frankfurt? What did I miss? 

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The Vacation That Changed My Life

This post was originally supposed to be posted as a guest post for the 20 Something Bloggers Blog Swap back in July, but after I sent it to my blog swap partner, I never heard from her again, so I have decided to just post it on my blog instead. The theme was Childhood Summer Vacations. Here was the post.

My family did not go on typical family vacations when I was younger. In fact, I vividly remember being insanely jealous every new school year when everyone would come back tan, and I would be my same old incredibly pale self who had spent the whole vacation in my room reading. I would even lie when people would ask me where I went. Yeah, I know probably not the best thing to do.  We did end up going camping at the beach every year, but I am a sunburn magnet so even then I spent the whole time in the tent reading a book. One year however, when I was 10, my family- (My mom, Uncle Jim, Nana, and cousin Alice) went on a trip that would forever change my raison détre (reason for living). We went abroad for the first time. To Paris.

In fifth grade, I was at the height of my Joan of Arc obsession. I like to think that this was the reason behind picking Paris, but it probably has nothing to do with why the adults chose to go there.We did every touristy thing you can think of to do in Paris, with the exception of the Louvre, as luck would have it, the staff went on strike the day we arrived and went off strike the morning we left. We attended a fashion show at a department store and my cousin and I were asked to come up and walk the catwalk after the show, by a model who in my mind looked exactly like Cindy Crawford. We went to Versailles, we ate hot dogs in baguettes, and drank hot chocolate out of bowls where you added your own sugar. I remember being in awe of everything, the architecture, the parks with the carousels, the food, and the fashion. I was in love!

Our last day there, I wanted to go back and see the building that to me best represented everything I feel in love with in Paris- Notre Dame Cathedral. As I stood outside the beautiful Gothic cathedral with its magnificent flying buttresses, I remember bursting into tears at the thought of having to leave the first place I ever felt I truly belonged. I felt at home amongst the ancient and historic, the glamorous and the tiny.  I knew right then and there that I would move to Europe someday.

I didn’t leave the United States again until I was 18. This time I went St. Petersburg, Russia. My college years, I was obsessed with getting back to where I belonged across the pond that I would skip whole semesters in order to spend a few weeks abroad. Finally, I quit school and found a decent full time job in order to bankroll my trips. I gave up on my dream to move abroad because I didn’t see how I could make it happen. Then something amazing happened, I met my soul mate, who just happens to be from The Netherlands. After doing the long distance thing, we got engaged and I moved to The Netherlands last year. I couldn’t be happier. I am even going back to finish my undergrad, this time in International Tourism Management. I believe that a trip can change your life, and I want to be part of giving that joy to others.

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The New (Not Really) Blog Title Plus This Week in Instagram Vol 8

So, you may have noticed a little redesign including a title change here at the blog. Instead of being A Georgia Peach in Utrecht, it is now A Georgia Peach Abroad. The change happened for two reasons, the first is that everything else was already branded A Georgia Peach Abroad, and the other is that while I love living in Utrecht, for the next four years I will be enrolled in an International Tourism Management program at a Hogeschool that requires me to go to Amsterdam at least 4 days a week. During this program, I will also be required to spend one quarter studying abroad outside of The Netherlands. Plus a bunch of travel, so the name change felt appropriate.

But, now on to the photos! I can't believe how many I took this week!

Up first we have the houseboats or woonboten that I pass when walking home from inburgering. I think that woonboten are really fascinating. Maybe it is because I have a huge phobia of boats. Which I know is ridiculous when you live in The Netherlands. Trust me, I am doing my best to slowly get over it.

I feel like I have been seeing a ton of flowering vines over doorways lately. I love these pink roses at this art studio. The studio also offers classes which I will take, one day...

I'm obsessed with birds, but especially baby ducks! So, here are 3 pictures!

And here is a picture of a heron, you just have to look really close!

During the longest day of the year, The Netherlands was experiencing a mega storm. I know surprise, surprise. But there were some pretty awesome clouds!

My two main guys love to cuddle. Yep, they are pretty cute!

Here are my good friends just before and while they went for a nighttime canoe ride in Utrecht, I didn't join them, because again this fear of boats. But I did play photographer. If only I remembered that my iPhone has a flash! What makes me uber sad is that Amanda is moving back to the States tomorrow! Her husband is joining her at the end of July after he wraps some stuff up here. I'm going to miss her so much! 

Last but not least, I passed this sign in a window on the Oudegracht. For me it has two meanings, sometimes it has hard to believe that I'm not just visiting here, this is now my real life. On the other hand, since I have been here for 3/4 of a year, it is frustrating to be thought of as a tourist, when I ask a question in Nederlands and I am answered in English.

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26 Things Before I'm 26 Revisted- Halfway There.

Sure, today is Valentine’s Day, but it is also my half-birthday so, I will let you judge which one is more important. In honor of this, I thought I would revisit one of my most popular blog posts, 26 Things Before I am 26, to see where I am halfway through the year.

1. Move to Utrecht. Done!
2. Be able to communicate in Dutch. This one I am still working on, but I am able to understand and converse with a lot more people then when I first moved here. But, I am still not as far along as I would like.
3. Get married, I'm engaged so this isn't a huge jump.We are actually waiting until May of 2013 to do this. There is no rush for us and since I don’t have job here yet, it is going to be awhile.
4. Take up ballet again. When I made this list, I was expecting to still have my old job because I was told it would be no problem. No extra spending money means no ballet lessons.
5. Find a core group of friends in my new country. I still need to work on this. I have hung out with one person who isn’t Loek since I have moved here, I need more friends.
6. Develop a sense of personal style and dress accordingly. Again, this is hard with no money. But I have been using Pinterest for when I do have cash again.
7. Learn to bake and cook in my Nederlands kitchen. Done and Done! Recipes coming soon to a blog near you.
8. Start my tour guide business. No progress has been made on this at all.
9. Learn to sew. I hemmed my curtains, it’s a start!
10. Go to Paris. (I went when I was 11, but the Louvre was on strike the whole time)Again with the no money!
11. Write letters to my friends back home. I sent them Christmas Cards, it made me feel good.
12. Get back to the weight that feels best on my frame. Two pants sizes lost. But still want to lose more.
13. Read 100 new books, including some classics. I am on track for this and with my Good Reads account, I can track the books I read this year with their reading challenge.
14. Start making metal jewelry again. I really need a job!
15. Book my honeymoon, we probably wont go right after the wedding. Since we aren’t getting married this year, this is a non-issue.
16. Learn how to share, I was practically an only child. I think I am doing better at this, although it is a work in progress.
17. Become an expert bike rider. Haha, yeah right! Riding my bike around expert Dutchies still scares the crap out of me. Maybe, I will do better when it is warmer.
18. Attend Amsterdam Fashion Week. Not yet, but I have high hopes.
19. Knit a sweater. Maybe I should master the scarf first?
20. Learn the art of light layers. Hey, I think I am finally getting this!
21. Eat better, I have a horrible diet. Not eating out has helped this a lot. But we do need to cut out the fried foods. Darn those Dutch and their snack bars.
22. Start bringing in money again. Have I mentioned I am available for hire?
23. Continue adding to the retirement fund. I did until the end of September, I will once I bring in money again.
24. Laugh more. Loek makes me laugh every single day!
25. Get over my fear of boats. I walked on a frozen canal, I think that is some headway!
26. Stick to my plans. I could do better with this as well.

In conclusion, I made this list when I thought I would still be able to continue my employment across the sea. When you find yourself suddenly find yourself without a fall back plan in a country where you don’t speak the language, applying for a job can be difficult. But I better get on it if I want to make my goals.

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I Can Stay!

Yesterday, I received some rather awesome news in the post! Just 2 weeks, after turning in all required paperwork to apply for my visa, I was granted my wish! That's right, I can now stay here with The Verlo- for at least a year! Words can not describe how elated I feel! I can also now look for a job here, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

So, how did we do it, you may be asking? Well, the first step in moving anywhere abroad should first be all the necessary research. Don't just rely on what you read online, actually call if you have questions. Here in The Netherlands, you have to be on the lease to register yourself as living with your partner. This process took us about two weeks to get the lease sent to us. After we registered at City Hall, we went to IND to get all the necessary paperwork to fill out. Since I am an American, I had to get my Civil Status Affidavit notarized at the US Consulate in Amsterdam. It took 3 weeks to get an appointment. You then have to take that paper to Den Haag to have it legalized for the Dutch Government. 

Since The Verlo- just  started a new job and didn't have a long enough contract. (see Immigration for where you want to move for all requirements,) We had to provide all his contracts and tax stubs for the last 3 years. As well as, all his paychecks for this year. In the end, we just had to fill out all the paperwork, along with about 50 pieces of various required papers, and pay our fees. 

I am so excited, that it has been working out for us and we could not be happier that I get to stay here. All I can say, as hokey as it sounds is: Listen to your heart, do the work, and your dreams really can come true! 

The Beautiful and The Damned

I love living with The Verlo- everyday is filled with love and laughter, and it is amazing to finally after four years live with the one I am supposed to be with. I also love where we live. We live in a section of Utrecht called Leidsche Rijn. It is an up and coming area, within biking distance of the city center, but with a I can be in the country in minutes feel. It is also right next to a park, where ruins of a castle that predates when the Romans invaded Utrecht. The ruins were part of the reason I was so excited to live in this community. Those who know me personally know how much of a history buff I am.

This however, has proved to be a curse, rather than a blessing because, I fear our apartment was built on the ancient burial grounds of the castle. Just too many weird stuff happens in this house for it to be pure coincidence. For starters, almost all of our electrical items have either not worked at all since we have moved or have just gone out. Loek's computer, our stovetop, and last night our washer broke and flooded our storage room. And you know that beautiful wallpaper my future inlaws put up for us? It is all peeling and falling down. They are not amateurs either. It is simply to strange and upsetting for words. We  haven't been able to hang up any overhead lights because we can not drill into the ceiling to attach them properly. Loek even got mildly electrocuted.

I know that I must sound like a lunatic, but I really believe this house has some bad cosmic energy. If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve the chi of our home, I am up for suggestions.And, in case you were wondering, I still love living in The Netherlands.

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