Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Silves Castle in Algarve, Portugal

“Silves” in the early times used to be the principal city of Algarve which was under the command of the Moors. It was then called “Xelb” and its inhabitants spoke Arabic and were known to be regal in their ways and elegant .

Nowadays, Silves is famous for its citrus crops and cork factories, as well as for its castle that is visited by thousands of visitors each year. On the hilltop of the town stands the ancient Moorish Silves Castle that can be traced back to 1000 B.C.—huh, so old!

silves castle algarve
silves castle algarve

The castle taken from a short distance.

silves castle algarve

The steps leading to a garden cafe and eventually to the castle seated on the hilltop, and moi posing with the former king of the castle. 

silves castle algarve
silves castle floor plan

The floor plan drawing of the castle.

silves castle algarve

Portuguese flag flying proudly.

silves algarve portugal silves algarve portugal

Beside the castle is an old Gothic-Baroque Cathedral called 'Se Velha' dating back to the 15th century. Just by the entrance to the castle with an unattended cafe terrace.

silves castle algarve

Travel Period: June 2005
Destination: Silves (Algarve), Portugal

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who says there’s no beach in Utrecht?

Well surprise, there is!

Utrecht being centrally situated in the Netherlands means we do not have a coastline, instead, we have lakes, rivers, canals and man-made beaches.

So for my 36th birthday, the Dutch family, together with the invited family of MadamE spent our Sunday picnicking and lazing around in Henschotermeer, a man-made lake and public beach located near Woudenberg and Maarn in Utrecht.
The merry-go-round in the living room Dutch birthday parties are only reserved for winter, he-he.

First foto: Two guys lost in tete-a-tete

Second Foto: These are the things you do when you become a father

Birthday girl is squinting her eyes and next picture is together with MadamE.

Henschotermeer actually had sand deposits dating back to 1895. After the 2nd World War, development of this inland lake (into a huge public beach project) was carried out. The lake is cleaned every 10 years.

And the Dutch, like the rest of the northern Europeans, love to bake themselves under the hot rays of the sun, until their skin turns into a golden glow, while some come out like sore red tomatoes. The reason: they want to have that most coveted tanned skin.

First foto: Sunbathing, and see that colorful parasol too

Second Foto: Lovers lounging by the busy man-made coast

More pictures of Henschotermeer in my Holland Foto Album.

Having a nicely tanned skin in this part of the world translates to being sexy and healthy. My sister-in-laws often told me that they love my skin color; they surely would love it on themselves. The way I understand it, very white or pale skin, especially if matched with red hair and blotches of freckles spread across the face is supposed to be dull, sickly and ugly.

In Asia, the skin plot is the other way around --- the Asians worry about getting too much sun and what type of whitening soap or cream they must use!

Ah, such is life. Human kind is never contented.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The beauty of Holland: Bloemendaal Beach, Enkhuizen and Hoorn

The weekend flew so quickly out of the window! Why is it that the clock ticks so fast when we are enjoying? :-

Well, we’ve explored a few of the amazing and beautiful villages of the North Holland province. For the unsuspecting, Holland is actually a province here in the Netherlands --- so to clarify this Holland vs. Netherlands confusion check this old entry: Netherlands and Holland explained

Where in the Netherlands is Noord Holland [North Holland]?

First map: Netherlands showing where the North Holland province is. Second map: details of North Holland.

Bloemendaal aan Zee (beach)

To reach Bloemendaal beach, one must go through a few kilometers long of zigzagged road flanked by huge mounds of dunes. Dutchman explained to me that these “duinen” were specifically deposited there to protect the Bloemendaal municipality from the strong surge of the sea.

As many of us know already, the Netherlands is a low land very vulnerable to water. During high tide, the surrounding water levels in some areas can be higher than the country’s grounds.

Chic café restaurants decked the pristine coastline. On the other side of the beach is a long stretch of white summer rental cabins grouped together.

It’s a pity that the sun is not my friend; I always get a headache when exposed directly especially for long periods of time - I would have lazed around just like everybody else.


Enkhuizen is a striking, charismatic, old little village [circa 1300s] anchored securely along the IJsselmeer [IJssel lake] in the eastern part of North Holland province.

We had great timing as last weekend the village was running a kermis [carnival] and this year too [2006], is its 650th (that old!) village anniversary.

A quaint street leading to the Zuiderkerk.

The streets were festooned with buntings in all sorts of colors. And, get this... the locals displayed their laundry in public! I thought though that the hanging-their-laundry-in-public act is supposed to serve as festive street decors for the celebrated event. It was quite a sight really as it was my first time to see how fancy laundry can be.

There are also different bike routes for local visitors and tourists. I will for sure come back, with my bike at the back of the car.


About 18 kilometers to the south of Enkhuizen is the picturesque city with a village feel called Hoorn.

Statencollege, one of the old buildings in the Ursemplein.

We were greeted with a lively city feast when we arrived in Hoorn. Hundreds of people were partying in the streets. Colorful podiums with live music performances in various genres were set up in different corners of the city center. The place was indeed alive. Ah, perfect timing again for us!

Hoorn is the birthplace of VOC - Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie [Dutch East India Company], the legendary ship that sailed across the globe in search for “spices”. It is also said that the VOC is the first multi-national firm in the world.

During the height of Dutch trading (circa: Golden Age), this beautiful place was a popular, thriving and very important city. Hoorn of today is a combination of a quaint, ancient, dreamy, low-keyed village that leaves every passing visitor fascinated.

A sea of yachts is docked by the old harbor along IJsselmeer (lake). Buildings and structures facing the port entry to the IJsselmeer still dates back to the early 13th - 16th centuries.

Next year, Hoorn will be celebrating its 650th as a city, so be prepared for many exciting activities. Probably the best time to visit!

More pictures of Bloemendaal beach, Enkhuizen and Hoorn in my Holland Foto Album.

Veel plezier [Enjoy]...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

World Cup 2006: Orange Virus

Due to the WK – Wereld Kampioenschap (Football World Cup), the ancient Dutch virus, just a few centuries old by the way, has struck again!

Oranje (Orange) has plagued the Netherlands and even spread to Leipzig, Germany, where the first round of the Dutch football match against Serbia and Montenegro was held last Sunday. The Netherlands won the game, 1-0.

Some of the houses in our neighborhood are in the Orange feast mood.

Leipzig, Germany, where the cup is held. No cure in sight for the Orange virus. Photo taken from NU.nl website

This Orange virus can be traced back to Prince William I of Oranje, circa 1500s, the prince who fought for independence and lead the revolt against Spain. For centuries, Orange has been the representing color (or symbol perhaps) of the Dutch Royal Family... and so it is now for the Netherlands, especially during international football matches.

For interesting and funny snapshots of the Orange virus, please visit this NU.nl page: Oranjegekte 2006 [Orange Madness 2006]

A few picture samples in the NU.nl Oranjegekte 2006 collection:

Orangific café by Mart van Walsum. Photo title: Het café is al ingepakt, nu de tegenstander

Ride me in Orange by Johan Westra. Photo title: Jetzt Gehts Los!

Father and Son in Orange action. Photo title: Vader en zoon gehuld in Oranje-tenue

Oh dear the sheep have caught the Orange virus as well! By Ruud van der Lubben. Photo title: Schapen van Oranje bij Lelystad

June 2006 during World Cup

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Expatica Article: One cookie per tea conspiracy

“Every expatriate who comes into contact with the average Dutch person has experienced this distinctive get-together etiquettes: the flying three kisses – I believe should be renamed to cheek-to-cheek-to-cheek since the lips point to the air anyway and its just the cheek that touches ground; the dragging Dutch birthday party circle – in which if you are Dutch challenged, you must, from time to time, exert effort to clear your throat so people know that you are not programmed to mute; and well, the one cookie conspiracy - served with your tea or coffee.

No one that I know can really explain why friends and relatives greet each other with the flying three kisses and why everyone has to sit in a circle during the compulsory birthday meets. It seems to me that the Dutch themselves have no clue why these peculiar acts have become national institutions, and surprisingly, why they are still adhered to.

Well maybe one day the answer will find me, but today, I am purposely here to report about the one cookie phenomenon, per tea, served at Dutch homes.”

To continue reading the article, please click: Expatica - One cookie per tea conspiracy or click the Dutched Pinay logo on the side bar just below the shoutbox.

Tags: Top 10 birthday peculiarities (11/2004), Tea: East meets West (02/2005), Expatica Main, Expatica Netherlands, Netherlands Expat Blog

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A self importance post

... I need it once in a while though today I am feeling a bit blue because I think I have huge flabby arms (signs of old age). I am dreading the summer days; I can’t muster wearing sleeveless yet.

Last weekend I was experimenting with my hair. Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the prettiest hair of them all?

This is my natural hair, nothing done, no combing or brushing... simply natural. In Visayan we call it the “Kalkag look”.

I’m imitating Angelina Jolie by the way but jammer I don’t have her massive puckered up lips.

The blow dry fix, takes minimum 15 minutes express, and 30 minutes if I am in the mood.

I thought that the curly hair is nicer, and well, sexy – says a friend. Maybe I should blow dry less. This would mean less personal chore (or lesser vanity chore) and I’m sure it will also help lower our electricity consumption *snicker*.

TRIVIA: Do you know that a stand-by home appliance, for example, TV (dangerous by the way), computer, and a coffee maker, costs € 50 each minimum for the whole year of electricity bill? Yes - just by plugging them in into the electrical socket, even without using them.

Okay, I’m not really that stingy!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Grammar Faux Pas

Since learning a new language isn’t easy, i.e., you always have bad grammar day, constantly bombarded with sentence construction harassment, your pronunciation sucks, you are vocabulary challenged - you seem to know the word but it stays dangling on the tip of your tongue, and people think you’re a 4 year old little girl trying to communicate, complete with hand movements [picture this: charades game or pantomime act], thus... there are times, in fact many times, that I just want to scream --- Argh, F@%$ you Holland!

The Dutchman has, unfortunately, heard enough of this passionate phrase to merit me a supply of endless jokes on bitching about Holland.

Anyway, moving on to the grammar story...

As many of you may have already read, I was in Paris with MadamE last month.

We spent quite some time in Montmartre and while we were exploring the western part of it, towards the direction of the community cemetery, we bumped into this small, gated and nicely tucked away lover’s park.

We peeked, saw and got intrigued with this massive blue ceramic tiled wall covering one side of the secluded little hideaway place. The wall in fact stood out, like a focal point of an interior perspective. From afar it looked like a mural painting with white streaks but it appears that the white streaks were actually writings on the wall.

A closer look proved that the writings were scribbles of -I love you- translations into different languages and forms around the world. We quickly searched for the translations in Visayan (Bisaya/Cebuano), Tagalog and Dutch.

First Foto: The Visayan translation, “Gihigugma ko ikaw.”

Second Foto: The Tagalog translation, “Iniibig kita.”

See how both languages are so different from each other? Visayan is my mother tongue and Tagalog, our national language, I learned in school.

Here is the Dutch translation: “Ik hou van je.” – Did you notice the misspelling in the picture; the hou is spelled as how, wrong!

The strange thing with the word hou is its meaning. It is supposed to represent love in this phrase (love is liefde in Dutch) but in literal terms it means keep in Dutch. It’s like saying --- I keep you instead of I love you. Demanding, eh? The correct love phrase in Dutch is houden van or liefhebben, all action phrases, while its noun is liefde.

Yeah, a bit complicated isn’t it?

Since our topic is grammar, I spotted some more interesting language and spelling faux pas:

First Foto: “Ek het jou lief.” – This is Dutch but the sentence doesn’t make sense really. Perhaps what the artist wanted to write is this, “Ik vind je lief.” [I find you sweet] or “Ik ben verliefd.” [I am in love].

(Someone that goes by the name H, posted in the shoutbox that this phrase is Afrikaans, the language of South Africa which is closely related to Dutch. Could be the case!)

Second Foto: “Gihugma kita.” – In Visayan which is supposed to be, “Gihigugma ko ikaw.” The root word is gugma = love, so this definitely did not make any sense at all.

Well, my Dutch is not that really great anyway, my Visayan too (more so my Tagalog!) and even my English, I still commit lots of mistakes from time to time, but sometimes it’s just funny to see these little blunders (language xenophobe maybe?), especially in the art form.

I’d like to share something that my Dutch language teacher once told me, about 3+ years ago...

She said that the common problems older and educated people encounter when learning a new language (not willful learning) is speaking, rather than writing and reading.

The reason to this is: Older and educated people tend to have a high self-esteem and are afraid to commit trivial grammar mistakes that make them look stupid. Instead of daring to speak, they hesitate because they first need to think. With writing, as well as reading, it’s much easier as there is no direct interaction involved; the person in fact has ample time to use his or her brain processors.

Isn’t that so true?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Epidemic: The relationship divide

Just a few days ago, a friend called and surprised me with some bad news: she has broken up with her Dutch bf of more than 5 years and has moved herself and her 3 kids out of the house into an apartment.

When we met, she told me with a poignant look, “I felt so lonely and I felt lonelier than ever every time I realized that I actually have someone when I come home.”

Since the children are already quite settled in the Netherlands and the eldest have wishes of joining an exchange program with other European schools, and most importantly, she has a good job, they made the most logical of all decisions --- to stay put in the country. They are only entertaining thoughts of going back home to the USA if things will not work out for them in the next coming years.

Foto from mixies.org.

With her residence permit in order and valid for another 3 years, they have an advantage. In addition to that, she has fulfilled all the necessary requirements to get Dutch permanent residency or even Dutch citizenship, though the latter she is not anymore keen of getting because the main reason she uprooted herself in Big Apple and moved to Holland was for a Dutch man. Now that he is gone in her life, there is really no reason to stay and become Dutch, well, if not because of the children.

I’ve also been to a going-away party of another friend.

With a miserable heart, she made a decision to give up her relationship of 5 years and go back home to Israel. The Dutch bf was supposed to move together with her to her homeland but a few weeks ago, he surprised her by backing out from the original plan. He realized that he was not suited for a country like Israel.

As a lawyer, she had a hard time finding meaningful work that will feed her drive and ambition in the Netherlands. Her law credentials are not honored in this country; she must return to school and study Dutch law but first she must master the Dutch language at a fluent business level.

She just left; her heart bleeding, but she must pursue and find her own true happiness and fulfillment. I wish her success with the new high profile job she just got in Israel. Something tells me though that she will be fine.

And our other common friend, I have just heard is back in Finland after breaking up with her Dutch bf too.

They have had a rocky relationship; it seems that she and her bf cannot agree to a compromise on the issues that they are very concerned about. Eventually the differences lead their union to disintegrate into pieces.

Uh, why is everyone breaking up!?

These 3 girls are the very first few friends I have made on my first year (almost 4 years ago) here in the Netherlands and it seems that within the group, I am the only last one standing tall with my relationship --- can be a scary thing too.

A few weeks ago when the Dutchman was away in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong for business, I spent my weekends with the Dutch sisters-in-law. The same negative sentiments was floating in the air during our afternoon tea and after dinner coffee conversations; a number of their old friends have broken up recently and their neighborhood at the moment too has become a new real estate haven with te koop [for sale] signs posted on the windows of houses --- many couples have broken-up/divorced after 10 to 12 years of living together.

Sister-in-law’s next door neighbor and the neighbor across their driveway, both families are going through a divorce with the te koop [for sale] signs posted in front of their houses. They even joked around that since this divorce flu plagued the community quarters vastly, you never know who’s going to be next, it could be them!

Reasons of the break-ups were: (a) growing out of love and growing apart; (b) one partner communicates while the other partner shuts the other out; and (c) irreconcilable differences.

Life’s heartaches, sigh, this must be what they call mid-life crisis... eh?

I noticed too that these break-ups/divorces usually happen within the first 3 to 4 years of a new relationship (the adjustment period) and after the 10 to 12 years of a long relationship (the awakening period). Moreover, ages of the couples fall in the late 30’s to early 40’s range, which I fondly call - the age of reality.

And, I also believe that the background of a person plays an important role, i.e. having divorced parents, many divorcees in the family --- these can serve as bad examples and/or influence, subconsciously.

Hmm, Dutchman and I are still on our 4th year relationship stage (6 years altogether) and we are in our mid to late 30’s ages, which means, we are not yet out of the danger zone!

Aside from the stable relationship we have (hey, its a lot of work too!), another solace we can think of is this: we both came from intact families - no divorces and separations from both our direct families, parents and siblings, and almost none too from both our older extended family members.

Well, we shall see...

Some wisdom to ponder on: No matter how sincere we are in our commitment to our partners, we can never guarantee a future of happiness and success in our relationships. A union of two lives is never easy; as it is, it needs constant tending and compromise, and the act in itself can either bring the best in us or the worst.

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