Category: Jamie’s Adventures

Visiting the Toronto Botanical Gardens

Toronto Botanical Gardens Fall

When I was a little girl, no matter where we travelled, my mom always made sure that we stopped at the local gardens.  I don’t remember being excited or bored by these outings. They were just something we did. It was only a few years ago, when I saw a little girl dancing in her own little world at the Rose Garden in Portland, that I realized what a formative experience my early garden visits had been. All the feelings of ease, freedom, magic and joy returned in a rush. Maybe we’re less like to remember the gentle joys. But now I remember.

I remember.

Since then, I’ve made sure to continue my mom’s tradition, always with camera in hand.  (I learned that from my mom too!) And so on the perfect day in September, it seemed only right that Justin and I discover the gardens in our very own city.  We hopped on the bus and headed out to the Toronto Botanical Gardens.

Toronto Botanical Gardens Cafe

It was a blue-sky day sprinkled with yellow leaves.

Justin at the Toronto Botanical Gardens

The perfect day for gentle chats and meandering…

Toronto Botanical Gardens

For a slow pace and a deep breath…

Toronto Botanical Gardens Pathway

For following magical pathways…

Toronto Botanical Garden Beauty

And meditating on beauty.

Toronto Botanical Gardens Learning Garden

The Toronto Botanical Gardens includes a learning garden and when we were there, plenty of children were running about, getting their hands in the dirt and discovering. I smiled thinking how this experience would become a part of their history, perhaps a part of who they would become, just as my early garden visits had with me.

JRS 8 Toronto Botanical Gardens

It was a delight to take in the beauty of flowers as we walked.

Tree with Yellow Leaves Toronto Botanical Gardens

But the real stars of the show this fall were the trees.

Impressive Tree Toronto Botanical Gardens

Oh, the trees.

Fall Trees Toronto Botanical Gardens

One of the things I truly love about Toronto it is that in this bustling urban centre there are places like this.

JRS 12 Toronto Botanical Gardens

I absolutely had to bring some beauty home with me! A visit to the lovely gift shop had me delighting in parrot tulip bulbs. I’ve planted them in my little back garden and, squirrels willing, they’ll infuse the beauty of the gardens into our own backyard next spring.

What are your garden memories?

JRS Jamie Garden Magic
Me, as a little girl, enjoying the gardens my mom took us to.

Confident Travelling: Utrecht


After Amsterdam we took a day to visit with Justin’s family, sharing dinner and lively conversation at his Aunt’s home. It was so wonderful to hear family stories and shared memories. A quiet day gave us a chance to get our energy back before our next outing and adventure: Utrecht.

Confident Traveller Tip: Consider taking a gentle day to relax and drink in local life when you travel. The world is vast and we can’t see everything. Slowing down a bit here and there can help us be present with what we do get to, especially if we’re highly sensitive people!

Utrecht Street View

Justin and I liked Utrecht the moment we arrived. As the day went on, we realized it was the cultural vibe of the city that was drawing us in. Later we found out that Utrecht has the second most cultural events in Holland after Amsterdam. It’s also home to the largest university in Holland and several other institutes of higher learning. We were even approached by film students who were set up in the middle of the street to interview people about their relationship to time. Too bad we didn’t have time to stop, LOL!

Utrecht Statue
Having said that, our exploring in Utrecht was very relaxed, wandering here and there and discovering beauty everywhere…

Utrecht Boulder

From elegant statues to a giant runestone! This is a replica of one of the the Jelling Stones and was gifted to Utrecht University celebrate their 300-year anniversary in 1936. As a Canadian, that means the university is older than my country!

Utrecht Arched Hallway

Beside the runestone we found a beautiful arched entryway leading to the Pandhof garden of the Dom Church.

Utrecht Quad

Dating back to 1390, this beautiful spot has no doubt welcomed centuries of quiet reflection and deep conversation.

Beers in Utrecht

However, for deep conversation, we went out for a beer! I think we managed to stop for a beer in just about every place we went in Holland. One of the things that was quite different about Utrecht was the lower level canal and these interesting restaurants a level down by the water.

Utrecht Cats #catsinthehood

Of course, the area did have a few scallywags!

Utrecht Shop

The shops in Utrecht were charming and though I don’t tend to do much shopping when I travel, this one had me stop and walk back to it after I caught sight of some beautiful handmade mugs. Thanks to my lovely father-in-law Chris, I brought one home. Now my morning koffie can bring me back to Holland anytime.

Utrecht Shop Cat

Confident Travelling: Amsterdam (Day One) Maritime Museum, Sebastian’s & Belhamel

Amsterdam Train Station

Midway through our trip, Justin and I planned a two-day visit to Amsterdam. Along with Justin’s dad, Chris, we took the train from Den Haag and once we arrived, it didn’t take long to feel like we could have stayed for two weeks!

Marine Museum Amsterdam

Our first stop was at the Maritime Museum or Het Scheepvaartmuseum , which was a delight of wonder. First we stepped onto an exact replica of the Dutch East India Company ship the Amsterdam. It seemed to me such a great adventure to brave a cross-Atlantic flight and come to Holland; I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to sail for days and days on a ship like this, perhaps to parts unknown. What an enormous amount of courage and fortitude! Perhaps that’s another reason that I found these ship decorations hauntingly beautiful.

Marine Instruments

The museum has a gorgeous exhibit of nautical instruments. I found the display spell-binding. The walls sparkled with constellations and accompanied by great explanations of how sailors used the stars to navigate. The beautiful presentation evoked a sense of mystery and wonder.

Marine Paintings

The museum also housed an impressive collection of marine paintings and again, you could feel how deeply Holland’s history and culture is tied to ships and the sea. It was fascinating that alongside this work, there was an interactive exhibit of the port as it is today, including information about actual ships and the jobs they currently do

Walking in Amsterdam

After the Maritime Museum, Chris left us to our own devices and we spent some time simply walking , taking in Amsterdam.

Pannenkoeken in Amsterdam

We stopped for pannenkoeken and some coffee and started to think about what we might want to do during our stay.

Hotel Sebastian's

Time to get settled and drop our stuff off in our hotel. What a delight! We booked just a few days before and risked a no-cancellation reservation to get a good price for our stay. It was our one night in the city and we wanted to pick somewhere that felt special and Sebastian’s certainly did.

Confident Traveller Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Sebastian’s in Amsterdam. We were absolutely delighted by every aspect of our experience at Sebastian’s. It’s on a lovely tree-lined canal street a bit away from the city crowds. From the moment we arrived, the staff was friendly, helpful and had great recommendations. The room was exactly as pictured on their website. It was beautiful, clean, comfortable and quiet with a great view.

Walking In Amsterdam

One of the things Justin and I truly delight in when travelling is simply walking. We love walking through a city and getting a feel for it, looking at the buildings, the businesses, taking in the people, the fashions, the pace. Walking is a great way to get a sense of what a city is all about.

Cat in Amsterdam

And besides, it’s the best way to find cats!

Amsterdam Flower Market

We walked down to the Amsterdam flower market and I wanted to bring everything home! Maybe that was my inspiration for planting tulip bulbs as soon as I got home!

Champagne in Amsterdam

After a full afternoon of walking in the city, it was just perfect to sit in our hotel room, open the big, beautiful windows and pour ourselves some chilled champagne. Thank you, Sebastian’s, for making our special time in Amsterdam even more magical!

Belhamel Amsterdam

The hotel also gave us a list of recommendations of nearby restaurants, ones that are off the tourist path. We chose De Belhamel and the concierge made us a reservation. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Belhamel managed to be both lively and intimate, cozy and romantic and the food was very, very good! Midway through the evening it struck me that this was exactly the evening I had dreamed of having in Paris but here it was in Amsterdam. My heart was full of gratitude and love.

Confident Travelling: Ghent, Belgium

Jamie & Justin in Gent
photo by Christiaan Visser

After a day close by in Den Haag, we took a longer journey to Ghent in Belgium. One of the most immediately identifiable differences between Canada and Europe is the scale of this kind of trip. Considering the time it took for us to travel to another country, here, in Canada, the same drive wouldn’t have taken us out of our province of Ontario!

Coffee in Gent

Of course, one of the very first things we did was sit down for a lovely coffee to drink in the city’s atmosphere. Everywhere we looked there was history. In fact, my brother reminded me of a moment when Canadian history and this beautiful city intersected; The Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812.

Adventure Boots in Gent

I took the opportunity to document my personal history and the fact that my new adventure boots had now been to three countries!

Horse Drawn Carriage in Gent

One of things we most loved about Ghent was the juxtaposition of centuries old buildings and cathedrals alongside people going to work in streetcars. This city was full of life and activity as well has history and beauty. I wish I could show you the amazing scale of St. Bavo’s Cathedral but no pictures were allowed within. Perhaps the simple statement from their website, “For over a thousand years this has been a place of prayer…” tells the tale.

Music in Gent

As we strolled the cobblestone roads, there was so much to experience, including an impromptu piano performance by a talented young man who attracted quite an audience in moments.

Love in Gent
photo by Christiaan Visser

I so appreciate that my father-in-law Chris caught these lovely moments of Justin and I throughout the trip. It’s a gift to have these beautiful reminders of our travels.

Heart Lock in Gent

Everywhere in Ghent there were treasures to be found.Gravensteen Gent

Including this amazing castle. Gravensteen was built in 1118! Living in a country that was founded in 1867, these dates never cease to amaze me.

Inside Gravensteen

The beauty of the castle was captivating and also a great contrast to its history. The information about this site was rich with torture, death and cruelty. Though castles and knights cast a very romantic light in our imaginations, it is clear they are of a grim and violent time.

View from Gravensteen

We climbed to the top of Gravensteen and though I get wobbly with heights, it was a delight to have a birds-eye view of the city. In fact, it wouldn’t be long before we’d be sitting down in that square.

Beer in Belgium

A very busy patio and a brusque waiter made Ghent feel a bit like home. We asked for a good Belgian beer and finished our day with a Keizer Karel and making plans for more adventures tomorrow.

Confident Traveller Tip: Brave asking for a local favourite. I have to admit, the fast pace of the patio and the impatience of the waiter made it difficult to slow things down and ask for a recommendation. It was awkward for a moment and the waiter left us to “figure it out,” saying he was too busy to wait.  But when he came back, he said that we could trust him to pick something good for us and he did.  It took a moment of courage and a little bit of patience but it was so worth it in the long run. (PS If you aren’t a highly sensitive person, this is probably super easy for you, LOL! For me, it was an achievement!)

Confident Travelling: Den Haag

Den Haag

After days of big car trips to various parts of Holland, we decided to take a gentler journey, hopping on public transit and visiting Den Haag’s city centre. Considering the grey, it was the perfect day for galleries and museums!


We started in Mauritshuis,  an intimate museum with great works of Dutch art displayed in a beautiful 17th-century house.

3 JRS Mauritshuis

When visiting galleries and museums, I almost never partake in audio tours. I like to follow my own pace and preferences, not a predetermined path. Plus, I find that when the headphones are on, the conversation stops and part of the delight is discussing your art encounter! At Mauritshuis, I did take advantage of their wonderful app. With a click you could learn more about the work that grabbed you and it was particularly useful to have all this information in English!

The Goldfinch

Clearly a favourite at the gallery was The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. As we came across this painting, a young woman stood in front of it almost bursting with excitement. She had loved this painting for so long and now, for the first time, they were meeting in person. This brings to mind Bill Hayes’ wonderful concept of owning works of art by building a meaningful relationship with them. (A Monet of One’s Own. Thank you, Kelly Besecke for introducing me to this piece!)

Girl with a Pearl Earring

There is the most buzz and excitement around The Girl with a Pearl Earring be Vermeer. Something about this work draws people in. Even when I shared it on Instagram, the response was passionate, immediate and strong. I was surprised to learn that this is not a portrait but rather a character sketch drawn from Vermeer’s imagination. Clearly what spoke to him about this imaginary woman still speaks to us today.

Coffee & Bikes

As we did in every city, we stopped for coffee. This hip and unique spot brought together two Holland favourites: coffee and bikes!

Panorama Den Haag

The next stop showed me creative work like I have never experienced before: Panorama Mesdag. The main display is Holland’s biggest painting, a huge circular marine panorama of Den Haag. When you emerge from the staircase into the round room display it literally destabilizes your senses. It takes a moment to adjust and to take in the vast re-creation of a time and place through artistry. In the picture I’ve shared, the foreground is actually sand with real props sitting  in front of a painting of convincing perspective. I can only imagine the wonder it caused during its time!

Patrick Hughes from Jamie Ridler on Vimeo.

Our visit to the panorama also brought one of the most wondrous surprises of the journey, an exhibit by the artist Patrick Hughes. He is the creator of  “reverspective” which I hope the video captures for you. This was nothing like I have ever seen before. The artwork is static and three-dimensional but as you move it appears to move as well, almost like a video right in front of your eyes. We were captivated!

Hope by Patrick Hughes

It was often the thought and the humour in Patrick Hughes’ work that moved me. So much so that I bought a guidebook so I could revisit his words and his paintings often. Unfortunately my very favourite piece was not represented, so I’m glad that I took a photo. When I saw this piece, I fell in love. There was something about the open space, dotted with the colour of seed packets held to the canvas by sticks poked through the surface. And when I read the title, Hope, my eyes filled with tears.

Den Haag Horse

I loved the delights of Den Haag, including this discovery of a painted horse. This particularly caught my eye because Toronto is filled with similar pieces, though our painted animal of choice is the moose.

Confident Travelling: Dordrecht, Holland


After our day in Delft, we thought we would have dinner in Dordrecht. This city is full of history, particularly family history for Justin and his father, Chris. On that bench out there on the left, Justin’s grandparents would sit together. If my memory serves, that may in fact be where they first kissed.

Dordrecht Houses

One of the things Holland is known for is the wonderful shape of canal houses. Their signature silhouette is memorable, beautiful and found in everything from porcelain figurines to pillow cases. In these ones I particularly like the anchor adornments at their peak.

Dordrecht Restaurant

And here was the absolute perfect place to sit for dinner.

Dordrecht Boat

A great place for ship watching. The ones we saw most frequently are these transports. When they are empty they ride high on the water but when full, they can come so close to water level that splashes find their way right in!

Dordrecht Restaurant

One of the things I will truly miss are all the wonderful meals, coffees and beers we had on delightful patios around Holland, including this one in Dordrecht.


While we were taking pictures in this spot, Justin’s Dad took up a conversation with one of the locals who was sitting in front of his house reading with his wife. Chris made a joke about him being a part of the local scenery and the gentleman quickly retorted that they were watching us too! Chris suggested he should take the man’s picture, at which point he cheerfully shook out his paper, sat back and posed.


One of my very favourite things to do in any city is simply to walk through the streets and take in the homes and buildings. I could do that for hours and hours. In fact, I do that at home all the time and never get tired of it. I love places and how we live in them.

Our Feet in Dordrecht

As we walked through the city (and, in fact, in all our travels), I loved seeing what would catch our eyes – the things that were the same, the things that were different. Sharing experiences together is such a wonderful way to experience one another.

Dordrecht Statue

This haunting statue definitely caught our attention. I could come back on different days at different times in different weather to revisit this piece in this place and let her tell me all of her stories over and over again.

Dordrecht Kitten

And no matter where I go, you know I’m always looking for more Cats in the Hood!

Confident Travelling: Delft

Delft Charm

It took about 10 seconds to fall in love with the city of Delft – the canals filled with ducks and coots, including a trail of chirping, chicks, cobblestones, flowers and a church that played Yellow Submarine on the bells.

Market Flowers in Delft

And the market! Thank you to Justin’s Aunt Ida who recommended we go on a Thursday to enjoy the market, particularly the flowers!

Delft Cheese

And great cheese. We all sampled the green one and knew we had to take some home. I still don’t know what it was other than smoky, filled with caraway and absolutely delicious! I think we had that cheese for breakfast and lunch most days after that.

Delft Centre

All of this was right in the city centre of Delft and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) looked over by Hugo Grotius or Hugo de Groot who is known as the founder of international law and who wrote an influential work on the freedom of the seas.

JRS 6 Delft Market

We followed the market throughout the city. There was so much to look at and delight in!

Delft Market

I even found a silver ring that was incredibly similar to a thumb ring I lost years ago. The man who sold it to me said, “You have come a long way, but you have not come for nothing.”

Delft Market Tools

After taking a picture of these refurbished tools, we had a great conversation with the man who does the work. Most of these were originally abandoned and covered in rust but he brought them back to life so they are useful again.  Not to sound like a fuddy-duddy but it really does seem that things aren’t made like they used to be so this seems incredibly worthwhile!

Delft Market Puppy

The market is so big and full of riches it’s enough to tire a puppy out!

Delft History

After the market we strolled down the streets, taking in the architecture and the historic buildings. Whenever we saw a plaque, Justin’s dad would interpret for us.

Delft Charm

Everywhere we walked, Delft was full of charm.