Category: Jamie’s Adventures

Confident Travelling: Paleis Het Loo & Arnhem

Paleis Het Loo Holland

On our third day in Holland, we ventured out to Paleis Het Loo just outside of Apeldoorn. This former royal residence is over 3oo years old and is open to the public. Immediately I fell in love with the trees. It was easy to imagine wandering for hours in the woods beside the gardens (and yes, I’ve read a lot of fairy tales).

Het Loo Paleis

After exploring the stables and coach houses and admiring the peacocks, we strolled through the extensive formal gardens, complete with sculptures and fountains.

Cafe at Het Loo Paleis

We stopped for an elegant coffee and lunch at the palace cafe. I just love when every little detail is beautiful. It makes my heart sing.

Gardens at Het Loo

And this was truly my favourite part of the palace. Wait until you see what it was like inside.

Het Loo Garden Arch

Winding corridors and curving archways covered in green. You can only imagine how many secret kisses have been had in these walkways. I may have gotten one or two myself!

Het Loo Paleis

Then we ventured inside the palace walls to take in the opulence and historic beauty.

Het Loo Princess

It was very clear how many people felt very attached to the royals. The palace guides spoke with enthusiasm about the history of not only this place but the people who have called it home.

Confident Traveller Tip: Don’t be shy about asking questions when visiting these kinds of historical locations. Often the people that work there have a deep love of and commitment to the stories and significance of the place and are delighted to share. Some of the most fascinating things I’ve learned have actually been from overhearing guides chat with school groups, even if I could only pick up a word here or a phrase there.

Het Loo Doorway

One of the significant things that I learned on this trip was very personal in nature. I found as we explored Holland I was seeing the world with an additional lens, one that’s been developing more and more over the past little while. As I took photos, for instance, I was not only trying to capture the memory but I was also looking through that lens as a creative. I was gathering colours, shapes, images that fueled my creative fire and that I know will find expression in many aspects of my creative work.

Arnhem and A Bridge Too Far

After our palace adventures, we travelled to the city of Arnhem, which is known for being the site of a battle that many people know from the movie A Bridge Too Far. That bridge marks the spot.

Rose's at Arnhem

I’m happy to say that these days this location also known for a lovely little strip of restaurants along the Rhine River. We had a hard time choosing but settled on Rose’s Lounge, which was lovely.  This lawn chair patio is just perfect for drinks and a nibble, don’t you think?
Dinner in Arnhem

For us, a full dinner was in order and I thoroughly enjoyed my goat cheese and asparagus salad – yum! We had a wonderful time relaxing by the river, watching the sun go down and even some hot air balloons floating by. A perfect end to another wonderful day of travelling.

Confident Travelling: The Open Air Museum, The Batavia & Scheveningen

Outdoor Museum Holland

After spending the morning in Hoorn, we drove to our next adventure: The Open Air Museum or the Openluchtmuseum. We had no idea what to expect from the name of the museum and were delighted to spend a few hours discovering this celebration of the history of everyday life in the Netherlands.

Open Air Museum Holland

Taking the boat out to the museum, we travelled back in time, back to the early days of village life in Holland.

Open Air Museum Holland

The magic of the Open Air Museum is it allows you to wander into a recreated past. Whole historic buildings have been relocated here, allowing you to steop into the actual homes that villagers, fisherman and merchants lived in.

Open Air Museum Holland

To further the experience, you also encounter villagers going about their daily life activities, from laundry to gardening to smoking fish.

Open Air Museum

And, of course, the land tells the tale.  The word “idyllic” came to mind again and again as we experienced the natural beauty of Holland.

Open Air Museum

And the picture wouldn’t be complete without a windmill! Here my father-in-law Chris helps these youngsters spin a water device. After helping one young girl, the next wanted his help too!

Goat at the Open Air Museum

It’s become a bit of a joke that no matter where I travel in the world, I am drawn to the animals and birds. I’m going to take pictures of ducks just like the ones we have at home and I’m going to be delighted to have an opportunity to pet friendly farm animals, no matter where we are.

Taking Pics at the Open Air Museum

And no matter where we go, half the fun is going to be capturing the moment in pictures.

My Boots Open Air Museum

This was my first full day of wearing my new teal adventure boots and I have to say that they were just perfect, so comfortable I didn’t think about them at all, except to take a picture!

Open Air Museum, Holland

And that’s a very good thing because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on one moment of beauty at the Open Air Museum in Holland. Plus, our adventure didn’t stop there!

JRS 15 Batavia

We also stopped by the reconstruction of the famous Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship, The Batavia. As we arrived, I couldn’t help but notice that amazing sculpture on the right.

Sculpture Holland

Wow! And the distractions continued because no matter how beautiful and historically significant the big Batavia was I couldn’t help but notice…

Batavia Bunnies

Bunnies! It turns out there was a whole warren in the shipyards. And it wouldn’t be the last time that we would stumble across rabbits on this trip! I have a feeling they had a message to deliver.


We finished off our day of adventure by travelling to the beautiful beach of Scheveningen. The breeze was strong, the air was fresh and the sunset was spectacular. We walked all the way out to the end of that pier and watched the sun dip into the sea.

Simonis Scheveningen

All that was left was to enjoy a generous and delicious fish dish and a beer at the popular Simonis by the beach. Closing the place was the perfect end to a great day of adventure in Holland.

Confident Travelling: Hoorn, Holland

Arriving in Hoorn, Holland

We started our first full day of Holland adventure by travelling north, the direction that Justin and Chris had done the least exploring in, and that led us to the beautiful city of Hoorn. It didn’t take long to fall in love with cobblestone roads and canals under the blue skies of September and the just turning leaves.

Blue Skies and Hoorn

As we walked towards the port, we passed a lovely house on the corner with big windows and an open door into what looked like a professional kitchen. My father-in-law, Chris, stopped to ask the people eating at a small table out front if it was a restaurant or their home. It was so a lovely we were ready to stop for a bite.  It turned out this was their family home so we continued on, after chatting about Canada and Holland and poor Justin getting razzed for not speaking Dutch. I think this is common for our generation of immigrants’ children. My mom also came to Canada from elsewhere and we didn’t learn a word of her mother tongue, Latvian. Her focus was on being at home in her adopted country.

Fishing and Hoorn

One thing Justin’s Dutch heritage has instilled in him is a deep love of the water. Hoorn was the perfect place to connect to the seafaring culture of the Netherlands. This city has a great history as a harbour and a fishing centre. Anyone with a love of boats will have a wonderful time taking in the views.

JRS 4 Hoorn

We were blessed with beautiful weather on our trip, as you can see by the calm waters and blue skies. Apparently September is a traditionally a good time to travel to Holland. We could have spent hours just staring out into the waters, drinking in the peace and beauty of this locale.

The Ships Boys of Bontekoe

I thought perhaps that was the inspiration for this sculpture but it turns out the The Ships Boys of Bontekoe or the Scheepsjongens of Bontekoe are actually three characters from a book. Rolf, Padde and Hajo make their first travel out into the world by sea here in Hoorn.

Hoorn Port

With this vista beckoning, who wouldn’t go?

Confident Travelling: Fear of Flying & A Safe Arrival

Arriving in Holland

On my journey to become a more confident traveller, the hardest part remains the flight, especially if it is over the ocean. Days before scheduled departure, I start to quake, anticipating the journey to come. Despite this fear, I am committed to making my travel dreams come true and have found two things that help: love and courage. (In fact, these are the secret ingredients to all my dream-come-true!)

Love. I am gentle with myself about being afraid. I’ve given up judging or trying to rationalize the fear away. I am afraid. That is the part of the travel environment just like rainy days, early departures and too-close seating. How can I lovingly support myself in going through the fear so that I can come out the other side to Paris or Amsterdam or Rome? Some things that work: knowing that people are sending loving thoughts for our flight, taking diligent care of all logistical details so they don’t add to the stress, visualizing myself and my travelling companion(s) at the destination and doodling on the flight.

Courage. To pass through fear to a goal or a dream takes courage. Period. I draw on my deep desire to experience this world, to live my life to the fullest while I am here. I draw on the bravery of Georgia O’Keefe, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”*

And so, this month I flew to Holland with my husband for a two-week vacation to visit family and explore a truly beautiful country. I’d love to share some of that journey with you. Along the way, I’ll continue to share any tips or strategies that have helped develop travel confidence.

Holland Sky

Travelling from Toronto to Europe usually involves an overnight flight. To ease the time transition, the airline often serves an evening meal, simulates nightfall by turning down the lights for several hours and then puts them on again before you arrive in what is the middle of the night where you left and the dawn of a new day where you arrive. We were blessed with a good flight, even arriving an hour early (!), but unfortunately, we didn’t sleep a wink.

Tired and relieved, we were welcomed to Holland by the loving arms of Justin’s dad, Christiaan. As he drove us from Schipol airport to his home near Den Haag, we were taken in by the freshness, the green, the big skies, the pastures, the air (oh, the air) of Holland.

Cyclamen in the Window

Chris made us feel right at home and I quickly discovered that flowers are a signature gift in Holland – and also that my much-loved cyclamens are known by the Dutch to be favoured by old ladies! (All I can say is that me and the old ladies, we know beauty when we see it!) We settled right in and took a nap so that we could make a good start to the day and to our visit.

Den Haag Centrum

Chris quickly got us oriented to public transit and with an OV Chip Card loaded with some euros, we could start our travel adventure.  We started gently with a  trip to Den Haag Centrum aka downtown.

Coffee in Den Haag

And what better way to start an adventure than with coffee? Especially since it is one of the first places that you can see both the similarities and differences between countries. In Toronto, people grab coffee to go and the size of that coffee can be enormous! We saw almost none of that in Holland. But we also enjoy coffee-shop time, where we sit and journal or read or work or chat with friends for hours. The latter is where our countries meet. All over Holland we had a wonderful time stopping on patios for koffie and watching the world go by. Here your coffee is always served in a modest cup and saucer with a lovely treat on the side and it is enjoyed leisurely – very civilized!

Former Blue Angel - Den Haag

A particular delight of this first patio coffee was that it was right by the little bar where Justin’s parents, Chris and Ann, first met. Then it was called The Blue Angel. Chris was home for the weekend from the military when he stopped in this bar and met Ann. He walked her home that night and then showed up on her doorstep again the next morning. It was only months later they were on a boat to Canada to begin their married life together.

Den Haag

Even on this first day, we were deep in that magical meeting place of family, place, history and experience. We were sharing memories while creating new ones. It was just the beginning of our great Holland adventure.

Becoming a More Confident Traveller

Safe & Sound

Having just arrived home from a two-week trip to Holland, I can’t help but think back to when I set myself the goal of becoming a more confident traveller. I dreamed of exploring new places but found myself overwhelmed by all that I didn’t know or understand. How does the airport work? What about security? What should I pack? What can I bring on a plane? How do I get from the airport to the hotel? Should I stay in a hotel? How do I choose one? How do I do manage if I don’t speak the language? How do you even begin to find your way?

I started with setting an intention.

The moment I said, “I want to become a more confident traveller,” my world began to change.

Opportunities started to show up, like assisting Jennifer Louden at the Kripalu Centre or an invitation to visit my sister Suzie on the East Coast. There were things I wanted to do like go to the World Domination Summit in Portland and travel to Paris for my 10-year wedding anniversary. And so I started to say yes and I started to learn.

Being willing to learn is the beginning of everything.

I didn’t try to take everything in at once but instead I let each trip be a focal point for learning. In my creative life, I do this too, allowing each project to give me focus and direction as well as motivation to gain useful, practical knowledge that will serve me in the current project but also in many projects to come.

With traveling, first I learned to buy my own airline ticket online. I must have checked the order a thousand times before finally hitting “submit” but I did it. Then, because I was flying Air Canada, I focused on what their website told me about what I could pack, how early I should arrive, how to get a boarding pass, that kind of thing. Little by little, I was learning.

Trip by trip, I started to build my knowledge, to gain experience and my confidence started to grow. With each trip I stretched a little bit further. I travelled by myself. I travelled to a different country. I travelled on public transport. I travelled between two places in one trip. I travelled to a place where the language wasn’t English.

Now I can say I have travelled to Portsmouth, Portland, Halifax, Vancouver, Sedona, San Francisco, Paris, Avignon, Nice, Amsterdam, Brussels and more!

My confidence has grown exponentially and there is still much to learn. I remain afraid of flying, especially over the ocean, and though I may never be at ease with that aspect of the journey, I have strategies that support me. Most recently, thanks to a great suggestion from John Austin (thank you, John!) I brought my sketchbook and doodled on the plane. Filling up the pages with colour and line gave my body and mind a way to channel my anxious energy. I felt calmer as I worked on my Safe and Sound page both on the way to Amsterdam and back to Toronto. Another great tool in my confident traveller’s toolkit.

To gain confidence, eventually you must do the thing that you wish to gain confidence in.

I am a huge fan of preparation, even over-preparation! I know it calms my nerves when I have researched to the nth degree, when I have made and checked off every list (twice), when I have double (or triple) checked reservations, confirmations and what’s in my suitcase.

I am big believer in doing everything you can do to make it easier on yourself, especially by working with the truth of who you are. If calling makes you anxious, email. If arriving four hours early calms your nerves, do it. Give yourself all the understanding and loving support available as you cross over that thrilling, terrifying, glorious threshold of new learning.

Do everything you can to prepare and then go.

This is one thing I learned in the theatre, both as an actor and as a director. Do everything within your power to support success, work wholeheartedly, with passion and commitment, and when opening night arrives, let it go.Live it. Breathe it. Experience it. Do it. This is what you have been preparing for.

Let your preparation ground you. Trust yourself. And know that you can always ask for help.

As a highly sensitive person and a Canadian, I have a tendency to sit back quietly suffering while I try and figure things out for myself. On this trip I saw my much more direct Dutch father-in-law over and over again ask people how to get places, what was worth seeing and even, with great interest and curiosity, what they were doing. (“So, is this your boat?” “It’s lovely how you sit out here. Is this a restaurant or your own home?”) Over and over again he was met with helpful, interesting and friendly replies.

Learning to trust your ability to handle what comes up is the greatest confidence builder of all.

As the plane was descending on the way home, I watched a show I’d never seen before called “Staycation.” A New York couple hopped on the subway and went across town for an overnight adventure in Brooklyn. They stopped in eclectic little shops and restaurants and grabbed drinks in a local bar. As they sat alone in a neon-lit dive, laughing while enjoying the drink special of the day, I realized that one of the things that made their staycation an adventure was the risks they were willing to take. They risked that the food would be bad, that the bar was a bit seedy, that the shopkeeper would be unfriendly. They didn’t check Yelp or worry about whether it was the right place, the best place or the coolest place. They just risked it and had the experience.

This trip to Holland has been amazing and I am so proud of how much confidence I have gained as a traveller. Always looking to the next horizon, I see that for me there is a growing edge around loosening up, around asking for help and around allowing myself to get it wrong. It’s amazing how the lessons that show up in one thing tend to be the lessons that show up in all things. There’s always more to learn.

What adventure(s) do you want to go on? How might you make a start and build your confidence?

Over the next little while I will be sharing my Holland adventures, including a few Confident Traveller Tips that I hope you’ll find helpful. I hope you’ll enjoy coming on the journey with me.

Holland Sky

My Creative Weekend

Coffee in the Beach

This weekend was a wonderful deep breathe before I plunge into two busy weeks getting ready for our trip to Holland. It was great to get out to a coffee shop, journal in hand, even if I found myself mostly creating lists of things I need to get done before we go.

Beach Sky

From the coffee shop, I walked to the beach. I feel so blessed to have Lake Ontario just a stone’s throw away. The sky above the lake never fails to amaze and inspire. I find myself taking pictures of it every single time. Even though I am standing in the same spot, the view is never the same.

Seagull Dreaming

As I sat on a big rock, gazing out into the lake, I imagined myself and this little gull were sharing similar feelings of peace and introspection.  Though I think, perhaps, I did more reading. I’m currently immersed in Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan and enjoying every moment. I am reliving so many garden memories with him as well as being inspired to think deeply about the nature of gardening and ourselves.

Lost Doll

Out and about this weekend I was reminded how every outing can turn into an artist date when you have your camera! You never know what you’ll see. Imagine the story behind this moment! Imagine what happens next. This moment alone can inspire countless tales of wonder, mystery, loss, delight and more!

Open Streets TO Bloor

On Sunday, Justin and I went to the first ever Open Streets Toronto event. From 8:00 am until noon two major streets in Toronto were closed to traffic and open to people. It was wild to walk right down Bloor Street, enjoying the sunshine and the view. Unfortunately, I did get hit by a bike from behind. Neither of us were badly hurt but it was enough to shake us up and send me back to the sidewalk for a while.

Open Streets Toronto ROM

Luckily, there were plenty of good things on on that sidewalk, including in front of the Royal Ontario Museum. I was tempted to get my picture taken with a dinosaur. Who wouldn’t be?

Our real inspiration was to get out and have a listen to our guitar teacher play. The music and the open piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music were the highlight of Open Streets Toronto for us.

Art Day with Shannon. Jamie Ridler Studios.

There was still time in the afternoon so I just had to sit down for some art-making with Shannon! We’ve been taking the Art Journaling class at Creative Bug with Dawn Devries Sokol and I’d been aching to create some backgrounds. I’m experimenting with repurposing a large children’s book as an art journal and so far have been loving incorporating some of the illustrations, like this wonderful fox still visible in the corner.

Cats in the Hood - Hazel

Even going for a run can become a creative outing – though I have to be careful not to get so distracted that I’m forgetting to run! I’ve managed to take some great Cats in the Hood shots during my warm-ups and cool-downs. This weekend I caught a glimpse of Hazel sitting on this car and took a quick shot before picking up the pace once more.

Flower Reference. Jamie Ridler Studios.

I also can’t resist taking pictures of flowers, especially since I’ve been drawing! I’m used to the idea of drawing from nature but  continue to be astounded by how many times I see a flower that is the real-life expression of a graphic illustration I’ve seen that I kind of thought had been made up! I love the free play between mediums. More and more the pictures I take are becoming photo references for drawing explorations.

Mandelas. Jamie Ridler Studios.

And speaking of drawing explorations, my weekend creativity was rounded out by playing with mandalas. Until recently I had never drawn one before. Inspired by Andrea Schroeder, I’ve been having fun discovering this art form and am learning so much from it. More on that to come!

What did you get up to this weekend?

Sharing Quebec City – Day 2

Le Pain Béni

One of the advantages of our hotel in Quebec City was breakfast at Le Pain Béni was included and delicious! We started our first full day in the city with the best seat in the house, right by the window. The rain had poured all night long but it didn’t feel so bad curled up under the slanted roof and cozy under our Hudson Bay blanket. Still, with the promise of more rain it seemed a good day to go to a museum!

JRS Rainy Cartier

Early mornings and rainy days have their advantages, including sometimes feeling like you have the entire city to yourself.

JRS Rainy Quebec

JRS Le musée de la civilisation de Québec

It’s too bad Les Museée de la Civilisation didn’t have many spots that allowed pictures. We had a wonderful time exploring the People of Québec…Then and Now exhibit. I was especially fascinated by the variety of contemporary takes on Québec history and I just loved the stations that brought voices of the past to life with creative recordings. They had that perfect blend of being informative, humorous and just a little bit corny. That feels like home to me, hehe.

I wish I could also recreate for you a bit of the Haiti: In Extremis show that we experienced. It is still sitting in my heart and mind. It was one of those art experiences that asks you to expand into an entirely different perspective. It was intense, magical, frightening, spiritual… It was a different world.

JRS St Lawrence

When we left the museum, we were delighted to see signs of sunshine! It seemed like a perfect time to head into Lower Town and have a bite to eat.

Le Lapin Saute

We found this wonderful little restaurant with a beautiful outdoor patio. We tucked in for salads and a lovely glass of wine in the sunshine – and of course, some creme brulee!

Lower Town. Quebec City.

Lower Town is a beautiful part of the city and we had a great time exploring. We’re not big shoppers but we did find some treasures, including a store that specializes in using reclaimed wool. We couldn’t resist the quality of the material, the local spin and the brilliant idea and so came home with socks and a toque!

JRS Fresque des Québécois

We strolled so long we managed to find a quiet moment in front of the Fresque des Québécois! Earlier in the day there were dozens of people taking their picture in front of this mural, most coming up with creative ways to interact with the historical figures inside the painting!

1640 Quebec City

We continued to walk throughout the beautiful city until it was clear it was time to sit down for another meal. We had to take advantage of this gorgeous break in the weather and found a patio right near our hotel.

The Moon & The Chateau.

There’s nothing quite like ending your day with a view of the moon and a chateau.