Tag: travel

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.

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?