Orange for Kings Day in Amsterdam

Orange for Kings Day in Amsterdam

Queen’s Day, on April 30, is the Dutch monarch’s official birthday (it was the actual birthday of Queen Beatrix’s mother, Queen Juliana, but when Bea ascended the date was kept the same). However, Beatrix officially handed over the throne to her son Willem-Alexander last year, so the event is now known as King’s Day. The king’s birthday is April 27, but because celebrations do not traditionally take place on a Sunday, the festivities in the Netherlands will this year it happened on Saturday 26th of April.

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King’s Day celebrations make the end of April a fun and lively time to be in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities.

The day is celebrated with street parties all over the country, for example most cafes and many restaurants will set up on the pavement outside their doors. It is also celebrated with something quintessentially Dutch – a nationwide flea market.People empty their attics and set up stalls on the street, selling anything you can imagine. Or they provide services (cakes and drinks, massage, make-up – anything they can turn their hand to). Children especially put on side-shows or have a go at busking.

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Amsterdam is the focus of the celebrations and gets very crowded, especially along the main canals and city squares, with sometimes up to three million people in a city with a population of 750,000. The fun traditionally begins on the eve of the big day (King’s Night) with the carnival atmosphere continuing throughout the city on King’s Day.We spent this evening in Leiden, where live music played and floats paraded along canals.

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Photo from Loveland, the techno festival that we went to on the 26th. Below is a video from the festival, best seen in full screen.

DJs play parties on public squares, brightly decorated boats fill canals and live music spills onto streets from cafe patios. Never has gridlock traffic been so much fun! On King’s Day, thousands of brightly decorated boats pack the narrow Amsterdam canals. The next best thing to being on one of the boats is watching – and dancing – from one of the many bridges.

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The Vondelpark is usually devoted to acts and stalls from children, while the Zeedijk (near Centraal Station) and Reguliersdwarsstraat, and a stretch along the Amstel River are given over to huge gay street parties. My personal favourite spots are a little south of the centre, along Apollolaan and around Sarphatipark, where there is still something of the Queen’s Day of yore.

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WEARING

ZARA JEANS

TRUSSARDI GLASSES

TOP SHOP BOOTS

ZARA JUMPER

The Grotesque Wonderland of Las Fallas de Valencia

The Grotesque Wonderland of Las Fallas de Valencia

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I followed the white rabbit and here I am Valencia’s own Grotesque Wonderland. Funny and full of color, the imagination towers and looms above the heads of the people crowding below. Creatures from children’s books, dreams and fantastical lands. Princess, flowers, beauty and elegance.

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Everywhere there are lights, like thousands of worms, flickering in the night. Explosions in the sky, and thousands of stars trickle down, showering the river in gold.

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All that is beautiful and good in the world, is here, brighter than usual and larger than life. There is the Eiffel tower, Paris in all its glory and at the end, in a blaze of color, a couple in black and white dancing. Is it right for people to have taken the world, created by God or by chance and made it so much better? My neck aches and my eyes drink in the wonders. This is real and I still can’t believe it.

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Beautiful girls and women walk around the city with flowers. Their journey has been long. From all four corners they have come and with their flowers the dress of the Virgin Mary takes shape. She is protective and oh so beautiful! Red and white, red and white, the fabric is lush and fragrant. It cascades down, like nature’s own velvet waterfall.

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But beware, in a world where there is good and joy, there must also be evil. The sky is getting darker and eyes grow colder. The light goes down and then we see. We see the Devils, the imps and the monsters satirically laughing and leering at us. Faces become menacing and reproachful.

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Thunder and lightning. We hide behind others. Here they come, they approach. Their tails flick, their ears are red, like the color of the fire which they spit and twirl. The noises are terrible, loud bangs, my ears will explode and so will my heart.

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The whisper goes round. It is time. The jury have given their verdict. It is time. The condemned stand stone still, the plebs stand greedily close. The fuses are light. The beauty, the ugliness, nothing is exempt. We have created, we can destroy. Today, if only today, we are the Gods of this Earth.

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It begins. One by one, they fall. We watch in horror and awe. Our faces are scotched by the heat. Shrieks and creaks, hands reach up out of the flames. Mercy they cry. But tonight, they will get none. The fire fills the plaza and licks dangerously close to houses and great buildings.

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The dream and the nightmare are over, reduced to ash and when I wake up nothing is left.

Las Fallas is a traditional celebration held in Valencia to commemorate Saint Joseph. Each neighborhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous dish, paella, a specialty of the region. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt. The fallas are constructed according to an agreed upon theme that has traditionally been, and continues to be, a satirical jab at anything or anyone who draws the attention of the critical eyes of the falleros—the celebrants themselves.

The five days and nights of Falles are a continuous party. There are a multitude of processions: historical, religious such as the offering of the flowers to the Virgin Mary and comical. Crowds in the restaurants spill out into the streets. Explosions can be heard all day long and sporadically through the night. Huge firework displays, the fire parade, la Mascleta and the burning are just a few of the highlights of this extraordinary festival. 

Hippies and Flower Power

Hippies and Flower Power

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For the past few days the sun has been coming out and life has been just that much more fun and love that much more beautiful. All the hipsters are sunbathing in the park, with short skirts, shorts and shades. To top things off I’ve just bought my tickets to the Holi Festival of Colours for this summer. Festival season is on the horizon, I’m super excitted. All the flowers are in full bloom. So it feels right, to celebrate all of this with some hippy chic.

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I’ve combined my tasseled  suede jacket and a handmade artisan bracelet from Tierra, with a white floral crochet dress. Quick, someone find me a tree to hug.

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Wearing

AX PARIS DRESS
FOREVER 21 SUEDE JACQUET
TIERRA MADRID HANDMADE BRACELET
GUESS SHOES
TRUSSARDI SUNGLASSES

Peace and Love x

Guiness Factory and Dublin Highlights

Guiness Factory and Dublin Highlights

After the parade, we walked down along the river to our next destination – The Guinness Brewery, where a new Guiness World Record was being set, to make the 17th March the World’s friendliest day!

Now I’m not a massive Guinness fan, so the complimentary pints and tasters that we got throughout our tour, became more of a sort of Fear Factor Challenge as opposed to a culinary degustation. However, the place was really interactive.The Storehouse is housed in a fermentation plant from 1904 and has 7 floors with exhibitions about the history of Guinness and how the “black stuff’ is made. You’ll learn about the ingredients (water, barley, hops and yeast), the process, the time, the craft and much more. We enjoyed live music, Irish line dancing, huge screens showing the rugby. My friend fell asleep on one of the sofas (random I know!) whilst we went to the top and got some great views over the city. Don’t miss the photo opp. with the massive Guinness slogan.

Now, of course Dublin doesn’t have just drink and merriment for its visitors. We set out to explore all of the cities other great monuments and buildings. On O’Connell street there stands the Spire of Dublin and the Post Office, one of Ireland’s most famous building. Being proudly British, these memorials are a sad reminder of the oppression and suffering that was inflected upon the Irish people by the English. These are important and bear witness to the struggle of the brave people who opposed this treatment and are a positive reminder of their success.

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During the Easter Rising of 1916, the GPO served as the headquarters of the uprising’s leaders. An original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is on display in the An Post museum at the GPO, where an exhibition, Letters, Lives & Liberty, highlights the history of the Post Office and the GPO. The building has remained a symbol of Irish nationalism. In commemoration of the Rising, a statue depicting the death of the mythical hero Cúchulainn sculpted by Oliver Sheppard in 1911 is housed in the front of the building.

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Further up past the Post Office, stands a beautiful garden of remembrance. The Gallic shields and swords glistening in the fountain, an offering to those who gave their lives to the cause of Irish freedom.

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Close to the Garden of Remembrance, the Hugh Lane gallery, with the studio of Francis Bacon, now formally known as the hoarder and his artworks.

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Down towards the river, we went to the memorial of Great Irish Famine. During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland,causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.IMG_4794

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Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. Records show during the period Ireland was exporting approximately thirty to fifty shiploads per day of food produce. As a consequence of these exports and a number of other factors such as land acquisition, absentee landlords and the effect of the 1690 penal laws, the Great Famine today is viewed by a number of historical academics as a form of either direct or indirect genocide and was a great a rallying point for various Home rule and United Ireland movements, as the whole island was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Then to Trinity College. We persuaded Vicki not to break in and ask to see her father’s old dorm. Pretty sure the current occupier wouldn’t have been too thrilled to show a complete stranger their room. The buildings and library were beautiful, but what I really noticed was the grass. It was perfect, so lush and green. Just like a Persian carpet. The urge griped me and wouldn’t let go. I started to rub my coat. I wanted to so badly…to jump the barrier and roll on it. I mean don’t you just love to do that? Roll on a nice piece of untouched grass or step in fresh snow? With great restraint on my part though, I didn’t ruin the grass, and instead went round the library (I know, so not as fun) and saw the famous book of Kells.

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trinity college old library

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Now its time to say goodbye to poor old Molly Malone and Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty. Next stop Las Fallas Valencia!

St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

St Patrick’s Day in Dublin

Hey everyone! So My Girls on Tour decided to venture over to Ireland to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. The Irish are renowned for their hard partying and amazing spirit – so the perfect place really to celebrate a festival which has come to be associated with crazy fancy dress costumes and Guinness Drinking.

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At Carolls buying some memorabilia for the big day!

Woohoo! Dublin, my first time to Ireland! So pumped Yay Yay YAY! Announcement* – Ryanair flight to delayed :/ Fail, EPIC FAIL! Deep breath, I won’t let Ryanair ruin my Irish experience. I changed my I-phone track to the Cranberries (Zombie of course!) and strode over resolutely to the free Whiskey sample stand. St Patrick’s day, WOOHOO! OK, so now that I actually find myself in front of the stand, the proper real festive, celebratory thing to do would be to shot some down. Really though, it is 10 am? One shot, just for the sake of doing it? So yes, another fail. I took a sneaky pic, gazed gleefully at the green, orange and white balloons and then snuck off to Costa Coffee. I felt like the Grinch of Paddy’s.

Arriving at the city center, the Grinch’s heart started to melt. Groups of festive tourists in large green hats, shops with fun costumes, beads, wands, glasses, face paints. Temple bar was full with revelers. Although very kitsch, large murals of leprechauns and even a leprechaun museum. All the buildings were lit up in Green.We walked around and saw some real old pubs and the fun went on long into the night. As Sir Toby Belch says in Twelfth Night, ‘not to be a-bed after midnight is to be up betimes’.

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Today is the day, the parade. We lined up all dressed up. A sea of green. The sky was grey, ominous, the flashes of colors, children’s balloons, a stark contrast. It was the music that we heard first, light and airy, almost celestial. The rain had started a few minutes earlier. When the sound reached our ears, a cheer rippled through the crowd. A huge roar and a first pump came from the young guy next to me who had been standing in just a t-shirt. Then came the procession, rolling slowly towards us. Dancers, clowns, traditional costumes, huge sculptures, acrobats and carousels, all performing and entertaining.  The revelry made the Gods smile and the sky got lighter and the sun came out.

The theme of the parade was Science. Dinosaurs in wheel chairs, eyes and plants. A festival of science and religion.

Indeed St Patrick’s day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrating the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and the most commonly-recognized patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. On this day, the day of  St Patrick’s death, it is customary to wear shamrocks and green clothing or accessories.St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish.

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