Zundert Bloemencorso (2017)

"Chased Away" by team Laarheide. Designers: Brian Boot & Joeri Huijbregts.

"Chased Away" by team Laarheide. Designers: Brian Boot & Joeri Huijbregts.

Now in it's 81st year, the Zundert Bloemencorso is the oldest and most elaborate flower competition in the world. This year, 2017, marked the 5th occasion in which I've had the privilege and opportunity to participate in the construction of a large dahlia sculpture. Our neighbourhood team (Laarheide) entered the competition with their float "Chased Away" and was awarded 7th prize.

Survival is imperative for the large gorilla attempting to escape the destructive path of a habitat destroying forest fire. This animated flower sculpture is executed to initially appear as billows of smoke from which a gorilla's head emerges and transforms out of the plume. Additional effects of smoke and burnt trees added to the overall ambience and impression.

"Carried on a Pedestal" by team Schijf. Designers: Huub van Caam, Sander van Hooydonk, & Maikel van de Korput.

"Carried on a Pedestal" by team Schijf. Designers: Huub van Caam, Sander van Hooydonk, & Maikel van de Korput.

The 2017 overall winner was "Carried on a Pedestal" constructed by neighbourhood team Schijf. Over one hundred animators, dressed as tribesmen, carried the large reclining emperor throughout the streets of Zundert. The emperor's head turns from side to side as his eyes open and close to sneak a glimpse of the audience. During the grand procession the tribesmen beat their drums while chanting. It was also awarded the first Public's Prize.

"Under Attack" by team Helpt Elkander. Designer: Louisa Joosen

"Under Attack" by team Helpt Elkander. Designer: Louisa Joosen

The colourful and emotional subject matter of "Under Attack" was created by team Helpt Elkander. The large sad faces of refugees peer out from behind barb wired fencing and screened glass. Led by masses of refugee animators walking with the few belongings they have. It was awarded second place and also second Public's Prize.

Musée Océanographique

Musee Océanographique

The Musée Océanographique in Monaco-Ville first opened its doors to the public in 1910. This impressive museum was built by Monaco's Prince Albert the 1st but it is often associated with famed French explorer and naval officer Jacques Cousteau, who served as the museum's director from 1957 - 1988. Cousteau's little yellow submarine still sits on display in front of this massive stone building, which is dramatically perched on the cliff side overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The lower-level aquarium area is home to 4,000 different species of fish (starfish, seahorses, turtles, jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eels, etc.) including a massive shark tank which can be viewed from all sides. On the upper floors of the museum one can view a variety of interesting displays from Prince Albert and Cousteau's collections including model ships, animal skeletons, tools, and weapons. It's easy to spend a few hours here and still not see everything.

Le Jardin Exotique

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The tiny principality of Monaco never ceases to amaze me with all it has to offer. On my fourth visit to this lavish area of the world, I finally manage to find my way to what has eluded me all these visits, Le Jardin Exotique du Monaco. Le jardin exotique was first opened to the public in 1933 and boasts over 1,000 species of plants from tropical locations around the world (Mexico, South Africa, and the Middle East). The collection of plants in these gardens actually began earlier in 1895. Perched high-up on a cliffside, the exotic gardens provides soothing breezes and amazing glimpses of the sparkling turquoise ocean (Baie des Anges) and Monaco-Ville (The Rock). Winding down the cliff on a series of winding pathways, I take in the details of hundreds of giant cacti and succulents on this hot sunny afternoon. There is no right or wrong way to navigate through the gardens, as all paths lead you down to an observation deck and a huge cavern in the cliffside. I await the tour guide who brings me down a staircase and deep into the grotto. Inside, stalactites and stalagmites hang from the cavernous ceiling. Approximately 100 steps back up to the surface proves to be a challenging hike but well worth the visit.

Return from the Blue Lagoon

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We arrive in remote Keflavik (Iceland) on a red-eye flight from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. From the lack of sleep and time difference, fatigue settles in quickly during the early bus ride into a barren and rocky landscape. In the distance we see steam rising near a mountain range. On this sunny June morning, we arrive at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa where we experience the exclusive lounge. From our private room we enter the warm lagoon and exit through a side door out into a turquoise landscape. Enjoying the cool Icelandic air and steam as we swim through a rock cave and under a bridge out into the open waters. We apply the white muddy silica to our faces and float around in the mineral-rich seawater for a few hours. Under the high morning sun, a drink at the floating bar and rinse under the waterfall finishes off the experience. A perfect way to kill a ten hour stopover.

Later, at the Lava Restaurant, we take on the lunch buffet of whale, salmon, herring, roast lamb, and an assortment of Icelandic specialities. A rooftop patio provides a panoramic view of the spa and surrounding area. We head back to the Keflavik Airport well rested and refreshed for our next leg of the journey, the Netherlands.

Nuit Blanche {Amsterdam}

Attended the 2012 Nuit Blanche arts & culture event held in Amsterdam, Netherlands on the evening of June 16. A beautiful summer night out exploring this great city and searching unique events in interesting venues. Throughout the night we took in a wide variety of art exhibits, music, live performances, and sampled exotic culinary delights. The night began at the floating pagoda style Sea Palace for supper, live music, dance performance, and a fashion show. At het Ruyterhuis a tattoo artist demonstrated his inking skills on a pigs head.

After searching a series of small streets near the Rokin, we finally locate Brakke Grond. A Belgian arts & culture centre where Lucha Libre style wrestling is about to begin. The shows begins and after a while the smell of Belgian fries and sweat prevails. The crowd screams as they are edged on by a taunting wrestler. After a few matches we head into the red light district where we visit the Bethanienklooster, a former 15th century monastary. In the dark space, a bearded man sits meditating and confined in a box as odd sounds ring throughout the vaulted space. To end the night we cross a few canal bridges towards the Oude Kerk where we hear the sounds of Red Light Radio playing. In the inner courtyard a bbq with homemade beer is served until noise complaints close the place down. We call it a night and head back to the houseboat.