So for my trip to Scotland, I pretty much packed everything in the 2 hrs that I had before class on Thursday. Which was good, because right after class I had to grab my bag and book it for the taxi to the airport. Now this taxi ride was very unlike any other taxi ride that I have been on before. To get to Dusseldorf Weeze Airport we had to cross the border into Germany on a series of windy back-roads that passed through all sorts of farmland. When we pulled up behind a tractor to go through a farmish looking construction site, I was almost half expecting the driver to pull over and then none of us would ever be heard from again. However, these fears were unnecessary, because we soon pulled up to the airport safe and sound.
After getting our passports checked and stamped, we proceeded on to our gate to board the plane. This was my first experience with RyanAir.
Turns out you only get your passport stamped if you are leaving the European Union. This made me sad because I wanted to have and awesome collection of all sorts of passport stamps from different countries but now that is not going to happen. Sadness.
The RyanAir flying experience actually wasn’t as bad as I had been expecting. People always complain about how silly/annoying the website is so I expected things to be similar on the actual plane. Surprisingly, it was really quite enjoyable. The seats are not assigned so you can sit wherever you want to; the only drawback is that if you are the last person on the plane you have to take what ever is left. But Caitlin and I got nice window seats in the middle near the wings. The flight was smooth and quick and when we landed on time a trumpet fanfare blared over the intercom. It was the trumpet fanfare that you hear at horse-racing tracks.
After landing, everyone in our large group made it through customs and we took a bus from the airport to a stop somewhere near our hostel. Walking from the bus-stop to the hostel we passed the large hotel where certain scenes of Driving Lessons we shot. It was a huge building and an adorable movie. Kind of like Harold and Maude. Upon arriving at the hostel, I realized that it was actually more of a hipstel. The decor was a hipster’s heaven. Large, old, lazy couches covered with mismatching scarves (and what appeared to be real fur) filled up the reception lounge. Our room was decorated with a couple of naked manikin torsos with splotches of neon paint. It was an interesting place.
From the hipstel, Caitlin and I left the group to search for the Royal MacGregor, a restaurant owned by members of Caitlin’s Scottish clan. Being a MacGregor is a pretty big deal apparently. There is a whole website where you can look up other members and find important spots that are relative to the family to visit. Not knowing the layout of the city and only having a rudimentary tourist map to guide us, it took a little over half an hour to actually find the damn place. At one point we passed the bottom of a tall and rather steep street that would have lead us right up to the Royal Mile, which is where the restaurant is, but we passed it by in favor of a flatter route. The flatter route involved several wrong turns and at least 3 instances of severe doubling back.
Me: “I think we went the wrong direction.”
Caitlin: *looking down creepy road into a dark park* “Yeah, this can’t be right. Let’s double back and go up the other way.”
*10 mins later*
Me: “Hahaha, please tell me we are not walking up that hill.”
Caitlin: “Nope. We’ll just keep walking around this way.”
*half hour later*
Caitlin: “Hm, the map shows that the turn should either be right here or we passed it a few blocks ago. Let’s go up this way and then we can double back if it doesn’t work.”
Me: “Hey, that guy’s wearing a toga, let’s follow him!”
But we did eventually find the Royal MacGregor and even though we were a little late to get dinner, since Caitlin is a clan member and they were very nice people, we were served. We even received a free bowl of soup to share. It felt a bit like we were on a date. WE’RE ADORABLE.
For dinner, I had a steak and ale pie which was hearty and delicious while Caitlin had haggis. Yes, actual haggis. Now, for those of you that don’t know, haggis is the heart, liver, and lungs of a lamb mashed up together and seasoned with various sage-like spices. I’m not sure how other places serve it but hers came as a cylinder made up of 3 layers: haggis, mashed potatoes, and mashed sweet potatoes on top. It was very pretty. It didn’t taste that bad either; a little heavy on the spices but still palatable. (She made me taste a bit because “you can’t not have haggis in Scotland.”) After eating we sat around and talked to James MacGregor for a little while about the clan and the current political state of Scotland. A man at the end of the bar occasionally added in his two cents of heavily accented gibberish to the conversation. It was quite educational.
On the way home we passed the Heart of Midlothian. Apparently, if you spit on the heart and it lands on the center circle, you get to make a wish. Locals usually spit casually every time they walk by but it’s funny to watch tourists stop and stand over it carefully to try to aim to hit the center. I hit the center about 2/3 of the time.
Also on the way home, we were serenaded by four German youths. They approached us from across the street as we walked and stopped us to explain that they were a brand new a cappella group from Germany; they had just gotten together that night and would like to perform for us. They didn’t know any real songs so they just sang our names a bunch of times for a couple of minutes. So fantastic.
On Friday we tried to find Katie, Lauren, and Kemper at their hostel near Edinburgh castle but they had already left for the day. So on we went to find some food at this little cafe called Deacon Brodie’s. Apparently the building used to be Brodie’s workshop when he was alive and his life as upstanding citizen by day and burglar at night was the basis for the book Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Yay scones!
And then we were off to explore Edinburgh castle. Its a pretty big place but very easy to get around. There were great views of the city from there and we got to see all these old canons that were mounted on the highest edges of the walls. My favorite part was the exhibit about prisoners of war. We got to see the barracks rooms where prisoners would sleep in hammocks and they had copies of ration lists posted on the walls. We also got to see the crown jewels of Scotland. They were at the end of this long, winding passage that told the history of the jewels: when they were made, additions and changes that they underwent, problems that they caused, and how they were smuggled out of the country and kept safe during English invasions.
On our way out of the castle, we ran into a Braveheart impersonator. He was a high school teacher that dresses up for educational tours, reenactments, and fund-raising for charity. When we walking up to him he was showing off his tattoo to some other tourist girls. This tattoo is right up on the lower part of his buttocks; a picture of his lower half with the tattoo can be seen on postcards at several souvenir shops. Now these people in costume take their jobs very seriously and have very authentic costumes, aka he had no underwear on.
After Braveheart, we went to find the shopping district in hopes of finding a nice winter coat for Caitlin but to no avail. The main shopping street in Edinburgh is rather ritzy. From there we were off to find lunch, which we ended up finding in a hole-in-the-wall type place. Like, literally, it was a hole in the wall. We happened to pass by this random staircase with a sign sitting on the landing that said “Yum Yum!” and had an arrow pointing to the door. Time for delicious fish and chips.
Island nations are the best places to get fresh fish and chips. I’m not sure how fresh this particular fish was, but it tasted pretty good so I didn’t ask questions.
The night before, in the restaurant, James MacGregor told us to check out a place called Arthur’s Street to get the best views and pictures of the city so we figured “why not look for it now?” We just had to get to the end of the Royal Mile… which actually happens to be about a mile long. On our way down the mile we ran into Katie, Lauren, and Kemper. They were headed to King Arthur’s Seat, a local dead volcano that was good for hiking. It took a little while, but once we finally got to the end of the mile and the base of the volcano, we realized that Arthur’s Street was King Arthur’s Seat and we had just misinterpreted James’ accent. Since it was getting dark, we decided to come back for the hike on Sunday morning.
Dinner found the 5 of us at the The Elephant House. This is the famous cafe where JK Rowling made the first few scribblings about Harry Potter on a napkin. It was an adorable little place, very warm and welcoming. The only Harry Potter related thing on display was a sign in the window outside that said “The Elephant House: The Birthplace of Harry Potter.” Other wise, everything was very classy and elephant themed. We happened to be seated at the table with the drawer full of letters to Rowling, most of them written on napkins; when people sit at the table and discover the drawer, they leave little notes for her and others that might find it. Even the bathroom walls were covered in HP graffiti and notes. I’ve never felt so connected to so many people that I didn’t know. Our waitress was the most fabulous waitress ever. We’re all friends with Marie on facebook.
After dinner was the ghost tour. It wasn’t as creepy or spooky as I had been expecting a ghost tour to be, but then it wasn’t the one I had originally wanted to go on so maybe I was just biased.
On the way back to the hipstel after departing from the group for the night, Caitlin and I decided that we would rather not wake up at 5am to make a 6hr trek out to the highlands. When we asked at the desk to see if there were any more rooms open for the next night we found that everything was booked. Struggles of life.
Saturday morning started with a quick hostel switch. After checking out of the hipstel we made out way up the stairs to the hostel that the others were staying at. We managed to book a room and drop our stuff and then it was off to breakfast at Chocolate Soup. They didn’t actually have chocolate soup, but pretty much anything that you ordered could be served with chocolate.
Then off we scampered to Alnwick castle in Northumberland. This is the castle where several scenes from HP 1 and 2 were filmed, the best known is the first year’s flying lesson. It was also used for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the one with Kevin Costner, and several other movies and tv shows that I forget. When the train arrived in the station however, we had to wait 20 minutes for this older couple to book some tickets and so we saw that we missed the first tour. To kill time until the next tour, we walked into the neighboring town and made our way to beach. The beaches on the edge of the English Channel are rather cold and windy this time of year but we still had a blast running around, collecting rocks, and making our way out to the water’s edge.
Lunch was bangers & mash at the most haunted hotel in England. Very delicious. They didn’t call the cab for when we needed it though so we were a bit late for our tour. I’m pretty sure we were the oldest people in that group that weren’t parents. But no matter. After the tour we found the dress-up racks in the courtyard. Kemper was the king, I was a knight, Lauren was a princess, and Caitlin was the Pope (Katie had gone zip-lining that day so she wasn’t there). It was absolutely fantastic. But then it was time to go home.
Kemper: “I’m actually royalty. My kingdom was taken from me when I was born.”
Lauren: “Its time to go. You have to take the costume off.”
Kemper: “You’ll have to pry this costume from my cold dead body! I am royalty!”
For dinner we met up with some other people from the group that had stayed behind as well and went to a place that looked like a 50’s American diner. We were accompanied by a kid from the hostel name Edsen, he was Brazilian. Our waiter there couldn’t answer any of Kemper’s questions because it was only his second shift working there but he was a good sport about it and we took a group picture with him at the end of the meal. Fro there we all went next door to a great bar that had live music going. The guy was playing American classics and Beatles songs and his voice was gravelly and awesome.
Caitlin made friends with the bartenders and everyone except for me and Edsen tried whiskey for the first time. There was much table slapping. Apparently it is very strong stuff.
Sunday involved getting up much too early to go hike Arthur’s Seat in the cold and fog. Despite the weather conditions, it was an invigorating hike; I felt very accomplished for reaching the top in a half hour. Up until the little old lady + man + mini yorkie dog get to the top.
Lady: “We live a few towns over and we’ve never been up here so we figured we’d give it a try this morning.”
NOT EVEN WINDED. They must have been at least 68. Oy.
We followed the sound of bagpipes on the way down and went back to the Elephant House for lunch. My cupcake was disappointing but I did sign up for Dumbledore’s Army in one of the bathroom stalls. EAT SHORTBREAD. AVOID CUPCAKES.
And then it was time to go home. So home we went.
Another Wednesday night in Well. And you know what that means, right? ITS AMERICA NIGHT. TIEM TO GTE WAASTEDF!! So many Americans, so much dancing on the table, so many creepy Dutch boys taking creeper pics of the dancing Americans. Or at least, taking pictures of the hot girls. And videos. The drunk people may not have noticed them, but I certainly did. After a while, the Dutch guys didn’t even try to disguise the cameras.
When it’s America night in Well, the small bar in the local community center has discounted drinks from 10-11pm. This little bar is pretty much just a discounted pre-game center for a night at De Linde, the only real bar in town. Around 11:05pm, at least half of the local Emerson community makes its way down the street to the other end of town, many of them already sufficiently buzzed. As soon as an ipod gets plugged in and the music starts thumping, that little bar is a madhouse. I was rather astounded that it could comfortably hold that many gyrating bodies. Of course, when people start getting up on the cover of the pool table, there is more space for dancers on the floor, so I guess I really shouldn’t be that astounded.
Now, you may be asking yourself why I was at America night in the first place. Well, first off, I had never been before and I wanted to check it out. Second, there may or may not have been some I-can-drink-you-under-the-table claims made by certain individuals which may or may not have been answered with a bring-it-on by other certain individuals; I was there to act as a score keeper. Third, Caitlin had recently learned a card-based drinking game that a bunch of us wanted to play. Even though I didn’t have anything to drink, the game was still really fun. Its called “up the river.” I’ll be dealer.
Even though I didn’t drink, I still had a really fun time. I got to play cards, do some dancing, and be silly without people giving me funny looks. Caitlin even got hit on by a rather unattractive Dutch construction worker named Neil. At least, we think that was his name. He was slurring pretty badly by the end of the night. He tried to get Caitlin to go home with him, but that was clearly not going to happen. He didn’t even buy her a drink first.
Neil: “You… come home… with me?”
Caitlin: “Neils. Neils you didn’t even buy me a drink tonight.”
Neil: “My house. It’s that way, 5 minutes, and then left and I am second house.”
So finally, at 2 in the morning, we made our way home. We even sat on the outer bridge for a little while and watched Dutch people smoke “funny cigarettes” and hit on not-so-drunk American girls. All in, I would say I had a fun night. Not sure if I can say the same for everyone else, but I had a good time.
And I was told that this was pretty mellow for an America night.
GUEST POST COURTESY OF CAITLIN:
"Today was Tuesday, which means that I don’t have class until 4:30 so, Ryan and I decided to go do our homework and bask in the sun. We met up with Kelly and sat on the bridge (above the moat). We were laughing and talking, and I may have brought my iPod. When we got down to business, I put on some Cat Stevens and started reading my 20th century dystopian novel. You can imagine that a medieval, brick bridge is not very comfortable. I got up to resituate, still listening to my iPod and proceeded to reclaim my spot on the bridge. Well, when I did this, a crazy strong wind blew my foot into my iPod, which subsequently does NOT float.
Yes, that’s right. My iPod is at the bottom of a moat. Do you think that that is covered by my protection plan? Well, I just wanted to leave it there and not make a scene. However, I mistakenly confided in Donja, who alerted the entirety of the maintenence staff and most professors, which led to: a giant net and a crowd of 20 or so people watching Ivo attempt to fish it out of the moat muck. Funnily enough, he caught a fish, but not my iPod.
The last song it played was Morning Has Broken and it landed wings up, Kelly will be posting photos and video, no worries.”
Yep. THAT. JUST. HAPPENED.
Ethics wasn’t as bad because we only had a half class and I got play cards after dinner instead of going back to class until 9. Of course, we did have to go to that meeting about the possibility of terrorist attacks against Americans traveling in Europe. But I think the best way to handle this sort of situation is to travel smart. Don’t act like an American and stay away from large touristy groups. I shouldn’t have to worry too much this weekend either because I’ll be hiking in the Scottish highlands.
And then I ordered a pizza and watched a movie with Ryan and Eric. All in all, a very satisfying Tuesday.
Ah, Maastricht in the fall. The leaves are starting to change and the tourists are out in full swing. *coughcough* Actually, there weren’t really that many tourists and if there were, then they did a good job of hiding. Maastricht is a beautiful little town in the south of the country. It’s a pain getting to though. First you take the bus to Venlo where you catch the train heading towards Amsterdam and get off at Roermond where you have to make a quick switch to the train to Maastricht. It can be a bit of a problem if you’re in a hurry. Good thing we weren’t.
This trip was probably the classiest field-trip that I’ve ever been on. First off, we were with the Duke. That should be enough. But there’s more. When we got off the train, the first place that we headed to was this awesome cafe. From the outside it wasn’t very remarkable, but inside it looked like one of those modern, high class, expensive dinner restaurants. It was a simple bagel/muffin/coffee place. And, because Rob is awesome, he bought us all a snack. From there it was across the river to the old part of town. This is where all the old buildings and the remnants of the original city wall are. We even got to see the part of the wall where the real-life musketeer d’Artagnan was killed during the Battle of Maastricht in 1673.
The church that we started out at was built in the typical Romanesque style; tall, dark, and with very thick walls. It was pretty cool.
Lunch was comprised of all of us going to lunch at this place Rob had been to before. My sandwich was good and I believe Caitlin found her beer of choice; some kind of cherry somethingorother. I’ve noticed that the food around here usually has a little bit of spice to it. Now I usually can’t stand any level of spiciness but here there’s just enough to keep things interesting and not too much so as to kill off any other flavor. The Dutch word for grilled sandwich is ‘toasti.’ A ‘ham & kaas toasti’ is a grilled ham and cheese. Simple.
The second church on the list was the cathedral of St. Servais. This church was really beautiful. The ceiling paintings were simple and geometric and the whole place was bright and clean. This is due to it’s being built in the Gothic style, with pointed arches. Because we were with Rob, we got to see the crypt area where they used to to keep the relics of 5 different saints, 2 of whom supposedly rose from their boxes to help Charlemagne bless a church. We also got to go way up into the top of the church tower to see the room that was used as a sort of meeting place. It was all arches and mosaic floors, big and empty of everything except for a single candelabra.
From there we went out to one of Rob’s favorite bars for a drink or two. I only had some soda, but Caitlin and Andrew seemed eager to try as many new beers as possible. Rob also got a set of appetizer things for us all. The best part was that I didn’t need to get dinner later. I love free food.
Upon leaving the bar, the 4 of us - Caitlin, Eric, Andrew, and I - wandered back to the spot where d’Artagnan died. Surrounding the old wall was a pond with plenty of ducks. Andrew attempted to lure the ducks over by quacking at them. It worked.
Caitlin: “What do you do in Minnesota? F*cking talk to ducks?”
Andrew: “Yeah we f*cking talk to ducks! Shit…”
From there we made our back to the train station. We were supposed to wait for another person there but we didn’t know if/when she would show up. To make up for that we killed some time in another bar. Even after watching some guys play billiards for 45 mins, I still have no idea what the point of that game is. Do you have to knock them into each other? Or bounce them? I don’t know. And it was in this bar that the “I will drink you under the table” challenge came up. Supposedly that’s going down some time soon. Don’t worry, I’m a lifeguard. ;D
The train ride was pretty uneventful until Andrew fell asleep. Then it became the funniest train ride I’ve ever been on. As soon as he fell asleep, he started leaning sideways, inch by inch, snoring away. He eventually landed on Eric’s shoulder. And then he would shake himself a little and move back up in his seat, but he always fell back down on the shoulder. I was practically crying from laughing so hard. It was probably so funny because we were all really tired from walking around all day.
Saturday consisted of a trip to The Hague, or Den Haag. Den Haag is the where the Netherlands houses its center of Parliament. Amsterdam is the capital, but this is the center of parliament. It doesn’t make sense to me either.
It was only Caitlin and I that day because the boys had to go back to Maastricht to do a museum report. We were told that the train to Den Haag Central would be about 41 euro each, round-trip. However, apparently there was sort of deal going on for students traveling in pairs. I went to order the tickets together while Caitlin grabbed breakfast (I use the term ‘breakfast’ in the loosest way possible) and when I ordered 2 round-trip, the lady in the booth handed me an info sheet and said that it would be 45 euro total. She then proceeded to tell me that we would also be able to ride first class both ways. So in all, we got 1 ticket printed for 2 people to ride first class for a 2.5 hour ride for half the price that it would be normally. EPIC WIN.
Once in Den Haag, we had real breakfast/lunch in a small cafe that we found down a side alley off of some big square. It was delicious and cheap. The omelet was as big as my head. Delicious.
We then made our way to the Maurithuis art museum. This is the home of Vermeer’s Girl With The Pearl Earring. It was beautiful, but I think I’m more Team Rembrandt. From the museum we explored the main square of the Parliamentary buildings. They were very majestic and had plenty of shutters but we didn’t really see anyone that looked like they were about to sing some official documents.
After doing the touristy round, we decided to do some shopping to find a nice winter coat for Caitlin because she forgot to bring one with her. We walked up and around this one ritzy street for an hour and a half before we finally stopped someone and asked where they had gotten that H&M bag from. By that point, it was raining and all we wanted was to find someplace warm and dry where we weren’t hounded to buy a cup of coffee. If we had just taken a left instead of a right when we hit the shopping district in the first place, we would have found all of the inexpensive stuff in less than 15 minutes. BAWLS.
So we found the H&M. We were cold and soggy, but at least there were pretty clothes to be had. I found some awesome Robin Hoodesque boots and Caitlin found overalls. Yes, denim overalls. H&M was selling old fashioned denim overalls in the women’s section. ITS OFFICIAL. THEY ARE BACK IN STYLE. I have proof. To anyone who may have doubted, Caitlin stands triumphant! So, with fantastic finds in hand, we went downstairs to find a dressing room (this was at 6:30). Turns out H&M closes at 6pm on a Saturday here.We were not allowed to try the clothes on but we could still check out at the register. I got my boots cause I had tried them on before, but we had to leave the overalls behind. BAWLS. NUMBER 2.
"The store is closed. Didn’t you hear the music stop?" Oh yeah, that was automatically the first thing I noticed.
So out we were booted, back into the rain and wind. Pretty much all we could do was head back to the train station and hope that we found something edible along the way. Which we did, at this place called Willy’s. It looked like some kind of oriental hole-in-the-wall, but it turned out to be Chinese food without the Chinese food. The people working there didn’t speak English but we still managed to get some kind of giant meatball on a bun and a soda each. I didn’t really care. It was warm and it tasted great.
We made it back to the train station just in time to miss the train home by less than 2 minutes. Bawls. So we sat and waited a half hour for the next train. BAWLS. By the time we got back to Venlo, we had missed the bus home by 10 minutes. BAWLSBAWLS. We then had to wait another 50 minutes for the next bus. BAWLSBAWLSBAWLS. BAWLS ON EVERYTHING. We then entered a state of bawls induced hysteria and began conjugating the word stroopwaffel as a noun, verb, and adjective. STROOPWAFFEL.
THANKS FOR TELLING US ABOUT THE BUS SCHEDULE SWITCH AFTER 10:30.
Anyway, we got home at midnight. And I still stayed up too late. But whatever.
Sunday was spent entirely doing homework. A good way to relax after such a busy weekend… FALSE.
BAWLS ON YOUR STROOPWAFFEL.
TACO NIGHT. Dunananana. Because its taco night, and the feeling’s right! O yes, its taco night! O what a night!
Its pretty much the best thing ever. Everything is so natural and fresh and flavorful. And each scoop of topping is exactly the right portion to make a decent sized burrito. There was even corn, which I’ve never put in a taco before; for future reference, it was very good.
It was also a great night for people watching. Every time someone new walks into the room: *5sec pause* “TACOS?!?! Its taco night!!” I especially enjoyed watching other people to try to wrap up their burritos. They kept folding the wrong side over first and then the thing would fall apart and make a mess. A delicious mess. The cooks here are so great. And I think the nacho chips were some sort of Dorrito because they were awesome. All flavored and whatnot. But I’m really not sure.
Secondly, quiet hours. They start at 11pm. And one of the program coordinators sleeps right above the common room where people want to hang out. After 11pm. Its a very silly layout.
But there is a grand piano in this common room. When its full of people laughing and talking and playing games, its one of the best places in the castle to be. I love it when someone just sits down at the piano and plays something. Its a testament to how talented the people around me really are. There was one point when Caitlin, Eric, and Andrew were all playing at once. I can’t remember the name of it but its one of those things that everyone has heard and can hum along to.
ba ba ba, bum bum be da dee dum, ba ba ba, dee dee dee dee dee dum, laaa ti daaa, ti dum de bum bum, la, ti dum, de dum de dum de dum
I’m sure you can figure it out.
Another wonderful few days in the world of Well. On Monday I wrote a 1000 word performance review in 3 hrs. Which was actually insightful and classy if Idosaysomyself. I know this may be weird, but I love Mondays. Art History and then a long break until World Drama, 2 great classes with 2 great teachers. Today Rob used some students to demonstrate the use of flying buttresses in Gothic architecture. It’s so much fun.
Even got to play some poker, which is always fun. At first we thought it would be a good idea to use Oreos as chips but I only had 12 of them so then we thought maybe we’d cut them in half but they just crumbled. We couldn’t even twist them apart for use, it made too much mess. So then we sent Eric off to get as many packs of m&ms as he could with the money we had in our pockets. SO MANY M&Ms. SO MUCH CHOCOLATE. Fabulous. Next time we play, if you want to buy into the game, you bring your own m&ms. You can bring as many as you want, but it’s at your own risk. (We can’t invest in poker chips because actual gambling is illegal in the castle.)
Tuesdays lag. It sucked pretty bad yesterday. Honors is boring when it should be a really interesting subject with an exciting teacher. Not the case.
Do you not own a bra?!?
And then I had to come up with an 800 word presentation in an hr and a half. BAWLS. It was one of the worst papers I’ve ever written. Though I suppose it’s my own fault for not getting it done before, but in my defense, Amsterdam. I’m hoping the teacher’s whole English-as-a-second-language thing will help out my grade a bit. We’ll see.
Its really distracting. And kinda gross… :/
The next two days will be homework oriented so they shouldn’t suck too bad. And then day tripping all weekend! Definitely hitting up the natural baths of Arcen.
AMSTERDAM WEEKEND!!!!! So fantastically fantastic. So much to see and so little time. I might end up going back, I don’t know yet. I still need to check out the Red Light District…
Things I did in Amsterdam:
-Took a walking tour of the city and realized how utterly crap rainboots are for walking in. Seriously. There is absolutely no arch support and 0 ventilation. This means pulled foot muscles and sweaty, wrinkly, smelly feet. Not fun. Hiking around in rainboots is no longer allowed. Why did I wrap my feet in polka-dotted rubber? Well, the forecast was for low 60s and rain. I figured “hey, why not wear my new awesome boots and be warm and dry?” False. It sprinkled a few times during the day and once at night on Saturday. I could have worn my sneakers the entire time and been fine. *Sigh* lesson learned.
-Saw a guy on a bike playing air guitar. He’s my favorite person. Ever.
-Bought a watch!!! Finally. The band is made out of some kind of silver pleather. I found a Claire’s. It was cheap. Loving life.
-Visited the Rijksmuseum. Most of the building was under construction that was supposed to be completed 3 years ago. It’ll probably take another 3 years to finish. Since all this work was going on, only the highlight pieces were on display but it was still a sizable collection that took a couple of hours to go through. There were works from masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt. I even got to see “The Night Watch” which was really great to see in its real size. Of all of the pictures that I have seen in art and history textbooks, none of them do justice to the actual pieces. Being able to see the scale of the work and even the individual brushstrokes was absolutely inspiring. Pretty much wanted to sit down and start painting right there.
-Saw an absolutely incredible performance of a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III in Dutch. The fact that I didn’t under stand the speeches did not detract anything from the performance. All of the music was by Tom Waits so it really fit the overall dark theme of the show. If you want a more in-depth analysis just let me know and I will send you my actual performance review. After seeing this show my mind is moving in a whole new direction.
-Played pool until 2am. Despite the fact that I could have fallen asleep right there on the pool table, Caitlin, Eric and I played until the desk attendant woke up and told us that the table is supposed to close at 1. Oops. Good times.
-Went for a visit to the Amsterdam Historical Museum. More art and paintings and such but it was all very focused on Amsterdam itself. The building actually used to be an orphanage. There are a lot of buildings that are former orphanages.
-Went out to lunch with Caitlin, Eric, and Andrew to a great little brown bar that we found in the middle of an alley off of a street near Dam Square. I made sure to get a picture of the place for future reference. The cheeseburger was delicious; it had all sorts of spices and onions ground up with the beef. Very different from the hamburger slices that we had at the castle a few days ago. I believe the 4 of us plus Ryan are going to become quite the travel group. We get along well and each bring our own individual strengths to the art of travel planning (aka Caitlin is really good at asking for directions).
-Visited the Rembrandthuis Museum. This museum is in the house that Rembrandt lived in during his most successful years as an artist. It had all sorts of furniture and things set up like they would have been when Rembrandt lived there. His main workroom was beautiful, all well lit and spacious. I even got to see a demonstration on how he would have made his oil paints. All I have to say about that is thank goodness for whoever came up with putting pre-made paint in a tube.
-Navigated the city all on my lonesome. The girl that I was supposed to walk back from the Rembrandthuis with left me there because I took so long in the museum. I don’t really blame her though, I wanted to spend as much time in the house as possible; try to soak up some of that talent. However, I did eventually find my way home with the aid of the hostel’s little map, which was much more useful than I thought it would be. I got in right in time for dinner, which isn’t really saying much.
-Had dinner in a youth hostel. It was pretty much just bread and butter in that place; all the other food was weird.
-Went to H&M. There were live Djs mixing music for the store’s soundtrack. I’m pretty sure that the front section turned into a dance party at one point. I kept hearing whooping and thuds.
-Went on a nighttime boat tour of the canals. Seeing everything lit up at night was great, it was all so pretty and peaceful. Each of the bridges was lined with lights so when you glided by one in the dark you could look down the canal and see rings of lights all the way down.
-Went bar hopping. Caitlin and I teamed up with Rene and Johnny to find somewhere nice to meet up with people. On the 3rd try we found a beautiful little brown bar out on the edges of town; red and gold wall paper, oldies music all the way. Everyone seemed to know the words to the American songs and I was just loving it; even the Dutch version of Sweet Caroline. The bartender was always singing along, he even sang a few karaoke style, all while serving people. This night was definitely one of the highlights of my life.
-Toured the Anne Frank House. The house that she lived in, hid from the Nazis in, and wrote her diary from was turned into a museum by her father, who was the only member of the family to survive the death camps after the family was betrayed. The rooms are still as empty as they were when he came home because he wanted them to stay empty. They are a reminder of what humans are capable of doing to each other.
-Found another cute restaurant to have lunch in. It was delicious.
-Made it back to the castle in one piece. There was a close call when we almost didn’t get off the train at the right point; we were very nearly sent back to Amsterdam. The main point though, is that we all got home to our beds.
Sleepsleepsleepsleepsleep. Love having class at 2:30. Only downside is that I miss both breakfast and lunch. But that’s ok. I have crackers.
Things have settled down quite a bit with classes and homework in full swing. Each of my classes entitles ridiculous amount of reading every week. So far, I don’t mind it so much because the reading is interesting but there is still A LOT of it.
CARD SUCCESS!! Caitlin, Ryan and I played cards into the wee hours of the morning last night (aka 12am). We played War mostly, which was pretty epic with 3 people and 2 decks except for the fact that I kept losing. My teeny little deck was pathetic most of the time. But it was still lots of fun. AND I LEARNED HOW TO PLAY POKER. Fantastic. Its actually a really easy game. Thought it would be a bit more complex than that. Oh, well.
A minor note on my housing situation: The beds are loft style, as I said before. This hasn’t posed a problem for me getting up or down, I have mastered that much. The only problem is that the clearance under the bed, where my desk/chair/dresser/everything I need is, is about 5ft. I’m a big girl. This poses a problem. The top of my head is now so covered in lumps that if a blind person were to feel my head, they would most likely be under the impression that they were feeling a carton of very hairy eggs.
I have come to the conclusion that I will probably lose at least 5lbs during the course of my stay here. Its not that the food is bad or anything, its pretty good. All natural and stuff. But there’s only 3 meals a day, each lasting 1hr. So its very easy to miss a meal. And my room is at the top of 3 stories of hobbit stairs. The staircases are regular heights but the individual stairs themselves are the tiniest little things. Not only are they shallow, they are short as well. It looks like they were made for either little children or hobbits.
Spaghetti for diner!! Yum yum. Rubber cement and chocolate for dessert, an interesting combo. It was actually some kind of vanilla mouse with chocolate bits in it. But it had an overwhelming taste/aroma of rubber cement. While it was on my tongue, it tasted sort of like creme and chocolate. But for the past 4hrs, every time I burp it tastes like aerosol adhesives.
Tuesday. More classes. And already I’m pretty sure Tuesday will end up being my least favorite day of the week.
First class of the day was Honors. Honors this semester is about evolution and Darwinism and all of the theories that go along with. At first I thought “Yes! Finally, an honors topic that I am actually interested in. This should be absolutely fantabulous.” So far, this is not the case. Not because the subject isn’t interesting, because it is. And the teacher seems like a very nice, intelligent, and reasonable person, and I’m sure she’s wonderful teacher. I just can’t hear a thing that she says. The combination of the quiet voice and the strong accent made it so that I could hardly hear her from where I sitting in the back of the room. (the seating was poor decision making on my part, but still, c’mon) Anyway, here’s to hoping it gets better. And to hoping that I don’t fall asleep. And that I develop super-human hearing powers.
Question: If there was a fly buzzing around the classroom for 4 hrs straight, would you have noticed if it was constantly landing in your giant curly fro?
By far, the strongest accent that I have heard here belongs to my Ethics teacher. He also seems to have trouble hearing us ask questions in the echo chamber that is classroom 1. Though to be fair, that kid in front didn’t seem to speak English very well either. But we definitely have some work to do.
This class is actually really interesting though; it is all about the ethics of freedom of speech in the US and elsewhere around the world. As long as there aren’t 42 power-point pages of notes every class like there was today, things should be all right.
Answer: I have no idea how you didn’t notice it. It landed on your head at least 7 times. Next time, I’m keeping count.
So I bought this pack of playing cards in Boston right? And I was supposed to play War or BS with Caitlin tonight. But we went on another planning frenzy. And booked nothing. Cause its impossible to get to Seville on a Thursday night/Friday morning in Nov. or Dec. and not have to come back on Saturday. LAME. It’s also impossible to get to Vienna when we would want to go for a price that doesn’t singe off my eyebrows when it pops up on the screen. And why does it take 13hrs to get to Copenhagen by bus? DOUBLE LAME.
At least the weather is nice. It all warmish/coolish and breezy. Very pleasant.
First day of classes = exciting stuff. And I gotta say, I am loving the whole ‘no classes will ever start before 10am’ thing. Instead of the normal ‘classes beginning at 8 in the morning’ thing that goes on in the rest of the world, Dulcia understands that we “are useless at 8 o’clock in the morning.” Those were her exact words at the first orientation session we had. Did I mention how awesome this woman is?
So first class of the day was History of Art: Renaissance & Baroque. Lesson was with Rob Ducker, or ‘The Duke.’ He’s a pretty funny guy, and as an art historian he really knows his stuff. I’m most likely taking a weekend off of traveling to go tour a museum that he works with as a curator. I can finally become an art student that knows something about art! WOOT. Only downside is that the textbook is very heavy aka big aka dense aka I have to read a lot. But it’s interesting so I guess its not so bad.
And then I got a notebook! Yay! It has 4 subjects for my 4 classes! … I’m not really sure how to make a notebook sound exciting…
Closing class of the day was World Drama in its Context I. It’s a block class that works around dinner (1.5hrs before, 1.5hrs after) so I only have it once a week. I’m pretty sure that this is going to be one of my favorite classes, if not my favorite. The teacher is named Emile (eh-meel), not e-mail, as he kindly informed us. His English needs a it of work though. One of the first things he asked us was, “When you landed in Amsterdam did you smell the bullshit? One time when I landed I could not smell it and I did not know where I was. Is that how you say? Bullshit?” We then informed him that the word he was looking for is ‘manure’. “May-noor?” “No, ma-nuer.” To help himself remember the word he wrote it on the board. MANURE (=shit).
On Friday, everyone in the class is going to see a musical production of Richard III in Dutch in Amsterdam. Musical theater in the Netherlands isn’t actual musical theater though; it’s more theater with music playing behind. I guess. It’s and experimental piece. Still super excited for it.
And finally, my day ended with a win when I finally got the battery to fit in my alarm clock. Turns out you do not need special sized batteries for foreign alarm clocks. You just need to put the + end in first.