“It’s time to move on, time to get going”

I’ve had this Tom Petty song stuck in my head for a few days. Unfortunately the song is about moving on from something that’s bad for you and onto something better, which just isn’t the case. Still, it talks about time, and getting going, which is exactly what is happening.

I’m currently in the Philadelphia airport and am already fussy. Delayed flights are one thing, dealing with delayed flights after being in such an efficient country is another. I also realized that I haven’t heard conversations in exclusively English in a while which was a bit of a shock. When I am around people speaking Dutch, I don’t really know what they are saying so I’m not affected. But here, I can hear everyone complaining again, and it’s actually really annoying. I want to go up and confront them. Just some little observations.

I’m also reading through the Pitzer guide to coming home and the challenges you face after leaving being abroad. Sometimes the transition back is even more difficult than moving away! A few things stand out to me. First, people who weren’t abroad have a hard time understanding reverse culture shock. They might expect you to be exactly the same, and although I don’t consider myself to have gone through a colossal transformation that makes me a different person, I am no doubt a changed person. I keep saying that I’m looking forward to applying what I learned in Amsterdam (about life, in school, everything) to my “normal” life, but, living in Amsterdam was my actual life. I was there long enough to call it my home, to fall in love with it, and it will be carried with me for the rest of my life. I wish I had Natalie in my pocket to relate to and have someone who knows exactly what I went through.

Another thing the Pitzer literature says is about comparing the cultures in a negative way. Whoops, already did that and I’ve been in America for like an hour! I just need to stay flexible, give myself some time, and do some cultural research to see what I missed. I know what’s going on with the world in general obviously, I wasn’t living in a hole, but I’m really curious to see what trends the kids are into these days in Dallas. I hear juice bars might be a thing now? I suddenly feel old and out of it.

Well, I really have no idea how to wrap this up so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Firstly, thank you to everyone that read about my journey and supported me throughout this entire year. It moved so fast, but when I think back at it, so much happened. I feel like I’m living in a dream and I can’t really fathom what I just did exactly. Second, I can’t even begin to describe how much I appreciate the friends (international and Dutch) that I made abroad and look forward to keeping up with them for the rest of my life. The people do make the place, and they all accepted me for me, supported me as well, and showed me so much about living well and positive outlooks.

So there’s that. I did it. I moved to Amsterdam alone and survived. I went to Munich, Dublin, The Hague, Prague, Rotterdam, Barcelona, and Lyon and loved every one in their uniqueness. I studied what I absolutely love and love environmental policy even more, especially in an international light. I will be applying to grad school in some international places and a Fulbright and will really look into my options to preserve this wide worldview. I will look back at all of these posts fondly, and I hope you all do too.

Tot ziens, beste, Lily

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Counting Down

Yes, it’s officially my last week in Amsterdam. I finished my last UvA exam today, which also concluded my last visit to Science Park. I thought my trips there would never end, but suddenly my time is over! I am currently sitting in City Hall, attempting to get proof of my deregistration from Amsterdam. So many technical things to account for this week. I’m getting there.

Despite stressing over my über huge to-do list, I managed to have fun this weekend with my wonderful friend from college, Yael! We hadn’t seen each other in a full year, but like all visitors, I realize that absolutely nothing changes with friends. I had this same experience with my friend Lily from Hockaday who visited 2 weekends ago. It had been easily 3 years since I’d seen her, but it felt so normal. With both of these visitors, I got to relax and see more of my city while simultaneously still trying a few new things. Yael’s visit was a combination of goodbyes and new experiences. I loved them equally.

We explored Noord Amsterdam her first night here. It was a little mix of an early birthday celebration for Natalie, finally going to Noorderlicht Cafe, and showing Yael a great part of Amsterdam. We went to Noorderlicht as well as Pllek, both are beach-y cafes with lots of outdoor seating. And let me tell you, a picnic table outside, friends, and a beer are truly all you in Amsterdam Noord. We watched the sunset and the beautiful Amsterdam clouds while the three of us bonded. I love having friends from different points in my life meet. Nat and I had also talked about “tagging” Amsterdam with the spray paint left over from when she painted her bike. Amsterdam Noord is an industrial area covered in graffiti, so it was the right place. We found an open spot and sprayed “Twee” (two in Dutch), and an infinity sign. Cliche, whatever, but it represents the two great explorers, forever.

Noorderlicht. The sunset hadn't started yet!

Noorderlicht. The sunset hadn’t started yet!

Me and Yaely!

Me and Yaely!

Our poor attempt at art... that's ok!

Our poor attempt at art… that’s ok!

Yael did exploring on her own during the day on Friday while I studied. We still met up for a picnic in Vondelpark and then went out to drinks with friends on Friday night. First we went to Thijssen in Jordaan and then went to Leidseplein to find my friend from Pitzer that lives in the Netherlands, Harry, and 4 boys from Pitzer that were staying with him for the weekend. They were doing a pub crawl, but we opted out and just joined in later. We never spend time in Leidseplein unless it’s for a special occasion, super touristy, but it was good to get out of my Jordaan comfort-zone for a bit and say goodbye to the busiest clubbing square.

Vondelpark picnic... tired of picnic picture yet?

Vondelpark picnic… tired of picnic picture yet?

Yael at Vondelpark

Yael at Vondelpark

 

Nat and me at Thijseen in Jordaan.

Nat and me at Thijseen in Jordaan.

On Saturday, Yael and I went to Espressofabriek for my final goodbye. We enjoyed flat whites and talked about how we’ll both be coming back to Europe to raise our kids (most likely Scandinavia). This was as we looked around and saw a ton of adorable children with no other than their fathers enjoying a morning in Westergasfabriek. Afterwards we perused Noordermarkt for my last time and then stopped for a raw herring sandwich. It had been nine months and still no herring! If I wouldn’t have tried it, I would have failed at being Dutch. We stopped at a small place on Haarlemmerstraat to get my fish fix and I actually really enjoyed it. Yael documented the experience for me, while also adding that she learned how herrings communicate in the water through farts. Thanks for that, Yael. We did more exploring through the city on Saturday before grabbing dinner with our Pitzer friends. The rest of her time here was spent catching up, eating pancakes, and seeing how words and phrases in German and Dutch compare. Spoiler alert, they are really similar.

Smiling with some herring, pre-bite. It is served in a bun with pickles and onions.

Smiling with some herring, pre-bite. It is served in a bun with pickles and onions.

Trying to eat while Yael explained the farting fish phenomenon

Trying to eat while Yael explained the farting fish phenomenon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is officially the second to last blog post and that’s a terrifying thing. Maybe this could turn into a more regular Lily travel blog, but maybe I should just leave it as my Amsterdam adventures. Who knows where I’ll end up next! For now, I will continue to wrap up things here and enjoyed my last few nights with a few dinners and drinks with friends. I can’t let my leaving be too dramatic, I’ve never been that type of person. It’s a see you later Amsterdam, definitely not a goodbye. But all those insights will come in my final post, most likely written in the air on my way back to America! Tot ziens!

9 Month Anniversary

…of my relationship with the best city in the whole world. Unfortunately, this means that my Amsterdam cultural baby is being delivered right around the time I have to leave. This baby is just metaphorical, I don’t have some great project to present or token of my time abroad. I’d say what was birthed may just be a new Lily; an older one (no avoiding that though…) and a more tolerant one but at the same time a more stubborn one. Stubborn in the sense that I, in no way, will settle for anything less than extraordinary after what I’ve had the opportunity to experience here. The world has big things in store for me and might have always had, but only now do I realize my purpose and the extent that I can take my capabilities.

I know I just said that I don’t have a token of my time here, but that was a lie. I did buy myself a ring from one of my favorite stores last week (unaware of this significant date, the anniversary was technically yesterday), engraved with “Lucky.” I do hold myself (and my family) as the prime reasons for pursuing the opportunities I’ve had in life, but those opportunities had to have come to me with a bit of luck. And the fact that I do get to pursue them makes me truly, truly lucky.

One of my most influencial English teachers at Hockaday, Kyle Vaughn, shared this poem with us and it has stuck with me for years after: Lucky Life, by Gerald Stern. The last two stanzas replay in my mind over and over again. Oh Lucky life, oh lucky, lucky life.

Lucky life isn’t one long string of horrors 
and there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows. 
Lucky I don’t have to wake up in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 
on the hill overlooking Union Square or the hill overlooking 
Kuebler Brewery or the hill overlooking SS. Philip and James 
but have my own hills and my own vistas to come back to. 

Each year I go down to the island I add 
one more year to the darkness; 
and though I sit up with my dear friends 
trying to separate the one year from the other, 
this one from the last, that one from the former, 
another from another, 
after a while they all get lumped together, 
the year we walked to Holgate, 
the year our shoes got washed away, 
the year it rained, 
the year my tooth brought misery to us all. 

This year was a crisis. I knew it when we pulled 
the car onto the sand and looked for the key. 
I knew it when we walked up the outside steps 
and opened the hot icebox and began the struggle 
with swollen drawers and I knew it when we laid out 
the sheets and separated the clothes into piles 
and I knew it when we made our first rush onto 
the beach and I knew it when we finally sat 
on the porch with coffee cups shaking in our hands. 

My dream is I’m walking through Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 
and I’m lost on South Main Street. I am trying to tell, 
by memory, which statue of Christopher Columbus 
I have to look for, the one with him slumped over 
and lost in weariness or the one with him 
vaguely guiding the way with a cross and globe in 
one hand and a compass in the other. 
My dream is I’m in the Eagle Hotel on Chamber Street 
sitting at the oak bar, listening to two 
obese veterans discussing Hawaii in 1942, 
and reading the funny signs over the bottles. 
My dream is I sleep upstairs over the honey locust 
and sit on the side porch overlooking the stone culvert 
with a whole new set of friends, mostly old and humorless. 

Dear waves, what will you do for me this year? 
Will you drown out my scream? 
Will you let me rise through the fog? 
Will you fill me with that old salt feeling? 
Will you let me take my long steps in the cold sand? 
Will you let me lie on the white bedspread and study 
the black clouds with the blue holes in them? 
Will you let me see the rusty trees and the old monoplanes one more year? 
Will you still let me draw my sacred figures 
and move the kites and the birds around with my dark mind? 

Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to. 
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water. 
Lucky you can be purified over and over again. 
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone. 
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life. 
Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.

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Reflections from Rainy Daze

The past few days have literally been a daze, hard cold rain seems to have kept me inside for the most part, but I managed to get out a bit for a few events. But, these days are perfect for reflections. My Dutch Culture and Society professor said those that come in the spring made the better choice (luckily I got to experience both) but I’m realizing she was right; Amsterdam LOVES spring holidays and festivals, and we’ve had quite a bit of school off for these special days. However, I don’t have class on Mondays or Fridays anyway, so they felt pretty normal.

Events in Spring
Aside from King’s Day, there are a few other official (and unofficial) spring holidays that the Dutch celebrate. I was in Lyon for Labor Day on May 1; this is an unofficial holiday that involves a lot of strikes, and our professor said to stay away from the university building… socialist protests. Shortly after on May 4, the Netherlands remembers those that died in peace-keeping missions (WWII as well as the Indonesian Revolution) at the national monument in Dam Square. It’s known as “Dodenherdenking,” and King Willem Alexander comes to town.

I did, however, make it to the May 5 celebrations in Westergasfabriek for Liberation Day. The Netherlands holds a variety of festivals on May 5 to celebrate liberation from Germany (by the Canadians). I was in Westergasfabriek anyway writing a paper on the buildings there (uploaded into my new “Netherlands Writings” section), and checked out the market and a few of the stages at the Bevrijdingsfestival. They just love to celebrate over here!

Liberation Day festival in Westerpark.

Liberation Day festival in Westerpark.

Last Sunday
Despite horrid weather, I had places to go and people to see. I’ve been working on selling some of my belongings already, things I can’t take back to the US or don’t have a need for. I had been meaning to explore far west Amsterdam a bit more, specifically a coffee place, and luckily the girl buying my bike pump lived there. I met her at White Label Coffee, and then spent the day doing work there by the window, half doing actual research and half just watching the rain.

Obviously I had to include a coffee shot...

Obviously I had to include a coffee shot…

They knew I was coming... lilies!

They knew I was coming… lilies!

Sunday night was a real treat. The Food Film Festival was happening in Amsterdam over the rainy weekend; it’s a small festival dedicated to sustainable food and cooking, involving mainly cooking workshops and viewings of food-related films. The events are pricey, but I went to see the free keynote speaker, the final event of the festival. And who was the speaker? Only my favorite American farmer, Joel Salatin! I couldn’t believe it. He’s mentioned in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and can been seen in the films Food, Inc. and American Meat. Who would have thought he would be wrapping up his visit to the Netherlands literally five minutes from where I live? I got there early and sat in the front row (naturally) next to a Dutch man who works for basically the Audubon Society of the Netherlands, Vogelbescherming Nederland. Of course that would happen.

Anyway, more on Joel. He’s a farmer and author from Virginia with special emphasis on alternative farming. Most of his talk was about his own farm and the methods he uses (free-range, no pesticides or antibiotics) and then he focused a little bit on the perfect alternative farm customer. My favorite quote by Joel was something along the lines of this “We are not meant to be a manipulator, but a masseuse… a masseuse of the ecological womb.” He also made a good point about meat production, a huge resource-user that would seem to collide with his principles. He said that basically not eating meat or encouraging the stop to production of meat is the biggest insult unto indigenous people, as farm animals are the ideal source of mobile, nutrient-rich food for those that don’t have first-world options of vegetarianism. Taking away their main source of life would be an incredible detriment. Animals are also crucial in farming (manure, naturally tilling soil, etc,). This made me think a lot about the choices of environmental vegetarians, and it was refreshing to hear about this debate from an environmentalist himself.

Photo from the Food Film Festival website.

Photo from the Food Film Festival website.

Joel’s ideal customer is one that involves their kids in the kitchen and really yearns to have a relationship with their food. They have to be willing to be innovative, and learn how to use knives again (silly, but so true). They also have to be willing to meet their farmers to get a full picture of food production. Another Joel quote, something along the lines of “if you don’t your farmer should make as much as you do, you don’t deserve to eat their food.” I really butchered that one (no pun intended) but he was emphasizing the importance of the farmer.

Stalker front-row pic...

Stalker front-row pic…photobombed by a giant plastic chicken.

So, there we have it. You wondered what I have been up to for the past few days? That’s it! I’ve been doing a lot of work and research on some exciting papers. The one I’m most excited about is research I’ve done on the quality of life in the Netherlands, rates of psychiatric disorders, and how Green Care farms and healing gardens are the Western European route to mental success. I’ll upload that to my Netherlands Writings section as well once it’s complete. Stay tuned… I might only have 17 more days here, but they will be busy up until the very last minute!

 

De Koffie Kaart Komplete

Can you believe it? I got this coffee card at the very end of January, and now it’s finally complete. The task? Go to the seven independent coffee bars in Amsterdam, and then get a free coffee of your choice when you are done! I don’t know where I’ll redeem my free coffee from… probably Koko or Espressofabriek. These cafes really varied in location, so I’m happy I made it to all of the unique places. Reviews of all are on my Amsterdam Cafe Bucket page.

Headfirst coffee roasters, Screaming Beans, Espressofabriek, Coffee Bru, Trakteren, Koko, Sweet Cup!

Headfirst coffee roasters, Screaming Beans, Espressofabriek, Coffee Bru, Trakteren, Koko, Sweet Cup!

Ode to Constant- Lyon, France

As I unpacked my bag from the last few days of travelling in France– with everything I own smelling like a mix of cigarettes (not from me, stop freaking out, Mom) and some olive sausage I brought back– I came to realize three truths. 1) I am incredibly lucky to have friends all over the world, close enough friends that will share their lives with me when I visit, 2) everything you hear about how wonderful French food is, is true, and 3) the only real universal language, at least for people my age, is having fun.

Nat and I decided to have our last trip be a relaxing one, and chose Lyon. I knew someone who lived there, Constant, a French boy from when he came to live in Dallas with my friend George for a bit 4 years ago. We knew each other for only a few weeks but kept in touch, always saying we would see each other one day. I asked Constant where we should stay and what we should do in Lyon, and he took this as planning our entire trip and even hosting us in his family home; he just started summer vacation and had the time. Nat and I couldn’t believe what we got to experience for the past 4 days. My favorite parts of the trip were definitely the beauty of the city (you can’t miss it, anywhere you go), meeting new people my age from a culture I knew relatively nothing about, and simply relaxing in a city while Constant took care of us. There was no pressure to hustle around and see everything, we had enough time to get it all done.

Constant picked us up on Wednesday afternoon. He was exactly the same as I remembered, and he said I was as well. He also announced that his English was still bad, and the worst of his friends. I thought he did just fine, and we even had conversations about politics with hard vocabulary. Nat used to speak French, so they tried a little, but we did the best we could. He took us to his home and when he opened the beautiful french blue door/gate hidden in a wall of ivy, we honestly couldn’t believe what was behind it. A beautiful bright orange French country house stood in front of us, with beautiful gardens and an adorable Lab named Uno. I didn’t realize that Constant’s family hosts exchange students frequently, so they were already prepared for us. His mom, an artist whose work is all over the house, came home while we were getting settled. She, as well as his father, speak very little English. Constant translated for us, but I really hope our gratitude translated as well. We took them stroopwafels.

The Delois Home!

The Delouis Home!

Uno, the first dog I've got to love in a while.

Uno, the first dog I’ve had the chance to show some love to in a while.

Constant's mother's studio.

Constant’s mother’s studio.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring Vieux Lyon, taking pictures and eating pastries while Constant met with a friend. Later that night we went into the downtown area to one of his friends’ houses for a party. We were imagining an apartment, but no, this was a full-scale house that happened to be up in a building downtown. The ceilings were high and beautiful and everything was old and French. We met a few of Constant’s closest friends, one of which was a countess and she tried to hide this from us. Their English skills varied but everyone was friendly nonetheless. There were a few moments where Nat and I just sat and looked at each other while this whole French party happened around us, everyone jabbering on and us having no clue what was happening. We stayed until the wee hours of the morning, I have a list of the French songs that were played so I can remember the night.

Nat and me on one of the Lyon bridges.

Nat and me on one of the Lyon bridges.

The kids walking around Old Lyon.

The kids walking around Old Lyon.

Our first lemon meringue tart of the trip.

Our first lemon meringue tart of the trip.

Our first night with Constant's friends.

Our first night with Constant’s friends.

The next morning was spent sitting around Constant’s kitchen table and trying a variety of French condiments on miniature toast. Constant is so enthusiastic about life in Lyon and wanted to show us absolutely everything. A lot of his friends haven’t left Lyon or won’t be studying abroad. They really love it there. Anyway, we made the effort to drive up to Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere for the famous view of Lyon from above. Fourviere was incredible. The inside of the church was also stunning. Luckily it was clear enough to see the city. Constant drove us up in his teeny little car, which was an experience in itself. He told us we would return to his home for lunch with his family, and yet again we were blown away by a perfect table setting outside in their garden, pork with mint cooking on the grill, various salads, and even a sponge cake with homemade blackberry jam that we saw his sister working on earlier in the morning. We were so spoiled.

Inside the cathedral.

Inside the cathedral.

View of Lyon.

View of Lyon. I believe the bridge on the left is where Nat and I took the earlier picture.

Post-lunch cheese at the Delois house.

Post-lunch cheese at the Delouis house.

We headed into the city for more exploring and to meet up with another one of Constant’s friends for coffee. It was May Day, so no public transport was running and many stores were closed. We still enjoyed strolling around, saw Place des Terreaux, and one of the girls Natalie knew from an exchange in high school came to meet us for coffee as well. Reunions all around! We went back to rest at the house for a while before heading back into the city for dinner. We wanted a real Lyonnaise dinner, and had just talked to Constant’s parents and a few of their friends at the house about quenelle, a Lyonnaise specialty that can’t be explained. We went on a hunt, and I was successful. We decided on Le Saint Joseph, a nice French restaurant that advertised a quenelle. The only way to explain quenelle is like a Czech dumpling, but if you haven’t had that, then I don’t know what to say. It’s a soft, doughy/eggy loaf with fish flavoring, and mine was covered in lobster sauce. I really enjoyed it, despite being scared at first! We had a pudding for dessert, walked around town a bit more afterwards, and then headed home to get to bed early while a beautiful French thunderstorm struck the city. I had missed those.

Place des Terreaux.

Place des Terreaux.

Bellecour.

Bellecour.

Quenelle for dinner!

Quenelle for dinner!

We started Friday with Croix-Rousse, a very beautiful part of Lyon with more cobblestone streets and hills, and walked to see Le Mur Des Canuts. It is a huge mural painted on a previously ugly wall, and it was pretty fascinating to see and to pose with. We traversed (don’t know how else to explain it) all the way down to the city center again from Croix-Rousse, and went to Constant’s favorite market. Here we had a Lyon classic, a Praline tart, and bought sausage to bring home. I can’t describe this sausage either, but it’s incredible. We chose the one with olives in it. Nat and I split from Constant for a bit to shop, but met up to trek over to Parc de la Tete d’Or, the biggest public park in Europe I believe. There’s a free zoo in the middle of it! By this time we were completely beat and went home for a bit of a rest.

The mural.

The mural.

Praline tart perfection.

Praline tart perfection.

Sausages, incredible.

Sausages, incredible.

In the park, see the animals?

In the park, see the animals?

It was time to leave Constant’s house to stay at the French house we visited the first night, since Stan (the owner) lives in the city and it would be easier for us to get around in the morning if we stayed there. It was hard to say goodbye to such a perfect little home and his sweet parents. We couldn’t be sad for long because Constant took us to the most amazing restaurant for our last meal; L’Epicerie. This place is known for their tartine. Tartine is a piece of amazing bread with melted cheese on it, but that description does it no justice. The bread is thick and toasted, the cheese is a variety– Nat and Constant ate goat’s cheese with honey on theirs, I had three cheeses with pear on mine. It was heaven. We started the dinner with bread, brie, terrine (ground cow liver), and rosette (Lyon sausage). That blew me away enough, but then came the tartine. We were full, but since it was our last night, Nat and I went for the most delicious tart combo and ordered a praline tart and a lemon meringue tart to share. Food coma, but worth it. Afterwards we went to another party with Constant’s friends before returning to Stan’s. We got up and left Lyon in the morning.

Started with this at L'Epicerie.

Started with this at L’Epicerie.

Look at it! The three cheeses were mozarella, chevre, and fourme.

Look at it! The three cheeses were mozarella, chevre, and fourme.

Me and Constant at our last dinner.

Me and Constant at our last dinner.

I feel like I’m still living in a little French dream. I’ve realized that my favorite way to travel is to go to places where I know people enough that they can help me navigate and really see the city’s gems. This worked out in Dublin last semester, and luckily Prague was small enough to get around easily ourselves, but a friend could have been nice. This was my last trip in Europe before I return home, and it was hard flying into Amsterdam realizing that the next time I’m on a plane I’ll be leaving. This was also a great way to spend quality time with Nat before we have to part, like we don’t spend enough time together already. We’re both smart and easy travellers, and I love that we both had friends in Lyon and left with an even broader group of friends in Lyon incase I end up going back. I don’t want to end this post because I don’t want the adventure to be over. It’s times like these when I realize I can’t ever lose this adventurous side of me, or I’ll end up missing a whole lot.

Koningsdag

The most anticipated celebration of the year, Koningsdag, came to Amsterdam this weekend! King’s Day (in English) is the celebration of the royalty’s birthday. The first Queen’s Day celebrations started in 1885 to celebrate the birth of Queen Wilhemina, but a king entered the game last year and now we get to celebrate him! So, happy birthday Willem Alexander! First king’s day in 122 years! Throughout the day we talked about whether anything like this happened at home, and quite frankly, not at all. I realize that this time around I am living in the middle of a city, so it’s a whole different situation than what could occur near home in Dallas. The streets were flooded in orange, in honor of the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Oranje-Nassau. Basically it’s a huge pride celebration and it’s something that isn’t even equivalent to the fourth of July.

Haarlemmerstraat King's Day Festivities!

Haarlemmerstraat King’s Day Festivities!

The main components for King’s Day are orange everything, music, selling stuff in the streets, and beer. King’s Night is almost as big as the actual day. On Friday we went to Kingston Crown and Hannekes Boom, a Jamaican-themed evening at one of our favorite treehouse hangouts. We missed the BBQ because the line was so long to get in, but it was well worth it to wait (despite the lightning looming over us, we prayed that it would pass and there would be no rain the next day!) There was a big free concert with plenty of reggae music and some Dutch rap as well. I was super stoked to hear it, just as a change-up from the usual electronic music that the Dutch love to play. Nat and I went to grab a beer and when we rejoined our friends at the front of the stage, we realized they were handing out cake in celebration. So festive! But of course, the crowd was way too hip to be wearing anything orange.

Kingston Crown, Hannekes Boom.

Kingston Crown, Hannekes Boom.

Natalie eating the beloved cake!

Natalie eating the beloved cake!

Despite a late night we all rallied the next morning for a King’s Day brunch in French Lea’s flat. We had to have some substance in us for what the rest of the day held! We ate french toast and eggs and cheese, even orange juice (fitting) and champagne. We headed into the city around noon, when everything was in full swing. Our neighborhood was a bit quiet but everything picked up in our beloved Haarlemmerplein. The main square there was full of people laying out their goods to sell. A lot is just crap, but they also sell coffee and orange cookies and such. The main haarlemmerdijk/straat was packed with people, and they flooded out to all of the little side streets too. We popped over to the Jordaan for more celebrations, included a few street parties. The best part of being in the city early in the afternoon was the street party we found on Singel. People were super crazy and the DJ was playing some good disco. Dam Square had a big carnival, but I’m sure it would have been insanely packed and partying if the square was empty.

Our gang of girls before entering the Jordaan! You can see a bit of the celebrations behind us.

Our gang of girls before entering the Jordaan! You can see a bit of the celebrations behind us.

Surprisingly the canals weren't as packed as we expected! I think we were a bit early.

Surprisingly the canals weren’t as packed as we expected! I think we were a bit early.

King's Day selfies were definitely in order!

King’s Day selfies were definitely in order! I think this captures how happy I was.

We had to get back to our neighborhood in time for King’s Day at Strand West. Strand West is a very unanticipated beach (that I think usually has a bar) literally right behind our containers. We had seen them setting up for the festival for a few days and we had NO idea how huge it was. People were pouring into our container complex when we came back, it was unlike anything we’ve seen around where we live. Strand West was hosting a big electronic festival, and it was the highlight of the day. 4 stages, a mini Coachella of electronic music and the most gorgeous concentration of young Dutch people I’ve ever seen. It was definitely where the hip Dutch young people came to see and be seen, the best party in the city. And it was RIGHT in our backyard. We danced all day and into the evening, but the festivities ended at 8pm.

Main stage at Strand West. The rain came today, not yesterday thank god!

Main stage at Strand West. The rain came today, not yesterday thank god!

Strand West.

Strand West.

I rode my bike through a bit of the city on my way to the gym today, expected mass destruction and trash everywhere. But alas, the street cleaners had already covered Haarlemmerplein and signs of the parties could barely be seen. Not sure if this makes me happy or sad. The Dutch are resuming their normal lives now, and the one day a year they lose it is now over. I think I would have been overwhelmed by the amount of trash, so maybe seeing my clean city again was a good thing.

It was an awesome feeling to celebrate something so loved by the Dutch after living here for eight months now. We get to see little nationalistic things every day, but this was full-blown Dutch pride. This is one of the few days of the year when the general public can fly the Dutch flag, isn’t that interesting? I feel even more like a part of this country now, my second home. I might have to rock a little orange on King’s Day back in the U.S. next year, though I am wearing orange every day anyway (my hair, if you didn’t catch that)! I hope the rest of my Dutchies had a great Koningsdag, I know I’ll remember this day for a long, long time.

 

Sonal’s Visit: Highlights

Two posts in two days, what is this! I’d rather get my thoughts down before school picks up a bit more. My next post will most likely be after King’s Day (next weekend) or after Lyon (going there with Nat at the start of May). Like I mentioned in my Barcelona post, Sonal flew back to Amsterdam with me and we spent a few days exploring. Luckily she’ll be returning with her parents in May so we skipped out on the touristy things. Since it’s getting difficult to show my visitors the same things over and over again, we went to some places I’ve been wanting to see, but still visited some old favorites. I should first make it clear that Sonal likes a few key things: plants/nature, high tea, libraries, and high tea at libraries that have gardens attached to them. I used this as a guide. We also went to Hartje Oost, but you can look in the Amsterdam Cafe Bucket List for that.

Singel 404: It’s no joke that I love this place, but I just need to share the sandwich I had with Sonal. She got salmon and cream cheese on white bread. I got grilled chicken with goats cheese, an herb spread, and peppers. Just look at the sandwich. There are no more words that can be said.

Singel 404, perfect view from the front table.

Singel 404, perfect view from the front table.

No regrets.

No regrets.

De Bakkerswinkel: I knew of this shop as a bakery and lunch spot, but I was pleased to find out it serves an adorable high tea. For 15 euro you get a pot of tea (of your choice), a slice of chocolate cake, a slice of cheesecake, 2 almond bars, 2 pieces of fudge, and a scone with clotted cream. Let me add that they advertise this for ONE PERSON. If you want to split, you buy and extra scone. This was more than enough tea time food, so we brought most of it home. I liked the scone a lot, and the cheesecake was divine. We went with earl grey tea. They give you a strawberry smoothie to start. I want to go back here with my English Rose, Nattie.

High tea!

High tea!

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Pretty Sonal just having some tea!

Tassenmuseum (Museum of Bags and Purses): I kept seeing this pop up on various Amsterdam websites, so I decided to take Sonal. There were so many bags and accessories to see, and also a temporary Barbie exhibit. Who doesn’t love Barbie? The Barbie exhibit even had a Barbie handbag exhibit. In the regular handbag showcase, I saw a bag and shoes made out of toad skin. They also had a few handbags from previous kings and queens of the Netherlands. It was a cute afternoon.

The toad purse and shoes.

The toad purse and shoes.

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Barbie style!

Begijnhof: This is a hidden garden (known as an inner court) around Spui that’s partially open to the public. Historically, it was the housing area for single women in Amsterdam that weren’t nuns but were still due to a priest and took vows of obedience. I believe mainly single women still live there today, but I can’t find anything for sure about that. The way the sun was hitting the garden when we were there was really incredible.

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Secret garden, beautiful.

Hortus Botanicus: The botanical garden of Amsterdam is one of the oldest in all of Europe. It started as a medicine garden and has grown to have a few greenhouses. There was a redwood, palms, a butterfly greenhouse, and even a coffee plant. We were wandering around and saw a family of ducklings hiding in some lily pads. I love that the zoo and the botanical gardens are in the middle of the city. So easy to access, and a great little escape.

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Ducklings made our day.

Openbar Bibliotheek Amsterdam: If you know anything about me, you know that I really dislike libraries. However, I’ll make an exception for this one. Anna had read that the Amsterdam public library was one of the best in the world and now I believe it. There are seven floors, and the library is right along the water. From the top floor, you can see all of the city while enjoying a lunch from the in-house La Place (a Dutch Eatzies is the best way to describe it). I will definitely spend more time here before I leave. The downside? No free wifi, but this could also be a blessing.

The view from the 7th floor

The view from the 7th floor

Young Label Atelier: This is where I took the girls last weekend to buy matching bracelets. Sonal got one while she was here, and I’ve had other visitors buy from this shop as well. It houses independent artists’ goods from around Amsterdam. Riverstones, the company that makes the delicate bracelets, sells their jewelry here as well as the sunday Westerpark market (where I first learned about them). Such cute things in a little simplistic shop!

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Excuse our shadows!

‘Skek: I fell in love with this bar in the Red Light District. The best part was that Sonal and I just stumbled upon it. The location is really unexpected, but inside felt so comforting and exactly like how I believe a bar should feel like. First of all, ‘Skek is run by students as part of an initiative to teach students about business; it’s part of the Kriterion project that seems to be a global movement towards enriching students. There is no boss, they do everything themselves, and they treat the space as a creative venue/living room. Bonus, they have really great beer. This initiative has a few more places around Amsterdam that I need to check out.

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***

It was so nice to have a few days to see parts of the city that I had been neglecting. Given that I only have a little over a month left here, I’m really feeling the pressure to cram more in. It’s doable though, and I will keep exploring and enjoying the little things that our city has to offer. I can’t wait to take some of these ideas and concepts of life back to the United States, or at least keep them in mind for when I come back here in the future!

 

 

Sing Me Spanish Techno

I finally made it to Spain! Barcelona in particular, and it was wild. I think what made this trip so unique was the synthesis of my Hockaday friends (Alison, Andrea and Skee again) and my Pitzer friend, Sonal, who is studying abroad in Seville. This was the first time anyone from home had met a Pitizen, so I can only imagine what my friends from home thought of us together—it had almost been a year since we saw each other last. Alison had a few friends from Paris there as well, from Hopkins. It was a unique mix but we all had a great time staying in an apartment in La Sagrada Familia, getting tapas, drinking sangria, and seeing a beautiful city.

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If Mexico and France had a baby, it would be Barcelona. That’s probably so politically incorrect, and I’ve never technically been to Mexico aside from hopping the border and peeing on the Mexico side (I blame GSES Classroom of the Earth for the encouragement) and I spent only one night in Paris a few years ago. However, from what I see of the cities and their architecture, it seems like it would make sense. The city has this tropical/Mediterranean feel, but also a rich, established vibe. It was a great change of scenery (and climate!) from Amsterdam, so unlike some of the other cities I’ve been to, I felt very out of place in a great way. I think my favorite aspect of the city was the various green spaces and parks, even if they were small. The structures and Gaudi architecture was unlike anything I had ever seen, but more on that later.

We all arrived on Friday morning. We went out exploring and to find lunch, and we happened upon a restaurant called Mussol, which means “Little Owl.” How adorable! We got our first pitcher of sangria of the trip and enjoyed little salads and meat and cheese plates. Afterwards we ventured to La Rambla, a shopping street with a great market, La Boqueria, attached. There were so many amazing sweets and fruits, lots of juices, and even some interesting meats and fish. We all got some chocolate, and Skee and I thought it would be great to get a super-sized truffle but they were five euros each and we didn’t know that initially; the woman wouldn’t let us put them back, so there’s that. At least it tasted good. We kept on exploring, saw some beautiful streets, and then went to the Arc de Triomf. We grabbed some tapas for dinner and went home early because we knew Saturday would be a big day. I don’t know what I was expecting from tapas but I was a bit underwhelmed the two times we had them. Sangria, on the other hand, was all around always good.

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Actually marzipan! Skills!

Arc de Triomf with Sonal

Arc de Triomf with Sonal

On Saturday, Sonal and I split from the pack to see the Museo Nacional d’Art De Catalunya instead of the inside of the big Sagrada Familia cathedral. I don’t think I regret this, because we ended up seeing a great photography exhibit of Joan Colom. He is a Catalan social photographer and got most of his shots from inside his jacket. His main projects were on the Easter Processions (really freaky) and The Street, photographs of barrios in Spain. He was part of an artist group called, can you believe it, El Mussol (like the first restaurant we went to). The building itself and gardens around the museum were gigantic and beautiful. The day started out as overcast, but eventually we were greeted with the sun. After the museum, we took the hot and steamy (in a bad way) metro to Parc Guell, the gardens which house various Gaudi architecture pieces. We had to trek up a huge hill to get to the park entrance, then I guess Sonal and I went the wrong way and hiked through the outskirts of the park. Luckily, some of the hills had escalators. Ridiculous, but I was thankful. We met up with a Pitzer friend also studying abroad in Seville and her friend from home. The four of us got the most amazing burgers at Kiosko, a gourmet burger bar with great prices and incredible burgers. The area where that restaurant was reminded me more of the West Village in Dallas, and I have deemed it my favorite area in Barcelona. Sonal and I spent the rest of the afternoon in Parc de la Cuitadella, a short walk from the restaurant.

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View from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

"I didn't know I was doing social photography at that time. I just took photographs and went after pictures I found exciting. I've sometimes used the term to describe my work, but to me it just means I don't do landscapes or still lifes. I work the street. I try, through my photographs, to be a kind of notary of an age." Joan Colom

“I didn’t know I was doing social photography at that time. I just took photographs and went after pictures I found exciting. I’ve sometimes used the term to describe my work, but to me it just means I don’t do landscapes or still lifes. I work the street. I try, through my photographs, to be a kind of notary of an age.”     Joan Colom

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Looking out from Parc Guell

Looking out from Parc Guell

Heaven.

Heaven.

Sonal and I in the beautiful park! Unreal.

Sonal and me in the beautiful park! Unreal.

That night, our last night, we had a big dinner of tapas and sangria (again, but also what else were we supposed to eat in Spain?) and headed for a bigger night out. We went to Pippermint, and bar suggested by a few different friends and known for giant pitchers of Sangria. Eight of us split 6 liters, which surprisingly ended up not being enough because more than half of the pitcher was ice! It was a rip-off but I guess just something that had to be done. Next, we trekked across the city to another bar, Dow Jones Bar, which is referencing exactly what you think. The drink prices go up and down, and sometimes the stock market crashes and drinks get pretty cheap. We were only there for a bit, because we had spent too much time crossing the city. Barcelona really isn’t all that walk-able, which took up a lot of time. I am an incredibly fast walker, however, and even if the girls got frustrated with me, I don’t have time to waste!

Sunday was a day of relaxation around the city and on the beach. We went to Barceloneta and grabbed food for a picnic lunch. Alison, Andrea, Skee, and I are extremely successful picnic-ers. We just laid on the beach all day, enjoying the sun but avoiding the freezing water. On our way home, we stopped by a few more Gaudi buildings. Sonal and I had to go back to the apartment to head to Amsterdam (yes, she came back with me!) but by the end of Sunday I was ready to be back home.

Barceloneta

Barceloneta

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More stunning Gaudi

More stunning Gaudi

This trip proved that a little more planning would have helped in terms of restaurants and transportation, but I think we did the best we could have given the fact that we were all busy in our respective cities before travelling. All in all I had a great time with friends, touched a new body of water (the Mediterranean), had some real sangria, and saw a new place that I wasn’t anticipating visiting. That amounts to a pretty great weekend.

Daisies in the Dam

I’m not even slightly ashamed of the cheese involved in the title. It works! This weekend, 3 friends from Hockaday (and just best friends in general) came to visit me. We had been anticipating this trip since January, when Andrea, Alison, Sarah (who I will refer to as Skee from now on) and I would all be reunited. And I was so happy they chose Amsterdam as the place! I’d say this round of visiting was different from visitors I’ve had in the past. We all just wanted a break from our hectic study-abroad lives, a time to just be ourselves, relax, laugh uncontrollably, and decompress. So as I sit in my bed on this Sunday, eating “drop” (licorice) and avoiding the ones with thyme in them, I’ll give the highlights of the weekend.

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I picked up Andrea and Skee from central station on Friday morning, which was unfortunately grey. The past week had been absolutely beautiful, so I was very confused why winter had decided to return! After excusing the weather on behalf of Amsterdam, we went to my apartment then to get some coffee and wait for Alison. It was so nice to have a group hug and didn’t feel any different between us. We walked down the street to Cafe Walvis for lunch, a neighborhood favorite. We all got broodjes (sandwiches) and even some bitterballen to start the weekend off right. After taking some time at my apartment, we headed to Museumplein so the girls could check out the Van Gogh museum and I could sit an admire the grey outdoors. We were hanging by the I Amsterdam sign and saw Carrie, a fellow hockadaisy that none of us had seen since graduation! She’s studying in Seville, and was visiting for the weekend as well. I had forgotten my phone, a rarity, so I don’t have any of my own pictures from that day. We walked to De Pijp afterwards, and went to the Albert Cuyp market for fresh stroopwafel with chocolate covering half of it. I had heard about the yumminess which is fresh stroopwafel, and this was the perfect afternoon snack. Afterwards we went to Scandinavian Embassy, a coffee place on my bucket list, and enjoyed a few cups. We also cooked a nice dinner together that evening, explored the Red Light District, then grabbed a drink at the ever-cute Cafe het Schium on Spuistraat, where umbrellas hung from the ceiling and enjoyed a super sweet disco vibe.

The girls in Museumplein!

The girls in Museumplein!

Scandinavian Embassy, see the bucket list page for more information

Scandinavian Embassy, see the bucket list page for more information

Throughout the day we were reminiscing and laughing and enjoying ourselves. We saw a TON of Amsterdam, and I was happy to not be bogged down by schoolwork, so I could enjoy myself too. I still can’t figure out if something significant was happening in the city or if tourist season has just officially started, because the streets were PACKED on friday night. This might also be because I don’t frequent the Red Light District on Fridays or Kalverstraat on Saturdays and never see the groups, but it was so overwhelming! Oh well, I’ll just keep enjoying my little neighborhood.

Saturday was a huge day for the girls but it actually passed incredibly slow. This was so nice, as we fit in everything we could have wanted to. They trekked off to the Anne Frank Huis while I stayed behind and met them there a little later. We then went to Pancakes! for a big breakfast. While there, the sun started to peek out and the day transformed into something out of a dream! It got really warm and happy, just for us. After a canal photo shoot, we walked around the nine streets, picked up matching bracelets from Young Label Atelier and then headed to Bloemenmarkt, the flower market. I had actually never been. Alison and Andrea bought cute wooden tulips there, but the real flowers looked nice too.

2/3 girls at the flower market!

2/3 girls at the flower market!

Tulips of course!

Tulips of course!

We headed to East Amsterdam where I dragged them into Jacob Hooy & Co, a somewhat holistic store that sells tons of licorice. We all tried some and the girls tried to be nice about the taste. I still picked up a little bag, and for the most part it was yummy. To get that taste out of their mouths, I took them to Ijschuypje, the best ice cream chain in Amsterdam, and we explored Nieuwmarkt. Since it was a beautiful day, we walked all the way home, down my favorite Haarlemmerdijk, and then camped in Westerpark for a while and enjoyed the sun.

 

The girls in Westerpark, first park of the day

The girls in Westerpark, first park of the day

We decided that a picnic for dinner was the best option, and gathered yummy food from the grocery store and headed down to Vondelpark. It was also incredibly busy, probably because it was a Saturday and the weather had taken a turn for the better. We ate good food, laughed, watched birds, saw ducklings, and then trekked back. The girls had to get up early for their flight, but we still went to Bloemenbar and got Vlaamse fries afterwards. It was a long, but perfect, day.

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Dinner in Vondelpark

Perhaps the silliest part of the trip was remembering that we will all be seeing each other this coming weekend in Barcelona. That made our trip light-hearted, knowing this wasn’t goodbye for a few more months. I can’t describe how nice it was to be with such great friends and able to discuss all of our times abroad after coming from the same place. What a great weekend!

For added fun, here are the macarons Alison brought from Laduree, a famous bakery in Paris!

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dsc_3264

 

Enjoying the Little Things Today

…like beautiful and warm weather, dogs on canal boats, and starting two new classes this week. I think about how in 2 months time, I won’t be riding my bike down Haarlemmerdijk everyday, glancing into my favorite stores to see what’s new. Or going to the neighborhood cafe where the owners ask how my exams went. How am I supposed to say goodbye? Why am I even thinking about that??

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24 Hours in Brussels

Although I’m not a strong supporter of taking as many trips (usually short) around Europe as possible while abroad, I did feel the need (and had the free opportunity) to tag along to Brussels with my parents for a night to add another (unexpected) destination to my abroad travel list. My parents have been in Amsterdam since last Wednesday and do a lot of high-quality exploring themselves (yay, I didn’t have to go to Van Gogh for the fourth time!!) and then we do a lot of high-quality eating together at night. Since they will be in the Dam for a solid week, sneaking out to Brussels was a good plan. We left Amsterdam on Friday midday, got to Brussels by mid-afternoon, and had the rest of that day plus all of Saturday to explore. And quite frankly, that was enough! I should point out that we rented a car and drove, since trains are surprisingly expensive from Amsterdam to Belgium. The countryside was beautiful driving down and especially once we got closer to Brussels. Poor Jim, bless him, for having to maneuver around both Amsterdam and Brussels. There’s a reason I ride a bicycle.

Sidenote: Obama is in Amsterdam today visiting the Rijksmuseum. His helicopter landed on Museumplein and there was absolutely no way of seeing him. Trip advisor said if you want to risk getting a sniper bullet, go ahead and hang out down there. I opted not to! Anyway, welcome, Obama!

I’d describe Brussels as a mix of Prague and Amsterdam–in the older parts–with some New York City littering (yes, littering) the main drags. I love both Prague and Amsterdam so the old city was enjoyable! It is much hillier than I’ve been used to so bicycles were not nearly as large of a thing. That afternoon/evening was spent meandering around Grand Place and the Town Hall, as well as gawking at the Mediterranean sweet shops and beautiful lace in storefronts. Although we wanted to sneak in a museum on that first day, there was too much to see outside while the weather was still beautiful. The best way to see a city is to simply meander around, so that’s what we did. Super relaxed and super gorgeous.

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A Simon family vacation, or even just a Simon family dinner, is not complete without mussels. When we were in Curacao 2 summers back we had the best mussels of our lives that were imported daily from Belgium, so we knew that if one day we were all in Belgium, we’d have to relive that meal. We ended up at La Maree, an excellent fish and mussels restaurant that is super local. I swear every single person eating there knew the waiters and owner; everyone was kissing each other and catching up. We got 3 different types of mussels; Dad got the simplest with just salt and pepper and vegetables, Mom got them a la Provencale with tomatoes and peppers, and I went with the white wine and cream. You can never get enough mussels. We stopped to get some of those mediterranean sweets I mentioned above after dinner and they were delightful. See pictures!

Mussels at La Maree

Mussels at La Maree

Goodies!!

Goodies!!

We got up on Saturday morning to rain, but also to an adventure. We set out to find Musee Renee Magritte, a surrealist from Belgium. Unfortunately the museum was almost exclusively in French (although I could read some of the Dutch descriptions…) and we didn’t get any English guide or headsets. I’ll have to read about him separately when I have some time, but I did gather that he went to Dallas in 1960. My favorite art by him would have to be “The Curse” or “Companions of Fear.” After that, I dragged my parents to an Ethiopian coffee house which is known as being one of the best cafes in Brussels. It lived up to that. We enjoyed cappuccinos and a piece of lemon cake. So beautiful.

Looking over the Royal Palace area

Looking over the Royal Palace area

Magritte, no pictures in the museum!

Magritte, no pictures in the museum!

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After refueling we headed to find Manneken Pis. The story we heard was that a bomb landed in front of a little boy in Brussels that really had to go to the bathroom; he then peed on the bomb and it was diffused, thus he saved Brussels. No idea if this is remotely true but it’s silly. I personally liked the Manneken Peace graffiti located close to the statue. Mom and I walked around to find a lace Christmas ornament and stumbled upon merengues the size of my head (unfortunately, no picture). I brought one back for Natalie. Brussels knows theirs sweets. My favorite part of the day, however, was where we stopped before heading back to Amsterdam. I had found the Erasmus House online as a place of interest. It’s located in Anderlecht, a small town a bit outside of Brussels. Erasmus hung out and worked in this house for a few months in 1521, and the house was really beautiful. It even had an original Bosch! The back of the house has a medicine garden and beautiful structures. It had just rained so everything was green and alive. Such a great find!

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Manneken Peace.

Manneken Peace.

Erasmus House from the garden

Erasmus House from the garden

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I think we did well for the short amount of time in Belgium. The drive back into the Netherlands and up to Amsterdam was beautiful and sunny. I saw many a cow and many a cute cottage. Even though I can be a total grump when travelling and tired, I thoroughly enjoyed going on this little adventure with my parents to a place none of us knew. If only Anna was with us!

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Taking a Step Back

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.” -Henry David Thoreau

Toured the canals yesterday evening. Despite grey skies and the chilly canal breeze, I felt so lucky.
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Zack’s Grand Amsterdam Adventure

He made it! Zack, my boyfriend, finally made it to Amsterdam last friday afternoon. We had a great week of quality time, great food, exploring, and too much beer. I was happy for his trip to be a synthesis of my daily life (still had a few classes…) and touristy Amsterdam. Like what occurred on my sister’s visit, I was able to see some things in the city that I hadn’t had a chance to yet. This will most likely be my last visitors post–but to be determined once my parents come and go–because visits will most likely get repetitive here on out!

Enjoying beautiful weather at Cafe Haarlem

Enjoying beautiful weather at Cafe Haarlem

I picked Zack up from the airport (a rare thing for me to do!) and we came back to the apartment. Like every visitor, i had to warn him that the outside (and inside) of my apartment is frightening but good enough. He wanted his first meal to be as Dutch as he could get, so we went to Haesje Claes again (see Anna’s post) and he got my favorite stamppot. I went with the mussels which were by far the best mussels I’ve had in a while. We had a few nice dinners to make up (a christmas present, valentines day, our anniversary, and my birthday) so feasting was great. Afterwards we went to celebrate Paula’s birthday in her apartment, then turned in early because Zack was beat. That first night is always rough.

Mussels at Haesje Claes

Mussels at Haesje Claes

For Saturday, I insisted we check out Noordermarkt for fresh vegetables and the market experience. We had pancakes at The Pancake Bakery before the market, and I was very underwhelmed compared to my regular “Pancakes!” restaurant. It was still necessary to try, because you would think pancake quality wouldn’t actually vary that much. I was getting angry because the waiters immediately spoke to us in English because this was more of a tourist attraction than the other restaurant. They also didn’t give us tap water (wanted to charge us for bottles) even though a group behind us definitely had tap water for the table and were most likely Dutch. Couldn’t believe what they tried to get away with! After the market I showed him my favorite Haarlemmerstraat and Six & Sons (see Amsterdam Cafe Bucket List). Since the weather was absolutely PERFECT for his visit, we spent some time outside at Cafe Haarlem drinking a beer and eating their famous nachos. After a trip to the regular grocery store and homemade risotto for dinner, we checked out Bloemenbar for a true Dutch night out. I got Zack on a bike that night. He only fell off once while riding and fooling around outside of the apartment. His back wheel was “drunk” as we call it (very wobbly) but he was so great about it. What a perfect first full day!

Nachos at Cafe Haarlem

Nachos at Cafe Haarlem

I got Zack back on the bike for a Sunday ride around Jordaan. Zack wanted more pancakes (and I don’t blame him) so we went to Pancakes! first. Everyone was out on the canals or cleaning up their houseboats for the spring and summer season. Zack said Jordaan was one of his favorite areas, and it was indeed beautiful that day. We had time to kill before going to an Irish pub to watch the Wales/England rugby match with some friends, so we got ice cream at the delicious Ijschuypje and sat on a canal. We also walked around the Spui/Singel area near my university building.Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

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Monday was another day of adventures, slightly more touristy. We went to Sweet Cup with Nat (mainly to see Sjefke!) before getting poffertjes. Sjef wasn’t there when we got our coffee, so we planned to go back to see him later in the day on our way home. Yes, that’s correct, pancakes for a third time. We hung around De Pijp for a bit and grabbed some lunch before heading to Museumplein and the “I amsterdam” sign. Zack wanted to go full tourist. He also, however, hadn’t decided whether or not he wanted to go to the museums there because if you don’t like art, they are probably not worth it. He luckily had time to go back later. Tuesday was a great day for a picnic. We ventured to Vondelpark (which I hadn’t been to!) for a relaxing day. We explored a bit afterwards before Zack decided that he did indeed want to go to the Van Gogh museum. I did some homework while he explored. Natalie came over that evening to watch The Bachelor finale (I keep up with some American pop culture things, ok?) and we had another night in so I could catch up on a little work.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Lunch at Flinck, classic Dutch sandwiches

Lunch at Flinck, classic Dutch sandwiches

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This is for Bruce

This is for Bruce

One of my favorite things to do with Zack, and to do in Amsterdam, is to see animals. We went to the Artis Zoo on Wednesday. I hadn’t been there since orientation week and now the weather was perfect again. I didn’t realize how different the exhibits were as compared to America, but they are very open… freakishly so. There are only short walls around them and the animals are pretty close. We also went into a very humid building where monkeys were literally everywhere around you, as were iguanas and birds. They didn’t approach you but it was still pretty wild. I took him to Cafe Belgique that night to have some good beers and we ended up at my neighborhood Cafe Walvis afterwards. I know he kept track better than I did, but I would guess that he tried around 20 different beers while here. It’s great for that! He allowed me to explore a side of Amsterdam that is definitely worthy of exploring but something I know very little about. New experiences all around. I had two classes on Thursday so Zack went exploring alone. I know he got lost but eventually found is way to the Rijks and explored the center a little more. Seeing Amsterdam alone is still great.

Our last full day together was Friday. It was a mashup of things we wanted to do again, a late valentines/birthday day purchase, and our nice dinner. We went to Singel 404 for sandwiches, and Zack’s goat cheese, chicken, and guacamole oven-melted sandwich was to die for. We walked around Jordaan again for a bit before heading to East Amsterdam. I took him to the Magere Bridge, also known as the thinnest bridge in Amsterdam over the Amstel river. A car isn’t able to drive on it. Couples attach locks on the bridge, which seems to be a trend in Europe. I knew this one was significant in Amsterdam so we locked one on and threw the keys into the Amstel. We went to De Pijp again afterwards to pick up a birthday present from him to me: a perfect little gold necklace with two giraffes hugging. Baby giraffes are my favorite animal. It represented our time in Amsterdam and also us. We took a coffee/beer break before heading home and resting up before our final dinner at Cafe ‘t Zwaantje. The restaurant was super gezellig and super Dutch (with that comes very casual service…) but yummy nonetheless.

Singel 404

Singel 404

Magere Brug

Magere Brug

Processed with VSCOcam with a1 presetI’m so happy to have the opportunity to share my experience with so many people that I love. Although I’m not coming to a new and exciting place like they are, I always seem to see more of the city than I imagine. Saying goodbye was hard, of course, but I know Zack is on his plane now, remembering the great week we had together. I think I convinced him to love Dutch things, or at least to recognize locals from tourists! I can only hope he enjoyed my city as much as I talked it up to be!

Only in a Dutch Hatha Yoga class…

…would we do forward and backward cycling motions while on our backs as part of a relaxation routine. I was determined to get through the class without letting the instructor know I was an English speaker. Unfortunately she found out when she asked for my name and my handy-dandy American accent came out. Once we got started I realized that despite my 1) previous yoga experience and 2) ever-growing Dutch language knowledge, the class would have been really hard to follow if she spoke entirely in Dutch. She would begin in english, then say a shortened version in Dutch (thought it would have been the other way around!) At least I got a nice yoga session in. Everyone else at the gym speaks to me in Dutch though (well, as much you talk to other people while working out anyway…)

I’m still loving the daily Dutch challenges. Last week I had a conversation with a store clerk half in English and half in Dutch. We kept switching back and forth. I started in English, but then answered his next question in Dutch, so he switched to Dutch… luckily we made it through and laughed about it. 

This is just a short little post to tide you over until next weekend, when I’ll blog about Zack’s visit. He arrives on Friday. I think we’ll be doing the complete opposite of what Anna and I did, which will be nice and refreshing. Still dragging him to some coffee places though, but I know he wants to see that bassett hound.