Busy busy busy

The weekend after Dusseldorf there was no time to rest either. A few days earlier, Jack arrived in Nijmegen. We cooked and hung out, we visited the city centre, and then we visited Amsterdam!

nachosjacknijmegen

It took us a good hour to find the hotel even though, in the end, it was right by the train station. Once we had settled in we decided to go straight out and do something – I mean, this is Amsterdam. You can’t just sit around! We visited the Van Gogh ‘My Dream Exhibition’ which was quite expensive for what it was – walking around and looking at copies of Van Gogh’s paintings and every now and then, the odd one that was in 3D. Thus, we decided to get as much out of it as we could and wandered round for a good while. All in all it was actually quite a lot of fun.

My favourite!

vangogh3d2jack3dBy the time we left the exhibition, it was already dark so we got to see Amsterdam by night, all lit up and sparkling. We headed to De Negen Straatjes in search of good food and ended up choosing a very sweet little café. The food in there, however, was by no means little. I have never left anywhere feeling so full. And I didn’t even finish my main course!

de bijenkorf, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at nightDam Square at night, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsPalace, Dam Square at night, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsCanal at night, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsWhere we ate

Then we wandered around a bit more and headed back to the hotel because we’re boring and because we had to get up very early the next day so that Jack could get his flight home.

Amsterdam Centraal in the morning, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsAs soon as I arrived in Nijmegen, it started snowing very heavily. It was the first snow we’d had so I was pretty excited but Jack’s plane was delayed – woops. Oh well, you can’t be angry at snow.

P.S. Later in the week there was even more snow but that didn’t stop us trudging through it for a party (ok, the party was about 2 buildings away but still…it was hard!)

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Christmas in February

If you thought that after a weekend away in Belgium I was going to have a rest, you would be wrong. The following weekend I ventured to Dusseldorf with a group of other Erasmus students. I only really knew Terhi and Suvi, but everyone was so lovely and by the end of the day I had some new chums.

grouppic

The reason for our excursion was to visit the German Christmas markets, and yes I do realise it’s getting a bit ridiculous to write about this subject in February but hey, I’m just a maverick.

I had never been to a German Christmas market that was actually in Germany before. In fact, I’ve only been to one located in Manchester, so I was pretty excited to see how it compared. Upon arrival, everything was so captivating. The little wooden stalls decked out in Christmassy bits and bobs and the lingering smell of delicious foods enticed me in right away.  Unfortunately, we were soon to part ways again as everyones’ stomachs were on empty and we opted to get a proper meal at restaurant first. I was glad we did because I had the most delicious meal that I still dream about! I was quite lucky in choosing something so tasty since the whole menu was in German and no one amongst us had a strong grasp on the language. I still don’t know exactly what it was. All I know is that it had something to do with mushrooms, pork and pasta. Oh, and that it was amazing.

German food, delicious, Dusseldorf, GermanyWith our tummies satisfied, we hit the market again. It was a huge sprawling thing, covered in fairy lights and ‘liebekuchen’. I don’t want to bore you by describing everything that was there so I’ll just say that if Sinterklaas threw up on a city, this is what it would look like. Now here are some pictures:

funnypoffertjesgermanynuts xmasmarketbows cutecouple ornaments candlesmulledwinebandw insideanxmastreechoccasdusseldorfliebekuchen, Dusseldorf, GermanyThe day was nicely rounded off when we ran into a German guy’s stag do and Alex shaved the groom-to-be’s leg. Pretty standard stuff really!

stagdo weirdstagdo Then it was back to the train/bus to get home in time for a good night’s sleep.

Auf Wiedersehen!

In Bruges (…and Torhout and Ghent and Brussels) – Part Two

On Saturday 17th November the gang and I headed to Ghent. It didn’t know much about the city before we went, other than the fact that it’s where Caitlin goes to university and that she loves it. By the end of the day, I loved it there too.

waffelvendingmachine

Had to include this pic I took at the station – of course they sell waffels in Belgian vending machines!

Not only is it one of the most picturesque cities I’ve been to, but it also had a great variety of quirky little shops, cafes and restaurants. It was more of a student city than Bruges had been and – even with most of the students at home for the weekend – somehow more lively. I could definitely see myself living there at some point!

We really did eat well that day. We filled our hungry tummies with delightfully warm sandwiches, tried some ‘Cuberdons’ or ‘Gentse neuzen’ (some gelatinous Belgian sweets), as well as a scrumptious array of sweet delicacies from a quaint little – but very busy – bakery. And to top it all off, we ate dinner at what appeared to be an extremely popular restaurant called De Kastart. Their pasta sauce is so notoriously tasty that people queue up just to take a pot of it home to pour over their own pasta!

neuzen

Gentse neuzen

cupacakes cupcakeshopWe did do things other than eating, of course. We wandered, took photos and visited various churches and other landmarks. There was also some lovely vintage and retro-style shops about but unfortunately the clothes were too expensive for me to make a purchase this time. My favourite shop was called ‘Zoot’, so check it out if you’re ever in Ghent.

ghentboatflowersghentbridgecatherdralharpmanghentchurchweinghenttouristscanalghentHaving previously said that Bruges was like a fairytale city, I would be so bold as to say that Ghent is even more so, especially at night. But don’t just take my word for it, have a look for yourself:

Ghent bridge, GentGent bridge, GhentSadly, we had to depart from this glorious city but our happiness was revived when we returned to Caitlin’s home, as an evening snack of ‘piknikken’, Dumon chocolates and warm drinks awaited us. It was like we were staying in a 5* hotel!

The next morning we had to say our final goodbyes to Caitlin’s family and to Torhout before hopping on the train to Brussels. Since we had to travel all the way back to Nijmegen that evening, we didn’t have all that long to spend there but we had just enough time to get a good feel for the place and, of course, sample another Belgian waffel.

waffelterhiwaffelDespite the limited time (and the abysmal weather), we managed to see quite a lot. We began with some wandering, which lead us to the Royal Palace. It was a fine thing to look at but I didn’t manage to get a picture – it was too huge to fit in my lens!

Brussels viewLaytonBrusselsleaves autumn Brussels BelgiumterhiredBrussels black and white skylinecutesherlock

This guy was working the Sherlock Holmes look!

Brussels, Belgium black and whiteWe shuffled along and had a look inside a beautiful church but left rather quickly as a service had just started. We, quite luckily, stumbled upon an antiques flea market just outside the church and couldn’t resist a browse. I finally got to speak some French, asking one of the sellers about a vintage handbag that was just divine, although it appears that anything more than that just comes out in Dutch or English. I do hope it all comes flooding back when I move to France!

Within the space of about 10 minutes, our little group managed to split up and lose the other half. To make matters worse, our Dutch phones weren’t working because we were in another country. We soon found each other once again and continued on our merry way.

Our next stop was at the statue of the little weeing man that you’re supposed to see when you go to Brussels – the ‘Manneken Pis’. I had been unaware of this little fellow until the previous evening so needless to say I wasn’t as excited as some of the other people there, nor did I know anything about it. I have since read that the statue is dressed in a costume several times a week and that his wardrobe consists of a few hundred different outfits. I am now very disappointed I didn’t get to see him all dressed up!

Manneken Pis, Brusells, Belgium statueMoving on from public urination, we soon encountered a much less vulgar statue at the entrace of the Grand Place. It depicts Everard ‘t Serclaes and it is supposed to bring you good luck if you rub it. You can never have enough good fortune so I took my time with that thing.statue, Grand Place, Brussels, BelgiumI was, however, unaware of what was to come. I had never seen the Grand Place before – not in pictures and not in real life – so it came as a great surprise to me just how magnificently resplendent it was. The guilded buildings were so ornate and radiant, they practically glistened in the sunlight. I couldn’t believe it had taken me this long to see this square. I did try to take a few photographs of it but they just came out as feeble attempts at capturing its beauty. Also, my lens could barely fit a whole building into one frame. I managed to get a snap of the corner of the square as we were walking away from it, but you really have to go and see it for yourself to get the real effect.

brusselssqaureA trip to Brussels is naturally not complete without seeing something to do with Tintin (or ‘Kuifje’, in Dutch). Thus, when we saw ‘La Boutique Tintin’, we just had to have a look round.

laboutiquetintintintinBut time was ticking on and we wanted to have a quick drink and look round the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral before we left. Despite the beauty of the place, I was somewhat preoccupied since I had managed to lose my hat between the Tintin shop and the cathedral. I didn’t end up finding it so I hope it’s having a lovely time in Brussels without me!

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral Brussels, BelgiumcatherdralstepsBut soon it was time to go back home to Nijmegen. I couldn’t believe our trip to Belgium was over, but we definitely packed a lot in. We even had to change trains in Antwerp and so managed to see the inside of the exquisite station and ventured outside a little whilst in search of a post box. I also got to try my first brie and honey sandwich, thanks to Caitlin, and I have not looked back since. All in all, I had a fabulous time and I think everyone else did too. I even enjoyed the train journey because the views that followed us all the way home were so brilliant. A wonderful end to a wonderful trip.

Antwerp Station Belgium

In Antwerp Station

sunset Belgiumsunset3sunset2trainwindowviewweirdmist

Spooky mist…

sunset train belgium

In Bruges (…and Torhout and Ghent and Brussels) – Part One

I thought I’d split this post into two parts seeing as I’ll be telling you about a 4 day trip, and my posts are long enough when I write about something that happened in less than 24 hours!

As you may be able to guess from the title, the trip we took was to Belgium. We managed to visit so many places and see so many things with ease since we always had our free tour guide with us: Caitlin. Yes, lucky for us, Caitlin is both our friend and she’s Belgian. What a great combination.

On Thursday evening (15th November), we began our long journey to Bruges. The travelling wasn’t that bad because we all had things to keep us occupied. Layton and I, for instance – having been inspired by one of the more old-fashioned trains we had to take – decided to sort everyone into their various Hogwarts houses: a very worthwhile way to pass the time.

Nijmegen trainOnce in Bruges, Caitlin’s mother met us at the station and drove us to Torhout, a nearby town where Caitlin’s family live. Upon arrival, we were met by the whole family, and a delicious meal of homemade Vlaamse Frites – perfect! Caitlin’s family were so kind to us and generous too. I’m amazed they managed to put up with us for so many days! But they did and I definitely felt very lucky that we got to meet and stay with them.

Friday morning was spent vying for the bathroom and eating a delicious breakfast, before heading out to Bruges. I’d heard so much about it already and I was not disappointed. It was as though I had stepped into a fairytale, except that in this fairytale there was scaffolding around the square in preperation for the Christmas market, and you have to pay 50c to go to the toilet. Despite those two things though, it was pretty magical, and made even more so due to the fact that many a window was adorned with Christmas decorations and the like.

christmas christmas toysxmaswindow2xmassandwishes

Even the sandwiches were magical!

We whiled away the day looking around the city, taking in the historical sights and the ornate architecture, as well as trying some of the local Belgian delicacies. In other words, chocolate and waffels! When in Rome (or Belgium), eh?

friendandtourguidelookingatpostcardslacemapblackandwhitedifcrazydumon morechocbootsnongreenchoc laytonchoccarealbelgianwaffel

Of course, as is necessary when one visits any new town or city, some shopping did take place. We then rounded off our time in Bruges with a delicious meal in a hipster-chic sort of restaurant and then alas, before we knew it, it was time to leave.

xmaslightsbruges

The night, however, was still young (unlike Bruges). Back in Torhout we went for a few drinks in a local cafe and met up with some of Caitlin’s lovely friends. ‘Twas a jolly eventide before we all returned home and retired to bed due to an unfortunate yet necessary early start on the morrow.

…I don’t know why I decided to write the last part like that…just something about Bruges giving me that old-timey feel, I suppose.

Until next time, good sir/madam!

Finnish Food and Dutch Drinking

Phew! I’m slowly but surely catching up on my blogging! I know how long my posts normally are but you can all breath a sigh of relief as I tell you that this one is going to be short(er).

I thought I’d mention the time Terhi’s sister, Tiia, came to visit, since she and Terhi whipped up some traditional Finnish food for us to try. We had Macaroni Casserole (ohmygoshsogood), Karelian Pies (wow. Just…wow), rye bread (mmm), Salmiakki, which is a sort of salty liquorice (I do not like this stuff), and some Finnish Chocolate, courtesy of Suvi. If this is what the food is like, then I am very tempted to move to Finland!

karelianpies finnishchocAround that same time, Rosie came to visit! Wahoooo! I actually met up with her in Amsterdam first, where we stayed the night on a friggin’ boat. Yes, you read that correctly. We stayed in a hostel on a boat. And we had our own bathroom. Say whut?!

For anyone who:

a) is looking for a nice and clean hostel in Amsterdam

b) wants to sleep on a BOAT

c) wants their own room in the hostel

d) wants their own bathroom in the hostel

then stay where we stayed: on the MPS Noorderzon. I booked through Hostel World, but I think you may be able to book directly as well. It was a really great find (thanks Terhi) and I would highly recommend. It’s definitely not a ‘party boat’, but it offered some peace and quiet after a day of pounding the pavements. And again, no, I don’t work for them!

noorderzoonIt took us quite a while to do most things when we arrived, such as: finding each other, finding the tourist office, working out how to get a map at the tourist office, working out how to get a ticket for the queue in the tourist office, finding the hostel’s location on the map, finding the hostel. By the time that had all happened, I felt we could only be described as socially inept. However, we did manage to do all of the above in the end, and I even got to practice some Dutch with the owners of the boat. Triumph!

Rosie and I did some sightseeing, and spent a while shopping in De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets). I made a purchase that I’ve been eyeing up on the internet for years. I can’t wait to wear it in the summer!

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Towards the end of the afternoon, we figured it was time to go and get a drink. Whilst looking for a cafe, we passed through some market stalls, most of which were closing. Luckily, the one that was displaying some quirky jewellery was still open and I couldn’t resist purchasing a ring that looks like the bow you stick on a present. It just got me all excited for Christmas!

newringOnce that was over, Rosie and I found the sweetest little pub, right by one of the canals. I wish I knew the name of it!

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The view out the cafe window

RosieAmsterdam kriekgezelligcafeAnd we stayed there until it got dark!

viewfromcafeThen we continued the fun with our own little bar-crawl, but it was time for the camera to go away.

The next day we did some more wandering round the beautiful city, and then headed to Nijmegen, where we spent the rest of the weekend. Thanks for visiting me, Rosie!

canalbandw Rosiecanal

I think I moan a lot

Bleurgh, I’m ill. I thought I’d mention that in case this blog is more horrendously written than usual, and also so that I may get a little sympathy from you readers. I’ve never thought about it before but, as it turns out, being poorly whilst on your Year Abroad sucks. Sitting alone in a dark room all day and talking to your mum on skype for 20 minutes just doesn’t cut it when you know that if you were at home right now, you’d be watching TV and lounging about on a sofa, while being waited on hand and foot. As you can tell, I’ve had it good.

However, I’m not going to let this blog post be a massive moan-fest, although I would like to mention that this stupid illness meant that I missed an awesome ‘black and white’ themed party last night because I was shivering so much I couldn’t move, and I didn’t think the whole ‘blue lips’ look would fit in with the theme. There – that was my final word on the matter. On to happier and less whiny topics.

On the last Saturday of September, Layton, Terhi and I joined many other international students on an excursion to Eijsden, the Pietersberg caves and Maastricht. We were told to convene by the International Office at 8:15am, and that if we were late then the bus would leave without us. Since Terhi is a very punctual person, we arrived there 15 minutes early. Everyone was ready and accounted for on time and we were all raring to go (in spite of the cold, the rain and the early start). Unfortunately, by the time it got to 8:45, the bus hadn’t yet arrived. We were all getting very agitated and I feared that if our transport didn’t turn up soon then we would have a Lord of the Flies situation on our hands (Sidenote: having never read this book, this reference could be totally out of place. However, from what I saw on a Lord of the Flies inspired Simpson‘s episode, it works).

Finally, at 9am, the coach arrived and we formed a ‘Dutch queue’, as I like to call it. In other words, a massive gaggle of bodies attempting to shove themselves through a small entrance, and something I will never get used to. Once on the bus we were told that we had been tricked. The organisers of the trip didn’t expect everyone to show up on time and thus informed us that we would be departing earlier than we actually would be. Sneaky one, guys.

About an hour and a half later we arrived in Eijsden, Limburg, where we spent some time exploring the magnificent Castle Gardens. With the autumn light illuminating our surroundings and peeping through the openings in the tree-lined avenue, everything looked somewhat ethereal. I adored it.

very short ferry trip across the Maas was followed by a short coach trip to Pietersberg, which was followed by a short but mighty steep walk to the Pietersberg Caves. Having to walk up an actually noticeable incline was, for once, not a bad thing. It was, in fact, a rather refreshing experience as I hadn’t even seen a hill for over 6 weeks at that point, let alone walked up one.

The caves themselves were enjoyable, but not my favourite part of the trip. Whilst I did learn some interesting facts, I didn’t feel they warranted as lengthy a tour as we received. Therefore, I shall write about them for the amount of time I felt we should have spent there…

Moving on, we arrived in the centre of Maastricht at about 2:30pm. There’s just something inherently appealing and quirky about every Dutch town/city I have visited so far, and Maastricht was no different. The cobbled streets, the old buildings, the bridges stretching across the water; it had everything going for it. We soon got to take a good look around the city with a tour guide. Our group was given a lovely girl who was in her second year of study in Maastricht. Despite her amiable disposition, it soon became apparent that she had never given a tour before and really had no idea what she was doing. Her most used phrase was “This is [insert place of interest here]. I don’t really know what to say about it…” Neverthless, it was still a good tour and with her as our guide, we didn’t get lost!

Our tour guide

Cool book shop in a converted church in Maastricht

A pink mini being used as a wedding car – schattig!

Later on we were given free time in the city. We used this time to go shopping (I bought Alles is Liefde – my fave Dutch movie – in Blokker for 2.99!), sight-seeing and to eat in a quaint little Italian place. All in all, it was a fun day, but I think we were all happy to get back to Nijmegen in the end – nothing can compare to our little home from home.

The following Wednesday a fair few of us (minus the boys) headed down to the cinema for a Ladies Only Night. We had been promised free food, free drinks and impressive looking goody bags. This turned out to be 2 free drinks (score), 2 free yet disgusting marzipan coated cakes, and a couple of gummy sweets. The film showing was a new American chick flick The Bachelorette. It was a funny film and I enjoyed it, but it did seem to heavily promote the use of cocaine…

At Ladies Night – looking slightly dishevelled from cycling in the torrential rain

Having been somewhat disappointed with the amount of free consumables before the film, I still naively held out hope for the goody bags. Upon walking out of the cinema, however, we received a small packet of M&Ms. To make matters worse, they were peanut M&Ms which I just can’t stomach. We had been duped.

The following night there was a party at Piecken. In honour of World Animal Day (don’t worry, I’d never heard of it either), we had to dress up as an animal. As usual, we had a pre-party at Caitlin’s place. Caitlin, Terhi and I went as a bundle (I don’t think this is the correct collective noun but I so wish it was!) of black cats because, well, it’s the easiest costume! Karlijn came as a lovely ladybird and Tom and Layton came, of course, without a costume. Layton did let us draw on some whiskers though so he joined our bundle, and I dubbed Tom a Party Animal – badass.

The pre-drinks and the party at Piecken were both a lot of fun, especially when people had had enough to drink that they were attempting the dance to Gangnam Style. I, of course, was far too demure to do such a thing…

Sadly, I had to leave the party earlier than I would have liked since I was flying home the next day and still had some drunken packing to do. It turns out that this is the best way to do packing – I didn’t forget anything and I was very relaxed whilst doing it. Give it a go! [I do not advocate heavy drinking of any kind]

I spent a wonderful weekend at home and managed to visit Jack in Sheffield as well. Highlights from the trip – other than seing my family and Jack – were seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I highly recommend, eating my mum’s cooking (especially the roast dinner) and shopping in Topshop. Oh, how I had missed Topshop. My baby, my one true love, my…okay, I’ll stop now. If living in The Netherlands has taught me to value anything about my homeland, it’s British fashion. It’s not that Dutch fashion is bad, it’s just something that I can’t pull off. It’s very casual and often involves jeans and practicality – three things I never consider when purchasing clothes.

As my weekend at home drew to an end, I dreaded the journey home. But, after waiting in the airport for 2 hours and then managing to make it out of the EasyJet scrum alive and be one of the first people on the plane, I figured the hardest part was over. We took off and I enjoyed watching all the little buildings diminish in size until they looked like a toy town, and then I waited to be taken up past the clouds into the heavens. Only, that never happened. We flew low for a good while but I didn’t think much of it until I heard the ominous crackling of the aircraft intercom: “Hello, this is your captain speaking. Some of you may have noticed that we’ve been flying quite low and the reason for this is that the right engine is not working, so we’ve had to shut it off and we will be returning to Liverpool within the next 5 or 10 minutes”.

I sat there, reading my Cosmo and trying not to panic. Then the captain spoke again: “Just informing you that the fire brigade will be present on the ground when we land, but please do not be alarmed”…HOW COULD I NOT BE ALARMED?! At this point, I was panicking. I pulled a ‘scared’ face at the Dutch woman sat on my right, hoping she would sympathise. She did not. Fortunately, we landed safely and just had to wait an extra 3 hours for a spare plane to be flown up from Luton. Not the best flight ever but at least I didn’t die; the lesser of two evils, I’d say.

By Wednesday I had recovered from my ordeal and my tiredness, and I was ready to set sail on the good ship Pancake. If I were to translate that from Pirate English to Dutch, it would be the Pannenkoekenboot, and that is what we actually cruised on along De Waal. Now, I love boats, water, pancakes and cool people, not to mention hundreds of statues of mermaids with their boobs out (seriously, who decorated this boat?!) and so to have all of these things combined was a dream come true.

Really?

View of the sunset through the front window

On this boat you pay an entrance fee and then you’re allowed to eat as many pancakes as you want. At the start of the hour-long cruise we were informed that the most pancakes eaten by a male during the voyage was 20, and the most consumed by a female was 12. “12?” I thought, “pah, 12 is nothing. I can beat that. Let’s do this”.

By pancake number 3 I was eating my words, and by pancake number 4 I was nearly vomming them back out again (lovely image, I know), so I decided to leave it there. I’d like to meet the girl who ate 12 of those bad boys and I want to shake her hand. Nevertheless, the pancakes themselves were delicious, and the choice of toppings was great! I’d definitely voyage on the pannenkoekenboot again.

Other than that, I’ve been busy being ill. I spent most of yesterday in bed but as my fever improved, so did I. Terhi also made dinner for a few of us because her friend, Laura, is visiting from Finland. I was just happy to have some human contact after a day spent in the dark, and I like meeting the friends of those I’ve got to know here. For some reason, it’s rather interesting. Terhi’s food made me feel much more like a normal, healthy person too, so hopefully I’ll be able to venture out a bit more this weekend. Or do some work…we’ll see.

I’ll leave you with a picture I ‘hipstergrammed’ this week of the beautiful (if a little boring and flat) view from one of the Erasmus Gebouw windows. Tot ziens!

I spend my life at the Erasmus Gebouw

Thursday had nothing on Wednesday. In fact, the daytime was super boring. We had a library tour, which would have been useful had our tourguide talked loudly enough for the rest of the group to hear. This was followed by a talk from the Faculty of Arts which was mainly things we had already been told.

Later on, however, it was our Mentor Dinner. Everyone had to bring some food from their own country so I took Tiffin again since it went down well last time. Other dishes included Spanish omlettes, a German apple cake, Mac and Cheese, a German breakfast dish (delish but I’ve forgotten the name), Dutch Stamppot and curry. Boy was I full that night!

It was lovely seeing everyone again and getting a literal taste of other cultures.

Marta and Noemi

Carolina

I suppose that the terrible weather on Friday morning was a bit of pathetic fallacy. I got up at 8am and headed to the gym alone on my bike, battling against the wind and the rain. When I finally arrived, I got my locker and swiped my card at the entrance to the gym. I thought I was doing it wrong since the turnstile wouldn’t open but after several tries I gave up and went to ask the front desk what the problem was, only to be told that my membership didn’t activate until the next day. I was sure that I had been told that even though this was the case, I would still be allowed instant access to the gym. How wrong I was. Anyway, I pedalled back and lay down in bed for a bit, feeling somewhat sorry for myself.

To make matters worse, when I went to the Erasmus Gebouw (Erasmus Building where the Faculty of Arts is located) with Layton later on that day, I tried to enlist the help of the Dutch secretary with enrolling for a module. But, when asked by a different secretary if she had time for an international student, she replied in Dutch (probably assuming I couldn’t understand) that she would like some weekend. How arsey is that? Bear in mind that it was 2pm as well! Anyway, she made me write a few details down without telling me why and then ignored me so I left feeling rather disgruntled.

The day brightened up weather and mood wise as soon as we left campus. Layton and I headed down to HEMA to buy some ‘school supplies’, as he puts it. There, we bumped into Caroline and so we hung out together. I also bought a lovely burgundy jumper from H & M which I’m rather proud of. Then, in the evening, Layton, Terhi and I went to see Moonrise Kingdom at LUX. It was a truly spectacular film; quirky, funny and a self-awareness that was really enchanting. Iwannaseeitagain! I couldn’t help downloading some of the music. I am in love with the version of Cuckoo by Benjamin Britten use in the film. Listen to it here.

Saturday was workout day to make up for the malteasers consumed during Moonrise Kingdom. Terhi, Caroline, Caitlin and I partook in Body Workout at the gym. The first half was cardio which wasn’t too bad, but the second half was core work and it really did work you to the core! I was pleased that I managed to hold my plank ok at the very end though – I’ve been practising that one.

The Body Workout crew (plus Thom and Layton) came together again to visit the supermarket and to make a healthy lunch bij elkaar. Unfortunately, the back wheel of my bike decided to give up on the way back and so I had to walk. Lovely Layton was so sweet and walked back with me while the others headed back to Terhi’s kitchen. After a nutritious lunch of salad and pesto chicken (or spaghetti bolognese for the boys) I went in search of a bike repair shop I had found online. Again, Layton was kind enough to come with me and help me out. We found the shop just in time and they told me they could fix it but that I couldn’t collect it til Monday.

Lack of a bike meant that I had to take the bus to and from the city centre on Sunday. For some reason this seems like so much more hassle than jumping on a bike and peddling away. I’ll definitely miss cycling when I leave. Anywho, the bus journey was definitely worth the effort to get to the Nijmegen Samba and Salsa Festival. Terhi, Rach and I accidentally ran into a parade and it was fabulous! So much vibrance, so much music, so much booty shaking – it was hard not to join in!

The rest of the day included listening to some intense drumming, shopping, Terhi leaving, eating delicious falafel, listening to more drumming, shimmying around a bit, eating ice cream, sitting by the river and then visiting the tropical market. All this finished off with an arty/indie film called Take This Waltz at LUX. It was strange to say the least and by the end of it I just wanted to give the main character a good old shake. At least Seth Rogen was in it (surprisingly). He’s beautiful.

Mmmmm falafel

Bridge across the de Waal

Cool lamps in the LUX bar

Monday was supposedly my first day of lectures but the only one I had (Second Language Acquisition) has been cancelled this week and could possibly be cancelled altogether. Great. I spent the day completely rearranging my schedule and swapping and changing modules. Things seem to be much harder to figure out here than in Sheffield.

One good thing happened on Monday though – I got to pick up my bike. I was so happy as it had felt as though I was missing a limb! I nearly cried as I tried to peddle away though as there was no resistence whatsoever. I took it back to the shop and the man there fixed it for me and managed to fix my gears so that I now have 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear instead of just 2nd and 3rd, and he did it free of charge as well. Things were looking up. I even cooked my first proper meal alone in my kitchen since being here. It was some rubbish pasta but the taste didn’t really matter to me. I was just pleased that I’d finally done it. That may sound silly but it actually means that I’m starting to feel a bit more at home here.

Yesterday morning I arrived on time for my 8:45 lecture in English As a World Language. We waited and we waited for over 40 minutes until we decided that perhaps the lesson wasn’t on this week and everyone went to get a coffee. Most of the Sheffielders hung out together for the rest of the day and it was lovely seeing some familiar faces and having a bit of a joke. We had to wait around for a bloody long time though as the module Rachel and I had next was Egyptian Religious Text at 1:45. This seems pretty interesting and I like the professor because he was nice and wore a bow tie so he’s ok in my book. Moreover, Terhi is in this class as well which I didn’t realise so that’s just a bonus.

I saw Layton in the evening as he wanted to pop to HEMA and I think to get out of Hoogeveldt for a bit as well. It can get pretty dull when you’re here for too long. We visited our destination and got more ice cream. I think I need to stop mentioning when I have ice cream in this blog because when I write it down it just seems like so much. IT’SJUSTBECAUSETHEWEATHERISNICESODON’TJUDGEME!

Yesterday morning our lecturer actually turned up to our 8:45 class, thank goodness. It was a shorter one than usual though as it was just an intro to the Dutch Culture lectures we would be receiving. We were also told that the pass mark here is 60% as opposed to the 40% we have to get in Sheffield. Whislt at school I think I would have thought of 60% as a bit of a failure, but since being at university I’ve started to view it as being very difficult to obtain indeed. I hope I can manage it here!

After being told that we need to photocopy certain articles from the library each week for Dutch Culture, a few of us headed there to find the folder and to get started. The photocopying took quite a while but we managed it in the end. Then Glenn, Rachel and I nipped back to Hoogeveldt before going to town for some lunch. Naturally, Back Werk (esentially Greggs) was our first choice. By this time it was around midday and we had a lot of time to kill. Thus, shopping and walking around ensued. We wandered down a street I hadn’t been before but where I will definitely be returning. It was filled with boutiques and little vintage shops. My favourite was a faux-vintage store called La Belle Epoque, although the expensive prices meant I didn’t stay in there for too long!

The street had some comedic value as well. For example, I was quite amused to see a shop with Wild-West decor selling cowboy boots situated directly opposite one selling Native American related items. It was as though they were in a face-off. I wondered if they had done this on purpose. I also enjoyed the eloquently named shop, Wood for Home. I wonder what they sell.

Anywho, I have the day off today (and tomorrow) but don’t really have much planned for the next few hours. In the evening though, I have beginners volleyball to try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Doei!

Onze reis naar Amsterdam

Wednesday dawned with the light of a new day and the hope of a fun trip to Amsterdam. We – meaning me, Terhi, Layton, Shannon, Caitlin and Cemre – met up pretty early in the morning, keen to arrive at our destination. The high ticket prices  made us, perhaps, a little less keen but we carried on in spite of this. Amsterdam is Amsterdam. We left from Nijmegen station on the bottom half of a double decker train (the top was too full for our posse). Most trains here seem to have two levels and I love it. I have a childish admiration for these newfangled trains, like a toddler seeing bunk-beds for the first time.

The journey took an hour and a half, which seemed to pass by quickly. I enjoyed the free wifi on board whilst the rest of the group enjoyed the free time to catch up on the sleep they had missed that morning.

Instagram photos I uploaded whilst on the train – love free wifi

Upon arrival at Centraal Station, excitement ensued. The building which houses the station is magnificent so I’m glad we went there by train. As we made our way into the city centre, I started to recognise places I had come on my first visit to Amsterdam and it gave me a nice feeling. I enjoyed that trip.

Soon we went our separate ways. Layton and Caitlin visited the Anne Frank Huis, whilst the rest of us went to get some lunch. Shannon, Terhi and I didn’t bother going to the museum because we had all been before, and Cemre had just never heard of Anne Frank.

Once our tummys were full we went to check on Caitlin and Layton’s progress. They had just got to the front of the queue when we arrived so we skipped off and had a look round a nearby church before going to do something really cultural: winkelen (shopping). It turns out Amsterdam has a fair few English shops. River Island, for example. I was secretly pleased about the familiarity as well as the labels displaying UK sizes instead of these confusing European ones.

Next stop was the I Amsterdam sign. Grammatically questionable but I’ll move on. It was dog eat dog amongst us tourists trying to get a space in the large lettering, but we just about managed it and got a few sneaky shots.

Whilst the gang went to look at the Van Gogh museum (Terhi and I had already been), Cemre was adamant that we visit the Red Light District. We made our way there, slipping into a few shops on our way back through the main area, but it was about 5 o’clock in the afternoon so there wasn’t much going on. I was quite relieved as it’s not exactly my favourite place in the world. However, Cemre was pleased when we saw at least one half-naked woman in a window. I was pleased when we headed back to Dam Square to meet the others.

I really enjoyed my day in Amsterdam but there is one thing I disliked about the place. Being such a large city, with so many hip and interesting inhabitants and a huge amount of bicycles, I couldn’t help but get Bike Envy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the bike I have here in Nijmegen. It’s a little rusty and it’s not the most attractive shade of blue but it’s comfy, has gears and a basket and it gets me around. No, there’s nothing wrong with ol’ Pom Pom (short for Pomegranate – don’t ask me why I called it that…I don’t even know!) but around every corner was yet another beauty that I wanted to hop onto and ride away. But I couldn’t, so I took pictures instead.

We, of course saw many stereotypical things in Amsterdam:

– Tulips (though I think we all now know that they originated from Turkey)

– Clogs

– Windmills

– Canals

– Lots and lots of flowers at the Flower Market

– And of course, weird looking drugs shops

I was going to include the rest of my week in this post but it seems a little long already and so I shall leave you now and talk about all the exciting things I’ve been up to since Amsterdam in another post.

Groetjes!

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 1

The past few days have been busier than expected. Since we supposedly had a week off I thought I’d be bored stiff and be scrounging around for something to keep me occupised. It has, in fact, been the opposite.

As I mentioned in the last post, on Sunday we went to a museum: Museum Het Valkhof. I was acutally quite looking forward to this but unfortunately it was just another boring museum. I did quite enjoy looking round the exhibits located downstairs though in the Vrede van Nijmegen (Piece of Nijmegen) section. I especially enjoyed the portion made up of white walls where children have been allowed to draw different things associated with Nijmegen. It was even possible to see one of these young artists at work!

I also previously mentioned that I learned a little something about Dutch art during our induction lectures (ie child = nice family photo; dog = brothel). I was able to put some of this high-brow analysis into action whilst in the Valkhof and I stumbled upon this puzzling picture:

It contains both children and a dog. What does this mean?! I’m not sure I want to know.

Moving swiftly on, on the upper floor – amongst all the olden age bling and tombstones – there were telescopes which you could use to look out across the city. I thought that was quite a nice idea since a lot of the museum was pretty much to do with Nijmegen.

Terhi scoping out the city

Perhaps now is the time that I should stop with all this museum talk, otherwise you may feel as though you were actually there. We left at lunchtime and went in search of food appropriate to such a period in time. This was more difficult than you would think because it seems as though everything shuts down on a Sunday. It’s a strange feeling, walking around the empty streets because it’s not like this is a small town in southern France, it’s a city! The main street, despite no shops being open, was very busy indeed. There was a Medieval festival going on – the Gebroeders van Limburg Festival – so there were people dressed up, market stalls selling armour and weapons, sheep and geese plastered around and general merriment. There was also the relaxing sound of guitars turned up to 11 blasting out from the rock festival taking place in a distant square. Due to the rain, we decided to head home instead. Cycling in the rain, by the way, is no mean feat. And when there’s wind involved, it’s a deadly combination. During a rainstorm (and I think there will be a lot of them) I don’t think I should apply any effort to my make-up, hair or the bottom half of my outfit again. Rain coats are not invincible as I had originally thought. Damn you, Paddington Bear, you lied to me!

A nice shot of Nijmegen during a short respite from the rain (I have climbed that tower – just saying)

In the evening there was some eating, some drinking and some partying. YOLO.

Monday was a pretty chilled day (you’ll get that joke in a minute). I mainly stayed home and did some admin and writing, but I did go to town for a couple of hours with Rach and we had some delicious ice cream (now you get it).
I think I needed that day just to let my mind catch up with my body.

Tuesday afternoon I met up with Caitlin, Terhi and Suvi for lunch on campus, and then later we (minus Suvi) went shopping for food so that we could make dinner together. Caroline, Terhi’s Sweedish flatmate who is on exchange from Gothenburg University (such a cool name!), joined us too. We made a pretty scrumptious pasta if I do say so myself. Then for dessert, Terhi pulled out the big guns: Finnish choclate. Well, by the time we were done, it definitely was FINNISHed!…oh dear, I’m ashamed of that one.

Pre-drinks for a party at Piecken soon ensued and too much wine was had by all. When I say all, I mean me. It’s the first time I’ve been drunk since we’ve been here and we only went to the party for about 20 minutes in the end! Pre-drinks were much more fun and we also had to get up early the next day to go to Amsterdam. That wine didn’t seem like such a good idea in the morning.

I suppose you’re expecting me to write about Amsterdam now, aren’t you? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I shall write about that and the rest of my week in a separate post – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows stylee.

Groetjes!

Basically my week in real time

The beach was hot. In fact, everything seems to have been hot here for the past week but the Dutch seem just as puzzled by this fact as I do so it’s clearly an unexpected heat wave. I’m not a lover of terrible weather but I will take anything over scorching heat when you have to cycle all over the city for different parts of our orientation days.

Nevertheless, we had a lovely time at de Waal and feasted on a delectable picnic made by myself, Suvi and Terhi. It consisted of sandwiches, clementines, biscuits, iced tea and boiled eggs. Lots and lots of boiled eggs! I accidentally bumped into Glenn who is also doing Erasmus here via Sheffield, for the second time in two days so he came and joined the three of us on the sand and then later Savannah arrived. It was nice to see some friendly faces from Sheffield and to hear about their first experience of Nijmegen.

Unfortunately I didn’t swim in the river since the only swimwear I have brought with me to Holland is a monstrous black one-piece that I wear for lane swimming and which looks as though it wouldn’t have been out of place in the 1800s. Thus, I decided to keep the small fraction of dignity I have left and just paddled in my playsuit. I couldn’t help but find it amusing when a couple of raindrops fell from the sky and everyone stood up and began a mass exodus. It reminded me of home.

In the evening, several people from our mentor group and some of Terhi’s new flat mates all met up in Caitlin’s kitchen before moving outside to sit on the lawn. Caitlin is from Belgium – the Dutch-speaking part – and she’s lovely and very sweet. She also lives in the same building as me so it’s very handy too. I’ll probably try to oefenen mijn nederlands (even that is probably wrong) with her as long as she doesn’t mind!

The next day there was a lot of waiting around; waiting for registration, waiting for others to finish registering, waiting for people to get their bikes and Dutch sim cards. But in the end I didn’t mind because I got to meet more people from my mentor group. I got to know them more later on at the BBQ which was just outside my room in Hoogeveldt, and then even better when we played introduction games on the grass afterwards. Thanks to a helpful game I can now remember everyone’s name – score! If you care to know, we have Gabriela, Layton, Fatih, Terhi, Carolina, Caitlin, Marta, Joanna, Shannon, Noëmi, Fanne, Thom, Martin, Amy, Cemre, Elena and Maxine; or at least that’s all the people I’ve met so far. If you aren’t interested, well, I suppose it doesn’t matter as you’ve probably just read all those names anyway…sorry.

Op dinsdag it was time for some lectures about ‘Dealing With the Dutch’; essentially some info on the Dutch, geography, Dutch culture and a little bit of Dutch language – all of which I have already studied during my 2 years at Sheffield so it was less than scintillating. However, I did find out a new fact: if there is a child in a Dutch painting then it is a wholesome painting of a family home; if there is a dog in a Dutch painting then it is usually a brothel; and if it is Flemish art, there will probably be some naked people. For some reason, I thought it would be the art from Belgium that was more reserved but I suppose the was just my stereotyping. We were then treated to some presentations about university admin and given a campus tour. I left early due to having felt ill for the past 2 hours as well as the fact that our tour guide was not exactly what I’d call charismatic…he meant well though and showed us a nice view so it wasn’t all bad.

Anywho, I recovered in time for the kroegentocht (pub crawl) around town that evening and enjoyed drinking some Rosé Bier and having a boogie.

I really enjoyed the next day. I went to Albert Heijn with Caitlin in the morning to pick up ingredients for tiffin and attempted to make it using the tools that I had. Then in the afternoon everyone went to the City Hall for a welcoming speech from the Vice-Mayor (loved his bling), and following a city tour and dinner, we went to the LUX Culture Festival. The latter was my favourite thing we’ve done all week.

In the Stad Huis

The name chain we made on the city streets during the City Tour

LUX seems to be a giant version of the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield or FACT in Liverpool. It has so many different screening rooms plus eating areas and a music venue – what more could you want? I watched some short films (or as I learned from my French friend, Gabriela, ‘un court métrage’) which were fantastic! I especially liked a French one called L’Accordeur (The Piano Tuner). It was only 13 minutes long and it blew my mind. Watch it if you can.

I also listened to the delights of Chef’s Special, a band who were playing in the gig space. They used an eclectic mix of musical styles but it really worked and I think we all agreed that they were pretty damn good. I’m definitely going to be spending some time at LUX during my stay here. The night ended up – as it seems to do so often now – with a few of us chatting in Caitlin’s kitchen. Lovely end to a lovely day.

Thursday was sports day, a day on which I even surprised myself by enjoying it so much. We tried aerobics, zumba, korfball, hockey and ultimate frisbee. I got pretty into them all except, perhaps, ultimate frisbee. It wasn’t really my cup of tea – frisbees are just too unpredictable!

The evening was spent at Karlijn’s place where we ate healthy fast food, Belgian waffles and my Tiffin (which everyone seemed to like – yay). Then we played the drinking game we all know and love, I Have Never… I have never really been a fan of this game (geddit?), often finding it intruding and a little embarrassing, but this time it was undoubtedly a hoot and we all now know each other a little better than we should!

Whilst many people went away on a special orientation weekend beginning Friday, when I heard it would mainly involve sleeping in bunk beds, the traffic light game and a lot of alcohol, I decided to opt out. Instead, I have taken part in the alternative weekend. Friday daytime was free so I met up with Rachel (from Sheff) in the afternoon and we went shopping and for dinner. We accidentally managed to choose the only English type resteraunt in the place – Notting Hill – but it was delicious nonetheless. Plus we ordered in Dutch! Having swallowed down our typically English meals, we hopped on our bikes and hung out at mine until it was time for Magic Bowling – hello fun! We (well…Rachel) won free shots and I managed to get us a balloon which is quite clearly just as good.

Then yesterday I met up with Rach again and we went shopping. I think we have a problem. I did buy useful things though, such as a raincoat (several sizes too big but it was in the sale and I rock that look), a bike seat cover for when it rains and a screwdriver set. I think I was very restrained. After our haul we cycled to Rachel’s, where we played cards, talked and made dinner together. She lives in Vossenveld and if I’m honest, it took so long to get there I felt as though I’d cycled a stage of the Tour de France! But it was worth it and now I know how to get to Rachel’s abode…kind of.

And now we arrive at today. Today the rain has truly arrived and the Dutch weather that I was expecting has decided to stick its middle finger up to the sun and show that overrated star what it’s made of (…water apparently). Luckily we’re going to a museum in a bit to learn about some things. I’ll inform you of what precisely once I’ve been. Then there’s some sort of festival events going on and I do hope they’re inside!

Kash, ready to face the rain

Anyway, I’ll leave you now. If you’ve made it through this much text then I salute you. I’ve not exactly done great at keeping things ‘short and sweet’ but I’ll try and work on that for next time.

Tot ziens!