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!)

snowwindow birdsnowsnowybikeseatsnssnowflakesIMG_0615partysnow

A Terrible Halloween Party and Other Stories

After Cologne, some more things happened.

Layton and I threw a Halloween party a few days before Halloween. Although our decorations were pretty phenomenal (not to blow our own trumpets), we both agreed that it was the worst party in the history of parties and concluded that we should never work together on party-planning ever again. Ever.

tvcobweb pumpkinsThe attendees did really make an effort with their costumes though and looked scarier than Marilyn Manson in the morning. Others just looked pretty darn good!

eyezombie

Layton’s invention: Pin the Eye on the Zombie

vampiressterhi katyshannon heherachmatt redridinghoodromanZombie Little Red Riding Hood (who ate her own Grandmother) and a sexy Roman!

On actual Halloween, we went on a big bar crawl in the centre of Nijmegen. I got to dress up and pretend I was Hermione Granger (or ‘Hermelien Griffel’ in Dutch) for the evening, which was pretty fun. I felt studious and yet brave: a true Gryffindor! My costume was pretty easy as it was mostly items I already possessed (apart from the tie), but finding a stick to use as a wand proved to be much more difficult than I had expected. I had to pull over to the side of the cycle path on my way home earlier in the day as I finally saw the perfect one, poking out from some leaves. DEQ (Daily Excitement Quota): REACHED.

Some more lovely things happened as well. For example, Caitlin and I went on a walk in the autumn leaves.

autumnwonderlandautumnleavesLayton, Shannon and I went for lunch at Cafe de Opera (I think that’s the one) and the food was so scrumptious! I’ll have to double check on the name, but if you are ever in Nijmegen then I highly recommend this place. Their food is delcious, it has a ‘gezellig’ atmosphere, and it’s even got a great range of drinks if you’re just going for an evening swig. And I promise you, I do not work for them!

hotchocagainlightwindowsouplaytonuitsmijter

Layton tried an Uitsmijter

coolplaceOh, and Caitlin had some friends visiting from Belgium and cooked for the 5,000. Seriously, I don’t know how she managed!

And now finally we get onto the part about our trip to Rotterdam. Summary of the day: we went, we saw, we went back home. Seriously, if I wanted to be concise, now would be the easiest time for me to do so…

No, no, no. I’m being way too harsh on Rotterdam! It is a really interesting city but I was rather tired that day, the weather was dismal which, in turn, made the city seem rather gloomy. It definitely has its good points.

We began our time in Rotterdam trying to find our way from the train station to the centre of the city. As Terhi navigated our way through the streets, I got a chance to take in my surroundings. I had been told by many people that Rotterdam is “de lelijkste stad van Nederland” (the ugliest city in the Netherlands) and I could definitely see why. It’s so different to all the other Dutch cities and towns you visit. The quaint little houses and idyllic scenes are gone and replaced by looming skyscrapers and giant slabs of concrete that enevlope you and cause you to lose all sense of where you are at any given time.

Not that I ever know where I am. That’s what Terhi’s for!

terhiumbrellaDespite the architecture being such a huge change from everything else I’ve seen in the Netherlands, and despite that fact that it involved a lot of the colour grey, I actually grew to like it by the end of the day – especially in the dark (and no, that is not a joke about how I like it better when I can’t see it. It’s just nice when it’s all lit up!)

Anywho, once Terhi, Caroline, Elisa and I found our way into the city, we jumped right into being tourists. We stumbled across a little market so we wandered round there for a while. We later saw a statue of Erasmus (because he was from Rotterdam, don’tcha know?!) and then went to take a look round the famous Cube Houses. They looked pretty spectacular from the outside so we chose to continue our investigation into their cubic nature by paying a small entrance fee and observing the inside. The investigation lasted a fair amount of time as we found a comfy sofa on the top story, where we managed to hide from the rain.

rotters records cubehousesOur next port of call was the port (GET IT?). It’s the largest one in Europe so we thought we’d be missing out if we didn’t. We battled the wind and rain to get there, but we made it. It was pretty impressive and we got to see the Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge).

doublebrolly infrontofharbour rotterdamharbour_edited-1 After walking along the port, the sound of the wind began to resemble the sound of our rumbling tummies so we decided lunch was in order. Unfortunately, it took us a long time to find somewhere we wanted to eat and which wasn’t too expensive. We finally found a bagels and burgers place where both the food and the decor were divine. I would definitely go back there.

Once we had filled our stomachs and regained our adventurous spirits, we hit the pavement once again. We soon discovered that Rotterdam has a lot of shops. A lot of really good shops. And that pretty much sorted out our plans for the rest of the afternoon.

A few hours later we hit up La Place for a quick caffeine kick, and then it was off to the station.

elisablackandwhitecarolinevendrotterdamvend

The view out the window of La Place 

All in all, Rotterdam seemed – on the surface – like a very different, but very nice Dutch city. However, we didn’t really get to see all the much of it, and I felt like we just managed to scratch the surface. If anyone reading this has been to, or even lives in Rotterdam, then please let me know some of the places we should have visited and perhaps I can try to be a little more cultured on my next visit!

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!