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

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!

newdressamsterdamwithrosie

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!

amsterdam

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

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!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so you must be pretty fond of my blog

I am well aware that apart from my important volleyball announcement from earlier today, I have not written a full post in nearly 2 whole months. For someone who enjoys writing these things, ‘ashamed’ is not a good enough word to describe my feelings about this.

I am also aware that every time I haven’t written anything for a while, I mention that I will probably be unable to extract all the succulent little details of my experiences here in the Netherlands out of my brain due to a terrible memory (I promise that’s the reason), and then go on to write a monologue of epic proportions. However, I have since learned the error of my ways and, seeing as we have 2 months’ worth of ground to cover, I’m going to cut my life down into little bite size morcels for you. Today’s post will be about the mystical lands of Utrecht and Cologne.

The weekend of 19th October was a busy one. It had been Noelle’s birthday the previous day and she had invited the Sheffielders living across the Netherlands to have a little meet up at her place in Utrecht. Noelle was a taalassistent (language assistant) at Sheffield last academic year and she gave me some tutoring outside of lessons too. I really don’t think I would have had to confidence to come here and to actually speak some Dutch if it wasn’t for her!

But I digress. Glenn, Rachel and I travelled together from Nijmegen (Sav came a bit later), and we met Louise and Lili in Utrecht. The L-team had sniffed out a superb pub located in a converted church nearby and so, of course, we headed there shortly after our arrival. This was an important moment for me because it was the day I discovered the sweet elixir of the gods, known as Lindemans Framboise. I urge you to try it, should the opportunity ever arise.

Mmmm Java Chip Starbucks for the train ride

rachstarbucks trainwindowblackandwhite louiseitgirlconvertedchurch

chalis

Glenn and his chalis

LiliBardotLili enjoying her Lindemans

While we were chilling in our new favourite place, Mark came to meet us. Since he’d been living in Utrecht for a good few months, and we still had to wait for Savannah to arrive from Nijmegen, he took us to one of his haunts. It was very…pink.

pinkOnce Sav arrived, and everyone was ready and accounted for, we attempted to find a bus stop and then the correct bus. This proved to be a huge problem despite the fact that we can all speak Dutch and one of us is even a resident of Utrecht! Nevertheless, we tried our best and finally found our way to Noelle’s. Alas, we were very, very late. Sorry Noelle!

In the end though, it was all very much worth it to see the birthday girl again. Since then, I have learned that the person who’s birthday it is, is called the ‘feest varken’ (party pig) – surely one’s birthday is the sole day of the year when people should go out of their way not to insult you?! The Dutch have their own way of doing things.

birthdaygirl Gabs glennbandw noelleballoons noellestoryIt was pretty cool speaking Dutch all evening and getting to see what everyone had been up to. Plus, Noelle had made a delicious taartje, for what is a birthday without cake? In the Netherlands, it’s customary for the ‘feest varken’ to bring their own cake, which I do find a little odd. I suppose, however, that this is happening more and more often in England.

taartjeAlas, after a couple of slices of cake, some interesting conversations and a quick sing of ‘Lang Zal Ze Leven’, Rachel and I had to return home so that we could get up before the sun the next day in order to get the train to Cologne.

October 20th will forever be an important day to me. Just as I will remember 19th October 2012 as being the first time I tasted Lindemans Framboise, October 20th will be remembered as the first time I went to Germany (although it was obviously not as monumental an event as the Lindemans).

Following a lengthy few bus and train journeys, we (me, Layton, Rachel, Tom, Shannon, Caitlin and Terhi) arrived in Cologne and, of course, headed straight to the Kölner Dom. It was such a magnificent cathedral that it was basically impossible for little old me with my feeble camera to capture the true essence of its beauty. I had a fair crack at it though, so see below. domagain dom grandadcandleA candle for Grandad Beardwood

ShannoncandlesI hope Shannon doesn’t mind me posting what she wrote about the above picture. I thought it was a lovely story:

“In 2010, I stood in one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world and lit a candle and prayed that God would heal my uncle. God did him one better and took him to heaven to live with Him. Now, two years later, I got to return to the same cathedral, light the same candle, this time in thanks and memory of the time we had with Uncle Greg. Victoria didn’t know what a special moment she was capturing when she took this photo!”

After that touching moment, we went out to explore the city. Tom apparently visits Cologne every year so we let him take the lead on what we should do. It was an interesting trip which involved pretzels, messing about in German shops, and a chocolate museum with not enough chocolate.

pretzels giantpretzelprincessrachelchocmuseum terhichoc chocfountainhahaharobotangryfunnyI just love this picture…
Layton looks like he is mid-robot,Terhi looks angry at not getting enough chocolate and Rach is just…laughing to herself

sillypics

We took these pictures as a surprise on Caitlin’s camera while she was out the room – I think they turned out pretty well!

Whilst I enjoyed my first trip to Germany,  the train ride home was probably my favourite part of the day. There was a delay mid-journey, but Layton and I were sat next to each other and definitely made the best of things!

fingersI can’t remember what I did on the Sunday but, like Craig David, I assume I chilled.

Ik ga niet meer naar volleybal

(Well I meant to post this on 25th October so…why not 2 months later? It’s just as relevant)

There, I said it. Volleyball is no more. I know some of you had high hopes for my international sporting career but it’s all over; I apologise. But please, let me explain.

While I have definitely been enjoying having a go at a sport I haven’t played since Year 9 P.E., I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the whole ‘everyone-is-speaking-Dutch-and-using-Dutch-sports-terminology-and-I-don’t-remember-learning-the-words-for-spike,-net,-or-incoming-ball-in-Dutch-class’ thing. At first it wasn’t too diffcult to understand because everything we were learning was pretty simple. Unfortunately, like Amanda Bynes, we’re now onto the harder stuff, and I spend most of the lessons looking confused. It’s got to the point now where I feel like I am anoying absolutely everybody when I have to ask them to translate, or when I do something wrong, so I think it’s best just to respectfully bow out. I’ll stick to Zumba instead.

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!

What day is it again?

So, I’m going to level with you. I love writing these posts, but recently I’ve been putting off having to put pen to paper (or more precisely, fingers to keyboard). I think it’s been over 2 weeks since my last entry and I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats waiting to hear about what I’ve been up to. But…that’s the problem: I can’t remember everything I’ve done. I’ve been off having the most memorable year of my life and I’ve forgotten what I’ve done. I am a disgrace.

Now I’ve got that little confession out of the way I can proceed to tell you how I plan to amend the situation. I have decided that in this post I shall recount my favourite experiences of the past 2 weeks, as they are the only ones I can remember. I would like to mention now that these may also be out of order. All the days seem to have blurred into one recently.

I left off last time with the excitement of trying my hand at volleyball hanging in the air. It was just a short while after publishing my new blog post that I received a message from Gabrielle (who was on exchange in Sheffield last year), asking if I’d like to go to Kickfit before volleyball. She also said that she had read my blog and “ik heb me helemaal kapot gelachen”, which I believe means ‘I laughed my ass off’. I just thought I’d include that so that a) I look awesome and funny, and b) so that you can all learn a new Dutch phrase.

Being the incredibly sporty person I am (pah), I agreed. It was really lovely to see Gabrielle again and Kickfit was a mighty good work out as well! It has become a weekly appointment.

Volleyball followed shortly after. One minute after, in fact, and so the warm up I had to do was not well received. The whole lesson was also in Dutch which proved quite difficult, but luckily when I let it slip that I was English to one of the other participants, he kindly translated bits of it for me. He’s probably starting to regret ever doing that now because he has to do it every week! He (Rob) is very nice though, and upon being told that I lived near Liverpool, asked me if I was a ‘saucer’. After some further discussion I soon got to the bottom of it and realised he meant ‘scouser’. That one did tickle me.

I may have scoffed at calling myself sporty before, but come to think of it, I’ve spent a lot of my time at the sports centre during the past few weeks. One day I did Kickfit, volleyball and Zumba, one after the other. I felt like an Olympic athlete. Or, at least, I did feel like an Olympic athlete until I came home, ate some crisps and realised I had a weird bruise on my arm from the volleyball ball (is the second ball necessary?) smacking into it too hard. What a whimp.

Anywho, the next evening I went for dinner with Mel, Rach and Glenn at Mr. Jack’s resteraunt in town. It serves both Greek and Italian cuisine but I thought I’d give the former a try. Everyone was so full after that meal but we all still decided to head to our fave ice cream place to get an after-dinner scoop. That, I have to say, is the only ice cream I have regretted eating since my time here. I suppose you actually can have too much of a good thing.

Later on we met up with Sav, her friend, Phil, from back home, plus Terhi, Layton, Noemi and some of her flatmates, and Frank (a Dutch guy who I think may be a friend of Dzoanna’s but I really can’t be sure). We had a few Rosébiers at my new favourite pub, De Blaauwe Hand, and enjoyed music from the Popronde festival in several different venues across the city. The best band we saw played in Underground but I swear they mustn’t have been older than 15. I’m surprised they were even allowed in the club!

On Saturday, Terhi and I did our usual weekend gym sesh and then went bowling with Tom, Layton and Shannon. The bowling place is about a 5 second cycle from Hoogeveldt and we could easily walk it, but somehow that just feels so wrong! As per, I either played really well or really badly, but Layton and Shannon must have some sort of ‘Americans only’ bowling super powers because they were amazing. Fred Flinstone himself would have had some competition that night.

As is tradition, we all went back to hang out in a kitchen. This time it was Terhi’s. We played some good games, including ‘Who am I?’…I’m not actually sure if this is the correct name for it but I think it’s fitting. See below if you’re not sure what it is.

Both Tuesday and Friday evening were spent in Terhi’s kitchen as well. It’s seen a lot of love. The former was a predrinks which never really ended, and the latter was a group-made dinner. Noemi brought olives and sun-dried tomatoes as appetizers, as well as some garlic bread for the mains, Terhi made meatballs and pasta, and Layton and I had prepared Orea-stuffed chocolate chip cookies earlier on in the day. I’m sure you must put on about 5 pounds everytime you eat one of those.

The whole of Friday was quite busy actually. In the morning I went to take a test to see if I was eligible to take part in an Advanced Dutch Language course, funded by the Faculty of Arts. It was a pretty stressful test for me but luckily I passed and made it into the same group as my fellow Sheffielders – phew! Then I met Layton to go food shopping and to get our bake on, before going to meet my Dutch mentor for the first time, at the Cultuur Cafe on campus. He was really nice and answered the few questions I had about Nijmegen life and just had a general chat. He was also impressed by my Dutch, which I was quite pleased and surprised about because I feel like I’ve learned more Finnish since being here than Dutch! This was all before I rushed off to join the others at Terhi’s for dinner. Look at that, we went round in a big narrative circle.

Now we come to Saturday (15th September, in case you weren’t keeping up). I’m not making a big deal out of this because I like Saturdays – although they are undeniably delightful. No, I’m mentioning it so pointedly because it was the day we went to Utrecht. My travelling companions were Layton, Terhi and Tom, and what a nice little group we made too. We didn’t visit any museums whilst there (though I fully intend to visit the Nijntje museum when I return), but instead mainly wandered round and took in the atmosphere. And the food. PLUS, and yes I’m very excited about this, I bought a water bottle with a built in distiller so now I can drink the tap water. Best purchase ever.

Once you’ve recovered from that exciting piece of news perhaps we can continue with my tale. We probably did about two cultural things in Utrecht. The first being that we visited the Dom Tower (but we did not climb it because we grew too hungry and decided to eat instead) and the Cathedral of Saint Martin, which used to be attached to the tower before a great storm in 1674. Secondly, we went on a boat ride on the Oudegracht (the old canal that runs through the city). Since we sat on the outside portion of the boat, we couldn’t really hear much of the commentary, crackling out of a speaker beneath the seats, so we mainly just talked and looked around. Utrecht is a truly stunning city and seeing it kind of made me wish I had taken up one of the possible places there instead of Nijmegen. I don’t regret my choice though because I love it here as well. For those of you who have never visited Utrecht, it reminded me of Durham.

Following our trip around the canal, Noelle – who kindly tutored me in Dutch last year at Sheffield – came to meet us. It was nice to talk in Dutch with someone I felt comfortable making mistakes in front of (she’s so used to it now!) and I loved seeing her again after so many months. I hope it won’t be the last time we meet up while I’m here.

Once we arrived home, the party didn’t stop. We hung out in Terhi’s room and played some very spirited games of cards.

On Monday night, Jack came to visit me. He stayed until Saturday afternoon and it was exciting being able to show him for the first time all the places I had been talking about over skype. Especially Vincenzo’s ice cream parlour. LUX was also a favourite hang out for us and we saw 3 films during his stay. If you’re at all interested we saw Detachment – excellent but very depressing; My Sister’s Sister – also very good but kind of weird as well; and Ruby Sparks – by far my favourite of the three and a film I would see again. It was ‘very meta’, as Jack would say.

It was also interesting introducing Jack to the friends I’ve made here. Thursday night with them was pretty fun though. Terhi, Tom and Layton came over and hung out in my tiny kitchen. A lot of wine (and hot chocolate) was consumed and, as usual, cards were played.

Sadly, Saturday came and Jack left. I got on the same train as him as I was going to meet Layton, Caroline and Terhi in Arnhem. I thought it would be a bad way to say goodbye, on a moving vehicle where you have a ‘goodbye time limit’ but in reality I thought it worked quite well. It meant that I couldn’t cling to his leg and beg him not to go, I just had to say farewell and get off. It was also good meeting my friends straight afterwards as it kept my mind off things. Thanks for coming to visit, Jackothy.

Arnhem is a wonderful place, though I think I prefer Nijmegen. Arnhem did manage to seduce me with one thing though: the amount of shops. Oh yes, now I know where to go if a shopping spree is in need. Luckily for my bank account, however, we didn’t stay in the city centre for too much longer. Instead, we got the bus to the Openluchtmuseum (open air museum), which uses buildings, stories, objects, windmills, etc to show The Netherlands during the past 200 years. It was a fascinating experience, but what made our visit even better was the fact that there was a ‘food and drink’ or ‘farmer’s market’ type of event going on in the middle of the museum. We wandered around for a while, attempting to consume as many free testers as we could. We also ate poffertjes that afternoon, though we did have to pay for them. I’ve been excited about having poffertjes since arriving in The Netherlands but hadn’t managed to until then. It was amazing.

Bees making honey

So peaceful…

A couple were getting married at a chapel in the museum!

They even had a temporary La Place at the market. This place gets everywhere!

Mmmmm he’s making poffertjes

Later that night Terhi, Layton, Tom, Caroline and I popped round to Caitlin’s to meet her friends who had come to visit from Belgium. They were all very cool but speak some crazy Flemish that I can barely understand (not that I can even understand standard Dutch very well). I decided I liked them even more when they suggested we play Jungle Speed, and they had their own set. Yes. Plus Layton and I added some new words to our Dutch vocabulary, such as vuistje (I think) and nootjes (possibly). We took these to mean ‘fist’ ie ‘fist bump’, and ‘nuts’. Some very useful vocabulary.

Seeing as I’m an awesome person, I’m very popular, so Wednesday – as with most of my days – was very busy. Although I was being sarcastic about my popularity, I was completely serious regarding the busyness of my day. Obviously going to uni took up most of the daylight hours, but when the sun went down I was high in demand. Steps class at the sportcentrum was my first stop. I met up with Gabrielle and ran into Karlijn, one of my mentors. We all took the class together and thus teetered on the edge of death together as well. Following a shower and clothing session, Terhi, Tom and Layton came over to mine to make some delicious pancakes. Unfortunately I had to leave the party early to head on over to Rachel’s 21st birthday soirée. I met up with Glenn and Savannah, and together we attempted to find our way to the distant land of Vossenveld, and we picked up Rachel’s boyfriend on the way. Rach seemed to have a good time and everyone there made for a lovely bunch so the night was a success!

This evening I had dinner with Maya, my French flatmate, and her boyfriend. It was supposed to be a flat dinner but somehow it didn’t really work out. I suppose we’re just a couple of outcasts! Hopefully we’ll manage to organise a meal with everyone at some point next week. Despite this though, I had a lovely time and ate very well! Good stuff.

And that’s about it. Oh dear, it seems like I remembered a lot after all. I can only apologise for these incredibly long blog posts. I shall remove the word ‘succint’ from the Best Qualities section of my CV.

Tot ziens!