As always on these glorious trips, Madrid began early in the morning. We were woken at 4:00am by the lovely Rene and piled onto the bus that would take us to Amsterdam for our EasyJet flight. The flight was typical Europe-not good, but not bad. After landing, we were bused to our hotels, yes, I said hotels. We were split into rooms—I was with Erin, Taryn, and Jenny. Not my normal crowd, but we were great roommates! OSA gave us money for food and we went to a not so great place for lunch. I had the most expensive grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten. We then went to meet our groups for the walking tour of the city. I was in Dulcia’s group, so that was a bonus. We did more walking than I had done in weeks and found a place for tea which I desperately needed. Upon getting off the bus, I lost all of my voice and my throat started killing me and swelling—great start to a ten day break. We went back to the hotels and after a bit of rest, we went out to get food. We found an ironically great Turkish place and I had salad and mozzarella sticks and was thrilled. Lane came to meet us and we walked around a little bit before collecting Najah and Riley. We went to a seafood tapas bar, where I had sangria that was amazing. We then went to the San Miguel Market, a great place but just a little too crowed for my sick and exhausted self. We eventually found a little place and tried to get mojitos-which they made wrong, but whatever. We went back to the hotels and crashed for the night.
We got up early again the following morning for one of the greatest breakfasts I have had since I’ve been here. We met up at Plaza de Isabel II. My modern art class headed to the Reina Sofia Museum, a museum filled with tons and tons of modern art, including Picasso’s Guernica and Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet costumes. The Guernica was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. It was definitely a worthwhile experience. We did lunch after Reina Sofia at a 1 euro pizza place-no matter where in the world you are, you cannot beat that. We met back at the Plaza de Isabel and got onto another charter bus that took us to El Escorial, a half place, half monastery created for Phillip the Second. El Escorial was gorgeous, but our “guided tour” by one of the castle professors was neither stirring, nor informative. After what felt like a death march through the building, we re-boarded the charter bus and returned to our hotels. Lane, Alessandra, and I did some shopping after getting dinner from our favorite Turkish place with Dojna! I got some medicine for my growing throat issue and we went to our respective rooms to rest before going to the seven story club, which I eventually bailed on because I was just not up for a night of craziness. I went right to bed and after a good night’s sleep was ready for another delicious breakfast.
We started the morning at the Prado Museum. I was in Peter (Dulcia’s husband)’s group and it was incredibly nice to have someone who know what they were talking about. We saw all the highlights of the museum, including Las Meninas by Velazquez. We had a break for lunch and Bekka, Lane, Alessandra and I found a place. I had a potato-quiche thing that wasn’t actually too bad. We hit up Starbucks and I had the most wonderful mint tea. We headed back to the meeting point and learned that due to a scheduling error, all students EXCEPT those in the two art classes had the afternoon off, while art students were required to attend ANOTHER art museum; this time the Museo Thyssen-Bornesmisza. I was definitely art-stir-crazy at this point, and I was not the only one. We finally got back to the hotel and after resting and wandering, it was time for FLAMENCO. We had a truly great time learning the steps and playing around. Riley, I must say, was a wonderful dance partner. Then, Alessandra, Lane, Bekka, Lucas, Mel, and I went out for what was the best part of the entire weekend and one of my favorite European moments. The guy was the manager/bartender was so kind and generous. The food was great and my mojito was perfection. After that we went back to the hotels to pack for our next leg of the trip.
We met at our good old metro stop then next morning and were informed that our plans for the second half of the day had been canceled and that now the only thing we were required to do was the Buen Retiro Park, which was actually amazingly impressive. OSA gave us metro cards, but told us that they wouldn’t get us all the way to the airport, which we later found out was not true. After a delicious lunch in the San Miguel Mercado, we got a taxi that ended up being the most expensive part of the trip…of course. We got through security and waited to board our plane for….
Let me start by saying that Carneval is crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy. Carnevale is the week long celebration before Lent when everyone in town drinks, drinks, drinks, and oh! yeah! drinks.
The weekend started Thursday with our attempts to plan a day trip to Delft and the Hague-which turned out to be insanely expensive…or so we thought. Not thinking it would work, we planned a trip to Dusseldorf, Germany, which entailed getting up at 9am. We woke up early and after deciding that it really wasn’t going to happen, we went back to sleep…until one pm! Finally…a late morning! After rousing ourselves, we walked around Well to try and find a place open for lunch/brunch. We ended up at the Bakery and then, after a Spar trip, we wound up back at the Castle gates. We spent the rest of the night planning and booking almost all of the rest of our trips. Alessandra and I chose not to go out and made an early night.
Saturday we went to the Thermal Baths in Arcen—about twenty minutes away by the 83 bus towards Venlo. It was absolutely incredible. There were four different pools, each getting increasingly warmer. Lane, Alessandra, and I had lunch there as well—complete with red wine that I didn’t need, causing us to be day drunk, something that I have never experienced before. We went back to the Castle and Alessandra and I took advantage of our free time by napping! After getting up and ready, we went to De Buun for Carneval dressed as countries to partake in drinking festivities. We called it a semi-early night and slept some more!
Sunday was the parade which was actually really fun even though we had to endure freezing temperatures and HAIL. I was dressed as Italy, complete with a painted face. We made it most of the length of the parade, but called it quits while passing the castle. After dinner, Bekka did my make-up, sea witch style, and we took our last trip to De Buun. Our Carneval successfully over, we can go back to drinking a little less than we did.
London started at an alarming pace and extremely early. Olivia, Christina, Patrick and I booked our taxi for 4:30am which is early by anyone’s standards, but which is extremely early when you were out until 1:30am at American Night. Let’s just say that is was a rough morning.
(Me at 4:30am in the Airport…wooo! Photo Credit: Christina Kucan)
After landing in London’s Stansted Airport, we got some crepes for breakfast and got ourselves some Pounds. The thing about pounds compared to the dollar is that one pound is essentially worth 1.5 US dollars, which is great for the British, but not so great for us. We got bus tickets and boarded a bus that would take us into the main part of London. The bus was about 2 hours and we all got some much needed sleep in. The bus dropped us off at the Marble Arch stop and we didn’t hesitate getting our first pictures of the city.
After a little wandering, we decided what better way to dive into London than a trip to Harrods. Harrods was actually ridiculous. I have never been surrounded by so many different things in my life. It was a seriously crazy experience. As per my father’s instructions, I got myself a Paddington Bear, but don’t worry! He’s not covered in marmalade!
After Harrods, we had one of the most delicious lunches in the history of delicious lunches. It was an Italian restaurant and I had minestrone soup and fried zucchini. We also had a plate of cheeses and bread with honey, as well as a dessert of Nutella Pizza. Please and thank you. After a few hours of conversation and food, we headed towards our hostel, Palmers Lodge at Willesden Green. After a little trouble locating it, we checked in and took a break before heading out to Picadilly Circus - comparable to New York’s Time Sqaure, and the heart of the West End - to meet up with two of Pat and Olivia’s friends from high school for dinner. We finally located the pub, O’Neils, and had some traditional English food and beer. After eating, we went to the downstairs part of the pub which had live music and, while hot and sweaty, had a great time. Olivia, Christina, Pat, and I went back to the hostel relatively early and met up with Devon and Talia and we set a plan for the following morning.
We got up the next morning and after checking our emails and purchasing tickets for the London Eye, we headed out for incredible 360 degree views of the city. You can literally see everything from up there. It’s amazing. The highlight for me, while seeing the city was unreal, was the brother and sister I saw in my pod. The obviously older sister was poking her little brother and watching him get all sorts of mad. It made me miss Matt SO much, so of course I took a creepy picture of them because they were so cute.
Me and Matt…don’t you think?
View of Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey from the London Eye
After the Eye, we walked by Big Ben and took tons of pictures. We walked over to Westminster Abbey, but it was just a little too expensive for us, so we settled for views of the outside. Lunchtime was rolling around, so we found this great little deli on a side street. While eating, we suddenly realized we were surrounded by men in suits. Were they Parliament men? I’d say yes! After filling up, we walked over to Buckingham Palace, but not before taking a moment to pose with the classic London phonebooths!
Buckingham Palace was stunning. The guards were the perfect amount of intimidating, especially once they started walking around. After snapping a million pictures, we took a walk through Green Park, making a pitstop at the Devonshire Gates so Devon could get a picture! It was then time for the girls to be girls and for poor Patrick to suffer. We went to a store called Primark, which may be my new favorite store. It was two levels of the cutest and most inexpensive clothing I may have seen in my entire life.
After some serious shopping, Olivia, Christina, and I went with Patrick to meet up with his brother’s friends. On our way, us girls stopped to get discounted West End Theater tickets. Olivia and Christina were dying to see Singing in the Rain, which had come out the week before. They snagged two seats and it was my turn to pick a show that I wanted to see. My voice teacher, Neal, has a poster on his wall of the Original Las Vegas Cast of We Will Rock You, a musical based on the music of none other than Queen. The show originated in the West End and I got a seat in stalls (equivalent to the orchestra in an American theater) for forty euro.
We dropped Pat off with his friends and we made our way back to Picadilly Circus and ate Italian for dinner- the theme of the weekend. Olivia and Christina dropped me off at my theater, and then I waited patiently for the show to begin by purchasing a few souvenirs of course. I must say, I was blown away from the start of the show until the very end. Everything about it—the music, the acting, the staging, the set, the lighting, the sound, the costumes, the choreography—I could go on for days. I was most impressed by the lighting, to be quite honest, which is funny for an acting major to say. But don’t get me wrong, the acting was mind blowing. I was also impressed by how well the story fit in with Queen’s music. Obviously the story was written around the music, but it was still impressive to see what they were able to do with some constraints.
I can honestly say that the show rekindled my love and appreciation for theater, real theater that makes an audience feel. I was brought to tears because of the work I was witnessing. Theater is my passion, truly.
After my show, Olivia and Christina came and collected me and we went back to our hostel for bed and a Snickers bar.
The next morning came early as always and we started with a challenge: to find the Peter Pan Statue. We arrived at the correct metro stop and asked two very British police officers for help. This is a direct quote from the conversation:
Us: There is definitely a Peter Pan Statue.
Them: No, I really don’t think there is. Let me check the map.
A Few Seconds Later…
Them: Bloody Hell, it’s on the map!
(Oh, the cleverness of me!)
After finding the lost boy, we attempted to watch the Changing of the Guard, however, impatience and the deep desire to see London got the better of us. As my mom always says, ‘you have to leave something to come back for’. We did make it pretty thick into the crowd before turning back, so that’s something! From there, we went out to the Tower of London.
The Tower of London is one of the most beautiful but terrifying places I have ever seen in my life. We got a French themed lunch before entering the Tower, and once inside, I was impressed to say the least. We started with a walk around of the White Tower, a smaller tower outside of the Bloody Tower. The Bloody Tower, although cool in name and spooky in history, was actually not all that exciting. It was filled mostly with armor and weapons, something I’m not all that interested in. I was rewarded for my patience, however, with the Crown Jewels. Holy cow. I have never seen such sparkly things ever. It was gorgeous to see and fun to think about placing on your head.
One of my favorite things about the Tower was the ravens we saw flying freely around the tower. They definitely helped add to the aesthetic of the whole place. Our original plan was to follow the Tower with a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe, however after a tiff and a time crunch, that plan was nixed. We headed to Saint Paul’s Cathedral where we found Occupy London ( a huge eyesore outside of a gorgeous cathedral, but that’s just my opinion).
We did a twenty minute walk through of the cathedral before we left—they were starting a vocal performance that you couldn’t leave during and we wanted to move on. We headed back to our favorite circus: Picadilly! This time to meet our friend Alex who happens to be spending the semester studying in London! Alex and I work in the Performing Arts Office together back at Emerson and it was SO good to see her and catch up! Pat, Olivia, and Christina and I quickly purchased tickets for The 39 Steps, and then it was time to eat.
Dinner was the most dramatic part of our weekend, but honestly? What did you expect when five acting majors are involved? We once again opted Italian, but this time, it went terribly wrong. We were lured into the restaurant with a promise of a five minute wait. The woman outside, I tell you, was a freaking gypsy. So, we go into the place, and let me tell you, there is no one who looks like they’ll be done in five minutes. We wait…and we wait…and we wait…and we wait, until we literally have 40 minutes until the curtain of our show, which they KNOW because we told them when we first got in. They seat us and since we had already ordered, we got our food in about fifteen minutes…giving us less than thirty to eat and actually enjoy the meal. We finished eating in about fifteen as well, paid as fast as we could and ran to our theater. Poor Alex only wanted dessert and couldn’t even get it. We said quick goodbyes and popped into the theater. After finding our seats, the lights went down within two minutes. Perfect timing.
For those who don’t know, The 39 Steps is a play based on an Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. The play only has a cast of four people: the main protagonist, the main ingenue (who played a few other female characters as well), and two men who play every single other role throughout the play. This play was amazing. First of all, we saw the understudy for the main actor, and he was incredibly brilliant. The show is filled with lots of physical comedy which can be hard to do properly. However, the actors did an incredible job creating the illusion of the play. It was also hysterically funny, which is never a bad thing. After the show, we went for a drink and then headed back to the hostel one last time.
The next morning started with packing up our four day trip. With our backpacks filled much higher than when we arrived, we headed off to the actor’s dreamland…Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. We purchased our tickets for the 10am tour and went over to Starbucks to kill the twenty or so minutes we had before our tour started. When we got back to the Globe, we learned that no one else had purchased tickets for our time slot, making in a personal tour—you can’t beat that!
The Globe itself is insanely impressive. While it’s not the actual Globe used in Shakespeare’s day (that one burned down), today’s Globe is a working theater. It is a completely open-air theater, which is quite literally, perfect. Being there, I was so overcome by a feeling of passion and renewal for the love of my craft. We were able to go up to all three levels of seating as well as take tons of pictures. The museum that is attached to the theater was equally amazing and the Globe itself. It was filled with lots of insight about Shakespeare, the Globe, and theater in Elizabethan England. In true tourist fashion, the gift shop was next. After loading up on postcards, we called it a day at the Globe and headed back to Starbucks to plan the rest of our jam-packed day.
Pat wanted to head back to St. Paul’s to try and see the Whispering Gallery, so Christina, Olivia, and I headed to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Luckily, we all wanted to see the same style of art, so we stuck to the more modern pieces. It was really great because I’m studying Modern Art right now, and I was able to see some of the pieces we had discussed in class. Definitely a great way to supplement classroom learning!
After leaving the National Gallery, we snapped some shots in front of a Lion Statue (we’re Emersonians…what do you want from us?!) and then went to get lunch. We found an off-the-road place and had a typical English-vegetarian-breakfast. After filling up, we headed towards the British Historical Museum. All we wanted to see there was the Rosetta Stone.
Trying to see the Rosetta Stone was the most stressful part of the whole trip. When we finally got close enough, we were being pushed from every direction. It was a little much to handle at that point in our exhaustion. After that, we attempted to move higher up into the museum, only to find Patrick, who, unfortunately, did not get to do the Whispering Gallery. The four of us then went and looked at the Greek History section which had really cool works of art and pottery from Ancient Greece (think Hercules) and then we went to explore the Mummy Section, which was as creepy as it was cool.
From the British Museum, we made our way to our final stop of the trip: King’s Cross Station, Platform 9 3/4. It’s no surprise to anyone that Harry Potter holds one of the most special places in my heart. To me, Harry Potter symbolizes the hours that I spent sitting in the living room with Mama, Daddy, Matt, and the animals reading the books out loud, chapter by chapter. Harry Potter was how I bonded with my family. Harry Potter was how I learned that there is magic inside of each and every one of us, waiting to be released. Harry Potter taught me about life, love, loss, and happiness. Seeing Platform 9 3/4 was the culmination of those lessons for me.
From here, we had to catch our bus back to Stansted Airport. We got to the bus station, and there was still a little time to kill before the bus got there. The stop was right outside a pub, so what did Christina and I do? Had one last toast to England, of course!
We got to the airport and split up for dinner—Christina and I got crepes and Pat and Olivia got Italian. We then got ready to head through security, which is where things got interesting. We all put our bags up and have our toiletries out and then Pat has both of his bins confiscated, Olivia has hers confiscated, and my toiletries bag confiscated. Christina, though, is perfectly fine. The security people are going through our bags and as it turns out, each person can only have one little plastic bag with their liquids in it. For me, that meant moving my mascarra and liquid eyeliner into my plastic baggy. For Olivia, though, it proved much more difficult, but don’t worry! We got through and made it to our gate on time.
After a successful plane ride, we met our taxi driver who was delightful and we finally arrived back at good, old Kasteel Well. We gave our Verboden Togen sign a kiss, a sign of our love for our gateway to the world.
Until next time,
My travel weekends have FINALLY been solidified! I have one more hostel to book, and then everything is completely done and I just have to enjoy my travels.
Week 1- Amsterdam (Complete!)
Week 2- Bruges, Belgium (Complete!)
Week 3- London, England (Complete!)
Week 4- Carnevale at Kasteel Well (Complete!)
Week 5- Utrecht for a Play, Castle Dwelling (Complete!)
Week 6- Madrid (required excursion for all Castle Students, the start of Spring Break!)
Week 7- Spring Break! Barcelona and Rome (3 days in each!)
Week 8- Edinburgh, Scotland (St. Patrick’s Day weekend!)
Week 9- Marseille, France (Girls Weekend!)
Week 10- Paris, France (just have to find a place to stay! Transportation is set!)
Week 11- Prague, Czech Republic (Easter Weekend!)
Week 12- Finals at the Castle
It seems really crazy that this plan is already almost halfway over, but look at how much I still have to explore.
We started our trip to Bruges early in the morning, catching a bus from Cafe Vink (the restaurant at the upper corner of Well) to the Venlo train station. Upon arriving in Venlo, we attempted to figure out how to buy roundtrip train tickets from Venlo to Bruges. The machines in the stations do not take a lot of cards because they don’t have the European chip in them, which can definitely be a struggle. We went to a desk and purchased our tickets—roundtrip for sure! We got on our first train that took us to Dordrecht. From Dordrecht, we were catching a train to Antwerp and we were supposed to have a twenty minute transfer wait. Due to train striking in Belgium, our connecting train was over an hour late. Did I mention that the Dordrecht train station is all outdoors and it was less than freezing outside? I thought I was going to lose my toes.
(Christina, Olivia, and I waiting for the train in Dordrecht. Photo credit: Melanie Cohen)
Finally, we were on the train to Antwerp and once arriving in Antwerp, we had about 20 minutes to find the connecting train to Bruges. This time, it went off without a hitch. We arrived in Bruges and the most beautiful snow had just started to fall. Some of our group checked a map and decided they knew EXACTLY where our Hostel was, and we were off. We wandered through the beautiful streets of Bruges for much longer than we expected to…and it was really cold! The cold was bearable, however, because of how incredibly beautiful it was.
(Bruges…a true fairy tale land)
We finally arrived at our hostel, Charlie Rockets, and had more drama when it came to trying to find our room, which was secretly located within the hostel. After a brief rest, Olivia, Christina, and I went to find some food. We found a cute little cafe and went in for our first Belgian Waffle of the weekend. We spent the next few hours wandering around Bruges, just getting a feel for the city. We went and got dinner at a pub and it was excellent! Back at the hostel, we met back up with our large group and headed out to one of the non-smoking bars so that some of our group could get some dinner. After a beer, we were ready to get to a more typical bar scene. After a pit-stop to get some Belgian Fries (which are AMAZING) we ended up going to a bar called Crash, which, of course, turned out to be a biker-type bar. It was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget. We called it a relatively early night and went back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we were supposed to get an early start, but that didn’t quite go as smoothly as planned. We were eventually all ready to go and had the most incredible breakfast I may have experienced ever (a bold statement, I know). I got a hot chocolate which comes as steamed milk and melted chocolate that you mix in. Amazing.
And that was just to drink! My breakfast was a Belgian Waffle accented with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream, a side of whipped cream, and covered in warm chocolate and powdered sugar. Can you say insane?
After an incredibly delicious breakfast, we wandered over to the main square where the Belfry Tower is located. Since it is the winter months, the tower was closed so we couldn’t actually climb to the top. A definite downer, but something to go back for! From Belfry, we did a little shopping and ended up around St. Salvator’s Church…or the Church of Our Savior. The interior of the church was absolutely gorgeous. After this church, we headed over to The Church of Our Lady, which is home to one of the only Michelangelo statues outside of Italy. At this time, we didn’t go over to see the statue, we just wandered around the part of the church that was free admission. It was getting to be about lunch time, and Olivia, Christina, and I wanted to check out some of the vintage shops back near our hostel. We split and let Alessandra and Riley go eat while we did some great window shopping.
We met back up and the five of us made our way to yet another church, The Church of the Holy Blood. The experience was definitely an interesting one, and the church, as I’m sure you guessed, was absolutely stunning inside. After the church, we went to a store called 2B, which is home to a ridiculous number of beers. It was absolutely insane! We found a beer called Kasteel and the picture on the glass looks just like our castle!
Alessandra and I wanted to go back to the Church of Our Lady to see the statue, and Olivia and Christina went off to get some lunch. Going into the other side of the church, we paid our 1 euro and were given access to one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. The statue was also incredible!
After seeing the Church, I was starving and went to get a sandwich from a cute little cafe. I accented that with another hot chocolate. How could I not? Riley, Alessandra, and I then went in search of a charm for Alessandra’s charm bracelet, and while we were unable to find one, we did find a really cool bar called the Potersgoat and vowed to come back for a beer later. We went back to the hostel and took a much needed rest. Unfortunately, we overslept our alarm and missed meeting Olivia and Christina for dinner and the evening. Alessandra and I decided that we should head out to a nice dinner. We found a great authentic Belgian place where I had the famous Meatloaf Soup and Alessandra had mussels. I will say that I tried one and am stilly trying to decipher if I liked it or not. We went back to the Potersgoat, but it was way too crowed for us, so we ended up finding a cute little pub off the road and I tried three different kinds of the cherry beer. Each was a little different, and while I’m not so sure I’ll be switching to cherry beers, it was definitely a fun thing to try! After our beers, we went back to the hostel and called it a night.
The next morning we got up pretty early and went to find a good place for breakfast. We found somewhere and had a “Traditional English Breakfast”. After filling up on baked beans, eggs, toast, and potatoes, Olivia, Christina, Riley, Alessandra, and I went back to the hostel to meet up with the rest of our group and to check out. Then the whole lot of us went to the Groeningmuseum—the huge art museum located in Bruges that is home to many famous Flemish painters. The artwork was absolutely amazing and I found a painting that I am going to use for my art review that I have to do for my History of Art: Modern Art Class.
(Interior With Woman-1916-Georges Vantongerloo)
On our way to the train station, we stopped to get the most delicious Belgian chocolates. Then, we had a little mishap getting to the train station. The only wrong turn of the weekend gave us an extra mile of walking alongside a gorgeous river. We finally made it to the station, grabbed a Subway sandwich and one last chocolate covered waffle, and then boarded our train back to Well.
The weekend was a Cherry and Chocolate flavored fairytale and I loved every moment of it!
Until next time,
I’m sorry that I’ve been off the grid for the past week! I was in Brugge, Belgium two weekends ago and then I was in London for four days, so I only had three days at the castle. I was super busy and really didn’t have much time to sit down and write and throw pictures into a blog post. I’m back at the Castle for the next two weekends though, so I finally have time to blog, reflect, and most importantly, BREATHE.
The Brugge post will be up later tonight—London will follow this week! Thanks for being so understanding!
Until next time,
Waking up super early on Friday morning was a bit rough, considering Alessandra and I saved packing for after midnight, but I was able to get some sleep in on the bus to Amsterdam, which was definitely a positive. We spent our weekend at the StayOkay Hostel, which was surprisingly nice given what I’ve heard about hostels. After storing our luggage, we were bused to Dam Square, the heart of Amsterdam. It was raining off and on during our first day, but it was primarily cloudy- the perfect weather to see Amsterdam in, they said.
We were split into groups for a walking tour of the city. My guide was Rob Duckers, an art history professor at the castle and a truly fun and brilliant man. He walked us around Amsterdam and pointed out some great highlights to us. We were given a tour of a gated community that is home to the oldest house in Amsterdam (it’s also the only house to be made completely out of wood standing).
Rob then treated us to delicious hot chocolate at a pub and then walked us near the Anne Frank house. While standing in the square around the corner, Rob was giving a beautiful speech about acceptance of all kinds of people, regardless of their beliefs, race, or sexual preference. As soon as he finished speaking, the sun came out from behind a rain cloud and flooded the sky. We started moving back towards Dam Square, and as I crossed one of the bridges, we turned to look at where we had come from. A rainbow filled the sky, landing precisely where Anne Frank’s house is located (the left side of the picture below). It gave me chills and was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever felt.
After returning to Dam Square, we were given an hour and half to break for lunch. Because Amsterdam and the Netherlands don’t really have a certain type of delicacy (besides Stroopwaffle), Patrick, Olivia, and I went Italian. We found a great Italian place a few minutes from Dam Square and we definitely had enough food to eat. It felt rather strange to have Italian food in the Netherlands, but I guess it’s really no different than having Italian food in America!
Our next stop on Friday was the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is an art museum that is home to mostly Dutch artists. There were a few Rembrandt paintings and the painting ‘The Nightwatch’ is housed there. I was in a group with one of my Modern Art professors, Jenneke. She gave us a brief tour and then gave us time to explore the rest of the museum on our own which was really great. Part of the museum was underrenovation, causing the main attractions to be placed close together in a smaller section of the museum. There was still a lot to explore, but it will be nice to have something to back to in the future!
After the Rijksmuseum, it was time for dinner at an Indonesian restaurant called Indrapura. Olivia and I were some of the last students to actually enter the restaurant and there were no seats when we got in. They set up two more places and we got to sit with Dulcia, the director of the Castle program, and the other professors. It was definitely a little intimidating, but it ended up being really great because Dulcia would tell us which of the dishes were spicy and which ones weren’t. Definitely helpful!
From the restaurant, we returned to the hostel to plan our first night out in Amsterdam. We had a great, but early night, that included walking around the Red Light District while it was in full swing- something that was definitely an experience. While prostitution is a sticky subject, it is amazing to me that Amsterdam provides all prostitutes with health services,payment regulation, and legal protection. I had my first Dutch Heineken, which was way better than in the states. We took the last tram back to our hostel and got in around 12:15am. The rest of my room didn’t return until well after 3am.
Saturday morning started bright and early at 8am. My Modern Art class took a trip to the Van Gogh Museum, which was absolutely amazing. His work is so impressive. They had a few paintings by other artists, including Monet and Gauguin, who had connections to Van Gogh. My favorite painting at the museum is one called ‘A Pair of Leather Clogs’. It was incredibly simple and complex all in one, with a gorgeous blend between impressionism and early realism. Upon leaving the museum, my class took prom-esque pictures at the ‘i amsterdam’ sign, a marketing tool for the city that has become a popular tourist attraction.
Another lunchtime came, and Pat and I found an Irish pub for lunch. It is still surreal to me that I can sit down at a table and order a beer with my lunch. After lunch, it was time for another museum trip. I went to the Jewish Historical Museum, a great experience because I really didn’t know much about Judaism, especially in the Netherlands. It was a truly eye-opening experience. We also got to see the Auschwitz Memorial on the walking tour part of the Jewish Museum, which was so moving. The memorial is made of 6 glass panels, one panel representing 1 million of those murdered. Underneath the panels are broken mirrors, representing the broken sky that will loom over Auschwitz forever. It seems strange to say that after such a meaningful and moving experience we returned to the hostel for the night’s going out preparations, but that’s what happened.
My group went to a bar called 3 Sisters to ‘pregame’ for our trip to a club, Escape, later in the evening. While clubbing is not something I’ve ever done before, I had a great time. There was a huge group of Castle students there, so I definitely felt comfortable dancing my heart out. We stayed out until around 2am and then five of us split a cab back to hostel and made friends with our driver (to make sure that he didn’t try to overcharge us). While I didn’t get much sleep Saturday night, okay…Sunday morning, I had some of the best fun I’ve had in a while.
Sunday morning came too early and started on a much more solemn note. I signed up to go on a tour of the Anne Frank House. It was an incredible experience, and quite a jarring one, as well. It’s hard to go to a place where people spent 25 months hiding because of their faith. I can only hope that something as horrible as that never happens again and that people are truly free to express themselves HOWEVER they want.
After the house, Lane, Bekka, Alessandra, and I went to the cutest restaurant/café that had a cat! I had a very incredible Irish Coffee, complete with a StroopWaffle garnish and a great omelet. We also had a great time flirting with the baby at the table next to ours.
The four of us then went to the Royal Palace and had an amazingly fun time trying to figure out what every room was because there were no placards anywhere. People all around us had the audio tours and we were rather jealous of them, only to find out on the train ride home that an audio tour came free with admission to the palace. Oh, okay. The Palace itself was incredibly gorgeous with tons of Greek mythology figures all over.
After the Palace, we did what all girls do…SHOP. We went to a shop called Sabon, think an upscale Bath and Body Works, and spent about 45 minutes talking to the sales associate who was helping us. She had a great presence and was a native Amsterdamer, so talking to her about our initial impressions on her city was really fascinating. After our lush experience, we went to McDonnalds, strange to say, I know, but we had to try something that would change our lives forever: StroopWaffle McFlurries! I’ve talked about Stroop a few times. It’s a dessert/treat comprised of two waffle like cookies with a layer of melted sugar and caramel between them. Delicious! After stopping in a few more shops and loading up on trinkets, we went to a Turkish place for dinner. It was so amazingly yummy.
After our dinner, the real fun began. We had to catch a tram to Central Station- a feat we underestimated just a bit. We made it to the station (finally) and realized that the ticket machines wouldn’t take our credit/debit cards because they don’t have European chips on them. Cash is the way to go! After successfully purchasing our tickets from a real live teller, we went to catch our train at gate 4A, where the teller told us to go, only to find that our train was leaving from 4B. We were finally safe and sound on our train from Amsterdam to Nijmegen. The train ride was filled with more inside jokes than I think I’ve ever had with anyone.
Unfortunately, the train was not the end of our journey. Once arriving in Nijmegen, we had to take the bus to Well. We had about 35 minutes to kill, so where’d we spend it? In a Burger King, of course! We got onto the 83 bus, which thankfully, was the right bus. After another hour or so we were finally back in Well and the Amsterdam trip came to a close. Having Amsterdam be my first real travel experience was amazing. The city was beautiful and the history was incredible. It’s still so surreal to me that this is my life.
My next stop is Bruges, Belgium!
Until next time,
Now that I’ve completed a full weekend here at the Castle, I can write about all of my classes! It’s certainly going to be a challenge balancing classwork with traveling and fun, but so many have done it before me that I’m not too, too worried about it. So far it looks like most of my work is going to be reading, which is doable enough while traveling.
My first class of the week was History of Western Art III: Modern Art. This class is certainly going to challenge me. Learning about composition and subject matter, as well as the different movements that modern art has gone through will be so creatively stimulating, though. I’m also excited for this class because I’ll get to see the art that I’m learning about. While most of the art located in Europe falls more under the Baroque and Renaissance categories, there is still a lot to be seen that has modern influence.
My World Drama II class comes next and I know for sure that I’m going to love this class. The professor, Emile, is fantastic. He is so passionate about the material, which can make any class even ten times better. We’re required to go see a play, Rainman, (based on the movie) for the class, so that’s a bonus! Plus, we can get extra credit if we write a review of another show we see while we’re here. Since my trip to London is booked, extra credit, here I come!
I’m also taking an Ethics course with the theme of Evolved Morality. It’s basically a combination of ethics and biology, which will certainly be interesting. That will probably be my most challenging class, simply because the subject matter is so advanced. I was worried that the class would be too work heavy, but we only have to write two papers and do a lot of reading. I’m sure once I get into the swing of things, it won’t be too bad.
My final class is Acting IV: Ensemble Acting. This class is going to be amazing! There are only seven of us in the class and our professor, Carl-Maria is going to be, quite simply, amazing. The class will have a basis in movement, which, after Mara’s class last year, should be doable. While the class is entitled, Ensemble, Carl-Maria stressed the importance of being in touch with yourself before you can commit to any sort of ensemble work. I’m really looking forward to getting to know myself even better.
So, my classes seem to be the perfect balance of challenging but manageable. Plus, the way my times are set up, I have some prime nap time going on.
Until next time,