Live mighty, live righteously — takin’ it easy

Image

Amsterdam – Amsterdo – Amsterdon’t

Amsterdam was quite lovely, aside from some cold and rainy weather. It was a lot more chill than I expected, but in a really nice way. It’s an absolutely beautiful city of canals and brick buildings, juxtaposed with plenty of grit.

Amsterdo’s

  1. Stay at the Flying Pig Downtown. I stayed at the uptown one the first night, and it had a really cool environment and was easy to meet people. The uptown one is really far away from everything (except Vondelpark), so I figure the downtown one is the place to stay. If you don’t mind being really far from everything and not being able to meet people, the Stayokay hostel is pretty nice. It was fine considering I was with friends.
  2. Anne Frank House. It’s something the world doesn’t owe us, but we owe the world. It will humble you, make you question humanity, and ultimately help you appreciate human resilience. “One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we will be people again and not just Jews. We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever. We will always be Jews as well. But then we will want to be.” -Anne Frank
  3. Vondelpark. I got lost there, alone, on my last day (after having visited a nice coffee shop called Dolphins. It was deliciously beautiful that day, the sun reflecting off the water, fallen trees still rooted and growing towards the horizon, and unusual European playground equipment. It was a nice time to sit and reflect on my experiences so far. I climbed up this weird chamber with a bunch of ropes in it (which was difficult considering I’m not 3 feet tall anymore, although I don’t know how kids reached those ropes…) that ended in a slide. It felt good.
  4. Get on the beer trolley. We met these 30 year old professionals that invited us up on their beer trolley and ended up spending about four hours with them. They bought us slippers, tons of beer, some cake, took a trip to the coffee shop with us, and ultimately showed us a really nice time. Sometimes, you’ve just got to give up your plans and do what feels right, which was getting on the trolley.
  5. Coffee shops. Obviously, there’s some major reasons to go to Amsterdam. Go to a coffee shop, order a drink, eat a space cake, and chill out with your friends. This is what life’s all about – and you may just end up laughing for an hour about twitching eyebrows.
  6. Van Gogh collection. The Van Gogh Museum was closed, but the collection was showing at the Hermitage. I never appreciated Van Gogh until I saw it up close – you can’t see how incredible the brush strokes are in pictures.
  7. Red light district. This is really one of the only places in the world where you can see something like this. I got offered drugs. I got pawed at by scantily clothed women while trying to sign to them that I really wasn’t interested. I saw a 75 year old prostitute. I watched curtains open and young men sneak out glass doors, head bowed down, embarrassed and satisfied.
  8. French fries. Holland’s most notable cuisine is actually french fries covered in mayonnaise. Get one. Get another. Get five on your trip – the rest of the food is overpriced and not particularly special, not to mention not Dutch. Save money on food.
  9. Bike or tram card. The trams are really easy to use, and it was only 16 euro for unlimited travel for three days. We would have rented bikes, but the weather was quite nasty. It’s a really bike friendly city.

More Amsterdam 

  • Heineken Experience. Fun and free beers at the end, but not an absolute must see. If it’s your thing, go!
  • Hash, Marijuana, and Hemp Museum. A little expensive for the two rooms it covered, but interesting nonetheless. I saw an actual live, growing plant, which was kind of crazy to me.
  • Markets. Basically a bunch of knick-knacks and weird things, but worth seeing. They’re free anyways and you can do one in about 20 minutes.

Amsterdon’ts

  1. Don’t shop at the first coffee shop you find. Really look into the prices and explore. I really liked Dolphins, near Leidseplein, and Barney’s, located downtown.
  2. Don’t do a pub crawl, especially when a bunch of fun 30 year olds invited you to a houseboat party. The pubs are really American, and the people that did it were mostly weird.
  3. Don’t lose your tram card. Oops.
  4. Don’t buy a sandwich at the Hermitage. They’re gross.
  5. Try to go when you know the weather will be nice – the city is really beautiful, but it was prettiest when the sun was shining.

Next time I visit I’d like to

  1. Tour the countryside. See a windmill. Go to a clog factory. Go to a cheese factory. See the tulips.
  2. Go out in Leidseplein (don’t bother going out anywhere else unless you know somewhere is going to be a sure hit).
  3. Evening canal tour with wine and cheese.
  4. Go to more coffee shops. Come on – we all know that’s really what this city is all about.
Advertisements

Where the horizon lies

Image

It’s been a busy week since I last posted – classes have started, I’ve been to my first proper gay club (as in not the shitty Little Rock one), seen one of the seven wonders of the world, and walked down the roads my ancestors once walked on (not China).

So first on the list – classes. I’ve got about 6-7 hours of class a week, depending on how my teachers are feeling. I think there are occasional tutorials that might add time to a few weeks, but it’s a total joke compared to NU. It’s not like I came here to actually do work (sorry mom and dad, but I promise I’m learning and experiencing things that I couldn’t get in any classroom).

My American Theatre History class was literally just listening to Brits stereotype America for an hour based on “American” images (dolla bill sign, the flag, Mall of America?). It was extremely uncomfortable as the American in the room, but nonetheless very interesting. Learning about how the rest of the world sees the States is really eye-opening.

My London Theatre class has us going to theatre in London, mostly avant-garde stuff. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first play, Love and Information by Caryl Churchill, but I’m really excited to see what’s next.

My two Psychology classes, Developmental Psychology and Music Psychology, have some potential, but so far we were just kind of introduced to the subjects.

Second on the list, the G-A-Y Heaven club, is going to go mostly untalked about… jkjk. It was definitely a great experience – there was a volunteer strip show that was really surprising. The people actually got buck naked! Some brave souls – you couldn’t pay me to do that. Mika played there last night, but alas I had to get up at 6:30 in the morning today, so I was not venturing out.

Today I took a trip to Stonehenge and Bath. Although I knew a few people on the tour, I stayed mostly to myself, which was really nice. I felt like they were sights best taken introspectively. Stonehenge was different than I thought it would be, less giant and put together, but it’s definitely something I feel like I needed to see once in my life. It was pretty spectacular to feel like I was in a place I’d seen so many times in history books.

Bath was very beautiful. I didn’t really like the tour of the Roman baths there, but the city itself was wonderful. Although I didn’t feel any magic familiarity with it, there’s something weird knowing that my great-great-great (and so on) grandfather is buried there, and that it’s where my mom’s side of the family is from. Somewhere under the ground are specks of genes that you can find in my own body. Something about that makes me feel somewhat immortal (as long as I don’t lose the evolutionary battle, which may turn out to be a struggle… any volunteers ladies?).

Sorry the post was a bit long, but I’ve been really busy!

Carried Away

It’s hard to believe I’ve only been here for two weeks. I think one thing I was unprepared for was how fast things would move here – how easy it is to get carried away. These last two weeks have been a microcosm of my entire adult life; I got these little morsels of life here and started glutinously devouring them with no regard. I grasp at every opportunity, never say no, and thus have over-aggressively taken on this country and everything it has to offer. Sometimes this makes me feel like I’m actually alive, but other times it makes me feel like I’m harming myself, my soul, my body.

A friend told me that I’d find myself in Europe, and even though I’ve just been here for two weeks, I think I’m actually starting to learn something. I move too fast, which sometimes isn’t always bad, especially being in a new country. I think I have such a grand fear of death that my zest for life gets a little out of control sometimes. I’m under the impression that most of the world spends most of their lives not really living. So I make a point to live – or at least I try to. All that considered, though, living life too fast has major consequences, and it’s good to slow down and check yourself sometimes. I’m pretty sure I’ve made the same life mistakes every time I’ve sped off track like this. Sometimes you gotta step back, relax, and enjoy the ride rather than pedaling so fast the chain breaks.

So England, Europe, World, I’m here for you – I’m here to see you, find you, find myself – and all at whatever mixed cross country running/jogging/walking pace it takes. As fun as it’s been running full speed through these past two weeks, getting carried away by you, it’s time to sloooooow down.

Cool down

Things are finally starting to wind down (I may be saying this a little preemptively – it’s the weekend before class starts), which is nice. Freshers week absolutely put Wildcat Welcome to shame. They really don’t ever stop here.

We went to the “loudest club in England” on Sunday – a definite highlight of my time here. It was absolutely amazing, and I discovered a newfound love for Jager bombs there… It’s also refreshing going to clubs here, because no matter how crazy or wild you get there, they’re not near as gross as dance floors in the states. No one really grinds on each other, which lets everyone have fun as a group. It’s a lot less pressure and a lot less grimy.

I went sightseeing again yesterday with some American friends, which was nice aside from getting hella lost near Hyde Park. We had some delicious times in Burrough Market, which is an absolute must see if you ever make your way to Londontown. We cooled down with a jug of sangria, and I had an early, chill night last night.

It’s nice to finally get some alone time here – as much as I love going out and hanging out with people constantly, sometimes you just gotta sit and stare at the ceiling. I’m going to start planning some European excursions soon, but I’ve realized I’m going to want to stay here for a few weekends too.

I’ve really gotten close to my flat as well, who are like a big international family. We’ve got Americans, a Bulgarian, a Lebanese, a Portuguese, a Norwegian, and some Brits. It’s nice to come home to at the end of the day.

Week 1

I’ve been here for a week and am terribly afraid I’m going to wake up from this dream. Before I came, I painted this picture of what I wanted out of this experience, and so far, it’s surpassing any and all expectations (aside from getting to travel, but I don’t even have my schedule yet!)

My abroad program group stayed in a hotel for the first four nights, where I met some really awesome people and went out way too much. It was located in central London, so we got to see a lot of great touristy spots, eat some good food, and find pubs, clubs, and bars. The orientation was extremely unorganized, but I’m glad I had the chance to be a tourist for a week.

I moved into Goldsmiths on Friday, where I finally met some real life Brits (and Norwegians and Portuguese and more Americans and people from all over)! I’ve already made some really fun friends, some of whom I went to central London and shopped with yesterday. Goldsmiths has a nice student bar that we’ve been hanging out at during the night. Today has been pretty chill, and tomorrow I start registering for classes and such.

That’s essentially the gist of the beginning of my English adventure. I’m sure once I get settled in I’ll have more interesting things to say, but it really has been truly a blast. They know how to have fun here, and everyone has been extremely friendly and fun. I feel like I’ll never be ready to go home.

-Brennan