Archive | April, 2011

Amsterdam: Let’s wear wooden clogs

28 Apr

I’ll start off by saying, no, I did not smoke pot in Amsterdam. I don’t smoke marijuana and going to Amsterdam (where it is legal and socially acceptable in public) didn’t change that. Proud of me, mom and dad?

Anyway, on to my trip to Holland. I left on Friday the 22nd from Stansted airport which is a weird set-up for an airport. It’s basically like a giant warehouse with different wings…I flew EasyJet which is actually a neat airline because there are no assigned seats, so if you get there super early (like me) and make it to the front of the line (which I did) you get first pick of seats. The flight to Amsterdam was only 45 minutes which was weird. So before I knew it I was in the Netherlands.

Etana (one of my oldest, dearest friends who visited me back in February for my birthday) met me at the airport and we took the train into the city to her flat. Because I took a night flight it was too late to do anything so we just chatted until the wee hours of the morning and I slept in. And I slept so well. Something about being in Holland or maybe just a cumulation of a busy semester? Who knows. I slept over 8 hours every night I was in Amsterdam so I can’t complain. I couldn’t tell you the last time I slept that much or that soundly. But enough about my sleeping habits.

On Saturday we went to a street market where I had some Dutch chips (or french fries… I’m so used to saying chips, how British of me) which were fantastic. After that I had to have a fresh stroopwafel. A stroopwafel (stROWp waffle) is actually two very very thin waffles with a carmel syrup in the middle. I had only had the packaged ones so having it fresh was exciting. It was warm, buttery, and the carmel was messy and delicious. A perfect street food snack. We wandered the stalls of the market and enjoyed the sunshine before heading to a park. We spent the rest of the day continuing our gab fest and soaking up some rays. At night we went to a barbeque at Etana’s flat where I met some of the other students at the university.

On Sunday we went to the beach, a town called Zandfort. It was weird to go to a beach in Holland. I never really gave much thought to the fact that it is, in fact, on the edge of the continent and therefore has many beaches. It was chilly at the beach but I read a lot and got to know some of Etana’s university friends better.

Monday was the touristy day. Etana and I went to the “I Amsterdam” sign to take some pictures and she dropped me off at Museum Plein (Museum Square) so that I could go to the Reijks Museum (state museum) and the Van Gogh Museum.

While the Reijks Museum would have been a great source of new boyfriends, I wasn’t allowed to take photographs. All in all I didn’t really enjoy it, which coming from a museum nerd like me is unexpected. I don’t particularly care for Dutch art and since I was in a Dutch museum that was what I was looking at. I also found it incredibly small. Compared to London museums this place was more like an art gallery.

After the slightly disappointing start to my museums day I went to the Van Gogh Museum. I love impressionism. It’s my favorite art movement and so this museum did not disappoint. It is home to over 200 Van Gogh paintings and hundreds of drawings and letters. In addition to the vast collection of Van Gogh the museum also had several Monet paintings. Since Monet is my favorite artist I spent a lot of time in front of his paintings.

On Tuesday I went to the Anne Frank House. I was excited to go here because when I was younger I loved reading about Anne Frank and her life in the secret annex. Getting to walk in her footsteps was surreal, especially since I have read her diary and read her thoughts on the rooms. It was very emotional there. I got to see her red plaid diary, the notebooks she used after the diary pages were filled and even the loose sheets of paper that she edited her diary on. She wanted to be a journalist and it was her dream to publish a book about her experience in hiding. I saw Anne as a kindred spirit and it made me sad to think that even though her dream came true and her words have been read by millions she didn’t survive to see the impact she has had on so many people, whether they read her diary or not.

We walked around a lot and talked a lot, two of my favorite things. It was nice to have a sort of vacation after my internship ended and I’m glad I got to spend time with one of my best friends, in the city she loves (almost) as much as I love London.


Carnaby Street

28 Apr

One of the most lively neighborhoods in London is Soho, which is home to Carnaby Street, the birth of the Mod fashion movement of the 1960s. Think Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol… Glamourous.

Hampton Court Palace

28 Apr

On the 17th it was mid-sixties and sunny, the perfect day to head a half hour outside of London to visit Hampton Court Palace, home to Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII, and later, William and Mary. Cardinal Wolsey took a lavish house and turned it into a palace fit for the then-archbishop of York. After Wolsey failed to help Henry get a divorce from Katherine of Aragon (to marry the much prettier and younger Anne Boleyn) Henry took Hampton Court Palace for his own and proceeded to live there with all of his wives (at different times, of course). Henry even rebuilt rooms for his brides. Later, Hampton Court was a retreat for his children and succeeding monarchs James I and Charles I. When Oliver Cromwell took over as Lord Protector during those crazy days where the monarchy fell, he used the palace for his own enjoyment (quite interesting considering he was “puritan” and believed monarchs to be greedy…). After the monarchy was restored with Charles II the Palace underwent changes. Charles II preferred Windsor Castle and before you knew it, William and Mary took over. Queen Anne liked Hampton Court for its hunting grounds. George I preferred to stay in his native Germany and his son, George II, was the last royal family to stay at Hampton Court. Queen Victoria made the decision to open the palace to visitors.

Now that the background information is over, let’s talk about Hampton Court today. It is separated into the William and Mary apartments, Young Henry’s story, the Tudor kitchens, and Henry’s apartments. There’s also vast gardens and a hedge maze.

National Gallery

18 Apr

On the 9th it was beautiful out so I hopped a number 9 bus to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery, one of London’s largest art galleries. I had already been to the National Portrait Gallery a few weeks ago so this time I just went to the main building.

The National Gallery

It was a busy day in Trafalgar Square… Then again, that part of London is always busy on the weekends. It’s right by Picadilly Circus and Covent Garden which are both huge tourist destinations.

Countdown to the Olympics clock in Trafalgar Square

View of Big Ben from Trafalgar Square

In terms of art, I tend to prefer sculpture to paintings but the National Gallery has a few Monet paintings and a few Van Gogh, two painters I enjoy. For Van Gogh I saw the Sunflowers and for Monet I saw two japanese bridge paintings and a painting of London:

The Thames with the Houses of Parliament in the background. My new favorite Monet painting.

After the museum I took a walk through Covent Garden which is a fun area.

The Ice Creamists -- I thought their flag was cool

Voltaire's London plaque

Sunshine makes me happy

8 Apr

We’ve had amazing weather the last few days. Between 60 and 70 degrees, clear skies, and sunshine. I’ve been a happy girl. Today my friend Matt and I spent the day in Kensington Gardens people watching, reading, and writing. Couldn’t have asked for a better day in London.

Cliffs of Dover

8 Apr

The Cliffs of Dover is really just a photo stop. There’s not a lot to do on that part of the English coast but it sure is nice to look at.

Just one small view of the Cliffs of Dover

Dover Castle

The rocky beach at Dover

Dover Castle is actually one of the largest castles in England, mainly because it is built into the cliff, with defenses all along the cliffs.

The White Cliffs of Dover

Our tour guide played us some Vera Lynn on the drive to Dover, this song is about soldiers coming back to Britain after WWII.


8 Apr

After Leeds we headed to Canterbury, the site of an amazing cathedral and the center point of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales stories. The Canterbury Cathedral is famous for being the site of Thomas Beckett’s assassination.

I will never get tired of medieval churches. Trying something different with this post, all the photos are in a gallery below.