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Firenze!! [17 Apr 2009|09:21pm]
[ mood | relaxed ]

Instead of preparing for finals, which occur on Monday, I've decided I should try to update some information about my travels. It may be hard for me to recall details, but I'll try my hardest!

I last updated about Venice, so now I'll move onto Florence. This was way back in March. Around March 11th, I believe.
We got into Florence rather late at night. Kristin, Misch, Colette, and I took a later train than our friends, and we had no information about where we were staying. All we knew was the name of the hostel. So after we found where Colette was staying, we dropped her off and found an internet cafe to search for directions. What a pain - we were so worried we wouldn't find the place. We checked into the Leonardo House around 8pm and got a quick dinner. When we went back to the hostel we ran into a bunch of our friends going out for gelato. So we joined them for the best gelato I've ever had. It's a place called Grom, close to the Duomo. Absolutely delicious, not to mention one of the best deals I got on gelato while in Italy. 2 euros for 2 flavors!
We then retired for the night, deciding to get up early to get the most out of our one measley day in Florence. We headed to the Boboli gardens, which are across the river. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio - the oldest bridge in Florence, because it's the only one that survived the war. The bridge is a huge jewelry market where you can find high quality jewelry, gold, gems, and diamonds. Beautiful but hard to look at, considering what kind of budget we're all on.
The Boboli Gardens are like the Versailles of Italy. We got there right at opening, so it wasn't busy yet. I know that America's Next Top Model once did a photo shoot in these gardens. It's tiers upon tiers of greenery, fountains, foot paths, and beautiful marble scupltures. I took a bunch of pictures. The weather was absolutely gorgeous! I fell in love with Florence at this moment. The gardens are huge, and even connect to another garden (I forget the name). These are the gardens behind the palace that seated the Medici grand dukes.
Later we grabbed some lunch - pizza, of course. We then admired the Duomo. As an Italian church, it's a lot plainer in the inside than the byzantine or gothic styles. But the outside is truely a breathtaking sight. The dome is huge! Unfortuntely, I didn't climb the tower to the top, which is supposed to be very cool. But I saw the doors of the Bapistry, designed by Ghiberti! We learned about so many of the sculptures and architecture of Florence in my Renaissance Art History course.
Then we headed to see the David at the Accademia Museum. Michelangelo's sculpture is absolutely beautiful, a true image of classic Greek ideals. His hands are a tad large for his body though. I laughed at that flaw. But it's easy to fall in love with the David. He's really the only thing worth seeing at the Accademia besides a bunch of random busts and alter pieces.
The leather market in Florence is incomparible to any other market I've been to in Europe. The best leather goods I've seen outside of Coach, ahaha. I only bought sunglasses though, because I couldn't carry anything else in my backpack that extended spring break trip. I was living out of my bookbag for 10 days! After meeting up with Ilana's friend who is studying in Florence right now, she took us to an amazing osteria for dinner. She knows one of the waiters there, and the deal we got on such an amazing meal astounded me. The salad was the best I've had since being in Europe. People don't eat salads here! We also got great recommendations on wine. I think I spent a mere 11 euros. After walking out a bit more drunk than expected, we claimed our bags from our hostel (where the manager was peeved because we said we'd be back for our bags 45 minutes earlier) and took off to the train station in a rush. After barely making our train (because you need reservations for all trains in Italy, as a boarding fee or something), we were off to Rome. I'm sad that we only had one day in Florence, but it was one of my favorite cities on this trip. The weather was stunning - the first entire day of sun and warmth I've had since October.
Now for some pictures.Collapse )

Yeah, I fell in love with Florence. I want to live here someday. It's so full of art, the city is calmer than Rome (which I will get to), and wouldn't it be lovely to live in a villa outside the city, own a Vespa, and work in a museum? I'm daydreaming. But maybe someday it will happen. I want to learn Italian!

2 brainwashes| get in my head

Venezia [24 Mar 2009|12:15pm]
[ mood | anxious ]

I'm trying to find time to write about Italy.
I made train reservations for Kristin, Colette, Misch, and myself. We took an overnight train from Prague to Venice on the evening of Monday the 9th. After transferring in Vienna at 6am, we spent 8 hours going through the Alps and Northern Italy. In our second train compartment was an American couple on vacation. We chatted with them a bit and got into Venice at 2pm. I booked two beds for Kristin and I in a hostel called The Venice Fish, in the Cannaregio district. I booked it because of the "family atmosphere" and free meals. It was a really cute house, and the manager, Nina was so welcoming. After settling in, we walked towards the Rialto bridge and stopped for gelato. The weather was a tad cloudy, but infinitely warmer than Prague. Then we walked around Piazza San Marco for an hour and waited for our friends (who took a flight to Milan) so we could get some dinner.
The Piazza San Marco is exactly what it looks like in commercials and films. It's a large, open area surrounded by numerous historical monuments: St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, museums, a library. I feel like these sights would be suffocating if it wasn't for the piazza opening to the large Canale di San Marco bringing sea breeze and chilling the crowd. Even for chilly, early spring, there were thousands of tourists swarming.
When Ilana, Liz, and Kyle showed up in the Piazza, we went in search of an outdoor restaurant lining the Grand Canal. We ordered a bottle of pinot grigio and a double order of fried calamari. Soon after we sat down, some of the other guests eating in front and behind us noticed we were also speaking English, and we began two-hour long conversations with a couple from Britain, and two grad students from upstate New York. Good spirits and good conversation deserve more good wine. After relaxing in the low-burning heat lamps and filling up on food and company, Kristin and I walked back to our hostel for free family-style dinner Nina prepared for all of the guests. We listened to a New Yorker who had been travelling around Serbia for the past month tell us of his experiences. There was also a South Afrikaaner who was moving back home after living in London for three years, a young woman from British Columbia, and a young man from Spain. The night was magical, just listening to people from all over the world speak about their separate travels. Nina made amazing spaghetti with bacon and tomato sauce. Then we retired for the night, being so tired from sleeping on the train and walking around Venice for most of the day.
The next morning, we woke up early to go inside the gems of San Marco: the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica. The palace was much more impressive than I was expecting. The thing about Venitian art is that it's the most byzantine of the Italian renaissance, being closer to the Eastern Roman Empire than Florence, or obviously Rome. The colors are deep and rich, with harsher edging around figures, more intricate designs, gold highlighting much of the backgrounds of paintings. The palace rooms consisted of tall, long walls stretching with huge religious murals and maps of the world. The furnishing was extravagent. Farther along the maze of the palace is the Bridge of Sighs, a tunnel from the palace to the new prison, named for the sighs and moans of prisoners. I found it bizarre for a prison to be so near a political figure - but I guess someone like the Doge keeps one's enemies closer. The prison cells were cold and cramped. Anyway, I was very impressed by the palace.
St. Mark's was filled with gold. Colette, Misch, Kristin and I didn't want to pay to go to the alter or any of the other rooms of the church, but we turned our necks towards the vaulted ceilings, where one can see the progression of artistic styles: some of the paintings are much more primative and flat, and so you can tell which religious figures were painted later on by different artists - more depth to the figure and the drapery, dimensional faces.
We also decided to go on a gondola ride, so Misch brought one of the gondola drivers down in price so we each payed 15 euro. He took us around the Grand Canal and some of the smaller side canals, where he pointed out where Casanova and Marco Polo lived. It was relaxing, and that day the sun was out, spoiling us with the warmest weather we've felt since...October in Boston.
After shopping for a little bit and grabbing a cheap lunch, we decided to pick up our luggage from our respective hostels and made our way to the train station to catch a train to Florence.
I thought I had fallen in love with Venice, having no expectations for Florence or Rome. Venice had been the only place in Italy I was interested in - boy was I wrong.
Here are some pictures of VeniceCollapse )

I'll try to update soon about Florence and Rome, but this week is very full of stressful homework and planning for Germany and Paris.

get in my head

Praha [19 Mar 2009|07:32pm]
[ mood | amused ]

I'm finally going to start updating about my travel break.
Over the first weekend, the whole class spent time in Prague learning through our separate courses. We flew to Prague on a Friday morning, settled in, and immediately got to work. Since I'm a Renaissance and Baroque art history class, I spent the entire weekend with my peers and our two professors. We spent an entire day at Prague Castle, which was beautiful. St. Vitus Cathedral has been in production since the 14th Century, and there are still pieces that are unfinished. The relic of St. Vitus is a tongue. They took it out...oh...maybe a century ago, and it still hasn't decayed. It's just blackened. I'm not sure how much of this relic kind of stuff I believe, but it's part of the history, tradition, and faith, and I have learned to respect it. It's kind of fascinating. Anyway, since this cathedral is still not finished, it has pieces of the Romanesque and the Gothic misplaced throughout it's architecture. So it's a good example to show students. Professor Dückers had us guessing about its architectural origins for a good half an hour. Also at Prague Castle there is a large art gallery which one of the kings, Rudolph II put together - apparently one of the admirable things he did while he reigned. He loved to gather art from all over Europe. Overall, the castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, and it provides a brilliant view of the entire city below the hill and across the river. It was very cold atop the hill though, even colder inside the cathedral.
While I was in Prague, I visited quite a number of churches with my art history class. We also visited the Baroque-style St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana, founded by the Jesuits. The paintings continuing all throughout the vaulted ceilings was a sight to see. You can't tell where the architecture of the Church ends and the painting begins. I also went on a tour of the Jewish quarter in Prague, where we went into about five different synagogues within a three block radius. The Spanish Synagogue was absolutely gorgeous, I couldn't help but take pictures even if I wasn't supposed to.
On Monday morning, we got up early to take a bus to Terezín Memorial, a concentration camp an hour outside of Prague. I can't describe how much sorrow there was walking around the fortress and the ghetto. One of the main purposes of Terezín was to provide propaganda to both Nazi supporters and those who questioned the political campaigns of Hitler. Where they were cramming 5,000 people into a ghetto built for 1,000 - they made video reels to show how happy the Jewish people were there, so the international public was fooled. The video showed how they could play sports, laugh, have their own life in peace, create their own system of government. Within the small fortress, where the assassin of Franz Ferdinand was originally imprisoned, hundreds of prisoners were locked inside with thyphoid and left to die. During a "beautification" process, the Nazis installed fake sinks into a room (when I say fake, I mean they had no pipes to supply water to the faucets), so that visitors from Denmark and Switzerland would approve of the hygenic conditions...this went on for five years without any disruption. Disgustingly enough, Terezín was, in comparison, a momentary relief for the Jews before being shipped off to Auschwitz or other death camps. I also had the "privilege" to go inside the crematorium. I don't think I smiled once while I was at the Memorial. It was all too unbelievable, no matter how many survivor narratives or history books I read.
Aside from all of the learning I did in Prague, I also had a lot of fun afterhours. They use the Czech crown there, which is about 22 krones to the dollar, 27 to the euro. I ate the most amazing hot dogs from a street vendor. The serve hot, sweet wine on the street, to warm up those walking around the city. My friends and I went to a five-story dance club, where each floor had a different them: salsa, oldies, top-40, techno, etc. That was a lot of fun until one of my friends sliced open her finger on one of the metal-grate sidings and she had to get stitches at the hospital. She gets the stitches out this weekend, she's fine. But she got blood everywhere, it was really quite amazing how much blood came out of her pinky finger. There's some splattered on my jeans that are washing right now - let's hope it comes out a bit.
Prague was beautiful. The Charles Bridge over the Vltava river, with all of its Gothic sculptures and street vendors and artists. Music in the streets. It was cold, but it only rained on us once. What a beautiful city - I've heard the tourists flood the city in the summer. I feel blessed to have seen it without the crowds.
Here are some photosCollapse )

So that was Prague. I'll try to update about Italy in the next few evenings. I'm going to have my Tarot Cards read by one of the writing professors now.

2 brainwashes| get in my head

København [05 Mar 2009|11:14pm]
[ mood | exhausted ]

I realized this is the only opportunity I have to write about Copenhagen, but I'm going to have to make it short. I'm very tired, and I have to wake up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to go to Prague. I just finished midterm exams this morning.
We took an overnight train to Copenhagen from Dusseldorf. In total, it took us about 14 hours to get there. We arrived Friday morning and went to check into our hostel. For the decent amount we paid, our hostel was sub-par. We were on barrack beds! 3 beds on each bunk. It was very awkward. Also, the showers were disgustingly cold, located in the basement of the building. The entire living situation amused me, but I couldn't help but be angry, too.
The people in Copenhagen are so incredibly friendly though! My friends and I would be wandering around on the street, with our cameras out, and someone would come up and offer to take a picture of the group of us. Or we would look confused and a guy would walk up to us and ask if we needed help. It was really lovely to feel so welcome for once since being in Europe. It seems the Danish like America.
On Friday we went to the National Museum, which houses a bunch of medieval art, viking history, and then some information about modern Denmark. They also had some Egyptian and Greek collections. Entirely free to visit! Christina, Kristin, Courtney and I decided we wanted to relax before dinner on Friday, so we went to a local theater to see Milk. It was subtitled in Danish, so we could just watch it in English, which was refreshing. I highly recommend everyone see Milk. It's a Gus Van Sant film, really great acting, award-winning. And I think it will really help to open people's minds to the gay-rights movements and the constant struggle and oppression this population faces every day. The acting and the story personalize the issues. I cried more than once. It's all based on a true story, and the actors have a firm likeness to each of their characters. As for the theater, it was very classically posh and old-fashioned - black and white tiled floors. Plushy, assigned seats. The atmosphere was very intimate.

I ate a bunch of fish while I was there - bagel with lox was the ultimate lunch. We went to a great Mediterranian-centric vegetarian buffet on Saturday night, which was incredibly satisfying. Copenhagen is full of buffets!
On Saturday we also treked way outside the city center to see the Little Mermaid statue. We followed the canal to the port and came across a bunch of other statues. Ran across the house Hans Christian Anderson was born - he's the guy who wrote a bunch of classic fairytales and kids stories - like the Little Mermaid.
Also went shopping and found a lot of great deals. They use the Danish Kroner in Denmark, not the Euro. Some of the coins have holes through them! That's always amusing. I got a cute bolero for the equivalent of $20, it used to be $40. And then a great shirt-dress type tee-shirt that was once $50, and I got it for $15. The problem with kroners is that 1 US dollar is 5 kroners - so all of the prices were big numbers and it confused us a lot. Good thing I snagged a mini calculator off my desk before I left Portland. It's been so handy. We also get to use the Czech crown currency this weekend while we are in Prague.
I wish I could expand on Copenhagen, but I have to sleep now. Maybe I'll add some more details later.
Some PicturesCollapse )

Tomorrow morning we are off to Prague as a whole group. I'll be with my Baroque and Renaissance Art History class all weekend...maybe we will bond. Otherwise I will go nuts. On Monday night a few friends and I are taking an overnight train to Venice, Italy. We'll be there a few days, then we are going to Florence, then Rome and Pompei. So I won't be back in the Netherlands until Sunday the 15th. Expect a lot of posts, stretched out over a few weeks once I get around to writing them. To those of you going on Spring Break, have a great, relaxing, safe time.

3 brainwashes| get in my head

Assendelft and a briefing on Carnivale. [01 Mar 2009|10:36pm]
[ mood | nervous ]

Another late post.
I'm going to write about my trip to Assendelft last weekend. I've been emailing one of my dad's cousin's, Tineke, for the past month, and the weekend of Carnivale, Kristin and I found some time to visit where my dad's side of the family is from. We went up to the suburbs of Amsterdam to visit my Opa's side of the family. While we had a stop-over in Nijmegen, we bought some flowers for Tineke. She picked us up at a trainstation about 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam Central, and told us that if it was alright, we would be going over to her brother Daan's house to meet him and his wife. Tineke's English is pretty good, but there were times when the conversation was strained - I wish I knew more Dutch. I have to admit that it isn't really studying abroad if you don't pick up the language. Anyway, Daan's house was really nice. Having the same profession as my Opa, he designed and built his house himself. It was really lovely - lots of large windows and natural light. After being in both Daan's house, and the extension of the house my father was born in, where Daan's son lives now, I'm very impressed by how well people manage to live in smaller spaces than most suburban houses in America. There isn't as much space for Europeans to live in, but they make do with the space they have and it actually works very well. More utility, less clutter.
Back to the point. Daan made the whole group some wonderful tomato and meatball soup, along with sandwich items we eat at the castle, too. Then we walked over a block or so to see the house where my dad was born. It's due to be torn down soon, because it is in such disrepair. It's a shame, but at least the land will get to be used for something useful. I took a few pictures. Like I said earlier, Daan's son Rueben lives in part of the old house which has been renovated - it's called the citadel. Then Tineke offered to drive us to see where my Oma was born. It's this great house with a roof made of reeds. The house is nicknamed 'wijkeroog.' We went back to Daan's for a bit to sit down and talk about Europe and traveling. Daan's wife speaks very good English. She told us about her time spent in London and Italy. Daan gave me his map of Italy that he used when he went backpacking quite a few years ago.
We parted ways and Tineke took Kristin and I to this kind of preserved, touristy section of Zaanstad, where there are still original, working windmills. We took a tour of a mill that still grinds pigments used for colors and paints. We also saw how clogs are made (oh, by the way, Daan put on a pair of wooden clogs to walk over to the old house, not even kidding! How cute). Since we didn't have to get back to the castle until later in the night, Tineke offered to cook us dinner at her townhouse. We went to a fish market and she asked us if we'd ever had herring or paling. We said no, so she bought a few of those, along with some salmon. She made us a Portuguese rice dish, similar to paella, but with fresh tomatos and zucchini and salmon. We shared a bottle of red wine and great conversation for a few hours before we had to go to the train station. Her apartment was a perfect reflection of herself - modern art and sculpture all around, but not overwhelmingly so. She likes to do a lot of cultural things around Amsterdam, including her own sculpture work. She took some Portuguese lessons in Amsterdam awhile back so she could give a speech at her daughter, Madelin's, wedding - she married a Portuguese man named Gabriel and they live there, on the beach. Kristin and I got to see a wedding photo album and it looked absolutely gorgeous.
It was an amazing visit. We didn't have too much trouble communicating, and Kristin and I both enjoyed ourselves a lot. Kristin says that it was like she was a Noe for the day - oh, and she thinks I should start putting the umlaut back over the 'e' in my last name. I'm thinking about it.
Here are some photos I took - I wish I had taken more in Assendelft, but I was too caught up in the moment. Next, I need to get in touch with my Oma's side of the family. But look out for a post about my trip to Køpenhavn, Denmark - I just got back a few hours ago. It's midterms here, so that's my excuse for being late with all of these updates.
AssendelftCollapse )

Now I've done this instead of studying for my art history midterm. I'm in a bit of a bind - so I think I will wake up early tomorrow to cram before the exam. Wish me luck.

4 brainwashes| get in my head

Belated Belgium! [20 Feb 2009|11:21pm]
[ mood | exhausted ]

Hi guys, sorry I haven't posted sooner about last weekend's trip to Belgium. It's becoming very busy around the Castle, lots of homework and carnivale activities. Let me recall what last weekend was like.

There were five of us going to Belgium: me, Mia, Christina, Kristin, and Andrew. We took a train to Brussels on Thursday night, but on the way run into some difficulty. 1) We were confused about how to activate our Eurail passes, so we just got on the train until we ran into a problem: 2) The train we were supposed to take to from Maastricht to Liège was not at the platform when it was supposed to be. A woman in uniform approached us while we looked confused, and told us that the train wouldn't be there until the next hour, but that a bus was taking people to Liège in the meantime. So we walked over to the buses and asked a few people to make sure we were going the right way. A young dutch man started talking to Mia and Christina and introduced himself as Tijs. He told us that the reason why there was no train at the platform was because someone committed suicide on that track by throwing themselves in front of a train earlier that evening. Not a good story, right? Apparently this happens somewhat often; the guy said that the Netherlands is nicknamed "the land of the dead." Eventually we parted ways with Tijs and made it into Brussels a-okay; we had our Eurail passes activated on the train in Liège (for a fee...which would have been free at a train station, had there been a kiosk open at that hour). Got to our hostel, passed out.
The next morning we walked around for a bit, found the Grand Place and ate our first Belgian waffle! I woke up with a cold that morning, so I was in desperate need of a hot coffee. After walking around a bit more, we hopped on a train to Bruges, which is only an hour away from Brussels.
Bruges is beautiful! The whole town wis preserved in its medieval glory without looking like what Williamsburg does for Colonial America. All of the streets are windy and don't make any sense. It's true, what Colin Farrell says in the film In Bruges, that all there is in the town is churches. There were a lot of old churches. We went to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where there, inside a huge silver case is apparently a vial holding a few drops of Christ's blood. I think we went into four churches last weekend! But they were beautiful, and some of them even had choirs singing while we were there. One of the other churches had the Michaelangelo sculpture of Madonna and Child! We also climbed the belfry tower on Friday. It's the bell tower in the center of the town, 366 steps to the top. We finally got up there, after huffing and puffing, and the view was incredible! 360º view! After that we ate some frites to reenergize and ended up running into another student from the castle, who was travelling by himself. We invited him to tag along, and we took a canal tour. It was beautiful, although the weather could have been better, and I probably took one hundred photos while on the boat. Later that night, after eating some wonderful pasta and a local restaurant (where locals go, haha), we went to the oldest pub in Bruges, created in 1515. It was a bunch of townies (locals) drinking beer and playing checkers. They kind of looked at us funny for awhile, but we just joined in and played some board games. It was so relaxing compared to our time in Dublin.
On Valentine's Day, we met up with Andras (the other student), and walked to the edge of the town where the windmills are. Andras's hostel recommended we go out there so we can see a view of the whole town. Compared to the previous day, we got wonderful blue skies that day and took a bunch of pictures by the windmills. Then we got back into town and took a train back to Brussels.
Basically, we didn't see much of Brussels. We got in, dropped our stuff back off at the hostel we'd stayed at the first night, and ended up walking through the "barrio"/Turkish district to get some cheap eats. Got a little lost. I forgot to mention that Brussels speaks both Dutch and English since it's the capital. So I used some of my pitiful French to get by - barely survived on it though. I think I want to relearn French. Later in the night, after watching a rugby match on tv between England and Wales (narrated in Dutch, ironically), we went out to the greatest bar I've ever been to. It's called Delirium, and they serve over 2000 different types of beer! There were these huge binders describing many of the different beers on tap or in bottles. Because it was Valentine's Day, and I was sick, I decided to try Floris Fraise: strawberry beer, only 3% alcohol by content. It was pink and delicious, like strawberry soda with a twist.
The next morning, my friends were all feeling really tired, so we just checked out, ate some waffles, and left to go back to the castle. Belgium was great though. They have my needs in mind: chocolate and tea galore! They sold tea everywhere, and I ate a bunch of chocolate from a local grocery store.

So here are a lot of picturesCollapse )
Well, that's the story from Belgium. Sorry it took me so long to type it all out. Next post is about Assendelft and a few of my Dutch relatives.

3 brainwashes| get in my head

My address anyone? [09 Feb 2009|01:23pm]
[ mood | drained ]

Out of procrastination, I was just curious if I gave anyone my address here at the castle. Send me things?! Don't forget to get special postage for overseas.

Katharine Noe
Kasteel Well
Kasteellaan 20
5855 AE Well [Limburg]
The Netherlands

Don't send stuff by UPS, because it poses problems to the castle staff. Fed-Ex is preferred if you want to send a package.
Now to get back to Italo Calvino's Under the Jaguar Sun.

get in my head

Dublin City, Ireland! [08 Feb 2009|06:29pm]
[ mood | tired ]

I'm home from Dublin! Where do I even begin? We took a cheap flight on RyanAir from Dusseldorf (Weeze) Airport into Dublin Airport. In order to catch our 7am flight, I woke up at 4am. So by the time we got into Dublin city center, my friends and I were dog-gone tired. We decided we'd grab some lunch, do a bit of sightseeing, then check into Abbey Court Hostel and take a nap. I split up from my normal group of friends and spent the weekend with Bettina (who also has Dutch relatives still living in the mother land), Carina, and Fro (her name is really Christine, long story). After lunch we decided to walk the short trek to the Guinness Storehouse and take a tour. It was actually pretty interesting; we learned the ingredients and process of making Guinness, learned the background of the factory, about the advertising schemes and how much beer they've produced. This year is Guinness's 250 year anniversary. At the top of the factory, after taking several escalators, there's something called the "gravity bar," where you can give them a ticket stub for a pint, and enjoy a 360º view of the city. The weather had cleared up before we got into the city, so it was a gorgeous view. On the rounded glass window, there were little notes about what you could see in the city from that perspective, along with some great quotes from James Joyce and other Irish writers. So we enjoyed some time there and then went to the hostel. After we were rejuvenated, we ate some cheap fast food from a food court to save money. Apparently Dublin has the fourth highest cost of living in the world. I spent way too much money, but it was worth it.

We decided we want to go on a pub crawl that started at Trinity College at 8pm. Trinity College was absolutely enchanting at night. I wish I had taken pictures. The campus is surrounded by a stone wall and black gates. Inside were many stone buildings and a bell tower in the center of Parliament Square. Students were strolling and biking on the cobblestones. The whole city was alive this weekend because there was a rugby match going on in town, between Ireland and France. People were dressed up in crazy wigs, animal suits, face paint, jerseys. I don't think I will ever hear that much French again without being in France. A few days before we came to Ireland, there was a huge snow storm, which is apparently unnatural for the climate. By the time we arrived, it had mostly melted, but it was quite cold. Almost as cold as it was in Amsterdam.

When we met up with the pub crawl group, our tour guide, Cathal (pronounced like "Ca'hil") told us the deal - he was going to take us to some bars and dance clubs that most tourists didn't frequent. There was great live music, good drink deals, and the group of us was pretty international: French girls, a girl from Singapore and a guy from Malasya, two very cute guys from Australia that we talked to a lot, and a few Americans not including the Emerson group of 6 girls. It was a very relaxing and fun night, to say the least. Even got some sleep when we got back to the hostel! In the morning, they served us a pretty meager breakfast. We got ready to do some more sight seeing, and walked north to the Dublin City Gallery - The Hugh Lane. It's a gallery of contemporary Irish and International art, which surprised me tremendously. I wrote down a few artists that I really liked: Dorothy Cross and Brian Maguire were both featured in a print collection, and Elizabeth Magill paints distressed landscapes. Right down the street was the Irish Writer's Museum, where you can take a tour of Irish literature history. There were a lot of writers whom I never knew were Irish! It was pretty interesting, and the house in which the collection is featured was gorgeous 18th Century house which used to belong to a family of high society...all of Parnell Street and the surrounding neighborhood was the richer part of Dublin. After we finished there, we noticed there was a beautiful monument and fountain dedicated to those who lost their lives in the fight for Irish freedom. It's called the Garden of Remembrance. The fountain pool was covered in shattered ice, reflecting light and shimmering.

We decided we wanted to warm up with some sandwiches and a coffee back in the city center. We went around shopping for a little bit, amused by all of the crazy costumes and high spirits for the big match that started at 5. By the time the match started, we decided to watch it in a nearby pub, and relax a bit. Rugby is such a violent mixture of soccer and American football. Ireland won! But I was surprised that nobody was going crazy in the street like Bostonians are when the Sox win a playoff game. The Six Nations Rugby tournament seems like it should be at the same par - but International! Instead, the night was pretty mellow on the streets, which is fine by me. Sometimes riots can be stressful.

My friends and I decided we wanted to go out dancing that night, and our hostel was kind enough to give us some great recommendations and directions. We ended up at a great place called the Button Factory, with a live DJ mixing legitimate music, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, M.I.A., and The Gossip. It seemed much more local than a touristy night club, and it was a huge venue. Met some great, local Irish guys, and I spent most of my time dancing with a fellow named Daniel. It was nice that, unlike in Amsterdam, I didn't feel victimized for being American. In Ireland, everyone was so friendly and good humored, and I didn't feel vulnerable like I did in Amsterdam. So when it was getting late, Bettina and I decided to split off from Carina and Fro because we had an early flight to catch, whereas they were staying another night in Dublin. Said goodbye to our new friends (it's odd because all of the connections I've made these past two weeks won't continue - having no phone, travelling around so much, and not as many people in Europe have Facebook because it's still a pretty American thing). Got about 4 hours of sleep and then made our flight. And now I'm back, doing homework and nursing my exhaustion. I was seriously too tired to even eat my dinner.

Hope you all had a great weekend, too. Here's some photosCollapse )
I'm off to Brussels and Bruges in Belgium next weekend. Let you know next week how it all goes!

2 brainwashes| get in my head

Amstel dam! [02 Feb 2009|07:24pm]
[ mood | busy ]

I'm back from Amsterdam! So much to say about the weekend, I will try my best to include everything, although I do have work I need to get back to.

We left Well around 8 in the morning on Friday, and got to the hostel by 11 or so. The hostel was located right next to Vondelpark, which is apparently the pride of the city, because there is very little space available for open grounds. I'm guessing the park would look more beautiful if the trees weren't barren and there was grass. It just looked like a bare, brown space with a wide walking path down the center. But I digress. The hostel was called Stay Okay, and it really was an okay stay! I felt very safe there, the place was well furnished in the lobby, they had a little cafe and bar and even internet access. For every section of the building you wanted to get into, you had to use your key card. The bed linens were pretty clean, along with the shower and bathroom facilities. The staff was super professional and helpful if you needed suggestions.

When we arrived we had to store our luggage until the evening when we could move in. We went on a walking tour of the city, and Chester Lee was my group leader - he's a historian so he may have told us more than we needed to know, but the weather was beautiful and everyone was in good spirits so I wasn't ticked when we went overschedule. Later in the day we all gathered at the Rijksmuseum, where there is a huge collection of the Dutch masters. Unfortunately, they've been renovating for the past few years and the project is way behind schedule and over budget, so instead of opening last year, it will likely open in 2013. I'd like to come back to Amsterdam to see their collection in its entirety. Even so, the few Vermeers and Rembrandts I did get the pleasure of seeing were awe-inspiring. The Night Watch is so big!

Dulcia, our program director, organized for the whole group of us to eat at an Indonesian restaurant for dinner. Delicious, yet so spicy. And then after that, we walked back to the hostel (there was a lot of walking...there really isn't any quick way to walk around the city) and settled in. My friends and I rested a little bit and then we went out for some night life. I honestly didn't have that much fun at night in Amsterdam. I felt like there was too much pressure to have fun because...eh, it's Amsterdam, legal drugs and the red light district...whatever. I was unimpressed. So I went to bed pretty early that night. The next morning we had an appointment to tour the Amsterdam Historical Museum. There were a lot of great artifacts there, and we learned how the city expanded rapidly, and about the Golden Age of the 17th century. Since there were no major resources in the area, the city became wealthy just by trading, because it was a large port...now not so much, because there is no place to store inports and exports. The city's glory declined after a bunch of battles with England and France. And now it's a huge tourist destination and beer exporter.

After the museum, we had some freetime which I basically spent in a nice warm cafe drinking a latte. Did I mention how absurdly cold it was in Amsterdam this weekend? It was numbing. It even snowed on Sunday afternoon. Saturday afternoon I also go to visit the Van Gogh Museum, which was pretty cool. I mean, it's a little disappointing, because the great paintings are spread out between all the major museums in the world. But I'm not complaining. After that museum visit, we were officially free to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the weekend, including making arrangements to get home on our own.

Kristin and I met up with a few other friends in Dam Square and then walked around for a long time trying to decide on a place to eat dinner. We finally settled on an Indian place. At first, it felt like the manager and waiters didn't really want us there, because we were a group of 7 Americans. But after we were stuffed with food an hour later (I had chicken tandoori, naan, and chai), and we left a good tip, the manager all of a sudden fell in love with us and asked us if we'd come back again this weekend. It was amusing to me.

After a bit of a respite back in our rooms, we went out again. Went dancing at this place called Amsterdamned, where a few friends had been the night before. It was free...but the music was ridiculous; a mixture of Dutch accordian songs, Salsa, and American pop music. As the night got later, Kristin and I started noticing that the clientele was getting older and less attractive, so we left. We didn't feel like dancing with guys who were balding. Went to sleep around 1am. Kristin and I got up early the next morning so we could beat the lines to Anne Frank Huis, and that we did. I really felt it was the best museum I went to (partially because I did it on my own time, instead of being guided around). To walk around the same floors that the Frank family did, and climb through the Secret Annex...was a little heart-breaking. I just couldn't believe it. What I really wasn't expecting was for the museum to have the actual diary she wrote in, on display there. It had never even occured to me that it would be sitting there, on a little stand enclosed in glass. After we had finished looking around and listening to the clips of Otto Frank and Miep Gies expressing their stories and hopes for humanity, we both were a little down, a little blown away. We walked around and got a coffee, went shopping for a bit.

We tried to walk to my great-grandfather's apartment, which was farther out of the city than our hostel, but the wind was just so strong, and we were so cold and didn't know how much farther the walk would be, so we turned around. I think when I go back during carnivale weekend, to visit my family, I will try to find it again, on my own. Sometimes it's hard to do things like that with a friend, because I don't want to feel like I'm dragging them around to things that don't really mean anything to them. It would be a nice thing to do by myself. We got our backpacks at the hostel, and took the tram to Central Station. When we got there, it was kind of overwhelming to find the right train because everything was in Dutch and it was hard to convince Kristin that I knew what train we should go on. She has travel anxiety - which, you think, would make this program hard to deal with. But she's brave. We got on a train to Nijmegen at 4:30, and after a switch there, we got to Venray, took a bus, and were home by 7:30.

Here are some photos of my tripCollapse )

2 brainwashes| get in my head

For now, some pictures of Well. [29 Jan 2009|06:58pm]
[ mood | distressed ]

Right now I'm trying to stay on top of all of my studies that have just slammed me with work. I haven't had time to venture out to other towns in the area. Some of my friends got a chance to travel to Nijmegen today. I wish I didn't have 6 hours of class. But oh well...after this semester, I'm going to be a much better student than I have been in the past.
I uploaded some photos of the town of Well. I don't have much else to say right now. We go to Amsterdam tomorrow morning! Our itinerary is jam packed. We get to eat at an Indonesian restaurant together, visit the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, and a few other activities. Our hostel is in the Vondelpark area of the city. I'm going with a bunch of friends to find a great dance venue at night. It should be a great time, aside from all the work I need to accomplish on the bus there and the train home. I also need to remember to keep a travel journal in my hand at all times - says my writing prof Denya. We'll see how this all goes. I'll try to upload Amsterdam pictures sometime on Monday evening when I have some of my work turned in. For now, here are some random scenes from around the town here.

Well PicturesCollapse )

2 brainwashes| get in my head

PLANS: Amsteram, Dublin, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin. Classes? [27 Jan 2009|09:54pm]
[ mood | stressed ]

In the past two days, plans have transformed from distant ideas to distinctive commitments, and I am stressed. Apparently the reason why it was so hard to find affordable hostels in Dublin the weekend we are going is because there is a rugby championship there that weekend. But Bettina finally saved the day and found us a place in the Temple Bar neighborhood to stay for 24 Euros a night. I've decided to spend two nights in Dublin instead of travelling across Ireland to visit Galway for one day. I want to get a "firm" impression of the city. I know that one day isn't going to change much, but I'll have a better chance of figuring out what Dublin is about if I spend two days there. I wish my schedule let me leave the castle on Thursdays or come back on Mondays, but I officially registered for the most inconvenient courses available at Kasteel Well. So I get two days in Ireland. My writing professor emphasized how important it will be to stay more than 48 hours on location to find a "theme" that conceptualizes the culture, the people, and the history of the locale.

Kristin and I are also working on visiting Copenhagen (Denmark is the happiest country in the world), and a trip to Hamburg and Berlin. Joshua Radin will be in Hamburg March 27th, so we're getting our tickets and planning all around that. It's a few blocks away from the "Reeperbahn" which is called "the sinful mile". Oi Vey, right? Exciting, nonetheless. Ironically, it's not the trains or hostels that are stressing me out, it's the bus system in the Netherlands. Any online guide is useless, because Google Translate refuses to translate the search engines for finding bus routes. There will be a tremendous learning curve shortly.

So, besides travel weekends, I had two classes today. Ethics and Values, which is concerned mostly with the philosophy of moral dilemmas, biology, and evolutionary theory. Bizarre, if you ask me. That class is going to fry my brain. I also had Travel Writing today, and the professor seems very enthusiastic and knowledgable. I'm concerned that this semester will bring my GPA down because the European professors grade on a European level, not on an American perception of "an A for Effort." How much time am I really going to have to focus on so much work? This work load is comparable, if not exceeding the work I had in Boston during past semesters.

Other than that, not much has occured since my last post. Haven't taken any photos, but maybe I will have some before the weekend. The trip to Amsterdam is somewhat clarified - we have to find our own transportation home from the city center. I'm just going to pay for the train ticket instead of using my Eurail pass. On our free time, Kristin and I want to go to the Anne Frank Huis. I'm waking up at 9 to sign up to go to the Van Gogh Museum, and the entire school is going to the Rijksmuseum, so I'm pleased. Should be loads of pictures up by Monday.

Take care,

2 brainwashes| get in my head

Pre-Carnivale festivities, more orientation, and upcoming trips [25 Jan 2009|06:39pm]
[ mood | sick ]

Last night, almost the entire school ended up at the Linden. It's the local pub in town. It was special last night because in the back room, there is a stage, and the locals were celebrating because they were choosing the colors and officials for Carnivale. Men were wearing these strange blue and white hats, adorned with sequins and gems. Up on stage the locals were singing according to a lyric packet they handed out around the party, I took one for people to look at later. There was accordian player which lead most of the music along. And all of the people on the floor would sing along and start conga lines. I think I joined more conga lines last night than I had ever seen in my entire life combined. The people of Well were tolerant of us students joining in the festivities, as long as were were quiet for some sections. I'm really excited to see the carnivale parades here. Carnivale is mostly celebrated in the southern provinces of Noord Brabant and Limburg (where Kasteel Well is located).

Today we did more orientation activities. We learned about Emerson's history at Kasteel Well. The program started in 1984, but didn't break even until around 1990. Our program director, Dulcia Meijers (who is also my Art History prof) is simply an amazing woman. I'm really looking forward to getting to know her, it seems like she has quite a story.
We also learned some Dutch phrases, words, and songs. I'm not sure if I will remember all of them, but I sure know the birthday song well. We have to sing it at every birthday dinner in the cafeteria.

Right now Kristin and I have just finished booking our trip to Ireland. We're flying there February 6th til the 8th. This way we won't have to activate our 2-month eurail passes yet. The whole round trip only cost $72 US dollars, and we're going to share a double hotel room with a few other girls. Staying in Galway on Friday and Dublin on Saturday. Haven't figured out the rest yet, but it's still two weeks away.

On Tuesday we'll learn more about our excursion to Amsterdam, which occurs Friday through Sunday this weekend.

Right now I need some sleep. I haven't been feeling well and I have a 10am class tomorrow, but first I will need breakfast.

Much love,

2 brainwashes| get in my head

First Post from Kasteel Well! [24 Jan 2009|03:40pm]
[ mood | sleepy ]

Hi all! While I'm updating from the castle, some of my posts will be public so everyone can view stories and photos of my travels. This marks the second day of my time abroad.

Click here to read the postCollapse )

2 brainwashes| get in my head

5 Friends [08 Oct 2008|04:31pm]
[ mood | amused ]

"Like herpes, but for positive!"
Don't Vote
I found this pretty entertaining. Think about it if you haven't yet. You've got a few days.

2 brainwashes| get in my head

ANONYMOUSLY [14 Mar 2008|05:41pm]
Haven't done this in about a year. I feel like it's time to share.

Leave me an anonymous comment pouring your heart out. Say anything. Tell me your stories, your secrets, those things no one ever asks but you wish to tell. Tell me about your love, your hate, your indifference, your joy. Tell me about what's inside of you when you're reading through these entries on your friends list, and tell me why you continue to come back here. Tell me anything and everything.

Post anonymously. Speak honestly, because there isn't any censor here. Post as many times as you like. One faceless wonder to another.
11 brainwashes| get in my head

purely anonymous [07 Feb 2007|04:49pm]
[ mood | bouncy ]

I get the upmost pleasure from rereading my thoughts in this journal. There are some things that are burned into my memory, and many other vague thoughts that elude me today. However, every time I backtrack, I get this feeling that my progress is running in reverse. My maturity has diminished and my thoughts are primal. I rarely take the time to think about situations because now I'd rather ignore them. When I can't admit things to myself, it becomes hard to admit to others.

Anyway, in memorial of the past, let's do something familiar.

Leave me an anonymous comment pouring your heart out. Say anything. Tell me your stories, your secrets, those things no one ever asks but you wish to tell. Tell me about your love, your hate, your indifference, your joy. Tell me about what's inside of you when you're reading through these entries on your friends list, and tell me why you continue to come back here. Tell me anything and everything.

Post anonymously. Speak honestly, because there isn't any censor here. Post as many times as you like. One faceless wonder to another.

9 brainwashes| get in my head

East Coast college tour by pictures [01 Apr 2006|05:07pm]
[ mood | good ]

I've been trying to stay awake so that the lag is less harsh tomorrow. In the past two nights I've gotten a total of 10 hours sleep. To keep myself busy today, I've uploaded my photos. This is quite an accomplishment, for those who know me. For example: I never uploaded my Hawaii photos from summer on to lj.

This trip I took 114 pictures, so I narrowed it down to the best of the best. I've picked one picture from each campus that best explains the school, in my perspective (obviously, as it is my camera). I've also added in some of my personal faves I'm showing at photo club.

without further adoCollapse )

If anyone is interested in hearing more about these schools, I've taken notes, and you can always talk to me about them. I've already ranked them according to my opinion, so I can't say I'm unbiased. If you're interested in looking at more photos to get a better feel, I'd be happy to show you more either at my house, or on a CD. I also have books on four of them about students speaking out on certain topics, from College Prowler. Very helpful, I'd say.

Hope you enjoyed the photo tour.

12 brainwashes| get in my head

say anything anonymously [11 Feb 2006|03:36pm]
[ mood | curious ]

Leave me an anonymous comment pouring your heart out. Say anything. Tell me your stories, your secrets, those things no one ever asks but you wish to tell. Tell me about your love, your hate, your indifference, your joy. Tell me about what's inside of you when you're reading through these entries on your friends list, and tell me why you continue to come back here. Tell me anything and everything.

Post anonymously. Speak honestly, because there isn't any sensor here. Post as many times as you like. One faceless wonder to another.

6 brainwashes| get in my head

well, seems like [14 Dec 2004|05:15pm]
[ mood | bitchy ]

comment to be added
14 brainwashes| get in my head

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