Posts Tagged ‘europe’

The End of Days

30 July 2009

(Don’t panic! Just for me in England…not like…the end of the world or anything.) 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Here, allow me to illustrate with this chart I just happened to have on hand:

Venn diagram

Hannah and I got back from EA!P2 on Wednesday, June 3. We made the trek from Gatwick to RoHo in the early afternoon and met up with Miranda and Phoebe in Staines for the Last Ever (for us at least) Orange Wednesday (two-for-one movie tickets through our mobiles…that’s “cell phone” for the yankees). Saw Angels and Demons. I’m sorry, I just cannot buy Tom Hanks as an “action hero.” But I love Ewan McGregor in anything and everything. And it was super cool because I had been to almost every place in Rome that they filmed. Overall, I’d say it was better than previous movie. “I have to get to a library! There’s a snake in my boot!”

Thursday was crazy packing day of crazy.

June 4 5 6 003

It always gets worse before it gets better.

Hannah went off on her own to London to shop for some souvies, Grace came back from her Euroventure, and then it was Farewell to London Time. Grace and I found Hannah by Southwark Cathedral (the first place I went with Grace and Tyler and Colin and Annie the first time I took the train into London waaaay the heck back in January) and had fish and chips and Bulmers (HOW I MISS THEE) at a pub by the Thames.

June 4 5 6 005

Then Grace went off for her farewell ritual, and Hannah and I kept walking along the Thames River Path (I think I saw it called that on a sign, but it is also entirely possible that I’m making the name up) to Shakepeare’s Globe for Romeo and Juliet!

They try to be very authentic in their props and costumes and set design and lack of microphones. And lack of comfort in seating. Three hours on a wood bench with no back. I guess it was better than the poor groundlings who had to stand the whole time. Oy. And because it’s open air, it was cool to see the sky change and the sun set (dare I say…Waterloo sunset?

) and all that.

Back in Egham, I said goodbye to Miranda and Phoebe (who are suuuuper cool, btw, and I’m really sad that I didn’t start hanging out and getting to know them earlier) and Hannah, Grace and I hunkered down for some more packing and Surrey Sleepover 3.0.

June 4 5 6 012

See? Progress was made.

On the morning of D-Day, I was feeling surprisingly ready. It was the most ready and calm and on-time departure morning I’d had in a long time. For example, before leaving New York in December, I was running around like a headless chicken, trudging through the snow, trying to mail home last minute packages, desperately pawning my belongings onto other etc etc.

Everything was ready ahead of our goal time for going downstairs to wait for the taxi. Of course it started to rain just then, but there was enough time to take a photo at one of RoHo’s most beloved landmarks:

June 4 5 6 014

The taxi was right on time and the driver was super nice, even in the face of our huge huge pile of luggage. We had a nice chat on the drive to Gatwick and got there super early.

Of course, both of my suitcases were over weight, but somehow I only got charged for one, which was a magical surprise.

We spent a lot of time in the departure lounge, browsing the duty-free shops and buying up snacks to strategically get rid of as much of our left over British money as possible. And then there was the ceremonial Taking of the Last Picture in England.

June 4 5 6 015

It took a bit of diligence to get seats together on the plane because we all had separate reservations, but hard work pays off.

June 4 5 6 020

Airplane cheers for us. I was lucky enough to have the window seat…

June 4 5 6 019

Great view, right? We gazed out over the Atlantic the whole time.

June 4 5 6 030

Eight hours in a plane isn’t so bad, especially when you’ve got your besties. You’ll note we were not immune to the crazy, however, which can be seen in our faces. Or mine at least.

On our landing cards, we all put that we’d been to a farm (because we had) which caused us to get special marks in immigration (the line was super long, and then the conveyor belt for the luggage wasn’t working so it took forever), and then we got pulled aside in customs for a special xray of our luggage (which we had diligently loaded on to carts and had to immediately take off again) and the Official Decontamination of the Farm Contaminated Shoes. They were also placed in a plastic bag for Extra Protection.

June 4 5 6 032

And once we got through customs, they are like “SURPRISE! Give back your carts for now there is only an escalator to the shuttle to the main building. Or you can put your luggage on this slow mystery conveyor that will take it to normal baggage claim so you can wait for it all over again.”

Of course, being the strong, independent women that we are, we were like “heeeeeelll no” so we comically transported the bags up the escalator one at a time.

June 4 5 6 031

The task was overwhelming, to say the least, because then there were more bags to pull than hands to pull them with.

June 4 5 6 033

Our parents were waiting on the other side of security. It was a joyous reunion, filled with much laughter as our precarious luggage arrangements and SaniShoes continued to malfunction and relocate…so by the time we got into the terminal, we were just dragging them higgaldy piggaldy and giggling with jetlag. Nevertheless, we made it home!

Whew! Finally!

So there you have it folks. There and back again!

Life in Londonland
Leonore’s Adventures Abroad
January 7-June 5, 2009

Stayed tuned for one last reflective/conclusionary entry coming (fingers crossed) soon!



9 July 2009

Category: Travel

Answer: The reason Leonore went to Switzerland

a) What is to escape from the Nazis with her family of singing children who sometimes wear matching outfits made of drapes?
b) Why is because there was a Swiss bank account secret laser thing embedded in her skin, so she went to check that out and pick up huge wads of cash and fake passports?
c) What is because it is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and everyone should go, especially when you have an invitation to stay at a farmhouse with a friend’s pseudo-family?

Contestants, you have 30 seconds. Good luck.

Now we come to you, returning champion…and you’re right! The answer is what is because it is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and everyone should go, especially when you have an invitation to stay at a farmhouse with a friend’s pseudo-family?

You waged everything! Your two day, cash winnings, now totals a bajillion and two dollars!

In all seriousness though, we might as well have been fleeing from Nazis based on how fast we had to run through the train station the morning of our Paris to Lausanne travel. Those of you playing along at home may remember that this was the only train available for the day we needed to travel AND we had to pay 70 euro (no rail passes) for tickets, so it was, let’s just say, IMPERATIVE that we make the train. We had a bit of a delay (I’m not naming names…TYLER SCHIMMELFING) in our departure from the hostel, so we had to run like crazy people in Gare du Lyon to make it to our TGV.

Spoiler alert: We made it…and were picked up in Switzerland by Grace’s Swiss grandpa (the father of the family that her mom stayed with when she was an exchange student in Switzerland…from here on known as “Grandpapa” for simplicity).

In case you are not familiar with the geography of Switzerland (as I was not) here is a handy lil map I made in GoogleEarth for reference:

switz google

So we got picked up in Lausanne (red train) and drove along Lake Geneva

May 29-31 002

and were rewarded with STUNNING VIEWS (though technically, all of that is France…including EVIAN as in the place the water comes from…on the other side of the lake).

We were headed toward Sommentier (yellow house) which is where the family lives. In possible the most charming farmhouse ever:

May 29-31 125

Did I not mention they have a farm? Because they do. A dairy farm. You know what comes from dairy? SWISS CHEESE.

After a charming Swiss lunch and a bit of settling in and freshening up, Grandmaman and Grandpapa wanted to take us up into the mountains to see the cows. Apparently, it’s a Swiss tradition to take the cows into the mountains during the summer so they can have air and vacation time etc etc. There were 6 of us, and the car only held 5, so we had to split up in order to get there. This would not be noteworthly, except for the fact that the Castellas (Grandmaman and Grandpapa) do not speak English. Only French.

I don’t speak French.

Neither does Hannah.

Grace, our beloved translator, rode in the other car, which left me and Hannah and Grandpapa for some quality language barrier bonding time. It was all right though, because most of the drive was too pretty for words. “C’est magnifique!” and “Tres tres tres tres belle!” seemed to get our point across pretty well, with a lot of “voilas” from Grandpapa thrown in.

So we were  just driving along, following the other car, nearing some mountains, when all of the sudden, we turned off on another road. This was a little bit alarming, however the scenery was too overwhelming to allow for any actual concern. As long as I could look at Switzerland, I was good.

Then Grandpapa pulled off on the side of the road and got out of the car, indicating that we should get out too. As soon as I opened my door, all I could hear was gazillions of cow bells, except it sounded like giant wind chimes. They all wear different sized bells, so they play different notes when they move!

When I think “pulled off the side of the road”, I usually picture something like this:

side of the road

Oh no. In Switzerland, this is what it looks like when you pull off to the side of the road:

May 29-31 007

I know, right?

At this point, Hannah and I were in “figure out the context clues and gestures and 10 words of French we know” overdrive mode, and once Grandpapa crawled under the fence and the cows happily flocked (can cows flock or is that sheep-clusive?) to him, we surmised that they were his cows, and he was checking on them…or something.

May 29-31 010

After another stop to check on some brown cows (supposedly the Castellas have a very strict philosophy on mixing different colored cows) we reunited with Grace and Tyler at the Castella’s chalet in the mountains.

May 29-31 019

Holy-freakin-moley…you could’ve rolled me into my grave right then, and I would’ve died happy. The tinkling cow bells, the breeze, the sun, the Alps, the valley, Grandmama’s tea and cake. That’s the life, man.

May 29-31 022

Turns out that Hannah and I were half-right. They were counting the cows to make sure that none had wandered off.

After that, Grandmaman went back to the house to prepare dinner (raclette…tasty cheese you melt in mini skillets and pour on things like potatoes) and the rest of us drove to Gruyere (purple building with flag) to see the town.

May 29-31 034

Unfortunately, the Chateau and the cheese factory had already closed.

Just when I thought the day couldn’t be any more of an aneurysm of awesome, Grandmaman took us on a walk after dinner down the road to the chapel. And I finally understood the whole “purple mountains” and “amber waves of grain” business.

May 29-31 054

May 29-31 052

May 29-31 056

I’m not sure how many more times I can use the word “beautiful” in this entry before you’ll want to beat me over the head…so let’s go with “breath-taking” this time.

For Day 2 of Swiss-a-palooza, we drove to Friburg (green walking people) to meet up with Grace’s “aunt” and “cousin,” Christian and Odile. Odile rode with us and Grandpapa and broke our car’s language barrier (she’s in college and started English a year ago but is SO GOOD that it’s insane). We left Friburg and drove up to Morat/Murten (it has both names because the area is French and German) and took a lil boat cruise! With a picnic!

May 29-31 084

Christian speaks some English too, so when we went back down to Friburg (green people) she gave us a walking tour of almost the whole town! Including a cafe where the students hang out (there’s a Uni) and a gelato shop and an art museum!

We went back to her house for a “barbecue” (it was a little bit sacrilegious to call it that) cooked by Pierre Henri (Odile’s younger brother) who sneak attacked us with some ninja English at the end of the night.

I do not know where their house was on the map (presumably somewhere between Friburg and Sommentier) so I will just show you a picture of the view from their yard.

May 29-31 122

This was, hands down, my favorite part of EA!P2…and it may trump all of EA!P1 as well. I was blown away not only by the magnificent country but also by the incredible hospitality and kindness of the Castellas. They showed us around half the country, fed us, paid for everything (!) and even took us on a flippin boat ride! After 5 months on my own, it was so comforting to have someone welcome me into their home and badger me to take second helpings and give me a ridiculous amounts of blankets and ask how I slept and OFFER TO DO my LAUNDRY and watch us while we walked up the street to the train station to make sure we went the right way. Grandmaman even packed us lunches to take to the airport with little blocks of Gruyere cheese and a chocolate bar!  And we didn’t even speak the same language! On the last day, I sounded like a broken record of “Merci beaucoup!” I was absolutely astounded by their generousity.

Back at the Lausanne train station, The Team parted to go our separate ways. Grace and Tyler were headed for Amsterdam, and Hannah and I went to the Geneva airport, bound for Madrid, Espana!

Even if you look at none of the other gazillion pictures I’ve posted, please please look at these. You won’t be sorry : )

Americans in Paris

22 June 2009

A little bit of music to set the mood…

Hannah and I arrived in Paris on May 25 on the train from Lyon. As previously mentioned, we had to take a slower train that got us there much later in the day than we had planned originally. We tried a couple of times to reach Grace and Tyler to let them know (they were arriving the night before and checking in to the hostel) that’d we’d be late and they should go ahead and start sight seeing etc etc. But no luck on the contact front.

So our train got in around 1:30 in the afternoon, and we successfully navigated the Paris metro and walked the GRUELLINGLY HOT few blocks to the hostel. At the check in desk, I’m all “Hi. We’re checking in. Our friends got here last night. We’re all in the same room. Tra la la.” And then Monsieur Check-In is like “Non! Zhey did not arrive! Zhey are not here! We are mad zhey cancelled! Zhey will have to pay! If zhey are not coming tonight, we want to sell zheir beds!”

To which I respond with a bit of OH EM GEE ARE THEY DEAD? WHERE ARE THEY??? AHHHHH THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE LAST NIGHT!!!! Except a little bit calmer on the outside.

Luckily, there was free wifi in the lobby, so Hannah whips out her iPhone, and checks email/facebook to see if they contacted us. Thankfully, we had a message that they’d had trouble with the train tickets and had to stay an extra night in Strausborg.

I had just calmed down from thinking they were dead when they appeared on the sidewalk in front of the hostel. A sweaty reunion group hug ensued.

Our room was ridonkulously small (there was barely enough space to stand between the two sets of bunkbeds) but we had our own bathroom and a tiny balconey and AIR CONDITIONING, which we partook of for awhile before venturing into the city.

First up was Sacre Coeur Basilica, which was right down the street and on top of butte Monmartre. It’s the highest point in the city, but in an effort to save money, we walked instead of taking the funicular.

May 25-28 006

Once we got to the top, we toured the inside (pretty; no photos allowed) and then sat on the steps people and pigeon watching for kind of a long time because it was too hot to move. We had shade and a breeze and this view,

May 25-28 008

so why not hang out there for a long time?

When we finally managed to rouse ourselves, we headed more “in to” Paris to see the Arc de Triomphe.

May 25-28 029

We wanted to climb to the top, but it wasn’t quite dark enough yet, so instead we walked down the Champs Elysees, and saw the gates to what we speculated was the residence of the French Prez (I just checked…it was, in fact, the Elysee Palace, where Le Prez lives) as well as the big fancy National Gallery complex.

We kept walking toward the river and caught our first good view of Le Tour Eiffel!!

May 25-28 052


It was getting darkish so we walked back up to the Arc to climb to the top. The view was pretty pretty! And we even saw the Eiffel Tower do its sparkley thing.

May 25-28 069

Spoiler alert: The Eiffel Tower is a vampire.

At that point, it was after 10pm, and The Team was STARVING. But we were trapped in a fancy pants area with not that many options for food. It all worked out in the end, because we got to eat at tables on the sidewalk of the Champs Elysees, at a dining establishment, that shall remain nameless.

It started to drizzle near the end of our meal, so we took our cue to head for the metro back to our hostel.

Day 2 dawned a bit sunnier and MUCH cooler, leading The Team to a collective sigh of relief because the previous day’s heat was so draining. The hostel breakfast wasn’t stellar, but hey, it was free, so we loaded up on croissants and bad coffee, and then set out for Musee d’Orsay. Because the weather is cruel and unusual, it started to rain while we waited in line.

My favorite moment of the morning was when we were on the way to the metro stop, and Tyler had the map/guidebook out to figure out which line to take to get to the museum, and this adorable old french man stopped and tried to explain to us how to get to Sacre Coeur (since it’s the only touristy thing in that area). And he even told us to bring umbrellas because it was supposed to rain. Or at least that’s what I’m assuming happened based on my interpretation of context clues and his gestures. It was sweet though.

We spent a lot of time at the museum (which I liked better than the Louvre, in hindsight) admiring the impressionism/post-impressionism housed in the former train station,

May 25-28 130

then it was back out into the drizzle for some lunch and a walk down the Seine toward Pont Neuf and  the Ile de la Cite.

Did you know there’s an island in the middle of the Seine in the middle of Paris?

I did not.

It turned out to be a “two-fer” because we saw the Sainte-Chapelle

May 25-28 154

AND Notre Dame.

May 25-28 171

Not only did I not know about the island, but I also didn’t know that Notre Dame was on it.

Of course it became cloudy and windy and cold again as soon as Hannah and I decided to climb to the top.

We were freezing, but the climb up the tiny winding staircase warmed us up, and as soon as we got out, the bells starting ringing.

The Bells…of…Nooo-tre DAAAAAME! (Ah AH ah, ah AH ah)

No but seriously, it was so loud and cool! And we could kind of see through the slats and saw the bells moving!

The rest of the day was spent getting stuck in childrens’ playground equipment (Tyler) and jumping over walls of guarded palace complexes to follow cats (again, Tyler) and not protecting us from creepos who reached out and tried to touch us (also Tyler). We had dinner in the Latin Quarter (that’s Latin as in Virgil, not latin as in Cha Cha) and that was about it for another great day in Paris.

May 25-28 247

I’ve only posted the first set of pics on fb (the ones that correspond to the events herein recounted) but more coming soon from Versailles and the rest of Paris!


15 June 2009

On May 22, I had my last exam (WHOO!) which I THINK (fingers crossed) I passed, and then Hannah and I whisked ourselves away to Gatwick to fly to Lyon, France.

Why Lyon?

Well, we discovered a while back that one of my mom’s cousins has been living in France for about 30 years, so we jumped at the chance to stay with real people in a real place (ie not a hostel) and have an authentic experience.

So we landed in Lyon around 9pm (and it was still SO light outside) and partially fulfilled one of Hannah’s life dreams: disembarking down stairs directly to the tarmac, while the cheers of the adoring public provide the soundtrack for the journey to the limo.

PassengersAlas, there were no cheering crowds, but we did walk straight down the stairs, across the tarmac, and directly into immigration.

Unfortunately, we forgot our old-timey suitcases.

Old timey suitcase

Cindy (my mom’s cousin) was waiting for us literally on the otherside of the passport hut (it was a weird temporary seeming building), and we drove on the RIGHT SIDE of the road back to their apartment.

It was such an authentic and fun experience! First, it was nice to stay in a home, after 5 months of dorms and hostels and the like. It was also really great just to have people who knew things and could show us places, without us having to worry about finding things or planning. We went to a few farmers markets and an arts fair, and everything was so colorful and fresh and delicious!

In other Authentic French Things We Did news, we:

1. Had fresh pan au chocolat for breakfast that Cindy picked up at the bakery down the street.
2. Tried pate.
3. Ate cheese and fruit for dessert.
4. Went to restaurant called “Gaston,” like the guy from Beauty and the Beast.
5. Had Ratatouille!

In normal sightseeing news, we saw both cathedrals and the roman ruins/museum, walked all over the plaza’s/Vieux Lyon/quays of the Rhone, and went to the art museum. It’s a very pretty city, and the color palatte of all of the buildings really reminded me of Nice.

May 22-24 042

Cindy also helped us book our tickets/reservations on to PARIS! Unfortunately, all the TGV (high-speed trains) were booked up for EuRail Pass people, so we had to take the long way and change trains in Dijon. It took four hours instead of two, but I saved on my reservation fee, and Hannah’s ticket was cheaper. We were worried about meeting Grace and Tyler for sightseeing since we’d be getting there so much later in the day, but it turned out to be a non-issue…more on that later : )

The Lyon pics are here.

Milano: Not just a delicious cookie.

26 April 2009

Milano cookie:

milanoMilano, Italia:


Well, technically, I suppose that’s a postcard, but it illustrates my point.

So where were we? Leaving Nice, heading on to Milan via train. I think now would be an appropriate time to digress a tiny bit and talk a little bit about the Eurail Pass. 


The Eurail Pass is a magical little document that you buy ahead of time for a certain number of days of travel/combo of countries. And then you just flash that baby, theoretically, and it works like a train ticket. It comes with a booklet of all the timetables of all the cities and all the trains you could ride on with it. The timetables are written in code, and as we came to find out in the time leading up to EA!P1, all of the trains we would be taking require reservations ($$$).

So, we’re leaving Nice. At the train station, I validate my pass, and we do the Super Official Thing that is required: write the date in the box. This was the one train that didn’t need reservation, so we just hopped on. It was one of those double decker trains like you sometimes encounter on NJ Transit. We had a layover in Ventimiglia, which is about an hour from Nice (but in Italy). From there, the train to Milan required a reservation. Of course, the 1st train was delayed, so we missed the connection because we had to wait in line (with only one ticket agent) to make the reservation for the next train. No big.

Talking to the ticket lady was my first Italian!Victory because she didn’t speak English. High five, me. We got reservations (the cheapest ones too…only 5 euro) and wandered down to the beach and sat on a bench and people watched during our layover.

Back at the train station about 2 hours later, we found the train and got on the right carriage and discovered what can be best described as Hogwarts Express compartments. With slidy doors and luggage racks and curtains. And this annoying bushy haired girl came in asking if we had seen a nerdy kids toad. No jk. It was normal-seeming Italian teen girl (and we acquired a middle aged music fan/guitarist, a businessy man, and an adorable old man along the way).

When we got to Milan, DM’s friend C, who we stayed with, met us at the train station and kindly ushered us to his dorm, which was a bit of a hike. It was nice to be with someone who knows the way around for once. We had to ride the Metro, and then a tram to get out to his place. It was waiting for the tram that a crisis arose. The front desk guard from his building was also waiting. Unbeknownst to us prior to this, overnight guests were technically not allowed to stay, and Mr. Guard had just seen C and all of us burdened by backpacks, clear Overnight Staying Indicators. We formulated a stealth plan that evolved into us hiding behind bushes while C walked back in the building with his friends who were also getting back at the same time. Then we snuck in a secret side door that he opened from the inside, and ran into his room. Paranoia continued to plague our guilty minds–phantom boots (a la The Telltale Heart??) were heard in the hallway, so we spent about 5 mins huddled on his balconey with our belongings until danger passed. Then everything was totally fine. C’s friends donated extra blankets and pillows to make pseudo-sleeping bags, so thankfully we weren’t sleeping on the cold tile floor.

Wednesday morning, we got up bright and early for our day trip to Lake Como…

Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger, but I’m going to have to say “To Be Continued”


11 April 2009


Off on European Adventure! Part 1.

So probably Nice. Or Monaco. Or Milan. Or Lake Como. Or Florence. Rome? Maybe even Venice.

Wish me luck!!

Think lots of happy/good weather/non transport crises/fun thoughts for me!

I’ll be back on April 22.


26 February 2009

 According to about 82 novelty tshirts I saw…


But I promise that I am still a Good Girl. Don’t even worry about it.

Still reeling from our previous Travel Nightmare, my RoHo homies and I were wary about all of the necessary arrangements needed to rendezvous with the tour group in London. Everything worked out perfectly though, and we got on our coach and headed for the continent.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But Leonore! You cannot drive from England to Amsterdam. There is water in between! Water water all around but not a drop to drink! Alack!”

And this is true. However, you CAN drive to Dover (I saw the cliffs! They are magnifical–that’s magnificent/magical fyi) and drive onto a large large boat, which, in turn, drives (or swims or rows or whatever it is boats do) to Calais, where you drive off the boat and onto the ground and continue driving as normal. Except that the bus is made for The England, so it’s going on the other side of the road which is weird.

Driving across 3 countries in Northern Europe for 7ish hours was a lot like driving from Orlando to my grandparents’ house in Georgia–rest areas, the huge fields with/without animals, the change of language–but I don’t recall, unless I slept through it, any sort of “Welcome To Belgium!” signage. It’s so weird to drive for that length of time and pass through 4 countries (if you count England) instead of 2 states.

First stop: Bruges, Belgium

Did you know that Belgium is famous not only for its waffles and chocolates, but also for lace? And also there was that dodgy bit of history with King Leopold and Africa and The Heart of Darkness, but we don’t talk about that. Canals!


Also, there is the movie In Bruges, which takes place in Bruges, but we (thankfully) didn’t watch that on the bus until we were out of Bruges. It was fun to be like “Been there. Know where that is.La la la. I’m so cool.”

Have you seen it? If you have, you may recognize


this belltower. Ominous.

Got some chocolate (SO GOOD). Saw a church. Walked around. Moved on.

Second stop: Amsterdam

We got to the hotel (which was REALLY nice, especially coming off of the £10 no sheet Brighton experience) around 8pm, and the guide was going to take us into the center of town for a walking tour and dinner etc etc. Except there was a hullabaloo of misunderstanding about the tickets and the public transport etc etc etc. So we finally made it in around 10, and a la New York, there was still a LOT going on, and the party was just getting started in a lot of places. We went to this area called Ledes Plein (plein means square, we later learned) had dinner and some revelry. After midnight, the only public transport (as in no metro, tram, or regular bus) is the Knight Night bus. Unfortunately, it’s just like a regular bus, except that it runs in the middle of the night.

Third stop: Edam

Really cute little Holland (also, fun fact: Holland=2 of the 12 Netherlands provinces. So it’s a bit like the rectangle/square conundruum: All of Holland is also the Netherlands, but all of the Netherlands is not Holland) village, home to CHEESE, a giant church, more canals, and a naked man in a window.

Fourth stop: Volendam

Seaside town! Also, home to this:


A wind mill!

Sidenote: I also saw lots of these:


Anyway, and then it was back to Amsterdam for a canal tour, seeing of sites, wandering of streets, eating of food, going to museums.

Now the part I know you’re all eagerly awaiting:

The Red Light District (dun dun dun!)

Yes, I went. Interestingly enough, when you’re about to walk down the main street that is the aforementioned RLD, there are Ominious Red Lights shining on the sidewalk. Mostly, we spent our brief time there either 1. Giggling and being all “OHMAGOSH there’s a prostitute/sex museum/peep show!” or 2. being grossed out by groups of men oggling the prostitutes. But it was weird because 1. there really were skantily clad ladies in windows with red lights on them and 2. there were a lot of normal looking people (including other women/old couples) just wandering around also.

Needless to say, the Barnard Woman in me was rather unsettled by the whole experience. But it was overall amusing or at least intriguing, and now I can say I’ve been there.

Things I sadly did not see: Anne Frank’s House. The Van Gogh Museum. Not enough time/lines too long.

And now for a little multimedia!

Pictures, as usual, but (drum roll please) I now have a youtube account! These videos are not that exciting (bell towers in Edam and Amsterdam), but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Also, it sounds pretty. Also also, here’s another one from back when I went to Leeds Castle. It features amazing feats of nature. So amazing, in fact, that I must embed it here:

Ok sorry…that was a lot less exciting than I remember it being in person…

Off to Scotland tomorrow! If you have any messages for the Loch Ness Monster, please make them known to me ASAP.