Utrecht (2004-02-24 - 10:02 a.m.)


The good news: I made it to the Netherlands. The bad news: I think I'm sick again (or, more likely, still). I'm hoping it's just the fact that I've changed countries again, though. This time it's mostly a sore throat, so hopefully not too serious. Steph is feeding me oranges and vitamins.

Had a very pleasant last day in Ireland, as we went down to Newcastle with Bee and Pierre. It's a very beautiful spot, "where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea", as the postcards say. They aren't much of mountains, but are very beautiful sort of largish hills. We wanted to try climbing one but never did find a path up (and at any rate, Bee and Pierre didn't seem too keen on that idea). And anyway, we were quite taken with the sea itself and spent most of our time wandering around looking at it. We even saw the tide go out! (don't laugh, this was very exciting for a Prairie girl).

We stopped at a pub in Newcastle as well, as it was supposed to be owned by the son of Pierre's English teacher. Had a pub lunch in which I ordered a "ham shank with champ" because I was curious about the champ part, not realizing that they would bring me an entire pig's leg! It was enormous and a little embarrassing, as everyone else just had soup or salad!

Anyway, Newcastle sits in a very charming part of the coast, and I was quite taken with it. I haven't decided where I'd like to end up yet, but I think I'll try for somewhere close to the sea. I've spent almost my entire life landlocked and I'm consequently fascinated by the ocean. Poking around on various beaches this past weekend was one of the highlights of the trip.

We got back from Newcastle in the early evening, in time to join in the communal Sunday chicken dinner. (Florence cooked). The French people from next door brought five bottles of red wine and it was quite the celebration. I realized at that point that I'd gone from being bewildered by all the people and their various accents to feeling quite comfortable and glad to have people to talk to. I was rather sorry to leave, although I won't miss Belfast itself much! Also, I got kissed by every single person in the room when I took off to go to bed. Very European and a charming custom, although very hard to get used to for this reticent Canadian!

Ooh, how Dutch: a lady just pedalled by with THREE small blonde children perched on her bike! How do these people do that??

Anyway, the next morning John came to see me off at Europa bus station. I caught the bus to the airport with no trouble, and the flight was fine. Ireland is very beautiful from above. It looks exactly like a huge green patchwork quilt, since it's all divided into "patches" by all those hedges. I spent the entire flight peering out the window - it was a fascinating view, with whole countries spread out beneath me.

I managed the airport all right in Amsterdam, but had an interesting time trying to find the trains. Bee had told me they were attached to Schiphol; I didn't realize this meant they were actually BENEATH the airport. I got on to the wrong platform twice and finally managed the right one. Steph had warned me to make sure I got a schedule before I tried to navigate the trains, but for some reason the lady at the ticket counter wouldn't give me one. Whether she didn't have one or didn't understand the question, I'm still not sure.

At any rate, I had to change trains and this is where I ran into trouble. I found the right platform for a train to Utrecht and got on the first train that stopped. As soon as I climbed aboard, I realized that something wasn't quite right. It was a very fancy train with plush carpet, nice seats and a DINING CAR! Everyone had loads of luggage and looked a little well-heeled for the likes of me. But by the time I realized this, I was already on the train... When the conductor came around I gave him my best "I'm a clueless foreigner" look and he explained to me (in English, thank heavens) that I would have to pay 4 extra Euros. So that wasn't so bad, considering I think I managed to get aboard a train that was bound for Germany! At any rate I got off at Utrecht and Steph was there waiting.

Steph and Rem's place is great! It's also freakin' expensive and so they're hoping to move, but it's a really great flat. It's very open with tons of windows, and so give the impression of being hugely spacious. There's a little room off the main bedroom with a cot in it, and so I even have my own space. They have big panels of gorgeous stained glass at the top of the front windows. And I've already taken my first trip to the Gemeentenbibliotheek! (gov't-run library) No more charity-shop books for a few weeks - they have a whole floor of English books!

Steph and Remkes have gone off to the consulate to try one more time to get Steph a work visa. I am basking in the non-computer-lab access to the internet and watching the people go past the windows. We have plans to see some museums this afternoon and go biking later this week. It's wonderful to see Steph and Rem again (although no matter how long it's been, it never feels like anything's changed - I may as well have hung out with her last week) and I'm looking forward to seeing more of Holland in a less sleep-deprived state. yay!

backwards ~ onwards

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Missed anything?
moved! - 2008-05-12
Sunday = time to ramble on - 2008-05-11
apparently I'm doing monthly updates these days. Sorry. - 2008-05-04
watershed - 2008-04-06
end of trip - 2008-03-31

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