The past couple of days, I’ve been extremely reflective, just on my whole journey here and the ways I’ve changed and grown. I only have about 2 1/2 weeks left in England, and I just have a lot of mixed emotions about leaving. I’m very, very excited to come home and see family and friends, but it’s also hard to say goodbye to people and things here! (I will be flying back to Chicago on June 13th)
I’ve also started my “goodbye’s” already, as Ellie flies back to the States this Sunday, and last night was her goodbye dinner. But, enough of the sad and sappy—I should probably give an update on what’s been happening over here. After I got back from Spain, I had a quick turn around to revise for and take 2 exams on Friday, the 20th. This was also the end of my summer module as well. This leaves me with just one more exam to take on June 6th, and that’s all I have left to do, school work-wise. So, as this leaves me with a lot of free time, Ellie and I decided to take one last weekend getaway this past weekend.
We booked this trip on somewhat short notice-just right before we left for Spain. Because of this, all of the hostels in Amsterdam were booked, so we ended up getting an Airbnb in Utrecht, Netherlands. This is a city just a 30 minute train ride away from Amsterdam. We stayed with the most amazing Dutch woman. We flew into Amsterdam on Friday evening, and by the time we got to Utrecht and to our airbnb, it was quite late. But, we managed to go back into Utrecht and hunt down some sushi. Along the way, we also found a super fun lighted tunnel that just screamed, “Take pictures in me!”
We woke up on Saturday feeling much more refreshed than we ever have by staying in a hostel, and our host made us a breakfast fit for (several) Kings! The best tradition of Dutch Breakfast is that they put sprinkles on their toast in the morning, so we thoroughly enjoyed this tradition and came to the conclusion that one simply must be happy if a day is started with sprinkles.
After our wonderful breakfast, we headed into Amsterdam for the day. We wandered around the canals and visited the floating flower markets before meeting up for an afternoon walking tour.
We grabbed a light lunch before starting our tour at a really cute cafe by the floating markets and then headed to the city centre for our free walking tour. Our tour guide was absolutely hilarious! He gave us all of the fun facts and history behind the unique city that is Amsterdam and took us to all of the major sites.
After the walking tour, we paid a visit to the Cheese and Tulip Museums, that were very close to where the tour ended and we wandered around the Jordaan District for awhile.
For dinner, we went to this place that our tour guide had recommended that served the typical Dutch dinner. This is a mashed potato of sorts, mixed with veggies such as carrots and kale and then served with a sausage link or meatball. It was delicious!
During our tour, the guide had told us that one of his favorite things to do in the city was to take a canal cruise, so we definitely wanted to give that a try. So, we headed to the canals and hopped on a cruise to learn even more about the city and enjoy seeing it from a different angle. We ended our day by going to a little pub under one of the windmills in the city before heading back to our little place in Utrecht.
Sunday morning was interesting. We had planned on getting up early to get to the Anne Frank House before it opened. However, we found out on the day that we would have had to reserve a spot in advance. So, we ended up changing our plans completely and just doing something random. We had heard that there was a castle about 30 minutes outside of Utrecht’s city centre, so we wanted to find it. However, this was also proving difficult, but we finally decided to just go for it. We ended up on the outskirts of Utrecht and then found ourselves on this rural path in search for this castle. Thankfully, we did find it (and some cows), and we shared a lot of laughs on the way…
To add to the humour of our morning, it ended up that there was an Italian Fair going on at the castle, so there were vendors of all kinds covering the castle grounds. So, in addition to visiting the castle, we also got to try all kinds of yummy Italian wines, olive oils, and bread!
The castle itself is absolutely breathtaking. It is surrounded by a moat and is still fully furnished, in 1920’s glory. It was rebuilt by a rich dude in the 1800s to resemble the Medieval glory that it once had and it is truly a jewel in the middle of rural Netherlands. The splendor of it can’t quite be captured, but here’s the best I could do:
After our castle adventures, we headed back into Utrecht and decided to finish off our day by going to Rotterdam, which is another city in the Netherlands. It was completely bombed out in World War 2, so it is a very new and modern city now. The architecture there is amazing, as demonstrated by their market and Cube Houses.
Oh, also…I love Stroopwafels. They are a super unhealthy Dutch food that is caramel sandwiched between 2 hard waffles. They are usually bought as little circles that can be warmed over a cup of tea and eaten with warm, melty caramel, but in the Netherlands, you can also buy them as street food, in a huge waffle, and heated up, so they are already oozing with caramel.
This was such a fun and contrasting day of seeing really old and really new architecture in the same country and even though we had a lot of frustrations with things being closed, plans not working, and trains and buses taking us the wrong way, we ended up having a really wonderful day and it was probably my favorite day there!
On Monday, we were set to take a bike tour to the Dutch countryside to see some windmills and a cheese and clog farm. It turned out, like the rest of the weekend, that Monday was quite rainy and cold, but we were still ready to brave the elements for the sake of cheese and biking. And, I’m so glad we did. It was so much fun to join in on the Dutch lifestyle of cycling and be able to get out to the country again.
We learned that there are way more bikes than cars in the country and that it’s actually a really safe and efficient way to get around. (Bonus points for their carbon reduction as well!) As we were going, I said to Ellie, “We’ve now seen almost the entire country of the Netherlands by almost every transportation method possible—boat, bus, train, bike, and foot.”
When we got to the clog and cheese farm, the farmer was absolutely hilarious! He speaks 50 languages and he’s the corniest guy I’ve ever met. He pulled me aside and told me that he picks one pretty girl out of every tour group to engrave a pair of clogs for, so he picked me and engraved my clogs and then took a picture with me and then told me to post it to “make the boys jealous.”
Anddd..there’s a picture of our bike tour, complete with our long ponchos. We kind of looked like a Harry Potter gang, flying around the city on bikes and capes, but it’s fine-we were warmer and dryer for it. By the time we got back to town, it was about 3 pm, so Ellie and I were naturally, quite starving. We had this amazing lunch at a cute little cafe and rested our tired bodies for a bit.
After lunch, we decided to tour the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam, which was nearby. It was really cool to go through the experience and see how it differed to the Guinness tour in Dublin, as well.
After this, we weren’t quite hungry for dinner yet, so we wandered through some parks and streets and took some cliche pictures of the Amsterdam sign.
We ended our last night with some yummy Dutch-Indonesian food in a tiny restaurant called “The Pantry” that was literally the size of a pantry. It was a great way to end our lovely weekend!
On Tuesday, we said a hasty goodbye to our little Utrecht and then headed home to get a much needed break from traveling. I’m very much enjoying my comfortable little Lancaster and a break from living out of a backpack.