Can I stay up here…

Travel, travel, travel. I know (well, I’m going to make a sweeping statement) that most people don’t feel about it the way I do. I know I annoyed Sophia no end on the way back from Amsterdam but I couldn’t help it… we were sat on the right side of the plane which was fine until I realised the sun was setting on the left side. I got some nice photos but nowhere near as amazing as they could have been had we sat the opposite side. The whole hour flight was me craning my neck to catch a glimpse of the sunset (which of course I couldn’t – there were people in the way on the left and I kept banging my head on the window when I looked too far right), this undoubtedly frustrated Sophia – even more than the American’s in front of us, teenage boys kicking our seats behind us and the crying baby beside us – who incidentally had a great view out the window. Unfair. I contemplated asking the stewardess to take a photo for me (that’s a normal request, right?) but the look I got from Sophia when I suggested it made me settle down. Instead I stared intently out of my right hand window at the clouds, laced with a pink sunset-hue which was so beautiful I couldn’t help but stare. I could have stayed up there forever, so calm and serene and light and the clouds look so soft and fluffy I just wanted to play in them – don’t tell me you haven’t thought about doing that too. Being up there is incredible, I only wonder what a breathtaking view the pilot gets. I don’t think there’s a word for the feeling that being up there makes me feel. It’s strange that I love flying so much when i’m scared of heights. This fear has got a little better over the years but I still find it pretty terrifying, yet flying thousands of feet in the air in a tiny tin can doesn’t phase me (which i’m very glad of). Maybe it’s because I’d like to believe that the clouds would soften my fall, who doesn’t want to land in a cotton candy castle?

Stepping away from flying, even the tram rides through Amsterdam were amazing. There was so much to look at and take in; it’s a beautiful city for those of you who haven’t had the chance to visit. The architecture might be on of my favourite things about it; the buildings are stunning to look at and they’re all a little bit different from each other, whether it’s the wooden shutters, gargoyles, stonework, colour, it could be anything. the amount of canals and bridges (although cliche to mention) but they’re so pretty and even if i lived there i don’t think i’d get bored of them. They’re so unique and make the city close to magical, even in the rain. Also, Dutch people are the nicest, their language is funny to listen to (imagine what The Sims language sounds like…) but stay there for long enough and you’d be able to pick it up (if not, their English is near perfect). I think I’ve done most of Amsterdam now so I doubt I’ll be going back for a while but it’s a gorgeous place, try and go if you haven’t already (their waffles are also the best), I don’t think you could regret a trip to such a wonderful place.

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Amsterdaaaaam…

After being stuck at security in bristol for much too long – apparently our liquid bags were too big (I thought I was being helpful) and so our trays with all our belongings were put on the floor the other side of the conveyor belt for about 15 minutes… THATS FINE I DONT NEED THE TOILET AT ALL. That’s a lie, I really did. And after putting my shoes, belt and necklace back on they finally sorted our bag problem and sent us on our way. The rest of the way to The Netherlands was easy peasy and we arrived in one piece as we’d hoped. Thankfully we’d kept our OV ChipKart from last time we were here which made things a whole lot easier when getting the tram to the centre. Our hotel is simple but nice – it’s practically luxury from the places we stayed in when we travelled in the summer. Our evening consisted of exploring the red light district and the centre, browsing the shops (specifically Forever 21) and Albert Heijn, our favourite Dutch supermarket.

Day two, a productive day! We visited the Rijksmuseum and took photos of the “I Amsterdam” sign outside… You know the one:

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After walking round a rather empty museum we got to the room that held some Rembrandt artwork (the highlight of the museum) which was coincidentally where everyone was. We took some photos and walked round the remainder of the museum which was educational and held some rather beautiful artwork, pottery/china and dresses. This one was my favourite…

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There was also a dress that was made for a woman with a 59cm waist. Crazy. One of my favourite pieces in the museum was a “man catcher”, basically a long three pronged spear. Hilarious. After a couple of hours in the museum we made our way into town on the tram (we’re pros) and stopped to watch some street performers/dancers… Four men doing break dancing type stunts which were impressive but it was their fun personalities that kept the crowd – “don’t worry, it gets better!” was chanted a few times by them. After another trip to Albert Hijn we hopped back on the tram to Vondlepark. A little stroll around the corner to Sophialaan for a photo and then into the park to count runners and cyclists. It was very cold but very beautiful and the houses round there were incredible, who doesn’t want a dock for their boat? That evening was spent eating the most delicious waffles and drinking black tea and lots of laughter.

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Day three, Saturday. We spent the morning walking round Spui and the worlds only floating flower market, which we had perfect weather for. We stopped in a little cafe for lunch which was quaint and played my favourite music… Which by the end of lunchtime Sophia was also a fan of. We then visited the torture museum which wasn’t worth the €7 entrance fee but the “cloak of shame” gave us a few laughs.

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We walked the little way to the red light district which is odd to experience in daylight, and headed to the Prostitution Museum which was more worth the €8 fee but left us feeling a little down-heartened because of some of the experiences of the girls but still very interesting and a good insight.
The Pancake Factory was next on our list and so we walked through Jordaan and its many canals (bringing back memories of Pride from August) and we arrived at the factory of pancakes. Once we’d seen how expensive they were we swiftly changed our minds and walked on… No matter how much we wanted them, €14.50 was a bit steep for our budget. Instead we went to our trusty Albert Heijn and bought waffles which kept us going while we got ready for a night out. Playing drinking games with two people (who know everything about each other) and no cards or other props is pretty difficult… we just drank and hopped on the tram to Rembrandt Square, home to a few nightclubs, bars and the like. It has to be said, this wasn’t a wild night out and our last trip here was much more of a story. We lasted about three hours in two very similar clubs and then called it a night, mainly due to the fact that we were starving and had to walk 3 miles back to our hotel because trams stop at midnight, goddammit. But still, we made a friend and got Chipsy King chips so it was a win win all round, and we got to dance – what more could we want. The walk home was incredibly cold though and if we don’t get pneumonia it’ll be a miracle.

Day four was spent getting to and waiting at the airport ready to fly home. We waited at the arrivals gate for a while and watched families greet each other which was really touching. A little boy ran up to his dad and gave him the biggest hug and couples embracing and giving flowers. The most touching though was an elderly couple; the wife was waiting for her husband and they shared such a special moment I wish I could have captured it as more than just a memory. It’s now raining outside and we’re waiting to board the plane, both very tired so I’ll leave this post here, but it has to be said, I really love Amsterdam. Thank you for reading! Tot ziens!

The beauty of travel…

I guess I’ve always loved travel. Train stations, airports, and the excitement of going somewhere new; not only the anticipation of the destination but the process of getting there is almost more of a thrill. Even long car journeys or “tagging along for the ride”, I don’t know what it is but I go into my own little world whilst taking in the huge one around me. I’m always craning my neck to see something out the window, whether it’s particular people or something interesting on the skyline, the way the light touches the buildings at a certain time of day… I know I’ve strained to see many a sunset from the bus window, gaining one or two odd looks. It’s strange to me that some people don’t take in the beauty of their surroundings, I know I can be oblivious to it sometimes; rushing around being busy, bustling to and from work but there is always something interesting to look at, to marvel at, something that will catch my eye. Maybe that’s why I like journeys; whether it’s a new one or the same one I do every day. You never know quite what you’ll see or who you’ll meet. I realised I write almost all of my blog posts whilst travelling (either that or from my bed, amidst a flurry of thoughts and ideas), perhaps it gives me inspiration subconsciously, freeing me from writers block. Or it may just be when I have the most time to myself. Either way I like to think that it makes my commute a little more creative than it might otherwise be. The day after tomorrow I’m going to Amsterdam and I can’t wait for the moment when you’re above the clouds and the sun is shining and you can see through the clouds to the beautiful world below – nothing beats that feeling. Times like that are incredible and they make me feel so grateful that I’m able to see the earth from such a perspective. I’m hoping the views will give me some kind of inspiration for a post that I can write on the plane but we’ll see; maybe I’ll just have that moment to myself. I am wanting to write about the things I see and do whilst I’m in The Netherlands but at what point I’ll be able to do so, or what form it’ll come in, I’m not sure. I think we’ll have to find that out together. Tomorrow will consist of packing (well, checking I’ve packed everything… I was ready three days ago) and printing off the vital information (well, checking I’ve printed it all… you get it.). On Thursday we’re getting up ridiculously early which I’m actually so excited about, because that means adventure!! Yay! Okay, I’ll finish this here but I hope you’ll come on my little trip with me; I’d love to see you there.

A letter of sorts…

Since my younger sister is leaving for university in just over a month I’ve been reminiscing (mainly to myself) about how much has changed and how different I was when I left home to do the same thing almost four years ago. With those memories in mind I thought I’d write a letter of sorts to my 18 year old self, or perhaps to my sister, of things I wish I’d known, things I needn’t have worried about and a few tips about being away from home and finally becoming yourself.

Let’s start with a few tips:

  1. Find time to do some exercise. If you join the gym and stick to it – congrats! If the gym isn’t your thing, grab a friend and go for a jog or a swim… if that’s still not doing the trick maybe try a Zumba workout video on YouTube, trust me, there are plenty of them.
  2. Make sure you always have a couple of cans of soup, some milk, something with carbs and toilet paper available – for the days you’re too lazy to leave the house.
  3. Once you’ve learnt your alcohol limit, remember it. Being the hot mess is fine once or twice but don’t make a habit of it; it’s not fun for the people looking after you.
  4. At the start, skype will be your best friend for talking to people you’ve left behind at home and that’s great, it’s nice to talk to a familiar face. Don’t feel bad if you start to use it less and less though, your family may be wondering where you are but it’s better for you if you’ve got more important things to be doing!
  5. Write letters to your friends whether they’re at home or at other universities because it’s always exciting to get post and it’ll give you something to look forward to. It’s nice to look back on them too and laugh about the kind of things you spoke about.
  6. Finally, you can do whatever you want whenever you want, don’t forget that! Go to the cinema at midnight or order pizza at 3am – have fun! (Believe me; you’ll miss that when you’re living back at home…).

Right, let’s go through a few things that you don’t need to worry about. Honestly I can’t really remember if I had any major fears but the things I’m about to say may apply anyway, even if you hadn’t really thought about it yet.
First of all, you’ll make friends. Knowing a million people is great but if none of them will pick you up off the floor when you’ve thrown up in the corridor or hold you whilst you cry over a boy (or anything) and you’re too fragile to be left alone, then it’s not worth it. Find a couple that will walk to the ends of the earth for you (well, to Tesco and back when you’re too lazy to buy Doritos) and you’re set. The ones that become your friends for life may not be found in the first week, month or even year but when you find them (and you will) they’ll be the ones leaving you squash by your bed and leaving you cute notes under your door. Secondly, if you don’t want to go to a party because you’d rather study or watch a movie or read a book, that’s fine! Everyone has those days/nights. Just remember to have fun with real life humans too, as much as Ross and Rachel make you laugh they won’t be the ones putting you to bed after one too many – real friends are outside your room. Okay now, the reason you’re at university is to go to lectures but missing one won’t make you fail; just don’t let it become routine. On that note, as long as you tried your best on a piece of work and you’re proud of your grade it doesn’t matter what anyone else got. Finally, going back to my first point; as long as you’re a nice person people will like you.

Now for some things I wish I’d known – again, I can’t remember now, having done it but hopefully these things will be of some help to you.

  1. It goes incredibly fast. That’ll be one of the first things they tell you and you’ll believe them half-heartedly but trust me, they’re right. Make the most of every second because you’ll miss it like nothing else when it’s over.
  2. If a boy breaks your heart, try your best to forget him. He’s not worth it – you are.
  3. You will never need your friends more – remember to let them lean on you when they need to.
  4. It’s okay to cry. Cry because you miss home, because you’re stressed, because you’re sad (or because you’re happy!), just do it if you want to, everyone else is.
  5. You’ll experience every emotion possible at some point, it’s scary and amazing at the same time, just try not to freak out.
  6. No one knows what they want to do when they graduate, and if they do, they’re lucky. Don’t panic, even if it takes a year or two (or three…) afterwards, you’ll get there – what’s the rush?
  7. You’ll miss hugs more than you realise and the first time you hug your new friends will make you see that – try and remember that moment.
  8. You’ll be a different person when you leave than you were when you started and that’s okay, so many things will have shaped you and I promise it’ll be for the better (even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it).

Now I know mum always said this to me but you never know when you may need to so just remember, you can always come home.

Now it's your turn...

Now it’s your turn…