Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Dutch Getaway

What?  I have a blog???

So I do!

Sorry for being so slack, guys...

(more pictures and fun stuff after the jump!)

...have been up-to-my-eyebrows busy, as my stint here in Spain is coming to an end, so I've been trying to wrap up my projects at work...and I've also taken a very much-needed break.  I realized the other day that I never had the YAY, I'M FREE! Moment that everyone else has when they first finish school.  At the end of last year, I was entertaining thoughts of signing up for another three years of school, and then it finally hit me that it wasn't the right direction for me, and then I got hired to come to Spain and had to work three jobs at a time to save money.

When I arrived, I worked throughout the summer with no breaks and no public holidays - so I was just really, really tired and I really needed that break.

So at the invitation of two good friends, I went to the Netherlands to visit them.

When I last visited Holland nearly two years ago, I never would have thought that I'd get to go back so soon.  And when I said goodbye to Dutchman and B³ (why did I have to give her a nickname with such a difficult symbol to produce???) after their semester in Toronto last year, I also never thought I'd get to see them again so soon - especially twice in one year, with B³.  If I were a fatalistic person, I'd say that our paths are a little more closely intertwined than those of many people.

The last time I visited Holland, it was for spring break, a week in February 2009, and I spent the entire time in Amsterdam - maybe it'd be more accurate to say that my own path keeps bringing me back to the Netherlands.  I stayed in my aunt's apartment and I was travelling with someone who turned out not to be a very good friend at all.  But despite that, I had an incredible time.  The atmosphere took my breath away and I met someone who totally rocked my world, both in good and bad ways.

When I look back, I see parallels between these two trips.  Both were slightly spontaneous - at least, I didn't plan for them as much as I normally plan things.  Both trips had some sort of connection to Spain.  Both were visits so I thankfully didn't have to stay in hostals - in fact, I've never stayed in one before.  Both were in winter.  And both featured totally unexpected events, particularly giddy pinnacles that crashed rather suddenly and deteriorated into pretty traumatic situations.  I've always prided myself on being emotionally-stable, but, man, I can't handle these things happening to me too much.

So this time I went to Dutchman's hometown, Haarlem, which was absolutely beautiful, and we also spent a day in Amsterdam, because it was just a stone's throw away.  Then I went to Utrecht, which felt very metropolitan, to visit B³ because she lives and studies there.  And the thing is that I am equally charmed, every time (this was my 3rd visit to the country), just soaking in all the history, admiring the architecture and basking in the atmosphere.

Things I learned/Thoughts/Things of note about this trip:

*My friends' friends = SO nice.

*There's no such thing as long-distance calling within the Netherlands!  You can call anywhere in the country and it's local charge.  It blew Vriendin's mind when I told her that in Canada, the next city over is considered long-distance. :P

*(Many) Dutch boys have great hair.

*I love that everyone assumes that I speak Dutch in Holland.  It makes me feel really included, even though I don't understand what people say and eventually have to ask them to switch to English.  In Spain and France, people always speak English to me.  Well, in Spain, people will answer in Spanish when I speak it to them, but in France people answer in English even when I speak French to them.

*I got "nihow-ed" in Utrecht!  My goodness, I didn't expect that outside of the Mediterranean countries.  I thought Dutch guys were more sensible and conservative.  To be fair, they generally are - the ones trying to get my attention were probably dumb highschoolboys.

*I got home food!  I love home food.  It's also a million times better than the self-made variety.  I had homemade hachee at Dutchman's and nasi goreng at B³'s. :D

*I meant to have a look inside the bar where I met that person from my past, and I just couldn't do it.  I just stopped several metres in front of it and stared as the memories trickled back, and it was too sad.  Like a car wreck, I couldn't manage to rip my eyes away for a few moments, and then finally I was able to make myself go.

*I had a million cups of hot chocolate.  Sadly, the epically-awesome hot chocolate I had last time at Café Van Zuylen is not the same anymore, but it's still a nice place to sit down in.

incomparable hot chocolate at I had at Café Van Zuylen in Feb 2009 - they don't make them like this anymore!

*I never knew that a totally crestfallen expression on my face was so easily ignorable.

*Raspberry beer (rosébier), peach beer and chocolate-covered ginger snaps (chocolade kruidnoten) are awesome!

*I was absolutely delighted at seeing how much taller the general population is in the Netherlands than in Spain.  In Spain, when I'm in heels, I'm taller than most of the men.  In the Netherlands, my eye-level is, like, everyone's sternum.  I'd frequently encounter solid walls of people and not see a face until I tilted my head way, way back.  I was tickled.

*Goddamn I should have brought back more stroopwafels and a couple bags of chocolade kruidnoten.

*I forgot that you have to pay to use public washrooms, unless you are a customer at a bar or restaurant.  That was unconvenient.  Men could pee in stalls on the street for free though:

*The country seems to be filled with beautiful churches, even though the population seems to be getting decreasingly religious.

*Thank goodness I speak and read French, because a lot of the time, when there was no English on the labels of things, there was at least French. :)

*In Holland, people give each other triple kisses, instead of just two, like in France and Spain. :P

*Was completely charmed when Dutchman's friend told me that Dutch people think fondly of Canadians.  I always like to hear this, but he mentioned specifically that his grandpa says Canadians were like brothers to the Dutch during WWII - they arrived to help and to back them up.  I love that!


Samantha said...

Can't wait to read about your trip to the Netherlands!

Samantha said...

Nice post. Sometimes it's the unplanned trips that turn out to be the best ones. The language exchange is interesting; people speak to you in English first in Spain and France, for me it's the opposite. No long distance calling in Netherlands, wonderful! You have to pay to use the washroom, now that's crazy! Mmmm, the hot chocolate looks delightful.