26 March 2009

Amsterdam & Den Haag

At approximately 3 am last Friday morning, my friend Mary Beth and I caught the St Andrews Direct to Edinburgh Airport in order to catch our flight to Amsterdam!!! We arrived in the Netherlands around 8 am local time, and we had the entire day ahead of us. 

the "i amsterdam" sign in the Museumplein
 near the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum

We dropped our stuff at the hostel (a canal boat!) and then hit the streets. Throughout the whole fast-paced weekendm, we visited the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum (where Starry Night is), the Anne Frank Huis, the photography museum (FOAM, where there was a wonderful Richard Avedon exhibit), and the Stedelijk in De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam (the New Church), where there was an interesting exhibit about religion and spirituality in modern art. 

We also took a day trip to Den Haag, otherwise known as The Hague, which is surprisingly a nice beach resort for the Dutch during the summer. Most people just think of it as the location of the International Criminal Court, but other than a bunch of UN flags on a bridge, you wouldn't have known that's where it is. We saw the Kurhaus, a very large and famous hotel, and the Mauritshuis, which was having an exhibit on Vermeer, so there we got to see Girl with a Pearl Earring

the Kurhaus from the beach in Den Haag

It was incredible how much famous art we were able to see in one weekend! I had absolutely no idea that Amsterdam was chock full of these wonderful pieces. At the modern art exhibit, I saw so many pieces or artists that I had studied last semester in Art History: Rothko, Pollock, Barnett Newman, Josef Beuys, Kandinsky, Malevich, Yves Klein, and Mondrian. I was a little museumed-out at the end, but I absolutely loved seeing everything! It just leaves you in awe. 

While there, we also took a canal boat tour, wandered around, saw the Amsterdam library (bibliotheek) which was incredibly modern and awesome!!! I could have spent a long time in the library. We saw the Sex Museum, which was seemingly just a lot of printed porn dating back to the 1870s, and we walked through the Red Light District around 1am. You can mentally prepare yourself as much as you want, but it won't help you when you actually get there. Lots of drunk and/or high middle aged foreign men running around and hitting on prostitutes, who are behind glass windows and doors in bikinis with a bed behind them. It was so surreal, and definitely on the sketchy side. 

I am most likely leaving plenty of stuff out, but I am in a rush, as today I have to pack for spring break. Tomorrow morning, Katy and I are jetting off to Prague! We will be there until April 2, when she will go to Perugia and I will head to Rome. After a couple days there, I will return to Scotland and St Andrews on the 5th! I'm only gone for a week, but our spring break lasts twice as long: I don't have class again until April 14! And 4 days after that, Butler is having their trip to Isle of Skye, and that same weekend, the family comes to visit!!!!! Woo, this is going to be a long but exciting month! 

17 March 2009

When Awesome Things Arrive in the Mail

I consider that a good day. 

The momma package came today: my TOMS shoes!!! Ramen!!! and Easter prezzies! Little chicks, bunnies, peeps, eggs! And some Vera Bradley stationery! Sweet! 

Look at how many exclamation points I can use!!! I MUST BE EXCITED!

Since there is only 3 Ramen packages, I must ration them. They are a precious commodity, as Super Noodles just don't replace them. The Cup a Soups come close, but there is just not nearly enough of it to satisfy me. 

Oh sweet Ramen, how I have missed you. 

And oh TOMS, how comfy you are, and how I will grow to love and overwear you. 

09 March 2009

AH playing catchup!

So I might be a little behind on updating...

27 Feb - 1 March: Homestay in Stirling. Stayed with a nice grandma. Went to see the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle. I bought a fake plastic sword, similar to the one I had in childhood hahaha. I gave my homestay mom some New Hampshire things; she already had some of the Stonewall Kitchen jam I gave her!! 

Monday, 2 March: Today was the rectorial drag. Every 3 years a rector is elected by the student body. It's an honorary position and John Cleese was one in the 1970s. He arrives in a strange way that no one else has done before (this year it was on a B. Janetta's ice cream cart), and then he is dragged in a carriage by students through the town and makes various stops at pubs along the way. At night was the torchlight procession from St Salvatore's Quad to the pier. Everyone wears their academic gown and carries torches down and walks up and down the pier. Mind you, this is in the dark, with the wind blowing, and part of the pier is above the rest and about 1.5 feet wide. Kind of nerve-wracking, but a cool thing to experience. 

6 - 8 March: Loch Lomond weekend! This was an outdoor weekend that involved all of the IFSA-Butler kids in Scotland, about 120 in all (mostly from Edinburgh and then St Andrews). Stirling and Glasgow School of Art only had 12 kids combined! So we all stayed in this hostel in Balloch, which is on the southernmost tip of Loch Lomond, which happens to be the biggest body of water in the UK, but it is not as deep as Loch Ness. We all stayed in this monster hostel that used to be a castle!! It was right on the banks of the loch. It was rainy all weekend, which made for an interesting Saturday. In the morning, my small group went rock climbing indoors, then we went outside to go abseiling (rapelling) down a 50 foot cliff!! We would have climbed it, then abseiled down, but we didn't have enough time. 

After lunch, we went GORGE WALKING. This activity should actually be entitled WATERFALL CLIMBING. You are literally walking in the middle of the waterfall at points, grabbing onto the wet rocks, climbing up logs in the middle of the waterfall. Did I mention that this is all without safety equipment, except for waterproof ponchos and pants, and a helmet? At times you have to grab onto a rope, and climb on part of the wall that overhangs the waterfall, in order to keep ascending. Every time Joe, our leader, brought us to a new challenge, I thought to myself, "You have got to be kidding me. There is no way in HELL I can climb that, even I if I was crazy enough to want to!!" And yet, each time, he should us how, and we did it, albeit sometimes we ended up slipping into the waterfall and becoming soaked all over. The experience made everyone feel pretty accomplished. 

This week has been pretty laid back... nothing too interesting except for the fact that I tried SUSHI last night!! Needless to say, I didn't like it. Big surprise there. It's not even the taste; it's the texture and just how the whole thing feeeeels... blech. But now that I've tried it, I can refuse it whenever I want and claim that I truly don't like it. 

Next week, I actually have work due... a paper outline on Monday, a normal presentation on Wednesday, and my first St Andrews paper on Friday!!!!! Yikessss. I'm glad I'm not one of the Butler kids who went to Dublin this weekend for St Paddy's Day; I would be screwed with a capital S. 

BUT... on Friday, I am going to Amsterdam for the weekend!! And then the week after that, it's Spring Break time wahooo! We get two weeks off, and with my 4 day weekends, it's almost like have 2.5 - 3 weeks off. I am completely booked for Prague on the 29th, and then I just booked my flights to Rome on 2 April, where I am going to meet up with Emily, who is studying in Venice! After that, I really want to go to Dublin for a few days. That leaves a couple days to relax in St Andrews on either end of my trip. 

Ah, Europe is just wonderful.