Thursday, April 18, 2013


Now that I've been back for almost a week, I figured it was time to post about Amsterdam. I had a great time, despite the weather. The city is so incredibly beautiful, and I could definitely see myself living there.

The day started with me going to the Brussels-Nord station to catch the Eurolines bus. I met up with Claire around 11 or so to catch our bus at 12, but it ended up being late... by an hour and fifteen minutes. It came all the way from Barcelona, so that was excusable. We didn't get the best seats on the bus (we were by the toilet) but we were able to sit next to each other. We made a stop halfway through at a restaurant for 30 minutes, and then we started on our last leg of the journey. We were supposed to get there at four, but we ended up getting there around 7:30pm, and not even to Amsterdam Central, but to Amstel. That was okay though, because it was closer to our hostel anyway. We ended up getting to our hostel just after 8, but it was really easy to find. The only bad part was that because we were on the bus the entire time, we didn't have a chance to eat. And because Europe is Europe, all grocery stores closed at 8, if not before. So after putting our stuff in our room, we decided to head to the center of the city to grab something to eat.

"Have a good trip in the country of tulips"
My host mom can be so cute

We headed to a pizza/pasta place, and we (surprisingly) got a good amount for our money. I also realized for the first time that people weren't actually joking about the bicycles here. They really don't stop, and there are so many of them. It was also the first time I was able to appreciate how beautiful Amsterdam is. It has such a cool vibe. After dinner Claire and I headed back to the hostel, because she wasn't feeling very good. I stayed up a little late that night to feel out the hostel because it was awesome, and then I went to bed so we could wake up early the next day.

(Panorama of my hostel..... click to see the full size) 

For the next two days, Claire and I walked around the entire city, looking at the beautiful houses, the canals, the bikes, all of the different shops, and more. We went to cafés and had an excellent time. The weather was in the 50s and it was cloudy/rainy the entire time, but I've gotten used to that by now. All of the beautiful black houses near the canals had gold signs next to the doors that said "advocaten", and because I want to be a lawyer, this was especially cool for me. I'd give you a detail of everything we did, but I think pictures will suffice. One thing we did in particular was go to a whole bunch of cheese shops. I didn't believe Claire at first, but they are amazing! Some of them have factories in the US, so I will definitely be ordering online. I wanted to buy some but I couldn't eat it all myself and I want my family back home to try it.

Pesto cheese! 

This is Claire. 

As an extra treat, watch me go from enjoying the canals to being shocked at how cold my hands got!

After just a short time, our trip was over. We had a little trouble getting on the bus because Claire forgot her ticket at the hostel, but the bus was much nicer! I was able to sleep a little bit, but I also got to see some nice clouds, which meant the end to all gray skies (the only reason why I took pictures)! 

When I got home, I was really tired. I unpacked, put away all of the souvenirs I got everyone, and was greeted to this outside. It was a really nice way to end the trip.

I'm back in school now, but it's much better because the weather has improved. My first week went by really quickly, and on Wednesday I went to Louvain-La-Neuve and met up with Madeleine from Kansas. It was nice just being able to talk and shop, it felt more normal because LLN has a shopping mall. We got amazing waffles and just relaxed in the nice weather. I think I'll go there more often to meet up with her, there's only a short amount of time left and I want to make the most of it. Speaking of making the most of it, going to Amsterdam has made me want to go to Paris, so I'm going to try to go in June.

Monday, April 8, 2013

3 Months Left: House-hopping, LLN, and Namur!

Hello everyone!

I'm back at my house, and I leave for Amsterdam tomorrow (!!!!), so I figured now would be the perfect time to update. On Tuesday I went to Florennes to Mind's house, which is about a 50 minute bus ride away. Her host family is really nice and let me stay over at her house because my host mom had a bunch of work to do. We visited an abbey (Maredsous) where they specialize in beer and cheese. We also watched Disney movies and went shopping. Early Thursday morning I left with Mind and we parted ways in Namur. I went home to get ready to go to Callie's.

I got to Ottignies around 1pm. Callie and her host dad picked me up and I ate lunch and then we went to the store with her host mom. We bought stuff to restock her fridge, as well as ingredients to make fried rice. Callie's mom sent her fried rice seasoning packets, but I figured since I knew how to make it I'd just go ahead and do it. Callie and I don't really know too much about cooking, but we were still able to cook it without spilling too much. It turned out so much better than the fried rice I made for Chinese New Year and everyone liked it so that's a relief. After dinner, Callie and I stayed up watching hilarious videos.

The next day, Callie and I (mostly Callie) made pumpkin pie. Then we went to the mall in Louvain-La-Neuve and met up with Mie from Denmark and Keaton from Michigan. We drank coffee in a café, and I am officially awesome now because I totally guessed the wifi password to Manhattan-LLN coffee... it was manhattan, but still. Then we went back into the mall. We found root beer in America Today (the clothing store I would scoff at) and we had Mie try it. She said it tasted like hand cream, which is just blasphemous. Then Callie bought strawberries and we all ate them.... until we found one covered in fuzzy mold. That sorta killed the mood, which is saying a lot because strawberries are my favorite and I haven't had them since I've been here. Afterwards, we had dinner and we finally ate the pumpkin pie. It was so good, I should've taken a picture.

Before I left on Saturday, Callie's host family and I went to Carette, which is apparently the best ice cream store ever. I got a scoop of mocha ice cream between two round wafers. I have to say, it was pretty good. After that, Callie's family dropped me off at the train station and I went home. My host mom and sister went to a fundraiser dinner, but the places were 50 euro each, so I decided I'd save that money.

On Sunday, some of my extended host family came over and we all had raclette for lunch. On Monday I met with my liaison in Namur and we ate lunch, did some shopping, and then drank a beer. It was really nice to see her. She lives in Liège right now for university so I don't see her very often. Tonight I'm eating dinner with my host family and then I'm packing for Amsterdam! I'll be sure to take tons of pictures while I'm away. I'm taking the train at around 10:30 to meet up with Claire at Bruxelles-Nord and then we're taking the long bus ride. I'm so excited, even if it looks like it's going to rain the entire time we're there. I'm used to it now after being in Belgium anyway. I hope you guys have just a great of a week as I will!

À la semaine prochaine!