Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Anticipating Amsterdam Adventures?....

....maybe its best to let the city speak for itself. 
This was an experience to say the least. 
While my Aunt Peggy and Cousin Jodi were here a couple of weeks ago, we made it our goal to get to Amsterdam one day, as none of us had ever seen it, but always heard what a marvelous city that it was. 
So on March 7th, the morning after my last midterm, we boarded a train and headed up to the Dutch part of the world. 
Excitement filled us with expectations of beautiful tulips, windmills, Van Gogh, and all the other trademarks that come with Amsterdam as we made our way through the rural areas of Belgium and the Netherlands to the capital city. 
We had to change trains in Rotterdam and then would arrive in Amsterdam around lunch time, well, except we took the longer train by accident, so we journeyed through The Hague, Harlem and other smaller cities in the Netherlands, never debarking the train, but taking in the pretty countryside. 

When we got to Amsterdam, our first mission was to find a place to stay, which should have been easy enough...except the place we had in mind was all booked up once we finally made our way across town.
We then tried a couple more places, none of which had vacancy! 
Long story short, our tired legs finally let us end up at the Marriott, which should be called the Golden Marriott, but that story is for another time. 
We dropped off our stuff in the room, freshened up and headed out to see the sights that Amsterdam had to offer when....WHAM.
We go to cross the street and we have to jump out of the way of a speeding bicyclist who had no respect for pedestrians! 
A little further along, we go to find some dinner, and narrowly avoid about 10 to 12 more of the bicycles that apparently have the right of way in Amsterdam at all times!
So if you're wondering why there are bicycles in all of my photos from the city.....NOW YOU KNOW.
The weather was decent while we were there - no worse than any other European day, so we went to a couple of stores and shopped down the streets, narrowly avoiding trams and bikes... both of which rule the road apparently. 
I have to say though, the city is rather beautiful at night, as we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe on the canal and got to see the Canal Cruises go by from the table which we ate.
As we were quite tired from a day of traveling, we retired pretty early that evening, as we had several attractions to see the next day. 
Peggy and I took off to the Van Gogh Museum the next morning, where along the way, we got the only view of I Amsterdam without a million people around, and had a beautiful brunch at an outdoor cafe in amazing weather, and then got in pretty quickly to the Van Gogh Museum right after it opened. Jodi decided she would rather sleep than go to the Van Gogh, so she stayed behind in the room. 
Here are Peggy and I in the I Amsterdam sign:

And at our really awesome brunch outdoors:

We were pretty sad to hear that two of Van Gogh's most famous works were in other museums around the world, but still made the most of the experience. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the museum, but we had a great time admiring all of the works of the famous painter. 
Our last stop before heading back was at the Rijksmuseum, which held the only tulips that we could find in the entire city! No windmills either! :(
I thought this picture turned out really good so I wanted to share it. 

As you might can tell, between the bikes and raised expectations, Amsterdam wasn't really what we were thinking it would be like. It was a great experience with two of my favorite people, but it isn't somewhere that I'm looking to rush back to just because of how rude the people were, dirty the city was, and it was just kind of an all-around letdown from what we were expecting. I am glad I got to experience it with two amazing ladies, which made the experience much better than it would have been otherwise! After so many close calls with people on bikes, I think we all are just happy that we are still around to tell the stories about the city. If you ever get a chance, ask Peggy about her friends on bikes in Amsterdam (HAHA). ;)
Here's a farewell shot of all of the bikes that we dealt with....THIS IS JUST ONE OF THE COUNTLESS STORAGE FACILITIES FOR BIKES. 

Be on the lookout for the next post, about a city that I'm actually going back to this weekend - Antwerp! Definitely my favorite city so far in my Belgian travels!!! :D
Not too far off, my mom and dad will be meeting Zach and I in Paris and traveling to London and Brussels, where after they go back to the U.S., Zach and I will fly down to Rome and see Florence and Venice over a week in April! Exciting things upcoming! Can't wait! Thanks for reading, guys!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Feeling Feverish - MUSEUM NIGHT FEVERISH!

Wow what a month it has been!
I'm kind of backtracking on my blog posts to catch up with all the pretty cool things that have been going on in this area!
On Saturday, February 22nd, I was part of my first ever Museum Night Fever here in Brussels. 
During that evening, 24 museums open their doors late to allow guests to see what Brussels is truly like - at night. Over the six hour window, you can choose what museums you get to see from the list that are taking part in the festivities! 
We made it to eight (I think) in all, just because there was so much to see in the ones that we truly wanted to make it to! I'll post a little bit about a few of the museums and a couple of pictures from the exhibits!

Our starting point was in the Museum of the City of Brussels, which is located in the Grand Place Square. 
The highlights of this museum were all of the different costumes that the Mannekin-Pis is dressed in. There is literally one for almost every country and profession from around the world!

Here is me posing with the Mannekin in his Search and Rescue costume:


And him impersonating Elvis:

And finally, they even had a blind Mannekin with his seeing eye dog!

From the Museum of the City of Brussels, Zach, Savannah and I went to the Opera House, which was filled with a fantastic light show in the theater and then we decided it was time for a waffle. 
This is one of my favorite quotes that I have encountered since I have been in Europe and it was written on sheet music in the Opera House and visible under blacklight - pretty cool!

"Revolutions are celebrated when they are no longer dangerous"


For some reason the video won't work here of the light show, so here's the second best part of that journey - MY WAFFLE.

From the Opera House, we went to the Comic Strip Museum and saw a Dutch version of a comic done in live performance. Brussels is also where the Smurfs and The Spirit are from, each of which have a presence in the Comic Museum. 


The Comic Museum could have easily taken up a couple of hours, but we decided to leave to make sure we saw as much as possible during that once a year event, so we headed to the ING Cultural Center- which didn't let you take pictures inside - but had a pointillism exhibit. 
Since there were no pictures taken at ING - our next stop was the Coudenberg - the Former Palace of Brussels from the 12th to the 18th century, which was filled with ancient ruins and underground tunnels!




After seeing the former palace, we decided to make our way to the last museum that we would make it to - Museum of Natural Science, which led us through an exhibit on the dinosaurs, as well as side shows on living creatures in their habitat.






After this museum, with it almost 1 AM, it meant that we could go check out the after party - which ran from 1 - 6 AM (Everyone who knows me, knows I don't stay out late - I value my sleep too much), however with this being a once in a lifetime, we went to see what it was like. There were five rooms full of different music and dancing - in what was pretty much an old warehouse. Needless to say, it looked pretty cool, but we left after about 20 minutes of seeing what it was about. 
I'm trying to do some catching up on blogging this week before I crank out a midterm paper and get to meet my wonderful parents in Paris in just under two weeks! Hopefully I will be caught up before we do Paris, London, Rome and Venice over Spring Break! :D




Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Day in Ghent!

With midterms approaching, it has been all studying around here.
I have wanted to get to this blog post over the past couple of weeks, but have not slowed down enough, so here it is! Sorry for the delays!
On Tuesday, February 11th, we took a train up to Ghent, Belgium which is about 25 minutes from Brussels.





I always like to get a picture of the official signs at the train stations, so if you're wondering why I always post those, that's why. :D
Anyway, we started off with a beautiful day in Ghent, walking from the train station toward the center of town - definitely should have taken the tram... 
We walked past some beautiful architecture and statues that have been in the area since the Middle Ages, which was pretty cool on our way to the newest museum in town, then STAM. 
In this museum, we saw some pretty cool things, which I will post a couple of pictures of below and it actually turned out to be one of my favorite museums that we have been to thus far. 
 Full scale model of the city of Ghent - really cool. Made out of cardboard and even highlights where we were in relation to the rest of the town along with the waterways in a different color.


The Ghent Altarpiece 

If you're interested in seeing the other pictures of Ghent I posted them on Facebook. I'm going to start posting individual albums for upcoming trips since the Hendrix in Brussels album has over 1000 pictures in it now. :)

This is "Gravensteen" or also known as "The Counts' Castle". Amazing structure and the "museum-like" attractions inside are breathtaking. They highlight everything from the weaponry, school, prison, dining hall, and even show many of the techniques of torture - waterboarding as one example. 








From the Counts' Castle - we went through the Graffiti Street and the rain began. From there we looked for the final few stops on our list so that we could get out of the rain as soon as we could. 

Our final stop of the day was at St. Niklaaskerk, one of the bigger cathedrals in Gent. I will just have a couple of pictures from this beautiful chapel. 




Thanks for keeping up with my blog everyone! 
Should have another post about Museum Night Fever in a couple of days, but with midterms and the arrival of my amazing Aunt Peggy and Cousin Jodi, it may be a little delayed. :D