October, 2012

  1. A Weekend in Barcelona

    October 28, 2012 by Emma

    This past week has been absolutely crazy– I feel like I’ve done so much!

    After turning in my final three essays, I rushed home to pack for a weekend in Barcelona with a couple of friends. We had an early start: 5 am at Central Station to catch the train. A train all the way to Barcelona, you say? If only it were that straightforward. No, we took a train to Brussels, a bus to Charleroi airport, a flight from Charleroi to El Prat, a bus from El Prat to the center of Barcelona, and a metro from the center to our hostel. Needless to say, we were glad to finally be in Barcelona!

    After getting settled in our hostel, which was actually quite charming, if rather basic, we headed out to explore. Our hostel was quite close to Las Ramblas, one of the main boulevards of Barcelona. It had a great atmosphere, with street musicians, gelatto stalls, and paella restaurants scattered about the pedestrian walkway. It was so interesting being somewhere that was so active in the night– completely different from the Netherlands where everything seems to close at 6. The market adjacent to Las Ramblas was fabulous as well. We ended up coming back everyday for breakfast– at just a couple of euros it was quite a deal.

    The highlight of day two was our trip to Guell Park– a massive park on the top of a mountain designed by Gaudi. We asked someone at the tourist information center how to get there and I think he must have been having an off day, or just really liked messing with tourists. He gave us directions that ended with us basically climbing up the mountain. I don’t think I’ve ever walked up so many stairs in my life! Only when we left the park, through the main entrance no less, did we realize that there are way easier ways of getting to the park that don’t involve a million stairs. Leaving the park was a gentle slope all the way down to the metro.

    The park was worth the pain I felt the next day, though! From the peak, we got an amazing view of the Barcelona skyline, I only wish it had been a bit clearer. Aside from the natural beauty of the landscape, the park contained houses and buildings designed by Gaudi as well. While his aesthetic is not something I’d want to live in, it was still fascinating to see what came out of his mind.

    This little guy was the mascot of the park

    On my last day in Barcelona, I headed off to do a bus tour before I had to catch my flight home (I  still can’t believe I’m calling Amsterdam home!). I did one of those hop-on hop-off busses that they seem to have in every city. I know they’re rather cheesy, but it’s great for getting an overview of the city when you don’t have much time. And it was a double decker bus, so I got to sit up top and bask in the first sunshine I’d felt in weeks!

    Unfortunately, I had to head back in order to give a class presentation on Monday, but there are more travels to come– I’m writing this on the train to Paris!

    What to Do:
    -Park Güell: Gaudi designed park at the top of El Carmel. Great scenery, amazing view, and fun architecture. Pack a lunch and have a picnic at the top!
    -La Boqueria: Market located just off of Las Ramblas
    -La Sagrada Familia: Gaudi’s masterpiece of a church. It’s still under construction, but the majority is completed. I decided not to go in, as I was short on time, but if you do decide to go inside, be sure to buy your ticket online first.

    Where to Eat:
    -Juicy Jones: Vegan restaurant with gluten free options! They serve smoothies all day, which are perfect for the warm weather in Barcelona. They also serve breakfast, sandwiches, and Indian food in the afternoon (which I highly recommend!). Located at Cardenal Casañas 7.
    -La Boqueria: I highly recommend the fresh food at the market. Fruit is cheap, fresh, and delicious. There are also dried fruit, nuts, and even packaged salads and quinoa for picnics!

    Where to Stay:
    -Barcelona 4 Fun Hostel: Nice, basic hostel right off Las Ramblas. Very clean and friendly staff. Towels are not included, but you can rent them for an extra 4 euros. Be aware that it’s a bit hard to find, as there’s no signage outside. The office is up on the third floor.

  2. Venus in Furs

    October 14, 2012 by Emma

    I feel like all the reading I’ve been doing for my literature class has really begun to affect my clothing choices! I’ve been writing an essay on Wuthering Heights while at the same time reading War and Peace. I feel so English tweedy in my blazer and the (faux) fur just feels so Russian to me. And it doesn’t help that Downton Abbey has started again– I would gladly live in a period piece if I could! I’m in love with this season so far, I’m so glad I don’t have to wait until next year to watch it in the States. If I can have half as much poise as Lady Mary, I’ll be happy. And I’ll take Sybil’s voice while I’m at it!

    A friend and I went to NEMO, the children’s science museum, the other day and it was so much fun! While the museum is geared for children, it doesn’t mean that two twenty year olds can’t enjoy it too. I particularly liked the section they had on engineering, especially because it was so interactive. You got to build miniature towers and bridges and see how they held up to wind, floods, and earthquakes. Another great thing about NEMO is the view from the roof! They converted the entire roof into a garden with the most amazing view of the city. In the summer they screen movies up there as well. I’m always so impressed by all the museums and cultural activities that Amsterdam has to offer.

  3. Chapeaus and Schefflera

    October 8, 2012 by Emma

    It’s getting to be mid-terms time and I feel like all I’ve been doing lately is writing essays! I did go to the Hermitage this weekend though, which was lovely. I didn’t really know much about the museum before hand, so I was rather surprised by how large and impressive it was. The line was ridiculously long as well, but I got to skip it with my Museum Card (which I highly recommend if you’re visiting Amsterdam!). The exhibit on Impressionists was beautiful, and quite thought provoking as well. The curators had arranged the exhibit so that one got to see both popular paintings during the era and Impressionist works. The difference between the two styles was striking. Hanging opposite Monet’s gardens were biblical and historical scenes painted with incredible realism. It’s hard to believe that these celebrated artist like Monet and Renoir were consistently rejected from Salons. It just goes to show that popular opinion really isn’t to be trusted…

    This is my absolute favorite hat! I can’t believe I haven’t shown it on this blog before! My mom found it for me at a garage sale 2 years ago for a dollar. I wish people wore hats more often, they seem so old-fashioned and classy. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet mastered the art of biking whilst wearing a hat! I did a flying dismount yesterday when my hat caught the wind, leaving my bike to fall to the ground as I ran into the street after it. All while wearing a short skirt and probably flashing passersby. Oh the lengths I’ll go to for my favorite things!

    Speaking of favorite things, a friend and I stumbled upon a pop-up shop the other day that was giving away free plants. We were just headed to do some shopping up the street when I noticed this new shop. Well, actually, I noticed the sign in the window that said “Gratis.” I’m glad the extent of my Dutch includes knowledge of how to get free things. I asked one of the shopkeepers what it was all about, and he said that they were giving away free plants to promote the houseplant. I’m not sure if this was some sort of translation mishap, or if there’s a store called “The Houseplant,” or if they just really care about people owning houseplants. Whatever the case may be, I’m quite pleased with my little plant! You got to take a quiz on one of the iPads they had set up around the store, and from there you got a personalized plant with your name on it! The quiz was in Dutch though, so I’m not quite sure how compatible my plant and I are according to the quiz, but he’s still going strong!

    My free plant- the Schefflera!