Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beach trip to Katwijk

I'm not sure exactly what triggered my motivation to come study in Leiden. A need for adventure, most definitely, plus new experiences, new languages and making new friends. Having never lived or studied abroad on my own before I was a bit nervous about how things would go. Would everyone be friendly or think I'm a weirdo? (Obviously, both haha!) Luckily, I have met nice classmates here in Leiden and we have had fun adventures everyday! Both girls are coming back here to study in the fall and I'm a feel a tinge of envy because they get to stay. I wish I could just magically enroll into a new program, right now! But, then again, the other half of me is looking forward to having the rest of this year off to figure out my next step and of course, maximize travel opportunities! Summers here are seem to be perfectly lovely and cycling around town really feels like a dream compared to the awful traffic back in Orlando. But I must admit, I am a bit worried about how the winter will be, cold, snow and cycling through hail? Yikes! Growing up, we cycled often but it wasn't the sole transportation like it is here in the Netherlands. I love having a bike and the ease (and safety) of riding around in Holland. It's really such a shame that we don't have more cycling in America, especially in Florida where the weather is typically blue skies and sunny. 

Today, we rode our fietsen down to the beach at Katwijk. It was a perfect summer day, apparently one of the few days a year that it doesn't rain here in the Netherlands. I haven't been to a Dutch beach in about 2 years, the last time was at Schevinengen when I visited Den Haag. The water was ice cold, but felt refreshing after cycling so long in the sun. After a quick swim and sun at the beach, we found a spot at a beach side restaurant and ordered a snack (in Dutch of course!). I tried the ice tea here, while it wasn't anything close to the home made sweet tea we drink back home, they mix it with tonic water (how funny!) adding a refreshing element.  

Later today, Abi and I met up with a Leiden Couchsurfer and visited our favorite ice cream shop in the city center. This weekend we plan to explore the city more efficiently, meet new people as well and hang out with my Norwegian friend Andreas who will visit on Friday.

Here are a few pictures from our beach trip to Katwijk.

A visit to Leiden's Botanical Garden

Goedeavond! Hoe haat het met jou? Mijn het haat prima. Ik hou van Leiden!

I am having such a lovely time here, getting to know the city, fellow students and of course mijn  Nederlands oefenen! This trip has gone by entirely too fast and I really wish I could stay longer. If you ever find yourself in Leiden, be sure to visit the Hortus Botanicus

Founded in the 1500s, it's one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world and conveniently located across the street from my flat. The botanische tuinen offer a wide variety of flowers, multiple greenhouses and some interesting sculptures. Summer in Leiden is feels quite dry for a Florida girl and I felt right at home in the humid green house, surrounded by hibiscus and palm Funny enough, everyone was amazed that I actually have palm trees, hibiscus and other 'exotic' in my back yard in Florida. 

Isn't it tempting to lounge in the sunshine on a giant lily pad? 

Mooie bloemen...

Say 'hallo!' to Abi, a new friend from England.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Traveling around Denmark

We arrived to Copenhagen in early June. It's a absolutely lovely city (when it isn't rainy and cold).
 Our Couchsurfing host, Niels was adorable! Our first night, he hosted an international dinner party at the Copenhagen University student apartments. Great food plus plenty to drink made for a very fun night! Niels is an excellent cook and prepared a huge dinner for about 20 people. It was all students, Danish and otherwise and it was a great way to get the trip started.

Upon arrival, Desi and I visited Tivioli Gardens, an amusement park dating back to the 1890s. While I love 19th century design and aesthetic, the park was fun to browse around the gardens and of course, people watch! 

Tivoli gardens

Paying homage to H.C. Anderson

We spent another day visiting the Royal Palace, Nyhavn (old harbor) and finally, the little mermaid! Tt took us forever to find her, but we eventually did and she was adorable. Crazy tourists were trying to climb all over her to get a picture (pretty tacky if you ask me) but with a little patience, they passed so we could snap a few tourist-free photos.

During our whole stay in Copenhagen we tried desperately to use the free city bikes but to no avail. the only ones we found were broken some way or another. Oh well, we'll have to embrace the Danish cycling lifestyle on our next visit! 

Sunny day at Nyhavn, cafes, beers and TONS of people. Unfortunately, the sun only lasted for about an hour before the rain started pouring down.

Yippie! Here she is, den lille havfrue. My kindergarden dreams of meeting Ariel finally came true. 

Desi and Niels having lunch at a great vegetarian restaurant in Copenhagen's 'free town' Christiania. This was definitely one of our favorite spots to visit. It's full of funky cafes and even more funky people!

...the most amazing strawberry torte I've ever encountered!

Another Danish adventure consisted of a day trip to visit the Karen Blixen museum.

Continuing on our literary inspired tour, we later headed over to Helsingor aka Elsinor, the castle where Hamlet lived. 

Danish jellyfish in Helsingor's harbor

Helsingor castle (or Elsinor if you're reading Hamlet!)

When it isn't raining, Danish skies are just beautiful!

First day in Leiden


Well, I arrived to Leiden yesterday. Everything has gone really well so far! I haven't been to the Netherlands for about two years, but everything seems quite familiar. I have been terrible posting on this blog, so using today's leglag sleepyness to think back upon our trip across Scandinavia... what an adventure!

Yesterday, just walked around Leiden's city center, which is adorable! I really love it here, I could definitely see myself here to study. Having just finished undgrad, it seems odd to be back in school again but, who knows, maybe next fall? My loft apartment is located in a lovely residential neighborhood, very close to the bibliotek and buildings where my classes will be. I love the high ceilings, something that isn't too frequent in Florida.

We ate a yummy falafel dinner and then went over to De Burcht, the old castle was built in the 11th century. Climb up and you have a great view of the city! After that, mom went back to Den Haag and I went to meet the other students for drinks, so far I am the only American. Classes start tomorrow!

There’s a quaint canal just down the street which is ideal however, it attracts seagulls who make noises a cat choking on a car alarm whilst flying about. Not terrible but not a bit of an intrusion to my Belle & Sebastian breakfast party. Okay, so here are some pictures from my first day. I am going to try to keep up with this writing more blog posts soon!

Welkom op mijn appartement!

Mooie brug in de buurt