A Weekend Filled with (Dutch) History

As I’m writing this, snow is falling gently, adding to the afternoon’s quiet peacefulness. My ‘balsam & cedar’ candle makes the aura of Christmas even more pronounced, in case you missed the wrapping paper and ribbons lying on the floor. Oh, and don’t forget the Christmas Jazz I’ve been listening to.

You could say I’ve settled into being home quite pleasantly. (The clothes I washed yesterday already have cat hair on them. Oh yes, I’m home.

But, as much as I would love to expound on the advantages to being home early for the Christmas season, what I really planned to write about was my…(drum roll please) Trip to Amsterdam!

You have no idea how psyched I was to find out the art history course I took at UCC included an optional trip to the Dutch capital. So excited in fact, that I bought my plane ticket before the trip was fully confirmed by my professor. Which of course guaranteed that not enough people from the class signed up to go and I was left with the (slightly terrifying) circumstance of traveling to  a foreign country the day after Thanksgiving by myself. Luckily Erin swooped in and offered to come with me, which made the weekend all the more fun and adventurous.

I need to point something out that I’ve noticed since traveling during this semester:

Europe is old. Compared to the US at least. I mean, you hear that all the time, but you don’t really get it until you stay in a hostel whose building is 400 years old. Or you walk out of a 19th century train station to gape at the surrounding buildings that look like real life gingerbread houses (but more sophisticated). Really.

For example, one of the many opera houses of Amsterdam:

The Rijksmuseum:

A shopping mall:

But getting past that phenomenal architecture to the contents of those buildings. Amsterdam is a city filled with history, and to keep track of it all, there are over 50 museums. Erin and I only made it to 5, but oh man, it was an experience.

The first one we went to was the Diamond Museum – I had no idea Amsterdam has such a history with the precious stones. It was really cool to see them being cut (at Coster Diamonds) and then learn about the whole mining and development process. The museum also had some pretty nifty displays:

Yes, that is indeed Van Gogh’s Starry Night with diamonds glittering in the sky. Speaking of Van Gogh, the museum dedicated to him is a must-see. Yes, I am a huge fan, but even the casual museum-goer would enjoy the rooms bursting with color, expression, and would gain a better understanding of the man behind the brushstrokes. On Friday nights they even have live music and are open till 10!

One of my favorite museums I went during my time abroad would have to the Rijksmuseum, which Erin and I visited the following day. I of course took the obligatory picture in front of the “I amsterdam” sculpture:

The museum is beautiful both inside and out and filled with amazing treasures:

The Netherlands have a rich trade history, hence the room full of model ships.

It's so simple and elegant!

 

The streets of Amsterdam are filled with unexpected delights, like street artists doing their thing:

Dutch waffle shops:

Stores like the “Otherist” featuring truly other-worldly object like preserved insects, fancy briefcases, pre-WWII glass eyes, truly unique salt and pepper shakers, and art prints of Cthulhu-like creatures (sorry, no pictures).

Erin and I also went to the Tulip Museum (very small), and a canal tour at night, and on my final day I visited the Amsterdam Museum which offered a very comprehensive history of the city with fun, interactive displays. But that was after I took a nice morning stroll around the quiet streets and went to Mass:

Dutch aged cheddar cheese is Mm-mm, perfect!

Tulip market

Art market

 

The church I went to Mass at - gorgeous inside!

 

I think Amsterdam was one of my favorite cities so far, even though trying to pronounce a language with words that have 10 consonants and 3 vowels is pretty difficult (and embarrassing). Despite the cold, I’d really love to go back. All that art and history right at your fingertips, yum!

Aristic Getaways to Dublin and Paris

As you may have heard, I have a thing for art.

Don’t ever give me a ballpoint pen in class ‘cause I’ll sketch all over my notes if I get distracted. My bedroom has become a mini gallery from the number of postcards that plaster the walls. As for museums themselves…well, sometimes it’s like I died and went to heaven. Which has happened twice in the past two weeks.

What, might you ask, could have caused me to smile uncontrollably when I entered the art galleries in Dublin and Paris?

Well, first off, being in Dublin and Paris (The purpose of which I’ll get to in a minute). Secondly, actually understanding the contents of the rooms. I love art for its beauty, but I also have a deep appreciation for the subtleties of hidden messages and the artist’s conveyance of social commentary or capturing an individual’s private life. It’s really cool when I get to see a piece I’ve learned about in class, or, in the case of Dublin’s National Gallery, am writing a paper on.

But I suppose I should probably explain why I was in Dublin in the first place, right?

Well….

I went to my first gaming con! Cons (conventions) in Europe are different from the US – it’s a lot more about spending time with cool people in a chill environment than cosplaying and attending panels. While I was at the con I learned a bunch of really cool games, like Resistance and Saboteur (SO MUCH FUN – but don’t play with loved ones ‘cause they’re all about lying/tricking people), and added to my collection of buttons and kooky earrings.

I love calligraphy, so these are perfect!

I also invested in some shiny dice!

On one of the days I wasn’t gaming, two friends and I went into the city to explore. After a blessed cup of coffee and access to free wifi at a cafe near the city center, we walked around the neighborhood of Trinity College and eventually decided to split up to visit the National Gallery and History Museum.

 

The Irish National Gallery is fairly small, but the pieces it has are no less spectacular than those at the BMA or the Met. Some of my favorite artists have work displayed there, like Sisley and Vermeer. I feel like seeing one of your favorite pieces of art is like meeting an old friend. You’ve seen them so many times, looked at every single feature, but every time you encounter them you discover something new to love.

Metsu's paired paintings

This feeling of greeting an old friend extended to my visits to the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The Loyola group trip to the City of Light included a tour of the Louvre and a chunk of free time to visit wherever we wished, which in my case involved a 3 hour stop at the largest collection of Impressionist art in the world.

I never thought I’d get to see these masterpieces!

I love Van Gogh’s work. I just kept smiling to myself the entire time I was in the room with his paintings.

After hours of staring at gorgeous works of art, Erin and I strolled down the Champs-Élysées (thank you high school French teacher for getting this song stuck in my head) and took the required tourist photos at the l’Arc de Triomphe.

Even on our final day in Paris, I was surrounded by art, this time in the form of the beautiful architecture of Notre Dame. Oh Mon Dieu! C’est encroyable! C’est magnifique!

I had never realized how large it was. I mean, just…HUGE. Huge and breathtaking. I feel like everything in Paris is breathtaking. From the Louvre, to the food, to the architecture (to the smell of the subway even), the whole city is an experience in itself. I can only hope that I will return one day to see it again.

Taking a Break

Ready…Set…Wait for it…GO!!!!

And they’re off! Spring break has begun! Fresh air! More sleep! No homework! Freedom!

Well, kind of. By the time this is published, some students will be on their way home and others will be chomping at the bit to finish their last midterm. And, ok, fine, maybe I won’t get that much more sleep, and I know I have homework, but the fresh air and relative freedom still stands.

I say “relative” because I know my time isn’t truly my own. I’ll be running around, being enjoyably busy, and I know I’m not the only one. Loyola students tend to be fairly active during the week away from school. During my talks with friends I’ve heard some pretty interesting stuff. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thanks to the ease of travel in Baltimore, my friend Mary is flying out to see her sister in Pittsburgh. She’s really excited to see the Andy Warhol Museum and ride the incline (like that little red trolley from Mr. Rogers). I visited there a few summers ago and had a fantastic time. She’s in for a treat!

I know my roommate Erin plans to take the opposite route, and will be spending much of her time catching up on missed sleep. She also has her sights set on gaming, reading and hanging out with friends from home.

Likewise, my friend Ben told me he’d be getting some quality homework time in, because school will follow you where ever you go!

On a school-related note, some of my friends (quite a few, come to think of it) will be participating in Spring Break Outreach, a program that students apply for, and during which serve in communities across the east coast. There are eight sites, all in different states, all addressing different issues. My roommate Nicole will be learning about environmental and energy issues and visiting with organizations and local communities who are trying to address the problem. Lindsey, my fellow blogger, will be leading a group that focuses on prison reform and works with Baltimore agencies to educate students about the difficulties faced by current and past inmates. Other programs deal with rural and urban poverty, migrant farm labor, building communities, HIV/AIDS awareness, and racial justice.

I’ve also heard from other students that they plan to hang out with family and friends (even to Arizona and California!), spend some time skiing, and more than once I’ve caught “Disney World” while walking through Boulder.

What are my plans, you might ask? Well….I haven’t quite figured them out yet! I’ve been eying a few art museums since I haven’t been to any this semester (and that just feels weird). I really want to visit the Barnes in Philly (so many Renoirs and Cezannes!) and check out the Brandywine Museum’s F.O.C. Darley exhibit. My dad will be celebrating his birthday by going to the Museum of Mathematics in NYC to attend a talk about math in Pixar movies (I’m actually kind of excited for that). Other than the usual hair cut, visit to my high school, and obligatory restocking of food, I have no idea what else lies in my future! I hope it involves a trip to Barnes and Noble, though. Maybe I’ll eventually get to see The Hobbit or catch up on Downton Abbey.

No matter what I do, I know I’ll enjoy my chance to breathe and recuperate from midterms!

The Way to a Girl’s Heart? Good Food and Good Art.

I think my brain has been thought-out. It’s processed so much information and absorbed so many visuals over the past three days it just can’t take any more. A nap might be the best remedy, but before I have the luxury of doing that, I’d like to share with you the cause of my Sunday sleepiness.

Fall Break

No, I didn’t go home like most of the campus (I did last year. Homecoming through the eyes of a college student: never again). Instead, I shared an exciting weekend with my mom, as we explored the sights of Mount Vernon and two art museums.

It all began with an insanely relaxing Thursday afternoon of painting

My Thursday Afternoonand watching Miss Marple: At Bertram’s Hotel (I’m a sucker for mysteries and British accents). After my mom arrived, we had dinner (fresh from the Trenton Farmer’s Market!) and Skyped my sister, who gave us the down low her kids’ Halloween costumes: a pirate and Yoda.

Of course, you can’t spend time with your parents on campus and not go to Miss Shirley’s for breakfast. This was my second time going, and I highly recommend the Cinnamon Roll French Toast! Combine their food with 60s/70s music, and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful day.

I know I said “art museums” and “exciting” in the same sentence, and many of you are probably shaking your heads in skepticism. But let me say this: The Walter’s Art Museum is not your typical art museum. Yes, they have large rooms filled with giant portraits of Europe’s nobility, countless paintings of martyred saints, and a very nice selection of 19th century landscapes, but they also have the “Chamber of Wonders.” Here resides everything from a mounted crocodile to delicately inlayed chests. Or

So pretty!!!

or

Lovin the Iridescence

or

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!

And, OK, fine, I admit it, I had to go there for my art history class, so it wasn’t out of pure intellectual curiosity that I gazed at art for four hours.

However, whether or not you go for fun, the Walter’s is a really cool museum. It’s also in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, which is home to some of the best restaurants in Baltimore and the first monument to George Washington.

Mt. Vernon MonumentFlowers at Mt. VernonSt. Paul'sOh Young Grasshopper...After discovering the not-quite-so-young-grasshopper, we walked over to Sascha’s 527 Cafe and had a refreshing dinner of crab cakes (another Maryland must have).

You’d think that I’d had enough of walking around, but no. My Italian class brought me to the Baltimore Museum of Art which is right by Johns Hopkins University, and easy to access via the Collegetown Shuttle.

Even though several of their galleries were closed for renovation, I still got to see some beautiful art.

Landscape at BMA The Kiss by Rodin

There’s a sculpture garden by the museum, but modern art isn’t really my thing, so I took pictures of the flowers instead:

So many pretty flowers! Leaves Changing

Although it was still fairly sunny, the temperature had definitely dropped by the time I got home, so I decided to make a stick-to-your-ribs Tex-Mex macaroni dinner. My sister gave me a book of pasta recipes, and I had yet to try one, so I took the advantage of the calm Saturday evening to make this:

Prep for DinnerTex-Mex macaroni!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my eyes are so tired and my brain is so sore. It was so much fun, but *yawn* I think it’s time to heed the calls of my warm bed.