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!

Short and Sweet

There are a few things I’d like to say before presenting the topic of this post:

  1. While studying abroad generally allows traveling to many new places, it doesn’t mean it happens every week.
  2. Ireland’s system of only 1-2 exams/papers as assessment holds all students responsible for pacing themselves and not going crazy when they have multiple papers due the same day as their group flight to Paris.
  3. By the 2nd month of studying abroad, you start to miss stupid things about the US, like peanut butter and easy mac (even if you can cook (healthier) homemade mac n cheese).

What I’m trying to say is: Classes have fallen into a routine and I’m not always doing something spectacular on weekends which is why I feel like I don’t have a lot to share with you and therefore don’t write as much.

*dramatic gasp for air after run-on sentence*

Ssssooo…..I plan to make it up to you guys by sharing the plethora of photos I have over a number of shorter posts. This way you guys get to see what I’ve been up to in detail and won’t get bored with my longer ramblings. One of which will be coming soon! Next week! On…some subject that I haven’t come up with yet!

But back to the topic at hand: Photo Recap!

This set of photos goes back to August, the first weekend I arrived in Ireland, when the Loyola group went to Barryscourt Castle and Midleton.

Barryscourt Castle Walls

Barryscourt Cottage and Gardens

Feast Hall - Complete with goblets and trenchers!

Great Hall Curtains - Lord's & Lady's chambers behind them

Medieval Kitchen Supplies

 

Baby's Crib

Medieval Gardens

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Thistle

 

Jameson Distillery, No worries, I'm 21!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distillery Equipment

 

Jameson Sign Post

 

Jameson Waterwheel

 

Jameson Casks

 

Jameson Bell

 

So pretty....

 

Rose Petals

 

A bee!

 

Photographic Evidence

Wow! I haven’t written in a month and it feels … weird. At first it was nice not to stress about writing a post during finals, and then it was also nice to enjoy my Christmas peacefully, but afterwards I kind of missed it. Really missed it, actually.

By the end of break I was itching to write about my adventures and, oddly enough, get back to my hectic life on campus. Sometimes the schoolwork can be overwhelming (It’s only been two days and I have so much homework!), but I think if I wasn’t as busy as I am, I wouldn’t be happy. I need activity in my life; whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional, I need something to be invested in.

I think that’s why I was so busy over break, and let me tell you, this was no resort in the Bahamas or skiing in the Alps!

But I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow. That would be immensely boring and I have enough pictures to make this much more interesting. However, I will explain a few events because not all pictures tell an accurate story!

Christmas at Grandpas

The Annual Ugly Sock Contest

My aunt started a crazy tradition of having an “ugly sock contest” and I usually got stuck with all the horrible socks. This year I got my revenge!

James

I think this was one of my favorite parts of break. My cousin who lives in New York City asked me to cat sit for her during New Year's weekend so I brought my friend Phoebe & Stacey along on the journey into the city and spent five glorious days exploring together.

 

Misty misty morning

At the Lego Store

The Intrepid Explorer!

Bethesda Terrace

Beware the Weeping Angels!

Our walk in Central Park turned into Let’s-Find-All-The-Places-Where-They-Filmed-Doctor-Who. Which was brilliant! I think we climbed on every boulder in the southern half of the park until we found the right one.

Superman Alex
While I visited my sister in chilly Massachusetts, I finished up this hat for my friend Alex.
Off to Sherlock...

You'll never believe where we went next!

At the ballThe Daintiest Thing Under A Bonnet Charity Ball hosted by the Baker Street Babes. A Sherlockian dinner and auction whose total proceeds went to the Wounded Warrior Project. (Photo Cred – Melinda Caric)

Silent Auction

Photo cred Melinda Caric

I got to spend a few days at home reading, doing laundry, and curling up with my cat, but it’s safe to say I had more fun running around with my friends than sleeping!

Somewhere in there I played Cards Against Humanity, saw Les Mis and Django Unchained (I can’t believe I got carded to buy my ticket), and almost made it to The Hobbit.

And that, my dear readers, pretty much wraps up my winter break! I hope you all had a wonderful time with your family, or away from work, or enjoying yourself in some small way. Here’s to a new year and a new semester!

See ya around guys!