Amsterdam Day 2

DAY 21: 25 January, 2014 

Morning came quickly on Saturday and we were all excited to see beautiful Amsterdam in the daylight.  ‘Daylight’ is a loose term because the weather was nothing above gloomy and I never truly saw the sun.  Until this weekend I thought London was cold and was awoken by the colder Netherlands air.  I really should not complain because this weather was NOTHING compared to the endless snowstorms my family and friends were living through back in New England. 

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When I think of a city with canals, Venice comes to mind instantly. Amsterdam has beautiful canals and boats everywhere (with a much more logical layout than Venice). 

We ventured out into the area around Vondelpark (I’m really sad to say that despite staying literally right outside Vondelpark, I never went into it and explored) and hit up H&M for some clothes shopping.  You may be shaking your head at that but I swear H&M in Europe is SO MUCH BETTER than in America.  There’s actual organization within the store and the clothes appear to be of much better quality.  Plus, in every city the clothes in H&M are different, which is always fun.

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Around 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon we met up with the guys to go to the Heineken tour. This was my second favorite event of the entire weekend! It was so much fun. My friend’s dad was able to get us all free tickets and I am so grateful because it saved me about 18 euros.  During the several hours of the Heineken Experience we learned historical facts about the beer, took a lot of pictures, officially taste tested a half pint and received two free pints at the end. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hit up the Heineken gift shop afterwards to buy one or two things…

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After leaving Heineken we walked around the area in search of dinner.  We ended up at Hard Rock Café. In retrospect I could have lived without eating here since I spent a whopping 30 euros on my meal and it’s not exactly native cuisine.  Despite that, dinner with 15 people is always a fun time, especially when the entire table orders strawberry daiquiris. I ordered the phenomenal red, white and blue burger and actually finished it. That’s skill.

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Dinner basically left me on the brink of collapse because of my full stomach.  The entire group headed back to our hostel so that we could form evening plans.  Everyone agreed on signing up for a Red Light Pub Crawl through the Red Light District.  This is something we couldn’t not do. 

Remember when I said that about 30 UConn students were in Amsterdam this weekend? Well, we all signed up for the pub crawl.  About half of the group had already seen the Red Light District.  I had not been there yet and knew I could not return home to tell the story of my trip to Amsterdam without having even caught a glimpse of the notorious Red Light District.

My thoughts on it? Dirty, gross, dirty, not clean and very dirty.  This was the only pub crawl I have been on up to this date in my life and I kind of regret the way I chose to experience it.  Before signing up about half the group was having doubts as to whether or not they wanted to do it or go out at all and I was the loud voice shouting YOLO (don’t hate me), YOAO (you only Amsterdam once), NO REGRETS!!!! Finally everyone agreed to it and I ended up being a little bit of a party pooper because I was not in a partying or money spending mood.  At each new bar I was required to open my mouth while a stranger at the door poured in a mysterious liquor and I did not like this at all. I disliked not being in control of what I was drinking and how much, so this was not an enjoyable experience for me.  Looking back, I’m really glad that I convinced my friends to go and have a good time but I wish I made more of an effort to enjoy it.  Now, I have a t-shirt to remember the night and terrible images of scantily dressed ladies in windows of alleyways. 

 Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of Red Light District but perhaps that’s fortunate for you because it’s not a pretty sight.

America I miss you.  Despite the fact that Amsterdam is one of the most relaxed capitals I have ever visited (for obvious reasons), I still love my red, white and blue free home.  As a result of the news I read, what I have learned at my internship and the things I have witnessed, I am very grateful that I was lucky enough to be born in the suburbs of New England and not in Syria or Ukraine or another part of the world.

To Amsterdam!

Day 20: 24 January 2014

Friday morning I anxiously waited for Shakespeare to end so I could rush with Devon and Maegan to the train station to meet everyone else in Amsterdam. We were so excited for our first weekend away with all of our friends. I really mean ALL of our friends because out of the 43 people on the program, probably about 25-30 went to The Netherlands that weekend.

We took a two hour ride on the Eurostar to Brussels, connected and waited for 45 minutes, then hopped on another train to Amsterdam that took about an hour and fifty minutes.
These trains were amazing. They make Amtrak look like it belongs at the kiddie table. I received complimentary tea, scones, cake, bread, cheese, wine and more…

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Amtrak needs to step it up. At least provide water or something. We arrived in the city around 10:00 pm or 10:30 pm and had our first taste of being in a country in which the primary language was not English. Eventually we made it to the taxis and had our driver bring us to our hostel which was StayOkay Vondelpark.

1. Amsterdam drivers are insane. They make Massholes look like grandmas.

2. Our hostel was really nice. There were six of us girls in our own private room and the guys also booked a private room for six one floor away.

3. Coffee houses are all over the place!

Once the three of us dropped off our bags we went on a mission to find the rest of the group that had been there for hours. We called them on our burners, which is what I call my international crap phone, and wandered around until we found Rancho Argentina Grill where they were eating. Afterwards we just explored the area near the restaurant and our hostel because it was pretty late. I got a great night’s sleep for a full Saturday.

Links:

Green Protein Pancakes (PBFingers.com)

100+ Truffle Recipes (CrazyforCrust.com)

Favorite Engagement Photos from 2013 (GreenWeddingShoes.com)

Churchill War Rooms

Good morning London, good night Connecticut and good afternoon to the countries to the east. I’m about to head off to discuss Shakespeare for three hours but first I will leave this post.

Day 18: was just a normal Wednesday with my first day of work. Yay adult me.  I arrived an hour early because my boss forgot to tell me that they start around 10:30 am and not the previously stated 9:30. I began a media monitoring project that I’ve continued to work on up to this day, which has forced me to become very informed in British news on migration and the immigration debate. I now know which papers seem to give real news and which just have headlines filled with buzzwords and negative stories.

Day 19: 23 January 2014

My history class visited the Churchill War Rooms, which are really cool and a must-see for any history lover visiting London. The entrance to the war rooms is hidden pretty well, for obvious reasons, and it was really interesting to see the different rooms in which meetings were conducted and Churchill and others stayed.  Winston Churchill was a very interesting man and I would like to read a book or two on him to learn more about his life. The history course I’m taking is British History Since WWII and I absolutely love it. My teacher is also Scottish with a very nice accent so that may contribute a bit.

After my second class my friends and I went to a Japanese restaurant that we’ve been eyeing for dinner called KOTO. I had Tori Udon and it was DELISH. My first Japanese food experience was a success!

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After dinner I basically spent the rest of my night packing and repacking for Amsterdam… details on that amazing first European trip are coming next!

Recipes to Test When I Return to the U S of A

London life is amazing but I’m a student trying to travel and see as much as possible so my baking is at an all time low of none. Not to mention our flat does not have proper baking materials or even some cooking materials. That being said, I have gotten creative with meals because London is fantastic for buying healthy food at inexpensive prices. Thank God for fresh produce markets and no GMO’s. However, upon returning to the States I shall be baking and cooking up a storm once I am back in the comfort of my own kitchen.

I already have a request from the padre to find a delicious bangers and mash recipe to make at home. Bangers and mash = my favorite pub food in the world. Add a pint of cider and you have British perfection. Next weekend I’ll be venturing to Ireland where I can only imagine to find the best pub food of all.

The only people who really ever let me cook for them are Konnor and my dad but they seem to enjoy it (you guys enjoy it, right?)

Here’s a short list of the many recipes I hope to try out because I love cooking, baking and eating:

Chicken Caesar Burgers  (IowaGirlEats.com)

Banana and Spinach Smoothie Muffins (fitsugar.com)

Indoor S’mores (DessertforTwo.com)

Chicken Avocado Burgers (LaughingSpatula.com)

Farfelle with Kale and Bacon (IowaGirlEats.com)

French Toast Roll-Ups (the-girl-who-ate-everything.com)

Feta and Parmesan Zucchini Bake (justapinch.com)

Buffalo Chicken Cauliflower Bites (thecurvycarrot.com)

Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Bars (pizzazzerie.com)

Garlic Grilled Tomatoes (saorganics.com)

We’ll see how many of these I actually make… but I’m a goal-setter.

My First Article

I need to pause in the middle of my British timeline and fast forward to this week, the last week of February to share something exciting: my first article is posted online!!!!! Go me.

For those that don’t know, I currently work a few days a week at a migrant led organization called Migrant Voice that works to gives migrants a stronger, more positive voice in the media.

Several weeks ago I conducted my first interview and heard the eye-opening story of an inspiring Iranian refugee who currently lives in London.  He wished to remain anonymous so I changed his name to Odi in the article. I would really appreciate it and be so happy if you gave it a look. The article is posted here on our Voices page.  

I’m not sure how informed many Americans are on political and social issues in the UK and in Europe (I can tell you I was VERY uninformed), but immigration is a BIG issue here, especially in London.  Through all of the news outlets information that reaches the public can be very skewed, negative and different from the truth..

The whole point of the article is to get Odi’s story out there and also show that migrants are just normal people. I feel very differently about the topic of immigration than some people in the UK because 1) I’m American. Hello, our entire country is a melting pot of immigrants and 2) My mother moved to the United States when she was 16. If she had been unable to do that you would not have the ravishing creature before you writing this lovely blog.

Please read the article if you have time and feel free to check out more articles on the Voices page. It is full of really interesting stories about migrants who are real people trying to lead normal, happy lives (and are not out to steal British jobs and claim benefits).

Afternoon Tea at Bea’s of Bloomsbury

I’m ridiculously behind on my posts right now but I can’t help it. When Italy calls you to come visit for 9 days you don’t say no right?

DAY 15: I watched the Patriots get spanked by the Broncos and cried myself to sleep.

DAY 16:  My mommy sent me a care package from home full of delicious American snacks (chocolate chex cereal, mac and cheese, oreos, goldfish, etc.) and my friends were jealous. I have been rationing the four boxes of mac and cheese out for the whole semester because in London they only have “cheesy pasta” which I’ve heard is just not the same.

At night we had a delicious family dinner with the boys.  Since half of the people had class until 9, the rest of us were ready to eat our hands off by the time they got home.  I made my favorite taco dip (shout out to Savannah) for the appetizer, Sam the chef made chicken piccata (heavenly) and Terese made a tasty dessert called lady fingers.

DAY 17 – 21 January 2014:

Four of my friends and I had been dying to take part in one of the most British activities one can do: afternoon tea.  We had a reservation for five at Bea’s of Bloomsbury right by St. Paul’s Cathedral.  I didn’t really know what to expect because I’m not an avid tea drinker like my friends but I heard there would be baguettes.

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Each of us ordered our tea of choice, I went with classic English Breakfast tea since that is the only kind that I like.  Our server was so kind to us, which is refreshing since I often feel stereotyped as an American.  All five of us each received our OWN teapot and, I kid you not, it was the best tea I have ever had in my life and remains number one to this day. I was able to drink 3.5 cups of tea in total and it was amazing.  The tea did not come alone though. It was accompanied to our table with a three-tiered cupcake tray of tasty goodies.

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The baguettes were heaven in my mouth. Tomato, mozzarella and pesto. Salami and brie. So good. I ate too many. In addition to baguettes there were scones, jam and clotted cream, my favorite British food. I could eat scones all day every day. As of right now I haven’t had a scone in about a month and it’s been a really dark, sad time for me.

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Then there were the cupcakes. I only went for the red velvet, naturally, but I believe there were coffee and peanut butter ones as well. Above that there were homemade marshmallows, different types of brownies, meringues and other types of cookies.

Afternoon tea was such a fun time (until I got a mysterious allergic reaction for the third time that causes my throat to close and my eye to swell up) and I would be disappointed in myself if I did not do it again before I leave London!

Why London is for me

EVERYONE HERE READS.

I love it. I love it so much.  Everywhere I go: the tube, the well-known red buses, the park, the gym… so many people are reading. I have even seen various people walking down the sidewalk and reading while they walk just like I do.

It’s beautiful to me.  London, and even England as a nation, seems to be very focused on literature. At home, I have been told by countless people throughout my life that they don’t read, don’t like to read, don’t read unless it’s for school, would rather watch the movie, etc…. and it makes me ill and slightly worried about the future generations of our country. It’s astonishing how many people do not pick up a book outside of school.

In London, reading books is the norm and I love it.  Reading is one of the most important things a person can do after taking care of the bare necessities. Eating an apple is feeding your stomach while reading a book is feeding your mind.

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In addition to the six Shakespeare plays I will be reading for my Shakespeare class, I brought two guidebooks and five other books. (I’ve also since bought two more books because I couldn’t resist). Seriously, buying books is like a weird high for me. I don’t know why but I get really excited.

Please go pick up a book.

PS. I made this spinach salad with sausage and blue cheese last night and it was the tastiest creation. London is turning me into a chef. I also tried out a Pinterest recipe involving veggies and sausage that I loved and shall post soon. Au revoir!

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