Top 5 Things to Do in Amsterdam.

I’ve written about all of the things below in greater detail, but if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam in the near future, these are the condensed top 5 things i would recommend doing! (See all my writing on Amsterdam here.)

1. Albert Cuyp Market. If you want to see a local side of town, this – the oldest street market in the Netherlands – is it. The market is exploding in stalls of things to try – everything from frites stands (mmm!) to lingerie shops. We took a full morning to peruse the selection and mostly ate our way through, devouring a powder-sugar-covered waffle at Wally’s Wafels and gorging ourselves on local olives. The prices are unparalleled for such gourmet food! (The market runs Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm).

top 5 - market

2. A Bike Tour. Really, i’m sure any company will do you just fine; Mike’s Bikes was great for the youthful, edgy side of Amsterdam (if a little heavy on the information about weed and prostitution for people not looking for that sort of entertainment) but if you want to get the lay of the land hop on a bike and go. It is the local way of getting around, after all!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

shop cats make for the best bikes!

3. The Van Gogh Museum. While the actual Van Gogh museum was undergoing renovations whilst we were in Amsterdam, the Hermitage Museum displayed the bulk of the collection in a special exhibit. Regardless of their housing, Van Gogh’s paintings come alive off the walls and force you to pay attention to their kinetic, vibrant energy. Though this is on the pricier end of Amsterdam museums, it is worth every cent!

vincent

4. Dam Square. Though this is certainly the touristy center, there are so many great little shops to peak in (and wonderful people-watching!).  As a connoisseur of cheesy souvenirs, i loved shopping in Dam Square Souvenirs which is full of beautiful – if pricey – wooden shoes and other lovely Holland-themed merchandise. The best part, though, is the enormous yellow wooden shoe outside. Free mega-tourist-photo-op!

top 5 - souvenirs

5. Eat. Anything, really, but especially the bread, cheese, sausage, and frites! The Albert Cuyp Market is definitely the place to eat your way through, but don’t let your gastronomical exploits end there. Our favorite restaurant was van Kerkwijk, in Amsterdam Centruum. The menu is recited by the wait staff, who are warm and friendly folk, and it’s a selection abrim in quirky combinations (like steak slathered in strawberry sauce and goat cheese – shockingly good!). Another great place was right next to our hotel, the Café Onder de Ooievaar – the cheese and sausage plate made for a sumptuous late-night snack!

top 5 - eat

Bon voyage!

Highly Honorable Mentions:

The Anne Frank House (it was a wee bit crowded for this claustrophobic, but still very powerful – book tickets online & try to go first thing in the morning, rather than in the afternoon!)

if you like my condensed travel reviews, you’d probably like my tripadvisor profile!

current jam: ‘shake it out’ florence + the machine.

best thing: magna carterrrrr!

 

Exploits Around the Edinburgh Castle.

School has certainly started to pick up and, as much as i would love to both endlessly explore this city, camera in hand, and write daily about my exploits i fear neither is fully possible. There are essays on Pauline discourses about sexuality to write and films to analyze for the ethical discourse that occurs therein. Ever so slowly i am transitioning from vacation-travel-new-place mode into a normalized, schoolwork-a-go-go mode.

But not entirely yet!

Yesterday, with a group of fellow international students, i got to frolic about the famous Edinburgh castle! You can see the castle from nearly everywhere in the city (tis a useful landmark when you’re lost and trying to test yourself without a map, i confess) which means that from the castle there are stunning views of the surrounding metropolis.

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I was a little too preoccupied with the skyline to really explore the history of the place, though i did get to see some of the crown jewels and the rooms where Mary Queen of Scots was born. Easily my favorite indoor place, though, was St. Margaret’s Chapel:

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The chapel is Scotland’s oldest living building, which is pretty cool – and it was built sometime in the 12th century. Easily the most interesting part of the castle, to me, was the Dog Cemetery!

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But mostly, it was just buckets of fun to muck about with new friends and take in the spread of the incredible city wide beneath us. When the blustery cold had settled into our numbing toes and fingers we went off as a group for Bailey’s and cocoa, which capped off a wonderful day!

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Anyways, i’m off to compile a list of textbooks to purchase and try and cook dinner. My endeavors so far have included pesto-marinated baked chicken with rice and (you guessed it!) a lot of eggs. Considerable growth since my time in Uganda, when all i could make were eggies in a basket and guacamole!

I’ll likely next be back to talk about my weekend trip to St. Andrews with new friends!

current jam: ‘rumor has it’ adele.

best thing: clementines.

The Hogwarts Express Through All of Time & Space (London, Day 2)

Today friends, was a nearly perfect day. Considerably better rested and with a firmer grasp on how best to behave whilst on the Tube, my father and i set out this morning to commence day two of our London adventures!

After a brief breakfast of pain au chocolat and espresso’d coffee (not precisely British, to be true) we boarded the Tube and headed over to Earl’s Court for the event that, if i’m honest, i had been anticipating perhaps the most: The Doctor Who Experience. You may recall that i’m a bit of a Whovian, and that such a statement is perhaps one of the largest understatements of the year. I don’t love The Doctor quite as much as i love Harry Potter, but i do think the TV show is the best thing broadcast on the telly.

the doctor accidentally parked the tardis on the roof!

To compound the excitement, my friend Sarah was taking the train down from Bristol to meet us. Sarah and i are friends – and go ahead and laugh, we know it’s a bit strange – from YouTube. Six months ago both she and i were invited to be a part of the new collaborative channel, allmadeofawesome. Since then she’s made a video every Thursday and i every Monday, talking about everything from women role models to (how shocking!) our abundant love for Doctor Who. In fact, it was because of Sarah’s love for Who (as well the adoration outpoured from some of the other women on the channel) that i started watching the series. And promptly got hooked. As i am presently in London (a phrase that has yet to grow old in my forty-eight hours of use), and arrived determined to go the the Doctor Who Experience, it seemed a perfect opportunity to invite Sarah along for some in-person adventuring through all of Time and Space.

Despite my father and i mistaking Earl’s Court for Olympia (insert Londoner snort of disapproval here) we managed to make it to the Experience in one piece. Sarah, unfortunately, was a bit late because of delayed trains, but when she arrived it was a glorious meeting. My dad and i had been waiting awhile in the lounge for her, but literally minutes before she arrived we had decided to enter the exhibit. I left a note at the desk with a description of what she looked like, and hadn’t even taken two pictures of a frightening Dalek before a security guard came to tell me she’d arrived. We hugged and were assured of our mutual thrill at being in the presence of actual prop pieces used in our beloved show.

a wee bit excited...

IN THE VORTEX!

captued by homo reptilia, nbd.

dad's a little less concerned about being a prisoner of an alien race.

david tennant wore this!

sarah and i on the set of an upcoming episode (or just a silly picture, take your pick)

waiting in the pandorica box for sarah's bit!

creepy as hell, the silence are.

he took this all by himself!

And, because i’m sure at least one of the twelve people reading this is thinking this: yes, Sarah and i are legitimate friends. Just because we met online doesn’t debilitate this connection – conversation in person was easy and fun and akin to any of my other chats with good friends of six months. If you’re smart about meeting people online (i.e. meeting them via videos where everyone’s clothes stay on and you talk about real things) you’d be amazed at what can be accomplished. The power of the internet. Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your life’s work. Without it, i’d never have met brilliant and wonderful Sarah!

But back to timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly stuff!

The Experience itself is brilliant. You literally go through a thirty-minute adventure narrated by video projections of Matt Smith. I got to fly the TARDIS (literally! pushing knobs and buttons!) and be terrified of a room FULL of Weeping Angels (i didn’t let myself blink once, just in case) whilst surrounded by incredible sets built by people who actually work for the BBC. It was the absolute best museum exhibit i’ve ever been to.

After  the “experience” part concluded, Sarah and i spent two hours running around the rest of the exhibition while my father (not exactly a Who fan) was a real sport and took ample photographs. There was the literal TARDIS interior from Tennant and Eccleston’s Doctors, costumes of all the companions, models for all the monsters, and endless artifacts and recreations!

tenth doctor's tardis!

sarah and i...in the tardis!

with the face of beau!

oggling david tennant like it's our job.

In the tenth doctor’s TARDIS an enormous screen played, on a loop, the regeneration of David Tennant into Matt Smith. For any non-Who fans still reading, know this: this scene is one of the most gut-wrenchingly sad ones in all of Who history. Up there with Snape and Lily. To watch it, on a big screen, in the very space where it was filmed, was magical.

After we had satiated our need for oggling over Oods and raving for Rory, we bid adieu to the fantastic exhibition and continued the day of geekish glory by heading over to… King’s Cross Station.

In the interest of continuing to be honest: this was the number-one reason i wanted, and have always wanted, to come to London. To try my wizard-ness out on the brick wall between platforms 9 and 10, to be in the place where Harry left his mundane muggle existence behind and embarked on the journey to magical wonderment. No apologies for my un-cool-ish-ness here.

And though the moment was brief, i had it. I got to run up to the cart and laugh at my ridiculousness as i tried to break through to the other side.

i finally made it!

Sarah, who had not yet taken her picture at Platform 9 and 3/4, also snapped a shot. It was marvelous to share in our nerdyness together for both Who and Potter. For, as much as i adore my father (and as wonderful as he was today, obligingly snapping photograph after photograph) he’s the first to admit he’s not particularly keen on either world of fantastical fictional creations. To be with Sarah, who loves both worlds as much as i, was such a treasure!

Alas, it was very shortly after we took our Hogwarts-bound photographs that Sarah had to catch her ride back to Bristol. We bid an all-too-soon adieu, and my father and i snagged some lunch at King’s Cross.

After our goodbyes to Sarah, with stomachs full of sandwiches we headed over to Trafalgar Square to chase pigeons and climb Lion statues. Both endeavors were quasi-successful; as you’re no longer allowed to feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, there aren’t many left to chase. And the lions? The lions are so difficult to clamber onto!

Evidence here:

slightly terrified that i'd fall off the monument.

Thus, I got a picture next to a lion, which will have to be satisfactory enough for now.

Unfortunately, my camera battery died promptly after this photograph was taken –  a true shame, as we next visited the National Gallery. I basked in the yellowness of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, pointed out the amorphic skull in Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassadors, and marveled over Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks. And even though my last art history class was two years ago, i impressed myself with the amount of knowledge i’d retained (a tribute to my fantastic teacher, less so my ability to memorize thousands of works of art).  It was marvelous to run around the vast museum, knowing little treasures that the massive walls and endless rooms held for us.

After our museum endeavor, we perused a few more kistchy shops along the avenues. Having traveled in New York fairly extensively, i’m rather used to these tourist traps (and kind of sit in judgement of them and their contents). But we were on the hunt for some t-shirts for the brother mcmizzies, so we ducked into a few enterprises, much to my speculation. How wrong can a lady be, coming across such true gems like boxers with the Underground map splayed across them, juxtaposed to endless postcards with Prince William’s face plastered on them. The true beauty, however, was right by the register: a rotating plastic stand of 40 pence condoms under wrappers with genius slogans, such as: “Wanna See BIG BEN?” and “Size DOES Matter” and “Good Girls Go to Heaven – Bad Girls Go to London.”

Classy.

Anyways, after clearing out of the forty-pence-a-condom joint, we headed back to the hostel for a nap (Dad) and draft one of this very blog post (me). Around eight, we journeyed down the block to The George, a pub mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit and frequented by William Shakespeare, in his day. The food was superb, the service good, and the conversation splendid. A marvelous ending to a marvelous day.

current jam: ‘wonderwall’ oasis (not by choice, but because it’s what the band is playing in the pub downstairs).

best thing in my life right now: i flew the TARDIS today, did i mention that?

thoughts from places, blog edition: kampala

Kampala, the city of seven hills, crawling and rolling over low mountains and spilling over every which way as a city seems to bear the physical manifestation of its own persona. Whereas Washington D.C. is a wide-reaching city with orderly streets and large, trying-to-be-Roman buildings filled with people in suits and heels and ugly ties, Kampala is a sprawling and haphazard mass of chaos. Like D.C. though, the people are very direct in their attitude and reflective of their home; at first Kampala appears to be completely lacking in navigation- few street signs, a number of winding roads that could really go anywhere, and everywhere people. But as I spent more time in the city, the more I was able to find my own way winding through crowded taxi buses, private hires, and the abundant boda-bodas. As the things tend to be, there is a method to the madness. Perhaps one that required more of an attention to landmarks like billboards and cafes rather than avenue markers, but still. As planned and organized and deliberate as the USA’s capital city is, so is the inverse of Uganda’s.

I truly like Kampala; the winding mess and confusion is like a melody you have to learn all on your own. This is something endearing to me, something alluring, something a little dangerous and a lot loud. The city’s pandemonium is at once entirely Western and utterly East African. The music is like that of a land that is, after enduring all that is wrong and evil and bad, waking to its morning. It is not an easy awakening, not one without bumps or poor decisions, but perfectly capable and smart and willing people are taking on an incredible challenge in redefining their reality.

One of my favorite quotes pertaining to post-colonialism is from, of all films, Bride and Prejudice, a Bollywood/Americano twist on Jane Austen’s classic. The character Lalita (who is the Indian version of Elizabeth Bennett) is engaged in a lovely verbal tête-à-tête with the American named (gasp!) Darcy. He claims India is incredibly backward, and when he says such Lalita snaps back with a “Well where do you think America was sixty years after independence? In the middle of a bloody civil war!”

I think so often Americans forget our struggle to be MODERN and ON TOP (if, I might add, we even are as such or, as I am more inclined to believe, we prefer to have the illusion of being a SUPEERPOWER). We did not truly endure the brunt of either World War; we lost thousands- which is a horrific, horrific tragedy- whereas nations like Russia lost millions. And I don’t mean millions at the hands of Stalin- millions in combat. Our land was not ravished, we required no foreign aid post-conflict. In fact, we emerged from WWII as the self-proclaimed superpower. Economically we certainly were.

But the United States, in their firstness of liberation from colonialism, had so many advantages we forget when scoffing at Africa (which is not a country, but an entire continent five times the size of our little nation) and its slowness to be MODERN. We see only our own good and the great Other’s backwardness. We claim our ingenuity and brashness to be the catalyst for our Success- yet most white Americans chose to come to the New World because they had the means to. Africa was occupied without much choice, just as most Black Americans can trace their ancestry back to people forced to leave without say into slavery. We forget that even centuries after our Glorious Declaration was signed that we had our own Apartheid.

It bears reminding, I thought, as we left Kampala. We all come from somewhere, we all can only know what we ourselves know. I say this having just spewed gross generalizations pertaining to the American Colonies, but still. I only have seen Kampala through my own cultural lens, my own presumptions and curiosities prompted by everything I have ever heard, thought, read, or seen from my entire life thus far. My lens is my own- just as you read this with your own everything tied in.

My smallness and my Herstory (to be the blatant Feminist, for which I will never apologize) seem to be percolating in all that I am experiencing in Uganda. As we learned in Anthropology, my cultural herstory is colliding with everything Uganda. I acknowledge it, and am trying to dive into that collision space- the place where potential lives.

From this intermediary one draws, in my humble opinion, one of two grounded principles: we choose to Fear the other culture, or we choose to Learn from it. In Learning there is Listening, and in Listening there is Love (thank you, Mennonites and Gann!).  I am learning to Listen this summer. In my choice against Fear (which, need I mention, is a daily decision) I have to live into that awkward colliding space. Processing.

Much like, I think, Kampala is learning to Listen. To the voices of all the tribes, all the people of Uganda. It’s a colliding space, where next to grandiose malls abrim with European and Asian and North American tourists are tin-roofed, mudbrick homes.

Culture is a living and breathing entity with its own life. So the collision is one hell of a ride, if you ask me.

current jam: “dog days are over” florence + the machine

best thing in my life right now: my new barbie shoes from oweno!

pages read in war & peace: still none…an explanation post to come soon!

fantas consumed: 5