Spring Break

My room has finally settled into a state of general disarray that marks a kind of comfort in permanence. I may be a very clean person (brush my teeth twice a day, can hardly stand to leave my own dishes unwashed for more than an hour or so) but this doesn’t prevent me from being messy. It doesn’t help that my wardrobe has only shelves, not drawers. I’m not known for my precision in folding clothes. So my room looks, well, lived in.

I’ve been here eleven weeks. Eleven. It feels like yesterday i was pulling myself up the stairs to my flat for the first time, bleary-eyed and nose still a little sniffly from saying goodbye. And yet the walk to the grocer has become passé, conversations with friends have delved deeper than small talk and into real-person places. Edinburgh is home, now. The two times i’ve left – for Amsterdam and Paris/London – have marked incredible sojourns into new and familiar places. But both times, riding the bus from the airport back into town, i’ve been happy to murmur my “oh, home,” without a second thought to the newness of this place to me.

And it won’t be long before i’m riding that same bus back into town after yet another trip; Spring Break is almost here and my flatmates and i were hankering for some warmer weather. Edinburgh may be cozy and lovely and dapper, but all of its charm doesn’t halt the freezing cold. There’s still snow in the fourteen-day forecast.

In. April.

So tomorrow, we’re jetsetting off for somewhere basked in warmth: the Andalucia region of Spain, and Morocco!

There will be beaches, a camel ride, the Rif Mountains, tapas, couscous, bargaining, and hopefully-hopefully some flamenco dancing. But mostly, there will be sun and lower 70s-temperatures (Fahrenheit, mind you, i don’t have a death wish) and A CAMEL RIDE IN MOROCCO.

I’m stoked. Northern Africa, as a region, has been a place i’ve wanted to visit for so long. And though this will only be a taste of Northern Morocco, it’s still a taste that involves riding a camel along the Moroccan beach. You know, not bad.

I’ve written a few blog posts scheduled to go live whilst away, so be sure to keep your eyes out for more adventures regaled from J’s time in Edinburgh. Until then, bon voyage!

current jam: ‘kiss you’ 1D. no shame.

best thing: packing.

Markets and More Eating (Amsterdam, Day 2!)

If the Albert Cuyp Market was a field, i was a plow.

I’ve never been surrounded by so many sumptuous and tempting things to try – from the wafels to the hot chocolate to the small bucket of olives i purchased. Plus, as a mayo-loving french-fries eater whose allergic to ketchup, i just adored the frites stand that sold paper cones stuffed with fries slathered in mayo. And the cheese, sweet Holy Mary the cheese! The displays were utterly intoxicating.

(Note the bicycle!)

(Note the bicycle!)

We’d decided, for our second day, to set aside the whole morning to explore the oldest street market in the Netherlands: the Albert Cuyp Market. Lining the block were some of the most eclectic stalls i’d ever beheld (including my experiences in pre-burned-down Owino Market in Kampala). There was an entire pharmacy spread wide under a tent and in the cold, more lingerie shoppes than i could count, a plethora of places to purchase scarves and the like, and a few stalls reserved for Amsterdam-themed souvenirs. Interspersed between the flower stalls (oh, the tulips!) and garter belts were the main attraction: street food.

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(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

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It was as good as it looked!

It was as good as it looked!

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Making the famous frites!

Making the famous frites!

frites!

Frites!

I love street markets – the chaos, the food, the cool vintage things you can find, the food, and the experience of feeling like a local. As much as i may love doing silly tourist-y thing (see me in a large wooden shoe, below) i always try to find at least on thing per travel destination that gives me some sense of what it would be like to live there. Naturally, we were not the only tourists strolling about the market. But tourists were in a serious minority here, amongst the clamor of Dutch-speaking voices selling flowers and toothpaste and lingerie. I’d easily say this was one of my most-favorite things we did in Amsterdam!

Having sufficiently eaten our way through the market, we made our way over the Dam Square for more sightseeing. At the sight of THE LARGEST SHOE i have ever seen, there was a lot of squealing and leaping in to take pictures. So much for trying to blend in!

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About a block or so up from Dam Square is the (in)famous Red Light District. We chortled our way through all the funny little shops and such surrounding the red-lamped alleyways, but they definitely are not the reason i’d wanted to go to the city. And the whole district is clearly geared for people visiting the city, not the residents themselves. The gift shops are certainly amusing to visit, but once i’d cracked up at enough genitalia plastered on velvet hats (et cetera) i’d had my fill. Definitely would not say this was the family-friendly place to go on a holiday to the city, but as two young women walking around in the middle of the afternoon we felt pretty safe and took the whole thing in with a sense of humor.

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This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

By then it was high time we ate, again. Utilizing a combination of my Lonely Planet guidebook and the MOST EXCELLENT TripAdvisor City Guide App, we arrived at the quirky and chic van Kerkwijk. With whitewashed, wood paneled walls and candles adorning the tables, we knew this promised to be a unique place to dine.

Turned out there’s no written menu at van Kerkwijk, so our gracious waitress just plopped right down at our table and talked us through the extensive list of their eclectic combinations. When asked what was a truly Dutch thing to try, she explained that the port-city-nature of Amsterdam meant all Dutch food was really a mash-up of European and Indonesian cuisine. We asked for an appetizer that involved bread and cheese, so she brought out a bleu cheese paté-type-thing that was incredible. For our entrées, Abby had steak with strawberry cream and goat cheese, and i had Indonesian chicken. We split a salad and (of course!) frites with glorified mayo.

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

It was an exquisite capping off to two days and three nights of fabulous dining. But, alas, the next morning we were whisked off to the airport leaving behind Amsterdam’s canals and bike lanes for a flight home to Edinburgh.

Though we’d only had an all-too-short time in Amsterdam, i was utterly entranced. It is a beautiful place (even in the cold!) and i am ever grateful for the opportunities i had to visit.

current jam: ‘day that i die’ zac brown band.

best thing: productivity. back to dale martin, for now.

of interest: i’ve added a new page at the top of the screen! it’s still a work in a progress, but have a look if you like!

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.