But not without a lost-and-found passport, multiple flight delays, two flight cancellations, a changed airport, sleepless 9 hour flight, and fast-paced layover in Paris.
After a stressful day, there is no sight more glorious than seeing your luggage the first one out on the conveyor belt. The flight change had me arrive 2 hours later than the rest of my UF group.
Elated to find an airport Starbucks, I caffeinated myself for the first time in 24 hours. Not only was I shocked to find their pastry case stocked with cheesecakes and all fancy sorts of goodies, but no Splenda for their coffee. I’m an artificial sweetener kind of gal, so this may be the perfect opportunity to wean myself off of my greatest vice.
I then caught a train to Utrecht, but forgot to ask for an “intercity train” so I ended up sitting on the train almost 40 minutes longer than I should have. As tempted as I was to nap, rule no. 1 of travel is keep our eyes on your stuff! I arrived at the Summer School Office in the Main Town Square, Janskerkhof, and grabbed my key. It turns out that there are housing locations all over the city, and mine happened to be a good 2.5 kilometeres away. After a long bus ride and even longer haul (think – exhausted 5 ft 1 girl with giant suitcase, duffel, and backpack), I finally made it. My housing location is called Kierkelpitplein, and I have way too much fun saying it. The accommodations are spartan, but the company makes up for it. After flying solo for so long, I was happy to find that all of the other UF students live in my apartment complex. I grabbed dinner with one of the girls at an outdoor café. The menu was all in Dutch and the waitress spoke minimal English, so I had almost no idea what I was ordering. Turned out to be a delicious chicken satay, salad, and frites. And yes, odd combinations such as Chicken satay and French fries are not uncommon here, since frites are served with everything. They are also served with frite sauce, which is like mayonnaise, but more flavorful. Like HOLLANDaise. (Not my genius pun).
After settling in, I ventured to the nearest supermarket, which ended up not being near at all on foot. Carrying back 15lb bags is no fun, especially when it is so hot outside. I ended up getting lost along the way, and lost, lonely, and tired = no good. Also, there was no WiFi to let Google Maps lead the way. Just as I was about to knock on someone’s door in tears, my directional instincts kicked in and I was back in my room in no time. My non-air conditioned room. Turns out, Dutch houses, and all buildings for that matter, do not have air conditioning because there is no need. We just inconveniently happen to be experiencing a rare heatwave, which will hopefully be done by tomorrow. We’re talking temperatures in the 90s – and I thought I had escaped Florida. Thank goodness it gets significantly cooler at night, so I can at least leave my windows open!spent the second day just getting acquainted with the city. This happens to be the perfect weekend to have arrived; the Tour de France kickoff is in UTRECHT and has drawn over 1 million visitors to the city. That’s double the city’s population. Tomorrow, all the cyclists officially leave. Today was just the pre-race festivities, but festive it was! The whole city decked out in yellow, with vendors, lawn-picnics, road closings, and plenty of bier to go around.
I also got much closer with the UF group. Since all the buses weren’t running, all 10 of us piled into a taxi and went into town. There is something very comforting about being in a foreign country with familiar faces. And then there are the new friends – neighbors from Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore. There’s Lina, my gorgeous Italian-speaking friend from Germany, and Spanish Miguel, who speaks Basque!
Despite all the Tour de France hype, the highlight of the day was getting my bike. Seriously, I felt like a second-class citizen without one. Now class, which is near Janskherkof, does not seem so unbearably far away. I am able to take in all the scenes and sounds that are quintessentially Utrecht: canals, trendy shops, outdoor markets…and my 6 weeks begins now!
Until next time,