A Belated But Prolonged Spring Breat pt. 2
As my spring break draws to a close, I’m surprised to realize how excited I am to go back to France. I think I’m just excited to return to a familiar place after traveling for two weeks.
I spent my last few days in London mostly wandering around Kensington Gardens and finding nice, sunny spots to read. I was so fortunate to have good weather (by English standards) during that week. I also visited London’s Barbican Centre, which is holding an exhibition on fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. It was an amazing show, and I recommend anyone who has a chance to see it. The exhibition inspired me to write an article about it for Chaos Magazine, an American fashion magazine for which I’ve been writing online articles for a few weeks. (Here is the link: http://www.chaos-mag.com/gaultier-likes-london-london-likes-gaultier/)
On Monday, luckily just before London’s entire underground system went on strike, I flew to Holland. My friend Julia, who is studying in Holland, met me at the Haarlem train station. Her parents are here visiting, so we’ve spent some time with them this week.
On Monday night, we went out for dinner in a cafe along one of the many canals in Haarlem.
Tuesday was a bit of an adventure for me. I learned how to ride a bike when I was a kid and enjoyed many family bike rides and whatnot. However, I eventually learned how to drive and stopped riding a bike. As someone as obsessed with skirts and high heels and me, bikes seem pretty impractical. So when Julia and her parents asked if I wanted to bike to a place called Keukenof with them to see some gorgeous Dutch tulips, I was pretty taken aback. But studying abroad is all about doing new things and experiencing as much as possible, so I reluctantly agreed.
Even though they say no one ever forgets how to ride a bike, everyone should have fair warning that if you haven’t ridden a bike in seven years, Holland is not the place to get back on a bike. People here bike more than they drive. And bikers are about as aggressive as New York City drivers. I was terrified of getting into someone’s way or being hit by a bike. I somehow made it to and from Keukenof in one piece.
The scary bike ride was more than worth the difficulties, however. The tulips gardens were outstanding, so colorful. And biking along canals and seeing the countryside is an experience I am so glad to have.
On Wednesday, Julia and I took the twenty-minute train ride into Amsterdam. My parents and cousins were in Amsterdam for the day, just before departing on a week-long riverboat cruise to see the tulips in Holland and Belgium. Even though my parents had just visited five weeks ago, I really needed to see my family. It is tough being so far away from home for so long.
We took a three hour walking tour of Amsterdam. It was great to see so much of the city and to learn so much of its history, but after a while, I started to forget some of the things I was learning. Three hours of information is a bit too much.
Afterwards, we went to the Anne Frank house. This was something I am really pleased to have done with my family. I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was her age, and as a young Jewish girl who also aspired to be a published writer, she really resonated with me. As heartbreaking as Holocaust memorials of any type are, it is important for people of every culture to learn about and remember the tragedy. It was just nice to have done this with my family, because I do feel that Holocaust memorials feel differently to Jews than they do to people of other cultures, since it is part of our history.
Julia and I were then able to join my family on their ship for tea and eventually dinner. It was nice being treated like cruise guests, being given champagne and roses, and waiters making sure our glasses were never empty. The dinner was a four-course meal, and it was all delicious. The best part about the day was that it all felt like a regular family vacation for a while, even though it was hard to say goodbye to my parents at the end of the evening.
I still have one more day left in Holland before I go back to France and try to make it through two more weeks of class! (I just hope speaking only English for two weeks hasn’t hindered my French skills.)