Sunday, December 26, 2010

Still Alive

Merry (belated) Christmas from the Netherlands!

Unfortunately, a full-sized Christmas tree wouldn't fit in Thomas' apartment, but this miniature tree, complete with bottle cap ornaments, is pretty swell. Very Charlie Brown-esque.This was also my first white Christmas, which I was extremely excited about. As much as I bitch about the cold here, it was refreshing to not be able to go outside in jeans and a t-shirt on Christmas Day. Three cheers for Richmond! Anyways, Christmas here was very relaxing, and involved a lot of 30 Rock Christmas specials, hot chocolate, and Opus and Bill: A Wish for Wings That Work. The Christmas movie to end all Christmas movies.

Just a few days before Christmas, we arrived from a bit of a EuroTrip to Luxembourg and Geneva. Marseille was originally on the schedule, but due to some massive TGV burden, we weren't able to make it without either spending Christmas Eve on a train or spending 24 hours on a train. Either way, awful. After a picturesque train ride through Wallonia, we arrived in Luxembourg, which was beautiful. The city is a bit of a tease; it looks like any run-of-the-mill city center, until you start moving away from the center and then all of a sudden BAM, the entire town plummets down into a fortress:

by day

by night
The city square in Luxembourg had been transformed into a bustling Christmas market, with plenty of crafts and GLUHWEIN and gaufres and other delicious winter foods. It was ridiculously cold that night, and the gluhwein with sugar and rum most certainly hit the spot.

We didn't have a lot of time in Luxembourg, but there wasn't much to see there, especially in the dead of winter. The next morning, we hopped a train for the seven-hour journey to Geneva. Beautiful lake views ensued. Geneva was definitely my favorite part of the trip. The city is positively gorgeous, with lots of green space and freshwater; it actually reminded me a lot of DC, and I flashbacks of Nebraska Avenue as we were walking past the Qatar embassy. The only difference was that I was full of fondue and not Chipotle (miss you). Speaking of, Thomas' boss at DOCIP, whose headquarters is located in Geneva, took us to Cafe du Soleil, a cute little restaurant that is apparently Phil Collins' favorite fondue joint. Pretty cool, right? Adult contemporary + so much cheese = glorious. After touring DOCIP's office and enjoying the headiest of cheesy lunches, we headed to CERN to check out their museum, which was great. It was especially fulfilling after binging on the The Universe this summer and spending way too much time in the library last semester poring over works by Carl Sagan for a Nuclear Energy paper.

We were supposed to spend more time in Geneva, and then take a train to Marseille, but the TGV, as previously mentioned, totally screwed us over, so instead of headed back to Leiden. Anyone who is looking to spend some time in Europe or is studying abroad later should definitely invest in a Eurail pass; the dates are flexible, so although we didn't make it to Marseille, we can use the pass to visit another French city at a later date. Super convenient. The train ride back to Leiden was frustrating, to say the least. The first hour was spent in a compartment with a young Italian couple who felt the need to listen to Jason Derulo and Akon on their iPod as loudly as possible without putting the earphones in their ear. You know, because a 9 AM train is the perfect time for a dance party. They also clipped and filed each other's nails and made out a considerable amount, both of which were nauseating. We eventually moved compartments, and 15 hours later, a few train delays, and a half a bottle of wine later, we finally made it to Leiden.

It's good to be back in the Netherlands, although, I do miss being able to understand signs/people/general things in Luxembourg and Geneva. My French definitely left much to be desired (there was a lot of stammering involved), but hey, it's better than Swedish.
Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas, and have a fabulous New Year! Super excited for New Years a stone's throw away from Amsterdam.

Oh yeah, pics!

red cross/red crescent


this is both offensive and nonsensical

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