“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”   – Henry Miller

The past three weeks have been quite a ride.  It is difficult to even begin compacting this time into words.  I can honestly see now how time spent abroad, time traveling, can seem so abstract and displaced from the routine that you question its realness.  Photos do a pretty good job in keeping me grounded, giving a tangible sense to the places I’ve been or the experiences I’ve had.  But the things that have driven my time here can’t be captured by a camera lens; sounds, tastes, emotions.

November 5th in London is Guy Fawkes Night… basically a celebration over King James eluding a gunpowder plot schemed to assassinate him (thanks Wikipedia).  For all intents and purposes, its Britain’s version of July 4th.  All the parks put on fireworks displays and various celebrations and festivals take place all over the city.  The fireworks were nice… but not amazing.  All the shows I watched had no big grand finale, no dramatic build-up… just a “thank you for coming”.  Left me wanting more.  I think July 4th kicks Guy Fawkes Night’s ass.  But still a blast.

Battersea Park Fireworks

A few weeks ago I had the chance to finally hit the club scene here in London.  Ministry of Sound is a world-renowned nightclub and this particular night featured DJ Dash Berlin.  The club atmosphere here is pretty amazing.  The music is so electric… everyone develops this connection with the rhythm, beat, and movement.  And it isn’t a grind fest.  It’s a powerful vibe.  Hands down, one of the funnest nights I’ve had in London so far.

autographed dash berlin card

To round out the past three weeks I took a trip last weekend to Amsterdam and Bruges.  Per usual I procrastinated and ended up knocking out an essay and packing a few hours before our bus left Friday morning.  And yeah, I said bus.  We traveled the 200+ miles to Amsterdam, Netherlands almost completely by bus (minus the ferry we took from Dover to Calais).  The journey there took 11 exhausting hours.  When we finally arrived at our comfy hotel I was ready to hit the bed.  So I knocked out and slept the night away.  Okay seriously, no way in hell I was sleeping… Amsterdam is a city of nightlife!  We checked in at our room and then hit the streets of Amsterdam.

There are a few things that characterize the city of Amsterdam (some you may know of):

Amsterdam is below sea level and the numerous canals are testament to this, it is a city of canals

Bicycles are a big deal.  They have their own traffic lane.

Prayers should take place right before crossing a street (there are two lanes of traffic for cars, two lanes of bicycles, and a tram lane)

Prostitution stares you right in the face (literally)

Cannabis.  You can smell it in the air.

Amsterdam at night is one of a kind.  Neon lights illuminate the intimate corridors of its streets while enamored individuals emerge from smoky shops.  The atmosphere, while shocking, doesn’t reflect at all a city tainted with sex or drugs.  Everyone remains seemingly relaxed and once you begin walking the beat of the city it seems like a dream.  The lights, the sounds, the smells… those are the pieces of Amsterdam I remember (but then, maybe that is because I was slightly enamored myself).  My dinner that night was amazing.  Cheese fondue and spare ribs.  The cheese fondue was smooth and rich with a garlic subtlety that teased my tongue (yeah, that’s right.. teased).  It was good.  I think I’ve dreamt about that fondue a few times since.  After a quick stroll we retired to the hotel; full, cheesy, and happy.

4 forms of alarms greeted me in the morning.  A light breakfast, a lovely brownie, and a bus ride later brought me to the Dutch countryside where we stopped at a little quaint cheese farm/ clog maker.

That "Entree" sign made me hungry

Clogs

a conversation piece

a conversation piece

After a lesson in making clogs (what appear to be the most uncomfortable shoes) and a cheese tasting we were shuttled off to the fishing town of Vollendam.  Vollendam (from what I can recall in my enamored state) is a charming town removed from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam.

After some fried cod we took the shuttle back to Amsterdam where the rest of the day was for our leisure.  To be honesty, I can’t recall most of the ensuing 9 hours of time because of a lack of pictures.  But I do remember visiting the Van Gogh museum and being blown away by the art.  I’ve seen my fair share of “art” in the past few months, but for one reason or another Van Gogh’s work spoke to me.

The next morning marked the return journey home with a short stop in Bruges, Belgium.  Precisely put, I liked Bruges.  It’s hard to go wrong when you serve up awesome mussels and waffles with Belgian chocolate.  I can’t really elaborate on the Belgian waffles because then I’ll want one.  Seriously, that good.  We almost left without trying one but risked being left behind to grab one.  The sprint to catch up with our group, one hand pumping, the other clutching that warm waffle drizzled in chocolate, was nothing short of glorious. Just look at those little waffle jacuzzis of chocolate.  And I’m so winded from the sprint I can’t even hold the camera steady.  I love you waffle.  You sexy thing.

Mussels in white wine; simple, fresh, delicious

Amsterdam/Bruges was another amazing trip.  Full of delicious food, great sights, fun experiences, and good company.  Next up: Paris.

I was also fortunate enough to watch a night session at the ATP Barclays World Tour Final at the O2 Arena here in London.  The stadium’s lighting was incredible.  The featured matches and results:

[6] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) d [1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) 26 76(4) 10-8

[4] R Soderling (SWE) d [7] D Ferrer (ESP) 75 75

Soderling has a beast serve.

So that wraps up the last several weeks here.  It’s been fun.  I’ve eaten at some great restaurants here.  And I also gambled for the first time at a casino here.  Playing hold em’ with your hard-earned money is a rattling experience.  It was awesome though.

 

I can’t really express how much I’ve grown as a person here.  New environments force you to alter your perspective, compel you to question and reassess even the most basic of values that grounded you before.  Thanks London.  Oh and I’m home-bound in two weeks!  Can’t wait for some warm weather, cheap food, familiar faces, family, and my 21st.

J

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