Bruges - A Fairy Tale Town

After watching the movie 'In Bruges' I thought I was sufficiently prepared for our weekend trip to Bruges. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it turned out that Bruges is nothing like the movie. Half the cast of Harry Potter were not roaming the streets, there is no way you could possibly jump off the bell tower due to the huge gates at all lookouts, even if you did manage to get through the caging on every window, there is no way you would still be able to live to warn anyone about Harry, and there was a Canadian (Zach), although he was never punched. Overall the lack of guns and blood and guts was sorely dissapointing. However, there was one thing that the movie got right, Bruges is a fairytale town!

Our journey to Bruges was somewhat interrupted by Antwerp where we ended up waiting for a non-existent train on a non-existent platform. Our delay can be blamed on the kind man at the information desk ('Captain Information') who sent us on a wild goosechase to various platforms in our attempt to board a train going to Bruges.

Bruges is absolutely beautiful with its charming old buildings, cobblestoned streets, church bells waking you up in the morning, and echoing of horse hooves. It's hard not to imagine how the place would have looked like in the city's bustling golden age.

On our first night in town we went to a small candelit smokey pub - Joeys - to comsume some famous Belgium beer. At the pub we met some locals who took us to a club to show us the Bruges nightlife which was suprisingly good!

While we were meant to go to Bruges for one day and Ghent the next, we ended up spending all of our time in Bruges sightseeing, visiting the beautiful churches, climbing the 366 steps of the Belfort, drinking belgium beer and wandering around town.

I took this happy snap when I thought I would only be in Antwerp for a moment - how wrong I was.
Turns out the movie got another thing wrong, Bruges isn't pergatory, Antwerp station is!
My first Belgium waffle at Antwerp station - ate it so fast that this picture is just of a wrapper

Cameron and Zac drinking 1litre of Belgium Beer!

My first belgium beer!
Drinking the 70euro bottle of Champagne from Cameron.
It was served with fire crackers coming out of one side!!
The gang
The view from the top of the Belfort
Not so happy to be in the chocolate museum
It turned out the whole museum was full of chocolate propaganda.
oh...i chocolate is good for my teeth?
The prettiest rainy day I have ever had :)
They found all sorts of things to do with Belgium chocolate!
Michelangelo's Madonna and Child
Beer Factory
Sneaking (innocently) onto a Thalys high speed train and batting our eyelids to
 get a trip home in a private compartment!

My First Month in the Netherlands

This month has been a whirlwind of fun exploring a new city and meeting new people! As soon as I put down my bags Angie (from Sydney) and Zach (from Canada) knocked on my door and offered to show me around town and help me get settled in! Leiden is beautiful with its canals, cobbled streets and old buildings. I frequently go on bike rides and show my true nature as a tourist by holding up the traffic to take pictures!

Leiden on one of the few sunny days this month

To take this picture I nearly got hit by a motorcycle!

Riding on the right side of the road!!
I am living in a building which used to be a Chemistry Lab but now houses international students. It is on the street Hugo de Grootstraat which is pronounced with lots of throaty sounds. The result is that I can never ask any locals how to get home as I can't pronounce the name of my street!

My Bedroom! Never again will it be this neat :)
For Australia day we took everyone to the Australian Pub - 'The Duke of Oz'. While they did sell VB for a ridiculous price, the band playing did not know many Australian songs, and the four of us were probably the only Aussies there.

The Aussies - Me, Alicia, Angie, Cameron
The non-Aussies with their VB

The students in Leiden who I have met have been really lovely. There is constantly something happening, I have never been bored!

Playing games at Freddy's and Muff's apartment
Alicia and I before the ISN-I intro night party

Alicia, Alex and I dancing to Eurotrash - Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Five etc...
No matter how cool a venue is, with Dutch people dressed in trendy clothing,
a cafe with artistic seating, or even a bus ride from Belgium, there is always a fantastically similar mix
of old 90s songs playing from the speakers!

After a crazy night at Freddy and Muff's apartment, Niko's room, and out clubbing, Angie stole a cat and bought it back to Hugo de Grootstraat where she proceeded to wake up Alex at 4am and put the cat in his bed. Soon after this incident Alicia and I were trying to reach some sort of medical centre in order to determine whether Alicia had a concussion. Our fruitless attempts to reach a member of the medical profession led to me flashing my lamp in Alicia's eyes to see if her pupils were dilating and trying to wake a sleeping Cameron who was lying on the floor and sleeping through the jabs and pokes.....
Leiden is about half an hour from Amsterdam so we have frequently paid visits to the city of prostitution, drugs, parties, museums, pretty buildings, and expensive toilets (50c a toilet trip)! Amsterdam is like a bigger version of Leiden with its beautiful heritage protected 17th century housing, maze of canals to get lost in, cobblestoned streets, quirky shops, bohemian bars, and eccentric atmosphere.

Bikes at Amsterdam Centraal Station - In the Netherlands there are more bikes than people!

Zach, Angie, Alicia, me and Cameron

The Dutch way - wooden shoes?

A really cute Dutch Pub

You know you are in Holland when you are washing down your alcohol with Beer
Zach's birthday celebrations in Adam
Pub Crawling in the Red Light District
Our point of reference - only in Amsterdam!
Making friends on the Pub Crawl
It was in Amsterdam, at a lonely McDonalds, after a night in the red light district,
 that I learnt that I cannot do a single chin up

Angie stretching after our long night

Dutch fast food - a delicious way to end the night

Getting lost trying to find the Van Gogh museum

After my first few weeks in Leiden, the International Student Network, ISN, organised a weekend trip away to the Dutch Midwest. If you exclude the Dutch cuisine (a diet consisting of potatoes, cream, mayonnaise, custard, cheese, and lots of milk), the weekend was amazing. We visited a cheese making factory, got lost in the forest playing capture the flag, had competitions between four different teams, and partied in the small cabin!  

arm wrestling
The girls of the red team
Dutch desert - cream and custard
Will getting into theme
Wild West theme party
On the way to the cheese factory
There were some interesting costumes at the pyjama party

For Valentines Day we did a 'secret valentine' and all bought each other gifts and went out for pancakes!

The yummiest pancake ever!