The Easter Trip Part I: The Netherlands*

We started off our trip over Easter in Amsterdam. Well actually, we started off at 7:00 in the morning with a 3 hour train ride to Copenhagen where we caught our 1 hour flight to Amsterdam. Something about the time involved there just seems wrong, but it has become apparent to me that Aarhus is not well situated for easy European travel. Even its own airport is a 25 minute bus ride from the city center, and then you have to fly to Copenhagen airport before you can get anywhere else.

Anyway, we arrived in Amsterdam, booked it over to our hotel, checked in, and then immediately ran out to enjoy the evening. We were only there Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday morning (which was all spent traveling), so we had to get on with exploring!

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Amsterdam was lovely, but I felt like it was a city with multiple personality disorder. The main area of downtown, the touristy area around the Red Light District, was chockablock full of British tourists. FULL! I swear, I heard more British English than anything else during our time in the city. Apparently, Amsterdam is like the UK’s Las Vegas, and everyone goes there in huge groups on stag or hen nights.

However, if you could get outside of that little pocket, you can discover the lovely, peaceful, canal-bordering streets that you imagined. And the wonderful thing was, it wasn’t that difficult to get outside of the touristy part.

Lovel Canals

Lovely Canals

As you can tell from my outfit, despite the weather forecasts that I saw before we left – which I swear told us there was going to be warm weather! – it was quite chilly while we were there.

So we spent most of our time in Amsterdam pounding the pavement, enjoying the picturesque houses and canals, though we did stop by the Rijks Museum to see some of the great Dutch masters. And we ate so many french fries!

With mayo, which I am now totally behind, by the way. Though I still like ketchup. As long as it's not remoulade!

With mayo, which I am now totally behind, by the way. Though I still like ketchup. As long as it’s not remoulade!

I will say one last thing about Amsterdam. It is so weird to be walking down the street and smell marijuana everywhere and see half naked women posing in the doorway of their little booths. I don’t know why, but knowing that these things are legal in Amsterdam and then actually seeing them are two different things.

Sunday we hightailed it to a small university town in the south of The Netherlands* called Wageningen so Brian could register for his conference, the whole impetus for this trip in the first place. Over the next few days, Brian attended his conference from 9am until 9pm, leaving me free to wander around Wageningen.

I was a little worried about this part at the start of the trip, but it turned out that this was one of my favorite parts of our whole trip. Probably because – as I’ve recently been discovering – I am more a small town or even country girl than I am a city girl. Small towns are just so much more…manageable. And Wageningen still has a wonderfully cute pedestrian street like all European cities, so it’s not like it’s lacking in shopping or amenities.

The Town

It is a university town after all. But just a short 8 minute walk from the center of town (from anywhere in that town, really) was this:

The Floodlands

Beautiful beautiful fields full of wild grass, flowers, and sun.

Plus this is the walk to get there:

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So I spent most of my time in Wageningen wandering around in the sun, reading in the sun, napping in the sun. I even rented a bike and biked in the sun!

The River The Garden The Bike

Plus I got to see all of these sweet baby sheep!

Cute little puffballs.

Cute little puffballs.

I really could live in a town like Wageningen, I think.

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*Note: Although many people in the US refer to this country as “Holland,” the entire country is correctly called “The Netherlands.” North and South Holland are two provinces within The Netherlands. As much of what is famous about The Netherlands – Tulips, Amsterdam – comes from these provinces, it’s pretty understandable that they would get confused. Watch this really cool and useful video (Thanks Yuka!) if you’re still feeling confused:

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The Return

The Grand Place in Brussels

The Grand Place in Brussels

Well we’ve just returned from our first official Easter Holiday Abroad. See, the Danes get three days off for Easter: the Thursday and Friday before and the Monday after (what they call Second Easter Day, hilarious). Which is a lot of days off, even for Europe. So over Easter, everyone goes on holiday. It’s kind of like spring break in the US only the whole country is off at the same time.

Brian and I wanted to take advantage of these extra days off since he has so few vacation days this year. He was also scheduled to be in The Netherlands for a conference the week before Easter, so we turned the whole thing into a 10-day long European extravaganza that took us from Amsterdam to Wageningen to Bruges to Brussels.

It was our longest trip abroad since we’ve moved to Denmark, and I’ll have many more details and more posts in the days to come, but I just wanted to take a moment to talk about returning to our newly created home as a brand new expat. Because it’s a little surreal.

It probably didn’t help that we didn’t get home until midnight last night. But when we pulled up on the train, walked to our apartment, and opened our front door it sort of felt like I was in a dream. Or like I was trying to remember a dream right after waking. Everything was almost familiar, but I found myself reminding myself: yes, this is your living room, yes, your walls really are that white, yes, that is where you keep your sugar and flour.

And today, my first day back to real life, I keep finding myself in the middle of that feeling you get when you walk into a room and suddenly forget what you’re doing or why you’re there. Again, I have to consciously tell myself: this is what you were doing before you left, this is what your routine used to look like.

I think it’s different for me, a “trailing spouse,” than it is for Brian, the working spouse. He has a routine to go back to, to immediately fall back into. (Whether that’s good or bad is up for discussion since he had to get up at 6:00 this morning and go to work while I got to sleep in and sleep off some of our travel from yesterday.) Whereas I don’t really have a routine. Or the one that I do have is set by me. So it’s harder to slip back into it, I think.

But of course, it’s coming back to me, and really it’s almost normal again now that I’ve made my usual gym-library-grocery store trip. And of course I’m busy editing all our photos and coming up with lots of topics to post about (Things I Learned in Brussels, Why I Love Danish Public Transportation, Why The Netherlands Shouldn’t Actually be Called Holland, etc. etc.). But until then, I wanted to post this small observation.

Happy Belated Easter Holidays!