. I just wasn’t getting the same vibe about Amsterdam as other places thus far. Perhaps there was something on my mind. Actually, there was but probably best not to get into it. So, I went back to the hostel, hung out with Connor for a little while and then took the train to Utrecht. Utrecht city is about 40 minutes south of Amsterdam and is a university town. The Utrecht Centraal station was a surprisingly busy place – I guess I just assumed that it was a small city – with hoards of people rushing in different directions. I had arrived a couple of hours ahead of our agreed meeting time, so I wandered around in the HUGE shopping centre which the train station transforms into as you come out. Eventually, at 6:30 I met up with Anne. We walked back to her house – she is a university student – which was a room in the student dormitory with 16 other students. Her floor has 6 other people and I spent the evening hanging out with her roommates – Yuriaan, Simone, Rosa, Thom, Sophie and Astrid – who were lovely people and we had great laughs over a couple of beers. It was a true local experience even though I couldn’t contribute to most of the conversations and the guys were kind enough to translate a few things for me from time to time. Anne headed out for her basketball training and I retired to my air mattress for the night.
The next day was probably the most fun I have had in a long time. I borrowed Anne’s roommate Simone's bike and we took to the streets. It was a dream come true – riding a bike in a pretty Dutch town on cobblestone roads, eating stroopwafel, with the occasional drizzle against the face – a true Dutch experience
. We visited Utrecht University, its library and different campus buildings and then headed slightly out of town to a beautiful, hidden away countryside of Rijnauwen. It had little canals everywhere, countless trails and parks. We spent a couple of hours sitting by a canal and read our books (she actually had study to do!). On the way back, we bought some beers and went back to the house where the roommates had transformed the small common area into a student dorm party – a farewell for Rosa who was leaving for India for 2 months for an internship – and I lived the student dream for the night! In amongst several beers, learning Dutch words and party tricks, I completely forgot that I was with total strangers who were speaking a language I couldn’t understand. We then proceeded to another dorm party, this time with Anne’s basketball team. Riding a bike, late at night, after a few beers was so much easier! This party was a lot bigger and I felt like I was in one of those movies with college parties – people walking in and out, fridges filled with beers, loud music and lots of shenanigans! It was an epic night, which eventually ended at about 4am when we stumbled back to the house, minus a few of the roommates who got lost along the way!
Day 29 was understandably a quiet affair. With Anne at the university, I spent the morning blogging and hanging out with Rosa and Yuriaan, eating breakfast really slowly and helping the guys clean up the mess
. It felt like the place had had a storm go through it! There was stuff everywhere – beer bottles, pizza boxes, bits of food, furniture upside down and a hangover to match. After Anne got back from university, we spent the afternoon just hanging out, walking around and reminiscing about travels. I choose to have a quiet night and after a couple of beers with the roommates, I proceeded to the room while the crazy kids kicked on for another night. I did test out my earplugs which worked like a charm! I can't believe I'm coming up to my one month anniversary. It has been such a memorable time already and I can't believe my luck that I'm about to go to sleep in a college dorm bed in the middle of Netherlands!
I had been looking forward to day 27 ever since I decided to come to Holland. It was going to be my opportunity to catch up with Anne, a Dutch girl I travelled with in Malaysia for five days. You know, when I find myself in such situations, any dwindling faith in traveling is restored. It is so thrilling to meet a stranger in a different country, become the best of friends while traveling and share a unique bond and experiences together. Then, almost a year later, get to hang out again, in a completely different part of the world. I feel extremely lucky to have friends all over the world – not acquaintances – friends. So, Amsterdam decided to turn in a beautiful day which started with hostel breakfast and practicing Spanish with a bunch of Spaniards. I meandered around aimlessly at Museumplein watching tourists fill up their camera with photos in front of the “I Amsterdam” sign; stepped in Rijksmuseum – monumental exhibition in a garden; walked past Leidseplein, over countless canals, into the red light district, all the while feeling that something was amiss