Amsterdam life

So after almost two months of living in Amsterdam the novelty is slightly wearing off. I’m not getting lost anymore on the way to work (which is handy) and I’m also shortening the time it takes to get to work (going from 40 mins, although that included putting my bike chaing back on twice to just under 32 minutes).I quite love being able to cycle to work again, especially towards the end of my project in Tilburg I was on trains too much. And it’s a great way to see more of the city. My new job is really nice too. It’s taken a while to get going, as I had a lot of reading up to because it’s not a computational linguistics group or a computational linguistics project, but it’s nice to work cross-disciplinary. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what direction the project should go, but I already have some ideas (too preliminary to share though).

Other than work, not much has been happening. The last week and a half of September I’ve been travelling back and forth between Amsterdam and Tilburg to discuss my thesis with an additional unofficial supervisor. This week I will see my supervisor again, so fingers crossed.. Last weekend we had our housewarming, where a lot of our new colleagues showed up as well as some of our new neighbours, so we had a house full of people. I think there will be many parties thrown at this house as it seems to have all the features for a good party location (space, close to the supermarket and the `glasbak’, easy to clean the next day, just parking is a bit of a pain). To be honest, I haven’t seen much of the Amsterdam city centre yet, or any of the pubs or cafés, which is a little bit of a bummer, but will sort itself out once we get Paul’s bike fixed. We’ve mostly been hanging around Zeeburg really, which is quite cool too. The last weekend of September there we got to watch the iShares cup,  an extreme sailing contest, just around the corner from where we live, how cool is that? p9250009

A weekend in Liverpool

After years of vague plans revolving around mum and me going on a citytrip, we finally went on Sept. 18. It wasn’t easy picking a destination as there are still so many cool places we haven’t seen, but Liverpool was high on mum’s list because she is a Beatles fan and had never been there. I nearly didn’t make it on time to the airport because I always leave home too late (funny how I always underestimate how long it takes to get there, I guess it’s because I live pretty close to the airport, just not close enough). When I got to the train station my train was rerouted so it wouldn’t stop at Schiphol, and the second one was delayed, but fortunately I still made it on time. Around 4pm we touched down at John Lennon International Airport (that’s where the Beatlesmania starts already :)) and a bus took us past Penny Lane into the city. I had found a really nice hotel between the two cathedrals (Liverpool has not one, but two cathedrals, one Anglican and one Catholic, a stone’s throw away from each other). After dropping off our stuff and inspecting our underground snazzy cocoon bedroom we went for a walk through town. Sadly, the shops were closed but there was still enough to see (especially funny people). We passed the Cavern Club, where the Beatles used to play, but didn’t go in just yet as we were pretty hungry. We found a very cool (and cheap!) vegetarian restaurant called the Egg Café, just off the main roads in the city centre. After we stuffed our faces with great salads and vegetables and I had a huge bowl of truly splendid apple crumble, we set out to find a bus that would take us towards Penny Lane again to meet up with Jilly in a pub. I hadn’t seen Jilly since she visited me in LA, so it was great to catch up. Before we found our bus stop we passed St. Luke’s church that had been bombed out in the Second World War (nothing too special). The cool thing that drew our attention was that the church was used as an open air cinema where people sat on the grass and on benches watching `Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, thanks to Urban Strawberry Lunch. Very cool. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay, but we were happy we got a little taste of the event.

Thanks to my GPS we got off the bus 50 metres from the pub where we were to meet Jilly and Peter. After a drink at the Richmond Tavern we moved to the Penny Lane wine bar where we stayed until closing (11 pm that is). It was OK that the pub closed early because the next day we wanted to get up early to go see all the sites in Liverpool. We met Jilly and Peter again in the morning as they would show us around town. While we were waiting for them I found a geocache that was just around the corner from our hotel (sadly I didn’t manage to find any of the other ones as it was too busy around them or already getting dark). We first went to the ‘old’ cathedral (it wasn’t finished until 1978 so it’s not that old, but it’s older than the Catholic cathedral). During lunch, Dave found us. He had come up from Malvern to visit a friend first and then hung out with us the rest of the day. The rest of the day we visited pubs (including one near the cathedral where John Lennon used to go to), the Albert, and the shopping centre (although we didn’t shop, yet). Around 6pm we said goodbye to Dave who was going back to Malvern, and Jilly and Peter drove us past Strawberry Fields and through Penny Lane. Then Jilly cooked us a lovely dinner at their house while Peter showed us around the garden and the house.

On Sunday we explored the city on our own. In particular the shopping district. Mum instantly developed a appreciation for GAP, the 30% discount on the jeans probably greatly attributed to that. After we tried on dozens of pairs of jeans and finally decided on a few items (mum a few more items than me), we happily proceeded to the Tate Liverpool. The best thing about our visit to the gallery was a long chat with one of the attendants who knew a lot about Liverpool, architecture, modern art and New York and was very keen on sharing his knowledge with us. It even made me look different upon some of the representations of performance art. Our favourite quote (and possibly take-home message) from our ‘Tate host’ was “That’s what art’s all about, isn’t it? It’s trying to understand how we bloody think.”

Anyway, after the so-called `high’ arts, we made our way back to the Cavern Club and this time we actually went in. We were amazed at how cheap the drinks were (actually everywhere in Liverpool, Dutch pubs could learn from this!) as one would expect the Cavern is pretty much the most touristy place in the whole of Liverpool. And there was live music. I’m afraid I forgot the name of the guy, but he was pretty good, playing Beatles and Kinks covers and some of his own work (naturally the Beatles were received best by the audience). At around 7pm we got a bit hungry so we went to find some food again, because we didn’t want to fall into a tourist trap (although we’d had good experiences the whole weekend) we decided to be lazy and go to the Egg Café again. Again very reasonably priced and tasty food :). On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the Philharmonic pub. We didn’t venture into the men’s rooms to see the marble urinals as Peter suggested, but fortunately the BBC has some pictures of it. The bar and the seating areas of the pub are quite splendid too though.

As our flight wouldn’t leave until 17:30 on Monday, we pretty much had the whole day still to see and do stuff. So after breakfast (muesli and yogurt for me, toast for mum and tea for us both) we set out to the Beatles museum. I was wrong in thinking the Cavern was the most touristy thing in Liverpool, it’s the Beatles museum. But still, it’s a cool museum, nicely designed with lots of goodies, music and info. On the way out, I did what I always do when I’m in a touristy mood, which is buy a t-shirt (although it’s actually a nice t-shirt and not too obviously touristy or Beatles-y, anyway, everyone has their vices). We stopped by Tesco’s to buy the latest Dan Brown (at about half of what it costs in the Netherlands, affordable books are yet another thing Dutch society has to learn about), some goodies such as tea and Tesco’s homebrand coconut conditioner and lunch. As the weather was still great we had lunch in the courtyard of the Bluecoat, an arts centre in one of the very few old buildings in the city centre of Liverpool. After lunch we shopped for a bit more, mum was again more successful than I was. Then it was unfortunately already time to pick up our bags at the hotel and catch a bus to the airport (well not really, but mum wanted to be the first one at the check-in desk (yes that is arriving at the check-in desk before it actually opens, something that normally never happens to me;))). Our flight went smoothly, and Hans and dad picked us up from the airport and drove me home to Amsterdam (where Paul was waiting with dinner) after which Hans, mum and dad went home to Etten-Leur.

Now the hard part starts: choosing a destination for next year 🙂