Friday, August 27, 2010

Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 4 (Holland)

So this blog's about the second part of my trip in Holland! After Amsterdam, we spent a day taking a tour of the countryside that include all the local specialties. Everything was so beautiful and quaint - I really enjoyed it!

They don't call it the land of the windmills for nothing! We saw so many of them, and apparently they serve all different kinds of purposes, such as grinding grain or pumping water. We also saw a lot of more modern ones that convert wind into electricity. They're all over the place!

Our first stop was at a small village that had a small but wonderful tourist attraction: a cheese factory.

It wasn't a very big cabin at all, which just added to its charm, and you actually get to see cheese being made!

The cheese is being melted and churned in that big tub. Lining the shelves are dozens of giant wheels of cheese. It was a pretty impressive process.

And, of course, my favorite part... was samples! I really love cheese in general, but this was something else. Everything was so deliciously rich and creamy, and there were so many different flavors to try out. I think one of my favorites was this smoked cheese, which in the picture is the sausage-shaped one. I was in heaven~

We also got to take a little walk around the village, which was very cute and traditional. There were lots of goats and cows and everything was so green! (This is actually where it started raining a little bit, but honestly, the fact that the weather wasn't too fabulous that day didn't really take too much away from the experience. Everything was still so beautiful!)

Our next stop was a slightly larger town that was right on the cost - I guess a fishing town of sorts? We walked through the streets in order to reach the water. This was a nice little walk in and of itself.

We got to the port and were able to look at the boats for a little bit.

Then we got some lunch from the small stalls along the side of the water. Food straight from the sea! I got some sort of combo that had fish, mussels, shrimp, and so on. I'm not a big fan of shellfish, but I really wanted to try a variety of what they offered! Most of it was fried, so it was kinda greasy, but still very tasty~

After that we were allowed to walk around and shop or whatever until our next little journey. We looked around for some souvenirs and clothes (there was even a place where you could dress up in traditional Holland garb and take pictures!), but we were more interested in visiting the town itself.

There were canals crisscrossing all over the place, and the houses were all sort of squished together -  these small streets were so quiet and pleasant and pretty.

Kitty! We saw this guy a couple of times, and while he did meow incessantly, he wasn't as angry as he looks here XD



Walking past the houses, we were basically in their front yard, everything was so close together, and got to see lots of cute makeshift gardens. The architecture is very typically European and was nice to look at too.


Nice little church! Also, I couldn't get a clear picture of them, but there were a lot of ducks swimming around in the canals too. I love seeing ducklings trailing after their mother X3 

It was then time to leave, and we went from this town to a small island by boat.

Here's the shot through the window of the boat. Bye-bye, port town!

When we got to the new island, we came to a town that had ridiculously narrow streets. The whole group was practically walking in a single file line, and we could literally just look straight through people's windows if we wanted to. It was so tight and crowded (plus the line was constantly moving) so that I couldn't really even get a picture of anything. It was really cool to see all the houses up close though!

And then, on the other end of the village, we came to our last stop: a shoe-making factory. You know those typical wooden shoes from Holland? Well we got to see how they were made. 

Like a cheese making factory, this was also in a very small building, but we had a lot to see. There were shoes everywhere - both completed and still in-process. 

Here's the worker showing us how it's done. See those rows and rows of shoes above him? While I'm sure the shoes were made by hand a long time ago, now they're made with these really interesting (and loud!) machines.

The shoes were cut, sculpted on the outside, then the inside, and smoothed out. There were wood chips flying everywhere and it was really fascinating to watch a shoe being made, start to finish, in a matter of five-ten minutes.

And that was the end of our trip! We took the tour bus all the way back to the city and went back to the hotel tired yet content. I really felt like I saw a lot of Holland, both the key city of Amsterdam, as well as its rural areas, and truly fell in love with the country. Definitely wouldn't mind going back (and having some more cheese!)

The last blog post will be about a quick stop that we had in Germany. My tales of my summer journey will soon come to a close. Hope you're finding them interesting!~

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tweet Log 8 (March/April)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 7.
Go forward to part 9.


Blog Post: Lang-8, Looking Back and to the Future!

Went to karaoke last night. I suddenly realized I can read Japanese lyrics on the screen with little to no problem - makes me happy :)

Question: If I bought a PS or PS2 game in Japanese, would it still work on my American PS3? Or is it just PS3 games that are compatible? ^-^

すぐだよ! | Lang-8 #lang8

Backlog's down to 150! And Spring Break's coming, so I'll have more time to spend on Japanese! :D

Just got back home for spring break, and waiting on my bed was my shipment of manga from Japan - the whole series of 「よつばと」! やった!!!

Yosh! So this spring break I plan to try a bunch of recipes out! I need to learn to cook~ :D Recipe 1: Tamagoyaki! - Tamagoyaki was a success! おいしかった!I think I might actually blog about my cooking adventures~~ XD

Blog Post: Cooking Adventures - Tamagoyaki! Alright, trying this new food section out :D

Almost done with the second volume of よつばと and it feels amazing to be able to zip through it like that with no problem following. So fun! :D

Finally reached the double digits in my kanji backlog!! So close to the goal and will finally be able to learn new ones in earnest ^o^

Made Yakisoba for the first time last night, and it was pretty tasty if I do say so myself~ XD

I WILL get this backlog down within the next few days >:D Also, finished RTK lesson 32~♪

Finished lesson 33~ I think I'll still keep my kanji to 10 cards a day for a little bit though... School makes things to difficult ><

Spring Break is coming to a close... *sob* But it's been a fairly efficient week, especially when it comes to Japanese and cooking! :D

Blog Post: Drama Review: My Girl Such a cute drama ^o^

春休みの料理 | Lang-8 #lang8

I'm so sad Arashi no Shukudai kun is over... Although I'm excited for the new Arashi show that's coming up :)

Finished Lesson 35 of RTK :D Might be hard to keep up with it in the next couple of weeks due to midterms, though... がんばります! ><

I only have one episode left of Bloody Monday (season 1)! Such an intense and exciting show O.o

There! Finished Bloody Monday. Overall I thought it was great, can't wait to write a review... looking forward to watching the second season

April Tweets

Reached Kanj 1300 :) And working on an essay and studying for two midterms next week... Always a balancing act...

Blog Post: Tweet Log 5 - Statue of Confucius (I think?) at the temple in Akihabara - The beautiful green mountains of Shizuoka~

Definitely a little absent this past weekend and coming week... Probably one of my toughest weeks when it comes to school (until finals) ><

What a crazy week! I'm behind on a lot of stuff, but now I can start getting back into the flow of things :) Expect a new blog pretty soon~

Backlogs grow so damn quickly XD But this is probably the fastest I've been at getting it back down! *chips away* ♪

Sea World | Lang-8 #lang8

Made an improvised attempt at Okonomiyaki! And, surprisingly, it tasted great! ^o^

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 3 (Holland)

Even though I go to Europe every year to visit family, I rarely actually visit Europe as a tourist and haven’t really seen that much of it (for the record, I’ve been to France, Italy, and Belgium many times, but have rarely been anywhere else). So this year we decided to do something different and travel within Europe for a change.

And so we made our trip to Amsterdam. I’d been to the Netherlands (or Holland) before, but mostly it was just passing through, and I never got to get a good feel for it. Now, however, I can safely say I’ve seen quite a bit of Holland and really enjoyed it! ^o^

What’s nice about Europe is that everything’s relatively close together; the drive to Amsterdam was only a couple of hours from my grandparent’s place in Belgium. We didn’t stay in the city itself – and speaking of which, I would not recommend driving in the city if you go there. We stayed near the airport and took a train from the airport to the city center. I thought this was a great system, and Amsterdam is small enough that you can visit most of it by foot.

The train station itself in Amsterdam was really cool so I took a quick shot.

When we got there, I was shocked by how beautiful the city was!

I’m not really much of a city person in general, but this one was really great. Very typically European small streets that are just pleasant to walk through and look around, lots of cool buildings and famous structures...

 Seriously, there were just SO many beautiful things to see. One of the things that really makes the city so pretty is the water. One must remember that originally Amsterdam was famous for its giant port.

There are so many boats all over the place!

And we can see these waters all throughout the city in the form of about a hundred kilometers worth of canals. They criss-cross through the entire city so that you're almost always walking next to a body of water, and there are many opportunities to take a boat ride through these water ways.

And alongside these canals is something else that is a very typical part of Amsterdam...

Bikes. There are bikes ALL over the place. Like I mentioned earlier, you probably don't want to do much driving within the city. Most of the vehicles we saw were buses, trucks, and whatnot. Other than that, people either take the trams, or use their bikes to travel. There are even entire parking lots just for bikes!

Apparently this lot holds over a million bicycles. Good luck finding yours if you park there. And something that made me chuckle...

Traffic lights just for bikes. Just goes to show how important they are in this city XD

Something that's really peculiar and interesting in Amsterdam - although maybe not kid-friendly - is the red light district. I didn't get many pictures of the area because I felt a little awkward taking any, even though it's surprisingly a relatively normal part of the city.

So this district is a pretty sizable part of the city that's found basically in the center of it. There isn't any kind of barrier or dramatic change of scenery, you're just walking through the streets and then start thinking 'hmmm... interesting signposts..." Of course, we only went through during the day, and I'm sure it's a much more different atmosphere at night.

Nevertheless, you can still very much tell that you're in the red light district when you get there. Even though it was daytime, we saw a lot of scantily-clad girls posing in windows like moving mannequins. I was personally kind of disturbed by this simply because I wasn't expecting it, but it was also kind of interesting. I didn't feel threatened or anything, and no one was outside or loud or in your face about it. It was just kind of... there, and completely normal. Honestly, if you're old enough and not easily offended, I would sort of recommend checking this area out - it really is a curious part of town.

Other than that we also saw lots of vegetation! Quaint gardens...


With... stone iguanas? XD
We even had the pleasure of coming across a flower market and going through a long street of flower stands.


And finally, one of the things I found great about Amsterdam is how liberal and open they are - we saw so many different shops and restaurants and whatnot that featured cultures from all over the world. We visited the mini "China-town" (and even though there's plenty of Asian stuff scattered all over the city, this street was definitely focused on Asia). There was even a little Chinese temple.


It might have been a little touristy (I wouldn't know, I've yet to have gone to China), but it was still a nice, quiet moment to enjoy something a little different.
 So there you have it, a very quick look at the beautiful city of Amsterdam. We were so lucky when it came to the weather and had an awesome time - if you are ever in the neighborhood, I definitely think it's a place worth visiting!

In the next post I'll be talking about the more rural parts of Holland where I also had an amazing time! That'll be coming soon~

Monday, August 2, 2010

Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 2 (Belgium)

Blogging abroad is definitely tricky - especially with limited internet access. I'm pretty busy over here, but I'll trying to update when I can~! (Note: There are several pictures missing, as my internet connection became unable to handle them, I guess. I'll be updating this post when I get back home!)

So after a very short time at my grandparent's house, I went with the family to the Belgian coast, where my grandparents own an apartment. I've become very familiar with the area as we tend to go every year. We spent about the week there and had a very pleasant time.

The Belgian coast doesn't necessarily have the prettiest beaches in the world, and most of the time the water is too cold to swim in (though that doesn't stop some people...). There are still some pretty things to see and fun things to do, though! Here are some shots of the beaches near where we were.

It's always nice to take walks by the sea. It's usually fairly windy, but we got pretty lucky when it comes to the weather this time. It was warm and calm, and the ocean was so pretty.

What's really interesting are the occasional markets that come around. We went to a night market and I had a lot of fun checking out all the stands. You can get so many things for cheap (I got a cute dress for five euros!), and there are a lot of local specialties abound. Here are the couple of shots that I managed to get:

Shopping as the sun sets...

Candy stand!

Nuts and dried fruits stand!

Food stand! Now here's something super-typical: french fries in a cone. You see a lot of people walking around with fries in a paper cone with mayonnaise on top. I decided this was too fattening for me... Eating so much Asian food has made me soft! XD

Food is indeed one of the great things about going to the coast. I love Belgian food so much. I discussed some typical dishes that I ate while I was here last year in a blog post. Home cooking is absolutely wonderful, but what's exciting about the coast is that we were able to eat out a few times.

Fondues parmesans! Aka cheese croquettes. I only eat these a couple of times a year, but they taste soooo amazing *o*

Mussels! If you don't know what these are, they sort of look like small clams. I personally can only handle small amounts since I'm not a big fan of shellfish, but this is definitely a local specialty that's worth checking out.

And finally... waffles!! They don't call them Belgian waffles for nothing. I've never managed to find waffles that can live up to these in the US unfortunately... So if you go to Belgium, pleeease try some authentic waffles~

So that's some of the highlights! Coming up is a post on Amsterdam, so look forward to that!