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27 November 2015

Living In Leuven: Week 10 | The Week Where Everything Went Wrong & A Day Trip to Antwerp

I was feeling really under the weather on Monday this week, so I cancelled going to my 9am constitutional law class and spent the day resting up in bed. Of course, since I had missed a class, I spent the majority of Tuesday catching up on the reading and went to my European Criminal Law lecture later on in the afternoon. 

Afterwards, my friend and I went to ALMA 1 (one of the the student restaurant's in Leuven) for dinner. The student restaurant can be hit-or-miss sometimes depending on what food is offered that day, so we always make sure to check the menu online before heading there.

Schouwberg, Leuven

On Wednesday, I went to my 9am European Criminal Law class followed by coffee/tea at cafe Anna with a friend. The cafe is opposite Museum M in Leuven, so it's very central and is now my favourite place to go for a hot beverage (the white hot chocolates there are amazing!). A trip to ALMA for lunch followed our cafe-catchup and I then headed off to my 2pm Terrorism & Corporate Crime class.

After a slow start to the week, I had been putting off doing my washing so I headed out in the evening to De Wastrommel, near my University accommodation. Long story short, it was probably the most problematic washing experience of my life. A mix of only having a 50 euro note and a huge palava trying to find change, I must have left and re-entered the washing place about 5 times and the other students there were giving me REALLY funny stares. At least I have another 8 months to conquer my washing foes.

Schouwberg, Leuven

On Thursday, I had a human rights lecture scheduled between 4 and 6pm. We actually ended up leaving the lecture halfway through as it was absolutely diabolical. Human rights is the subject I was most excited by this semester, but the course is not as I expected. I find the lectures are utterly pointless! We went to Quo Vadis for a pizza dinner, then watched part of the Godfather.

I then met another friend at the theatre on Bondgenotenlaan to see an Opera. The whole event completely slipped my mind and I turned up wearing jeans and a top, whilst my friend was wearing a full suit. It's fair to say I was very, very embarrassed! We went to see Le Nozze di Figaro. Although the cast sang in Italian and only Dutch subtitles were shown, I did enjoy the performance. It was three hours long, which admittedly, I did become a bit restless after 2 hours into the show. The theatre itself was very lovely. It's very comparable to the King's Theatre in Edinburgh, except considerably smaller. I recognised a few of the Mozart pieces played by the orchestra during the performance, which really made me miss playing my viola. I'm definitely going to look into taking it back over with me after Christmas.

Antwerpen Centraal Station

After the Opera, I met up with another friend on Oude Markt for a few drinks. We originally planned to go to a party with Belgian students, but we decided against it last minute and went into Barvista for the rest of the evening. I got a taxi home late at night and discovered the main gate to our residence wasn't left ajar like it normally is. To my surprise, my student card wouldn't open the door, so I had to take a taxi back to my friends and spend the night on the sofa - just my luck!

Grote Markt, Antwerp

I went straight back to my residence early Friday morning to sort out my entrance situation - it turns out I wasn't given a key card when I originally moved into my room. I also told my residence manager about the leak in my sink which hadn't been repaired for weeks despite continually complaining about it. I jumped back into bed as I had only slept for about 3/4 hours the night before and woke up with a plumber barging his way into my room!! I'm not sure this is allowed, but I've since emailed my residence manager prohibiting people entering my room without knocking and with my permission first! That's student accommodation for you.

I met a friend for tea at Bar Louis in Grote Markt followed by a quick dinner at ALMA 1 (I swear I live in that place nowadays). After the palava with my room and a crappy dinner at ALMA, I went back to my room feeling quite disheartened and in a bad mood, so a skype call with my Mum and a night in catching up with British TV was on the cards!

On Saturday, Dominik and I decided to go to Antwerp for the day. We left at 9am and got into Antwerpen Centraal station at 10am. Surprisingly to us, we were greeted at the station with armed soldiers and tonnes of police vehicles lining the streets. We brushed it off, but when the rain started to pick up mid-morning, we decided to stop at a cafe and connect our phones to the Wi-Fi. I had received a very worried WhatsApp message from my Mum and Facebook messages from my friends back in Edinburgh with the news that Brussels was on lock down. That explained the reason for the armed soldiers. As Antwerp is probably the second largest city, after Brussels, naturally I was quite worried as the terrorism level had increased to 3 for the whole of Belgium.

Although we felt almost intimidated by the soldiers instead of feeling safe, we tried not to let the situation ruin our day. We started off by wandering around the city, visiting the Grote Markt and the city's churches.

Grand Bazar, Antwerp

We went for lunch at Da Giovanni, an Italian restaurant near the Grote Markt. Afterwards, a lady on the street gave us a voucher for a smoothie place in the Grand Bazar shopping centre, so we used this as an excuse to pop into the shopping centre. The Grand Bazar was incredible and I wish we had more time to explore the shops, but as the Belgian Government had advised us to stay away from large crowds because of the terrorist threat, we decided it would be safer to keep moving through Antwerp and not hang around in one place for too long.

Rubens House, Antwerp

We decided to visit the Rubens House. The house itself was lovely, which I didn't expect as to my limited knowledge of art, a lot of famous artists don't become wealthy until after they died. A few of his sculptures and paintings were displayed in his house, but I do feel like the ticket was quite over-priced as we probably spent a maximum of 20 minutes wandering through the rooms!

Red light district, Antwerp

As we visited Amsterdam and the red light district last month together, we were keen to see how the red light district in Antwerp compared. We only heard of the red light district in Antwerp through our tour guide in Amsterdam, otherwise I don't think we would have realised there was one! The area wasn't shown in our tourist map, so after a bit of googling, we finally found it.

It's definitely not a tourist attraction like in Amsterdam. Most of the people around the area were there to spend their money, that's all I'm going to say. Nonetheless, it was quite interesting to see a Red Light District from another point of view. I actually started to feel quite uncomfortable walking through the streets after realising it most definitely wasn't for tourists, so we left pretty briefly after a quick look around.

Antwerp Harbour

We took a detour back to the city centre through the harbour at the very north of Antwerp. Here, is home to the Port of Antwerp. There were a lot of beautiful boats along the harbour and some interesting architecture in the buildings around the area. It's definitely worth a walk around if you're ever visiting!

If there's one thing I've learned about living in Belgium, it's to never go to a Grote Markt for dinner! As it's the main tourist attraction in almost every city in Belgium, the prices of restaurants/cafes around the area are mostly extortionate. We stupidly decided to go to a restaurant on the Grote Markt for dinner and it's safe to say, it was the most expensive meal I've had so far in Belgium!

On the way back to the train station, we spotted a Hilton Hotel. As it's the first Hilton Hotel I'd seen outside of the UK, I was curious to see how much it would be for a night compared to back home. To our surprise, the security guard at the front door actually refused to let us into the building to enquire (with no intention of booking), because of the terrorist threat. It was at that point we realised it probably wasn't safe to still be exploring, so we left for Leuven promptly afterwards.

The police and armed soldier presence had increased considerably that evening. It was quite scary actually - it almost felt as though the authorities were just waiting to be attacked. We were delayed a little coming home as we decided to take a train that avoided any train stations in Brussels. When I thoroughly checked the news that evening, I found out a Kinepolis cinema had been evacuated in Antwerp that evening alongside a school the previous day due to bomb threats - worrying!

Antwerp City Hall

My friends and I planned a trip to Luxembourg the following day, but because of the terrorist threats still quite fresh in the news, we decided travelling through Belgium wasn't the best idea, so opted for a chilled day indoors catching up with University work instead.

Next week seems to be quite relaxed so far, we are talking about planning a big trip before Christmas, so I'll keep you updated with that in next week's blog post!

23 November 2015

Living in Leuven: Week 9 | Exploring Leuven & A Day Trip to Bruges

After a relaxed weekend in Leuven, I decided on Monday to venture out and explore more of the city I live in. Unfortunately, during the KU Leuven Orientation days, I was occupied with having to find my accommodation, so I missed a lot of the guided tours and organised trips to the tourist sights in Leuven. So, after my early morning constitutional law class, I decided to visit Museum M and Sint-Pieterskerk.

Museum M, Leuven

If I'm being honest, I felt pretty let down by Museum M. When I visited, the majority of the museum focused on Sarah Morris. I wasn't surprised to learn she is a British abstract artist - her pieces were actually quite impressive. Her short films were also displayed in a few of the exhibition rooms.

Museum M, Leuven

I visited the museum at 11am and it was completely dead and somewhat creepy, walking through the museum by myself with strange music from the short films playing in the background. I almost felt as though I was in Night at the Museum where the shapes from the paintings would start moving and jumping out in front of me - certainly a strange experience.

Unfortunately, I'm not so interested in art and fail to appreciate time in an art gallery. However, I  think the museum has a LOT of potential as there were a few empty rooms which, if filled, would make the visit more worthwhile. I would've loved to see more on the history of Leuven.

I, then, briefly visited Saint-Pieterskerk. It was lunchtime, so I didn't bother paying the entrance fee to the treasury, but took some photos from the entrance of the church.

Sint-Pieterskerk, Leuven

On Tuesday, I travelled into central Brussels to visit their Primark store. Although I've moved country on my own and managed to get myself to Leuven in one piece, I felt a different kind of nervous travelling into Brussels on my own. It's always going to be a bit daunting visiting a foreign capital city alone without any sense of direction, I was exceptionally proud of myself for taking the plunge!

The Primark in Brussels was absolutely packed. I thought as I visited during the day on Tuesday, the shops would be quiet, but I was so wrong. The Primark store was absolutely packed! I managed to quickly pick up a Minnie Mouse onesie (which I'm incredibly excited about) and also a purple roll neck jumper. It's the cosiest item of clothing I own now and I'm so desperate to go back again and buy one in every colour!

Stadhuis, Bruges

Wednesday was a bank holiday in Belgium, so I spent the day catching up with some University work and good old British TV.

Thursday and Friday are my human rights lecture days. As the course is so popular, most of my friends are in the class, so we always end up doing something afterwards. On Thursday, after a quick dinner in 'De Appel', I went to see the new James Bond film, Spectre. I wasn't overly impressed with the film. It lacked a decent plot line and some of the scenes were a little far fetched...

We arranged to go to Bruges with ESN on the Saturday, so my friend and I decided to watch 'In Bruges' in preparation for the trip on Friday evening. The film itself wasn't terribly great, but it actually made the trip to Bruges a lot more exciting as we could point out all the landscapes from the film.

We met ESN at the Leuven train station on Saturday morning and took a 1.5 hour train ride to Bruges. I visited Bruges last year when I volunteered on a school trip, but it was a very brief stop in the town square for lunch, so I was really excited to see what else Bruges had to offer.

Originally, ESN arranged for us all to go on a boat trip in Bruges, but as the weather was terrible, it was called off last minute. They gave us the option of meeting for a tour around the Beer Museum, or spend the afternoon doing as we wished. I've visited breweries before and I don't drink beer, so I decided against the Beer Museum and my friend and I went on a wander around the city instead.

Stadhuis, Bruges
We paid to visit the Stadhuis (city hall). The city hall is one of the oldest and the city hall in Leuven is actually heavily influenced by Bruges, so I'm definitely adding a visit to the Leuven city hall to my to-do list!

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch in Quick and continued to explore the city. We really wanted to visit the Belfry (main tower in Bruges), but the queue was too long. I'm hoping there will be a chance in the second semester to visit when it's not as crowded. Just as we were about to stop for a tea-break, we bumped into the ESN group gathering around a canal boat. They must've changed their mind last minute and thankfully there were enough spaces left for us to join them.

I thoroughly enjoyed the boat tour. The tour guide was originally from England and sounded a bit like Robin Hood - definitely set the scene as we were also surrounded by medieval buildings in the city. Bruges is known as the 'Venice of the North' and I can definitely see why. Our boat was full of couples on their romantic weekend getaway. 

The rain had started during our boat trip and we were absolutely soaked afterwards, so we decided to pop into a tea-room to warm up and dry off a bit. I was quite disappointed we didn't get to see more of Bruges in the short time we spent there. My cousin is visiting at the start of December, so I've promised her we will visit Bruges then. I can imagine it being even more beautiful when the Christmas Market is erected in the town square!

I spent my Sunday, as usual, catching up with some University work and sulking as my hot water STILL wasn't working after turning off on the Friday night... that's student accommodation for you!

Plans for next week aren't concrete yet, but we're currently in the middle of arranging a trip to Antwerp and Luxembourg at the weekend. That's one of the best things about living in Belgium, as it's in the heart of Europe, so many neighbouring countries are very easily accessible!

9 November 2015

Living in Leuven: Week 8 | Academic Worries & Strange Encounters

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I arrived back in Leuven on Sunday with a dreadful cold. Thankfully, it was a public holiday in Belgium on Monday, so I took full advantage of this and managed to rest my voice and recover for the day. On Tuesday, I caught up with all my chores (washing, food shop) and by the time I had human contact again in my Criminal Law class later in the day, my voice had almost fully returned!

Margarethaplein, Leuven

If you're looking for an interesting blog post, this week probably won't live up to your expectations. It's been a week full of meeting new people, going out with my friends and catching up with University work, so I apologise in advance. 

I FINALLY caved in and bought 70 Euros worth of law books I have needed for my studies. I have been putting it off for so long and I feel quite relieved now I can start looking over cases and materials at home.

The only worry I have here, is my lack of enthusiasm to actually study. Back in Edinburgh, our academic year consisted of 50 minute lectures and a 50 minute tutorial to go along with that lecture later on in the week. This way, I felt almost obliged to study in the library before the tutorial, avoiding the fear of being picked on by the tutor and not knowing any of the answers to the assigned problem questions.

Politiebureau, Leuven

In Leuven, I have a 2 hour lecture for each of my subjects weekly and I'm surprisingly missing the smaller classroom environment. In addition, it actually makes it extremely hard to concentrate and stay motivated. Two hours is a LONG time to be sitting in one place constantly focusing on what the lecturer is saying. I find myself slowly drifting into a daydream after the first hour. Due to no tutorials here, I'm also ashamed to admit I haven't done ANY studying at home whatsoever. I somehow think I can get away with doing everything apart from University work whilst I'm here - which is completely wrong - I'll end up getting a huge shock when I return home at Christmas and I have just over 3 weeks to revise for my exams. I am here to study after all!

In my defence, the courses here aren't so challenging. I'm studying European constitutional law, which I've studied the bulk of in the European Union Law course I took in my second year at Uni. It's quite frustrating seeing familiar cases appear on my Professor's power point slides week after week. I'm definitely getting quite worried about my dissertation in 4th year, as the topic for this is to be based on a subject I'm studying here in Leuven. I feel quite stuck. Do any other Erasmusers feel the same?

Academic worries aside, Wednesday was a strange day. After my Criminal Law class, I picked up my law books from University and struggled along Muntstraat with them under my arm. A young man ran after me, asked if I spoke English then proceeded to tell me I was really beautiful. I haven't ever been approached and complimented by a stranger of the opposite sex in my entire LIFE, so I was a bit taken aback. I was confused and asked if he wanted my number (logical question?), to which he said no and that he only wanted to walk me where I was going(?!).

At this point, I was VERY confused, but kept my head held high and was polite to him as we walked along the length of Munstraat. At the end of the street, I made a panic excuse of having to meet a friend in the Tea Room on Naamsestraat and felt quite thankful for the #SOS tea I had there that afternoon. The guy was nice enough, but the whole scenario was a little bit bizarre.

De Fiere Margriet

On Thursday, I had a Human Rights lecture in the afternoon. This lecture is actually notorious amongst us students as being super boring and unstructured, so my friend actually left me on my own halfway through, thinking nothing exciting would happen after the break. We, in fact, had a group of topless men run into our lecture theatre and throw spaghetti at us! Apparently, it's not uncommon for strange events like this to occur here, my lecturer even said a student brought a goat to the lecture once (not sure if I missed the joke, or if he was being serious!).

I met my friend after the lecture and made us dinner back at Waterview. If there's ever a visitor round, I always take them up to the rooftop of the residence. It's really easily accessible and, in my opinion, holds the best view of Leuven and beyond.

Afterwards, we met our other friends and went to De Fiere Margriet, followed by some bars on Oude Markt, for a couple of drinks.

Vaartstraat, Leuven

On Friday, I woke up to the news that the supermarket next door, Albert Heijn, had been raided by armed robbers. I have the Leuven News saved as a bookmark on my browser, so I'm regularly checking it, and the crime reports seems to be more frequent nowadays. It's certainly scary stuff! I've heard of a few armed attacks on young women, so I now make sure I'm not carrying more cash than I need for the day when I go out.

Ferdinand Smoldersplein, Leuven

Friday consisted of another Human Rights lecture in the afternoon, then I went out for a lovely dinner at Restaurant d'Entreprise on Naamsestraat. Afterwards, I walked back to Waterview for a quick change then headed off to the ESN 90's Party. Because I was born halfway through the 90's, I wasn't fully aware of what attire to wear, so I opted for my black disco pants, a crop top and my denim shirt tied at the waist.

The party was in Fuifzaal Albatros on Brusselsestraat, which was an OK venue, but became very over-crowded very quickly. As the ESN party a fortnight ago was full at midnight, we decided to arrive at 11pm and were actually the first ones to show up. The music was pretty dreadful and we were thinking of leaving at 1am, until they changed the DJ who finally put the 90's music on! We were out until 3am and I somehow didn't manage to sleep until 5am, so I had a well-deserved lie in on Saturday.

College du Luxembourg, Leuven

On Saturday I went for coffee with someone who turned out to be in my Constitutional Law class AND had sat in front of me on the coach to Luxembourg, without us batting an eyelash at each other! It's a small world - especially here in Leuven.

Afterwards, I met my friend for pizza at Quo Vadis on Muntstraat. I need to stop spending so much money on eating meals and having coffee's out. It definitely adds up after a while!

Vaartkom, Leuven

I spent my Sunday relaxing and catching up with British TV before skyping my Mum for a long catch up. 

I've realised I haven't visited the Museum, the town hall or the Cathedral in Leuven, so I've decided to change that and be a tourist in my own city next week. It's Armistice Day on Wednesday and a University holiday, so I'll probably end up doing something exciting mid-week too. On top of that, I'm going to Bruges with ESN on Saturday! I've been to Bruges twice before, but only for a quick stop on the town square, so I'm excited to have a proper look around this time. Next week's post should be a good one!

4 November 2015

Living In Leuven: Week 7 | Pumpkin Carving & A Weekend in Amsterdam

As my weekends are always pretty full on here in Leuven, I always find myself spending the start of the week relaxing and recharging from the previous weekend. Thankfully, I only have a two hour class on Monday and a class every second Tuesday, so I have a lot of free time at the start of the week to catch up on sleep/grocery shopping/washing (boring adult chores!).

I also had the Amsterdam trip in mind throughout the week and as much as I love a chilled night in, I didn't expect a group of 700 students to have to same mind set as me in the party capital of Europe!

I visited the Vangrootloon tearoom on Naamsestraat a couple of times with a friend and, yet again, the Dwerf cafe next to Pauscollege. I really need to get out of the habit of eating at the same places all the time here, my obsession is the same as playing a song I really like, I'll wear it out until I don't like it any more or find something better!

I haven't spoken a lot about who I share my residence with in Waterview. There's around 12 rooms in our corridor, some not yet occupied, and we all share the kitchen. As far as I know, there's two British people (myself included), two Americans, two Italians, one Brazillian and three Belgians. I feel as though I can have comfortable conversation with the Brit and American, but apart from that, it's a brief hello and goodbye as we pop in and out of the kitchen throughout the day.

They all seem like lovely people, but there rarely is an occasion when we're all in the kitchen having a meal together, so I decided to host a pumpkin carving evening on Thursday night. I was half expecting to be carving a pumpkin on my own, but surprisingly 5 people showed up. Some hadn't carved a pumpkin before or even celebrated the holiday, so it was fun showing them how to do it and we shared our Halloween traditions from our different cultures.

As we were heading to Amsterdam at 7am in Heverlee the next again morning, an early night on Thursday was obligatory.

After a 4 hour drive to Amsterdam, we arrived at Museumsplein where we gathered with over 700 other Erasmus students from all over Belgium (Ghent, KUL Brussels and Louvain La Neuve, to name a few) in front of the IAmsterdam sign for a group photo.

We then split off into our own ESN groups and went on a walking tour around Amsterdam. The tour guides were students at the University of Amsterdam, and although they weren't clued up on dates of buildings/events etc., it was nice to have a chat with another student who actually lived in Amsterdam and we got a few juicy stories out of them normal travel agent tour guides most likely wouldn't share!


On our walking tour, we visited Dam Square (where we found the Royal Palace and Madame Tussauds), Begijnhof, Rembrandtplein, the Heineken Experience and the Red Light District. The whole walking tour took a good five hours, which was quite irritating in some ways, but understandable as there was a group of about 100 of us to direct around Amsterdam.

Begijnhof was one of my favourite places we visited during the walking tour. It's known as a hidden treasure of Amsterdam and, supposedly, not many tourists know about it. Similar to a convent, the court houses over 100 single women. There's also a chapel at one end of the court where the most famous beguine is actually buried under the pavement.

The townhouses in Amsterdam are VERY narrow and are actually built to a great height as the Dutch are known to be the tallest people in the world. I also found it fascinating the hook at the end of the gable at the very top of a typical townhouse is used to transport furniture from the ground floor to another floor of the house and through the window, as it's near enough impossible for furniture to be brought up the narrow staircases!

After our tour around the city centre, we jumped back on the coach and headed to our hotel. ESN arranged for us to stay at the Meininger hotel in the west of Amsterdam and I was so impressed with it! I shared a room with three of my law friends at KU Leuven. The room was great, the bar/lounge area was cosy and the staff were super friendly! I would definitely recommend a room in this hotel if you're looking for somewhere affordable - they also have a chain of hotels all across Europe.

My friend and I had dinner at Julia's pasta in Sloterdijk station (which was delicious), then we headed back to the hotel where I killed a few hours teaching my two German friends how to play pool in the hotel lobby before we got ready for the Halloween party.

I had a bit of a costume nightmare as I had originally planned on going as a Mime and thought I had my outfit sorted, but I forgot my liquid eyeliner and white face paint, so my plan flopped. Thankfully, I brought a spare dress I bought from Primark I was willing to destroy and decided to cover it in fake blood instead. Evidently, I wasn't very scary at all.

ESN arranged for a shuttle bus to take us to and from the venue that evening. Unfortunately, transporting 700 people on a 50 seater bus was very challenging and people were pushing to squeeze onto the bus. It was ridiculous. It was like watching a bunch of animals.

We waited over an hour and I started to get really uncomfortable as a considerably older man was hanging around our group, staring at the girls in our group. My friend instantly knew I was uncomfortable and grabbed and pushed me in the crowd and onto the bus. There must've been around 80 people on the bus, jumping around, banging on the windows and chanting away - something I couldn't fathom happening back in the UK. As we left, I actually saw the older man trying to pickpocket some of the girl's bags in our group. Very very dodgy indeed.

The bus took us to the middle of nowhere (where I now know was in a place called Undercurrent) to the HATSA Halloween party. The venue was actually pretty cool and was set on a deck in the middle of the water. We were promised two rooms of music. We only managed to find one main room with questionable DJ music, but we enjoyed the night nonetheless.

As a non-alcohol drinker, I always find myself to be very observant on nights out. I'm used to witnessing drunken antics around me, but it was a really surreal experience stuck in the middle of a group of stoned party-goers.

We left the party at 4am and only managed to get 3 hours of sleep before getting ready for breakfast at 8:30am. On Saturday, we had the day to do whatever we wanted, but agreed to meet the rest of the group at the Heineken Experience later on in the day for a boat tour. My friends and I decided to visit the IAmsterdam sign again when it was less crowded and had a walk around the city centre. We went to the Sex museum, which with a group of immature 20-24 year olds, was quite a laugh.

After a quick toastied sandwich next to the Torture museum, we met the rest of the group for the boat tour along Amsterdam's canals. On this tour, we saw Anne Frank's house, Singel, EYE Film Institute, the famous Amstel Hotel and other attractions I didn't manage to catch the names of!

Amstel Hotel

I previously visited Amsterdam in February, where I visited only the main attractions by foot, so I found the canal tour really exciting and fascinating. The architecture beyond the townhouses in central Amsterdam is completely different. For anyone planning a trip to Amsterdam, I'd definitely put a canal tour on the top of the to-do list!

After the boat trip, we headed back to the hotel for a quick freshen up, then jumped on a bus and tram into the city centre again. A large group of us ended up eating at a restaurant called Pasta Pasta, then split up to do our own activities. As we were running late for the ESN pub crawl, we decided to skip the first pub and visit the Red Light District at night. I remember visiting the Red Light District at around 7/8pm towards the start of the year where it was fairly busy, but it's astonishing how busy the streets get beyond 10pm! It was really interesting wandering around and watching men sleazily tap on the ladies' windows and the women frantically closing their curtains when tourists took out their cameras. We were offered drugs by dodgy street dealers numerous times and although there are police controlling the area constantly, I personally don't think I would visit without some male company or a large group at least!

We caught up with the rest of the ESN group in a bar called Hotshots, then No 129 and followed by a club on Rembrandtplein. The final club was absolutely packed and full of older adults waving sparklers and singing Christmas songs, so we decided to go to a quieter bar to complete the evening.

On Sunday, we were up slightly later for breakfast and my two friends and I decided to visit Anne Frank's House. As expected, the waiting time was over 90 minutes and as we only had the morning to explore Amsterdam one final time, we decided to skip it and go for another wander around the city. We spent the morning stopping for tea/coffee breaks in cafes and enjoyed a Pizza lunch at an Italian restaurant before heading back to the hotel. We left Amsterdam late-afternoon and I slept for the whole four hours of the journey! I was absolutely exhausted and had started to feel really unwell after lunch - I'm now back in Leuven choked with the cold!

Although the Amsterdam trip was very full on and slightly hectic/stressful at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It's definitely not a place I would think about settling down in in the future, as I definitely think it's too touristy nowadays. For example, it was quite surreal being on local transport in Amsterdam sitting next to a guy with an Edinburgh Leisure sports bag - there are British people everywhere!

Thankfully, it's a Belgian national holiday tomorrow, so I can catch up on some well needed rest. Things are looking pretty quiet next week, but I'm sure there'll be something blog post worthy to write about!
Copyright @ Alix Staines.