A Semester in Prague: Week 5

This week was a bit more relaxed than the rest. I didn’t make plans to travel over the weekend, and staying in Prague for a nice relaxed weekend sounded like a dream. This travel thing is exhausting, and while I love discovering new places and creating new memories, its also nice to take a step back and spend time in your host city.

The week went by as it always does: Tuesday being my favorite day. This week in our cooking class we made the most delicious sausage and sauerkraut soup, savory potato pancakes, and dessert of all desserts, a mixed-berry streusel. Everything we make in this class has been so easy and quick, despite the fact that we’re cooking for 12. We basically just throw some ingredients in a bow, usually no more than 5, and voilà, a delicious meal and some good conversation to go with it.

On Wednesday, my European Design History class took a little field trip to the nearby Dům U Černé Matky Boží (House of the Black Madonna) which is one of the most famous Czech Cubist buildings in Prague. Inside there is a permanent exhibition displaying the famous works of Czech cubists, ranging from the traditional paintings to furniture sets, ceramic works and glassware. It was interesting to see this movement which was predominately realized on paper take on a three dimensional form. The Czech Republic’s cubist movement is significant because Prague is the only place in the world where you can find the cubist ideology in the architecture of buildings.

After visiting the museum, we went on a quick 5 minute walk to find another cubist piece living on the streets of Prague. This cubist lamp post is tucked away in a quiet corner right off one of the most touristic locations in Prague (Wenceslas Square). This is a was designed by Emil Kralicek and is the only cubist lamp post in the world. Its pretty cool to think that all this cool architecture and design took place in a city I’m now living in. IMG_6394.jpg

The majority of my weekend was spent designing my portfolio website and trying to find all working files of previous projects of mine. My portfolio is almost done, its just a matter of me tweaking a few of my current projects to better reflect what I’m capable of— something I wish I had done right after I got comments and critiques from my professors.

On Saturday, I wandered into the city center and did a bit of window shopping, and just felt out the city while alone. I feel like I’m more able to fall in love with a place when I feel like I a comfortable and belong there. Walking around Prague definitely gave me the feeling that I’m no longer a tourist here and that I understand how the city functions on a deeper level, and that really excites me. Despite my family’s town in Holland, I’ve never felt like a real local in a foreign place and I’m so glad I have this experience to grow from. I was a bit nervous about feeling out of place in Prague and feeling like I didn’t belong but I’m glad I was wrong about my nerves.

On Sunday my friends and I pulled ourselves away from our computers and ventured out to IKEA. We had no real reason to go, but it seemed like a fun outing away from Prague’s center. We left with a few bits and pieces to make our lives more comfortable — kitchen knives and blankets, and somethings that we didn’t need — ziplock bags (IKEA is the only place in Prague that has them) and fake plants. We headed back and got burgers at a small restaurant tucked in the back streets of Prague. It was an American pin-up girl themed restaurant with live music and great burgers.

This chill week has left me well rested for the week ahead. I don’t have any real plans for next weekend, but I’m thinking it might be fun to travel down to Budapest. The week after my school is taking us to Berlin, and then the following weekend is the start of spring break! I’m so stoked for all this travel, but most excited to see my parents over spring break. I’m exited to show them around Prague and experience new parts of Prague with them that I have yet to explore.

P.S. I’m updating this blog weekly, but you can follow my day-to-day adventures on Instagram: @aninavdv

A Semester in Prague: Week 4

Whoops, these posts are getting later and later in the week. Time is flying by here in Prague though! I can’t believe I’ve already been here for a month! I’ve never been outside of the US for this long and while I’m enjoying my time immensely, all the comforts of home are starting to creep up on me. Classes keep me somewhat busy and my weekend adventures definitely keep my traveling spirit alive.

Tuesdays are always my longest, yet most enjoyable day of the week for one simple reason — my culinary class. I’m a huge fan of cooking and signing up for a Czech culinary class might have been the best decision I have made thus far on my trip. Each week we make a three course dinner for each other, consisting of soup, an entree, and the most delicious desserts. I’m starting to think that I should dedicate an entire post each week to what we make in this class, sharing each recipe so that I can remember them in the future as well. This week we made roasted onion soup, sausage and sauerkraut strudel, and a classic apple strudel. Its so interesting to learn new techniques and to learn our teacher’s family recipes.

The rest of the week flew by and before I new it I was packing my bags and boarding a plane to Eindhoven. It was so refreshing to know that I was flying to a familiar place where they spoke a (somewhat) familiar language and seeing some of my favorite people— my Dutch family. I took four friends to the Netherlands with me and was well and prepared to be their official Dutch tour guide!

We arrived late at night and my uncle, Luc and cousin, Daan came to the airport to pick us up. A few minutes later we were “home” and settled. We had a few drinks in the blokhut, played some games, and chatted until the wee hours of the morning. It was a fun way for my cousin to meet my friends and they got a bit of a taste of my family as well.

The next morning my friends slept in while I made my way to Bergeijk to pick up my Dutch passport!! After the stressful fiasco that was trying to get a visa for the Czech Republic, I was so glad to officially be a part of the EU. Holding that passport was like a giant weight lifted off of my shoulders.

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The rest of the day was spent playing cards, exploring Boxtel and the Friday morning market, and visiting Oma. It was fun to show my friends around a town that I am so familiar with and I gained a new appreciation for Boxtel and the childhood days I spent there. I consider my Dutch heritage to be a huge part of who I am and it was fun to get to share that with my friends. We ended the evening with the typical Friday meal of frietjes and kroketten and a long night of endless card games.

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The next morning my friends and I woke up early to catch the train to Amsterdam. We only had a few hours in the city, so we did a bit of strategizing to get the most out of our short visit. We walked quickly through the Red Light District, stumbled upon Dam square, strolled along the canals, barely dodged quite a few bikers, and finally ended up at the Rijks Museum. The Rijks Museum is probably one of the most beautiful museums I’ve ever been to, and its not as overwhelming as other art museums such as the Met.

We spent an hour or so wandering around and looking at some incredible artwork. I had been there before, but still managed to see artwork that I hadn’t seen during prior visits. After the Rijks Museum we spent some time being typical American tourists and took photos at the I amsterdam letters outside of the Rijks museum.

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After a quick lunch, we split up into two groups — two of us headed to the Van Gogh museum, and the other three to walk the streets of Amsterdam. I was a bit museumed-out so I guided the other two to Vondelpark, and then just through the streets to see the typical Amsterdam houses. In the two hours that we were walking around we got sunshine, clouds, and even a bit of rain.

We all met back up for dinner and made our way back to the train station for an early night back to Boxtel. We spent the rest of the night playing games, laughing lots, and building card towers.

The next morning I woke up early to have breakfast with Oma, and spend a bit of time with her before we went back to Prague. We headed back to Prague around noon, and spent the rest of the day getting ready for the week ahead.

It was so nice to see my family again, and to feel a bit of that comfort of home. I feel incredibly lucky to have them so close and its comforting to know that they’re only a short plane journey away.

I’m still loving this study abroad experience, and its giving me a serious case of the travel bug. I am making all sorts of plans to travel within Europe and I’m even thinking about some short trips I might take when I get back to the US. Next weekend I’m taking a bit of a break from the weekend trips and just having a chill weekend in Prague which should be nice a refreshing. I’ve seen quite a bit of Prague already and I’m getting relatively comfortable with the city, but there’s so much more to explore. Catch you next week for another update, and possibly another post dedicated entirely to my cooking class!

P.S. I’m updating this blog weekly, but you can follow my day-to-day adventures on Instagram: @aninavdv

Barcelona, Spain

The second city on our Europe tour was Barcelona, one of my new favorite cities. We had a little bit more time in Barcelona, and I feel like both the addition of half a day and a bit more planning lead to a much better experience in Barcelona.

We were staying with a family friend, and they gave us a few suggestions on places to go, and things to see. The first day we got there we wandered down to Las Ramblas in attempt to go down to the beach. Las Ramblas were fairly crowded, so we walked quickly down to the bottom and grabbed an ice cream before walking for a bit on the boardwalk. About halfway on our walk to the beach it started to rain, so we turned back to head home.

The next day, we booked our tickets to go see La Sagrada Familia. We had the morning to explore more of Barcelona, so we headed out to the streets with a basic idea of what to see per suggestion of our family friends. We explored the Gothic Quarter and finished at the Barcelona Cathedral. The architecture was absolutely stunning in the Gothic Quarter, and there were decorative details at every turn.

When we were getting closer to our ticket time for La Sagrada Familia, we hopped in a taxi and drove across town. We made sure we got there with some time to spare so that we could view the outside and take some time to admire the architecture before we went inside. We walked all the way around the building, which is still under construction after 131 years. The exterior of the basilica is stunning, but I was not at all prepared for the design and scale of the interior. It was absolutely breath taking, and I was completely mesmerized by the stained glass windows.

After visiting La Sagrada Familia, we hoped in a taxi again and headed to another of Gaudi’s most famous works: Park Güell. We spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the park, and admiring the architecture and the views. The park was a nice escape from city life, and was beautifully landscaped.

While we didn’t spend the money to venture onto the terrace, we didn’t find it necessary with the amount of land to cover. We hiked all the way to the top of the steep hillside and back down again making a full circle around the park. The sunshine and warm weather definitely made the experience that much better.

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On our last night, we took the kids out for dinner. We also met up with one of Marguerite’s friends from college who had been living in Barcelona. We had a lovely night and spent a lot of good time catching up.

I fell in love with Barcelona and I honestly can’t wait to go visit again. There was just something about the bright positivity of the city that I can’t resist. I highly recommend visiting if you ever have the chance.

Madrid, Spain

Beginning last November, my sister (Marguerite) and I started planning our yearly trip to Europe with two new additions to our group. My brother (Olson) and his girlfriend (Sam) decided to join us this summer, only to add more fun to our adventures. For the past few summers, my sister and I have traveled to the Netherlands in the short time period between school and summer camp to visit our family. As we’ve gotten older and more adventurous we have added countries to our trips, always experiencing new things and visiting friends abroad. This summer, we all decided to check Spain and Italy off our travel bucket lists. We had about a week and a half of travel, so we found four cities that piqued our interest the most, and started planning.

Our first city was Madrid, Spain. One of my best friends from boarding school lives there, so I used our trip as an excuse to go see her. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan our trip very well and we came right in the middle of her final exams, but we did get to see her for a bit. We didn’t do a whole lot of planning for Madrid, and weren’t really sure what we should be going to see. So a lot of our time was spent just wandering the streets.

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On our first night, after a bit of miscommunication and confusion with our AirBnB hosts, we finally arrived at our AirBnB and were ready for dinner. We were not fully acquainted with the cultural differences in Spain, and when we arrived at this restaurant at nearly 8 p.m. we were shocked to find out that they were not serving dinner yet. Luckily they opened just a few minutes later and we were able to have our first true Spanish meal. This place was recommended by our AirBnB hosts, and it was absolutely delicious, plus who couldn’t turn down a restaurant with such an appealing look! We ended the night with a stroll around and a first taste of Madrid, as well as a cone of gelato before making our way back to the apartment.

 

The next morning, after a bit of research, we decided to visit the train station, the The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and Plaza Mayor. These things were all relatively close to our apartment, and we were able to knock out all of these sights before noon.

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We were starting to get a bit hungry and were looking for a place to rest for a minute. Knowing that Spain is known for its churros, we found the Chocolatería San Ginés which just happens to be one of the most famous spots for churros in Madrid! I definitely recommend stopping by and getting yourself some churros here. Also, the hot chocolate is a necessity for the churros, and no, it isn’t like American hot chocolate. Haha.

 

After a quick churros break, we headed back onto the streets, looking for Puerta De Sol. I think we were all a bit overwhelmed by the crowds (we are used to the quiet Appalachian mountains) to fully enjoy Puerta de Sol, and we decided to do a little shopping on the back streets of Madrid after that.

After some shopping and walking around all day, we were tired so we headed back to our AirBnB to take a quick rest before having dinner with my friend Sandra.

 

At around 8, we met up with Sandra, and had tapas at a restaurant I can no longer remember the name of. It was so nice getting to see her again after two years, and having someone who actually spoke Spanish to be our translator. Our limited Spanish was getting us by, but it was nice to have that person to actually know what was going on.

We realized after expressing our disappointment with Madrid with her, that we had not gotten a true experience of Madrid. I am definitely eager to go back and visit the city with a bit more knowledge and preparation. I would say that one day is definitely not enough time to truly experience a city, and I will definitely be making another trip.

The next morning though we were hopping on a train to Barcelona and our time in Madrid had come to an end. If you are planning on taking a trip to Madrid, definitely plan to have a few days to explore the city. We only saw a small section of the city, and unfortunately that section of the city wasn’t quite what we were expecting.

A Perfectly Magical Winter Break

I’ve been back in school for a week now, and I’m already hardcore missing winter break. It may have something to do with leaving the mountains, or returning to school work, or the fact that it is way to warm in Raleigh to feel at all like winter. I also had quite a long winter break (over a month!) since I didn’t have any final exams (perks of design school) so getting back into the daily grind and constant work work work has been a bit tricky.

So while I should be writing code, learning about shape grammars, and researching inclusive design, I’ll take a minute to share my winter break with all of you.

My whole goal of winter break was to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Since the full effect of cold winter weather hadn’t fully settled in yet, I found myself on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost once a day. Since both my siblings were still in school and I didn’t have my usual hiking buddies, I spent a lot of time alone which was actually super refreshing. I’m the kind of person who actually enjoys spending time by myself so having afternoons on the trails with only my camera and my thoughts was nice after a long grueling semester.

I’m realizing it now as I look through the pictures that I took over break and realized that I didn’t actually take too many photos. I found myself leaving behind my camera on several occasions and just going off for a drive and stumbling upon a trail to explore. It was a challenge to try to get nice shots on my phone, but I made do with what I had available.

Somewhere in the midst of all this hiking and outdoors stuff I managed to drive over to Nashville, Tennessee. My best friend is currently part of Nashville Ballet’s second company, and was performing in the Nutcracker. I haven’t missed one of his Nutcracker performances since we became friends, so the five hour drive surely wasn’t going to stop me now. Looking through my phone, I realized that I have absolutely no photos of Nashville, which sort of upsets me. Ah, oh well. I’ll just make him dress up like the grandfather when he’s home again and get a photo with him. Peyton, you down with that?

I also went exploring with the fam-bam and we all shared some of our favorite hikes with each other. While I enjoy the solitude of an hour on the trails, its nice to share the scenery with other people and discover new places in the process.

We all have a major love for snow skiing, so we made a ski trip a priority on our winter break list. We met up with an old family friend (not in this photograph) and had a fun filled weekend of snow tubing, decorating Christmas cookies (which we’ve been doing since I can remember), kids vs. parents games of Heads Up, and a day of skiing. It was a perfect day of skiing with 50 degree temperatures and sunny blue skies.

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Probably the most exciting part of winter break was having the company of my aunt, uncle, and Oma for Christmas. They made a last minute trip to North Carolina to spend the holidays with us. It was such a treat to have them here for a few days. It was Oma’s first time to North Carolina in roughly ten years. It was like a true family Christmas.

During the last few days of my winter break, North Carolina got a mini monster of a snow storm. It started on Friday morning and by the time I woke up on Saturday morning we had a good 6 inches on the ground. On Sunday, the snow still hadn’t melted but I packed my car up and got ready to go back to Raleigh. I had just hit the road to go back to school when I got a text informing me that my first day of classes had been cancelled, so I got one extra day of break. It was a nice little surprise to have one last home cooked meal and a few hours more with the parents.

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Europe Trip 2016 || Day 18-19: Boxtel

I’m going to condense some of the days spent in Holland because a majority of our time was spent relaxing with the family.

Day Nineteen:

Our week long trip in Ireland had come to an end. We woke up relatively early to make it to the airport on time. Once all checked in and through security we stopped for breakfast and coffee. Then we boarded the plane and made our way to Eindhoven. Our Uncle Luc met us there and he drove Mom and Amy to the central station so they could go into Amsterdam to see a coffeeshop. Marguerite and I went back to Boxtel with Luc and just relaxed with our cousin Bart and his duck until Suus (Aunt) and Daan (cousin) got home. After dinner Suus, Luc, Bart, Anina, and I went to see Oma (our grandmother). We played cards and had tea. Oma was so happy and excited to see us again. Then we went back to the Molenpad and met Freek (Daan and Bart’s cousin… not on our side of the family) and Daan were playing darts and drinking since Daan finished his final exams that day. We all just sat around playing games and chatting and just enjoying each other’s company. Mom and Amy showed up at around 11:00 and they said they had a fun time in Amsterdam. We stayed out until about midnight until we were all tired then we went to bed.

Day Twenty:

Marguerite and Amy slept in, so Mom and I went to Oma’s early that morning. We stopped to get her flowers on the way and I laughed at mom using American biking signals on our bike ride. After a cup of coffee and a lekker warm stroopwafel we headed back to the Molenpad (Aunt and Uncle’s house) to make sure Marguerite and Amy were up and awake. At around 1:00 we went back to Oma and Opa’s house for a big family reunion. Anne-Lies (great-aunt) came early to spend some time with us before the great-aunts from my Oma’s side got there. Then Oma’s sisters came. Tante Ann, Marij, and Guus and his wife, Thea were all there. It was nice in the garden with the whole family and to see all the tantes again. Oma was so happy as well. After that we went back to the Molenpad and Daan had another party with all his friends. Denis came and brought paling (smoked eel) which is my Mom’s favorite so we ate that and had a few drinks sitting next to the Dommel. Marguerite, Bart and I played a game of dominoes as all of Daan’s friends had a bonfire in the back yard. After a few rounds, Marguerite joined Daan and his friends and Bart and I went to sleep.

World Travels || San Francisco 2015: Day 4

Oh goodness, it looks like my streak is broken! I actually do have an excuse for yesterday though. Lets see, where do I start. I guess, you all should know that today is prom (WhoopWhoop!) however, prom is quite stressful. I ordered my dress about a month ago, feeling that I might be pressing for time, but my dress shouldn’t have a problem finding me by the 18th. However, my dress did have a hard time finding me and a spiraling series of events lead to the fact that I did not have a dress on the day before prom. So, yesterday I had to go to Asheville and search for a dress. Let me tell you, finding a dress this close to prom is really hard, and I do not suggest that anyone do it. Anyway, after about three hours of searching everywhere I could think of, I finally found one that I am happy with. I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it until I got all dressed up today and put it on. It may not be the most fancy prom dress, but it is elegant and quite frankly, I think it looks hella good on me.

Now to the stuff you actually want to read:

On Thurday (the fourth day), we took a break from the city to go and see the more natural wonders of the San Francisco area. Our first stop was Stinson beach. If I may say something, California beaches are fantastically more beautiful than North Carolina beaches. Now, I am in no way shape or form agreeing with the saying “West Coast best coast” because I love me some North Carolina, but Cali does have gorgeous beaches. We spent about an hour at Stinson (there was no swimming because the Pacific is freezing cold). We tried to build sand drip castles (the sand was a little bit too coarse) and then ended up building a “castle” with a moat. When a wave came and filled in the moat (and in the mean time, destroyed our “castle”) we decided to call it quits and go to our next destination. On our walk back up to the dry sand, we found a few crab claws (not something you find in NC) but sadly, we were not allowed to bring them back (they smelled like rotting seafood).

After going to Stinson beach, we grabbed lunch and soaked in a little sun while we were there. Then we headed up to Muir Woods to check out the famous redwoods. Redwoods are quite fascinating trees, really. They are the tallest in the world, but they aren’t very full. Like, they are practically just giant sticks that reach the sky. But, they are beautiful.

After walking around in the woods for a while and playing “slingshot” with my cousins, we loaded back up into the car and headed back to Sausalito. We had a quiet night and then went to sleep, and counted many many sheep in my dreams.

Arizona

Hello again readers!

It’s been a while. Well, since I have been gone, I’ve travelled all the way across the country and back. Yes, that’s right! I went to Arizona with my mom over long weekend! We had such a lovely time and the best part was getting to see my mom again.

Well, on Saturday we woke up bright and early (well, we woke up before the sun, so it wasn’t all that bright) and drove to Innisfree (http://www.innisfreegarden.org/) to watch the sun rise. The garden was open specially for photographers, so I brought my camera and took a few pictures. It was incredibly beautiful, but also bitterly cold. It’s a good think I was somewhat bundled up! Here are a few of the photos that I took.

After that we had breakfast at a small local bakery and then drove to the airport to catch our first flight of two. Our first flight was to Detroit. When we got there it was snowing. Yes, you heard me. SNOWING! It didn’t stick and we still got into the air with no troubles. We had a long flight to Arizona, but the warm weather was refreshing once we got there. It is strange, yet interesting, how diverse the climate are in the United States. We drove two hours to Sedona and almost immediately fell asleep when we got to our hotel. That next morning we woke up and had a very relaxing morning. We went to a beautiful resort hidden away in the red rocks for a cup of coffee for my mom and a smoothie for me. We wandered around the resort and I snapped a few shots of the red rocks. At around 10:30 we went to visit family at their house in Sedona. We went out and wandered in the shops and galleries of Sedona until dinner time. We came back to their house for pizza and ice cream, but I did not make it for the ice cream. I was drifting off to sleep, so my mother took me back to the hotel and we went to bed!

The next morning we woke up bright and early (again, not so bright because it was before the sun had risen) to watch the sun rise from the top of the Vortex. The Vortex was a small rock formation that had a lovely view of the town of Sedona and the famous red rocks. Once the sun had risen we went back to the hotel for breakfast. Then we got all geared up to go to Oak Creek Canyon. No, this is nothing like the Grand Canyon, but it was still beautiful. We drove for about 30 minutes (after getting somewhat lost and having to turn around… then we found out that we had actually been going in the right direction so we turned back around) to the top of huge canyon. It was breathtaking! The sheer cliffs made me feel like I was on top of the world! After we had spent a little while on the canyon taking pictures (and putting makeup on… Mom) we drove back down the mountain and joined our family for marguerites (mine had no alcohol of course) and Mexican. Then we went to some more shops and wandered some more. Once we were worn out from shopping, we headed back to our family’s house and watched Letter’s to Juliet. The wife has not had the pleasure of raising girls, so we spoiled her with a chick flick. When the movie was over, we bid our farewells because we had to wake up early the next morning to catch our flight. We stopped for fro-yo (or yo-fro as my mother likes to say) on the way back to our hotel. Nutella frozen yogurt with nutella in it. Such bliss!

The next morning we woke up and got ready for our flight back to the east coast. It was a busy day of flying and driving. I would just like to take this last little blurb to thank my mother for taking me on this trip and for thanking the Oliphants for having us and everything else they did/are doing for us. Also a big thank you to Diana King for letting us stay in her house in Connecticut and for talking my mother and I to Innisfree. I don’t know if you guys are reading this, but thank you so much for everything!