A Travellerspoint blog

Paris

Yippee for Disneyland!

sunny 34 °C

So.. I have recently gone to Paris twice. This post is about the first trip with my friends Lynsey and Adam.

The purpose of this trip was to a) see Versailles and b) see Disneyland (but those of you who know me, now this trip was mostly for Disney)

Lynsey and I opted for the cheapest transportation. From Den Haag you can take a night bus to Paris. You leave around 11pm and arrive around 6 am. It was only 30 euros. Good deal right? Nay.

The way there was actually pretty good. I sat by a window and passed out on the cold glass for most of the way there. But, the way back was a nightmare, but I'll get to that later.

So we pulled into the Paris bus station a little before six and grabbed our bags. We headed to the nearest ticket machine to buy rail tickets to take a few trains to the general location of our hotel. The line was huge! So we took one of the attendants advice and walked about 5 minutes down the station to an "empty" machine. Except that machine wasn't empty-- the line was actually twice as long as the first one we saw. So we went back to the first one, which had doubled in size since we left it. Instead of going back and forth between lines we just decided to stay in this one. After a 30 or 40 minute wait we finally got our ticket and walked to where the tram picked up.

On our walk there a guy started following us. We didn't really think much of it and only took notice because he was walking really closely behind us. Then he got on the tram with us. And stood really closely. Then we moved down the tram and he followed. Then we got of the tram to switch to another. And he followed again. At this point we were pretty freaked out. I figured he was trying to pickpocket us so we stayed close together and held on to our purses. Then we got off that tram to go up to ground level to find our hotel and he stayed right on our heals the entire time. Lynsey and I saw a group of French army guys up ahead so we sprinted ahead to get in the middle of the group, hoping it would make the creeper go away, but instead he weaved through the group and stood right behind. And started breathing really heavily. Innocent me thought that he was smelling us, but then I saw lynsey turn around to look at him and gasp in horror. Nope, he wasn't smelling us. He had his hand down his pants. So we started running to get out of the station and as soon as we hit daylight he backed off. Disgusting.

Anyways after that we made it to our hotel. It was kind of a dump, but the rooms were clean. The biggest downer though was that we were on the seventh floor. And I hate elevators. So I walked up and down those stairs a million times. With a 30 pound backpack.

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This is the view from our hotel room. It was exactly what I expected Paris to look like!

We checked in about 10:00 am and headed to breakfast and waited for Adam to get there by train.
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Then we headed to Disneyland!

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The entrance

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The Haunted Mansion

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Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Disneyland was a lot of fun. It was actually pretty much as the one at home. The layout was practically the same. It had the same rides (Though some had different names). And everything was still overpriced.

After Disneyland we went back to the hotel to change and go out to dinner. We took a train to La Fresque. It was amazing! We sat down and order a house red wine, which was amazing. Then we tried to decipher the menu and figure out what the heck it said. Then we got a second house wine. We we finally got our bill four hours later we were amazed. A bottle of house was over 25 euros! House wine!

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(Us hanging out a the restaurant. Adam's eyes are ALWAYS closed anytime a camera has a flash. He just can't help it )

Then we went for a walk along the Seine River to hunt for the Eiffel Tower. We finally cam around the bend and spotted it. But I was bummed because I always thought the Eiffel Tower sparkled at night. This created a huge debate about its' sparkles and it was two against one: Adam and Lynsey thought I was crazy and I was sticking to my sparkle story. We turned around to leave and out of the corner of my eye what did I see? Sparkles! Apparently it only sparkles at the beginning of each hour for a few minutes.

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Sparkles!

The next day we headed to Versailles. Which turned out to be a massive walk. We thought we were getting off at the right stop. But it turned out we got off about 4 stops too early and ended up walking 45 minutes. In 104 degree heat. But, oh well!

These are just some pretty photos from our walk
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And these are some from our wander around the gardens.

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The gardens were beautiful!I could totally picture Marie Antoinette wandering around with her giant white hair. We even got to rent a row boat and row around the "lake!"

On our way back to the bus station to head home we were able to quickly stop by the Eiffel tower and pose for a few pictures.

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Then it was off to the bus stop for our overnight ride home! Which was torture. I got an aisle seat with a person kicking my chair the entire night. So I slept for about 20 minutes on an 8 hour bus ride. The other 7 hours and 40 minutes I was almost in tears from lack of sleep and being so uncomfortable. But, we finally made it home at 5:30 the next morning and I slept the entire day away!

Up next: Paris, Zurich, and Milan with my family!

Stay tuned!

Posted by Michele530 11:09 Archived in France Comments (1)

Oslo

The trip where nothing went right...

sunny 18 °C

So, I'm warning you ahead of time. If you like Oslo, Norway and don't want to read anything bad about it, then stop reading.

This was a trip from hell. Sure, it could have been worse. But, mostly I was miserable and hated it the whole time I was there.

I made my flight to Norway in one piece. Nothing went wrong and it seemed like a great start to my trip. I was under the impression that I booked a hotel room for this trip. It was advertised as a room in Hotel Permminelan. When I did get there and found out it was a four bed dorm, I wasn't really upset. I didn't matter to me where I was staying as long as it was clean and had a bathroom, and this place met both requirements.

I set down my bags and headed out to the city center which was about a ten minute walk. I sat down at a pub and ordered a Norwegian beer (which was really good). But, it was 11 euros per half pint. Half Pint. which is 2.40 here in the Netherlands. So this meant I couldn't really drink this weekend because it would use up all of my allotted beer money in a half hour. I walked through the city for the next several hours and eventually headed back to the hostel to finish up some homework and call it an early night.

I got back to the room and went to take out my cell phone. And poof! It was gone. No iPhone in sight. Not under the bed, or the desk, or in my bags, or my purse. So, I walked back to all the places I stopped and there was no phone. wonderful. I hurried back to the hostel and tried calling my phone on Skype, but whoever had found it had turned it off.

So, day 1 of 3 is now mostly over and I've already lost my phone.

Next morning I woke up and got ready and headed back into town so I could see if they offered any walking tours of the city, or any activities in general they recommended. They all recommended the tour bus that went around Oslo. So I forked over 240 Kroner for an all day pass to the tour bus and walked about 15 minutes to the bus stop that they picked up from every hour.

Two hours later I was still waiting for the bus. It never came. I finally walked back to the tourist center to get my money back, but the wouldn't refund me. I had to switch it to another tour which of course was more expensive so I had to give them more money after I just wasted almost three hours of my day. Then I had to walk 45 minutes to the harbor to wait for the tour (it was a fjord tour). No problem. But, the boat I wanted to go on was full already, so I had to wait an hour and a half to catch the next one.

I went over to a park next to the harbor and took out my book and read underneath a tree. It was pretty crowded at the park because of a fair that was there that afternoon. A woman (maybe in her early 60's) walks by me and then comes up and asks me something in Norsk. I respond to her (very politely) "Sorry I don't understand." She then scowls at me and turns around to walk, but last second looks at me and says in perfect English "Then why do you people come here then?!"

Now, I have learned while traveling that people either absolutely love Americans or absolutely hate them. And this woman could have meant "you people" as English speakers in general, or foreigners in general, or Americans in general. But, I was just so shocked that this woman would yell at me for no reason. And it really pissed me off. People like that are part of the problem with the world today. They are so prejudiced about people they don't know or understand. And if there was something so wrong with me for speaking English, then why does she speak it as well?

At 2:30 I got on the fjord tour boat. It was very full again, so I had to sit in the middle of the row of seats on the outside. So my view was pretty crappy every direction I looked. But, I could make out some water if I peered just right through peoples arms and legs and heads. After the first ten minutes of boat ride the tour guide came on to start his speech about the fjords. It lasted about 15 minutes and then didn't open his mouth for the rest of the tour. It was a three hour long tour. And I got to sit behind an extremely loud Italian family who were yelling at each other the whole time. And then tried to buy a drink with Euros instead of Kroners and was mad they wouldn't take them. It was just the best trip ever.

I did at least get some pretty shots though:
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So let's recap so far. It's now 5:30 on day two.
My phone is lost
I wasted three hours waiting for a lost bus
I was yelled at in the park
I paid a ridiculous amount of money to listen to Italian people yell at each other for three hours

I then just went out for dinner and an 11 euro beer and then went back to hostel to sleep off the bad day

On my third day there I had to kill time before I went to the airport at 3 to catch my flight back to Den Haag. I spent the morning shopping for postcards and trying to stay out of trouble.

I was extremely relieved when I got to the airport and almost had a tear escape when I landed in Amsterdam. I was glad to be home.

The trip really wasn't that bad, but I just didn't have fun. I wanted to be home the entire trip.

Needless to say I don't really feel the need to go back to Scandinavia now, especially if they are all as expensive as Norway. It did have beautiful scenery though.

Posted by Michele530 05:42 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

London

It's a nice day for a white wedding.

rain 13 °C

This trip was a really long time ago, so I'm a bit fuzzy on the details.

After work on Friday I threw on my back pack, hopped on my bike and pedaled my little heart out to make it to Centraal Station in time to catch my 8:30 pm bus to London. A bus you say? Yes. A bus. An eleven hour bus ride. I figured it was at least an over night bus, so how bad could it be? I could sleep the whole time right?

After finding my bus and putting my stuff down below I found a seat and got comfy. On the way to London I was very lucky and had two seats to myself, so I was able to stretch out for a bit. Soon after I left Den Haag I began talking to a girl sitting across from me. She was 20 and from Germany. She too was an Au Pair living in Den Haag and staying in London for the weekend. We made 4 more stops at other bus stations on our way down Holland.

After about three hours of driving we stopped in Antwerp, Belgium. So, this was about 11:30pm. I got off the bus for a bathroom run then decided it was time to try and sleep. I set up my comfy neck pillow, put on my jacket, and stuck in my headphones.

We stopped again at 1:30 am. Of course I had just fallen asleep. We all had to get out at this stop for customs in France before we crossed the channel on a ferry. And naturally, like every other time I go through customs, they question me for a solid fifteen minutes. I must look really threatening.

By this time it was about 2 am. We drove for another ten minutes through the harbor until we got to our ferry. We waited in line for the bus to load into the bottom of the ferry. This whole time I'm thinking we get to stay on the bus in the ferry and just sleep. Nope. We had to get off the bus and go up to the top of the ferry with the 500+ other people who were also taking buses to London from all over Europe. It was just fantastic.

So Jasmin (the German friend) and I found some seats and coffee and waited out the two hour ferry ride. (Keep in mind this is from about 2:45 am to about 4:45 am) It is ridiculously hard to try and stay awake on a ferry that's rocking back and forth that early in the morning.

We eventually get off the ferry around 5 in the morning and finish the last hour and half of the drive in London.

Naturally my first thought is COFFEE! when I don't sleep at all. But, it was 6:30 in the morning and nothing was open. Jasmin and I ended up walking around London with our back packs on looking for food and coffee. We both did a little happy dance when we saw a Starbucks.

Jasmin and I ended up just spending the entire weekend together (though we were staying at different hostel, so that was a pain). After we found our hostel and checked in, we met back up near the main London station.

I really wanted to be the typical tourist in London. I wanted to do the tour bus and do all the silly things that people think Americans do when they travel (i.e. wear Hawaiian print shirts, running shoes, massive camera, fanny pack, globs of sunscreen on my nose) But, I figured I shouldn't go overboard and just bought the tour bus tickets and an I LOVE LONDON key chain and went on my way.

First stop on the double-decker bus:

Houses of Parliament
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I was trying to figure out if the gate was there to keep us out or the parliament in...

Big Ben
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Next was Westminster Abby
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One thing that really sucked about going this weekend was that it was just days before the royal wedding. So:
1. It was ridiculously crowded.
2. Half the touristy places were closed because they were preparing for the wedding. (I didn't even get to go into Westminster Abby!)

Then we headed to Trafalgar square
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(Count down to the Olympics)

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Up to Buckingham Palace
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Me and Jasmin
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Then we walked through St. James Park and down to the harbor to catch a ferry.
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Princess Diana Memorial Walk

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We hopped on the River Thames ferry to get another view of the city
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London Tower

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London Bridge

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Big Ben and Parliament Buildings

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London Eye

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Opera House

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The Anchor (Super old pub Shakespeare used to hang out at)

After we got off the ferry we finished up the bus tour by going over to the other side of the Thames River.

Here we went to the Tate Modern Museum and The Globe. I have been looking forward to seeing the Globe and having a look around and picturing Romeo and Juliet playing on the stage. So, what happens when I finally get there? They were closed. So I got a picture of the outside.

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By the end of the day Jasmin and I were really zonked. But we were determined to go out. So, we got ready in our cute outfits and redid our makeup. We went outside saw a cafe and ended up staying there, getting, dinner, and then going back to the hostels to finally get some sleep. So much for going out for the nightlife in London.

The next day I decided to do some shopping. I was staying on Oxford St. so all I had to do was walk outside of my Hostel for some good shopping. After spending too much money I walked around London. I made sure to hit all the big touristy places and managed to get a few less known ones in.

At the end of the weekend I loaded back up on the bus headed home. But, this time it was jam packed, so it wasn't very comfortable. We did get on the ferry much earlier in the night, so it wasn't as torturous as the way into London. The biggest bummer for the ride home was switching buses at 3 in the morning. Otherwise the way home was as easy as can be expected.

Overall, it was a good trip. I got to do the touristy things and I met a new friend (we hang out occasionally here in Den Haag now). But, I can't say it stands out among the other places I've been.

Posted by Michele530 04:05 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

I <3 Guinness!

Oh the luck o' the Irish!

rain 10 °C

I have to start out saying that Ireland is amazing. Definitely my favorite place so far.

I spent my three day trip (By myself I might add. Go me!) in Dublin and Wicklow Counties. I landed on Sunday afternoon in Dublin and hopped on the bus to my hostel. There are four amazing things about this trip already:

1. I made it on the train from Den Haag to Schipol Airport on time
2. I got off at the right stop
3. I eventually found my plane and got on it before it took off
4. I found the right bus to take to the Hostel

The bus (which cost a ridiculously high amount of 6 euros) dropped me off around the corner from Globetrotters Hostel. I walked in to a friendly woman sitting at the reception area who gave me a key card and pointed out the direction to go. I was in room 420. I took the elevator up to the top floor, which was only level 3. After wandering around for awhile I figured the lady was crazy and meant to write 320, but as I walked back toward the elevator I say a tiny doorway with tiny little numbers saying 420. I walked through the doorway up a round about staircase and came to a locked door. I put my key card in and POOF! it opened! My room was huge! There were 8 beds in total, plus a kitchen area and an en-suite bathroom. It was heaven. This is normally where I would post a picture of the glorious room, but it my excitement of having a bathroom so close I forgot. :( Anyways, I saw that there were only two beds out of eight that were taken, so I was kind of excited it wasn't packed, but kind of bummed that I might not get to meet any one.

After setting down my things I headed over to O'Connell street to find the tourist information (TI) building to book a day tour for the next day, but then when I saw the "CLOSED" sign on the door I remembered its Sunday. Everything in Europe is closed on Sundays. But, I turned around and saw a salesman for the very tour I wanted to do standing right behind me! It was a sign. I booked a trip to Wicklow County for Monday, plus they gave me two days on the Hop-On Hop-Off tour. And for cheaper than the TI office had advertised on their website. Fantastic!

Here's a statue of O'Connell on his street.

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I immediately got on the tour around Dublin city. I stayed on the bus the entire time the first way around so I could here the whole audio tour and make a mental list of the places I absolutely had to go to.
1. Guinness
2. St. Steven's Green
3. Book of Kells
4. Temple Bar

This sign cracks me up (It says "Guinness-As Usual")

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This may seem like a short list, but by now it was already 6 in the evening and I would have to wait until Tuesday to see the sights before I flew out in the evening. So, now that it was dark and cold and kinda rainy- I headed back to the hostel.

This is when I met my fellow hostel roommates, Katie and Nora. Katie and Nora are from the Black Forest in Germany. Kate is living a few hours from Dublin taking classes and Nora came to visit her. After making small talk we decided to go out for dinner and grab some drinks. Our first stop was The Church which is a renovated church (surprise!) that they made into a bar/restaurant. We grabbed a couple beers and listened to live music for awhile. I have to say I felt a little like a heathen drinking beer in an old church, but oh well! Afterward we went to an Italian place and ate some delicious grub followed by heading back toward the hostel and stopping in at The Celt to have a few Guinness' and listen to some live classic Irish music. It was amazing! I absolutely love Irish music!

We got back to the hostel around 2 and we all quickly fell asleep. Next thing I knew I was awake at 830 and trying to get dressed in my half asleep stupor. The three of us headed down for a free traditional Irish breakfast that the hostel prepared: potatoes, bacon, eggs, bean, sausage, toast, and tomatoes. And crappy, but caffeinated coffee. We then said our goodbyes-- the girls were headed back home and I was off to my tour.

9:30 am-

Leave O'Connell street

11:00 am-

Blessington Lakes

The Blessington Lakes are a series of man made lakes that connect to the River Liffey. They provide clean drinking water to the city of Dublin.

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11:45 am- The Wicklow Gap

I unfortunately don't have any pictures from here because it was pouring! I was too much of a wimp to get out and get drenched.

Noon- Glendalough

Glendalough is a monastic settlement. Parts of the settlement date back to the 10th century.

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These photos make me seem kind of morbid. But, there was something so beautiful about the graves. The were so unkempt and natural. They had been there so long it was as if the were part of nature. Some of these tombstones marked monks that lived to be over one hundred years old! Pretty much unheard of in those times.

We walked around Glendalough monastery for about an hour and then drove up to the upper lake to have a peek, but left early because of the rain which had begun to pick up again.

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2:15 pm- Avoca

Avoca houses Ireland's oldest hand weavers. Here we had lunch, wandered around the town, and watched people hand weave blankets.

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The white building is where the now international business began in the mid 1700's. You can now purchase their products online. (Do I get a portion of their profits if you go look them up and buy something now?)

After we left Avoca around 4 pm we hopped back on the bus for the ride back to Dublin. The skies had finally cleared...

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Tuesday morning I got up and checked out of the hostel. I got back on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus and began making my rounds. Guinness was pretty interesting, though I don't think I will ever need to go there again. I also made it to St. Steven's Green, a pretty Georgian park:

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But, then I had to find a bus back to the airport around 4 in the afternoon.

Top Things to do:

1. See the real Ireland. As cool as Dublin is, it's not really Ireland. It is just a big city. I think the heart of Ireland is the country side and is by far my favorite part of my trip.

2. Go to an Irish pub. They are so much better when you are actually in Ireland.

3. Dance to Irish music like an idiot because it is so much more fun that way

4. Drink a Guinness, or five. Because it is the best.

I made it home without any mishaps... ok so there was one... I took the train to Den Haag Hollandspoor instead of Den Haag Centraal, which was an easy ten minutes on a different train :)...

I can't wait to get to Ireland again!

Next trip: London April 14th to 17th!

Posted by Michele530 13:21 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Leiden and Gouda

(Lie-den) and (Hkow-duh)

sunny 10 °C

I made two quick trips to towns near Den Haag in February and March. On February 6th I went to Leiden with Lynsey and Liz and on March 12th I went to Gouda with Liz and Amy. Both of these towns are only about 30 minutes on the train, so they were short and sweet day trips. In Leiden we started our day off with coffee. And yay! There was a Starbucks there! (only the fourth Starbucks I've seen since I have gotten here- and that includes my trips to Belgium and Germany.)

Here is me and Liz enjoying our deliciousness:

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Lynsey, Liz and I traveled about the town and saw the sights. As you can see below we have mastered the "sit in random place and smile" photos. We weren't sure what we were taking pictures of, but we really didn't care as long as it was either 1. shiny 2. sparkly or 3. pretty.

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I always find that my favorite photos are just the boats in the water with neat buildings behind them. I really want to just go take a nap in one and hang out and read my book.

My next Dutch excursion was to Gouda with Liz and Amy. We were pretty excited to go to the city of the world famous cheese.

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Upon arriving, we wandered around aimlessly looking for the town center. We finally came up with a game plan: find the tallest church and walk that way. Every time I have done this in the past it has worked, and it certainly didn't fail me this time. (except what we thought was the tallest church was in fact the Stadhuis- city hall)

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We went on a Saturday, so it was market day. Market days are the best! Even if you don't buy anything it is truly amazing watching people haggle over one euro. The Dutch cuss words flying and a few "Ik weet het niet" and "kijkes, wat mooi!" are enough to make anyone giggle. Once we found the center we naturally sat down to have a cappuccino. Lekker!

You can kind of see some of the tents from the markets:

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When we finished filling up on caffeine we hit the town! So, basically we looked at all the cheese and windmills.

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But, some of the best sights weren't the cheese or the windmills.

Here I am frolicking in the flowers:
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An adorable car that I strive to one day own:
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Funky lego sculptures:
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A crazy crooked house that I hope to never live in:
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And a circle that is made just for dogs to poop in:
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And to top it all off here are the landscape photos:

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Top Things To Do:

Leiden
1. Make sure you don't go on a Sunday or Monday because things are always closed these days (That goes for all of Holland though)
2. Go to Starbucks and get a fabulous drink
3. Wander around the canals and possibly take a canal boat tour
4. Enjoy the quiet and beautiful scenery

Gouda
1. Load up on caffeine at a local cafe around the city center
2. Go on a Thursday or Saturday to catch the markets
3. Purchase a cute gadget from said market
4. Go look at the Stadhuis, but just look from the outside so you don't have to pay 5 euros to go in
5. Go see the windmills
6. Frolic in the flowers
7. Take a million pictures of stupid things because they will most likely be your favorite ones

Posted by Michele530 12:08 Archived in Netherlands Tagged leiden gouda Comments (0)

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