Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Venray? Travel booking?

We are all starting to acclimate over here. 

Classes are in full swing. Its nice to go down to the lounges and see people reading books for school, although I'm fairly sure that will get old fast. right? It always does. 

My ethics class seems pretty interesting. It's a lot about ethics and philosophy in the realm of biology. People tell me the professor, Bianca is pretty tough, which is fine. Although in class yesterday, many people were distracted by the fact that she wasn't wearing a bra. Immature, I know, but I do recall someone telling us this when we signed up for the class. Welcome to Europe?

Last time I updated, I mentioned that I was going to Venlo with a couple of people to check things out. OMPH. Did that turn into an adventure...
My friend Ben and I were going to go to Venlo, which is about 45 min away from the castle. We asked around at dinner, told people they were more than welcome to come, and that we were meeting to leave at 6:45. We got a group of about 10 together, everyone met us, and right as we were about to leave EVERYONE bailed out. I'm not quite sure what their reasoning was, (I think some wanted to say here and go to the bar, or too tired, or whatnot) but all the sudden it was just Ben and I. Which was fine because Ben is good company. While walking to the bus stop, we decided to just go and check out Venray (which is only 20 min away) instead. So we're sitting at the bus stop, it's FREEZING cold, and the bus just isn't coming. 
Finally after about 25 min we see the bus that we need, and when it pulls up, the driver opened the door and told us he was off duty so we needed to wait for the next bus that was coming in 5 min. 
Flash forward another 10 min. Ben and I are starting to freeeeeeze, so we decide to just call it a night and head back. I also realize that I couldn't find my strippenkart. Strippenkarts are bus tickets... they're kind of weird and hard to explain, but imagine a charlie card and a plain old ticket fused into one. Anywhoo, we start to walk back, pretty defeated, and we get about 40 feet down the street when we see the next bus coming, so we start to RUN down the street, and as we were running, I found the strippenkart! It had lodged itself between my arm and the sleeve of my shirt. We get on the bus, high five, and start to thaw out. The people giving us directions to Venray, told us to get off at the Venray station. So we see the stop for Venray station, get off the bus, and proceed to walk around, looking for a court yard to walk through, which apparently leads you to the center of Venray. There was NO courtyard in sight. Ben and I walked around for like 40 min looking for downtown Venray. We couldn't decide if the girl that gave us directions was high, or bad at giving directions or what, but all we knew is that we were cold and lost. Finally we saw a nice young man on the street and we asked him how to get to where we wanted to go. He laughed at us, and told us we were about 3 km away, and had to go to the Venray BUS STATION. Someone could have clarified that for us. WOOF. So we go back to the train station and waited for the next bus, which wasn't coming for another half hour. It was fun though. We played the movie game while we waited and laughed about how silly this night was turning out. Finally the bus came, and we took it the three more stops to Venray (at this point it was about 9pm) The reason that we kept going, and didn't turn back around to Well was because everyone told us that the shops and whatnot closed at 10. We had come this far and we wanted to at least have an hour in Venray before heading home. So we get off the bust at about 8:50 and walk into the center of Venray. NOTHING WAS OPEN. There was a group of middle school aged boys hanging out in the center of the square who told us that everything closed early on Mondays. 

All that Ben and I could do was laugh. At least we made it to Venray.

That was two nights ago. 
Last night was spent primarily planning our first weekend trip after Amsterdam. It was originally Switzerland, which has been pushed back a few weeks due to train issues, and is now Paris. The group of Switzerland people (Me, Katie Jo, Cherlynn, Stella, Rachel and Stephen) have split up for this weekend (Katie and Rachel are going to London, Cher and Stephen are going to Scotland, and Stella is going with someone else to Copenhagen) and I have decided to go to Paris with Justin, Rosie, Ashley, Kirin and Kelly. I am VERY excited, they are a fun group, and Paris feels like the perfect first destination. So we all sat around trying to figure out the best way to plan this trip... it was VERY stressful. We couldn't figure out how to book the trains because the instructions they gave us during orientation were very confusing, and the web sites were all in dutch, and we were busy crunching numbers trying to figure out what was the cheapest way to stay in the city. 
So far though, it seems to have worked out BEAUTIFULLY.
We rented an apartment, for three nights, right in the heart of Paris, and it only costs about 57 per person for all three nights, which is cheaper then any hostel we found, and way closer to all the action. I also called the train people and booked our trains, and everything was way easier then they made it sound. There was a reservation fee, but I was expecting that. So lalala. We are going to Paris in two weekends. YES!

Also, I pretty much worked out my travel plans for the rest of the semester. I didn't mean to, but they just worked out that way. Here is the tentative list:

1/30-2/01: Amsterdam (with school)
2/5-2/8: Paris (Justin, Rosie, Kirin, Kelly, Ashley)
2/13-2/15: Dublin (Katie Jo, Stella, Cher, Stephen, Rachel... and I think some others will also be there that weekend)
2/20-2/22: Switzerland (Rosie and Ashley) That's Carnivale so we want to be back on Sunday for the festivities. 
2/27-3/1: Vienna? (Somewhere with Michael, Hilary, Kayla, Lauren, Lily)
3/6-3/10: Prague with school
3/10-3/15: Travel Break- UK  (Stella and Bettina... AND RYAN AND LAURA COME FROM US!)
3/20-3/22: Copenhagen (MJ, Cher)
3/27-3/29: Berlin (Katie Jo and Bettina... Kappa weekend :) )
4/3-4/5: Barcelona (Katie Jo, Bettina, Ashley, Justin, Cher... a lot more people are going that weekend)
4/8-4/13 (Easter weekend): Greece (Katie Jo, Bettina, Cher, Michael?)
then the last weekend is Exams. then home. 

clearly this is all subject to change, but this is what it looks like for now. lalala. 

alright. I should get dressed and ready for lunch! 
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, January 26, 2009

End of Orientation and first day of classes

So, I have officially entered school mode. Classes started today, but my World Drama class, which was supposed to happen tonight was cancelled for the evening because our professor is sick. Such is life. Instead of having class, most of us in that class (which consists of the performing arts majors that are here this semester) are going to Venlo, a town near by to check it out and see what's around. 

I guess before I get to that I'll recap the past couple of days and my class this morning:

Saturday night they had a Spanish guitar duet concert for us in Sophie's lounge and then we went back to the Linden (there isn't much else to do on a Saturday night in Well), and we had a lot of fun. Pretty much everyone from Emerson was there, as well as the enitre town of Well. They were in the process of choosing the theme song for Carnivale (which is in about a month) and it was a blast. We danced in dutch conga lines, everyone got up on the pool table and danced, it was a good time for everyone. 

Then sunday was back to orientation stuff...
So the rest of Orientation was actually pretty fun. Sunday we had sessions about the academics here at the castle with Dulica, who my love for is growing more and more with every time that she talks to us, as well as sessions on how to plan trips and Dutch traditions. There we learned how to sing happy birthday in Dutch, (there are videos of us singing to Michael on picassa). We had about two hours between the meetings about the castle and when we were going to meet to walk over to dinner, so Bettina, Katie Jo, Cherylynn, Stella, Lauren and Ilanna and I went on a little walk around the Kasteel to take pictures. (You can see them all: Then it was off to a dinner and wine reception thrown for us by the school at Da Grote Waay. Da Grote Waay is a restaurant and inn owned by Nellie and her family. Nellie is the woman who does all the catering for the Kasteel and she's wonderful. 

Dinner was good fun, as was the reception, which was really everyone just sitting around drinking some wine, but it has been nice to sit down with all the people here and really get to know them. I am enjoying the company of everyone on this trip so much. I cannot wait to begin traveling to places with people. Bettina, and our friends Ben, Ashley, Rosie, Michael, Clay and I have some plans for Amsterdam already. We also are about to book our trains to Switzerland, and our apartment in Paris (how fun!)

My first class this morning was Art History: Renaissance and Baroque with Dulica, and Rob Dukers. Dulica taught the class today, and as I said before this woman AMAZES me. I love her and her logic. I've only had once class with her so far, but her logic is sensible and I am excited to hear what she has to day. 

I guess that's about all for now. 
Just some bumming around until dinner and then Venlo tonight. 
I miss the people in Boston, but at the same time, I can tell that I am NEVER going to want to leave this place.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Hello all.
So I am writing this on Saturday, although I won’t get internet until Monday (because I had some trouble with my anti virus software), so now I have to wait until Hubert, the groundskeeper, who I will get to in a minute, comes back to the castle to get me online. Not that I am complaining…. because I am currently living in a tower, in a castle, in The Netherlands. WHAT?

I guess I should start off talking about the journey over here and the things that have gone on in the first 30 or so hours since arriving in Well.

The epic day started at 9 am on the 22nd at Emerson, where we had an orientation with the head of external programs, who I am lead to believe doesn’t really know much about the program. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good resource, but he didn’t even begin to skim the surface of what it was going to be like once we got here, granted how could you? After this info session/orientation, it was a whirlwind of saying my last goodbyes in Boston. My parents, a group of Kappas (and Kelly), and myself all went to CPK for lunch, and then it was time to load the busses. Saying goodbye to everyone was tough because it really hit me that life was going to move on in Boston and I wouldn’t be there. I know that sounds narcissistic, but I mean that everyone will be making fun memories at school that I won’t be able to share. That feeling died down pretty soon after the busses pulled out of school though because I realized that I was on my way to make my own memories in Europe.

The airport was pretty painless. It took everyone a little bit to get checked in, but once we all got through to the gate we had about an hour and a half until boarding the plane. Katie Jo, Stella and I bought pretty ghetto watches at Hudson news. We all forgot to pack ours, and we realized that it was pretty essential, followed but a stomach churning meal at the food court and then it we were off to Amsterdam.

A little under six hours later we arrived in Amsterdam. We all made it in one piece, although one girl on our trip left her passport in the seat pocket of the airplane and had to run back to get it. It was pouring rain when we got there, which made it interested loading on to the buses, but tired and soaked we boarded the two coaches (very similar to those buses we would fill on Price-Bralow-Friedburg trips) and drove to Well. It was about a two and a half (ish… I think) hour drive, and most of us slept for about an hour of it. It was surreal falling asleep looking at the rainy skies and construction that was happening right outside Amsterdam, and waking up (although still drizzling) to sheep and windmills. Wow. We all started to get pretty jazzed when we saw signs for Nijmegen, Venray and Venlo, the places that we have heard about from past castle dwellers as the towns near by Well, and then finally we started to see signs for Well. Everyone on the bus started to squeal, as we drove through the main street of Well. No one was standing in the street waving at us (like David Griffin said) but that was fine because all the sudden we were parked outside the outer moat of Kasteel Well.

The castle is amazing. I cannot even begin to describe all of it. I know a good handful of people who have been to the castle already, and none of their pictures or descriptions came close to truly capturing the feeling of this place. (Although, Caitlin, you did a pretty good job breaking it down for me ☺) We all helped unload everyone’s luggage off the busses and we stored it in the parking lot and headed into the Barbetta room (which is kind of like a big lecturish hall) for a Welcome from Dulcia. Dulcia is the director of the castle program and I have only heard AMAZING things about her. From the little bit that I have met of her, I can see why. She is so friendly and excited about us being here. I cannot wait to talk to her more and have her as a teacher. After the welcome we headed down to lunch, and on our way down we saw a list with all of our room assignments on it. Clearly, being nosey, I peaked at it and saw next to me and my other two roommates names TW2. I knew that MC stood for Main Castle, VB stood for Voorburcht (which is this U shaped building that surrounds the castle…. Which is the building that I live in), NW which stood for New Wing (also in the VB) so Cherylynn, one of my roommates, and I deduced that we were living in the tower. AMAZING. After lunch they showed us to our rooms, Rachel (yes I live with the only other Rach(a)el on this trip), Cherylynn and I got to our room, and it was this tiny green door in the wall with our names on it (I’m posting pictures on picasa, so you can really get a feel for it) and when you open it, and by it, I mean the huge cast-iron latch that is the doorknob,  there is a set of steep, narrow wooden stairs (also there are pictures). At the top of the stairs is another door, and through that door is our amazing, wonderful, awesome, beautiful room. It’s a circle (duh, we’re living in a castle tower) with five windows with three of them have window seats, accents of grey and red and an extra dresser because the room is sometimes used as a quad. (look a the pictures, I’m not doing this room justice) When the three of us walked in, we dropped all of our stuff and started to jump around from excitement. Literally jump.

Since then they have been keeping us pretty busy with orientation stuff. We were done with the programming last night after dinner, so we all (well most of us) decided to check out the Linden, which is one of two bars here in Well, and the one that is frequented most by Emerson students. Jack, the owner was very excited to see that the Emerson kids were back in town, and after giving us a short intro and talk about American Night at the bar (which we are all pretty excited about) we all sat around and enjoyed a pretty tame night of trying Dutch beers and getting to know each other.

I’m sure that’s all you can handle for now, this is getting to be pretty lengthy, but I will keep this updated to the best of my abilities.
And in case anyone was wondering: for now my travel weekends look like this:
1) Jan 30th- Feb 1st: Amsterdam (school excursion)
2) Feb 6th-8th: Gyron, Switzerland
3) Feb 13th-15th Paris, France (on Valentines day… I know)
4) Feb 21st-22nd staying in Well for Carnival
Also on the list is the UK for our extended travel break—Stella and I are meeting up with our friends Ryan and Laura in London for a few days, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Barcelona, Greek Islands (Easter weekend), Bruges and Brussels and of course Prague on our other school excursion.
Hope you all are doing well! I miss everyone a lot. If the mood so strikes you feel free to email me ( I would LOVE to hear from all of you and will do my best to respond.