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DOING IT DUTCH

What an incredible last 2 months its been!

I left Sydney at the beginning of July to embark on an adventure of epic proportions, slowly crossing 3 continents to finally arrive at my destination in Amsterdam.

First stop, Vietnam.

Vietnam in a nutshell. SO HOT! So humid. Vietnamese iced coffees with sweetened condensed milk. INSANE TRAFFIC! Scooters everywhere. VERY VERY HOT! Pho, all day everyday. Saigon. Hot. Nha Trang. Even hotter. Scuba diving in Nha Trang. I love Vietnam!

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Next stop: PARIS. Vin rouge. Escargots. Confit de Canard. NAPOLEON III / HAUSSMANN. Versailles. Latin Quarter (Left Bank) – Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Orwell, Stein. Shakespeare and Co. Musee du Louvre.

Bohemian Buskers
Bohemian Buskers
Hall of Kings - Versailles
Hall of Kings – Versailles
Musee du Louvre
Musee du Louvre

French Countryside. Lazy, warm, quiet, comforting. I was lucky to know some people who live in the French countryside, in the Charente region. I stayed here for most of my travels, using it as a base to do short trips from. In the summer, fields of sunflowers bigger than my head paint a yellow and green sea in all directions.

Coco, the French schnauzer
Coco, the French schnauzer

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MOROCCO. One of my favourite places I’ve ever visited! Vibrant, fun, busy, dusty, chaotic, HOT. I got really into the bargaining (and discovered a new talent!). I stayed mostly in Marrakech, and then did a an overnight journey to the Sahara Desert, where we rode camels into the sunset and slept under the stars.

Inside the souks of Marrakech - a spice seller.
Inside the souks of Marrakech – a spice seller.
High up in the Atlas Mountains
High up in the Atlas Mountains
Sahara Safari!
Sahara Safari!

SPAIN. I visited Bilbao and San Sebastian, in Northern Spain, otherwise known as the Basque Country. It was a whir of Sangria, Paella, and Pintxos! One of my favourite memories was in San Sebastian, eating an enormous Paella in the cramped alleyways of the old quarter, when marching band after marching band began dancing, singing, leaping, and beating their way through the tiny streets. We danced and followed them around for a time, 1 euro glass of wine in hand, and were led out onto a wharf where we were greeted with the most beautiful firework display!

Bilbao - the Guggenheim Museum and Jeff Koons flower puppy!
Bilbao – the Guggenheim Museum and Jeff Koons flower puppy!
Hired a motorbike and rode through the Spanish Pyrenees and along the Basque coast, encountering beautiful fishing villages along the way.
Hired a motorbike and rode through the Spanish Pyrenees and along the Basque coast, encountering beautiful fishing villages along the way.
San Sebastian fireworks during the festival season!
San Sebastian fireworks during the festival season!

Last stop: BELGIUM! My first taste of Dutch in the Flemish speaking Brugge / Bruges. Beautiful city! So many tourists! Next, Brussels / Bruxelles. So many great flea markets and vintage clothing stores.

Brugge is Beautiful
Brugge is Beautiful
Canal dog life
Canal dog life

You have arrived at your destination: AMSTERDAM! Such a fun, bustling, diverse, and beautiful city. I’m living in a shipping container apartment! It was pretty sparse when I arrived, but one trip to IKEA later and voila! Wandering the canals (or grachts) is my favourite thing to do here, and peeking into the beautiful canal homes.

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It’s so easy to get around and the Dutch are super friendly, and speak perfect English! However I’m looking forward to my Dutch language course that I’m undertaking at university. There’s a great going out culture in Amsterdam, with so many fantastic bars and pubs. The city also boasts a very diverse culture, which is reflected in the fantastic variety of food available – they are really really into Argentinian grills. It’s very fun wandering the cobblestone streets and discovering hidden treasures like gorgeous cafes or galleries or boutiques.

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I got my bike! It was an interesting first experience, jumping on a bike that’s slightly too big for me and trying to traverse through the INSANITY that is Dutch traffic. The cyclists here are ruthless! However I’m getting the hang of it, it’s definitely the best way to get around and see the city. Feeling like a local! My assimilation into Dutch society would be solidified if my bike, or at least a wheel, were to be stolen. However fingers crossed that doesn’t happen!

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I’m really looking forward to starting classes this week and exploring subjects that aren’t available to me at UTS, such as philosophy, art history, Dutch history, and Dutch language. So far Amsterdam is ticking all the boxes for me, I’m really happy that I chose to do my exchange here!!

Eloise Flanagan

 

 

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Netherlands

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