The ramblings of an absent-minded doctoral student

The ramblings of an absent-minded doctoral student. Chronicling my life as I earn a PhD in history.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Den Haag: Day Two

Ik heb pijn! Walking for seven hours yesterday was a really bad idea. I am in need of either a muscle relaxer or a massage.

In any case, I managed to get myself up this morning at a respectable hour and was on my way to the archives before 10am (they don't open until 10 due to the renovations, so I didn't feel bad about not being up even earlier). I found the right tram stop and got on the proper tram, although I accidentally rode without paying as I was under the impression I could buy a ticket from the driver. I couldn't actually find the driver in order to pay and just hoped I would go unnoticed. Here's hoping I don't get arrested. Once I got to Centraal Station, I found the HTM offices and immediately bought an OV-Chipkaart for access to the trams and buses. Even though it's more expensive up front (€7,70 to buy the card itself, then adding money to ride), each trip is cheaper (at €1,30 instead of €3,50). Works out in the long run, I suppose (and the card is good until 2018, for whenever I come back!) After much wandering around and turning around and generally having no idea where I was, I found the Nationaal Archief. Turns out, it should have been quite easy to find if I had actually continued past the construction zones. Now, at least, I know where I'm going, so the next few days should run relatively smoothly.

Due to the renovations at the archives, there is limited room in the temporary studiezaal. I managed to get through two boxes of documents before my camera and phone batteries died. Unfortunately, my camera didn't seem to charge properly last night, so tomorrow I know I'll get through all the boxes I've reserved. I felt really good about how quickly I was working, all things considered. Today I'm searching for more documents in the catalogue to reserve for the next few days (here's hoping I can get a seat) and working further on my Dutch language course online. Time here in Den Haag is flying by! It's bittersweet. I'm excited to go home on Sunday, but I also know I have much I could do here. I'll certainly be working to plan another trip out here. It would be wonderful to spend 6 months to a year out here, learning the language and working through more records. Maybe it's something to consider if Kyle deploys again. I've always wanted to be fluent in another language. If I'm going to do it, I need to be immersed! Same with learning French. I just need to live in France for a year or so! #wishfulthinking

Below is an example of some of the items I've found here in Den Haag (fortunately this is much easier to read than most):

Monday, March 4, 2013

Den Haag: Day One Wandelen voor zeven uur was niet mijn plan! I set out this morning with the intention of finding the Peace Palace, Noordeinde Palace, the U.S. Embassy, a couple of museums, Maison de Bonneterie, and the National Archives. While I easily found Peace Palace and made my way to Noordeinde Palace & Maison de Bonneterie, I saw EVERY EMBASSY FROM AROUND THE WORLD EXCEPT ours. How crazy is that!? I even looked on Google Maps and thought I knew the route, but still didn't see it. Oh well. I also didn't find the archives, although I'm taking public transit tomorrow to get there, so *fingerscrossed* I don't get lost. I did, however, stumble across the Museum voor Communicatie (although I think it was closed), got turned around at some point and saw several churches and seemingly important buildings and statues, ended up in a neighborhood I'm not entirely certain was the best place to be, and in my attempt to find my way back, found China Town and the Theatre District. In all, I think I've seen a great deal of Den Haag already! (I would certainly hope so after wandering fairly aimlessly for seven hours.) And to calm myself after getting lost, I stopped by McDonald's to try their appel peer milkshake and learned that you have to pay €0,30 to use the bathroom (which I refused to do). But I do love international menus! Below are a few of the images I've taken so far (although I'm trying not to appear to touristy since I'm alone, so not nearly as many as when I was in the UK):

*Side note: I think my purple coat is becoming part of my international identity. It's in EVERY SINGLE PICTURE OF ME while I've been overseas.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Welkom in Den Haag

This morning was my last morning in Kew. To be honest, as ready as I was to leave, it was surprisingly sad to go. I'm not entirely sure it's hit me yet that I won't be seeing all the people I've met along the way anymore. Claire, Ilana, Mark x 2, Simon, Tony, John, James, Jony, Caroline, and so many more: they've become something of family to me. I only hope I'll get to see them again! And very soon at that!

The trip to the Netherlands was riddled with small moments of panic. It turned out that my carry-on bag was "too big" and would have to be checked along with my other bag. Then it turned out that my main bag was overweight by 4kg! They were going to have to charge me £80 (or roughly $120)! I nearly died. But luckily the woman was really kind and waived the overweight fee. She just told me to readjust my bags before I come back so I only have to pay for the one bag. I was forever grateful for her help. I had a nice half hour wait to find out which gate I was flying out of and from that point on, the trip was relatively fast. I waited at the gate for all of 10 minutes before boarding and shortly after we were taking off. The flight only lasted about 50 minutes (I had just gotten my complimentary wine and some sweet double chocolate chip cookies) and I was finally in Rotterdam. Unfortunately, the airport is misleading because it's the Rotterdam/Hague airport, but is really like 23km away from Den Haag. Luckily, after some Google searching (because the address was on my phone which doesn't work without wifi), the cab driver figured out where we were going. I had a bit of a mini panic attack when he was struggling to find it. €55 later, I finally made it. I know, I know, I stress out WAY too much about everything.

If you haven't been here before, you definitely need to check out the Court Garden Hotel. It is BEAUTIFUL! Normally the pictures on a website are misleading since they're usually taken when a hotel first opens. But Court Garden is exactly as it's pictured: clean and modern. I've only been here a few hours and so far I'm in love. I walked around to try to find some food and most places I came across were closed. But I took a chance down one of the side streets and came across a nice little corner shop and got a delicious dürüm döner. A great start to my trip here in the Netherlands. Tomorrow I'm going to grab an OV-Chipkaart to use the public transit (which I assume will be much cheaper than a taxi) and find my way around since the archives are closed. Hopefully they take U.S. cards since the cab ride here from (and back to) airport has stripped me of what little cash I had! Otherwise, this could be a very interesting week. I'm looking forward to checking out the archives here, trying to visit a few major landmarks, and taking it all in. Sadly I know that this week is going to go by all too fast, even though I'm terribly homesick. I'd definitely like to come back out here when I'm just a tourist so that I can really enjoy it. But I'll still have plenty of pictures by the end of the week :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nerdgasm: Harry Potter Studio tour 25 February 2013

When we got our tax returns back, since Kyle was fixing up his motorcycle, I decided to treat myself to something special as well. I chose to go to the Warner Bros. Studio, home of the Harry Potter Experience in Watford, Leavesden just north of London. For 10 years, this place essentially served as "home" to the entire Harry Potter cast and crew. I don't want to give too much away (because you really have to see the tour for yourself-and I suggest the audio tour narrated by Tom Felton), but you get to see all the props, costumes, and set pieces used in the films. You learn about the green screen effects, learn closely guarded secrets about filming and the design sequences, and see places like The Burrow (home of the Weasley's), Diagon Alley, Umbridge's office, the Ministry of Magic sets, and Dumbledore's office for example. Below are HUNDREDS of pictures that I took while there. But pictures can't even begin to reveal the magic. I only wish you could touch the items, sit on the beds, try on the costumes, all that tactile stuff. But the conservationist in me knows that's irresponsible. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty difficult not to cry at various points. I've read the books since the beginning: 1997. I was 10 years old. 16 years later, I'm still just as in love with the books and films as I was originally. It might be lame to most people, but there's just something about living through an experience like this that just stays with you.

P.S Ignore the awkward faces I make and forgive some of the blurry pictures. It's difficult to take good photos when you have literally thousands of people pushing around you and bumping into you.