I've finally made the journey up to the Netherlands to visit Wageningen. As Andrew has said, its quite a trip and really takes all day. For the two longest trains I had the good fortune of sit by two screaming toddlers so I was unable to sleep or read (one of the children counted from 1 to 20 for the entire trip and never once remembered 16). The train from Paris to Brussels was by far the best train I have ever been on. When I found the correct train car, a guy showed me to my seat and gave me a copy of the New York Times. I was a slightly worried that I was on the wrong train and I was even more suspicious after they served dinner and handed out chocolates! When I got off in Brussels, I looked at the train and somehow I managed to get a first class seat which is not suposed to happen with the train pass I have. It nominally made up for the rest of the trip.
Wednesday Andrew had class so I rested up and we went downtown in the evening. Its hard to believe that France and the Netherlands are part of the same continent. There are actual roads here that consist of smooth pavement. Sidewalks are more that a half meter wide and there are bike lanes. Speaking of bikes, I have never in my life seen so many in one place. Its kind of scary because when you cross the street you have to check the bike lanes (which I have forgotten a couple of times) and the car lanes. One of my favorite differences is that stores in the Netherlands have restrooms! I never imagined that something as simple as finding a bathroom would be so difficult France but it really is. Save bets are McDonalds, Carrefour, and Champion supermarkets. Other than that you're usually out of luck unless you want to order something at a cafe or restaurant or you can go outside. There is a particular bush on my way home that I've noticed people like to hide behind. In general Wageningen is much more like home. Its flat, people talk loudly and are always going somewhere, there are American sitcoms, the roads are big, they eat a lot of the same foods, and the buildings look similar.
Two of the four bike racks outside the train station in Wageningen.
Yesterday we went to Utrecht because Andrew didn't have class. Its a very pretty city with canals and lots of stores. We went to the Romtoren church which has the tallest steeple in the Netherlands (first picture). You can climb to the top but we didn't. There were lots of museums but we didn't go to any because they were pretty expensive. One of the most famous is a museum of Australian Aboriginal art which is kind of oddly placed in the Netherlands. It was very cold so we stopped in a small cafe and had an apple tart/coffee cake thing what was delicious. The guy serving us used to live in the building that Andrew lives in now while his wife went to school in Wageningen so they talked for a while. For the rest of the day we wandered around the city which we found out could be slightly dangerous in the Netherlands. While trying to get back to the canals we turned down a little side street and right into the red light district of Utrecht. You'd think there would be a sign somewhere warning parents and unsuspecting tourists but there either wasn't or we missed it. The district wasn't quite how I thought it would be. The girls do just sit in front a window but they sit there with their TVs and mini-fridges too. The highlight of day (in my opinion) was finally finding a bookstore with an English section were I was able to stock up for the trip home.
Andrew's future car.
One of the canals in Utrecht.