| 03.18.2018

Vivir mi aventura — Planes, trains and five countries


I have been in a different country each weekend and I’ve found myself wanting to enjoy the short time I have left in Europe by exploring these countries, rather than write.

building111One of the best parts about living in San Sebastian is on any given weekend you can take a day trip to the Basque country of France for just a two euro train ride, which is exactly what my friend Summer and I did Nov. 14.

I just finished teaching English to a group of children,  when Summer sent me a text telling me there was a train leaving to Bayonne, France, in two hours and we were getting on it.

We randomly went to France for the day, spent less than 20 euro and still made great memories while drinking French wine. It blew my mind.

As the semester winds down, many USAC students are trying to cram in weekend trips to other countries in Europe, including myself.

The weekend of Nov. 21, I went to Brussels, Belgium. All I can say is, getting free samples at almost every chocolate shop you walk into will fill you up and have your chocolate craving satisfied within minutes.

Brussels was also my first experience in a hostel. Trying to navigate to our hostel in the dark was an adventure in itself, but I was pleasantly surprised at the nice atmosphere and cleanliness of our room, despite its sketchy location.

For dinner, we headed to Grand Place, a popular tourist location at the center of the city. We found a fantastic restaurant with great food for a reasonable price and we enjoyed walking into several chocolate shops for free samples. I also had my first French macaroon and I may be addicted.

The next day, we set out to explore the city and our first item on the agenda was to go to the chocolate museum. While learning more about the history of chocolate and its origin was really amazing, the best part was the demonstration on how to make the filled chocolates you would see in the store. We watched the chocolatier work his magic, and even though we were feeling sick from all the chocolate samples we had already been given, we snatched the heart-shaped sample he had pulled fresh out of the fridge.

The highlight of my Brussels trip was the chocolate making class we took at Zaabar Chocolatier. Not only were there samplers there, we got a free shot of spiced hot chocolate and watched an incredible demonstration on how to cool chocolate before we headed to a room to practice our own chocolate making.

First, we were given pre-made truffle fillings to dump into a big bowl of melted chocolate and then transferred them to one of three different toppings. Then we were given a baggie full of melted chocolate to make designs or blobs of chocolate in which we would garnish with dried pineapple or nuts. My favorite part was making the chocolate bar where I sprinkled crushed nuts over the top. Of course, we got to take all our creations home.

Brussels was a quick little trip of eating lots of chocolate and three days after returning to Spain, I hopped on another plane to Amsterdam, Holland.

Everyone jokes about how Amsterdam is the city with no rules, it’s not a joke. But, despite some sketchy places in the city, Amsterdam was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I fell in love almost immediately.

The hostel we stayed at was really nice too, and we made some cool acquaintances there and got a lot of free food out of them. The free breakfasts were super big and fancy with fresh made French toast, Dutch-style pancakes and fried eggs with cheese and ham. We even got to have a free dinner one night and a free lunch of leftover pancakes.

We visited places like Vondel Park, Rijksmuseum, Dam Square, this super adorable and delish Cheese Museum and lots of other places, but my favorite was by far the Anne Frank House. It was surreal to walk up those staircases and to read about each room in the Secret Annex.

Our last night there, Summer and I decided we wanted a have an authentic Dutch dinner and we were not disappointed. As a matter of fact, we still constantly bring up how insanely delicious the meal was, even as we were eating meals in Spain and Italy.

It was difficult to leave Amsterdam, but I am 100 percent positive I will come back to Holland soon to visit the rest of it.

With just two-and-a-half short days back in San Sebastian, Summer and I hopped on another plane to Rome, Italy. We are resting in our hostel right now, satisfied and content with the five days we have spent in both Rome and Florence.

Emily Vaartstra can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu

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