In about a month, I’ll be back in St. Louis. I am so incredibly conflicted about it. Obviously I am so excited to see my friends and family, but the idea of leaving Leiden breaks my heart. Every morning, I look out my window to see the absolutely beautiful view my roommates and I are so lucky to have. Sometimes it makes me tear up to think I won’t get to wake up and see that anymore. It’s not just about how beautiful this place looks, either. It’s how beautiful this place is, and I’m not sure I’ve done Leiden justice when I talk about it in my blogs. So, to make this post as positive as possible, I’ve decided to talk about some of my favorite things about Leiden (in no particular order).
I know I’ve posted enough pictures of these for you to know what they look like. The narrow, brick buildings that are squished together are absolutely adorable. They all have giant windows, and many of them overlook a gorgeous canal. I definitely want to live in one someday, even though my knee will hate the steep staircases.
There’s something about the canals that make Leiden even more peaceful. The sun reflects off of them beautifully, and the sound of rain falling into the canals is just…I can’t even describe it. It’s lovely.
Most of you know how I feel about caramel. I am obsessed. These crisp, caramel-filled treats are my favorite dessert, snack, and sometimes breakfast.
Fries and Mayonnaise
Sure, this sounds disgusting. I thought so too before I tried it. Sometimes I would order a certain dish at a restaurant that I didn’t even want just because I knew it came with fries and mayonnaise. I will miss being able to grab fries and mayonnaise in a cone from a million different places on the street.
You know how people always say the coffee is better in Europe? Those people are right, but it’s especially good in Leiden. Trust me, I’ve had coffee in every country I’ve been to (I have a problem).
This is more of a Europe thing than it is a Leiden thing, but it needs to be mentioned. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t make hot chocolate this way, but it needs to happen. It tastes like I am just drinking chocolate (rather than drinking chocolate-flavored water).
The cheap stuff is good here. I feel like that’s all that really needs to be said.
The tulips (and flowers in general) are just so beautiful. I love that when I take the train to Amsterdam I can see the blur of bright and colorful flower fields.
The Dutch are very hardcore about their cheese, and they have every reason to be. At the market (or at any cheese store really), I can choose from dozens upon dozens of kinds of cheese. It’s all incredibly delicious, and Leiden was the first place I’d ever been to where I actually saw wheels of cheese.
This is the hardest part to explain. I am so happy that my mom came here and finally understands what I’ve been trying to convey to everyone about Leiden. Everyone here is just so relaxed (and no, that has nothing to do with pot). It’s completely normal and acceptable to go to any restaurant and just sit down to have a coffee or something. Multiple servers take your order, deliver your food, grab your bill, and whatever else, because they all get paid a normal wage. Tipping is not a thing here. Therefore, they don’t care if you sit at a table for hours because it’s not “their” table. Aside from that, every place has outdoor seating. If it’s chilly out, they usually have space heaters of some kind, and even blankets!
For the most part, I’ve been in denial about the end of my adventure being ever so close. I’ve just constantly been soooo conflicted. Spring is absolutely beautiful here, just as I imagined it would be. I see flowers blooming, I hear real birds chirping (as opposed to the usual seagulls squawking), the boats that have been docked for so long have finally started sailing through the canals, and I’ve been so transfixed by it all. But in the back of my mind, there’s a little voice telling me my time here is almost over.
I have been frantically trying to plan things and get so much done ahead of time so that I can truly enjoy my last month here. I have already completed two final papers that are not due until May 7th. This is absolutely unheard of considering I usually write my papers the night before they’re due. Next Thursday begins the whirlwind that is the rest of my time here: Geneva, Prague, a flower parade, King’s Day, Pentatonix, Santorini, and then…home. It’s going to be a wild, busy month, and I don’t want to worry about homework or errands throughout that time.
I know people who have gone through the “reverse culture shock” after returning from a semester abroad, and I know it’s going to hit me hard. Luckily, I have incredible people waiting for me to get home, and I know they are going to make everything significantly easier. The only thing that makes me confident I’ll get through it is the love and support I know I’ll have from everyone at home. And maybe Cardinals baseball, too 🙂
My mom and I head to London tomorrow, and I am so incredibly lucky to be able to visit that gem of a city once again. When I left, I thought I wouldn’t be back for years. I am soooo happy I was wrong! I’m very excited to show my mom around and to see London during spring!
My mom is here with me for a few more days, and I’m so happy she got to visit. Sharing the beauty of this wonderful place with her feels amazing. Pictures and blog posts will never do Leiden justice. All of you need to add coming to this place on your bucket list right now! Below are some pictures from our visit to Keukenhof Gardens today…yet another reason to visit this place 🙂