After a long week of part time work as a hotel receptionist in between vacations now that I'm done with my masters (yeah that sentence was a roller coaster, I'm aware), Thursday morning rolled around and found me on another bus to the Netherlands - a relatively frequent occurrence ever since I started dating a very handsome Dutch man a few months ago.
My bus got me into town early which will probably never happen again and I headed to wait for Stijn at the nearby train station before we snuck through the personnel area of the Dutch train system in Eindhoven to use the bathroom (snuck bc he works for the company but doesn’t belong in this particular area and by extension neither does his American girlfriend whose ability to speak Dutch begins with “Hello” and ends with “thank you” – seriously that’s all I got). We made our way to Helmond, the small suburb of Eindhoven where Stijn grew up, and it was all of 5 minutes into the conversation with his parents before his father (who is absolutely adorable and has so many random fun facts and gets his English practice from BBC so is pretty much more competent than me) asked the fateful “So, what are your plans now that you’ve graduated?” question. Now listen. I haven’t had to deal with this question since I finished my bachelors three freaking years ago and it’s like a traumatic experience hearing it all over again these last few months, so for those of you who want the answer: I don’t have a damn clue. I’m headed home for a month at Christmas which means I can’t apply for real big kid jobs quite yet as I couldn’t start till February which means ya girl is working as a part time hotel receptionist until further notice. Impressive, I know.
Side note: My masters program had a meet and greet for the students of the incoming year and invited the alums and I seriously considered going just so that I could tell the poor bastards that now that I’ve finished my degree I work as a part time hotel receptionist, juuuust to watch the light go out of their eyes.
Anyway that’s not the point, I gave Stijn’s dad (Frans) the answer I’ve been giving anyone who asks recently: I’m pretty much down for whatever comes my way. I still want to work in conflict management or development aid for a nonprofit organization or something in that vein, but I am keeping my options pretty open. And before you ask: no, I don’t want to come back to the States. I am v v happy here. Plus Trump sucks.
Once we’d established that I am basically still not a truly productive member of society, we moved on to less depressing topics like the fact that Stijn surprised me with FREAKING WICKED TICKETS IN LONDON OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I may or may not have teared up and internally questioned whether 2 months into a relationship is too early to propose (Stijn says yes but who asked him anyway). As if the joys of having Wicked on the London version of Broadway on my horizon wasn’t enough, he proceeded to make me his signature fried eggs seasoned to perfection before turning on Zootopia (a quality movie btw) which for those of you who don’t know equates to like my dream situation (food and children’s movies). And then, to top it all off, he downloaded the Disney app which Disney is testing ONLY in the Netherlands to see if people want an app full of Disney and Pixar movies available at all times (uh, obviously) to my phone and logged me into his account. Suffice it to say I was a very happy human and if we break up he is not allowed to log me out of this account.
Dinner was an amalgamation of the Dutch classics with his family ranging from French fries to kipcorn to some sort of massive sausage that should not be edible by one single human and is titled something-something XXL before we headed to the airport with Frans for a quick tea (I say quick bc I was rushing us bc I was mad paranoid about missing our flight WHICH WE ALMOST DID ON THE WAY TO SPAIN DESPITE ALREADY BEING SAFELY THROUGH SECURITY AND IN THE AIRPORT FOR AN HOUR BEFORE BOARDING). We headed through the duty free shop as is our custom and found ourselves yummy smelling perfumes and colognes and tried on ridiculous sunglasses before Jess called to talk about life and her super cool college classes for awhile (initially with me but at some point the phone was passed to Stijn who was reluctant to give it back). Our flight was, unsurprisingly bc I was involved, delayed. We arrived at London Stanstead around 10pm and Stijn had already researched and booked and checked everything we could possibly need, so we hopped on a bus to Stratford (about 40 minutes outside the city center bc anything in the city center is so excruciatingly expensive) and eventually arrived at the world’s worst accommodation – and that’s coming from someone who has slept in a whooooole lot of different and uh, interesting, places. Stijn had booked through Booking and as the apartment was essentially, pardon my language, a shithole (no exaggeration whatsoever here people you know my standards are like on the floor), Stijn immediately made a call to start getting the situation handled. An hour on the phone with Booking later, we had a new hotel close by and escaped the apartment from hell with a story that was even pretty funny while it was happening considering the ridiculousness of the situation (and the contact high from the weed smoke in the apartment probably helped the situation).
The next morning we took the metro 40 minutes into the city center (btw the metro here is super cool and advanced, Stijn has his credit cards in his Apple Wallet and all he has to do is tap his phone on the scanner and it immediately takes the fee from your card without making you buy a ticket THIS IS THE FUTURE, PEOPLE) to spend the day seeing the major sites of London. Ironically, half those sites were under construction, but it’s still super cool to have been able to see them. Stijn hadn’t been to London since he was 12 and while he remembered quite a bit, it was neat to be able to experience it while he kind of re-experienced it. As we know, my sense of direction is questionable at best so Stijn took the lead and I just rolled with it, which was a pretty cool thing to be able to do considering I am usually the trip planner not the tag-a-long-er. Would recommend, Stijn plans great trips.
I did, however, have a mission on arrival, which was to obtain some delicious Tesco or Sainsbury’s cookie bite things which are essentially just chocolate, caramel and shortbread and taste like what joy feels like. Amazing. We kept lunch cheap (breakfast was free the entirety of our time in England bc we collectively suck at mornings and never made it into town before noon oops) with grocery store snacks bc the rumors are true – London is expensive as hell. Mid-walk around I realized I had made poor life choices and worn socks that were slipping down my shoe as I walked, and after a few (or several) instances of me stopping to fix them, Stijn made the executive decision that I needed less shitty socks, so to TKMaxx we went. Yes, it’s TKMaxx. No, that is not a typo. Europe is weird, man, I dunno. We bought a pack that Stijn would wear too bc he steals my socks without fail so I figured this would be a good way for him to be able to steal his own socks from me… see what I did there? And he found himself some sort of bougie branded wool scarf with which he was VERY pleased and was v necessary bc the rumors about London being cold and windy aaaaaaaaaaare (surprise) also true. We stopped everywhere from tea shops to Nando’s (very necessary and fairly reasonably priced chain chicken restaurant particularly well known in the UK bc the British are obsessed with chicken – specifically fried chicken) before heading back to the hotel and binge watching everything on BBC from comedy to most luxurious hotels features to the actual (depressing) news.
The next morning (who am I kidding it was afternoon) we headed to Camden Lock Market, a super alternative area of London with the coolest food market I’ve seen in awhile which simultaneously impressed me and stressed me out bc there were way too many choices. I’m fairly certain we made like seven rounds before settling on some Jamaican jerk chicken to split and walking through more of the market as I drooled over delicious desserts and old school record shops for a few hours. Eventually we made our way to the Apollo Victoria Theatre where my life improved drastically as I experienced the most amazing musical live and almost accidentally left during the intermission bc I was too busy freaking out being joyful and riding the Wicked-high to realize it was the intermission not the freaking end (leave me alone I was on cloud 9). Plus Stijn had gotten us a bottle of wine with which to enjoy the show and of course that wasn’t aiding my already questionable ability to form cohesive thoughts, whatever, leave me alone, I saw Wicked live in London so HA.
We spent our last day hitting up the sights we hadn’t had the time to get to yet like the Tower Bridge and Picadilly Circus and most importantly PLATFORM 9 ¾ FROM HARRY POTTER in what I would describe effectively as a chill day considering we had nowhere to be and all day to get there. We headed home early with to-go fried chicken in hand (I told you, the Brits love this stuff) ready to settle in early for the night as we had to be up at 2.30 to catch our bus to the airport for our 6am flight. I would like to take this time to note that Stijn always gives me shit for buying tickets at inconvenient times but I do it bc they’re so much cheaper which was exactly his reasoning for doing it this time around (our round trip tickets to London from the Netherlands were 35 euros total respectively). Anyway, we did not go to bed early. Not even a little. After we finished eating, I had my (now relatively normal) minor wave of travel anxiety which derives from having missed a flight in the recent past – I swear being poor makes it worse bc you know you cannot afford to have things go wrong bc your bank account won’t let you – and my brain decided that right then and there was when I had to pack my bag and clean up the room. Luckily Stijn’s response (rather than judging me) was to pack his bags right alongside me until my brain chilled out and I could be a person again. No I take that back… First I made him run me through how we would be making it to the airport about 27x with visuals and GoogleMaps proof that his plan would work – not bc he is a bad planner (he is, in fact, a pretty great one) but bc I am a crazy person who believes all forms of public transportation are out to get me personally. We spent the next few hours watching BBC’s comedy channel before I introduced Stijn to the terrible beauty that is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (quite a novelty show for a European who likes to cook and is simply flabbergasted by what small-town eateries combine to make what appear to be delicious and popular dishes). It wasn’t until Stijn realized I was avoiding sleep bc I was worried we wouldn’t wake up to our alarms in the morning that he made me turn off the TV and catch a few hours of sleep before we had to head out. Spoiler alert: we did make our bus to our plane and there were no issues bc of course there weren’t, and all of my worrying was for naught. Whatever. The trip ended just how it started – back in the duty-free area trying out perfumes and trying on ridiculous sunglasses before we hopped on a plane to get back to real life.
Basically, it was an incredible weekend made all the more incredible by the fact that this was my freaking graduation gift from Stijn. Yup, you read that right. A trip to London, as my grad gift. If this is the kind of thing I get for finishing my masters, I may just have to get another one. Just kidding, that’s a terrible idea, learning is hard.
But for now, this is where I leave you. This fall weather has me wishing for something warm to eat and I see hot chili in my very near future. So until next time folks – xoxox.
PS. Stijn is pronounced (well the closest approximation of it I can make of it as a non-Dutch speaker) “Stein” like with a long “I” sound. I was going to write it out with the international phonetic alphabet, but I figured A. I would be judged and B. Who the hell would understand it anyway?
PPS. Stijn has taken to tapping me on the shoulder and simply saying “attention” until I stop doing whatever it is I’m doing and focus on him instead. Crude but effective, what can I say.
PPPS. If I keep dating my Dutch boyfriend, I’ll have to freaking learn Dutch which goes against everything I’ve said for the last several years about how the Dutch language sounds like someone is simultaneously having a coughing fit, choking on sandpaper, and jumpstarting a car. Stijn already gave me my first informal lesson and boy oh boy do I sound like a German girl trying to speak Dutch… I gotta work on that.
And last but not least, the title. This week's post title stems from the incessant and unbelievably annoying announcement that comes every time any time a London metro opens or closes its doors and practically screams at you to "mind the gap" as apparently no British architect thought to make either wider trains or less wide (also known as "narrower" to people who speak better English than myself) tunnels to avoid the situation which now plagues their public transport (a gap, obviously, between the metro and the platform itself) and now threatens the lives of its passengers apparently to such an extent that people will literally die if the announcement is not made every 7 seconds. It's fine. I took it in stride and was totally not annoyed by it at all, clearly. I'm fine.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)