After some consideration and collaboration with friends, I settled on three places for my holiday travels, Amsterdam, the Alps, and Geneva. Amsterdam would be my Christmas destination, while the Alps and Geneva would be a beginning of January treat. In between these trips, I would spend time in Madrid, ringing in the New Year in my new, albeit temporary, home.
|A look down one of Amsterdam's|
While in Amsterdam, I walked around taking pictures and eating various foods from street vendors and restauranteurs. The highlights, however, were the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. The Van Gogh Museum is a collection of over 200 of the famous impressionist´s works, displayed in chronological order and narrated with amazingly detailed literary murals. The museum is small, so as not to be overwhelming, and the art is incredible. Van Gogh perfected the art of appearing to have no idea what he was doing. At first glance, one might even think that a child was the artist, but upon studying the brushstrokes and intentions that are imbedded in the works, Van Gogh´s genius quickly becomes evident. Some of his most famous works are housed in this museum, while others spend their days traveling around the world for all to see. Following the halls of the museum and, consequently, the natural progression of Van Gogh´s work, I was able to gain a stronger appreciation for his talents and his niche in the art world.
|The front door of the office building|
where the Frank family was in hiding
At the end of the tour of the museum, I bought a copy of Anne´s diary. I have read it once before, but I was a child and was only able to understand it within particular contexts. Now, as an adult, I am tackling the book again and with great pleasure. I have read about half of it so far, and at times, I have trouble putting it down. As I read, I am delighted, sad, encouraged, and angry all at the same time. Sometimes I laugh at cute things that she says while other times I cringe in anger at the knowledge of how the story ultimately ends. I know that I will be a better person for having read the book and digested it thoroughly, but the process is a bit challenging emotionally, to say the least.
After Amsterdam, I returned to Madrid to rest and relax for 8 days. During that week plus one, I spent the days with friends, exploring the city and just hanging out. We stayed up too late, slept too long, and did nothing of any real consequence, but it was a good respite. In the middle of those 8 days was New Years, and I spent that in La Puerta del Sol, counting down the seconds and eating grapes at the stroke of midnight.
|A view of the Alps in Chamonix|
After Chamonix, I headed to Geneva, Switzerland for a day before making the trek back to Madrid. In Geneva, I was able to see the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Red Cross Museum (just the outside, as it was closed when we arrived), and lake Geneva. I ate Swiss chocolate, walked the streets of old Geneva, and strolled across a lighted bridge that spans one of the most famous bodies of inland water in the world. For dinner, my friend and I decided on an Iranian restaurant, which turned out to be an excellent choice. No one there spoke English, and I surely do not speak French, but it was not really a problem. With a few points, grunts, clicks, and whistles, I was able to order and dine with ease. The food was incredible, and while I could not understand a word that they said, the staff seemed to be quite agreeable. After dinner, we headed back to our hostel, and at 4am, we were on our way to the airport to head back to our temporary home. Our vacation was over.
My holiday travels were amazing, and I cherished every moment. I saw some amazing sites, ate some incredible food, did some unforgettable things, and relaxed a bit along the way. I missed Christmas with the family and my little sister´s 16th birthday, but Skype was able to connect us for a bit, which is better than nothing. During these holidays, I was able to take advantage of the longest break that I will have here and perhaps one of the most convenient traveling times of my life. I am quite pleased with my travels and with the memories that I now have of my experiences. And, while I have no trips planned until my Morocco excursion in April, I will be searching for an interim destination with which to fuel my appetite for travel.
Next stop? We´ll see.
To see my pictures of Amsterdam, click here.
To see my pictures of Chamonix and the Alps, click here.
To see my pictures of Geneva, click here.