April 30, 2008

My apartment

After about 2 months of spending at least half of every weekend, plus some Thursday nights, shopping for things for my apartment, I have pretty much plateaued with the purchasing and now just need to clean up what I have. Half the room is done, the bedroom/living area. I still need to sort out the kitchen area, clean up a bunch of boxes sitting around still and eventually set up a kitchen table, but I've come a long way.

And it means, finally, photos!

First the outside of the house, on one of those sunnier days:

That's my room on the ground floor with the lovely sheets for curtains.

This is the gorgeous inner entry door of the house:

And my apartment... The finished, cleaned up part:

And the mess that still needs to be attended to:

The layout of the room has gone through many mutations. Here is how it was when I moved in, in the days of no fridge, no closet, little furniture, and sleeping on the floor on an air mattress:

Then I switched things around, but it was still pretty sparse:

Then I got a couch and a bunch of Ikea stuff, but I don't have photos of that period, which ended only this Sunday/Monday, when I got the bed frame put together (delayed by my own stupidity in buying the wrong size frame) and moved around the couch and tv/stereo (the couch had been in front of the windows and radiator). I was so chuffed Monday night when I moved it all around and everything fit and felt comfy and homey and I'm just so happy with my little place. =)

So I'm spending my Queen's Day uploading photos and downloading music, including some guilty pleasure pop stuff. See, I listened to the radio a lot while roadtripping around Australia and New Zealand, when I couldn't be bothered to play mp3s or pop in a CD, so I heard the most pop music I've heard in years. And I liked the occasional song, or at least wanted to get some songs as a reminder of Australia, so I nabbed some of that, as well as a Colin Meloy live show (not the one just released), which I'm enjoying at the moment.

April 18, 2008

Holiday booked

After my last post where I pondered where I should go for a holiday in June, I had decided to go for a couple of days to Maastricht and then take the train to Liege and possibly rent a car from there to explore the Ardennes region. I was quickly frustrated though with the plan, mostly because there were hardly any cheap rooms to be found in Maastricht, so I was looking to spend at least 80 eur a night on a room. So I looked again at the idea of going to Mallorca, and the cost of the flight there coupled with cheap accomodation at the monastery I read about was pretty much equal to the costs of going to Maastricht and Belgium. A Mediterranean island was a much more attractive destination, so my flight to Mallorca has been booked.

In total I'll be in Mallorca for about 5 days. I'll stay for a couple of nights in Palma, the main city, and then rent a car to cross the island to stay for 3 nights at the monastery. From there I can head out in the car and explore the mountains on the north side of the island. It's supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, with some areas where the mountains drop straight down to the sea and other areas with hidden beaches. Needless to say, I can't wait.

By the way, I reread my post where I was debating where to go for a holiday, and I was incorrect to say that I'd be adding another former convent/monastery to my list of such places that I've stayed at. As far as I know, this monastery is still functioning. Or maybe there's not so many monks these days (hence the rooms they can offer visitors), but there are priests there, and pilgrims and tourists visit the church where there's a holy statue of Mary. So it's not a completely secular place, which was the case with the former convents I stayed at in Australia and New Zealand.

April 11, 2008

Where to go...

There is quite a bit of adjusting to do to being single again after so long, but one thing I'm finding very difficult is planning trips. I know, I was just off on my own for months, but somehow thinking about where I want to go within Europe is very hard and I keep dismissing places that I otherwise wouldn't if I weren't planning to go on my own. I think I'm just being a wimp about dealing with language and cultural differences by myself, things that weren't so much a problem in Oz and NZ, like the machoism of Mediterranean countries. I've gone to Italy alone before and I hated being a target for guys, though really it's all rather harmless.

I'm trying to tell myself to not be so silly and that being single shouldn't limit me travelling to new places. At least I want to go to new places. I was thinking about where single female co-workers go for their holidays and it almost always is to places where they have friends to visit, or, for the Europeans, going back home to visit family and friends there. I don't want to stop going to new places just because I'm on my own and I have this perception that it wouldn't be as enjoyable.

So I'd like to plan a trip in June, for 3-4 days, and I'm petitioning for some suggestions of where I should go. It needs to be a rather cheap holiday, so I'm thinking of where I could go by train, or with a budget airline. I'm also thinking I'd like something quiet and out in nature rather than a city trip.

Going by train pretty much limits me to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France, and I'm not too keen on Germany and France, and Belgium seems like it would be too much like Holland. Cities like Ghent and Bruges sound lovely and quaint, but I can get that in Leiden. Has anyone been to the Ardennes? It's one consideration I have. Or, or possibly in combination with, going to Maastricht, which I've only been to once for a day years ago.

I have a book by Floortje Dessing with her top places in the world and one idea I got from that was going to Mallorca, where you can stay for cheap in a former monastery in the mountains (adding another former nun/monk house to the places I've stayed). A cheap flight there should be possible.

These are just some of the ideas I've had, but if anyone has a suggestion of somewhere cheap to go to for a few days, please let me know.

April 1, 2008

The Joys of Nesting

Last night I went to Ikea after work to buy a bunch of furniture stuff. I've gotten pretty much all I can from Hema and Blokker (I think the employees at those stores in Leiden are sick of seeing me), so Ikea was next. Things went ok initially. I made it around the store in a reasonable amount of time, not being distracted by things I didn't need. I found the things I'd been planning to get and headed towards the warehouse. I dragged some boxes onto my cart (who decided to put the most ungainly, heavy boxes on the upper shelf?) and got in line at a register. Then I saw a sign showing what cards they take for payment - and Mastercard wasn't on the list, which is what I was planning to pay with. I thought there must just be some mistake and stubbornly stayed in line. But when I went to pay, I was told they don't take Mastercard. This is the second time now for this to happen at a Dutch store, the other time being when I was buying my fridge. And the same reason was given, that it's too expensive for them to take it. What the hell?! When did this shit start?! Visa and Mastercard - they're givens. If a place is going to take credit cards, that's what they take. American Express and other cards, you can't be sure, but Visa and Mastercard, you should be safe. But now some Dutch stores, big chains at that, turn away Mastercard, which is what I am issued from my Dutch bank. I just spent months relying on my card while travelling abroad, never having any problems (except when I reached my limit, but, well...) and now I'm in Dutch stores unable to pay with my Dutch card from a major Dutch bank. Fucking ridiculous.

Fortunately, there was an alternative to turning my cart around and putting back the things I couldn't pay for. There was an ATM there and I used it to take out cash using my credit card. But that costs me extra money and makes me an unhappy customer.

I took my purchases over to have them delivered, and you don't have much choice regarding when they'll come by. You don't have any choice actually, and I've been stuck with a delivery date of Thursday, time window to be determined on Wednesday, and they'd better not come in the evening because there is the last Caesar show Thursday night and I do not want to be late.

I shuffled out of Ikea, feeling pissed off and like I maybe gave myself a hernia while pulling boxes off of shelves, and then I noticed that it was time for the train to Haarlem to arrive and there was no way I could get to the platform in time, so I missed that train and sat around for half an hour. I swear I have the worst luck. Or maybe it's just that I focus on the bad things, which I'm sure some people would say. So here's a good thing for me to be happy about: on Wednesday I'm having a couch delivered (I swear I'll be home half of this week waiting for deliveries...). I went to a big second-hand shop in Leiden on Saturday and in the end decided to buy this couch, even though I forgot my tape measure, so I had to hope the size would be ok for my apartment, and despite the couch having a horrendous floral pattern fabric. I reasoned that I should get it because it was really comfy and I can buy something to throw over it. Plus it only cost 35 eur, which balances out some of the new crap I've had to buy. So by the weekend I'll have a couch and, from Ikea, a proper mattress to sleep on, both of which are very good things indeed.