Provided the internet café accepts flash drives (and if you’re reading this, of course it does), I’ll be posting a number of pictures from yesterday (My Birthday. Ahem. Three Negligent Siblings have now been alerted.), during which the frustration and anguish we’ve felt at trying to get an apartment in this city managed not to manifest itself on film. The good news is, as of 4 o’clock this afternoon, we have a place to stay! Or we will come Monday, but the appropriate paperwork has been signed. It isn’t the bungalow in Noordwijk. It’s a two-room unfurnished apartment with a shared kitchen and bathrooms. It’s on Langegracht (the street), if you want to google it. Not a beautiful sight to see by any means, but it’s in the city, it’s cheap (relatively speaking – it’s about double what we paid back in Indiana), and it’s ours. So, to your great relief, you may soon see some posts about something other than our housing situation. It’s basically all we’ve been thinking about since we arrived. Homelessness isn’t as appealing as it sounds; we don’t qualify for the European dole, I don’t think, so we’ve been a bit obsessive with our search. That Guy hasn’t even been to the library yet, if that tells you anything.


A word on our realtor – we actually got the apartment through Re/Max, which is funny in itself. They take huge commissions here for rentals. A little math lesson for you: commissions=evil. But they serve you tasty beverages while trying to brow-beat you into apartments out of your price range. And once we had signed our contract, they gave us a bottle of wine to celebrate our new home! By being pain-in-the-neck customers, we finagled them into taking off the 19% tax and knocking another hundred euros off the already-reduced commission, as well as only charge us for the days we’d be staying in the apartment, instead of the solid 3 months they’d said were necessary. It totally pays to be a pain in the neck. <NO SMART REMARKS ALLOWED>


The first photos are from our breakfast room yesterday morning – hard-boiled eggs served in egg cups, whole-grain bread or crusty rolls with cheese and meats, sweet breads, thick, bitter European coffee, and some sort of fruit are fairly standard for the breakfast, which is included in the price of a hotel room. It’s a great way to wake up, and the hotel lady prepares it for you at the time you stipulate so the coffee is fresh, the rolls are warm and the eggs just boiled as you fall down the preposterously steep stairs to the breakfast room. Really, though, I don’t see much point in the egg cups – they’re fricking impossible to eat out of. I’m all for the bash-it-on-the-table-and-peel-it-on-your-plate method. (The crows are just for you, Weird Sister, as a reminder, or shall we say, a threat. Speak to me not of your so-called fees lest my internet wrath befall you.)   


Opportunities for taking pictures of canals and quaint, old building are abundant, and I realized after taking a few that they all look about the same. I’m only posting a few, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless! The streets in Leiden are spread out like a giant spider web, but with less symmetry. The cute little streets seem way less cute when you’ve spent hours and hours wandering around them and still have trouble figuring out the way home. The major streets don’t run perpendicular or parallel to each other, and there’s rarely a direct route anywhere. It doesn’t help that each street seems to have 3 or 4 names, and that many of these names don’t appear anywhere on our maps!


I realize I’m rambling on a bit, and you’re thinking to yourself, will this woman ever shut up already? So here’s a summary of the rest of the pictures.


Dogs, don’t crap on the sidewalk.


European toilets themselves make no sense, but rather than get into those unsavory details, I present to you the inside of a stall in the Leiden Centraal train station. After paying 50 cents to get in, you lock yourself in a futuristic cubicle by means of a button on the wall, while brightly colored butterflies decorate the claustrophobia-inducing walls. I almost had a panic attack when the door closed; only the ridiculousness of the setup kept me from losing it. Couldn’t Dutch taxes have been spent on something a little more, if not useful, at least not insane? Clearly not.


Himself in front of a seafood vendor – the slogan is “Of fish, you can never get enough.”


In Leiden, Rembrandt saw the light.


Us on the balcony of our hotel room, the view from the balcony, our rockin’ 70’s room; the stairs inside our hotel.


My birthday dinner. We went looking for a restaurant, and once we’d gotten at least 10 minutes away from our hotel, it started pouring down rain. We popped in the nearest restaurant that didn’t have menu prices to make your heart stop. I had wiener schnitzel, fries, a mound of soggy peas, and 2 forms of weird cabbagy-salad. It all tasted pretty good, especially washed down with a Dutch beer. That ketchup there, though? That cost me $1.25. Never again. Himself ordered their dinner special without having a clue what it was – it turned out to be ham and cheese folded together, breaded and fried. It looked like a cow pie – why would you want to do that to food?

The pictures are in this gallery format because a) I accidentally did it that way, and b) this way the post isn’t several feet long. (For those of you who may not have done this before, just click on the photos to see a larger version.)


~ by themeansister on September 12, 2008.

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