A Year In Travelling- Part 1

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In case you haven’t noticed, life goes by so fast. One day you’re planning every tiny detail for your first trip home and the next you find yourself engaged in a discussion with a world-renowned environmentalist about how it felt to experience altitude after several months in the Netherlands.

It’s funny to think that these events are exactly a year apart. That I left the student life and Europe almost five months ago. That for the past three months I have made the distinction between a personal and a company email. That I have actually committed to getting healthier and happier for almost four months now. That a significant change has occurred a few days ago forcing me to look at the world differently.

As of September, I’ve been a working professional

2012 is ending, as you may have known. As it leaves, it takes away one of the most fundamental years I have yet to experience. New friends, new places, new experiences, new situations, a new me. In the spirit of that, and because I’ve always been fascinated by everyone who manages to put together recaps of their year, allow me to take a trip down memory lane to tell you about all those journeys that I never found the time to write about fully.

From Beirut to Maastricht, January 2012

My family had to drag me kicking and screaming to the airport so that I wouldn’t miss my flight. I didn’t want to go back, at least not yet. The two week holiday had been too short and too warm- why on earth would I want to give that up? But because I went to Maastricht for a purpose that had not yet concluded, I had to go back.

Flying over France, it looks so cold!

I flew from Beirut to Rome then from Rome to Brussels. This time, there was no one to pick me up and help knock me out of my confused, sleep-deprived state.

To make matters worse, the usually routine train trip from the airport to the Dutch city was delayed for half an hour, and when it did arrive, instead of going straight through to Liege, the path was rerouted to Landen.

I dragged my suitcase up and down four different trains and the whole time, I thought I was delayed by at least two hours. Turns out, in my hazy state of mind, I had forgotten to set back my phone’s time.

In the end, I got to my flat, exhausted and freezing, but thankful that I was still alive.

Berlin, February 2012

I don’t like costumes and I don’t drink, therefore the whole point of Carnaval was lost on me. When Lina suggested we take advantage of the holiday that the university gave us to go to the German capital, I immediately began planning.

Nitin, Lina, Myself, and Duy pose for a photo in front of the Berlin Dome on the second day of the adventure. Cue nostalgia in 3, 2, 1

For two and a half days, we did not rest, choosing to take whatever opportunity presented itself to get to know the city, and even then we only managed to see bits and pieces.

But no worries, now I have even more reason to go back!

Highlights of that trip included going on Sandeman’s free tour of Berlin, the German Museum of History, my first-ever metro ride, and buying out DM (again).

The worst part was Potsdam but I have overlooked that, at least I think I have.

And of course, I can’t mention Berlin without bringing up how it was one of the rare times I partied (because how could you go to Berlin without partying), went back to the hostel for about two hours of sleep, then rushed off to the airport to head back to Maastricht.

Bruges,  April 2012

Research for this trip included watching the film In Bruges the day before we went, which gave me completely unrealistic expectations of the town (and nightmares).

If the movie were to be taken as a guide, I wouldn’t have been smiling that much

Still, that did not deter James and I from having a good time doing all the touristy things they tell you to do in Bruges. Climb the belfry? Check! Take a tour of the canals? Check! Eat Belgian fries with mayo and waffles? Check! Buying chocolate? Check!  After all, we were celebrating the fact that I had finished all the required courses for my Masters and was just left with the thesis.

Bruges also provided us with one of James’ most hilarious moments ever: We got utterly lost trying to find our way back to the train station and so James decided to ask a random stranger “Ou est le train station?” Except he pronounced train station with the most French accent you’ve ever heard. And that Bruges is in the Flemish part of the country.

Keukenhof/Amsterdam, May 2012

While this one isn’t one of my favorite trips ever, it was a must-do, otherwise I could have never in a million years come to peace with myself for missing out on seeing the tulips and the infamous Dutch capital.

James looking at flowers. James looks at a lot of things

I think we had focused too much on checking the weather than actual destinations that we went to Amsterdam completely under-prepared and overwhelmed.

The tulips, as expected, were beautiful and colorful and the sun was shinning brightly, making the first leg of the trip worthwhile. Once we arrived to Amsterdam, however, things changed in terms of the weather and scenery.

Unless you account for this, Amsterdam failed to impress me

Though we eventually got over our shock of wandering off and managed to enjoy the city, I still wonder what would’ve happened if we’d done things differently- and if I wasn’t at my record heaviest weight then.

Liege, June 2012

I needed to go to Primark and I wasn’t going to go alone. Lina, my usual companion, had moved back to Malta and so there was no one else to go with me but James. I eventually managed to convince him by promising we’d actually see the city and that I’d get him to try actual Lebanese food (not my attempts at replicating our heavenly cuisine).

I’m happy to say I kept both promises and succeeded at not spending the majority of the day in a store.

The upsides to going to Liege for reasons apart from Primark

After shopping and a lengthy conversation in French with the tourist information center, we proceeded to walk around the city, bravely climbing up the Montagne De Bueren and doing whatever it took to forget that we had theses to write.

Even though I already knew that there was a huge Lebanese diaspora in the city, I was surprised by just how much it was reflected. I counted more than six Lebanese restaurants within a couple of streets, so that’s definitely telling you something.

He’s so happy that I couldn’t even manage to take a proper picture of him

Eventually, we settled down to have a wonderful nostalgia-inducing dinner after which James swore he’d never eat anything else. I also got a kick out of some Belgians dining there who completely missed the point of Lebanese food, sharing, and were each having their own individual portions.

Brussels, June 2012

After a five month absence, Samar returned from Egypt to Maastricht and what better way to celebrate her return than by visiting the Belgian capital?

Samar returned! And we had a wonderful time catching up in Brussels

Because it’s me, I ended up not visiting the Atomium nor the European Parliament, but I did drool over the fact that I was in Tintin’s home-city and went souvenir shopping crazy.

I laughed my butt off at the Mannekin Pis, marveled at the beauty of the Grand Place, ate waffles and doner kebab (which I lived on in Europe), and wondered why Belgians don’t look Belgian anymore.

Have I mentioned how much I love Tintin?

The trip would have been perfect had it not been for one pesky incident that happened towards the end. Samar and I are proud of our heritages and it is often the case that when we get together, we talk in Arabic. That gave us away while waiting for our train to Maastricht and unfortunately got us verbally harassed by two guys from Algeria/Tunisia/Morocco, who ended up being on our same train.

It was the most uncomfortable train ride I’ve ever been on, to say the least, but thanks to some smart thinking, they backed off once we disembarked.

Lesson learned, I guess.

 

One Comment Add yours

  1. fadichammas says:

    Nice recap! Happy to find out what you’ve been up to and where you are now 😀 Happy holidays Touli

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