Reading Week Part 1: Amsterdam
Last week UCL had reading week, which is a week classes don’t meet in order for students to catch up on course work and reading. However, most affiliate students take this time to travel, so of course I followed suit! For the first part of the week I went to Amsterdam with a few other American students. From there I went on to Paris by myself for the remainder of the week.
Amsterdam was beautiful! Although it is a major city, the city center feels small and friendly, compared to the busy and industrial feeling of London. The colorful Dutch architecture and quiet shimmering canals give the city a welcoming and laid-back feel. Also, I was blessed with sunny skies and mild temperatures, which makes any trip more enjoyable! I stayed in a hostel, and being the only male in the group, I was in a room with a few guys my age who were visiting from France. I have stayed in a hostel before, and I have always been excited by the opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone and meet new people from around the world.
During the day we explored the fine art exhibits at the Van Gogh Museum and The Rijks Museum. A boat tour through the city’s canals provided us with picturesque scenery and a history of the city. At night we explored the more present-day culture of the city when we visited coffee shops and the Red Light District. Although nothing was purchased, just watching “shoppers” peruse the windows of the various brothels was certainly an experience worth having! I found it quite ironic that the RLD centered around one of the city’s largest and most historic churches. I also found it notable that there were no male prostitutes standing in the shop windows. I thought this was quite strange, because the city did not seem at all oppressive to gay culture, as there were a number of gay bars and shops around the RLD. Overall, I was struck by how open the city was to unorthodox displays of sexuality.
I will talk about my experience in Paris in my next blogpost!