Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Amsterdam and London

I'm now back at work in Butare after a week in Europe. It was such a treat to visit Amsterdam again, and to be back in England again - my first visit since I left in May 2004. It was especially fun because it was so unexpected!

In Amsterdam I interviewed with a Dutch NGO; their offices are located in an old building next to a canal right at the heart of the city. I loved seeing all the historic buildings and wandering the narrow streets. I was surprised at the crowds of tourists at this time of year, many of them British. The transport system is fantastically efficient and reasonably priced, so that getting from the airport to the city by train, and then to the hotel by tram, was easy and fast. I also enjoyed eating out in Indonesian restaurants together with a Dutch friend from my East Timor days!

Thanks to EasyJet, one of Europe's low-cost airlines, I was able to hop over to London for a few days - having booked my tickets via the internet while still in Rwanda (I love the internet!!). My main reason for going was to see my best friend from high school. We lost touch with each other when we attended different universities (polytechnics in those days!), and hadn't seen each other for almost thirty years. We reconnected via a UK website called Friends Reunited by total and happy coincidence just as I was asked to go to Amsterdam for the interview. It was a bit like finding a long lost twin sister, and we spent three days filling each other in on details of our lives, and unravelling mysteries of our youth. Helen has a delightful fifth floor flat in the heart of Notting Hill, surrounded by restaurants and delicatessens with devine food. I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of healthy food and delicious fresh fruit drinks available in London. I was also slightly stunned by the astronomically high prices of everything, especially the underground transport and trains. A few days in England is about all I can afford!
I also dashed down to Brighton for a short overnight stay to see another good friend. It was my first visit to Brighton as far as I could remember. I found the buildings along the sea-front particularly impressive; I thought the two surfers in the icy grey waveless sea rather crazy; the size of the city surprising and the traffic far worse than London (London traffic is enormously improved thanks to the congestion charge - an appreciable and pleasant difference). The weather was manageable; I missed the one and only hail storm while standing in line at the post office obtaining an international driving licence.

1 comment:

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