quadrilingual London

This blog post will continue the story of my London trip, but it will take a detour from my ordinary blogging in English. I’m taking part in European Multilingual Blogging Day, so the rest of my blog post will be mainly in Estonian, Dutch and French. If you need translations/explanations, drop a comment!

Et voici mon second article de blog sur mon voyage à Londres. Le deuxième jour, j’ai décidé de visiter quelques musées. Le “Science Museum” (Musée des sciences) n’était pas très amusant. Je l’avais aimé quatre ans auparavant, mais maintenant il y avait bien plus de parties payantes. D’habitude de nombreux grands musées sont gratuits à Londres, donc j’étais déçu. J’ai découvert ce jour que j’avais laissé la moitié de mon argent à Bruxelles, alors que je voulais payer le moins possible pendant ce voyage.

Na de teleurstelling in het Science Museum, ging ik naar een van mijn favorieten musea in Londen: het Victoria and Albert Museum. Dat museum was ook vernieuwd, maar deze wijzigingen waren goed. Een tijdelijke tentoonstelling vertoonde stukjes uit diverse theatervoorstellingen en concerten. Een van de stukken was een originele schets van de beroemde Phantom of the Opera kostuum.

Uuema disaini osakond oli eelmisel külastusel üks mu lemmikutest olnud. Leidsin ka seekord sealt mitmeid asju, mida tahaks isegi oma koju. Muude asjade seas jäi silma üks erkkollane tool, mida sai klapi sulgemisega muuta lapikuks munaks. Ei tea, kui mugav seal istuda oleks, aga vähemalt väljanägemine oli efektne. Lisaks jäi eredalt meelde arhitektuuriosakond, kus olid väljas paljud originaalmaketid erinevate suurte ehitiste jaoks. Gatwicki lennujaama makett oli ka seal olemas, päris kummaline oli sellele ülevalt alla vaadata.

Puisque le coucher de soleil était plutôt tôt (vers 17 heures) et que je voulais prendre des photos, je n’ai pas pu rester en ville longtemps cette journée. Je me suis promené dans le centre ville, visité Trafalgar Square, acheté quelques affiches de Londres dans une boutique touristique pour décorer ma chambre à Bruxelles et suis allé à la gare pour aller chez mon ami juste en dehors de Londres.

De derde dag ik liep rond in de stad en heb ik nog wat gewinkeld. Ik bracht de halve dag door in Soho, zat voor mijn lunch (warme pizza uit een Italiaanse winkel) op een bankje in Soho Square en later weg naar Oxford Street om daar enkele winkels te kijken. Het kerstinkopen was in volle gang en het aantal van de mensen op de straten en in de winkels was gek. Het is jammer dat ik niet een foto van de drukte heb.

Seekord õnnestus mul päikseloojanguks jõe äärde jõuda, nii et sain eksperimenteerida teravatipuliste siluettide ja värviliste pilvedega. Kahjuks polnud pilvi piisavalt, et tervet taevast värvilaikudega katta, nii et parlamendihoonete suunas olid näha vaid mõned triibud ja natuke roosakat taevast. Kuna väljas oli juba üsna külm, tahtsin sillal röstitud maapähkleid müüvalt mehelt topsi osta, kuid üks väike topsitäis maksis viie naela ringis, nii et jätsin selle vahele ja piirdusin pildistamisega.

Le quatrième jour était nuageux, mais comme il ne pleuvait pas, j’ai décidé de marcher un peu plus. J’étais en voyage à Londres pendant mes vacances et j’étais tout simplement heureuse. Quelques étrangers m’ont souri et je me sentais heureuse d’être jeune et libre d’aller n’importe où. Parfois, c’est tout ce qu’il faut pour être heureuse.

I returned to Trafalgar Square to take some daytime photos. The amount of people heading to / coming from the museum was insane. It had surprised me during the first days to see so many families around with kids, but I later found out that the kids had their autumn holidays. No wonder all museums were full! I was inspecting a sign when a young woman approached me to ask me to take a photo of her. Carrying a DSLR around = the amount of people asking you to take their photo increases by 200%. I guess they just assume they’ll get a good photo that way. She took one of me as well, so I got my touristy shot at Trafalgar Square. Also, I took a photo of the sign. Most people would just write “feeding the pigeons is forbidden” and the meaning would be clear. The British? No way, you have to add an explanation in a very British way. “They cause nuisance” indeed.

I will end this post with two bonus photos from my evening walk before I had to head to the night bus that took me back to Brussels. I might make a separate post about my terrible bus driver at some point. Who wouldn’t want bad jokes with a Borat-accent at 3am on a night bus when you’re desperately trying to sleep? Yeah, I loved it. Not.

Halloween in London

I have many homes. The first one is of course in Tallinn with my parents, my home for the first 22 years of my life. The second one is whereever Matthijs happens to be, usually in Nijmegen in The Netherlands. The third one is in Brussels with my host family. The fourth one that I had temporarily forgotten about is London. It doesn’t really matter where I’m staying while I’m there, London as a whole is my home. I have never lived in London, but every time I have a trip there, I feel that I have returned to my home, and later I’m homesick for London.

I went to my fourth home last week. The host family had a vacation week, so I decided to go to London for four days. The timing of the trip was lucky, since I was able to meet up with my friend from Israel who happened to be in London at the same time. I had been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to see Sharon for years, so I was very happy to find that we can meet up on my first trip day. After meeting up at Leicester Square and getting matinee tickets for Wicked, we dropped off my suitcase and went to explore Notting Hill.

It was Wednesday morning, so Portobello street wasn’t really at the peak of its activities, but we did see some street stalls and just enjoyed the lovely view. I love the pastel-coloured houses that are stacked so nearly in rows, quite a change from Brussels where all buildings are in completely different styles (which I also love, but it was nice to see something different for a change). After walking around for a while, we stumbled upon The Hummingbird Bakery.

The prices were rather steep, but the cupcakes looked absolutely delicious and we wanted something sweet, so after some photo-snapping and squeeing we decided on what we wanted and left the store with cute little boxes for our cupcakes. Since our visit was during Halloween, I chose an appropriately themed cupcake with shockingly orange icing. It was very sweet and very nice.

Continuing our exploration trip in Notting Hill, we had some lunch in a random pub, forgot our cupcakes a few times when we had put the boxes down for a moment, enjoyed seeing the beautiful houses and chuckled at some Halloween decorations. My favourite was one house that was covered in fake cobwebs and tiny ghosts and had a row of pumpkins on its front stairs. Not sure how they got in and out of the door though, with all the cobwebs in the way.

After asking for some directions, we found the Notting Hill bookstore. You know, the one from the famous movie with Hugh Grant playing a shy slightly akwward British guy (like in all of his movies). Yes, we went in, and yes, we left with books. I managed to limit myself to one, whereas Sharon went a bit nuts and got a pile. We made the shopkeeper laugh a bit with faffing over books and trying to talk ourselves out of buying more of them. With our wallets slightly lighter and handbags heavier, we sat down on the bench in front of the store and enjoyed our cupcakes.

After searching for a bus and then waiting for ages, we finally managed to get back to the centre to grab a quick bite and then go to the theatre to see Wicked. I bought a small yoghurt with chunks of banana, but unfortunately the yoghurt was low fat and tasted like nothing. Why would you take fat out of the yoghurt? You’re removing the only thing that makes yoghurt tasty and creamy! Such a terrible idea. Give me fat or give me nothing. Anyway, after that disappointing snack stop we headed to the theatre, having no idea what the musical is about. The stage hinted that it was probably connected to The Wizard of Oz, but neither of us had read the book or seen the movie, so it didn’t help us much.

The musical turned out to be great. As I later found out thanks to Sharon, the actress playing Glinda had been Christine in The Phantom of the Opera last time when I went to see that. She had been absolutely brilliant as Christine and she was equally awesome as Glinda. She played such an annoying character that you couldn’t help but hate Glinda, but she did an amazing job. At the end of the show there was a shower of balloons from the ceiling and the cast wished us a happy halloween. Sharon and I caught a balloon each and left the theatre with big grins.

(Sharon on the left, me on on the right.)

We later gave the balloons to two random kids who hadn’t been able to catch one themselves. We already had our fun and got a photo with them and the kids definitely got more joy out of having those balloons than we would have. Also, it would have been really annoying to carry them on the metro. Have I mentioned how much I dislike the tube in London? It’s always overcrowded and with no air to breathe and it’s way too hot in there due to so many people being squished together. The only thing that would have made tube fun for me had been ruined – there were no “mind the gap!” announcements. It used to be so simple and effective, but now they have a long announcement that goes “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.” in some stations, which isn’t nearly as fun as the old version.

Having said goodbye to Sharon who had to leave the next day, I went to an old classmate’s place. He lives one train stop outside London and I hadn’t seen him in ages, so last week I stayed with him and his lovely girlfriend. There’s still three days left of my trip to post about, but this post is already a bit too long and I’ll save the rest of the photos for the next one. Farewell and see you again soon!

of castles and toilets

A few weekends ago I was in France. Getting to Paris from Brussels is ridiculously easy, you take a train and in 1h 15min you’re there. That is, if your train does leave when you assume it does. When I got to the train station in Brussels, I saw that my train was delayed by 23 minutes. Alright, should be enough time to get a snack and go to the toilet! Wrong. The train arrived a few minutes after the scheduled time and left shortly after that. I’m so glad I was paranoid enough not to leave the platform, so I noticed when the train pulled in. Why on earth would they say the train is 23 minutes late when the actual delay is about two minutes?

When I arrived to Paris, things got only worse. It’s around 8pm in a major train station in the capital of a big country, so one could assume the ticket office is still open, right? Wrong. I think I finally got help from a security guard who pointed me in the right direction. After some difficulties with getting the public transport ticket from a machine and some difficulties with breathing when walking to the right stop (nothing tells you better that you have arrived in Paris than strong smell of pee), I managed to get to the other train station where I was supposed to catch a train to Fontainebleau to attend the 25th anniversary of European Youth Parliament. In the next hour or so I thought I would never get there.

Ticket offices were of course closed (welcome to Paris!), there was strong smell of wee in half the places in the train station (welcome to Paris!), the ticket machine I tried did not recognise the place I wanted to travel to and I was all alone in a big train station in a foreign country. Just when I was about to burst in tears and accept that I’ll spend the rest of my life (or at least that evening) in that smelly train station, I noticed a guy who was clearly from EYP and also about to go to Fontainebleau. Together we figured out which ticket machines to use and how to get the necessary coins to buy our tickets, because of course the machine accepted no paper money and no bank cards (welcome to Paris!).

The rest of the weekend went in a similar fashion and by Sunday I was completely fed up with the French way of (not) organising things. Also, have you ever been to a public toilet in France? Even in a big fancy theatre it’s apparently normal to:
a) lack a toilet seat
b) lack toilet paper
c) have splashes all over the toilet
d) have blood smears on the floor / wall (yes, it was ladies’ toilet!)
e) have all of the above

I was nearly crying with joy when I had coffee in a nice restaurant-cafe on Sunday and discovered they had a normal toilet. They had toilet paper! They had a toilet seat! There were no splashes of any kind anywhere and no smeared blood! It was an actual toilet! My travel-mates would have laughed at me if they wouldn’t have been too busy with rejoicing over the glorious toilet as well.

All of that aside, I actually had a nice weekend. It was great to see my old friends from EYP and have random chats on topics ranging from cakes to political issues. The concert in the evening where EYPers sang was absolutely beautiful. I think the highlight for me was meeting the creator of EYP. Bettina Carr-Allinson held a lovely speech about the difficulties she had to overcome when creating the organisation and it really touched me. I went up to her later to give her my personal thanks for creating a youth organisation that literally changed my life. It got a bit emotional, because EYP means a lot to both of us, but from different perspectives of course. For me it’s an organisation that helped me overcome my shyness, learn about the EU and political issues and find friends in every European country.

In addition to all official parts of the event we had plenty of free time to spend as we please. I chose to spend my Saturday morning in Château de Fontainebleau. Since I could find nearly no information on the castle in English, I just took a small booklet that had at least some English writings and walked around, looking at the excessively decorated rooms and hallways. This is the castle from the outside:

Every monarch who has lived in this castle has made some minor or major changes to the building. The best known part of the castle is probably the fancy staircase, ordered by Louis XII and designed by Jean Androuet du Cerceau. When I told my host family where I’m going, EstMum said she has probably been there, but the only thing she could remember was the horseshoe-shaped staircase.

Most rooms were very dimly lit, so it was difficult to get good photos inside. I can show a small selection of better photos I got, though I wish there would be more good ones.


And of course Napoleon’s throne room:

The throne looked very small and uncomfortable to me, but the room was fancy and made me think of some old children’s books with throne rooms quite similar to this. And of course I have an obligatory tourist shot with a a fellow EYPer:

That’s it for now, I used the kids’ naptime for some fast blogging and they will soon wake up. I have even survived my first night alone with the kids now! It was okay, though I kept waking up because I thought I had heard one of the kids crying. They finally did wake up at around seven in the morning. Yes, my workday started at seven on Sunday morning. But it’s okay because I think I’ll have tomorrow off, unless EstMum has a lecture she has forgotten to mark in the calendar. I might even be able to finally check out Atomium! I haven’t been in that part of Brussels yet, so I’m hoping for nice weather and a free day to explore that area as well.

Tambourine Lady and plastic carrots – we meet again, Nijmegen!

A week ago, I had to say goodbye to Estonia for a while. Since then, I have been enjoying the Dutch summer with occasional “saunas” (read: sitting in Matthijs’ sunheated room and boiling inside). The few first days were spent in the outskirts of Nijmegen at Matthijs’ parents’ place, which was especially nice as you can have lunch in their garden, enjoying the sun and watching how their cat attempts to hunt for birds. (There is actually a lot more room in the garden than it may seem from this photo. I just wanted to show how lush the plants are.)

While Matthijs was busy with other things, I explored Nijmegen on my own, buying necessary things for moving to Brussels and seeing the Tambourine Lady everywhere. Tambourine Lady is legendary in Nijmegen. She stands on random streetcorners, just playing her tambourine and looking around a bit absentmindedly. As much as I have been told about her, she doesn’t do it for money, she just likes playing the tambourine. In addition to being an unofficial mascot for the town, she also annoys the hell out of a lot of locals on whose streets she happens to play, so if you would understand enough Dutch, you could probably hear randomers complaining to their friends that Tambourine Lady set up camp right under their window last morning.

I don’t have a photo of Tambourine Lady, but I do have this photo of a two-level shopping street in Nijmegen. Not the most typical photo you can get from that town, but it is something unique – feel free to prove me wrong though and point out other towns with a street like that, I personally haven’t encountered this anywhere else though.

In addition to gathering necessary things like towels and medication (which is a lot cheaper in Netherlands than Belgium), there has of course been some grocery shopping and cooking. This brings me to something baffling: separately packed carrots. They were huge, so that can perhaps be a small excuse for that ridiculousness, but it’s still weird. Why would you need to have your carrots separately packed in plastic? Also, I got a chuckle from the fact that a carrot is not only called wortel in Dutch as I had previously assumed, but it can also be called peen. So we made our dinner with the help of winterpeen:

Last night I had a board game night. I had been organising things like that about once a month in Estonia, because it was a good excuse to gather my friends in the same place. Also, have I mentioned how much I love board games? No? Anyway, I put three game boxes in my moving suitcase, even though I could have taken some extra shoes for example. I’m glad I took them with me: yesterday Matthijs invited a friend over here and we had a lovely evening with Settlers of Catan and Dominion, accompanied by beer and chocolate muffins.

So, if there is anyone near Nijmegen or Brussels who would want to have a board game evening or cake evening, do let me know. I would be happy to arrange a meet-up, bake something delicious and set up the games.

how to deal with being homesick?

The flight is in ten days. I have less than two weeks to pack everything and say goodbye to Estonia for a while. Half the time I’m thinking about all the amazing things I can see and do in Brussels, but the other half I’m thinking about things I will miss as soon as I have left. I will miss the long conversations at home about random things, spilling everything to parents as soon as I get home from work or sitting up until 3am with my sister just because we have too much to say and discuss.

I will miss seeing the seaside every day when I go to work or just to meet up with friends. I will miss seeing the sea change every day, creating a whole new Tallinn every time.

I will miss the nature, light nights of northern countries and seeing the sun go down and rising almost immediately again during summertime. I will miss going out with my parents to take photos of everything and anything we see on the way and jokingly competing for  best shots when photographing the same places.

I will miss too many things to list them here, or at least I think I will. It will take some time to figure out what I will miss the most abroad and how to cope with it so it doesn’t take away the joy of being on my own in a foreign country. I know a lot of people have gone abroad for a longer time, so I would like to hear something from you.

What did you miss the most about home when moving abroad? What did you do to deal with being homesick? And at the end of your time abroad, what were the things you wish you had done during your time there?