Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

3 Articles from April 2014

  1. Amsterdam travel diary: Wednesday

    The Palace on the Dam, with a tram in front of it

    When I went to Edinburgh, we took a Sandeman’s walking tour of the city. These tours are given by freelance guides who hire Sandeman’s to promote them; they are “pay what you want” tours, where one pays the guide at the end within their means and according to their satisfaction with the tour. In return, one spends about three hours tromping through the city, stopping at various locations for the guide to relate interesting stories and historical anecdotes.

    Our Amsterdam guide was a woman named Berber, clad against the elements in a felt hat festooned in scarves. She was eager to point out that, of the three English-language tour guides that morning, she was the only native Amsterdammer, so we would be getting quite the inside story. We began the tour in Dam Square, and from there we went through the Red Light District. Berber described the links between Amsterdam’s prostitution trade and its role as a major shipping port. As we stood outside a church in the middle of the Red Light District, she explained the tenuous relationship between city, Church, and sailors and prostitutes. She mentioned the sale of indulgences, and how this led to the Netherlands…

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  2. Amsterdam travel diary: Tuesday

    A view from a bridge over one of Amsterdam’s canals

    I don’t like travelling. I’m not like Frodo Baggins; I’m perfectly happy to stay in the Shire. It’s nice there. I don’t relish the interruptions to routine that travelling brings, the fiddly bits required in packing, the problem of hygiene on the road. So I travel sparingly. Instead I live vicariously through others: through the stories of friends and the writing of well-travelled people. But I must admit that, once in a while, it does one good to travel.

    This trip to Amsterdam was only for two days, which is probably the perfect length for me. It allowed us to do plenty of things, but I was also home soon enough that I didn’t feel too worn out. Still, two days meant that we had to use our time wisely. There are a lot of activities and venues competing for tourists’ eyeballs (and money) in Amsterdam; we needed to come up with a plan.

    I should mention at this point that, if there is one thing that dominates my memory of Amsterdam, it is … bikes. Amsterdam is full of bicycles. There are bicycle lanes on practically every street, not that they are always easy to distinguish from the sidewalk.…

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  3. Amsterdam travel diary: Monday

    Amsterdam has canals!

    We have two weeks off for Easter. Earlier this week, I went to Amsterdam for a few days with three other teacher friends. I’ve written some blog posts about our time there. We left Monday evening, and originally I wasn’t going to blog about that part of the trip, because it’s mostly travel. But Monday was a special day all by itself, and I need to record it.

    Last year, around this time, I had shingles. In my eye. It wasn’t fun.

    On the day before the last day of term, I went home instead of doing parents’ evening—I wasn’t feeling very well at all. I ended up staying home on Friday, barely able to get out of bed for the first part of the day. As Saturday rolled around, I seemed to be on the road to recovery … but my right eye started showing some signs of irritation. This worsened on Sunday, and on Monday morning, I phoned my surgery for an appointment with a doctor. I was worried the worst had happened: my shingles had come back. I wanted to get this treated as soon as possible, and I needed to know how it would affect my…

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