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BN Travel: Ghent, Paris, Amsterdam & Nottingham! Read the Exciting Account of Ene Abah’s European Adventures

Ene Abah

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DSC03290Last month I spent some time in four countries in Europe. I had fun but at the end of the trip I realised that I did not rest – which tends to happen all the time when I go on holiday. Being an early bird, my body clock automatically comes to life at such an early hour.  Here are my impressions of each city:

Belgium

Brussels
This city did not grow on me, not in the least. It is beautiful but for some reason, I found getting to places somewhat tedious and different places seemed far from each other. I am unsure whether this was all in my head. At some point, despite having maps, I ended up chatting with bus drivers on where I planned to go. They gave their advice, which helped. There are metros and buses that run through the city. I was meant to meet someone who has lived there for over a decade but at the end, we were unable to meet. However, after my discussion with her, we both agreed that Brussels is rough at the edges and might best be enjoyed when a local shows you around. I speak French so I had no trouble communicating but I noticed that in the tourist areas, locals were more than happy to speak English.

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In any case, I had to have the famous Belgian waffles, galettes and of course mussels. I enjoyed the mussels and the waiter who attended to me was all too happy to take pictures. DSC03294

Ghent
I was reluctant to go, but my host convinced me that it was worth a visit. We were up to an early start. She knows the place well and was going walking in the woods somewhere in Ghent while I went sightseeing.

I got in quite early and was cold, I found a Subway to warm up with a hot chocolate. I had looked on the Internet and had an idea of what I wanted to do. My host had also given me tips but I wanted to hear from a local. So I had a chat with one of the workers and the three major places he said were a must-see were already on my list.

I started with Gravensteen. This castle holds some history in it.

I left with a heavy heart but with gratitude for the time I happen to be born in. I saw some objects of torture and different fighting tools. There were pictures with stories of how executions were carried out or how judgement was administered in time past. This for me was quite intense and it made me realise how judiciary measures have evolved and I am glad to not have been born in that era. At the end of it all, I had to go out for some air and this space was a joy to walk out to. The stunning views of Ghent from the top was quite nice too.DSC03315 DSC03323 DSC03324

As I wandered in the castle, I met an Australian who was travelling alone, like me. We ended up doing some sightseeing together, chatting. Then we had late lunch before I returned to Brussels. There was no need for transportation as everything in the centre was close by, so we walked everywhere. The three main things I saw were the castle, some cathedrals/churches – there is a famous one (St. Nicholas) that has some nice paintings in it. I did not go on the boat ride as after the castle, churches and a walking tour. Not enough time… and wanted to leave before dark.

View from the castle

View from the castle

At the end, I can say Ghent certainly was worth my while and if you are in Belgium, I would recommend that you take a day or more to see this beautiful city.

Netherlands

Amsterdam
Three days ware certainly not enough to see everything. There was a lot to do and a lot to see & I only scratched the surface.  I was guided by a Dutch friend, who knew exactly where to take me and I had a little history lesson about Amsterdam from her.

It was easy to get around, although transportation is not exactly cheap if you have to move around after a certain hour…for the night owls. On the other hand, buses and trains are easily accessible.

I spent my first night in a hostel in the centre of Amsterdam, I was put in a 12 bunk bed room. I had little or no expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised as the beds were comfortable. The place was neat and the toilets and bathrooms too were well kept.DSC03391

I moved out after that night though, as the person who slept beside me snored so much. I asked for a bed up, although he was down. His snoring kept me awake for two hours. Thankfully it was already morning. I had no intention of putting up with that for three nights. Someone had offered to host me so I took up the offer gladly.

I wanted to try a typical Dutch meal and she knew just where to take me.  If you like to try dishes like me, please eat this 🙂

Dutch dish

This is called stamppot. It is made of mashed potatoes, gravy, bacon, sausages, sour cabbage/kale, shredded beef.

I went to the famous Anne Frank house and I was not disappointed. It is a must-do in Amsterdam if you are interested in the holocaust. This is the story told through one person’s experiences, she like others dealt with a lot and her story is told over and over again. One thing that stood out from the museum  was that ‘you do not have to be famous to make a difference, do your bit and let it speak for you’. She wanted to be a writer, unknown to her, her writing in her diary would tell the story of many from a teenager’s perspective.

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I went to the red light district and my expectations were higher than what I saw – based on all the hype surrounding Amsterdam’s red light district. It was interesting to walk around that area. I went into a few places I would not ordinarily go to. What’s the fun of it all, if not?!

I also tried the space cake… Before I went to Amsterdam, one of my friends had been a month before and she tried the space cookies. She said she waited for the effect but nothing happened. Another who had been some years ago said same, but one who got the effect asked me to be careful. He was very skeptical about me trying but I had to find out for myself.

The coffee shops in Amsterdam I found out were not regular coffee shops but there are some licensed ones to sell marijuana/cannabis/weed. This is also sold in cookies and cakes called ‘space cake/cookies’. My friend and I went to a known one and the lad who served us was quite nice. He asked me a few questions before giving me the space cake, he wanted to know if I had ever smoked before, if I had ever tried the space cake e.t.c.

It almost felt like a pharmacy where he was asking to give me the right dose. Anyway, for a novice like me, he gave me a slice and warned that from the time I ate it, it would take 30 – 35 minutes to kick in.
As I was going to take public transportation back to where I stayed, my friend and I agreed that it would be best to try it at home. When I returned, I mentioned to my host that I intended to do this, he didn’t sound shocked. I ate the cake and carried on with life. I lay down at some point and all I could see in my head were figures, time tables, all the maths I had probably failed to do in my life came to mind so clearly. So this was the effect on me! I had to go to the loo and staggered all the way. I think I sat there for sometime but I remember willing myself to get back to the room.

The next day, I went to Zaan de Schans, a place just outside Amsterdam. We went by train then had to walk for about 15 to 20 minutes to get to our destination. My friend recommended that I go see the place. It had windmills, crafts, museums and a cheese factory.  There was one place full of cloggs, they were the thing back then, they even had wedding cloggs. It was a nice area, all the houses were identical and I left with some coconut flavoured cheese to my delight!DSC03402
DSC03401 DSC03406The Netherlands has been ranked as one of the countries with low crime rates in Europe and is generally considered to be a safe place. For a country that would allow marijuana, prostitution, the government has obviously put some thought and effort into crime reduction and fines are largely on a basis of fixed penalty rates.

Next time I go back, I will spend at least a week.

England

Nottingham
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From living in England while I was growing up to visiting regularly, I’d never been to Nottingham. So, I was looking forward to it. I was going to visit an old friend of mine. We had been in touch but the last time I saw her was probably four years ago. I went around but not so much, I stayed for three days but not long enough to form an impression. It was fun, however, to spend the time with them. I will go back!

France

Paris
DSC03458Paris – This was my entry and exit point. I feel very much at home in this city having lived here not so long ago. I started in Paris by catching up with friends, it was nice to see them all. I went to a few places I went to regularly while I lived there and the memories, made me accept that I actually miss the city. I left before the November 13th attacks and returned after. On my return, for an airport I’ve gone through quite regularly recently, I felt very uncomfortable. There were armed uniformed men all over Charles de Gaule airport, it was kinda scary. I heard there were sniffer dogs at the airport but I didn’t see any.

Transportation in Paris is not cheap but there are various means; trains, buses, boats. Tourists struggle sometimes with the language, as the French are not so open to speaking English. At the end, there will always be someone who will be kind enough to do the translation. My parents did not appreciate this the last time we were in Paris.

In the city, it was quite tense and there was caution/fear; I’m not sure which best describes the feeling. I reached out to a friend to hang out but he said it was exactly a week since the attacks happened so he was in no mood to go anywhere. The following day I received bad news, a friend passed away, I was meant to see her before I travelled but I couldn’t as she was not available. The news hit me quite hard, so I pretty much stayed indoors that day and my return was the day after.

In general, I tend to use my Nigerian debit card and where necessary, I take out cash. In a place like Paris, there are many places to change money. I heard that recently one place in the arcade on the Champs-Elysées started to accept Naira! There must be enough Nigerians visiting for this to have started. But I wonder how life will be from 2016, with the policies of CBN restricting us from using our debit cards abroad.

I love Paris, it has its niceties and other sides to it but I miss the city and in the past four years, I have always stopped by each time I have been in Europe. And oh, my final dinner before departure was cheese fondue, yummy

Miriam Beard’s words resonate with my thoughts about travel. ‘Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on deep and permanent in the ideas of living’. I’m not stopping soon.

Ene Abah is an adventure lover, naturalista, food lover, travel lover, writer and is particular about sending positive vibes to others. Some of her interests are in writing, travelling, reading and generally enjoying life. Ene’s writing has been published in Top Chic magazine, Imbue magazine and on Imbue's website. She blogs at http://belletammy.blogspot.com.ng/ Follow her on Twitter @tammyabah and on instagram @belle.tammy

23 Comments

  1. o

    December 22, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Nice…I really want to go to Belgium, Bruges precisely. I hear it’s lovely. What sites do you use for hostels and host’s? do you use Airbnb? Couchsurfing?

    • N

      December 22, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      I was in Brugge (as well as Brussels and Ghent) this summer and I have to admit, it’s lovely. I took soooo many pictures. There was too much to see. We stayed in a hostel in Brussels (behind the Grand Palace — it’s such a beauty), caught the train to Brugge and Ghent. We used hostel world (www.hostelworld.com). While in Brugge, you can also plan to catch the train to amsterdam. Oh yea, be ready for looootttttts of chocolates and waffles.

    • o

      December 22, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      You know it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, the entire town or is it city of Bruges, so I can imagine. Thanks for the heads up

    • Ene Abah

      Ene Abah

      December 22, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      This is the second hostel I have tried in my life. The first one I tried was in Thailand, I didn’t like it so I moved on to a hotel after a night. This one I decided to stay at based on reviews from Trip Advisor. I generally just check then go by reviews. My first couchsurfing experience was in Belgium and I had a lovely host, then in Amsterdam after I left the hostel, a couchsurfer offered to host me.

    • o

      December 22, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Okay. Yeah trip advisor is my go to for hotels and places to go/things to do. But I used Airbnb this summer and it wasn’t a bad experience. I have not been able to get a host on Couchsurfing but hopefully one of these days…..

  2. nino

    December 22, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    This was interesting and I LOLed on the space cake bit.
    I had the worst reaction to it myself …an out of body experience and felt like I was in a dream…Oh and I know what you mean about the bathroom break.
    You sound like a fun travel partner and nxt time you must let us know ahead so we can join in this jollofing…

    BN Fam let us start a travel club already.
    I do this with my friends and we enjoy it but would be nice to have a different bunch all bonding purely on a love for travel.
    So far we have planned island hopping in Greece and skiing in Verbier so who is game?

    • Ene Abah

      Ene Abah

      December 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      A bunch of us are considering Greece for next year. We should get in touch and see if our schedules match!

    • Nino

      December 23, 2015 at 9:31 am

      Hi Ene, Drop me your email here if you do not mind and i will holla at you. Yayyyy

    • goldfinch

      December 22, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      I agree hundred percent to a travel club. I will love to be a part of it. Ene next time you are in Europe, try to visit Prague. That city is divine. Also check out Berlin and Vienna.

    • Ene Abah

      Ene Abah

      December 23, 2015 at 8:37 am

      I’ve been to Prague and I agree that it is a beautiful place. I’ve been to Germany also but haven’t spent time in Berlin yet, I intend to go there pretty soon. Vienna is also on my list 😉

    • Ene Abah

      Ene Abah

      December 23, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      HI Nino, if I knew your full name, I could send you a friend request. In the absence of that, could you do that instead? Please add me on fb, twitter or CS if you are on it then we can take it from there.

    • Dee one

      December 25, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      Hey Nino I’m game with the travel club suggestion. Travel is something I love doing but haven’t done a lot of especially now that I’m job hunting but hopefully 2016 will come with open doors and I can pursue that passion.

  3. Chiemeka Ugo

    December 22, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Good write up. I love visiting new places myself but funny enough have never had the chance to go on a tour round Europe. Netherland and Berlin is on my to do lists of places to visit soon. Person needs to work hard to save up. I love Paris, being there once and also I tell people that when next you want to enjoy the United Kingdom try visiting areas outside of the popular London. Sheffield is a very lovely place to visit as a tourist, Newcastle, Leeds, York and gosh I have forgotten the name of that city. Not everytime London London.

    • o

      December 22, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Never been to Sheffield but I am always in Doncaster. and I love, love it there. Plus the shopping there (and outside London in general) is much better. I cant explain it, but you’ll find more options in stores there. I am hoping to visit Bath when next in the UK

    • Chiemeka Ugo

      December 22, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Yeah it is Doncaster that I was trying to remember the name. Gosh how I forgot the name. I love it there as well. I spent three days there and men it was worth visiting. I miss the good old days of touring round uk with friends.

  4. Abena

    December 22, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Sitting behind my desk,i wished i was the one traveling instead of you!(no malice). I was on an European tour for the summer and boy did i LOVE IT! I was in london and took Eurostarr(expensive but worth it) to Belgium,Amsterdam and did a day tour bus to Paris. I was on a tight budget but i had absolute fun!! I plan to do it again in 2016,something Asia more like…
    I love travel,i love adventure..Wish i had lots of money to indulge me

  5. Midejj

    December 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Am so jealous of Ene and everyone who made comments about places they have been and would love to go to….have never left naija( I love my country) before but hopefully someday I would have that opportunity to travel round d world too for adventure…fingers crossed…compliments to you all.

  6. Yets

    December 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Am London based and I’ve not travelled much but I ll like to start . Interested in travelling to Greece. Let’s plan it ene , Nino and others 🙂

    • o

      December 24, 2015 at 8:04 am

      start from the UK, so many places to go to. Or try Ireland. Its so cheap via Ryanair and co or you can take the ferry sef

  7. Queen E

    December 23, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    Wow! Now that was interesting! I will interrogate you further on that space cake ish….lol!!!

  8. Chiy

    December 23, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Sorry to hear you did not enjoy our city, Brussels has lots of hidden gems. Belgium is a small country but filled with lovely places to visit especially off the route gems. The Belgian coast is lovely and a road trip around the coastline in the tram, which takes you through different coastal resorts is lovely. The Ardennes region just breath taking.After more than a decade in Belgium, I am still filled with such awe each time II visit the cities in the region and love driving into Northern France. Our leaders should visit these regions to see how tourism, just during the summer months keep the local economy going .

  9. therealerniemac

    December 23, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Europe is fantastic ,Netherlands is lots of fun, Southern England and Wales to is great too but if you want awesome come to Canada, British Columbia to be exact…. In all my gallivanting, it knocked me for 6 and still recovering

  10. precious

    December 26, 2015 at 8:10 am

    I loveeeeee travelling , I ‘ve only been doing Africa and the UAE, Europe is definitely on my 2016 to do list.
    Hello Ene ,am very interested in joining the travel club, pls let me know how I can join

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