My trip to visit Haku is over (and has been for some time, oops - late posting). I had an amazing time, which I shall narrate for you.Friday.
The journey got off to the most unpromising of starts. I arrived in plenty of time at Bangor train station and waiting on the unexpectedly crowded platform for the train that would take me to Manchester Airport. Well, not exactly Manchester Airport - first I would have to change trains at Chester, and then again at Crewe. The train arrived on time and the automatic doors swung open to reveal a man lying face down in the vestibule, with a woman leaning over him and attempting to take his pulse. I moved along to the next available doorway and boarded there. Although I was in the next carriage, I managed to pick up a few snatches of speech from the woman indicating that she had found a pulse. We waited for 15-20 minutes until the man could be removed from the train - I don't know what became of him, but I hope he was alright. While that was happening I was becoming increasingly concerned about missing my connection and therefore missing my flight. It was thus a very stressful ride to Chester, but I arrived there in time for the connection. Check-in at the airport was quick and easy and the flight itself was only just over an hour - much shorter than the journey to the airport.
I arrived at Schipol airport in Amsterdam on time, claimed my baggage from the carousel and made my way with only slight trepidation out into the public area of the airport. Haku and her mother were waiting for me and spotted me immediately - she ran over and pounce-hugged me at once. It was great to be reunited after 6 months of her being in Australia. We made our way excitedly to her mother's car and clambered into the back, clinging to each other as we were driven home.
Her house is on a quiet side street in a small village. It's compact in size but very neat, with a spiral staircase between the floors. Her mother cooked kibbeling, which is basically fish & chips except the fish is divided into small pieces before being battered and it's served with a surprisingly sweet salad, I believe containing carrot and apple. By the time we'd finished it was was getting quite late and so we retired to bed. Her room had her single bed plus a mattress on the floor, invitingly sprinkled with red rose petals. I later found out that the mattress was there just because her mother didn't think we'd both fit in a single bed together, but we managed and spent a lovely night curled up together.Saturday.
Saturday was reserved as a quiet day for us to spend together. Her mother was at work and we had nothing particular planned except to take it easy and enjoy each others' company. We had a breakfast of bread & cheese (as we would every day), and spent the morning watching Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail. I have seen this film so many times, but it never ceases to be hilarious.
In the afternoon we walked into the centre of the village to the Albert Heijn - a small supermarket - where we bought some provisions for the next day. The shopping baskets had long handles and wheels on the bottom: truly this was a strange and foreign land.Sunday.
Party Day! Haku was having a small welcome-home party at her house, celebrating her return from 6 months in Australia. I'm not sure what crime she committed in order to be sent to a penal colony for 6 months, I didn't like to ask. The party was attended almost exclusively by furries and allowed me to meet many of the friends she had talked about: Kitsune, Ra-Fluffsky, Ace, Noodles, Tim, and Fruitcake. It was a sunny day and we gathered in her garden, eating snacks and chatting. Most of the conversation was in Dutch, so I concentrated on eating as many sandwiches as possible. Ra-Fluffsky was wearing his Husky fursuit and Haku's mother approached me and asked if I had brought my fursuit, urging me to put it on. I obliged and disappeared upstairs for a moment, returning with all my stripes. I don't think Haku had intended to fursuit but her mother convinced her as well, and after some quick repairs to her tail she suited up. We had plenty of fun, cuddling and playing. See how cute we are in these photographs!Tummy Rubs!
- Haku having some tummy rubs. Look at those cute little puppy paws.Furries are Scary!
- Tim, the only non-furry present, is a little cautious...Nuzzles!
- Taking a little moment to ourselves for a nuzzle.Caught You!
- Hauling in my captured wolf by the tail. She didn't really seem to mind too much...Monday.
I have no idea what we did on Monday. I really should write these things down. I have a feeling that we watched The Life Of Brian. In the evening we went to a nautical themed restaurant with Haku's mother's boyfriend, Ron. The food was good and the restaurant was themed with various parts of ships, including a speed selector (the kind that rings a bell in the engine room - I don't know what the proper name is) and a large free-standing ship's compass. The compass had a large iron sphere on each side, which Ron informed us was to compensate for the magnetic distortion caused by the ship's hull.Tuesday.
On Tuesday we went to the nearby city of Utrecht with the intention of visiting the Dom Tower. Haku's mother works in an up-market furniture shop in Utrecht, so we rode into the city with her and had a cup of tea at the shop while they started the day. It is apparently so
up-market that they get very few customers, leaving time for drinking tea. We wandered around the shop, looking at the very modern and strangely shaped leather settees and chairs, none of which had a price attached. Definitely the kind of place where "if you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it".
We wandered around Utrecht until our allotted touring time, pausing at a tea shop for some refreshment. The tea shop was quiet and cosy, and Haku told me she used to go there occasionally when she lived in Utrecht. I was a little surprised when the tea arrived as they brought a wooden box filled with a large selection of different teas. It felt very luxurious and a little ceremonial.
After finishing our tea we headed to the Dom Tower. It's an imposing and ornate gothic stone building, and the 465 stone steps are worn smooth and dished from centuries of use. It was built as part of a cathedral, the construction of which took several hundred years and unfortunately suffered from a shortage of cash half way through. Because of this the centre section was built without supporting the buttresses that the end sections had. A freak storm in 1674 caused the centre section to collapse, leaving the tower and the church as two separate buildings.
The climb to the top was quite easy and offered a few stops along the way. The last 25m or so was quite narrow but upon reaching the top the view was spectacular. The Netherlands do seem to be completely flat, and so any high vantage point gives you an uninterrupted view for a very long distance.
Looking down towards the city centre showed rows of houses, all individual and unique, quite unlike the uniform terraces you might expect in the UK.
Utrecht is a very nice city - everywhere is clean and tidy, and the centre is almost free of cars. The car-free streets are so much more relaxing than the noise and grime of a city like London. In place of the cars are bicycles - thousands of them - but people ride them in a fairly relaxed manner and so it's not too bad. Wednesday.
I have no idea. Really.Thursday.
On Thursday we headed back into Utrecht with the intention of touring the church, however when we got there we found out that it was closed for a private function. Instead, we spent the day wandering around the city and just enjoying being there. The tea selection this time was even more
fancy. I opted for "Dragon Eye Oolong Tea" because it sounded interesting. I can't say the taste was remarkable, but it was worth a try.Friday.
I'm really bad at this.Saturday.
Back to Utrecht again! We went to the HKU school of art for their open day as Haku is considering applying to study there. The tour didn't take too long and so we spent some more time in town. We were even accosted on the street to take part in some cheese tasting. Although I wasn't allowed to enter for some reason, I still got some cheese ^.^
In the afternoon we met with RaFluffsky and Kitsune to go fursuiting. We spent a few hours fursuiting around the city - the weather wasn't too hot, which was ideal. The Dutch people didn't seem overly keen on us, they seem to look down on anything that's out of the ordinary, which I found a little surprising. Still, we did get some good reactions from people and had fun just among ourselves. RaFluffsky and Kitsune took photos, but I don't have copies of them yet.Sunday.
On Sunday it was time for me to go home... but I was taking Haku with me! Her mum took us to the airport and we fed our baggage into the slightly bizarre machine that swallows your bag up and conveys it through the bowels of the airport to your aircraft. I'm sure it sounded like a good and efficient system when it was being pitched, but in practice it seemed much more cumbersome than actually having someone at the check-in desk. My parents collected us from the airport and took us to my house - the drive from the airport to the house is about twice as long as the flight.The next week.
The time we spent in Wales was much less eventful than our time in the Netherlands, partly because there isn't as much to do here and partly because I had to work. Haku kept herself busy by working on her portfolio. We made a few trips out in the evenings to visit the nearby beach (cold and windy as it was). At the weekend we saw some of the sights that the island has to offer, starting with a visit to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobw
My dad taught us how to pronounce it, so we are now both able to say it! (Incidentally, the guide on the lower part of the sign isn't very helpful unless you already know what sounds the letter combinations should make.)
We visited some of the historic places like the burial mound at Bryn Celli Ddu, and the priory and dovecote at Penmon.
We even did some fursuiting in Menai Bridge! We had arranged to meet my parents there, but didn't tell them we were going to arrive in our fursuits. It was quite funny to see their reaction when they spotted us, but they took it in good humour. We were there to see an event on the bridge and thought we could entertain the expected crowd a little, but it turned out that my dad had got the wrong day and there wasn't anything happening. Still, we had a walk across the bridge and were very well received by the few people we met, with lots wanting to take photographs with us, and many drivers blowing their horn as they went past. It was quite a difference to the somewhat frosty reception we got in the Netherlands.
We didn't fursuit for too long because it was rather quiet in the town, so we got changed and then had a nice pub lunch with my parents. Haku had a warm chocolate fudge cake which put her in the state of bliss that only a girl with chocolate can experience.
We paid a visit to the Marquis of Anglsey's column, which offers a nice view of the Menai Strait, the mountains and the island.
All too soon it was time for her to return to the Netherlands. I took her to the airport and we said a lingering goodbye. I miss her very much, however it's only a month until she'll be back in order to go to Confuzzled with me - I'm looking forward to it SO much.