Utrecht-San Sebastian hitchhike: Post-Post-Hitchhike

Our initial plan was to go to the beach again, but Urzi and Chris were planning a bike ride so we joined in. It turned out to be a reasonably sized group of nine who came along. This included UCUers who had arrived that very morning and were heading to Barcelona the next day. This made Klementina happy as she now had people to travel with in order to get her flight to Brussels.

The hostel map showed a good bike route and we decided to take this. First stop was the far end of the swimming beach where some sculptures were erected over the sea. We took lots of pictures of us climbing the monuments. The tide was coming in so we could see the spray of the waves hitting the rocks. Klementina and some guys climbed down to play in the spray. They had a good time though at a cost. Klementina soaked her shoes, Chris got hit by a full wave and another guy nearly had his shoes stolen by the sea. Luckily they retrieved them, but the sea had the last laugh, claiming his socks.

We then decided to go up the cliff as the funicular was nearby. Klementina, Chris and I were not fools and got the funicular to the top, while the others cycled up. Funny thing is they still had to spend €1.80, so in the end only saved €0.90. The view was stunning and we took many pictures. Chris and Klementina found a ball and played volleyball while waiting for the others. It only ended up going over the side once!

At this point everyone was hungry so we decided to get food en route, asking locals for advice. We ate at a place with three courses and wine for €10. So it was very good, unless you are vegetarian. Spaniards don’t seem to understand vegetarians. They’re perfectly capable at making a vegetarian dish, but then they put some ham on top for garnish. This meant Klementina’s green salad had tuna in it, so she had to do with lentils. Mine was very nice though.

Klementina and others had to buy their bus tickets as their coach for Barcelona was leaving tonight. It was also en route so it was no problem. Our cycle included going under a cliff in an extraordinarily long tunnel which was very fun. “Maybe China’s at the other end”. Funnily at one point we were supposed to go straight over a roundabout, but we ended up doing 360°, who knows how. At the bus station, I luckily saw my bus company too and confirmed a €6.60 bus was leaving for Biarritz the next morning.

At this point however, Klementina realised she had lost her camera with €50 in the case, probably back at the funicular. So while everyone went to the hostel we went back to check. Luckily the man didn’t charge us for the funicular, but alas it was not there. Our photos from yesterday were lost, but at least we still had the ones from mine. Plus now we could see the palace we missed earlier. Not really a palace, it was more a stately home, but still pretty.

We watched some surf kayaks and decided, even though it was dark, we couldn’t leave without going in the sea. We stripped to our bikinis and stood in the waves. We didn’t swim though as the waves, if they were in Cornwall, you would’ve happily surfed. Another objective achieved, we ate the rest of our bread on the promenade, then headed to the hostel. Here we chilled and packed our bags for the next day. Until Klementina realised that she suddenly had to leave to catch her bus and so, with a hasty goodbye, she did so.

I had to sort out my transport, but luckily some people from my intro week family were taking the same flight to London, in order to fly back to the Netherlands. They decided on a time to get the bus to Biarritz and agreed to meet at reception at 7.30am.

Others along with Chris and Urzi had gone to the beach for drinks and as I now had eight beers (mine plus Klementina’s) from yesterday, I went along. I needed to get rid of them as you aren’t allowed glass in hand luggage. Luckily Ilona was leaving the next morning too so we went together.

We found Urzi and Chris along with a few others sitting in a circle playing ring of fire. Unfortunately we were to be interrupted by a guy shouting at us in French wanting a cigarette. We said we didn’t have one, but that wasn’t the end, he came to the beach and joined in our circle. We ignored him, but he didn’t like that. He picked up one of the bottles and threatened us. We jumped and he ended up stealing a bottle of rum.

Although it was on the beach of course!

This kind of ruined our evening a little. We decided to move to a new place on the beach and continue to play. Instead we watched the same guy steal a blanket from someone else. It was a little ridiculous. As some people were quite drunk we thought we should go back to the hostel. Unfortunately part way we realised we had lost Ralph and so me and Ilona stayed with the drunkards. However Ilona then also realised she had left her bag on the beach that contained her passport. So then I was left with drunkards, who were pretending to be Spanish whilst speaking Dutch. These weren’t the most favourable circumstances for me to be looking after them, when I really had no clue what they were saying.

An awkward ten minutes followed, but Ilona returned saying she couldn’t find it. Hence we went back to the beach to search. We had hidden some bottles in the sand when we saw some police were nearby, so I started by looking for these. I found one; Ilona came over and also discovered her bag. Phew.

We made our way back to the hostel, the drunkards harassing locals on the way and generally being annoying. Eventually we left them as they had run away twice and we had to get up early. A day of constant travel was ahead.

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The Travels Commence

Two weeks since I wrote this! Last weekend we didn’t end up going to Sofie’s house as Klementina had too much work to do so instead on Saturday I went on a canal cruise with Alizee and Carol. It was lovely as the sun was shining. This did mean that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the tour guide was saying but it didn’t matter. Utrecht is very nice and I learned little things, like underneath each lamppost is a different carving.

The weekend before, on the Sunday, I went to Rotterdam with Klementina which was largely disappointing and very expensive, €20 return! We had a tour of the docks, but it was a bit dull as it was mostly about the different cargo that was being brought in. Plus Rotterdam, being an industrial city, it wasn’t very pretty.

However we went to see the cube houses which were really cool, but I would quite like to know how much one would cost. Rotterdam does have amazing architecture, but it’s still not somewhere I would like to live. The pouring rain didn’t help its cause much either. We did find some cute jumpers knitted for lampposts and trees, so perhaps it is nice if you know what to look for. In hindsight if you plan a spontaneous visit to a city it’s probably worthwhile taking someone who knows their way around.

The train home was a nightmare as it terminated in Worden, for some unknown reason, and as we didn’t understand the Dutch announcement we sat on the train for a while till someone said there was a bus outside. So we ran, but got there just in time to see the bus pull away and the next one wasn’t for an hour. This meant we would miss dinner. So I thought if we have to stand in the car park for an hour we might as well try to hitch a lift. Luckily this pulled off and we even beat the bus back to Utrecht station. I was learning the Dutch seem much keener to pick up strangers than in the UK. Overall if we did get the tickets for Den Hague, like we were supposed to – in order to see the European courts, then the day would’ve been much better.

Unfortunately the Wednesday after that I had to go fetch my bike so I could buy some ingredients to make cakes for our family dinner. However it was stolen!* Joy. So I had a kerfuffle with the police and insurance to maybe get some money for it rather than venturing to the supermarket. This was doubly disappointing as I had just had my first presentation, so baking was going to be a celebration. Instead it was a disaster.

The presentation I think went well though. I am not sure as I don’t really know what is expected from a presentation, no one really gives you any guidelines for anything. It was a poster presentation for psychology and I at least think ours was better than some as theirs was more like a power point and ours was definitely a poster. We’ll see how it goes; I don’t need to think about it anymore.

I did manage to borrow Sofie’s bike and got the ingredients for the cakes. They turned out to be a big success. I made butterfly cakes with chocolate sponge and instead of the normal wings, I used cookies. Even “Auntie” Veerle (who wasn’t at the party) told me she’d heard much about them from my “mum”. They couldn’t stop talking about it. It was nice to have a reunion as I know some families fall apart the day after intro week. But it did feel a bit distant as if our family had a split, but I guess that is to be expected if you just throw thirteen people together in a group. I guess they can’t all be the best of friends. I wonder if we will have another again as I expected it to turn into a party after and for us all to go to the bar. However everyone pretty much left and we helped clear up.

That night was also the meeting for the hitchhike in the break. Myrte, Klementina and I went and it was pretty crowded. It sounded really fun. The day after exams everyone meets on the quad and a picture is taken. Then we are off. We are allowed to take public transport within Utrecht in order to get to the motorway, but after that it is not allowed. At set times you send a text back to the organisers who then send a reply saying which place everyone is in. The winners get a trophy and on the Monday evening everyone has a meal together. San Sebastian is the destination, which didn’t thrill me to start with as Spain isn’t that interesting. However I looked it up and it turns out to be a surfing haven. So this changed my views a little. Klementina and I teamed up and with two hitchhikes under our belts this term; we feel we can do well.

Some things in here are different to the hitchhike in Exeter which I also participated in. It was from Exeter to Amsterdam. Here we had to go in boy-girl teams or boy-boy teams only. Whereas in UCU this is not the case. You can go in groups of two or three and made up of any amount of sexes you wish. I understand why Exeter does this as there is of course a danger in Hitchhiking, which is greater if you’re a girl. However I guess this rule is not enforced as the ratio of boys to girls in UCU is quite high so it would not work and lots of people would not be able to go.

Another thing that UCU could do easily, joined with HumanitarianCo, is do it for charity. With Exeter you pay so much to go – which is donated to charity – and then if you raise that amount of money back then you get to go for free. This has two benefits. One, if you can do something for charity why not, especially when it makes you feel better. Second, if you’re wearing a charity hitchhike t-shirt then I’m pretty sure more people will pick you up. Especially as en-route people would be able to recognise you all as a collective. Hence, as we learn in social psychology, familiarity creates likability, so more lifts. A downside for Exeter, though, is the initial payment is over £100 which is quite hard to pay, so if they met somewhere in the middle, this would be the best hitchhike.

Following the former entry the “Exeter Social” is going ahead tonight which should be fun. Ali has Pimms and I’m going to try to get rid of my bag of wine left over from Pukkelpop. We hope to introduce some Exeter games such as “Fives” and “Ride the Bus”. We also hope to change this trend of calling “Ring of Fire” “King’s cup”, i.e. the American version. Myrte is coming too so I look forward to it.

I can’t think of much else that happened except the joys of studying. I had two exams today maths and linguistics and I think they went okay. I’ve also bought all my tickets for fall break now so I reckon overall it’ll cost €500. It’s expensive – but exciting and so probably worthwhile. San Sebastian – England – Budapest!

*The bike was to turn up again a week later outside the dining hall. It had not been stolen after all – I had forgotten where I had parked it one evening!