Arriving at 8 a.m. is just as hellish as you might imagine, especially for two college students. Luckily we did not immediately have to rush to things and after some difficulty with the train ticket kiosks, we were able to make our way safely to Utrecht where our first host lives. Unfortunately she couldn’t pick us up until 14:30, so we slowly made our way around the huge shopping center.
Inevitably, we had our first European meal: MacDonald’s. Followed by Starbucks. There was little else open and we really just needed enough energy to navigate the streets of Utrecht. (Though admittedly European Starbucks far outshines American Starbucks.)
Eventually we found our assigned host, a wonderful dancer called Klazien. Deciding to skip the pre-party, we opted to get ourselves settled and let it sink in we were not in America any more.
Our first REAL meal was at this hole-in-the-wall Belgian restaurant, where we meet up with my friend, Maartje, who I met last year at Amsterdam Lindy Exchange. She helped me find the first beer I’ve ever enjoyed. It’s extremely fruity, definitely a “girly” beer, but delicious.
(For future reference, it’s called kriek beer.)
Friday night, Smokeyfeet kicked off with a live band and an amazing show of people. I even saw some friends from my previous summer in Europe! (Many were surprised to see me, but no one seemed more surprised then Peter Strom, who still remembered me from the event I ran back in November.)
Travelling to venues would have been very stressful had it not been for our wonderful Dutch guides that assisted us with the trains to and from Amsterdam.
Our host, Klazien, lived about a mile and a half, so we started every day with a brisk walk to the train station. (We probably could have taken the bus, but that required more coordinating with catching transportation on time, and that was hard enough with only one train to worry about.)
The auditions for the levels were intense. Right off the bat, we danced easily for five to ten songs in a row as the teachers watched and handed out different colored wristbands, starting with the Masters level. I ended up getting into the first round of picks for Advanced Plus, second to the Masters level, and was overjoyed to find out David was joining me.
Overall the classes were amazing. I can’t remember the last time I was consistently challenged with the content of my classes.
The dances were fantastic! All of the live bands made every night a party. Especially The Shirt Tail Stompers on Sunday night! This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of swinging out to these guys and baby, they can swing! I bought their album as my souvenir for the weekend and I cannot wait to DJ with these guys in my set.
I have to say, I had so many amazing dances! It’s amazing to be able to connect to people who may not necessarily speak my language but can have an awesome swing out and make me laugh and just happy to be alive.
I hadn’t danced that much since Lindyfest and my body keeps protesting. (My right ankle in particularly has been persnickety, but since I was careful the last day and I’m taking it easy these next couple of days, I think I’ll be okay.)
As of right now, David and I are just chilling out at Maartje’s for the day, getting laundry done and going through our checklists. We leave for London and the London Swing Festival tomorrow. We’ll follow that up with a quick trip to Scotland (specifically Edinburgh and Aberdeen)!
So until then, Groetjes!