Saturday, July 4, 2009

Old Amsterdam. Not New.

Sorry for the lame blog yesterday. I've been crazed all week, and I felt guilty for skipping the day before. Today I'm going to make up for it by telling you a bit about my weekend in Amsterdam.

I was just sorting through some of the photos this morning, which made me smile and laugh. I've gotten some crap from some of my friends about the trip, -- the sarcastic, Must be nice to be able to do that. I could never do anything like that, -- but mostly the response has been: Awesome! What a great idea!

And so to you silly folks who think you could never do something as wildly spontaneous, I say you need to try a little bit harder. I'm not saying you should fly to Amsterdam for the weekend, but there are loads of other little spontaneous excursions -- whether a trip to the Dairy Del or the crazy underground caves/bomb-shelters or Cherokee Park -- that you could give you the same sense of wonder and adventure.

But enough preaching ... let me tell you about Amsterdam.

Because of Friend-who-works-for-Delta, we were able to fly ridiculously cheap. The caveat was that we had to fly stand-by. The awesome part of that caveat is that if there are any Business Class seats available, then we get automatic upgrades. I pouted for about a minute when we ended up in Coach, -- don't make fun of me, if you've ever flown Business Class internationally, then you can appreciate my dismay -- but then I remembered we were were on our way to Amsterdam. I immediately perked up.

I slept on the plane, and when I woke up, we were approaching Schipol airport in Holland. Looking out the window, I could see windmills miles from shore out in the ocean. Holland and windmills. I half-expected us to land in a tulip field. It was already completely pastoral.

The Amsterdam airport is incredibly easy to navigate, and apparently the customs officers don't really care who is entering their country. We showed our passports, and the guy stamped them immediately. He asked us no questions, and simply said, "Have fun!" I had been prepared for the Inquisition like they do in the United Kingdom, but The Netherlands is about a million times more laid-back.

We bought a train ticket to Amsterdam Centraal Station, which was much more complicated than anticipated. Credit cards in Europe are more advanced than in the US. They are equipped with some sort of ID chip, and it's difficult to us our mere American cards. We struggled with the machines for a while, but finally bought our tickets.

Note the spelling of Centraal Station. That's another thing ... the Dutch language seems to consist of English words with extra vowels in the middle and "-nen" added to the end of a word. To avoid looking like Americans, we spoke Dutch gibberish to each other as we navigated our way to the correct train-nen. A gaggle of schoolchildren were surely laughing at us, but we didn't let up our Dutch-gibberish. Or at least I didn't. Friend-with-a-Truck was also laughing at me eventually.

The other funny thing is that no conductor ever collected our tickets that we'd struggled so long to purchase. We'd already wasted 7 Euros. Or possible 14 because we may have accidentally bought the tickets twice.

It was about 10am when we stepped out of Centraal Station into the streets of Amsterdam. We were faced with slow-moving Trams and hundreds of bicycles in every direction. It was the postcard of a perfect European city, and we couldn't wait to go exploring. We high-fived each other, and went in search of a cheap hotel.

What, you expected us to have made reservations?!

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