I went to Amsterdam this past weekend on a trip with this group called International Friends. Basically, they arranged the whole thing for us- hostel, bus ride, tour, what have you. We just had to pay (obviously). It seemed like a pretty sweet deal, so when Steve and his flatmates signed up, I hopped on board. We had to get the bus at the Embankment tube stop at 6:20am on Friday, and then it was a few hours until we got to Dover, which is absolutely beautiful, by the way. There we had to go through customs, which wasn’t as scary as they made it out to be. Then we got back on the bus, and drove onto the ferry to take us to France. The ferry was pretty classy, with a bar and everything, so we got a pint each, bought some cheap booze from the duty-free store, and went outside to take photos on the dock.
It was so foggy though, it was hard to see the coast well. Then we had to pile back on the bus, drive another few hours, and after we crossed into The Netherlands, we stopped at a rest stop where they had this amazing cafeteria-type place (called La Place) where we got fantastic hamburgers. (I think I should mention that I’m the only one of my friends who knew that Amsterdam was in The Netherlands. Wow.) Then we drove ANOTHER hour or two, and we were finally in Amsterdam!
Of course, it was raining when we got there, so our tour guide Rob decided we should take the boat cruise we were scheduled to take, because it was an enclosed boat where you could see out the windows. Aka, it was basically impossible to take photos of all the gorgeous buildings that we saw. What a tease. Then we went to our hostel, which was actually really nice. There’s a bar AND a club in it. I was rooming with girls I didn’t know, so I had to go find the other six Temple people who came with, which proved surprisingly difficult without working cell phones. Then we hit a coffee shop (which are the places where you can buy and smoke weed, if you didn’t know), tasted some of the local fare (hehe), and met back up with Rob and the gang to go on a tour of the area, including the red light district. I really wasn’t shocked at all by what we saw in the windows- I guess that’s what mainstream media does to us.
After the tour, we hit the town once more. We bounced from coffee shop to bar to store and back again, spending quite a few more Euros than we’d planned. It was so much fun though. Wandering down a number of main streets and back again, with bars, pubs, clubs, shops and hostels, I realized this was sort of what I thought London would be like, with exciting options at every turn. When I mentioned this to my friends, they pointed out that London is so big, and filled with all different kinds of neighborhoods, most of which we haven’t even seen yet.
The next day I overslept (my phone clock was still on London time, oops!), so I missed the group trip to clog & cheese factories. I was mad at myself for a little, but I decided to make the most of it, so I went back to sleep for a little, and then went out and hit the town by myself. I wandered the streets without a real direction (flaneuring, as my travel writing teacher would say), and ended up finding some “New York style” pizza. In all honesty, it was pretty good- not as good as the real thing of course, but better than what I’d seen in all the other shop windows. OH WAIT I FORGOT- the best thing I ate the whole trip was on the first night… Belgian chocolate-covered waffles. That’s BELGIAN waffles covered in BELGIAN chocolate.
Then I went back to the hostel and met up with two of my other friends I came with, who had also slept in. The three of us went out, hit a couple coffee shops, and wandered around some more. We were attempting to find the big sign that says “iamsterdam” to take the typical touristy photos with it, but instead we got lost, looked in a few shops, and took more photos of the city. Then everyone took a nap, and we found the rest of our group and went out again. Tagging along with us were two Chilean brothers who were in the same room as my two guy friends. It was pretty funny attempting to communicate with them, since they spoke about as much English as we spoke Spanish. We got drinks at the hostel bar, checked out a few other coffee shops and bars, and ended up in the hostel club, which was actually kind of lame, I thought. I ended up going to bed before everyone else, because I knew I would have trouble waking up in the morning.
On Sunday, we got back on the bus and headed to Bruges, this beautiful little historic town in Belgium. I took so many photos there- all the castles and old buildings were amazing. After our little tour, we wanted to get Belgian waffles and beer, but we were all out of Euros, and couldn’t find any cash machines. We were starving and couldn’t find any place that would take credit cards, so we ended up at a Pizza Hut, which was a whole experience in and of itself. So many cultural differences in restaurants, from seating to splitting checks to tipping. We were very ready to leave there and get back on the bus. Our last stop before heading for customs and the ferry once more was (supposedly) a chocolate factory. They didn’t have any incredible looking chocolates though, so I didn’t get any there. I got some Toblerone on the ferry instead.
Wow, I lost steam on this post, it took me forever. What a long, amazing weekend. And Spain in another week and a half, ahh! So excited. Stay tuned.