Thursday, September 11, 2014

48 Hours in Amsterdam: Party till you drop

Monday 23 June 2014
We had to get up SUPER early today (the pain!!) for our train to Amsterdam. We met Slavko and co. at the station. Our party time continues!! 

Sometimes, you can get first class tickets for less if you book at the last minute, so that’s what we did. Well, that’s what Mara did for us, so we traveled in style in first class. Not knowing we would get a fancy meal on the train, we’d grabbed breakfast at the station and so ate twice :D

On our way!!

Fancy Second Breakfast (we are like Hobbits)

We arrived in busy Amsterdam after a few hours. We walked along the canals to our hotel, which is right in the heart of the Red Light District. Oh yeahhh. Kidding:P We dropped our bags and set off to see the sights.

It’s really quite beautiful here and much different than I imagined. It’s seedy, but not. It’s hard to explain. The ‘seediness’ is mixed in with beautiful architecture and classical style. It’s a unique place. The streets are narrow and lined with cute little shops, and tall, old, brick buildings. The canals wind  through the maze of streets. The whole place looks like it’s been designed for a Tim Burton movie. The buildings actually appear to be melting. Some of the structures are unbelievably skinny, and some are leaning into one another, and some seem squeezed into shapes you wouldn’t think possible to fit. It’s magical.

More than anything else…it’s the buildings that have great character. They are all different shapes and sizes with so many interesting bright colors and patterns on their facades and shutters.

I didn’t take enough pictures to do it justice and I was tired of carrying around my nicer, but heavier camera, so boo…my pictures stink.

Everywhere we go here is accompanied by the melody of chiming bike bells. It’s so charming.

Amsterdam is a labyrinth of small streets and canals. We wandered up and down and ducked into one of the famous (infamous?) coffee shops. It’s incredible to see the menus of different kinds of marijuana to buy-all with descriptions of potency and effect. The coffee shop was a haze of thick smoke…but only from weed. No cigarette smoking is allowed inside.

We gawked a while in the coffeeshop and got some beers along one of the canals to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful day.

Before the incident :P

While we were sitting there, I noticed this horrified look on the woman’s face behind Preston.

I looked behind him and there was a HUGE pile of bird poo ALL over the back of his chair…AND his back!! It was awful!! This wasn’t just run of the mill bird poop…it was, I’m quite sure, from a goose or something. A sick goose. I started to laugh and couldn’t stop. I wasn’t laughing at him…but it was just SO HORRIFICALLY MUCH.

Preston, of course, wanted to go and change, but Slavko insisted we finished our beers that we’d JUST ordered. Preston kindly obliged.

Finally back at the hotel…Preston threw away his shirt, but I rescued it from the trash and washed it out in the sink. Clothes are limited!!

After Preston changed, we headed back out and walked around some more...looking into the quaint shops. Slavko found us a boat tour, so we climbed aboard and enjoyed the leisurely ride through the canals. Some of the bridges were so low that we had to duck down in the boat!!

The most interesting thing we learned from the tour was that the buildings that were painted black (there were quite a few) were done so during the time of the plague. The black served as a warning to others that death and the plague had infected the house. In modern times, this history has been preserved.

Another interesting thing we learned was that many of the buildings have an arm extended from the top near the roof. This was done to haul furniture to the upper floors, since the narrow staircases cannot accommodate wide pieces. Because of this, the tops of the buildings also lean forward slightly, so that no swinging pieces hit the front. This all contributes to the melting effect. 

We went to a colorful bar to watch Holland play in the World Cup. It wasn't quite as exciting as it had been in France. From there, we got a dinner that I can barely remember. We were all soooo tired from getting up so early and the wild weekend we had.

This camera really stinks in low light

The five of us headed back to the hotel where we promptly fell asleep in our respective rooms.

Sweet Relief!! 

I woke up to the alarm I’d set around midnight. Reluctantly (soooo tired), I woke up Preston and everyone else. Not wanting to waste any more time in what little time we have here, we decided to go out and explore the city at night.

We walked over to the more central part of the Red Light District. It was awkward to see so many women in these neon light lined windows. You don’t know whether to make eye contact or not. Young women, older women, heavy women, skinny women, women of all races stand in these red glowing rooms with a stool and a small bench-like bed.

I desperately wanted to talk to one of them about her life. Why did she choose this? Did she choose this? Did she have a family? Children? What was her story? Was she happy?

Some of the girls looked away as we looked in and some stared defiantly at us. It was horrific and interesting all at once.

More blurry pics. I need a tripod

We went to a bar and got a beer. I sat outside and people watched and building watched. I’m FASCINATED with the buildings here. The details are so much that you could stare at one building all day and still see something new.

The best I could do of the buildings at night

At one point, I had to use the restroom and was shocked to find a LONG line of men and NO ONE in the women’s toilet. I actually had to ask one of the men if it was the line for the restroom, because I couldn’t believe it. I honestly felt like I was in a parallel universe. :P

We continued walking around the Red Light District. Slavko took us through an alley that gets more narrow as it moves between the crooked buildings. We sat in a beautifully lit square and watched people walk by before going into another bar to stay until it closed. Preston and Slavko walked out, but when Pam, Christina, and I attempted to leave with our bottles of water…we were told NO DRINKS OUTSIDE. Ha!! So, we were shuffled back in to sit. Clearing the bar fail by the bouncer :P

haha!! Ew!!


We walked back along the canals and came upon a WILD and CRAZY bar with bright colors and pumping music. The energy in the bar was super high and the music was, just, deafening. It was a funny place.

The Dolly Parton song “Joelene” came on. We’d never heard it before, but EVERYONE in the bar had!! The place went NUTS!! People were dancing and jigging all around. It was hilarious.

The energy was a bit much for me at 3am, so Christina and I stood outside a while. It was kind of creepy, actually. As we were standing there…we realized just how many men were in the area and NO women (explaining the bathroom line. Amsterdam is like one big sausage party at night). Dazed men were sort of staggering around and staring up at the building openmouthed, drawn to the noise and light like zombies to the only source of life on the street.

Christina and I chatted with some English guys on their way to the train station and then went back inside as the bar was closing. The Andre 3000 song “Hey Now” came on as they were shutting down. The videos from all the songs were being played on a large screen and this song with its wild and crazy video so perfectly personified that bar. “One Love” followed us out the door and Preston actually ran back in to sing along (and get Slavko and Pam). :P

Not the best video,but it was like that in there THE WHOLE TIME

We strolled back to the hotel, once again, with the rising sun and collapsed into bed.

Goodnight/morning Amsterdam!!

Tuesday 24 June 2014
We got up just in time for the hotel breakfast, which ended around 11. We all showered and went out to see more of Amsterdam.

We walked away from the Red Light District and into the other part of town. We saw the “Anne Frank House”, but skipped the long line to get in.

Outside the Anne Frank House

We got waffles drizzled with chocolate (yum!!) and walked some more.
All of Amsterdam is just so beautiful.

Amsterdam has more bikes than I've seen in the rest of the world combined :D

Back near the hotel, we ordered coffees and tried to stay awake before Slavko and co. left on the train.

We said goodbye to our partytime companions and retreated to our room. We were exhausted after so many days of nonstop action. Pres and I ventured out only for dinner and were early to bed.

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