Europe – Part V

***Continued from previous post.

{October 17 – 11:45 am – Bruges, Belgium}
We got up around 8 o’ clock to pack up our things. My bags are getting pretty heavy. Ate breakfast in the hotel at 10 am, then checked out for eleven. Caught the #12 bus at Markt Square heading to the train station. Stood in line for 15 minutes to buy two tickets to Amsterdam (94€ total, put on VISA). Looks like an hour ride to Brussels Midi station and then another 3 hours from there to Amsterdam Centraal.

{October 17 – 3:15 pm – Rotterdam Train Station}
Train just pulled away from Rotterdam station. We should arrive in Amsterdam sometime after 4:15 pm. The ride to Brussels Midi station was fine. We got off the train and went looking for a restroom and something to eat for lunch – only twenty minutes until our next train. Cashiers at the fast-food restaurants there were really slow; finally just bought two slices of pepperoni pizza (8€) and ran for platform 7, only to realize we were at the wrong platform! The train tickets are confusing. Ran back downstairs, pulling our luggage, and realized we needed to be at platform 19 in the next couple minutes. Train already there but we managed to get on and find a seat before it left. So far the weather looks good.



{October 17 – 11:50 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
At the train station we caught a tram heading toward Museumplein and got off there. Took awhile to find our way to Koninginneweg with my map printed from Google (didn’t have all the streets labeled). When we finally found our hotel we checked into the Park Plaza Vondelpark close to 5:30 pm. Unpacked. Around 7:30 pm we went down to the lobby to use the free wireless. Then headed out looking for dinner. We ended up walking all the way to Leidesplein where a whole bunch of restaurants are situated. Pretty crowded for a Sunday night. Decided on a Mexican restaurant, “Mathias”. I ordered an iced tea (carbonated, of course) and chicken enchiladas while Jordan had a Hoegaarden and a huge plate of nachos (27€, on VISA). Food was very good. We paid the bill at 9:18 pm and then proceeded to get lost on our way back to the hotel. We finally made it back, in the freezing cold, at almost midnight. My body feels terrible.



{October 18 – 11:30 am – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Woke up late so we’re just heading out to breakfast now. This hotel doesn’t include breakfast with the room rate and wireless internet is only available for free in the lobby. My throat is sore and nose is running. Pretty certain I’m catching a cold, after last night’s two hour adventure trying to find our hotel.

{October 18 – 6:45 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Found a bakery just down the street and bought a sandwich to split and a blueberry muffin (5€). Good price to fill our tummies before lunch. We ate in the lobby while checking emails, etc. Then we walked up the road to Museumplein to the Van Gogh Museum. I purchased tickets before we’d left Canada so we didn’t have to wait in the long line, just walked right in. Looked at the paintings and checked out the exhibition downstairs. Nothing in the gift shop caught my eye. After we left the museum we started walking toward the Jordaan neighbourhood where Anne Frank House is located. Found a free city map at a tourist kiosk. It was quite a walk, a little chilly, but we were determined to use our feet rather than pay for trams. Lined up at Anne Frank House and waited about half an hour to get in (around 3:30 pm). I hadn’t purchased advance tickets because we didn’t know what day we’d do the house. The cost is 8.50€ per person. Very moving experience and incredible to see. The walls inside are covered in excerpts from “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and there are short videos to watch as you walk through. Hard to believe the Frank family, and the other people, lived in these little rooms. In the bookshop at the end of the tour I picked up some postcards, two of the softcover diaries (one for Stacey), another book about the Frank family, and “The Last 7 Months of Anne Frank” (51€, on VISA).



When we came outside it had started to rain lightly so we ran up the street and I found a shop called “Boathouse”. Spent 30€ on three pairs of wooden clogs, a picture frame, and keychain. By then the rain had stopped and we walked back down Prinsengracht. Stopped for dinner at “De Oude Wester”. Delicious hamburger, fries, and hot chocolate for myself, and beer, a Dutch dish of meat, potatoes, and cabbage for Jordan (27€). Raining yet again so we caught the #2 tram to the Emmastraat stop, then walked the last few minutes to the hotel. Asked at reception if the hotel can book a tour for us, but the man handed me a pamphlet and said I could call myself to book. I asked how much the phone call would cost and he said “not a lot”, whatever that means. Not very helpful.

{October 18 – 9:00 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Very chilled after our excursions so after washing up some underwear with liquid Tide, I felt like getting a hot tea or chocolate. We bundled up again and walked for 15 minutes trying to find a place that sold hot beverages to go. That was a bust, nothing really available in this end of the city. Ended up buying bottled water, juice, and a Snickers bar. Now that I really want a take-away hot tea, I have noticed that no one seems to be out carrying coffee cups. Maybe people just don’t do that here? I feel like crap. Why must I be sick in Holland? I have wanted to come here all my life and I am miserable.



{October 19 – 10:20 am – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Woke up with my throat still dry and sore, nose running, sneezing, etc. Lymph node to the left of my throat feels tender. Don’t have any cold pills left, as I gave them to Jordan when he was sick in Belgium. Already showered and waiting for Jordan so we can grab some breakfast somewhere.

{October 19 – 10:30 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Walked down the main drag from our hotel toward the Rijksmuseum. There’s a park and a strip of souvenir shops, and a huge “I AMSTERDAM” display that people are climbing on. Stopped for a hot sugar waffle, an apple turnover, and a cappuccino. Then we made our way to the “Tickets & Tours” information booth near the Marriott Hotel. We booked a countryside tour of Volendam and Marken for 74€ (on VISA). From there we hopped on the #1 tram to Centraal Station and then went to the “Tickets & Tours” building to exchange our tickets for passes. At 12:45 pm we boarded a big bus and left the city through the tunnel under the harbour. Passed the “sleeping village” of Monnickandam, called this because there is a housing shortage in Amsterdam; people will work in Amsterdam and commute to the village to eat and sleep.



Our first stop was in the former fishing village of Marken, where the bus dropped us off. It’s started to pour and my umbrella is sorta broken, but Jordan’s managed to fix it for now. The guild led us on a walk through the village, pointing out all the green houses, and she explained that the water used to be salty but after the dike was created it gradually turned to fresh water. We walked to the ferry that would take us over to Volendam. While we waited for the ferry, we were allowed to go into the souvenir shop (I bought a magnet). At 2 pm we hopped on the boat for the half hour ride across the water. At Volendam we were given until 4:20 pm to do whatever we wanted to. Jordan and I strolled through the village, enjoying the beautiful day now that the rain had stopped. We ate fried cod pieces with lemon and tartar sauce and fries for lunch. I tried some Dutch pancakes called poffertjes while Jordan had an ice cream cone. At another store I purchased a pink bag with “Amsterdam” all over it, a couple magnets, and a postcard for 19€ (on VISA, as I’m short on cash now). At 4:30 our group walked over to the Volendam Museum (boring), then we boarded our bus and drove to the cheese factory! We were introduced to Iwan, who showed us how Dutch cheese is made. He wore wooden clogs with Nike symbols painted on them which Jordan thought were cool. Joking around, Iwan gave me a piece of cheese as he was demonstrating the slicer, and asked me if I was married. I laughed, said “yes”, and Iwan pretended to look embarrassed and replied, “Oh is that your husband behind you? So sorry!” We tasted a whole bunch of flavoured cheeses and they all tasted amazing. After that we walked over to the clog shop across the parking lot for a short demonstration. At 5:45 pm we drove to the windmill village of Zaanse Schans. The windmills there aren’t active anymore but the people who live in them must maintain them. Our group was given time to walk around for a half hour, taking photos. We were back in Amsterdam by 7 pm.



The bus dropped us off at Centraal Station. Walked to Leidesplein and ate dinner at “Mai Thai”. I love Thai food! Spent 34€ on iced tea, Sprite, Heineken, spring rolls, a huge bowl of rice, sweet n’ sour chicken, and a spicy coconut dish. After eating all that delicious food, we walked back to our hotel (about 15-20 minute walk). I think I need to find some cold medication tomorrow. I’m exhausted!

***Continued in next post.

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