Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Amsterdam--where anything goes

Amsterdam was one of the craziest cities I visited. It wasn't crazy like Barcelona where people stayed out until 6 a.m. dancing and listening to house music. Amsterdam was "all about business." So, if you could make a business out of something and it would profit the Netherlands economy, then it was pretty much fair game. It was like anything went in Amsterdam. It was weird.

I headed to the airport early on Friday morning with Blair. We were both flying out of Fiuminco, but she was heading to Paris to meet her sister and I, obviously, was heading to Amsterdam where I would be meeting my friend Mark (who you've read about now from my trip to Barcelona) and his two friends Diane and Ceci. This trip was by far my most expensive trip.

Dam Square

I met up with Mark in Dam Square and we walked to our hostel that was really close by. Luckily it was in the perfect location, so we were close to everything. The first day we decided to take a walking tour around the city. We walked down the streets and a lot of it reminded me of Venice. The canals between the buildings and the little bridges were all so pretty to look at. Then right next to the bridge would be a public urinal. Weird. During the tour we headed to the infamous Red Light District. One thing I thought was cool was this one sculpture that was left right before the Red Light District starts. It's a square that at first looks like another stone on the ground, but then you see that it is bronze. It is a sculpture of a hand caressing a breast. It was placed there years ago in the middle of the night to represent the women of the Red Light District. At first the government had it removed, but so many people wanted the sculpture to stay that they had it put back into the ground. It remains there today as a sign and statue to the women of the Red Light District.

Later that night the four of us went on a pubcrawl. It was so much fun! They took us to at least five, maybe seven, different pubs/bars and each one was different than the last. My favorite was one of the first bars we went to where I tried Sambuca for the first time. The bartender was hilarious. We got there and asked for whatever they were serving as the free shot we got on our pubcrawl, and the bartender starts to talk to us and asks us where we are from. "Oh, well I'm studying in Rome for the semester and they are all studying in Barcelona."
Bartender: "Ahh, Roma! So you like Sambuca!?"
Me: "Umm...scussi? What?"
Bartender: "Sambuca!"
Me: "I don't think I've had that yet..."
Bartender: "No?! No Sambuca!" calls over to one of the other bartenders "Ey! This girl is from Italy and she hasn't had Sambuca!"
Other bartender: "Well, give her some!"

So we all got free shots of Sambuca. The lit some on fire in a glass and let me balance it on my hand. It was so cool and the bartenders were great. We had a lot of fun with them. Mark and I really enjoyed ourselves and ended up staying out later than the other girls. We had a nice stroll throughout the city. It was very busy into the late hours of the night, and all the buildings were lit. Things that looked like regular stores during the day, turned out to be popular clubs or bars at night. It was all really neat to experience.

The next day we slept in and then got up to get breakfast. We ended up having a terrible meal and so we had to find a McDonald's to make up for it. Good ole' American Mickey Dees. Luckily the fries taste the same no matter what country you're in. However, we also had to get fries from Amsterdam because apparently that's where the best fries are served. We tried some and they were pretty tasty. Later that day we went to take a tour of Anne Frank's house. This tour was very well done and put together in such an interesting way, but it was very, very sad. It took us a while to get through the whole house, and many parts of it I was close to tears. It was amazing to see what Anne's family went through and so sad to see just how close she was to being freed from her concentration camp. She died just weeks before her camp was freed. Her father, Otto Frank, was the only one in his family to survive.

After getting the tour of Anne Frank's house, we all were pretty tired so we went to a big park and took a nap. Amsterdam has so many flowers and Holland is famous for their tulips--which we got to see first hand the following day at the Tulip Garden!

The Tulip Gardenw as probably my favorite thing about Holland. The park/garden is only open three months out of the year, so I'm so glad that we were there at the right time! There were so many different types of flowers and there were colors everywhere. At one point you can look out and see fields of tulips growing, with windmills in the background. It was gorgeous. We spent most of the day Sunday going around seeing all the flowers and sitting by different ponds and creeks. We even crossed over these cool, giant stepping stones that looked like lily pads. Towards the end of our day at the park we got a late lunch and then took a nap near a creek surrounded by flowers. It was so relaxing. We could've probably slept through our flight if it wasn't for this man that came up yelling at us to "get off the grass!" We all jumped up so fast, looked at the time, and realized we really needed to head to the airport. We headed out of the park, only to find that there was an extremely long bus line. It would've taken over an hour to wait for a bus. There was no way we were going to get to our flights in time. We went and checked out cab prices--way too expensive. So...I made my way to the front of the line, got up right to the bus driver, sounded as desperate as I could (looking like I was about to cry), and said, "Excuse sir, I am so sorry but we are all freaking out because we have to be at the airport in 30min so that we can catch our flight! We don't know what to do. Can you please, please help us out!" I stood there ready to release waterworks if I had to. "Alright, you four get on. But you're going to have to stand and let everyone else have the seats." Mark loved it. He tells me he loves how I always can get my way and really enjoys how assertive I am. I take after my mom.

Side story...When we were in Barcelona we were at this one club and Mark and I went to go get drinks at the bar. The bartender was a girl so I told Mark that he should stand and ask for the drinks because he would probably be served before I was. Apparently the girl wanted nothing to do with him, so I stepped up and tried to get her attention. She helped out the man to my right, then the man to my left, then went down the other end of the bar. I stood there patiently trying to get her attention. Finally she comes back and starts to get the order from the man that has just appeared next to me. So I go, "Hey, hey, hey! Hold on a minute lady. I've been waiting here way before this man here, it is my turn, not his." She gave me a dirty look, took my order, and we got our drinks without leaving a tip. Mark thought it was great haha.

So we make it to the airport with a little time to spare, we said our goodbyes, and I told Mark I'd see him state-side in a little over a month. I got back to the airport and met up with Blair who had landed about an hour before me and we took the a cab home, swapping stories about our weekends. It would've been cool to go to Paris...but I guess now I have an excuse to go back to Europe!

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