We made a friend with guy who was from San Mateo (a place that's like 25 minutes from San Francisco). He was a solo traveler who had been traveling since June. He claimed he had just graduated from high school, but he looked at least 28, so I'm not sure if he was lying. The train went for about 20 minutes until it stopped and an announcement was made in Dutch only. People didn't look happy so we weren't thinking it was too positive. We asked our neighbor and there was a fire in a tunnel that we needed to pass through so we could either wait or find an alternate route. At that time, a Dutch guy heard our conversation and mentioned that he had found the alternate route. We got on a train back to the first station and then swapped over to another train. If we wouldn't have had this guy, I'm not sure we would have made it as fast as we did or, even at all.
Right as we walked out of the train station, I knew I was going to like this city. There were beautiful lights everywhere (occupational hazard). The guy directed us to the tram we needed to take and we were at our apartment from Airbnb in no time. The place we stayed was small, but perfect for what we needed. It had a stovetop, fridge, bed, pull out couch, kitchen table, toilet and shower. We found a grocery store a couple doors down and stocked up for the next few days with vegetables, fruit, sandwich goodies, chicken breasts, snacks, and juice. It was my first home cooked meal in over 4 weeks and I could nearly cry. We had brussel sprouts, mushrooms, leaks, and onions sautéed together with grilled chicken. We paired it with some of our Brugge Zot that we had been transporting all day.
We had read about a bar with live music on trip advisor and found out it was near our place. We walked over and it was closed. Apparently it didn't open till 10pm which was a huge change from Brugge. We walked around the area that was filled with people and found an Irish bar to pass the time. There was a soccer game on between Amsterdam and Barcelona that was a big championship game. We got into the culture with some local beer and cheered along with the other people in the bar. When Amsterdam won, the bar went crazy. We went back to the bar and it was open, but not filled yet. The band started shortly after and it was a great time. They sang Reggae, John Mayer, Sting, and other songs we were able to sing along with.
A waitress walked over with a couple Heinekens that some guy bought us and they tasted awful. We did what any adults would do and left the bar to avoid him coming to talk to us. We went to a nearby Piano bar that we saw earlier. I immediately regretted coming to this place. We went from getting two beers for 7 euro to buying one drink for 9 euro. Plus, the bathrooms cost .50 euro. I am still not over having to pay for a bathroom in Europe. We grabbed some seats that were available and got ready to watch the piano man. Unfortunately, this place allowed smoking inside so it earned three strikes against it and we left when our drinks were finished. We realized I forgot my scarf in the bar with the band and snuck back in to grab it. Our beer was still sitting there and the guy that bought them found us and asked why we left them. Sara told him that we were big smokers and that we had been outside smoking. I thought it was a good excuse and she thought of it so quickly, but apparently the guy had gone outside to check where we went so our case was up. He went to the bar to grab his friend and Sara and I left. Sorry bud, we weren't interested.
The next day we started with some homemade breakfast. I can't tell you how much Europeans suck at making eggs and bacon. I don't know how they do it, but it's just not good. At this time, I was nearing the 4 week mark, so eggs and bacon were big things. Here's the result.
After breakfast, we met up with one of my favorite Contiki friends, Janessa, for a walking tour around the city. We saw all parts of the city including the red light district, the old town, the Jewish quarter, and the Jordan district. There are more canals in Amsterdam than in Venice so it is really a beautiful city.
From the tour I learned that Amsterdam used to own New York but traded it during a treaty signing. They got some place in Africa and lost New York. I think they lost that one... Also, we share the saying 'it's as American as apple pie' except they replace American with Dutch. Say what? Is that why there is a Dutch Apple pie at Safeway? Crazy. We finished the tour near a cheese shop that offered tastings that were paired with wine so we signed up for that. We had some time till the cheese tasting so we walked around a bit and found a place with a sign that read 'best apple pie in town' so we had to stop in. It was amazing. Had they warmed it up, I'd say it was almost better than my godfathers wife, Kim's apple pie. Almost, but not quite. We also had a cappuccino that was delicious, even for a non coffee drinker like me.
While we were enjoying our treat, Janessa messaged some more Contiki people in Amsterdam, Ryan and Michael, to come meet up with us. They did and it was great to see people from the trip, especially these two. We grabbed some beers at a bar nearby called the Sluteru and caught up on our travels over the past week that we had been a part. The five of us headed to the cheese tasting nearby. The gave us 6 cheeses - a couple goat cheeses and the rest were Gouda cheese - and 3 wines to taste - a Viognier, Syrah and a port.
After such a cultural experience, we grabbed some beers and wine and headed to our apartment to play our new favorite game, Heads Up. If you haven't heard of it, get excited. Kristy, my Contiki roommate, had us play it on the boat in Budapest and it was a hit. We didn't split up into teams, just had the one person hold the iPad with the words and then the rest would give hints for that person to guess. We played for hours and were in tears with laughter by the time we did the singing round. The guys were heading to a club and we decided to continue enjoying the local culture.
Let me start with a preface for this next paragraph. There should be no judgements (mom). Part of the culture in Amsterdam is heading to a coffee shop and getting a treat and then peeling your pants with laughter about 30-45 minutes later.
Janessa, Sara, and I headed out to get dinner at the pedestrian area nearby for sausage and fries covered in a spicy garlic sauce. Looking back, we were pretty shitty by this point since we started drinking hours earlier.
We finished our meal and headed to a a coffee shop nearby where we picked up a chocolate space muffin. We were a bit nervous so we decided we'd split one three ways to make sure we didn't end up like my brother at the Taco Bell in Cordelia that one time.
We played more heads up, animal edition, as the muffin kicked in. After a little bit, we couldn't stop laughing at our own impression of the animals. Literally everything was funny. I don't know how we stayed straight faced to capture this picture. Shortly after, we passed out into a night filled with funny dreams.
The next day we were quite hungover, but couldn't help but be excited because my dad was on his way! We got ready and went to pick him up at the station. This was my 4th week since arriving and it was also Thanksgiving so seeing family was pretty special.
After a brief photo shoot at the IAmsterdam sign, we headed to tour the Van Gogh museum. We walked through the four floors, my dad and I analyzing the electrical while also looking at the art. We were shocked to make it through to find out that the two pieces we wanted to see, the Starry Night and The Night at the Cafe, were not being displayed at this museum. Well shit. Isn't that what people come to see? I guess we did see some amazing pieces still.
We moved along and headed to the Heineken Experience for some beer tasting. After the beers that the guy bought us the other night that tasted so bad, we were a little hesitant to try more Heineken, but Michael and Ryan said it was a great experience. After completing it, I do agree, it's worth the time and money.
The tour finished and we caught the boat that gave us a free canal tour. Sara and I had one more beer, I guess it was growing on us..
The boat tour dropped us off downtown and we walked through the markets clearing out all samples that were available. We found a place that sold speculoos and went to a nearby place to have a cappuccino and to warm up. We still had some time before the Anne Frank house was closing, so we rushed over and found it and completed the tour. We walked through where her and her family lived for the handful of years they hid to avoid being captured. It was quite a moving tour and made me quite thankful I grew up in a time where there wasn't such hatred like what that little girl and her family experienced.
By this time, we had such a busy day of traveling, we were ready for whatever Thanksgiving meal we could scrounge up. After a bit of back and forth, we settled on a restaurant that looked homey. We ordered the house wine and some escargot to start. I've never had escargot, but, I figured I'd try it. Actually, it was really good. They flavor was so delicious and had garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Put it on a piece of bread, and, boom, taste buds explode.
My dad selected the lamb chop, Sara ordered the steak, and I got mussels and fries. My mussels were so tasty and I didn't have a single gnarly mussel. My dad's lamb chop was oddly thin, but still tasty. Sara's steak was good, as well. We finished with some apple pie, cinnamon ice cream, and my dad ordered coffee. The cinnamon ice cream that was served with the pie was so yummy. It reminded me of the snicker doodle ice cream from BiRite in SF.
We got home and were able to FaceTime all the family. It was so great to see Colin and his family (bummed I missed Claudia), Lola, and then my mom. I only have a week and a half left so I'm in the final stretch.
Amsterdam was an awesome city. We had a good mix of touristy things and local things to fill our time. My favorite activities were the Heineken Experience, the bar with live music, and the cheese tasting. We only have Sara for one more day and we're heading back to Frankfurt for the night. Their Christmas Market starts up tonight, so I'm hoping the city has a little more charm than before. My dad and I head to Switzerland tomorrow!
Until next time!