Sunday, November 9, 2008

Remembering January - Part 1

In January of this year, Isabelle's mother came to visit for two weeks. The main reason she was coming over was to see Isabelle's graduation from Saint Xavier University's nursing program. But she was also coming to visit and spend a few weeks getting to know me better. On the night she arrived, we all went to a special "underground" dinner at Bonsoiree. It was New Years Eve, so the dinner was made extra special by the chefs for that. For the next two weeks, Isabelle and her mother spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking up some great meals for us. After her graduation we had a party and they made a FEAST for everyone!

After her mother left to head back to her home in Switzerland, I was called to England for work. We had a couple of projects underway and our lead engineer in Leeds just left the company. At first, it was just supposed to be for a week. But what started out a week turned into three weeks! A co-worker suggested that since I had already spent time in Leeds and York, I try catching a cheap flight to Amsterdam. I found one for a good price (total cost was around $300 USD) and booked it, plus a hotel.

When Saturday rolled around, I caught a taxi to the Leeds - Bradford Airport and flew off to Amsterdam for a 24 hour tour of what has become one of my favorite places in all Europe. I arrived at around 9pm and came to the abrupt realization that I was in a land where people spoke a foreign language. Getting from the airport to the Amsterdam train station was simple, but after that I walked around the station area for a little while and attempted to get my bearings. I was NOT going to take a taxi... I read that it was the easiest way to get ripped off in Amsterdam. I struggled with the maps for a little bit... it was dark and foggy outside.

I stopped a couple of people who were evidently the only people in Amsterdam who didn't understand English. Finally... I surrendered... I caught a taxi to Hotel Amsterdam in the Leidseplein. The taxi driver spoke English. The fare was 30 euros, which was ~$50 USD at the time. In retrospect this was highway robbery and completely idiotic on my part. There is a tram that goes directly from the train station to the hotel. This was my first solo foreign travel experience, so we'll write that off as rookie error.

I got to the hotel and dropped off my things. I took a quick peek around the neighborhood and then got some dinner and went back to the hotel. I got to sleep at midnight. I would have stayed out later, but the hotel check-out time was 9am and I couldn't sleep in. I also wanted to be awake the next day because I had a very limited time in which to see this city. I needed to fly back to Leeds at 5pm!

I slept great, the bed was comfortable... the hotel was quiet. I woke up at 7:30 and took a quick shower and went out to start some sightseeing. The canals are beautiful! I wandered around the neighborhood a little bit, it looks like I randomly chose a very cool place to stay. I walked over to the Rijksmuseum and went inside. They were pretty clear that I wasn't to take photos inside the museum, so I put my camera away once I got inside the galleries.

After I left the museum, I walked toward the city center and into another museum that had an exhibit about Afghanistan. I grabbed lunch at a "coffee shop" that my friend Jen recommended. That was an interesting experience... I'll leave it at that. I decided after lunch to wander over to the Red Light District to see what that was all about. Here were a lot of interesting sights. A number of brothels, the women were not yet in their windows. There were also a number of coffeeshops and head shops. I think I learned a few new words!

I continued to get lost and find my way again throughout the city. I caught a quick ride on the tram and giggled at the way people sound when they speak Dutch. Just before catching my flight back to Leeds, I took another quick tour through the Red Light district. Now there were women in the windows and it had picked up a very "seedy" element... especially for a Sunday night!

Anyways, that was my Amsterdam experience. I had a good time and can't wait to return some day for a more thorough experience.

In Part 2 I'll talk about the next weekend in Barcelona!

1 comment:

Lynne Jordan said...

Amsterdam is my absolute favorite city. I LOVE Amsterdam... just reading your post brought back so many memories. They came flooding back to me...