London – Day 3

I’m back in London. I love it here. The night before, leaving Amsterdam, was strange. I was happy to leave. And sad. Sad because Amsterdam seemed to have a lot of amazing stuff that I wish I could take back with me. The biking. The casual approach to life. The fitness. The happiness. Needless to say, upon our late arrival back in London I slept soundly. Must say though, I was seriously impressed with London. Before we got off the plane my brother, using his phone, already knew all the underground lines that weren’t running and that the Piccadilly (the one we needed) was seriously delayed. So we were able to quickly grab a cab (for 10x the cost) to get home quickly. How is it they have so much available yet our own Calgary Transit can’t keep buses running in the snow, in a city where it snows 8 mo of the year.

On the third official day in London I was not content, although tired, to just sit and relax. I was provided with a couple of options. One, Hampstead Heath – for a view of London and a nice park, or two Hampton Court for a real life castle. Yeah. I chose the castle. It was also the first time I had to board a train that wasn’t the underground by myself so that was interesting. It would be a good practice run before Bath and Oxford. The train ride went by uneventfully and I was off enjoying the rain (yes, finally!) walking throughout Hampton Court. I covered this place. The castle, the gardens, the maze, even the tennis courts. I saw it all.

The maze was particularly interesting as you get to meet so many people, and sometimes multiple times. Running into a cute girl over and over again became rather suspicious but I didn’t mind. She eventually trusted I would lead the way to the middle of the maze and then back out. It was great… until, when we left she ran into her boyfriends arms to say she made it. lol.

After 3 hours of touring, I was famished. I took my brother’s advice and checked out Blubeckers Restaurant & Bar for a good ol’fashioned burger and fries. Delish! EXACTLY what I needed. Add on a Stella Artois and I was in heaven. Before I knew it though, after eating quietly by myself in the pub (empty as it was) reviewing the 300+ photos I had taken I would find myself back on the train and into the craziness that was London.

Amsterdam – Day 2

After barely sleeping, for numerous reasons, we awoke early to head out to the Anne Frank Haus to beat the line. Sadly, we did not beat the line and spent an hour and a half dreaming of delicious lattes and cappuccinos and pain au chocolats. The Anne Frank Haus is a heartbreaking, educational museum of survival. If you don’t know the story or haven’t read The Diary of Anne Frank I certainly encourage you to.

Immediately after the tour of the museum we set out for our morning breakfast… or as Ashley and I said, wow, we need a drink. Needless to say, we ended up getting a delicious lunch at a place I wish I could tell you where but we were just so darn hungry.

After lunch we toured the other side of the canals, quickly ventured into the Red Light District (which during the day is rather tame and run down). Yes, there were girls in skimpy clothing in neon-lit windows blowing kisses and making gestures. My camera however was prominently pointed towards the ground. I made this obvious as we passed obvious, but trying not to be, “bouncers”. So yeah. Nothing crazy. I’m sure it’s more exciting at night but really, we just left and used a bunch of purrel. Instead we headed to a local market and eventually discovered a massive park featuring the “iamsterdam” sign (picture didn’t work). At this point our legs were getting tired so we found another cafe, ordered a local beer and relaxed. We relaxed til we were hungry and went to then get something to eat at Georges, a very trendy italian-esque restaurant that was always packed when we walked by before. IPeople seem to eat all the time of the day in Amsterdam. There was no defined breakfast, lunch, dinner. You just met up and ate and drank and enjoyed company for hours on end. I could get used to that.

Amsterdam – Day 1 – Part 2

After Ryan’s wife met up with her friend for lunch the brother and I set out looking for a place to eat ourselves. Nothing fancy, a sandwich would do, and thus a nearby Le Pain would suffice. After an hour we met back up with the other two and headed out into the canals. Our destination was the Anne Frank museum and the main square. Little did we know the line up for the Anne Frank museum was a couple hours long. So instead we wandered more and checked out stores, drank some beer and enjoyed the scenery. The plan was to head to Winkel (for the best apple pie) for our Thanksgiving dinner. I had the fish penne. hehe

After dinner we walked the entire way back to the hotel. Normally you can tell distance fairly well in european cities. In Amsterdam, however, that’s not the case. As you walk along the canals it feels like forever to get back. It did in fact take an hour to walk to the hotel.

If you’re wondering about the red light district… you’ll have to wait til Day 2. Though you may be disappointed.

Amsterdam – Day 1 – Part 1

If you follow me on twitter or instagram chances are you know about the events the night of our arrival in Amsterdam. For those of you who don’t well here’s the short version. Basically when we landed, around 8pm Amsterdam time we were greeted with zero taxis at the airport and approximately 200+ other people in the exact same situation… and those numbers increasing as flights continued to come in. Took 20min or so before we found the taxis on the other side of the airport (they weren’t allowed in for an unknown reason). After a lengthy taxi ride to Hotel Zandbergen (it didn’t need to be so long, so we’re not sure if we got played) we checked into our hotel suite. We were expecting a bedroom with two beds and a cot. What we got were two beds, together, and a crib. Apparently cot means crib in europe. Ashley, Ryan’s wife, quickly jumped on this problem of ours and after a short discussion we ended up in one of the managed apartments next door (for 30euro more). This apartment was not the 400sq ft suite we just had. No no. This was a two floor, two bedroom, three bathroom, two spare room, entertainment room and kitchen mansion with 14ft ceilings. Let’s say oh, 2500sq ft. Yeah, we were blown away.

After a menial amount of sleep (traffic kept me up), we were at it for day one in Amsterdam. While for Ryan and I it was our first time here, Ashley was on her second albeit her first time in fifteen years. We had a quick bite at De Joffers Brasserie and were off. Now some will say we walked a lot on this first day in Amsterdam, but according to Google we walked nearly 40km on this day. When you see all the photos of the canals you’ll see how. The first half of the day was exploratory and a means of merely getting our bearings. We toured a couple canals and bought Ryan some new shoes and then wandered a near by park all before noon. Ash was to meet up with a friend for lunch who was studying in Amsterdam so Ryan and I decided to find lunch of our own. We chose Le Pain. Hey, it worked.

Amsterdam is one of those places, like Paris and Stockholm, that have surprised me from the start. The people, the sights, the sounds, the food. It’s all amazing. The architecture alone is one of those that makes you wonder why a lot of it hasn’t transitioned over to North America. In large part because, like fashion, they know what works. And they do it well. Amsterdam would easily be one of those places I’d go back to again.