Thursday, April 14, 2011

Red Light A-Go-Go

Day 7- Amsterdam

My confusion over when our flight was leaving results in our dropping the car off at 9 AM for what I thought was an 11:45 flight. It's 1:45- oops! We can't check in until 10:45 so we wait and wait. Positive note: I get a bit of knitting done. Finally, Duty Free awaits! I can buy liquor but not cigarettes when travelling between EU countries. Cigarettes are around 9 euro or about $13 a pack. Not sure exactly what I was thinking bringing only a half pack with me. Actually, I know exactly what I was thinking- "Hey! I have to order my smokes duty free since they don't sell them in the US anymore, so why not just buy some there?" Stupid. Thankfully, not smoking in the car or room has really curbed my habit! I smoked less than 2 packs during that week. Success!

My Sister's Travel Tip: When checking bags, only check to your next destination if you have an extended layover. This saves your bag from getting ahead of you and being detained in your final city. There would be nothing worse than finding out your bag has been unclaimed and sent back to the country of origin. Talk about a bummer.

It's a hop, skip, and a jump from Dublin to Amsterdam. Aer Lingus does not offer complementary beverages which was disappointing. What's a flight without my traditional ginger ale? I also don't need a customs voucher, thank you EU, but it makes me nervous.

I'm totally unprepared for Amsterdam. It's as if I forgot we were coming here. I didn't look up any maps, restaurants, things to see, or think of accommodation. Thankfully my sister did and booked us into a Christian hostel in the middle of the red light district. Ironic, no? I like the idea of a religious hostel. One assumes the people there will not sell you into torture porn or steal your toothbrush. Also, with an early 10 AM flight, I'm not interested in listening to people go at it like bunnies or stumble around after a visit to the "coffee" shops.

Our credit cards don't work at the kiosks for the train to Centraal Station. You need some kind of computer chip that our cards didn't have- more cash out of pocket.

Travel Tip #4: Take plenty of cash

Streets in Amsterdam are a welcome sight- street signs! The "idiot posts" as I've always called them, in the red light district all have "XXX" stamped on them. We learn later that the street our hostel is on is a good place to pick up trannies. Wonder what the Christian hostel thinks about that. Our room is nice and overlooks the courtyard. We have one roommate that we'll meet at the end of the night. She's from Canada and is leaving at a similar time as us the next day. She agrees to help us get to the airport on time since she brought an alarm clock. Travel Tip #5: Don't forget an alarm clock.

We head to Dam Square which houses the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, it's facade is under renovation. Before we lose the light completely we are able to take a few pictures of the monument there. It's amazing how many people are out and about on a Sunday and how many places are still open. We grab some french fries with roumalade sauce (tasted more like tartar sauce, but still good) and a falafel from a guy who looked like Liev Schrieber. So far, everything is cheaper in Holland than it was in Ireland.

There has to be something to do on a Sunday night, and we find it shortly after finishing our dinner- The Museum of Sex. For only 4 euro it's also the cheapest thing we've done all vacation! I have to tell you, I was skeptical of going. Not because I'm a prude, but because I didn't know what to expect. Was it serious? A joke? Turns out it's a bit of both. It was a lot of fun and we took some hilarious pictures.

It's still too early to turn in for the night so we hit up Cafe Cuba down the street from our hostel. It's dark and wooden and has an almost 50s underbelly vibe to it. Our bartender is adorable and we all take turns picking songs from the juke box. Oh, this juke box was amazing! Kind of like iTunes, you type in the song you want and create play lists. They had everything and we blast some Ludacris for our new friends. No sooner did I step out to the bathroom than my sister worked her magic and charmed some locals. We were instant friends, buy beers and playing stupid bar games. My sister is not a big drinker; in fact, this is the most she's drunk in her entire life combined (and we're talking a total of 9 drinks all week). I turn her on to Grolsch and before I know it she's downgraded from a pint to a half pint to a whisper (really cute 1/4 pint, more like a flight). She is boggled! [side note: my sister a bit schwasted is very amusing.] I kept saying, "You don't have to drink it. They're buying your more because you keep finishing it!"

By the time we get back to our room, it is stifling. The radiator will not turn off. We crack a window but it doesn't really help, even with the 30 degree air streaming in. We gain a 4th roommate who demands the window be shut. Ironically, this is the best my sister sleeps all trip.

Travel Tip #6: Ask about extra fees. Our hostel charged a 10 euro key deposit that would be returned on check out. Thank god I had a bit of cash. Also, bring your own lock and avoid having to buy one, even though they are relatively inexpensive.

I really want to come back here when I have more time. There's a bus tour that takes you out to the tulip farms, and windmills, and wooden shoe factories. There's a cheese maker as well! A gondala tour of the canals would be fun as well. Best bet is to rent a bike and ride until you can't ride anymore. Drinking is cheaper here as well by almost half. Our whole tab for about 4 beers was 11 euro, our dinner was 8.

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