Sunday, May 30, 2010

Amsterdam Grand Slam, and The Bird Battle

So I'm sitting on the ferry that leads to London, which then leads to Minnesota, and eventually Grand Rapids-- home sweet home. Dan is finishing a glass of true Dutch Heineken, and I'm blogging away. Typical.

To quote the Dead, "What a long strange trip its been." But I would like to add the adjective "great" to the quote as well. Because its been one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I think its safe to say I will never forget it.

So back to our time in Amsterdam. It was really a very beautiful city! From the adorable Dutch architecture to the canals cutting through streets with houseboats galore, how could it not be a marvel?

Dan and I met at the hotel lobby around 1PM, and decided to hit up the city until we were to meet Phil at 4. Walking through the neighborhood, we hit up a local cafe for some lunch, and sat outside enjoying the view of the canal and the breeze of bikers whizzing by. After that, we decided to go rent a couple of bikes from a rental place recommended by the hotel concierge. It was called Black Bike Rental, and it was great. The idea is that they rent black bikes so you don't look like a tourist, and you blend right in with the other thousands of bikers in the city. It was a relatively cheap and amazing way to get around.

After biking and enjoying the city, it was quickly approaching 4PM so I headed back to the hotel to meet Flip. A short 3 hours later, he appeared in the lobby. Apparently we had a little miscommunication and he thought we were meeting at the train station. Oops! But no matter, because we were in for a great time...

Once Phil got settled, we left for the Red Light District. I mean come on, how could we not? And it was great. We passed tons and tons of tourists, and probably a hand full of locals... Windows lined with women, coffee shops left and right, and a few good places to eat as well. We decided on an Indonesian place towards the edge of the district, and what a good choice it was! Mmmmmm boy. After a little more wandering through the district, we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a night. But one thing's for sure: there is nowhere else quite like that district.

The next day around 11AM we met our first friends of the trip, Madelon and Wilco! They are from Utrecht, but are very familiar with Amsterdam as its only a 40 minute drive, so they come here all the time. We wandered through Waterloo, the main square (the Dam), and a few of the vintage and urban footwear shops. Of course, the vintage shops were for Madelon and I, and the footwear shops were for Wilco, Dan and Phil. It worked quite nicely! We also stopped by a few cafes and meandered through other bits of the city guided by the amazing Dutch couple, but soon it started getting dark and we had to say our farewells.

It started raining shortly after we parted with the couple, so we went back to the hotel and asked the concierge where are good place to eat would be. We ended up going to an Italian restaurant right near the hotel, and it was AMAZING! Spaghetti Carbonara, pizza with ham, cheese and egg, focaccia bread... Y-E-S.

After that, Phil and I quickly fell into a food coma and headed to bed, and Dan--being unperturbed by said food-- explored the Red Light District again.

The next morning we woke up to raindrops trickling down the windows, knowing full well that we had to take on the rain and get to the Van Gogh museum. What we didn't think about was that we only had 2 free passes (courtesy of Phil's friend from his academic program), but we had 3 people. This soon lead to 2 nice people and 1 lucky one (Dan). Said lucky one was able to see the museum, and the other 2 saints/awesome heroes decided to walk to a cafe and enjoy some local Amsterdam scenery.

Then it happened. The most epic bird battle you could ever imagine. We were walking around in the rain, enjoying our time together, and decided to sit at the bench overlooking a canal. There were a couple of ducks swimming around, it seemed pretty tranquil and nice for a conversation. Then it happened.

I looked to my left and saw probably twenty pigeons landing roughly on the spot a few feet from us, pecking about, being gross... And then a family of five swans came swiftly paddling over, with the biggest one leading with his wings propped up, as if to say, "It's on."

Then a seagull came crashing down to the water, squawking and flapping its webbed feet in the water. Two seconds later another seagull came rocketing after it, and started pecking at the other seagull's eyes! The swans are circling the area madly, and the ducks dive underwater for cover. Then the pigeons start fleeing and flying only centimeters above our heads, making cooing noises that I'm sure are of fear and hate.

After that, I ran as far as I could as quickly as possible. I have an irrational fear and distaste for birds, and this was the LAST place I wanted to be. But it makes for a good story, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please know that I did not.

Then we met up with Dan again, and headed towards the train station. It was here that Philip and I said our goodbyes and parted ways for the next 7 weeks. I wished him a great time in Maastricht and beyond, and left for the train to the Hoek van Holland, where we boarded our cruise ship and are sailing towards London as we speak.

It has been the greatest trip of my life, and I couldn't have asked for more. And with that I will end my final blog post on my epic back-packing romp through Europe... Until next time!

A big thanks to Mom and Dad, Phil, Dan, and the Dimond family for an amazing experience. I couldn't have done it without you! Also thanks to the readers out there. Your support means so much, and I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as we have enjoyed writing in it! I know I will look back on this stuff for years to come, reminiscing about the times I have had and hoping there are similar adventures yet to come.

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