A departure from Barcelona lead to an arrival to Amsterdam, where I spent 5 days saying good-bye to 2011 and welcoming 2012 with open arms. My French posse and I made plans to reunite in Europe’s capital of fun and fun we had, despite getting spat on by the rain gods for 70% of the trip. I love Amsterdam and not for all the reasons why most people love the Dam. If you look beyond the red light district (which, admittedly is pretty cool) and the special muffins (which my body cannot appear to handle) you’ll find that Amsterdam is full of charm and history. I love their biking culture (where it’s actually tolerable vs. the madness that is Ho Chi Minh City), all the canals that run through the vibrant city, how there are flowers EVERYWHERE (this is a huge deal if you’re as into flowers as I am and I definitely recommend checking out the Keukenhoff Gardens in the spring, where you’ll get a chance to see acres upon acres of colours- a gigantic mosaic of awesomeness). The last time I visited Amsterdam I went to Anne Frank’s house and had shivers creeping down my spine as I toured the house that was used as her hideaway. You can still see the handwriting on the walls. Haunting.
Anyhow, this trip was more about spending time with friends rather than doing the sight-seeing bit. We were a little put off by the cranky weather and opted for dinners out, and going to the movies instead. You know what they say- When in Amsterdam, do as the Amsterdonians (Amsterdamians? Amsterdamans? Amsterdamanian?) do! :P. I’m in the process of creating an emoticon that will best symbolize my sarcasm, but have yet to come up with the perfect one. We saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in Imax, which really was just amazing. And this is coming from someone who despises Tom Cruise. I don’t even know why the sound of his name ignites such a distaste from me…it probably has something to do with the whole scientology thing. Plus his association with Katie Holmes doesn’t help his case either. Anyway, this post isn’t about hating on men under 5”8 so allow me to continue. Now while I realize MI isn’t exactly a movie that requires much brain power, it probably would’ve been nicer to watch a movie that didn’t use subtitles. A lot of it took place in Russia and it was unbearably frustrating watching the intense scenes taking place at the Kremlin only to have all the Russian dialogue translated into Dutch. Hearing all the gasps and screams from other audience members (slight exaggeration) just resulted in mad frustration at not being to understand WTH was going on.
Now I’d love to tell you about all the fun and madness I experienced for NYE, but as this is a professional blog I cannot state my involvement in unlawful activities without encountering legal action. Just kidding. NYE gets hyped up so much, year after year, and you’d think that by now I’d have learned that it’s just another regular night but again, I went through the mad panic of what to do. Where to go. And most importantly, WHAT TO WEAR. I think about 5% of my time in Barcelona was wasted on mad shopping attacks for the perfect outfit to wear to a 70’s disco-themed party at Sugar Factory. I wish I could say that my efforts did not go to waste, but if you see the pictures below you’ll notice that there isn’t anything special going on in the clothing department :P. The time spent with my friends was fun, though my recollection of the night went a little murky after I had a shot of some homemade Polish liquor. 70%. Potent. POISON. I can’t say I enjoyed the music at Sugar Factory and I’m not sure if it was 70’s Dutch music that was playing, but I was expecting to get down with James Brown, Queen, and David Bowie and all I heard was just hours of synthesized trash! I generally don’t have a good time at clubs if the music isn’t to my liking, but the Polish poison put me on an energy high that lasted until we left the club where I proceeded to hop my way back to our accommodations.
Our accommodations…the interesting bit.
I’ve been an avid fan of Airbnb, a site where you can rent out rooms or houses to visitors at your own set price, for quite some time now and always turn to the site whenever I need to find accommodations. It’s cheaper than hotels and often less expensive than hostels as well, not to mention much cleaner (generally speaking). I also like the local interaction and find that I get more of an “experience” when staying somewhere not so commercialized.
Well, M and I stayed at an Airbnb place after a bit of persuasion on my end (he’s more of a hotel kind of guy and isn’t all that comfortable with the idea of staying in other people’s homes) and I suppose an “experience” is what we got. Real estate agents and business(wo)men always state it’s about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Well, the location was amazing. Right in the heart of the city, located at Museumplein just 10 steps from the tram were our homey accommodations. Besides the location, other aspects of our temporary housing proved to be somewhat…questionable.
Hans, our eccentric landlord and homeowner, was definitely quite a character. An elderly man, at the ripe age of approximately 70, he often appeared a little dazed and confused. I’m not all too sure if this was a result of the natural aging process, if it was due to smoking a little too much maryjane back in the day, or if the smoking was still a habit he currently practices. My guess is a combination of all three. I’m well travelled enough to be accustomed to the oddities one can come to expect at unconventional places so I didn’t find it particularly appalling when: a) I saw Hans walk around in his underwear b) he showed me the blood splatters on his pants due to an ankle surgery gone awry c) Hans described to me the relationship he has with his 28 year old girlfriend who has taken on a lesbian lover due to her desire to experiment and how he cannot satisfy her like a woman can. I like to listen, but told him I couldn’t empathize with his current problem.
After I learned about Hans’ colourful past as a world-renowned photographer who has travelled all over the world and even had relations with Miss. Indonesia, I was brought up to my room-the Blue room. Why was it called the Blue room? Because it was blue. Why do you make me state the obvious? The state of the room suited me just fine! All I need is a bed with clean sheets and that’s what we got (I think…sometimes ignorance is bliss). I was then directed to the shower/kitchen. Hmm…a bathtub located in the kitchen…now this was a new one to me. Appalling, no. Just new. M had a hard time adjusting to this one and had to muster all his strength to hide the judgement. I guess it was a little strange crouching down to take a shower (no shower curtains) while staring at dirty dishes in the sink and a half-eaten sausage sitting on the kitchen counter, but I didn’t see any cockroaches skittering about and it’s not UN-hygienic to have a shower and the kitchen be in the same room, is it?
Unlike a lot of other countries I’ve found it difficult to attribute any particular kind of trait (I want to say stereotype but fear the backlash) to the Dutch. A quick Google search of “stereotypes of nationalities” prompted in the following extremely validated and reliable results:
Americans- Arrogant, assertive, materialistic, progressive, war mongers, God is with us;
Australians- Party animals, nature lovers, uncultured, bush battling rednecks;
British- Ultra- traditional, intelligent and articulate, anti-American, Francophobic, God save the Queen, lousy food;
Canadians-Submissive, law-abiding, don’t like successful people, socialist mindset, live in igloos further north;
Chinese- Stingy, noisy spitters, ambitious, great at math, eat everything that lives, prepare for world domination, do kung fu and other material arts;
Italians- Gigolos, possessive, manipulative, dishonest, smooth-talkers;
But the Dutch. Hard to say…At first I thought there’d be huge similarities to Germans and Belgians in terms of their practicality, reservation, work hard and play hard attitude, but there isn’t anything I can pinpoint as being stereotypically Dutch! Maybe it’s just the bubble of Amsterdam that breeds a very eclectic group of people. Hans definitely added some variety to my vacation.
But as all trips do, this one too came to an end and I am now sitting on my couch back in Bath reflecting on the great times I’ve had this past month. Friends, family, memories- Priceless. I hope everyone’s new year is off to a great start! Happy 2012!!! 😀