Monday, April 03, 2006

The Trip, Part One

The pictures from the first two days of our trip are up on Flickr.
Warning: Long Post Ahead!

We left Birmingham's airport on Friday afternoon and flew into Philadelphia, a sprawling airport. We had a couple of hours to kill, so we ate some Japanese food - that immediately made us feel bloated beyond belief - and found a replica of the Liberty Bell made entirely out of Lego’s. It was pretty cool, so I took some pictures of it, 'cause it was so cool.

The flight to Amsterdam was easy, thanks to the dose of Nyquil I took as soon as the plane was in the sky. Sleeping on planes is not an easy thing to do, so I always give it a little help. :) And the plane we were on - a US Air flight - was one of the most cramped seating positions I've ever had. I was totally spoiled last year by KLM. I don't think Hubby was able to sleep at all, but Nyquil did its wonders and I was sound asleep by the time they came around with the dinner cart. Judging by the breakfast they served a few hours later, that was probably a good thing.

We got to our hotel around noon and dropped off our luggage. We had three hours to kill before we could get into our room, so we walked around and reacquainted ourselves with the city. I love the fact that Amsterdam is so easy to get around. After a couple of hours - a wee bit of shopping - we stopped for lunch at some little place in an side street. Robert had some pancakes topped with rum raisins that had him tipsy by the time he was finished with them. I stuck with a bowl of some great goulash and bread. By the time we finished wandering and eating, we were both tired so we went back to the hotel for a power nap. Our hotel is only a street over from the red light district, and the street outside of our window was busy day and night. There was a church right across from us - which annoyed Hubby to no end, because they played chimes every 15 minutes. Sunday morning, the bells rang for a solid hour! I tuned it out pretty easily and fell asleep.

After our nap we wondered around the red light district for a while and took a very romantic stroll along the canals. We stopped in at a couple of different bars and tried a couple of the yummy beers - which passed for our dinner; as Hubby says, it's basically liquid bread. :) By midnight we were ready to sleep again, so we went back to the hotel and crashed.

Sunday morning we slept in - at least until the hour-long bell-ringing-fest started. I really like the breakfast they have at the hotel - about 5 or 6 types of bread, 3 or 4 cheeses, several types of meat (sliced super thin like we would use for sandwiches), a big bowl of fruit, a couple of huge bowls of yogurt. You can toast your bread, but it takes awhile on their roller-toaster thing. We gorged ourselves so we could be cheap and only eat one more meal that day. After a quick email check, we were off to find the Rijksmuseum. We only had a general idea what direction it was in, and it was a little farther than we had ever wondered before. We decided to be really adventurous and not even take a map. After all, if we got lost, we might find really cool stuff!

After a lot of walking, we stopped at bar, bought a couple of beers and sat outside to watch the passersby. We asked the pubkeep for directions, and I was really excited to find out that even though we had clearly taken the long way from our hotel (read: we walked 4 miles, when we could have walked 2) we were very close. The museum was great, even though most of it was closed for renovations. They have an exhibit up right now through the end of May an bunch of stuff that at one point was attributed to Rembrandt, but has subsequently been proven NOT to be his work. There was a pamphlet that detailed how they had figured this out on every painting, so you could see the steps they took. After about an hour and a half, we realized that it was now late afternoon and we had to walk back to the hotel and get something to eat. So we continued on our journey, taking a completely different (and much shorter) way back.

It wasn't long before we came up to a little plaza with men sitting around playing chess, and a couple of men standing playing on a board that had been painted on the ground, using chess pieces about 2 feet high. They had a crowd gathered around, so we stood and watched for awhile. Chess - unless you're a fanatic - really isn't that interesting to watch for extended periods of time, though, so we walked on. And that's when I saw one of my favorite sights of the whole trip:

This translates as "A Wise Man Does Not Piss Into The Wind." Words of wisdom for everyone. A few minutes later we passed by a really pretty park, that had some little statues of lizards all over the place. I have no idea if they are supposed to mean something (maybe the lizard is sacred to the Dutch for some reason?), but they were cute. A little bit more walking and we came to the Flower Market, a huge outdoor market, devoted to....wait for I wanted to buy bulbs, seeds, plants - but the US really frowns on people bringing those into the country, so we just strolled around it for awhile.

Thirty minutes later and we were back in "our" part of the city. I felt like dressing for dinner, so we went to the hotel so I could get prettied up, then found an Italian restaurant. A couple of bottles of wine later, we were done with some incredible pasta and went out to do some touristy shopping. It was still pretty early, so we hit a couple more bars, chatted a bit with a couple of locals, then went back to the hotel to have a nightcap at the bar in the lobby. We had to get to bed, because the next day we were bound for Paris on a 9 AM train.

The adventure will continue....

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