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18 July 2012

time travel - eurotrip part two


Sidenote: In Amsterdam, you can only withdrawal cash from a MasterCard or Visa debit card in a Travelex ATM. We discovered this the hardway. 

...Dear ING, if you intend on monopolizing the Automated Cash Machine game in Holland, you may want to make it less challenging for those visiting from other countries to use your machines. Also, if I selected the "English" option, it was because I speak English. You may want to consider translating that (what I can only ASSUME was) error message, again, for those visiting from other countries. And, potentially don't use the Dutch version of the word "Fraud", as it leads the user to worry about the status of their account. And then try to contact their bank. In New Zealand. From a city that quite possibly has never considered the concept of public phonebooths, but has legalized prostitution and cannabis. ... Priorities. 

Uhm.. So, yeah. It was difficult that first day. After thinking the accounts had been corrupted and not able to CALL anyone to sort it out, we finally got onto the mothers back home for some answers and were FINALLY able to get access to some cash (and also thanks to the guy at the Beureaux de change that knew of ONE BANK in Amsterdam that had a foreign ATM and my genius idea to try the Travellex at the train station - BECAUSE it's INTERNATIONAL, duh). So we basically spent that first night on limited funds (waiting for money to transfer), so went for a walk around the city on the hunt for some food, and boobs. Food was easy to find, boobs... Look, the captain on the boat had given us a map earlier and (not cos I had asked..) had DRAWN THE ROUTE TO THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT, and yet, here we were, walking around Amsterdam (with the map), me scratching my head like "by my understanding we should be............Oh, is that a sex shop? Oh. OH. OHHHHHHHHHHH." yep. Boobs. It was AWESOME and HORRIBLE at the same time. It was window after window of barely clothed, (mostly) young, and (mostly) beautiful girls. Like, on show. Like, at the butcher. My lord they looked bored. We busted a few texting on their phones (NOT PAY PHONES!), some not even trying to ... Well I don't really know that they really need to try I guess they're there for a reason.. It was lazy. Ha! We saw a guy coming out from one of the rooms and INSTANTLY wanted to judge him. so... Yeah, turns out the red light district is bordered by these bollards with red lights on it. Duh. We'd noticed them, even commented on them and discussed how interesting they were, but didn't click. Needless to say, had no problem knowing where we were from then on.

The next day (after another horrrrrrrrible nights sleep), was beeeeaaaauuuuuutiiiifffuuuuul. The sun was up, there was no wind, just a pretty day. Still bloody cold, no doubt, but sunny for a change. So, we took advantage of the good weather and went on a day tour out of the city. We only went about half an hour out, but were gone for about 5 hours or so. First stop was Zaanse Schans to watch clogs being made and about half an hour in the wee town to explore and see the industrial windmills. I have LOADS of photos, from the whole trip, but facespace is being silly and won't let me upload, but there are some really good ones of the windmills - be patient.

From there we hit up Edam for a cheese-factory experience (a great time for my lactose intolerance to disappear!), where the workers all still wear traditional costumes (and clogs - super uncomfy + heavy, let me assure you), and got a real lesson on cheesemaking........................ From there we headed out to seaside Volendam For about an hour and a half where Bex and I indulged in a seafood lunch and a stroll along the beach.. Once we got back we were knackered so had some quiet time before we got our party faces on and headed out to the infamous Belushi's Bar. (sidenote: I have no idea why it's infamous, it's just what I kept reading on things?) at Belushi's Bar it's 2/for/1 spirits until 11 + €1 shots. We got there at 9. By 11 I had fallen UP the stairs to the bathroom 3 times, and been to the bathroom probably 3 DOZEN times (for those who know me well, know this isnt odd). Thanks very much to the guys from Palmy and Cairns behind the bar.. For, I'm pretty sure, giving us doubles and charging us half, and Scott from Scotland for ditching us for the young German tourists staying upstairs. EVS. we had fun :D

And we so totally bailed on breakky the next day. And slept cos it was DEAD QUIET from about 8:30 onwards. So once we DID arise we headed to... Maccas, naturally, then went for another wander of the city, found the flower market and was sufficiently underwhelmed, had smoothies by the canal, remembered we were supposed to have a canal cruise so went and bought tickets. It was getting late in the day so by the time we set off on the cruise it was dusk and alot of the city's lights were getting turned on, so we got to see it all lit up - another illuminated tour ticked off the list! This one only lasted an hour, and to be honest, could have been shortened by about half an hour.. All of Amsterdam pretty much looks the same, the city's not really know for it's monuments or sights, it's known for it's architecture and.. Other sights..so it was just a log of water and buildings really. But a lovely way to end our last day.

When we had bought our tickets for the cruise, we had gotten a deal that included entry to the IceBar + 3 drinks... How could we refuse that? We were told we could just rock up whenever we wanted, that these were like express entry. So we headed back to the boat (via a kebab shop) after the cruise to rug up for the IceBar's -10degree experience. We got there just after 9, and were told the next "show" wasn't until 10:30 and we should come back then. Uhmmm.. No, we were told blah blah express blah. Yes, well IM telling you you've just missed out by a few minutes, she "show" has already started, the next one is at 10:30, you'll have to come back then. We were confused. There was no mention of a show. Only of 3 drinks in minus 10 degree temps. We had to turn around and walk the 15 mins back to the boat, just to turn around in an hour and come back. And we were tirrreed. And hungover. So, we shopped in to the supermarket and bought ice cream. Well, in my case, a family sized vienetta. Sat on the boat eating iced confectionary, then returned to the bar at the appointed time. There was a group of about 20 by this stage.

Were presented with free drink #1: a shot of (what appeared to be) orange cordial (I imagine there was alcohol in it?) out of a frozen shot glass. Then, the "show" began. Some crazy ass people in crazy ass costumes came on the TVs singing their version of Shakira's "waka waka" but relating it to having a "cool time" in the "icy kingdom"... It was mental. Then we had to put on this snow gear, big fat jackets and gloves and go into the "cave". It was cold. I'm not even lying. But, it was basically a cool room, with ice sculptures, steel floors and bear rugs to sit on. They gave us drink #2 (the same concoction as earlier but this time out of proper sized ice glasses), some lame-ass 3D glasses and forced us to sit on the fricken rugs and watch this "movie" ... I... Have no words. I think there was a penguin. Or.. Seal? The 3D was so bad, it was really hard to tell WHAT was happening. That, or there WAS alcohol in my drink. The thing lasted about 20 mins, then they gave us drink#3 and played a hilarious mixed tape that consisted of "Ice Ice baby" and other generic ice influenced tunes. Then, it was time to leave. A total of half an hour was spent at the IceBar. 


The next day we checked out and said goodbye to Amsterdam as we boarded our train to Belgium where we had plans to do... Well, nothing. Besides wanting to goto Bruges and find Colin Farrell, I don't think either of us had much info on Belgium, except that Bex's aunt and uncle are living there at the moment, so that was a good enough excuse! By now though, we were used to getting lost and dealing with it, so once we'd walked 15 mins in the wrong direction and looked confused enough for someone to ask if we were ok, walking 30mins to the tram and then arriving at the right place but not being able to find street signs so walking another 10mins in the wrong directon (sidenote: most servos in Europe have free wifi. It's particularly helpful when there are no payphones and the servo guy speaks no English. Hellooooo google maps!) we FINALLY made it to Debbie and Terry's place. Where we were greeted with G&Ts and white wine a plenty. And a home cooked meal. Ohhhh it was bliss. AND our own beds :D and central heating and a bathroom and a puppy and a tv and... Oh it was good. We had a great catch up with Debs that night while Tez was still in the US, and a huuuuuge sleep in the next day. Debs' American friend Susan came round the next day with her dog Toto (who only understands French!) and we four sat around boozing and eating cake (it was valentines day after all)... We sensed not much sightseeing would happen today either, so we made a decision that Saturday would be out Bruges day. Good thing too cos it's half priced travel on weekends, so only cost us €13 to goto Bruges and back! Pretty good considering.......

...... That on Saturday's nothing really opens til lunch time. And the weather was.. Ave.rage. Bruges really seems like it's the town that time forgot. Until you see the apple store, o course. (sidenote: I was surprised as buggery to discover NO MCDONALDS in Bruges! Not that I wanted it, but just cos they're EVERYWHERE. they had KFC and pizza hut, 2 subways and an apple store, but we didn't see a maccas.) but the architecture is still so original and amazingly detailed, it's fascinating. You find yourself taking photo after photo of the same things cos you want to try and capture the beauty, but it's so hard...anyway, photos to come. In Bruges (see why I did there?) we did our third and final canal cruise - 1 for every country we'd visited, and our tour guide was soooooooo funnnnnnyyyyy! He has such a mixed up accent we couldt quite place him.. I initially thought Aussie, then Sth African, then Dutch but with English parents.. We never really bothered asking him, had too much fun guessing. He made it entertaining, and for €6.90 it was the best part of the day! Unforch it only lasted half an hour, so we walked the rest. Not much else to see and do (or so we thought - after the fact, we were told of heaps of things we could have done.. Next time) so we headed home after our couple of hours in Bruges. 

That night Debs and Tez (who'd arrived that morning) took us out to their fav restaurant so we could dine on mussels in Brussels, but when we got there we found out that they'd sold out! Wed walked all the way there and were hungry, so, stayed anyway. The WHOLE menu was in French. So, naturally, I ordered the only thing that was in English: Spaghetti Carbonara. So. Much. Cheese. Ugggh.

The following day Bex and I headed into Brussels to have our breath taken away from Le Grande Place and to visit The Mannequin Pis (literally a statue-come-fountain of a little boy/Cupid peeing). This kid is like, the infamous monument in Brussels. This kid has over 600 outfits according to some brochure Bex read. This kid is.. Odd. Photos to come. Oh, he was wearing a tracksuit of some kind. Maybe a soccer team? Unsure. Please remember: this thing is a STATUE. an OLD statue. Who now has a wardrobe. See? Odd.

In Grande Place (after having our breath taken away) we finally got our mussels, in Brussels no less. They was yummmmm. For dessert we had belgian choc-dipped strawberries yummmmm! A great way to end our food journey of Europe! Had a few more bevvies that night with the fam, and packed our shhhh..stuff (hi mum) up ready for our trip back to the motherland the next day.

It was gloomy out of Belgium and sunny into England, a good sign? Who knows, time will tell. Now we're back and bored, it's time to start the job hunt. So far not good, I can't even get recruitment agents to call me back.. Something will come up, it's only been a few days. Erin and I are off to London tomorrow, so maybe I'll suss out some "help wanted" signs there.

Wish me luck! Until next time..... *Zzzzzz (it's now 2:13am, when I started it was 12:49)