My name is Amanda and I'm making this blog to document my experiences during my 6 month stay in England. This for my family and friends and also to look back on. Enjoy!

Full day in Vienna, Austria

       I’ve got to be honest here… Well I’ve always been honest. Anyways, I rode the struggle bus in Vienna today. We were able to sleep in because there was an optional excursion to the Schonbrunn Palace which we did not do, so we were back on the bus later on for a tiny bus tour of the city then a walking tour through St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We drove past the State Opera House, but did not go inside. A lot of this tour experience has allowed me to say that “I saw ____”. It could realistically be, “I caught a glimpse of _____ while on a moving vehicle.” Now, I may have mentioned this before but I complained a bunch because for some of this stuff, I could have seen it on TV. I wanted to really experience each location; not just see what they want us to see. (If that makes sense). My parents kept reminding me that this tour was “a sampler platter tour”. Meaning- a little taste of each country so we know where we would want to come back to one day.

      But I digress.

SO Vienna was nice. It was uncomfortably hot that day. I found the first bus tour to be okay. Probably because I was tired. I mean- Vienna is beautiful! There is a gorgeous palace and amazing statues everywhere. The architecture is awesome and I enjoyed it.

        Once we were inside the Cathedral, we had the ear pieces again. It was so grand and great inside, as is every Cathedral we’ve been in.

        I feel like my posts are getting lazy but I think I just don’t recall all of the details from this day. It has to do with time passed and also the fact that I wasn’t really paying attention today. I spent most of my time trying not to dehydrate and pass out from the heat. There was fresh mountain water for the public to use! This is great because you rarely see public drinking fountains in Europe. After the tour was over, we had THREE HOURS of free time.

        The struggle escalated a level when we went to H&M to pass the time but there is no air conditioning. I was feeling faint so I was not really taking in the sights like I could have been. We walked through some winding roads between the buildings and mostly just looked for a souvenir shop to get our staple souvenirs for each place.

         Finally, we picked up some gelato, waited for the bus to pick us up, and went back to relax before dinner. There was a nice pool back at the hotel but, like every other pool in Europe, it was not heated and therefore freezing. I didn’t get more than my legs in the water before I gave up and went to read in the room. (I’ve started reading Hunger Games and I’m 100% hooked).

          Next on the agenda… we went to a restaurant (I can’t find the name of it in our booklet for some reason) but it was apparently famous because famous people have eaten there and signed the walls. When we arrived, they rolled out a red carpet for us and had Bonnie (the most hilarious elderly woman I have ever met) cut the ribbon to the front door. It was really cool, then we went inside and realized that the place is filled from floor to ceiling with stuff. I’m talking things from bird cages to pots hanging from the ceiling.

       We were in a booth that was tucked into the corner. My mom felt claustrophobic and over heated but I felt fine. I didn’t mind it, I bet it’s because I can handle clutter. The food was pretty good: we started with a shot of peach schnapps and toasted bread with a sunflower, garlic, pesto spread. Then I had fish and potatoes and vegetables for dinner. Throughout the evening there was the occasional performance by the two musicians that would stroll by and we were supposed to see some Vienna Waltz dancers but they “called in sick”. That annoyed me. We payed to see them and we didn’t get to. Oh well. On the way out, we went to the restrooms and we were told we had time to browse around because there was WAY more stuff in all the rooms and hallways leading to the restroom. However, Ann rushed us out to the bus again. On the way out the door, I noticed they had a door handle shaped like asparagus of all things. Then I turned around and there was an asparagus fountain behind me. They love their asparagus!

            OH. I happened to have a permanent marker in my purse so I signed the wooden post by our booth and put a date. One day, that will be worth something. If I could ever remember the name, one day I may go back and see it again! It was actually pretty funny when we were looking at all signatures on the walls and found one that said “Oscar from Globus” on a lamp shade. Oscar our bus driver signed his name the last time he was there and we found it! He took a picture with it too. He’s the kind of person that is funny without even trying. hahah

            It was an early night for me. I was exhausted. As soon as we were back in the hotel I was getting ready for bed!  Another big travel day tomorrow!

Posted
8 months ago

Do Re Mi

Today we went to a place that pleasantly surprised me. It wasn’t like I thought Salzburg, Austria was going to be a total bust. It was more like I didn’t know what to expect therefore I didn’t expect much.

       We started using listening devices called “Whisperers”. These were ear pieces that let us listen to the tour guide but we didn’t have to be looking at them to hear what they were saying. This was great because we could look around and take pictures and still hear. However, a drawback was that it was easy to lose where the tour guide would turn or start walking to.

       Now, apparently it was very American of us to get all excited over the Sound of Music trivia and seeing the locations of some of the scenes from the movie. We saw where they sang some of Do Re Mi and Confidence in Me. We dipped our hands in the fountain that Julie Andrews danced around and strolled over the bridge in the movie. We may have seen the trees the kids play in but they could have been completely different, they just looked like the ones in the movie. There was a cemetery there that looked very similar to the one in the movie but it wasn’t the same. This cemetery in Salzburg inspire the one they built for the movie. (close enough!)

         I said it was very American of us because the tour guide kept taking jabs at how there’s more to the city than the Sound of Music. It’s the home of Mozart and other famous composers. We saw Mozart’s house and ate “Mozart Balls” which are the most delicious forms of chocolate I have ever tasted in my life. It’s a very old recipe and the authentic ones are only sold in Salzburg, Austria because they don’t add any preservatives at all, therefore they can’t ship outside of the city. So if you ever had one outside of Salzburg, I’m sorry but you’ve been lied to. There’s a thin wafer-like barrier between the chocolate and the centers in the fake ones. Just sayin!

          It was a hot hot day, and we only had a short amount of time in Salzburg so after our tour, my family mapped out what we wanted to see and got to work. We basically went through the tour route again and stopped to take pictures. Finally, we met up with the rest of the group, ran through one of those spouty-spray-up fountains in the ground, and boarded the bus again. All of this by about 2 pm!

          We ended up driving past the Salzkammergut Lake District which was also in the movie, and if you didn’t blink you could have caught a glimpse of the church that the Van Trap wedding took place in. (I can’t remember if that was just the movie or in real life too).

         We drove to our very nice hotel for another two night stay in the same city. This time, our hotel was along the Danube River. There was nothing but the hotel’s patio between the hotel and the river. It was beautiful. The water wasn’t clear but it was nice.

         Dinner was at a wine garden and it was nice, not mind blowingly spectacular, but there was lots of wine. There were grape vines draping over us, there was live music by creepy musicians, and there was wine. Did I say that already? Our starter was a plate of different spreads and a basket of bread. There was a small slab of butter on each plate amongst the other flavors and my dad thought it was a little piece of cheese. He saved it for the end and ate a fork-full of it. HAHAH that brought a good laugh… “We can’t take him anywhere nice.” They served us family style so we picked off of a platter in the middle. Later, a woman in the group who is actually a professional violinist, went up to the musicians to show them how it’s done. It was hilarious and amazing because she’s been very quiet so far on this trip so I was shocked a bit but then amazed at her flawless skill. It was a great moment for the group to see her in her natural light.

           The Aussies, the youngest couple, and my family all went out to the patio at the hotel after dinner and had so much fun, if it’s possible: maybe too much fun. That night I received that mini I love Australia Koala Bear from the Aussies. I must have done something right because they usually give those to people who have been extra nice to them like a waiter that went out of their way to assist them or something like that.

YAY

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Posted
8 months ago

24 hours, 4 countries.

          This was a huge travel day. We woke up in our gorgeous hotel in Switzerland with a view to die for and after getting our suitcases in the hall for pick up and going for breakfast, we boarded the bus to go from Switzerland to Liechtenstein to Austria to Germany.

          At this point, a month after the trip, I don’t remember exactly what I did to pass the time on the bus. It could have been, uploading pictures to my laptop, writing blog entries, listen to music or just sleep. I probably slept. I’m good at that.

          We arrived in Liechtenstein which is a country smaller than its name. It’s something like 64 sq miles large, but if you look at it on a map of Europe, you could easily miss it because you see the name but hardly the outline of the country. The only thing I did in this country was go to the bathroom, buy a shot glass, and buy a small flag which cost me entirely more than a small flag should but when else will I be back in Liechtenstein?

           Next, we stopped at Innsbruck, Austria to spend two hours at the Swavorski Crystal factory. I can’t believe we only got two hours in Innsbruck. It is such a beautiful city with amazing sites of mountains all around it. It almost felt like we had more time at the rest stop in Liechtenstein than in Innsbruck. Oh well, my dad and sister ran (I mean literally sprinted to the edge of town and back to make it on the bus) and were able to see one of the ski jumps probably used in an Olympic Games.

          It’s getting warmer and warmer every day. There was a heat wave going through Europe and we were definitely riding it. We were sweating on the bus at first because emission laws don’t allow for vehicles to run idle. While we waited for everyone to get on the bus, the bus and the air conditioning were turned off.

         The day does not end here!

Next we went to Munich, Germany! On the way in, we passed the Olympic Stadium where there was the tragic terrorist attack. By the way, Alicia Keys was scheduled to perform there the day we were there. Now on to the city. This is the land of natural and GOOD beer. Now, I don’t like beer… at all. I think it all tastes the same and I dislike them all. However, I couldn’t leave Munich, Germany without drinking the entire liter of beer included with my dinner at the Hofbrauhus House. It took me about two and a half hours to drink it all but I did and it wasn’t that bad! We had some form of beef for dinner with a giant ball of dumpling and a pretzel. There was some entertainment, some music, some dancing, and some whip snapping. All very German.

           The tour group went back around 9 pm but the Aussies and the youngest couple stayed behind for more drinks and Jen and I joined them. It was a lot of fun, they asked me to do my cockney accent, and we learned a bit about Australia. Then, we walked back to the hotel, taking the slightly longer route, we weren’t lost. at all. Mark (one of the Aussies) bought me an ice cream cone and has not let me live it down that I owe him for that. I offered to buy him one in Rome but he said when I come to Australia, I can repay him. That would be one expensive ice cream cone.

              We weren’t out too late because we had to be up early to get to Salzburg the next morning! Busy busy busy!

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Posted
9 months ago

Lucerne, Switzerland

          This city is the first place on the tour where we stayed not one, but two nights! I hope you were sitting down for that. That morning, we didn’t have a wake up call at 6 a.m. or rush to get our suitcases outside the door, nor did we have inhale our breakfast and burn our throats with hot coffee… or tea.

         There was an optional excursion where you could ride in a cable-car to the top of Mount Pilatus. I thought that would have been cool but it would have been expensive for our family so we opted out of it. On the upside, not only did we save money, we were able to SLEEP IN. Now, when I finally got to sleep in, it was until 8 a.m. and I thought I had slept in until 2 p.m…. or died. The two hours had made such a difference! We slowly made our way downstairs in the hotel for breakfast before they closed and then headed out into the city.

            First, we strolled along the Lake Lucerne where the boats dock all the way up to the busy city. The first couple of buildings we came to were Bucherer and some Swiss watch store to get some free stuff. We love our free stuff. We got coupons for a free silver spoon (random) and also we did this lottery thing where we pick 3 numbers, hand it to the worker, they enter it into a key pad, and if it is the winning combo, the glass case will unlock and you win a Swiss Watch. If not, you get some Swiss Chocolate… which was delicious.

               In Switzerland, at least in the area that we saw, a lot of the buildings had paintings on the outside of them. I thought that was neat and unique. We walked along the blue water and there is the Chapel Bridge that looks as old as it sounds. At noon, we met up with Anne and the people who went on the mountain excursion… which was pretty much everyone but us. Then we had a “walking tour” basically taking us across the Chapel Bridge and into a Jesuit Church. I had never seen a Jesuit Church before and it was really beautiful, but it all seemed disjointed and random. I mean, after that we were done touring and had more free time.

                 We heard a bit of the choir rehearsing, went outside and stumbled upon a group of people playing Alp Horns, then I fed some swans and I was actually bit by the swan because they are aggressive and expect people to feed them; they’re accustomed to it.

               It was the first warm and semi-free day that we had on the trip. Jen and I wanted to swim in the gorgeous lake, or the pool near the lake. However, the air and sun were warm but the water was cold. We settled for sunbathing out in the little green space, park area in front of our hotel. It was so surreal to be laying out in the sun, in Switzerland, while seeing snow-capped mountains in the distance. First of all: I didn’t have any opportunities in England to show skin and get the slightest bit of tan. Second of all: I had never seen such beautiful, snowy mountains along a lake in my life. Third of all: SWITZERLAND. Oh, and there were some guys hanging out near us and one of them looked so much like Orland Bloom.

             Later that evening, we had dinner at the hotel with the tour group. Jen and I sat at the table with the two younger couples. This was sort of the first time we were able to talk with them and it was a nice change of pace from talking to all the 60+ year olds. Not that it was terrible talking to the elderly-ish people, it was just nice to converse with some people closer to our age. After dinner, my family and I went for a walk along the lake because my dad had about four Franks to spend since we didn’t need Franks in any other country. I got some amazing pistachio gelato to use up the random currency and we went back to the hotel for the evening.

By the way, I got an awful sunburn, but it wasn’t from laying out in the sun, it was from that twenty minute walking tour earlier in the day… fantastic.

Posted
9 months ago

Who doesn’t like a good polka?

HELLO! I promise, I will update my blog on all of my European adventures… don’t worry- they were too awesome to forget so the memories are still in tact :)

UNTIL THEN: I have very specific instructions for you. Relax, it’s very simple.

First, I need YOU to click this link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Living-Traditions-Folk-Ensemble/295095523939657 

… you with me so far? good.

Now, this is very important—- click the LIKE button on this page!

Done? PERFECT. Didn’t do it? you must not like having fun.

This is an ethnic dance group I’m in that performs around the Eastern US doing high-energy dances that originate from Poland and the Carpatho-Rusyn Mountain regions. We go all out with costumes and music and dancing. There’s never a dull moment with this group!

So like it, google it, come to a show… whatever floats your boat.

Please support this unique group that brings European culture to America for others to enjoy :) Oh and we’re working on traveling outside the US in the next few years… we’re fun like that. haha thanks! (dziękuję!)

Posted
9 months ago
Rome, Italy: Did I mention I stumbled upon Meg Ryan on the Spanish Steps?

Rome, Italy: Did I mention I stumbled upon Meg Ryan on the Spanish Steps?

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Posted
9 months ago
Bonjour! #france #nice

Bonjour! #france #nice

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Posted
10 months ago

Weisbaden, Germany to Lucerne, Switzerland

             Following the crazy wine tasting in Rudesheim, we traveled to our hotel in Wiesbaden. I can’t remember exactly but I think this is the hotel that had a pool. Instead of going out, we went down to the freezing cold pool and hung out with the youngest married couple on the trip, they’re 24 and 26, then an Aussie couple joined us. Some more conversation and bonding went underway and I also sat in the sauna for about 10 minutes before I thought I was going to pass out. It was a very low-key night at the average hotel. I wasn’t impressed like The Hotel in Brussels but it wasn’t too bad.

               The next morning, June 14th, we set off for Switzerland. I’ve mentioned a seating rotation that we have to follow, right? We have to move two seats clockwise every day. This morning, my dad joked around saying that two seats forward was the driver’s seat so he sat there before Oscar finished loading the suitcases. Now, I thought Oscar didn’t speak very much English since Ann always spoke to him in Italian and he seemed to keep to himself. When he saw my dad in the seat, he said, “Ok! I go sit with your wife!” and he went and sat down next to my mom. It was funny to begin with but I think more humorous since I wasn’t expecting that reaction from Oscar. Turns out, Oscar is a really cool guy! He looks Italian for sure with his signature tight polos and the collar up. Oh and we found out that he sings! One day when he was picking us up from something in the evening, he had his Italian classical music playing and we just thought it was nice to hear music then he took out his CD and showed everyone it was him who was singing! So now we always ask him to sing or play the CD. Oscar just looks like a boss. This coach is basically his, he takes care of it, drives, repairs it, and it’s his baby.  After this day, he started joking around and hanging out with the tourists more.

                   We stopped off quickly in the Black Forest at a place that was famous for it’s Cuckoo-Clocks. Right when we got off the bus, the guy was there with a tray of wine and making sure everyone got some wine. Then we went into the shop and looked around. I thought it was really neat for all of 25 minutes but then I kind of got bored and wanted to go somewhere else. It was just a tiny little shop on the side of the road, sort of, and we spent about 2 ½ hours there. Why can’t we spend less time at small places and more time at the huge places that need more time for exploring?! I love this tour but sometimes it really gets on my nerves.

                 On the bright side I tried authentic Black Forest cake, which consists of chocolate and cherries and I think it was cherry brandy in the sponge and frosting as well. I can say I tried it!

                 Finally, we got back on the bus and were headed for Lucerne, Switzerland. We stopped near the border to see the Rhein Falls for a half hour and I think that was an appropriate amount of time because there wasn’t much else to see there and you can only take so many pictures of a waterfall.

               We eventually ended up in Lucerne. We had to go through border control because Switzerland is not part of the European Union and therefore we should get a stamp in our passport! Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case because once Ann went out and registered with them or whatever, they didn’t feel the need to come stamp each passport on the bus. Missed it again. But anyway, Lucerne is a lake in the middle of Switzerland and a small but beautiful town is in the valley surrounded by mountains. This was our first two-night stay in a city with this tour. I could’ve stayed for a few weeks! Lucerne is BEAUTIFUL! It was warm, there were mountains, a lake, and an old feel to the buildings along with a modern flare. The first evening there, we did an excursion to the “Swiss folklore dinner”. It was nice, not amazing, but nice. This tour doesn’t have many options for the interest of the younger crowd but then again, not too many young people tour Europe with an expensive tour company. I’m here because I was already in London and this is basically our last family vacation together. Wow that sounds depressing. My sister is graduating next year and will have a job, then I will the year after, and then we’ll be out doing our own thing. My oldest cousin is getting married next summer, and then all the cousins are going to start getting married- I’m drifting. Where was I? Right, Swiss dinner.

             We ate authentic fondue in Switzerland. That’s something to brag about! It was really good actually. Then, there was salad with little to no dressing (Europeans don’t put much dressing on their salads) then veal and potatoes for dinner. It wasn’t just dinner, there was also entertainment. I thought this was going to be just like the wine tasting with dinner and music and dancing… not quite. It was more of a sit back and watch kind of show with some participation at the end, they were also entertaining a huge crowd and it wasn’t just our group like the night before.

              I was volunteered to go up on stage and dance with one of the Swiss entertainers. It was a simple dance. Stamping, clapping, dosey-doe, turn around, haha it sounds like a hoedown but I bet it is a very simplified version of a Swiss dance for audience participation purposes. Then, later on, my dad was picked to come up on stage along with many other people, and had to yodel in front of everyone. It was SO FUNNY. He tried really hard to do it right. After everyone got a chance to yodel and we all had a good laugh, they brought up a tray of beer and everyone had to chug a glass of beer while the entire restaurant cheered and sang for them. Wasting no time at all, a congo line started around the restaurant and they wouldn’t move past our table until I got up and joined them. For some reason, Europeans like to pick on me. But just when I stood up, Tour-Mom Ann told us it was time to go. We only have a certain amount of driving time per day. I don’t know, there is a computer that logs everything about the bus, and if we go over our time limit it’ll will cost us 250 euros per minute. I say us, meaning the tour company; I don’t think we, the customers, have to pay.

                My sister and I went for a walk along the lake after we got back to the hotel and then went to sleep. Did I mention our room has an AMAZING view? You can see mountains, lakes, and city, it’s just amazing.

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Posted
10 months ago

Germany, Part 1

        I’m not so good at waking up early when I’m supposedly on vacation. I’m also not the best when it comes to eating a great breakfast early in the morning. I’m working on it, but I’m just not hungry right when I wake up most of the time. That was becoming a problem because we have breakfast included every day and sometimes dinner, but not lunch. So I needed to eat enough at breakfast to last me until the evening.

        But that’s not what I want to talk about… let’s talk about GERMANY! Oh I like Germany. We first stopped in Cologne, Germany. Here we saw a great Cathedral but really didn’t have much time for anything else. While inside, a guy said, “Nice hat! Good taste,” and pointed at his to show me we had similar styled hats. I said, “Thanks, you too” and I think he was surprised that I spoke English so we got to talking about where we’re from and why we’re here, which I’ve come to learn is a very American thing to do. Always making friends… with the elderly folk! Hahah

        I had my first encounters with the German language when I went to the restroom and a lady was having trouble with the motion sensors for the sink so I showed her and she started talking to me. I’m pretty sure she just said thanks and made a joke about it. I just smiled and nodded but I was really panicking because the bus was going to leave soon so I had to rush back since my short stop at the restroom turned into a ten minute wait because a whole field trip of small girls were in front of me. I couldn’t even ask them if I could go first since I had to catch a bus. I made it back to the bus just in time and we were off on the rode again.

           Next, we stopped for a cruise along the Rhein River. On board this huge vessel, we ordered a bottle of sweet white wine and it was honestly the best wine I had ever had in my young life. My dad said it was the best for him too and my mom liked also so I’d say it was a really good wine. Oh and I picked it! On the top deck of the ship, I got a sunburn and we saw lots castles because the river used to be easy access for invaders and they needed a lot of look out towers.

          Then an Aussie on the tour came up and introduced himself to us. Mark is a character. He introduced us to the other Aussies as well and we spent most of the time joking around and getting to know each other. I mentioned that I had studied abroad in London this semester and he said, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about you.” People have been talking about me! Hahah I find that very amusing. Since we were caught up talking with everyone, I didn’t really take in all the sights but after a while, it all becomes the same: mountains, castles, river.

            After the cruise, we were in Rudesheim, the home of Riesling wine. We were a bit early for dinner so we were able to walk around a bit. I was on a mission to find my souvenirs but Jen stopped and was clothes shopping where we bumped into the young Indian couple again. They’ve asked us to take their picture a few times and return they take ours. It’s a nice partnership we have!

          Now, for the wine tasting! I learned how to properly taste wine that evening. We drank a lot of white wine and listened to the owner of the restaurant as he explained each one.

           After this, the constant questioning of my age began. “Are you old enough to drink?” “Can you drink that?” “You’re not too young are you?” I’M 20 YEARS OLD, I’M MORE THAN LEGAL IN EUROPE. Sheesh!  I mean, the first time, it was funny because they guessed that I was 14 years old, which is just hilarious, then the second time I smiled it off… by the fourth and fifth time, I got a bit snippy and just plainly said, “Yes, I can drink this, I’m 20 years old,” without returning the joking demeanor.

         Back to the cheerful wine tasting time- This night was so much fun. During the soup part of the meal, the live band came out and started playing what sounded like a polka. So, what did my mom do? She encouraged us to get up and polka. However, after a few glasses of wine, we didn’t need that much convincing. The people LOVED IT. Everyone was cheering and taking pictures, even people walking by on the street (this was an outdoor garden type restaurant), people were stopping in and taking pictures.

            Oh man. The secret’s out. Now, every time a polka sounding song came on, people cheered for us to go dance. I think this was a great bonding experience for all of us on the tour. It was the first time so far that people were relaxed and having fun together instead of just traveling on their own within the group. I imagine all of the really good wine helped with it, but the dancing sealed the deal. It almost felt like dancing back home at a Polish or Slovak festival and trying to get strangers up and dancing. Good thing my family has a lot of experience dancing with people who have never polka-ed before, so it was easy to let other people have fun and learn the dance. I mean it’s just 1-2-3, 1-2-3… super easy.

             Along with the dancing, there were also other entertainment games that the band members were in charge of. They brought out a board with about 5 shot glasses attached to it, lined up some people, filled it with something stronger than vodka (I don’t know what it was exactly) and basically everyone in the line took a shot at the same time. I’ve never seen that done before but apparently that isn’t a new thing. Then they called people up and handed each of us a cow-bell of different sizes. The conductor would point to each of us to tell us when to play and we ended up playing Edelweiss. It was really neat!

               The tour director, Ann, who we’ve started calling mom, told us we had to go. So we walked out of there and an older woman on the tour came up to me and Jen and said thank you for starting all the dancing. Her words were slurring a bit too which I thought was funny.

               I wonder how many pictures I’m in because of that night. There was an Asian man with a camera and a lens about a foot long taking pictures of us. But it wasn’t just the Asians taking a ton of pictures. There were Germans and other non-English speaking people taking pictures of us too. Ah well, I had fun! It was the best part of the trip so far!

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Posted
10 months ago

Amsterdam

After Belgium…

     Looking back, it’s tough to remember exactly what happened. ….OH I GOT IT… ok, so we went to Holland next. Amsterdam, Holland to be exact. Now, most young people go to Amsterdam for the red-light district… pot, prostitutes, and partying. Not me. I was with my family who was with a tour group made up of 75% people over 50. So, while my friends from London study abroad had crazy stories to tell, I have just average stories to tell.

       I was getting frustrated because we hardly spent any time in Brussels. It was like drive in, get off, take some pictures, drive to the hotel, sleep, wake up early, board the bus again, and go. I wanted to explore! It was absolutely painful to go from being a “traveler” to being a “tourist”.

      Anyways, eventually we arrived in Holland and I was disappointed that we didn’t get the stamps in our passports. Apparently, traveling around the European Union doesn’t require stamps. I have two tiny stamps in my passport: going into the UK, and leaving the UK. meh. My sister’s passport is full and colorful. I just can’t compete with that.

      We drove through a lot of Amsterdam and first thing, I noticed was ALL OF THE BIKES. They love their bikes and they have signs everywhere to remind people if the four-story bike parking stations didn’t hint at anything.

      Next, we took a canal cruise, which was beautiful. I got lots of pictures of bridges and such from the river’s perspective. I like to think of myself as a photography ninja. I can just flip the camera up take a quick photo and it turns out pretty darn good! I think it’s because I see the photo in my mind before I go to take the picture so I’m not fiddling with the camera and the adjustments. My camera and I are a great team. I don’t know, it makes sense in my mind.

     Still feeling the shock of how fast paced this tour is, I was a bit grumpy and I think it’s due to lack of sleep. What’s nice is that at least we don’t need to move our own luggage. The bus driver, Oscar, unloads them for us and concierge of the hotel delivers them to our room. Unfortunately, that means we have to be up earlier to get ready, completely pack our suitcases, and put them outside the door to be picked up and loaded on the bus again for us.

       Back to Amsterdam. Even though they don’t speak mainly English  in Belgium, we were only there for a few hours so I wasn’t so intimidated. However, we had much longer in Amsterdam and the language barrier actually suppressed my adventurous side. Here’s what I mean: along this tour, we have scheduled things that are included and then there are excursions, which are optional. If you don’t do an excursion, you have free time. Well my family had to decide whether or not to do the Amsterdam excursion which included visiting a cheese farm, seeing wooden clogs be made the old fashioned way, and then going inside one of the oldest, fully functioning windmill. INSANE, RIGHT?

        While my family was trying to decide, I said, “We don’t know the language, we don’t know where to go or what to do here, why don’t we just do the excursion since it is a definite thing?”  Long story short, we did the excursion. I mean, let’s be honest, it would be kind of strange going to the red light district in Amsterdam with your parents.

         The excursion wasn’t terrible. Parts of it were actually interesting, but it was definitely designed for an older audience, meaning, it was the kind of thing that the elderly enjoyed. I didn’t mind the cheese tasting, because I like cheese. We also got some fruity wine with it, which was very tasty. Like I said, it wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever done but it wasn’t like I hated it.

         Before the excursion, I mentioned a canal cruise. I think I may have gone past the house where Anne Frank and her family hid during WWII or it may have just been a museum dedicated to her. The tour guide was quick to point it out and we didn’t stop in front of it, so I’m not entirely sure.

         After the canal ride, we were let out near a Diamond Center. We saw all the different styles of diamond cutting, how they did it, then how to classify diamonds with real diamonds as examples. Wow, it was fun looking at the super sparkly and beautiful diamonds. They even had trays of diamond rings and pendants for us to try on. It was so funny, all the women were huddled around the table, picking up jewelry, trying it on, taking pictures, and just beaming brighter than the diamonds. All the men were sitting off to the side just waiting for their wives. I ended up holding a pure, 100% clear diamond, which is very rare, in my bare hand. That diamond was worth $70,000. I didn’t want to put it down! On the way out, I bought Zirconia earrings that were 11 Euros, but hey, I’m a poor college kid.

          After the Diamond Center, we went on the excursion. Ok, back on track. After the excursion, we went and picked up the people that didn’t do the excursion then went to a place by the sea for drinks and shopping, which was nice but not mind-blowing… Finally, we went to the hotel. Dinner was included at the hotel. I talked to some other couples who have been sitting near us on the bus. Slowly, but surely making the effort to make friends since I’ll be spending the rest of the month with them. That night, a lot of people went out into the city but I was just too tired. So like any crazy 20 year old in Amsterdam would do, I was asleep by 10:30 p.m. There are other places in Europe to have fun, trust me ;)

            

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10 months ago
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