This place is magical. Let's dive right in, shall we?
Chelsea and Alex left the day before to explore Frankfort, Germany and planned on meeting us Friday morning in Amsterdam. Brandon, Natasha and I were to fly out of Madrid at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday for a quick 2 hour flight to Eindhoven, Netherlands. Well, the best-timed bus to Madrid left at 7 p.m. the day before, putting is there around midnight. Therefore, we slept in the airport for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS until the Visa checkpoint opened and we could check-in for our flight. The flight to Eindhoven cost 90 euro plus tax and the flight home cost 5 euro. Yep. Just 5. Amazing.
Well, no wonder it was so cheap! You can barely take ANYTHING on board OR you can check your first bag for 35 euro! Screw that. I stuffed my undies in my jacket and threw a toothbrush in my smallest backpack. That was about it. I exaggerate. But, this meant I couldn't have an elaborate costume for Halloween as Ryanair would have confiscated it, I'm sure. That airline is nuts. But cheap. So we live with it.
Anyway! The bus ride to Madrid went smoothly. We (by some miracle) caught the last metro to the airport. We camped out at the airport until our flight, which also went well. The second we landed in Eindhoven, Netherlands, it hit me that were definitely not in Spain. It was so cold and gray. It felt like San Francisco! I missed that feeling so much. The majority of the people we ran into spoke perfect English, which was rather disappointing. I wrote down phrases in Dutch before I left and everything.
We were starving, so Natasha and snacked at the train station. I bought a "ham en kaas," which I figured was a ham and cheese croissant. 'Twas correct!
We took a 2 hour train to Amsterdam from Eindhoven, which was just beautiful. The countryside has so many little lakes and fields between their triangular houses. Lovely!
Once we arrived in Amsterdam itself, we realized we had a major problem: our Spanish cellphones work in every country in the EU--except the Netherlands. CRAP. We needed to find our hotel in a town on the outskirts of Amsterdam sans cellphones. We figured Chelsea and Alex were already there. We had an address, but a cab was out of our price range. So we hunted and hunted for WiFi to check Brandon's iPhone if they emailed us, but the signal was poor. The three of us looked at each other until Brandon said the obvious, "Um. We've been traveling for over a half a day, can we just relax and enjoy the city for five minutes?"
We were off! This was the beautiful train station we exited before a little exploration:
Off to a coffee shop to relax and people watch those crazy Dutch.
Once we found WiFi, we found that Alex and Chelsea had emailed us each in worry about 10 times. They explained which train to take to Zandaam to find our hotel.
Side note: A hotel, you ask? Why not a cheap hostel? Well, hostels are horribly expensive in Amsterdam. It was cheaper to get a hotel (for two) and cram our lanky butts in there. Which we did. At one point, four of us slept in a king size bed. Yes, we bonded.
We got the hotel, but had no way of calling them to see if they were there, nor could we ask the front desk for fear of them realizing we were sneaking three extra people into the room. So we just went to room 1213 (a suite on the top floor!) and prayed to Baby Jesus that they were there. We knocked… We waited… And Alex answered with a joyous, "YES!!!"
"Reunited and it feels so good!"
This hotel was lush, to say the least. Even for five people. There was a sauna, walk-in shower, and a jacuzzi tub.
This was the view of the hotel:
And the hotel from the outside was just adorable:
After napping for a bit, the five of us went back to the city to explore. What a city! We tried to enter this cathedral, but we waited until Sunday, and realized mass was in session. So we let them be.
The canals were my favorite. Like a Nordic Venice. The girls:
Brandon and his honorary "bro":
The following day, we researched delicious breakfast places. We've all been hankering for something substantial for breakfast as Spain is not a huge fan of big breakfasts. They like their toast and cafe con leech. But I need my pound of America with my meal of champions! So Chelsea researched and found this pancake haven which served us these bad boys:
After refueling, we were on the streets again (dodging bike after bike). This city is SO BIG on biking. 200% more than San Francisco at least. After debating what to explore (and passing the 2 kilometer long line for the Anne Frank house), we decided on impromptu beer tasting. Alex and Brandon are very serious about their beer and are well-educated on the matter. We found this amazing beer joint with all kinds of special brews. Alex found his favorite IPA, which is brewed soley in Chula Vista, California. It cost 12 euro here! Apparently, that brewery is getting some kind of recognition as beer capitals of the world are ordering it.
The manager of the store recommended a beer bar a half mile away or so. Of course, we listened to this smart man and went. I found a sweet beer I liked (if you can even call it beer), called Magner's Cider.
After that, we spent the rest of the day souvenir shopping until we went home to rest before dinner and the nightlife. In the process of buying some one million postcards, we stumbled across this snack shop where you can buy hamburgers and things of that sort out of a machine. This place is a hot food vending machine. I kid you not.
Our last night in Amsterdam, we had a huge Chinese dinner (don't laugh! Amsterdam truly is famous for its Chinese food. Haha!). And walked around once last time. Yes, we saw the Red Light District. And yes, it was sad to think that the majority of these women are here due to sex trafficking. It was so sad to see these gorgeous, young, seemingly confident women and realizing that they were more than likely there against their will. (Chelsea took a human sexuality class with an emphasis on human trafficking and informed us of all the statistics). The tourists were a crack-up to watch though.
The next morning, we were off to Dusseldorf, Germany...