Sunday, August 20, 2017

Nederland - Days 1 & 2

Have you ever received a notification many hours before your flight, telling you about a delay? We have in the past, and intentionally didn't change our airport arrival time. Unfortunately, for our flight to Frankfurt on Saturday, we let our 1 hour delay notification slow our trip to Chicago. We tried checking in 1 hour and 15 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, but the kiosk told us to go to the full service check in counter. We waited there for about 25 minutes, and when the airline attendant tried to check us in, she couldn't, because apparently they close check-in 60 minutes before the flight is scheduled to depart. My heart sank. We protested. "I'm sorry," she said, "but if I ask again [if I can check you in], they will get mad." We had planned to fly into Frankfurt (leaving at 3:30 pm) and then take a 3-hour ($100) train ride to Amsterdam. Instead, we got on a 5:55 pm flight to Brussels and took a 2.5 hour ($49) train ride to Amsterdam and even arrived in time for our FreeDam walking tour.

Waiting for our train from Brussels to Amsterdam
We didn't exactly fall in love with Amsterdam. Part of it was probably the jet-lag (ugh - it's been a long time since I only slept 2.5 hours in one night), but beyond that, the city almost seemed like a joke -- infamous because of marijuana and prostitution -- also just crowded, dirty and touristy. We'll spend one more day and night in the southern part of the city at the end of our trip, so hopefully that visit will redeem our tainted view.

The biking culture though. Wow. Bikes have the right-of-way over cars and pedestrians. Apparently every year, they pull 30,000 rusty bikes out of the canals in Amsterdam. The tour guide took us to a bridge where each night, you can buy a stolen bike for less than 20 euros. At breakfast in our hotel, I read that bikes involuntarily change hands every 3 years because they are stolen so often.

It was unusual for this bike to be locked up alone, without others locked up all around it
But about prostitution. Apparently they only legalized it in 2000, which surprised me. And the pot-smoking? Not legal, but tolerated in an effort to keep people away from harder drugs, mainly heroine. One way it's tolerated is that the government allows each person to carry 5 grams of pot and grow 5 of their own plants. The government gets a 58% tax from each "coffeeshop,"which is where you get pot in Amsterdam. So interesting and strange! No, we did not smoke. I don't tend to follow the concept of "when in Rome."

Last night, we had a lovely dinner at a gastro-pub and then quickly walked through the canal lined streets back to our hotel to go to bed. I was fast asleep by 8:30 pm. Also haven't done that in a while!

Spare ribs and beet ravioli with mint sauce at De Reiger
I guess because we essentially lost 7 hours during our plane ride, I will call this day 1 and 2. Tomorrow, I'll blog update you on Day 3 (Amsterdam, Harderwijk and Utrecht). For now, I'll just say that it feels AMAZING to be celebrating our 10th anniversary for a whole 8 days. No real schedule, no responsibilities (other than the e-bikes we're borrowing from Trek) and the chance to hang with my favorite man.

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