nocertaintyonlyadventure

She was there. All pink and gold and glittery.

Month: February, 2012

Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

Amsterdam- the city where [virtually] anything goes.  This past week was a reading week, meaning there were no classes, so Tom and I decided to pack up and take the train to Amsterdam.  We left London Wednesday morning and had a 2 hour layover in Brussels, Belgium.  I would have loved to have spent more time in Brussels, but such is the life of a traveller.

When we arrived in Amsterdam the only thing I could think was, “we are not in Kansas anymore”.  As soon as we left the train station and pulled out a map, we had hoards of people eager to help us get to our hotel.  Of course, they are looking for tips, but it’s hard to provide money when you’ve just gotten to a city with different currency.  So, for 50 cents, we were led to our hostel.  What a deal.

In an effort to see as much of Amsterdam as we could, we stayed right in the heart of the red light district.  I definitely could have come home a bit richer, as I was offered a window and a few inquired about how much I charged.  Sorry guys, I have way better taste than what you could offer.  So interesting though, to see guys wager with girls.  It is truly a whole different world out there.

Our hostel was surrounded on every side by the infamous coffee shops.  For those not so much in the know, the coffee shops are famous for selling marijuana.  You go in, look at the menu, pick your poison, and smoke until your heart’s content.  It’s amazing what people can get away with in this country.

Because not everything can be sex, drugs, and rock and roll, we also spent our days wandering Vondel Park, the Van Gogh museum (where I bought I print of a skeleton smoking a cigarette.  I don’t know why, but I found myself oddly attached to it), taking boat cruises and visiting Anne Frank’s house.  We also went to a cafe called Winkels where, after laughing hysterically at the name, we each got the best piece of apple pie we’ve ever had.  And this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like apple pie.

EVERYONE RIDES BIKES HERE.  It’s amazing.  They are literally everywhere.  There are about 1.2 million bikes in the city and only 400,000 residents.  Obviously, if I lived in Amsterdam, this would be my ride.

I have to say, I’m sorry we couldn’t have recorded the entire trip for you to view.  It’s tough to put Tom and I in one place and not have it be pandemonium.  However, thankfully we made it back in one piece.  It was a close call at some points, particularly on the night Tom almost got run over by a vespa.  It happened so fast I didn’t even have time to react.  I would have had to watch it all happen.  After re-living the entire event, the only thing Tom had to say was, “if I had gotten hit by a vespa, I would have been so sad.  And probably would have hurt my elbow.”  It’s great to know that he can be so optimistic as far as thinking that if he had gotten hit by a vespa going 60, his elbow would have been the only thing injured. You’ve got to love him.

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What I most wanted to do was travel more, without an end date or obligation in sight. I wanted to wander and feel free.

Ciao!

I’m certain I was just featured on an episode of The Amazing Race.  There’s no other reason to explain why, whenever I used public transportation this weekend, I had to sprint to catch it.

Tom, Jordan, Kristen and I took a weekend trip to Italy.  We stayed in Milan and I have to say I was incredibly unimpressed by this city.  I failed to heed everyone’s warnings about the city.  Being that it’s the fashion capital of the world I thought it might have a different sort of effect on me.  It didn’t.  I have never seen a city so underpopulated.  Ninety percent of the time I felt like we were the only four people left on Earth.  I think even the sun left us behind.  It was a steady, bone-chilling cold the entire time.

We landed in Milan Friday morning and dropped our stuff off at our five-star hotel (thank you, Groupon).  Hotels make life grand.  There’s no other way to put it.  The beds are amazing.  The showers are amazing.  We even had automatic blinds that went up and down at the press of a button.  This is first-class living, people.

Because everything we do is an adventure, the check-in process was where hilarity began to ensue.  We had two separate rooms- Kristen and Jordan in one and Tom and I in the other.  Here’s a little word of warning- when checking into a hotel in a country where the language is not your own, make sure you are paying complete attention to the receptionist.  She asked if he and I wanted the matrimonial suite.  I recognised what she asked just in the knick of time and politely declined.  But when we got to our room, the twin beds were pushed together and there was limited space to push them apart.  So, we stayed “married” for the weekend.  Here were are frolicking in the square in Venice:

We dropped our luggage and headed to the centre of town.  It took about five minutes to see the sights and then we succumbed to hunger. I’m not even ashamed to say we ate a whole pizza.  Each.  It was delicious.  After exploring a bit more, it was back to the hotel- there was a penthouse spa calling our names.  Tom and I put on our bathing suits, robes, flip flops and filled scotch glasses with water and then trekked to the pool like we owned the place.  My only regret is that we didn’t take a picture.

Following our stint in the pool and the steam room, it was out on the town.  We had dinner (and very inappropriately named) drinks at a tiny bar in the centre of town.  Milan has a much different nightlife than London, but that didn’t stop the bar from playing the best songs that the 90’s had to offer.

Saturday we took a day trip to Venice.  Thank god for Venice, because it turned my attitude towards Italy around.  An amazing city, and also where the race for public transportation began.  It’s a beautiful sight to see.  When it’s warm.  And you know how to get back to the train station.  We walked around all day, wandering through the alleyways and canals.  I ate more pizza and then we indulged in authentic Italian gelatto.  As the day gave way to night, we thought it best to head back to the train.  Easier said than done.  We asked three different people in three very different parts of the city how to get to the train station.  Their answer?  Cross the bridge, turn right and just walk straight.  Those directions would be great in a city that consists of one bridge.  Venice has no streets.  It’s a city under water- there are bridges everywhere.  After an hour, we gave up and took a water taxi back to the train station.  Good thing too- we had made it all the way to the opposite side of the city.  We made it with 6 minutes to spare before our train left the platform.

Back in Milan we grabbed dinner at a very popular Chinese-Italian buffet restaurant.  This is where the language barrier introduced itself.  No one spoke English.  Thankfully everything was self-serve so we didn’t have to play a game of charades to order our food.  Despite the linguistic issues, we made out very well.  Until we wanted to pay.  The waitress came over and we asked where we could pay for the buffet.  She thought we said cafe.  So when we went downstairs to the register, there were four coffees waiting for us.  I guess that mistranslation could have ended up a bit worse.

And this morning is where the Amazing Race begins.  Our flight?  8:05am.  We leave the hotel at 6:00am.  Get to the train station at 6:15am.  Look at the departure board for the airport express.  The first train to the airport doesn’t leave until 6:45am.  It’s a 30 minute ride.  If you’ve done the math, you’ll realise that we were expected to arrive at the airport 30 minutes before the flight leaves.  Fair enough.  I’m a naturally fast walker.  We remained optimistic.  Until we got the airport and found out we had to take a shuttle to our terminal.  It’s a ten-minute ride.  We get to the terminal with 20 minutes to spare.  Jordan and Kristen ran ahead to pass through security and let the crew know that Tom and I were on our way.  First, he and I had to tackle the baggage check line.  That was 80 people and 500 suitcases deep.  With one employee. The only thing separating Tom and I from carrying the bag onto the flight was my bag of hair products.  I looked at Tom, then at my suitcase, and then at the trashcan by the waiting area.  I tore my suitcase open and tossed my (beloved) hair products away.  (They were all brand new might I add, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make to avoid paying for a new plane ticket).  After tossing the offending objects, we sprinted through the airport.  We dressed and undressed at security faster than Superman in a phone booth and made it to the gate just in time.  The entire debacle lasted 10 minutes.  I honestly didn’t think it was going to happen and I’m optimistic by nature.

In the madness of rushing to catch a flight, a lost one of my treasured faux fur gloves.  So as a result, I give you a tribute to them.  RIP, gloves:

And now, here I sit.  Delirious with exhaustion, but in my room in London.  And that’s a good feeling.