Going to Europe for a vacation is something that I never really thought I would get the chance to do. I love vacationing, but in the past, our vacations were typically limited to countries that we could get to in a fairly short time frame and on a moderately conservative budget.
However, living on this side of the world has opened new doors for me in terms of what I consider possible vacation destinations. I have a whole new group of countries that are reasonably close. Not to mention my perspective of what is close has been altered. Now I catch myself saying “Oh good it is only an eight hour travel time!” because really it is nothing compared to the time it takes me to get back to Portland (28 hour travel time). The acceptable cost for airline tickets has also been altered. Spending more than $500 for a ticket before was cringe worthy and enough of an issue that it redirected many of my vacation plans. Now, I have to pay almost $2000 for tickets to PDX, so when I spent $700 for tickets to Europe, I felt like I was getting a bargain.
Plus here the breaks at the university are at the same time as the breaks at Kassandra’s school (a luxury I didn’t have while working in Oregon since Kassandra attended school in Washington with a different schedule). Not to mention that we get 3 weeks off during the winter break and 2 weeks of for the spring break – giving us ample time to explore this side of the world.
On the evening of March 28, Kassandra and I left to embark on a crazy adventure. We started our journey by taking a taxi from Al Ain to the Dubai airport. I am getting to know DXB better than I know PDX. From Dubai, we flew into the Schiphol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam. This was my sixth time at this airport, but it was my first time to get to actually leave the airport.
My initial thought as I walked out into Amsterdam; F*** it is cold. In all honesty, I am a wimp when it comes to cold weather. I hate it. My body just doesn’t know how to hold in body heat – not to mention we didn’t even have the clothes to pack for cold weather. So, the second we walked outside into -3⁰C (27⁰F) weather, I wanted to jump back on the plane to Dubai’s lovely 35⁰C (95⁰F) weather. Instead we began the search for some gloves and hats. Here are pictures of us decked out in the warmest clothes we could muster.
My debate was with what we should do with our luggage while we roamed. Although we didn’t bring a lot with us, it didn’t seem like fun to lug it around. I asked the tour guide shop if there was a place we could keep our bags, and they offered to keep them in their back room for us. I had a momentary internal debate about leaving everything. One one hand, it seemed like such a naive American thing to do. I was sure if I left everything, we would come back and everything will have been stolen. But on the other hand, I didn’t want to drag everything around all day. So, I decided to have some faith in the Amsterdammers (is this a word?), and we left our bags in the back area by the employee bathrooms. As a compromise to the skeptic in me, I brought me passports, money, iPad, and camera with me. Then we roamed the streets of Amsterdam for several hours while waiting for the tour later in the afternoon.
Begging the question to be asked, how many sex shops does one little place need? At one point, Kassandra points to a picture outside of store and proclaims, “Wow those are so cute. I wish I had ones just like them.” She must have noticed the shocked look I was giving her because, confused, looked back at the picture. Then I saw the look of realization spread over her face. She had been referring to the tights the woman in the picture was wearing, not the two enormous dildos that she held in each had. That was a common theme while in Amsterdam. One of us pointing something out to the other person and then after taking a second look, realizing it wasn’t what we originally thought. After exploring Amsterdam for a few hours, all I keep thinking was that my younger brother, Jake, would love this place, and that I am sure my older brother, Jade, has already taken in the full Amsterdam experience.
Later in the afternoon, we took an Amsterdam tour bus around the city. We saw many different things like the zoo and a diamond making shop. I am not sure what this tour guide was trying to explain at the diamond factory, but I just couldn’t resist taking her picture.
Kassandra kept falling asleep during the tour, and I had to keep poking her to wake up her up so she wouldn’t miss out seeing Amsterdam. What exactly is DNA-SPRAY?
I should have just let her sleep because by the time we got to the Anne Frank house, she was complaining of not feeling well. As we were waiting to enter the house, Kassandra proceeded to vomit up her (rather expensive) lunch.
However, she was a trooper and we continued on with the tour, so I could see the Anne Frank museum. Something that I have wanted to do since I was her age after reading the Anne Frank diary in school. No pictures are allowed in the museum, so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures to post of it… except this one. I had to sneak it. It is the bookcase that was used to hide the entrance to the staircase leading up where the families lived.
After the tour, we worked our way back to where our luggage was being stored. It was all there. Got to love those Amsterdammers! And then onto the train station to take a 10 minute train ride to the city of Zaandam where our hotel was at. The train ride was just enough to rejostle Kassandra’s stomach because as I was stopping to take a picture of our hotel (the cutest ever), Kassandra was kneeling over the bridge heaving up the remaining contents of her lunch. Of which I also have a picture of (I am a horrible mom), but I will spare you and not post it.
Zaandam is the quietest town I have probably ever been to. When we got in at 7:30pm on a Friday night, everything was already closed. This unfortunately meant that I couldn’t buy Kassandra anything for her stomach, which in turn led to me waking up in the middle of the night being thrown up on. Really? How could her stomach not have been empty at that point? And why must European hotels put the twin beds so close together?
The good news was that by the time we checked out in the morning, she was starting to feel slightly better, or maybe it was just that there really was nothing left in her stomach. In any case, the vomiting stopped and the adventure continued. Next stop Berlin!