Sunday, March 21, 2010

Europe - Day Two

Well, traveling is all an adventure - right?  The good, the bad, the ugly, and the amazing?!  Yep.  This one started out a little rough.

We arrived in Amsterdam at 5:30am.  Met up with two other couples at the airport and were shuttled to our hotel.  We arrived at the Apolo Museumhotel at 6am.  We were all so happy to arrive and couldn't wait to go to bed for a few hours before enjoying our free day in Amsterdam!

But that was not to be.  We got to the hotel, went up to the counter to check in, and were told that the hotel was fully booked, there were no rooms at the inn.  Not only that, but there was a bigger tour group coming in later that day - so they had first priority on the rooms as they freed up!  We wouldn't be able to get into a room until about 2pm...

Ok.  Trying to keep a positive attitude....  We got comfortable on the lobby sofa, started chatting with the other couples, looking at guidebooks trying to decide what we could do that morning...

By 7:30am, we were getting hungry.  We asked when breakfast would be served at the hotel.  Not until 9am (Sunday brunch), and it would be $15 a person.  They wouldn't even give us a free breakfast for our wait!  The hubby and I decided to go for a walk and hopefully find something to eat.  No luck.  Apparently, NOTHING opens before 9am on a Sunday.

After about an hour, we ended up back at the hotel - too tired and hungry to continue exploring.  We tried napping a little - to little or no effect.  (The hubby managed to fall asleep sitting on a stool, leaning against the stair rail - goodness!)  We watched room after room check out, and asked the desk staff how long it would take for one of those rooms to open up.  They told us their cleaning crew doesn't come in until check-out time - 11am - and we still wouldn't get those rooms.  Another group had priority.

Eventually, the hubby and I walked down the street where we saw breakfast being served.  We walked in, asked for a table and enjoyed a beautiful brunch.  Eggs, bacon, every imaginable pastry you could think of, smoked salmon, and veggie rolls, fresh orange juice, and strong coffee.  It was nice to relax and eat for a few moments.  But when we got up to leave and pay our bill - it was REALLY expensive!  We spent more on this breakfast than we would on several meals combined for the rest of the week!  Uff-da.  Live and learn.

Over breakfast, we decided we walk to the Van Gogh Museum and spend part of our morning there.  We walked through the Museumplein to get there - a beautiful and interesting park in the center of the Museum District.  Crazy trees and fun street cafes (wish we knew about these before we went for our expensive breakfast!). 
(Crazy trees on the Museumplein - I bet it's beautiful in the summer!)
(No pictures inside the museum - but this is the sign outside!  The line takes longer than you'd think, because you go through security to get in - metal detectors and all!  Interesting...)

When we arrived at the Van Gogh Museum, the line was relatively short for a Sunday morning, so we got right in and enjoyed a couple of hours of looking at these beautiful pieces of art.  It's amazing how Van Gogh's work comes to life when you can see it up close - it almost becomes 3D - so many layers, so much texture!  "Sunflowers" and "Irises" were amazing - I wanted so bad to reach out and touch them! 
I also learned so much about the influences in Van Gogh's life - like the artist Anton Mauve (I had never heard of him).  Anton was a mentor with stunning watercolors! Not so much brightly colored watercolors - but almost 3D - the figures practically stepped out of the pictures.  I would love to learn more about him...
(Anton Mauve's "Heath at Laren" - he's famous for his landscapes with sheep!  Maybe that's part of why I loved him?  Ha ha ha.)

I was amazed at the fact that you read through so many aspects of Van Gogh's life while you walk through this exhibit - and nowhere is mentioned his immense faith and his struggle with living out his faith or the "ear incident".  The life story of Vincent seemed lacking in detail and a lot of different aspects of his story...  It was very basic - and a little disappointing.  (Oh!  And no "Starry Night" - anyone know where that is these days?)

By the time we left the museum, the sun had come out and it was warming up (50s, maybe?) - turning into a beautiful day...  But we were so tired.  It was going on noon - 6am back home.  We had been up for almost 24 hours now.  Walking around Amsterdam when tired is not recommended.  Car traffic is not the problem - it's the bikes.  Yes.  I said the bikes.  Bicycles are the main mode of transportation in Amsterdam - and they are EVERYWHERE!  There are designated bike lanes on the road, and if you step into one by accident - you WILL get hit by a bike!  They have no problem running you over, yelling at you, hitting your shoulder...  They ride in the road, on the sidewalks - everywhere - and pedestrians are not tolerated very well!  After the hubby nearly got taken out a couple of times, I decided we needed to go back to the hotel until we were a little more alert...

Back at the hotel, a few more people from our tour had arrived - taking over the lobby.  The couch, the chairs, these funny little stool/ottomans that looked like giant clown noses - all were occupied by people waiting for rooms.  People who had traveled across the globe throughout the night and hadn't slept yet.  We all looked like "Night of the Living Dead."  And yet - the hotel staff barely acknowledged us.

About 1pm the other tour group started getting their rooms.  At 1:30pm, people from our tour who had arrived much later than us got their rooms...  We checked in at 2pm, like we were told to do - and they STILL didn't have a room for us!  I couldn't speak.  I couldn't talk to anyone.  If I looked my hubby in the eyes, I was going to cry.  I sat on a giant clown nose, stared at the floor and did everything I could to not let the exhaustion get to me, to not sit and cry in the lobby...  I'd been up 26 hours and just couldn't take it anymore.

Finally, at 2:30pm, our name was called.  We headed up to our room, opened the door, and laughed out loud!  Our room was the size of a large walk-in closet at home.  We had two TINY twin beds next to one another, and the bathroom was so tiny you couldn't spin around without knocking your knuckles on a wall or the sink!
(Our tiny - but nice - room.)
(The bathroom - TINY!  I had bruises on my hands and elbows from constantly hitting them on the walls and counters!)

I didn't care.  I jumped in the shower.  Jumped into bed.  And slept until 5pm.  It was some of the best sleep I can remember.

After our naps, we met the rest of our group in the lobby for a drink and orientation.  Just as we suspected, we were the youngest in the group!  Too funny.  We decided to go to dinner with Connie and Jeff (a couple that lives 15 minutes from us) and Arlene (a woman traveling on her own from Los Angeles).  We walked to the Srikandi Indonesian Restaurant around the block and had a FABULOUS dinner!  (Gado gado salad, a spicy beef dish served in a bamboo shoot, and nasi goreng - YUM!)
(Gado gado salad - vegetable salad with spicy peanut sauce - addicting.)
(Our spicy beef something-or-other served in a bamboo log.  Yum!)
(Can you tell we've only had 3 hours of sleep in 31 hours?!  I really am having more fun than I look...)

After dinner, we took a walk through several side streets and along the canals.  A beautiful night to be out...  but we really just wanted to go get more sleep.  So off to the hotel we went! 
(A view of our hotel on the walk back.  Pretty, isn't it?)

Day One in Amsterdam - survived, but barely.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Lovely new friends.
2.  Beautiful weather.
3.  Clean, comfortable hotel.
4.  Going for some nice walks throughout the day - kept us sane!
5.  Our spunky tour guide, Monique.
6.  Finally, a nap!
7.  Bike bells - you hear them everywhere!
8.  Enormous, weird trees!  So cool.
9.  Indonesian food.  So tasty.
10.  "Hopjes" candies - coffee yumminess.
11.  A hot shower.
12.  Seeing Van Gogh's work up close - beautiful.
13.  Being asked for directions when we were out for a walk - do we really look like we're from here?!
14.  Bed time.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Well...at least you had some good food! I would have cried..and then would have been mad...

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