Europe 2010 Travel Log — Week One
Today marks the end of my first week of travel abroad, and while I had hoped to post a bit more frequently, you’re all just gonna have to survive with a weekly summary here and hope that I do better in the future. Sadly, I have nothing in the way of photos to share, so sit back and enjoy a bunch of poorly strung together prose.
International travel is hard on the body… at least it’s hard on my body. Sitting stationary for nine hours while flight attendants shovel food and drink into you is a recipe for discomfort. Worse yet, I foolishly signed up for a window seat, as is my general preference on domestic flights, but when locked down for that long with two people between you at the facilities, the window seat is more of a prison sentence than a pleasant visual distraction. Oh, and quick word to KLM/Delta — the fine folks who operated my flight from SFO to Amsterdam — please, please revise your webpage on baggage allowances. It shouldn’t be necessary to read a bulleted list under a footnote to learn that my free baggage allowance is only one bag.
After a joyful reunion with Sarah at the Schiphol Airport, we made our way to Amsterdam and Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken. Our accommodations in the city were beyond amazing. A huge room (for Holland standards) with a super comfy bed and uber fancy shower. The difference between this place and the hotel we stayed at when I was last in Amsterdam was night and day. After uploading my stuff and getting cleaned up post-flight, we went for a walk around the city, visiting a favorite café of Sarah’s and checking out some of the neighborhoods. Our plan to enjoy an Indonesian dinner were foiled by our lack of reservations — when we had eaten there last time reservations weren’t required — so we ended up at a sort of touristy restaurant that wouldn’t have done well in a Yelp! review.
The next day we went for a walk through the Amsterdam Flower Market, a first for both Sarah and myself, where I got yelled at by a Dutchman for trying to move a bucket of flowers in order to see the 30% of his stock that it was blocking. I guess the exactness of product position is more important than customers actually being able to purchase goods. Then we made our way back to the train station for the next leg of the journey.
Hilversum & Utrecht
Sarah had decided we were going to make Hilversum our base of operations for the trip, taking advantage of an apartment belonging to Sarah’s step-mother. To make the process of getting our stuff there as easy as possible, we met Sarah’s father at the train station, dropped most of my belongings in the apartment, and took the empty suitcases with us to move Sarah’s stuff later. But before we got to the apartment we stopped for my first bitterballen of the trip at a nice pub in the city center. Unbeknown to us, this particular pub is staffed by kifds with Down syndrome during the day, which made for a simultaneously sad and uplifting experience. We hope to get back there on return visits to the city center.
Then we drove to Utrecht and spent the night at Sarah’s father’s house after a yummy dinner of Persian food and a showing of Kung Fu Panda (where Debian was able to save the day with playing a Region 1 DVD via HDMI routed to the TV there… Vista wasn’t able to get the sound to work).
The next day Sarah’s father drove us across the Netherlands to Enschede, the location of Sarah’s field site and former apartment. After packing up most of her belongings and loading it back into the car for her father to take back to Hilversum, we headed out to see the Enschede city center. Most Dutch towns have a fairly central location where cars are prohibited/limited and tons of restaurants have set up shop, and Enschede is no exception. We went to a cozy pub where we enjoyed my second helping of bitterballen and just a ton of beer, including my first encounter with a Belgian “Quadruple” — which subsequent inquiry suggests is a modern fiction and would not have been found in any original Belgian brewery.
The next day, after sleeping two people on Sarah’s single bed, we headed out to the her field site for Easter services, which involved a lot of standing and not understanding what was being said. But everyone was very nice to me and we were invited to an Easter lunch at a community member’s house where we enjoyed their first meal after the 50 day fast of no meat or dairy products. All very scrumptious. After a much needed recharge — funny how standing and not understanding is really exhausting — we had dinner at what Sarah described as the “best sushi in Holland” and what I would describe as “perfectly acceptable but way overpriced.” As an example, in order to not make their prices seem totally exorbitant, nigiri is sold in singles instead of the standard doubles. Afterward we headed back to the same pup where I had my third helping of bitterballen.
Return to Hilversum
Next morning, after another two person on a single bed experience, we took the train from Enschede into Hilversum and starting making our new home. Two days in, a run to the grocery and appliance store, and some learning how to mitigate the smoke from next door neighbors, we are finally starting to feel at home. I was able to setup a strong wireless access point, so work for Trilogy has begun once again, although the time difference is a bit of a trick.
On Wednesday we made our way out to the twice weekly market, which is sort of like an American farmers market, except it’s not really about organically grown or even locally grown. It’s just a big open air market that sells everything, and I mean everything. Perhaps most exciting was the fresh Stroopwafel we gobbled up while hunting for flowers. In the process we learned how to get to and from the city center, so we should be all set for more excursions in the future.
On Saturday we pack up and head to London for my first journey to a European country other than Holland.