2 Apr 2007

Your thoughts are like the ocean

Goede Morgen, or so they say.

Barcelona here I come. ALAS—the trains aren’t working? What will I ever do? I suppose the beaches in the Netherlands could take the stead of the beach in Barcelona, no? Well, Ginnie and Kate were able to convince me of that, at any rate, so I packed my bag (no swim suit, just clothes for warm weather) and caught the next train out to Strasbourg. The winding path we chose was actually an interesting one, starting in Strasbourg, continuing on to Luxembourg City—just two hours, thanks to Ginnie’s lovely idea—and ending up in Den Haag with two day trips to Amsterdam.

Strasbourg was a charming little city full of life and college students. The city center is a bit reminiscent of every other French/Swiss/Austrian city that I’ve seen, only this one claims France’s tallest Church Tower. Whew, what a site. Anyway, we never really developed a Plan of Action for the city besides a few notes I had previously prepared, so the day was mostly spent wandering. Did you know the Council of Europe is headquartered in Strasbourg? Now Ginnie does. At any rate, we worked our way through the city center—which is situated on an island on the Danube—multiple times and even ventured to the outskirts of town to see the International buildings. Dinner was a cinch with the obvious tarte flambée, and dessert is implicit.

The hotel we stayed in was a cozy little Best Western—so cozy, in fact, that we only managed to finagle one queen bed for the three of us. Either way, sleep is sleep and the next day was another adventure in the waiting.

Early mornings are the norm here, at least for me. I woke and showered, followed snail-like by the other two. We managed to get some croissants and coffee before our train departed, and then it was off to Luxembourg. I suppose you might ask yourself—if not versed in the geography of Europe—where exactly is Luxembourg. And say, perchance, you are schooled in that subject, why Luxembourg? Well I suppose that due to my recent time spent in Europe, I fall into the second category; why would I spend a day there? I suppose it is because I am a sucker for sweet-talking, and that is one thing these girls do well. So off to Luxembourg.

The city itself, at first sight, is not a sight to behold. It’s like any other city, just less impressive. But in short time, we found signs towards the city center—low and behold, the city is a real city, old town and all. In fact, they even have a park-esque area that they used in the Middle Ages as a defensive barrier from accessing the old town. We walked about a bit, indulged in pizza and gelato, and caught the next train two hours after arrival.

I am always one to say that to experience a city, you need more than a day. Really, I believe at least two are necessary, but it was a pleasant stop. On to Den Haag (the Hague).

We made quick time on the train—and everything else is not important enough, in my opinion, to be noted; but Den Haag, after arriving at our hostel, is where the fun began. Ginnie was in search of a 24-hour store, so we took a right, a left, and another left. Much to our surprise, we note a reddish hue coming from around the next corner. Well ladies and gents, I feel privileged to tell you that Amsterdam is not the only city in the Netherlands where a red light district prevails. We made good time out of there, but due to mans innate curiosity, we found ourselves venturing back through it yet again on the way to the bar—the bar at which we would drink away our shock.

Amsterdam was more shocking than previously thought, but that is most likely due to us renting bikes and making our first experience there (unbeknownst to us) in the Red Light district as well. Whew. At least I’ve seen it now. We rode away at an accelerated pace, stopping and swerving between cars as if it were our job—at least Kate and I could be responsibly employed in such a fashion, Ginnie, on the other hand, nearly hit everything from signs to people to cars. The Anne Frank house was an interesting stop—it’s actually much bigger than one would assume after reading the book. There’s also some other interesting things to do in that ‘museum’, but as I politely reminded the girls, there’s more to do in Amsterdam than sit inside Anne Frank’s house.

We rode on for two more hours and, as if she were a toddler asking for a candy, Ginnie constantly requested a break from the bustling streets for a substitution with the Dutch countryside. Unfortunately for her, we did not succumb to her unabated requests, but instead replaced the countryside with a large park and some riding along the harbor. We soon retired the bikes and ventured off on foot—it was actually welcomed since it is hard to grasp a intimate picture of one’s surroundings when that person is constantly aware of all other things (usually deadly) going on about them.

After all was said and done, we ended up in a large park with a sign that says “I Amsterdam” and I, in my infinite wisdom, decided it would be a splendid idea to place myself atop each letter in of the sign and get a photograph. With a bit of acrobatic work, I finagled myself on each one and in no time had the whole progression completed. In succession, the girls opted to repeat my success—yet to no avail. After minutes of painful looking body contortion and manipulation, neither of them were able to mount the ‘I’, and Ginnie even ended up on her rear end ten-to-twelve feet below where she had her hands on. Maybe another time.

I must also add, of course, that I was the absolute gentleman and offered my help occasion upon occasion. But Ginnie and Kate are a bit ‘bullheaded’ and could not be convinced to accept my kind gestures. Serves them right.

We ate some pancakes, since that is the thing to do in Amsterdam (besides smoking weed). And that brings me to my most interesting story of all. Pancakes, cappuccinos, and sidewalk cafes sounded great to me. “I’ll have the number 10 (pancake with Bacon and Cheddar) and a large cappuccino, please.” Seems like a normal order, no? I thought so.

Within a few minutes, the gentleman server brought us our orders and placed our pancakes in the proper place. “A cappuccino for the lady, and a special cappuccino for you (me).” Hmm. I don’t do drugs. I didn’t order drugs. And I definitely cannot have drugs in my system come this summer. What to do? I smelled it a bit, and even poked around to see if it was ‘special’, but eventually decided that it was not worth wasting 3 euros on perfectly good cappuccino, so I gulped it down quickly. An hour later, I felt just fine. What an asshole of a waiter.

We soon retired to our ‘stayeasy hostel’ and caught a few hours of rest before we took off Sunday. We wandered a while through Den Haag, seeing nothing but run down buildings and poop on the paths. As it turns out, a young British fellow offered us a bit of assistance in finding our way to the International Criminal Tribunals and even the beach! Who would know that Den Haag would have a beach, let alone one worth visiting? To make a long story short, we caught the next tram straight to the seashore.

The sea was a beautiful, lovely, brown, with the rocky bottom visible for at least a full 2 feet. In all honesty, it was great. The sand was lovely, though a bit shell infested—apparently the ‘thing to do’ when along a beach is to collect a few shells here and there—and overall it made for an impressive sight, considering I expected no beaches to begin with. We drank more cappuccinos; these were credibly not laced, and lounged around in general for about three hours. Eventually we wore out our welcome and traveled onwards back towards the International Criminal Tribunals, or Peace Palace. The building was large and overdone, but it made for a spectacle.

Once back in Amsterdam, planless and hungry, we found some quick food and, of course, more ice cream. I suppose that is why traveling with Ginnie is so fun, she doesn’t criticize my constant indulgence in ice cream. With nothing better to do than sit around a park—or maybe just no motivation to tour—we played truth or dare and in general bonded.

I must diverge and tell another entertaining story now, for we found ourselves back in the “I Amsterdam park” and the ladies, again, with stout resolution to conquer the ‘I’, found themselves stacked one on top of the other. With a bit of luck, a deal of strength, and a healthy dose of will power, Ginnie found herself atop the ‘I’. We were all beaming with laughter, even though I had voiced my opinion that it was a futile effort. Congrats to the ladies.

The ride back is worth little of note, and, beyond a restless neighbor who found every possible excuse to wake me up, I slept quite well all the way home.

See you in one month—give or take a few days.

A Bientôt

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