Trip Start Jan 08, 2013
Trip End May 05, 2013

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, North Holland,
Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oh where to begin...

Our flight left out of the Pisa Airport because it is much easier and cheaper than flying right out of Florence. It left at 6 am Friday, so we thought that we would just take the latest train out of Florence, get to the airport around 1:30, sleep there for a few hours, and then get on our plane. Turns out over here the airports are MUCH smaller, and they actually close! So basically we arrived at the airport (Me, Allison, Sarah, Megan, and Garret) to a locked door and no where else to go. We ended up finding some really nice older plump Italian man to let us sleep in the lobby of his hotel for a few hours. He saved the trip for sure, and even offered us wifi and coffee. We couldn't thank him enough! Come 4:30 am it was finally time to go to the airport and get on the plane. Waiting in line we met three girls from Penn State who were also studying in Florence and were going to Amsterdam for the weekend. We ended up taking a shuttle together from Eindhoven to Amsterdam.

The shuttle dropped us off right at Central Station in Amsterdam. We had no idea really where our hotel was or where we were so we stopped for food at a Crepe Bar. First impression of Amsterdam was that it was bitter cold, but it had a lot of really interesting architecture and interesting people. The servers at the crepe bar were very friendly and helpful. They spoke English and had menus in both Dutch and English. Normally I like when people speak their native language and we have to figure things out, but considering I do not know one word of Dutch this was a relief. We quickly figured out the tram system, and jumped on Number 5 to take us towards Vonderpark where our hotel was located. We dropped our bags and quickly headed out to start exploring the city.

Our first was a park nearby our hotel and we took pictures of the letters that say I Amsterdam. It was sunny and beautiful with all of the building surrounding the snow covered park. After about an hour of photo snapping, we headed down the street to the Heineken Brewery. It was really interesting we learned history of the company and then learned how they make their beer. They only use 4 ingredients and the fermentation process takes 28 days. Then at the end they gave out a lot of the beer and we sat in this really cool interactive room and just talked and enjoyed the freshly brewed "bier". After the Heineken Factory we stopped at a pub right across the street where we had a bunch of really good appetizers. We ordered hummus and pita, these fried meat ball things, and then fried goat cheese that was my favoriteeee yummmm.

After a two hour snooze (since we barely slept in Pisa) we decided to venture down to the red light district. Waiting for the tram we met these two Italian women who were so funny. They didn't speak any English at all, and we only know a few Italian phrases considering we had only been in class for a week. It was very interesting to find ways to get around the language barrier and still communicate with them with motions. When I saw the first red window I was shocked it wasn't what I was expecting at alllll. I was expecting it to be much more showy but it was so low key and people were walking around like it was nothing different from the normal streets of Amsterdam. Girls everywhere, some where really done up and some looked like they just rolled out of bed. Weird very very weird.

Bright and early Saturday morning we went to the Anne Frank house. I wasn't expecting it to be as solemn as it was. As we walked through the house, no one said a word. It was just silent and people read the quotes from the diary that were written on the walls. It was very powerful when we saw the actual bookcase that was in the annex on the time of the invasion. I've never really found a huge interest in the holocaust, but the Anne Frank house made it seem oddly real and made me relate to it. It was an experience.

After Anne Frank we went to Leichseplein to shop and look around the city. We stopped at beans and bagels (I don't understand why the name is in English but the menu is in Dutch) and they had a lot of really healthy and hearty breakfast bagels. I got a matcha green tea latter and a sun dried tomato bagel. Yummm. After about an hour of waiting for our check, we walked down the Main Street bopping in and out of stores, trying to spend as much time inside as possible as it was freezing. Asking for a check in Europe is very different than it is in America. It seems like the waiters are offended when we ask for it, but they don't offer to bring it themselves. This is something that I really am going to need to figure out soon. We tried chocolate coffered waffles too which were sooooo delicious. Eventually we couldn't take the cold anymore and went into an Irish pub. I asked if they showed the NFL, and the man didn't even know what the NFL was! We watched the Liverpool game, and it was almost as good as the NFL. I'm not sure if they have Strongbow at home, but it is a delicious cider that Meg and I couldn't get enough of. I hope they have it at home so I can legally enjoy it.

Next, we ventured over for Jordaan for our Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise. It basically took us through all of the canals in the city, and it was beautiful! We met a sweet couple from Dublin that was giving us advice in what European cities were worth making the trip to. Amsterdam was definitely one of them!
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