Goodbye desert, Bring on Europe

Trip Start Apr 08, 2007
Trip End Dec 22, 2007

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Monday, June 4, 2007

Brrrrr, its cold here. After the heat of Egypt it's nice to be wearing jackets and jeans again. We're just outside Amsterdam now staying with some more friends, Steve and Karin. They live about 30 minutes from the city. The closest centre is Hilversom to the south of Amsterdam, it has a village atmosphere, with narrow streets lined with trees and people on bikes everywhere because it's flat, dead flat, in fact it's so flat that the highest point in the Netherlands is just 321 metres high. After conquering one of Egypt's highest peaks Mandy is confident of claiming another of the worlds major mountain climbing achievements.

We spent our first day catching up on sleep after flying all night, (thanks for all these night flights Jacinta), and emailing, blogging etc. We went out for a walk around the area to take a few pics for this blog entry and found something a bit different, an outdoor table tennis table. Pong on!!! (see photos)

Steve and Karin got home from work around 6:30 and we went for dinner at a Traditional Dutch Pub. A few Amstel's (beers) and some great food helped us get to know Steve and Karin a bit better. We had only met them a couple of times before on their visits to Australia. By the end of our stay with them they not only put us up in their beautiful apartment, Karin gave Mandy some clothes, then they lent us some camping gear, fed us, and then drove us to Paris to pick up our car and go shopping for the rest of our camping supplies. Incredible generosity and hospitality.

The next day it was time to head into the big "smoke" of Amsterdam. We caught a bus to Hilversom then a train into Central. Our first European city experience was a great day. We walked the streets, crossed canals, sniffed out a few "coffee shops", and hung out in Dam Square. The red light district is a weird place, and somehow walking it in broad daylight makes it even weirder. But the truth is all this only took up about a third of our day, the rest I spent following Mandy into every clothes shop in Amsterdam. The credit card copped a savage beating that it will take a while to get over, and if all European cities produce this kind of spending spree we'll be home a lot sooner than we planned. OK, I did manage to buy a few things for myself as well. (no leather jacket for me though)

Karin had Friday off so we went out for lunch to a Mediterranean café, then we cruised down to the local "Blokker", an outdoor furniture and camping shop where we picked up the first items of our camping setup. A small fold up table and a fluro green and blue folding chair each. Nothing like blending in with the crowd by buying the brightest seats on the planet...

Karin's next suggestion was ice cream. To say this girl has a sweet tooth is an understatement, so we weren't surprised. When we pulled up the line was out the door of the ice cream shop, so we joined the end knowing it would be worth it. As Karin said, "I don't mind lining up when there's ice cream at the end", and you can't fight that logic. Mandy thought it was the best ice cream she'd ever tasted and I'd have to agree.

One thing that has taken some getting used to is the late nights here. We haven't gone to bed before midnight yet. It just doesn't seem late because it's light until 10.30 The best time to have a few beers is late in the afternoon around sunset. Sunset takes 3 hours round here so things can get a bit messy if you're not careful. Sitting on the balcony on a warm summer night having a few is a good place to be.

I mentioned earlier that Steve and Karin drove us to Paris to pick up our car. This is over 5 hours each way, and they only came down for the weekend. We have tried to convince them to quit their jobs like we have and come touring for the summer but to no avail. Hopefully we can meet up somewhere around Europe later in the summer. Thank you for everything guys, hopefully we can repay when you come back to Oz next time.

We pick up our Citroen van today and begin our road trip that will take us mainly through the southern half of Western Europe, starting with some surfing fun on France's west coast. There will be some more special guests again in the next update....
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