Trip Start Jan 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 31, 2011

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The bus ride was long, and we arrived at our hotel that evening.  We had dinner at the hotel, then got ready to head into the city.  We had a night walking tour, which was very enlightening.  Amsterdam is an interesting place, it is so beautiful with the dams and bridges, but so liberal and open when it comes to sex and drugs.  We sampled the local culture, then headed back to the hotel on the tram.  The next day we started off with a trip to Edam, where we saw a clog making demonstration and learned how they make cheese.  I bought some cheese to share with my parents and sister when I got to Paris.  They also had a lot of souvenir items, many of which looked familiar from my Grandparent's old house.  From here we went back to Amsterdam and had free time.  A group of us headed over to the Anne Frank House, where we could tour the apartment her and her family hid during World War II.  I had always loved her diary growing up, so seeing the actual place was very moving.  By the time we finished the museum, it was time for me to head to my tattoo appointment.  I have been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while, and it seemed appropriate to get it in Amsterdam to commemorate the end of our trip, and to celebrate being 30.  Christi thankfully came with me, because I was very nervous!  I found the place with no problem, and it was really clean and welcoming.  I had a print-out of the McNamara family crest with me, and I had emailed it to the artist.  He explained since it was going on my ribs that he would need to redraw it in order for it to work in such a difficult place.  He also warned me it was the most painful.  The tattoo itself took about an hour and a half, and I was ready for it to be over.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it was annoying.  I don't know how people sit for so long.  My design is pretty small, about 3 inches by 2 inches.  After I was done, we headed over to the square where all the tulip stands are.  Since it was winter, there weren't many tulips out, just bulbs.  It was still pretty, though.  We had to be ready for dinner at 5, so we headed right back to the hotel to get ready for our last night on tour.  It was about 45 minutes to the Volendam Restaurant, which was right on the water.  It was freezing out, and we couldn't get inside soon enough!  We had salad, soup, an entree of fish, steak, or turkey, and dessert.  It was really good, and I think most of us were enjoying our last night together.  After dinner we headed back on the bus, to board the boat for our canal booze cruise.  The cruise was pretty fun.  At one point the boat crashed into one of the bridges, so that caused some excitement.  Afterwards we went out to the bars to celebrate one last night together.  The next morning came very early, and I was sad to say goodbye to everyone.  Most everyone headed back to London on the bus, but I took a cab to the train station and headed to my waiting family in Paris.  I booked a first class ticket, so I got a seat to myself.  I was really tired, and it would have been nice to be able to sleep for a while.  However, there was a group of cackling girls loudly speaking in Dutch and French that wouldn't allow it.  Luckily the train had free wireless, so I was able to entertain myself.  Once we crossed the French border, the French Gestapo entered the train and did random questioning of the passengers.  Of course I was singled out, and was questioned by three uniformed men.  I had a hard time understanding their thick accents, and had to hand over my passport and train ticket.  I was asked a series of questions, the last being, "Cannabis?  Cannabis"  I could not make out what the guy was saying, until his friend said, "Marijuana?"  I guess they thought I looked suspicious, and was smuggling pot into France.  After a few minutes I got my passport and train ticket returned to me, and they went on their way.  I got to Gare du Nord around 2:30 and took a cab to meet up with my family!  I was really missing all my Contiki friends, so I was glad to have familiar faces to greet me.
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