Monday, July 27, 2015

Journey Up until July 27th

July 1st

Today I have two weeks left until I leave for Amsterdam. I am extremely excited but I will also miss my girlfriend, family and friends a lot. My girlfriend and family continually have told me it will be a wonderful experience for me even though I’ll be gone almost 4 weeks. I want these next two weeks to go by slowly so I can take it all in.
I’ve never been to Europe but I have read and learned a lot about the continent as a whole over the years. I’ve been studying some Dutch but it’s not sticking. I continue to have only English and French terms in my head for things. I plan to study the basics a lot on the plane ride there as well as every few days. I’m excited to use my French in Belgium and then Paris; I’ve never had to opportunity to use it in public. I’ve been reading a lot of travel guides about the Netherlands, there doesn’t seem to be much that surprises me. I think the open container laws will be interesting. I’ve been reading a lot on the Internet to prepare myself.
I know a lot of people (at least 50%) speak English so I am not scared about the language barrier. I’m good at explaining what I need by motions. I’m not excited about packing. The transportation network will be interesting for me because I’ve never been on a subway. I have common sense and I’ve been told that’s all you need to navigate the public transportation network.

I’m getting more and more excited about the trip everyday. I know I’ll miss my family and girlfriend the whole time but I know it’ll be a great trip. I’ve been thinking about what I need to pack and I’m hoping I won’t forget anything
I think it is interesting that you can barter in the markets and stores, unlike the US. Where I come from, everything you buy is kept in a store or online. It’s not sold not the street, in a market and so on. I can’t wait for that aspect. I know it’s a different world. I will like the lower amount of commercial companies in Amsterdam. It seems like going down every road in the States, all you see is signs and billboards.

July 12th

Only three more days till I leave to study abroad. As time passes I become more excited the closer I come to leaving. Today I picked up a few last minute items and necessities for my trip, one being a rain jacket. I look forward to experiencing a new culture.

July 13th

I began packing today; I haven't been looking forward to it. It's been pretty frustrating because I don't want to forget anything. The United Airlines website isn't very helpful for figuring out what type of bags I can bring. The excitement of the trip has been getting to me; I can't wait to get there. It's going to be a lot of fun. I showed my parents and family the schedule of what we're going to be doing and my dad especially was very jealous. He loves all of the art museums as well as the history ones. I'll be going over my list a lot so I don't forget to bring something. I've got to book my hotel for Paris!

July 14th

The next five days are going to be crazy. I can already tell I’m going to be super tired the first few because of the time change. I know it’ll be strange using euros and an ATM machine. I’ve never used an ATM machine; I usually use my card to keep up with money.  I’m super excited for the trip. I can’t wait to get to Europe. Missing my family and girlfriend is going to be a big thing for me. 3 week is a long time to be gone for me, especially with the time difference.

July 15th

Today I got up at 6:30 am to shower, did the rest of my packing and got on the road to Nashville. My parents and sister drove me down so I wouldn’t have to leave my car. Thankfully I got there on time that would be my worst nightmare to miss it or be late. We checked in and went through security without a problem. The anticipation to get on the plane to D.C. is killing me; we have to wait 2 hours. Just booked mine and Andrew’s hotel in Paris. We’re finally ready to get on the plane and it’s tied for the smallest commercial plane I’ve been on. It flies a lot more steady that I thought it would. It took less time to get to DC than it was supposed to thankfully, we still had to run to our next plane but we made it with 10 minutes to spare. The plane to Amsterdam is pretty big, two seats on each side and 3 in the center. The economy seating definitely wasn’t made for people who are 6 foot tall. It was very uncomfortable for me. I bought Wi-Fi, watched Monsters Inc. and some travel channel shows and tried to get some sleep. I was never able to get to sleep on the whole 7-hour flight. We got to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport at Midnight CDT. We’re now 7 hours ahead of Bowling Green time.

July 16th.

 We got off the plane around 7 am Amsterdam time. I feel like a zombie, I need sleep. Everything is sore because of the cramped spaces in the plane. The airport is huge and is very nice and clean. It’s easy to get around. I can’t wait to get to our apartments. Taking the train from the airport to Centraal was cool; it was a very nice and smooth ride. We got to see a lot. Centraal was almost overwhelming, so many people and so many ways to go. Fortunately Dr. Myers knew exactly where to go. We took the subway to Weesperplein and walked from there to our apartments. Each apartment has two comfortable beds, a small bathroom with shower and a small kitchen area. I feel like I’m in the projects to an extent. Definitely could never make this apartment my home. There are several aspects about the room that just scream, “why would you build it that way” like the shower design, the toilet, and the plug locations. We went out shopping for the essentials, it seemed like that took forever. Dinner was good; we all got back by 9 and fell asleep until at least 9 the next morning. We stayed up for at least 30 hours.

July 17th

Today we got up and bought went to more stores for the essentials. The going as a whole group thing is annoying because three fourths of us didn’t need anything and it’s a slow process with moving people around. I guess you just have to do it though, especially when we haven’t learned the city. The bike tour of Amsterdam was pretty cool and a little scary. The roads are very busy bike wise and there aren’t many places in the US where people ride them this much. A lot of people in our haven’t road bikes in years. Thankfully my girlfriend and I ride them pretty often so I’m used to it. They took us to the what we call the “Windmill Bar.” I know we’ll be going there in the future. Today has been a tiring today so I went to sleep early.

July 18th

We got up late today and then went on the Canal tour. It was really relaxing; I’d definitely do it again. We saw Amsterdam in a different way today. It was really interesting, I’m excited for another ride. We walked around the city a lot today and contemplated getting bikes but it was too late. Several people went the Ajax game, I really wanted to go but I didn’t get a chance to get tickets.

July 19th

Today we went to Vondelpark. It was very nice. We just hung out by the water and talked and relaxed. That’s one thing about Amsterdam, it’s very relaxing. I feel so much better in a sense of low stress levels but I always feel tired. Probably because we sit and relax so much. Vondelpark is huge, we walked around in it for at least an hour and didn’t walk over the same park. We found a great bar and restaurant 5 minutes from our apartment that has cheap beer and good food. We’ve just been hanging out at night talking. It’s been fun but I’m already  missing home.

July 20th

We had our first day of class today, it wasn’t bad. Learned a good amount of things about the Netherlands. We walked around A LOT today. My feet are hurting quite a bit but it was worth it. We went to the windmill bar. They have 9% beer that is pretty good, it’s called Columbus. We rented our bikes earlier in the day, its nice having them because it’s faster than the trams. It’s the best way to get around Amsterdam. I couldn’t find anyone to hangout with so I decided to take a bike ride. I went to parts of Amsterdam I’ve never been to. It was a good ride. I stayed in tonight and got to sleep a lot. Still not feeling 100%. I think it’s the lack of water and caffeine. I also woke up early this morning to talk to my girlfriend that made the day much better. I miss her a lot.

July 21st

Today we got up early to go to the Anne Frank Museum. It was really interesting and I learned a lot. It really gave me a good idea of how bad it would be to be cooped up in a house for two years. I couldn’t imagine the stress from it. I didn’t know Anne died 1 month before liberation. It’s been a real eye opener being in Europe and imagining Nazi troops walking the streets. It’s hard to imagine them in the USA, but when walking through a country that was occupied it really gives you a deep feeling.
Later in the day we went to the Prostitution Information Center and listened to Mariska talk. She answered a lot of questions including “Can you turn away a customer if you don’t like them?” The answer is yes, you basically can choose whoever you want.  They told us of a lot of rules and general things to do to be polite. It was an eye opening experience.  We ate dinner at some fast food restaurant, I tried two new foods but I don’t remember what they’re called. The food was pretty good. I made my way back to the apartments around 9 and stayed in!

July 22

Today we had class and went to Zaandam later in the day. It was a really neat ride, we got to see a lot of Amsterdam we aren’t familiar with. When we got off the train, we walked down to street to start our travel to Zaane Schans, or the windmill place. We came upon a chocolate factory that filled the air with the smell of dark chocolate. It was amazing how strong it was. We crossed a drawbridge and continued to the touristy area of Zaane Schans where the windmills were. There were a bunch of little shop and things to buy. I bought some real Dutch apple pie which was tasty very tasty. We went through the shops and got to try a lot of cheese, my favorite was the smoked goat cheese. Took pictures of windmills and petted the goats and we were on our way back to Amsterdam. I loved Zaane Schans, it really gave me a feel of home because it was out in the countryside. I can only take living in the city for a few days, I have to have my space. I might go back another day if we get time. We came back and go dinner at the Café down the street. We walked around and rode bikes and finally got back to the apartment. I stayed in.

July 23

Today we went to the Van Gogh museum. I was pretty excited about it because I know several of his paintings but Starry Nights wasn’t there and I didn’t get to see his self portraits! I was very disappointed with the museum, too many people and it had a weird layout. I fortunately bought a postcard to send back but I was not impressed by the museum. I went back and took a nap and then went to the Dutch Resistance museum. I like to learn about World War 2 so I thought this was pretty interesting. I learned a lot of about it and especially the War in the Netherlands itself. I had never heard of several factions or problems in the country at the time. The museum was nice and our tour guide was great. I enjoyed it. We then took our bikes back to the bike shop to turn them in for the weekend because we were going to Paris the next day. We walked around Leidseplein a lot, had a few beers and came back to work on our exchange rate homework. We had to go out to several restaurants and stores to get prices. I hung out with everyone and stayed up late so I could sleep on the train. Tomorrow we head to Paris!

July 24th
Today we travelled to Paris. The train ride was cool. We got going up to 175 mph for a long time. The French countryside is beautiful. I noticed any tree line is completely straight and mowed around instead of being grown up. The guy next to me stunk but he was nice. Coming into Paris, the track runs through low income areas that aren't kept up well at all. I was surprised by how dirty it was. Coming into Paris Nord was interesting because everything was in French. Thankfully an info guide helped us out. Unfortunately they didn't give us the best directions to get to our hotel so we had to walk 45 minutes when the correct stop would be a 7 minute walk. The metro is dirtier than Amsterdam’s, that's for sure. It was difficult to learn and it was very packed, I think they need more trains running. I was exhausted most of the day and wanted to go to bed early but we stayed out late. The Arc de Triumphe is gorgeous, meticulously built, and very detailed. It's huge, I didn't expect it to be that big. The roundabout surrounding it is enormous and chaotic. It's beautiful during the day and night. We had a few beers then came back to the hotel.

July 25th
We decided to sleep in because we knew we'd have a long day. We started off with going to the Eiffel Tower. It's gorgeous, probably the prettiest monument I've ever seen. We decided to wait until Sunday morning to go up in the tower. We walked around and learned to Barter with the salesmen. There was a huge amount of people there, absolutely crowded. We decided to get a bus tour on Foxity, 20 euro for a tour of the city and an easy way to get around. We did that for several hours and got off to see notre dame, the bridge with the locks on it, and saw several palaces and the orchestra. The tour was great because you saw everything and it was cheap. We ended the day walking around the mall at the Louvre and having dinner at a good restaurant. We were going to go see the Eiffel Tower in the dark but it was too late to use the metro and had to pay a taxi to get home
July 26th
Got up early and rode the subway to the Eiffel Tower. Got there before a bit crowd got there, about a 40-minute wait. Not bad considering it would've taken 4 hours during the middle of the day on Saturday. It was awesome going up the elevators. The view was beautiful and the only thing that could've been better was if it was sunny. It was mostly overcast for the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the tower. I tried to Face Time my family and girlfriend but it would never connect however they could tell I was calling. We left to checkout of our hotel, which was simpler than I was expecting. We just handed over the key and could leave. We walked up and down Le Champs Elysées several times watching the leaders of le Tour de France. That was a really cool thing to do; there was a lot of energy in the air. We walked around a lot after that and bought a Tour de France flag. We finally made our way to Paris Nord for the train. The subways were packed and uncomfortable, I've never seen it that busy. When we got to the train station we looked for our train and were stopped by soldiers with AR's. There was a bomb threat with a suspicious package so everyone had to slowly clear out. They finally destroyed the package with a bomb squad robot. It sounded like a large caliber bullet being shot.

The train finally arrived and I wrote my journal for the weekend. Got home, unpacked and passed out.

July 27th
We had class today and I just wanted to have a sleepy day. We went to lunch at an Argentinian Restaurant and then tried to go to the market but it rained us out so we went back. I really want to get a hard suitcase to take home with me. I'm going to split the cost of bringing it back with me to the US with another classmate. Came back and ate some snacks and then I fell asleep and watched a few episodes of tv. I really didn't do much today but I feel a lot better than I have on this trip.

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