Ok, so I went to Amsterdam this week with a friend (who by the way is not a friend anymore - just so you know).
I still managed to have some fun on my own, visiting windmills, the zoo and Mme Tussaud on my "free" day.
All in all, I would say that it was an interesting experience on many levels.
First of all, and the saying is true, you only know someone when you start living with that person (yep, even for a day).
Second, the Dutch people are truly the nicest people in the world.
Thirdly, taking the plane for the first time wasn't as traumatizing as I thought it would be (yay) and... Oh well, surely plenty of other things.
I left on Tuesday morning for the airport and we arrived at about 3.30pm, the flight went well, in spite of my former friend telling all sorts of crashing plane stories. The crew was very kind with me after I let them know it was my first flight ever. Hurray KLM people. The plane looked all patched up with tape at some strategic places so it wasn't too reassuring to me but we managed to stay up in the air. We even arrived early.
The first thing we felt was the change of temperature. When we left Geneva, it was already hot even in the morning but when we arrived in Amsterdam; it felt like we could actually breathe so much the air was cooler. So we were so glad we decided to walk from the Station to our hotel, about half an hour away. Of course it took us more time so excited and amazed by the architecture of Amsterdam as we were, and my former friend was snapping like crazy Japanese.
Then we finally arrived at the hotel, we were at the Mercure hotel, and it really is a very nice hotel, I'm not sure if it's very expensive or not but I think not, that is if you like your comfort. (For a double room, for 3 nights, the price was 119€ per night).
At this point of the trip we were still friends and happy, and it's also happily that we left the hotel later in search of food. We were not very far from the RembrandtPlein and just strolled and landed there. It's actually a big square place bordered by restaurants all around it, we just had to pick the one we wanted. We chose Italian and had a pizza in a little pizzeria where the people were absolutely charming and the food absolutely superb (except for the desserts, all you ordered would end up just being a vanilla ice cream). By the time we had our orders, it had started to rain and get colder so we quickly retreated inside instead of the terrace.
Actually to this point, everything was still ok, I'm not exactly sure when the things really started to degenerate but here is what happened next.
She had booked the room, I don't usually mind sleeping in the same room as other people, and God knows Kep slept at my place more than once. No, although, I might have suggested we both had our own room, had I had a say in it. The thing is she is very fat and snores very very loudly. Actually I'm not even sure it's snoring at this point, but more like a wild animal grunts, I swear, I woke up with a start at about 1am, my heart pounding in my chest so much I was startled by the noises she was making. I never could sleep again until about 5am, and we had to get up at 7.30am to go to the museums.
As you can imagine, I was not at my best in the morning and of course telling her she snored all night didn't arrange things. And, since I knew that she would not believe me, I even made a movie during the night to have some solid evidence to defend my cause. I guess it was not a good idea after all because she took it even more badly.
Anyway we still went to the Riksmuseum and then the Van Gogh museum and then to the diamond museum, I personally didn't give a damn about these and only wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum myself but I felt I needed to play it safe and try to please her. It was still raining by the way and we were pretty much 'humid' by 1 or 2pm so we stopped at a restaurant to have some hot food inside us. Then she wanted to go see a church nearby so I meekly followed even though I had no interest whatsoever into it. And anyway we had already agreed we would not spend the second day together but would each do things that would only please us. I'm not exactly sure what we did after that, but I was happy because I had bought a plastic poncho so I wasn't drenched anymore. Ah yes, we actually went to the Red Light District in Nieuwmarkt because we were in the neighbourhood and it was on her list too. We also stopped to buy some postcards and later in a café (although not a coffee shop) to have something hot. I personally wasn't much interested by going to the red light district as I found the idea of whores in windows displaying their charms to the people in the street quite disturbing and unsettling, idea that she shared in the end as she almost fled the place with me still following.
I'm honestly not sure what to think of this district, but you don't feel what I thought I would feel from what people told me, I thought it would be a lively place filled with artists and musicians and marginal people, I also thought that the "whores" would be, not so immediately close but that they would be a sort of distance between the buildings and the people of the street, so I was not prepared to have half naked women posing behind their windows only mere centimetres from me.
And I don't if it was because of the rain we'd had but the streets looked dirty with piles of garbage just beside a canal that was menacing to overflow any minute with a brownish water not at all appetizing.
After that I let her lead the way and we got lost and by the time we were back at the hotel, it was late, I was tired and not wanting to go out again to eat anything. She suggested to me that I ask for another room, so I did so, and then she was mad at me for doing it. From this point, things looked irretrievable and I was tired trying to make efforts to please her, so I stopped and didn't care anymore.
The room I took was a little more expensive (139€) but gosh it was so much better. I had a bathtub in the bathroom and a giant bed for me along, I even had a tea kettle and everything to make me feel at home. I even had a robe and slippers to use as I pleased. I slept like a lord (or lady) that night and woke up bright and shining. I was ready to believe she also had a good night without me (she accused me of snoring too the morning before after I told her she did) and that she might be in a better disposition that day.
Well, she wasn't. She had locked herself in the room so I couldn't go back (I only took the other room for one night) and she snapped at me when I knocked asking her to open the door, and then she stormed out of the room.
Were these things had happened 20 years earlier, I would have been devastated and I would certainly have spent the day crying all the tears I could but thankfully I'm older and I know better. So I left my suitcase in the room and went to the reception. Today was my day and nothing would spoil it. I asked my way to go see the windmills and they advised me to go to a place called Zaanse Schans where you could visit not one but several windmills. They gave me all the right directions and were very helpful so I didn't get lost and had no trouble finding the place. I spent the whole morning there, visiting two windmills and climbing atop of one, seeing a movie on the building of the sawmill one (The young sheep) which was entirely rebuild in 2007 then also a cheese (or dairy) factory, going around the whole place and canals snapping at animals and vegetation until I was too exhausted to keep on walking.
And as it was already about 1pm I went into a local restaurant to have some of the Dutch speciality food. I couldn't tell you what the name was, but it was a sort of very creamy soup made with cheese made locally and some green things into it. (Not sure if it was chive or young leeks. But it was very good and amazingly only cost about 5€. I almost felt uncomfortable to take a dish so inexpensive so I had a coffee and a fruit juice too. But I swear I was full by the time I got out of that restaurant. One funny thing is that coffees or teas always come up with some kind of sweet or biscuit, Dutch people must have a sweet tooth.
An old couple sat on my left and they had giant sandwiches with the biggest slice of orange cheese I had ever seen and they were starting by a soup also. I wonder how people do to stay fit if they all eat that much. On my right there was a family, with a teenage boy, and the dad and boy ordered "croquettes", which I was told later, was the top one very Dutch food you can have in the Netherlands. It was served on a thick slice of brown bread and the boy spread it like if it was mere jam or butter. I also was told later that you should eat the "croquettes" with traditional mustard. It looked pretty good and intriguing. I promised myself I would try it if I got the chance.
Then I went back to Amsterdam, I needed to find a raincoat pretty much urgently because it had starting pouring and blowing a cold wind that froze me to the bones. I went to several shops but couldn't find what I wanted, (my poncho was all torn because of the wind and not very much useful anymore but still I used it to cover myself as much as I could) so I finally settled for going to the Mme Tussaud museum, it was on my list and I would at least be inside.
I'm very glad I did it, because even if I really didn't like at all the "introducing" parts which consisted into going through dark corridors filled with all scary things and actors screaming crazily at you when you would pass them by, people jumping and screaming because they were scared, and all kind of stuff like that, I mean, it was scary, or it could have been without all the tourists and the bad makeup and cheap effects.
Anyway, that part didn't last long and after climbing more stairs (gosh, I've climbed SO much stairs in Amsterdam and around! Maybe that's why they are so fit, they have all these stairs to climb all the time) I finally arrived at the top of the building with all the wax statues of the famous people. At first you have all the politics and important men and women of the world, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, the late pope Jean Paul II... The Queen of Netherlands and lots of others I actually didn't know or recognized, not that I was bothered anyway, so I quickly went to the next room. The interesting thing was a woman working on a Pierce Brosnan head and gosh, it looked like it was really him. I'm definitely amazed by wax statues and seeing all the famous people (or even strangers) was fascinating. I made lots of photos and I'm glad that they look all pretty good. But not as good as the real thing. I wonder what artists like Michelangelo or Leonardo would have said or thought of these statues. They are so realistic. I think you can guess I was impressed. It was the first time I got to see a Tussaud wax museum, I went to the Grevin museum in 89 and it was already a blast but nothing compared to Tussaud, and Grevin was more centred on French History if memory serves. I'm sure Keppet would have enjoyed it too.
It was still pouring by the time I got out; I did some other shops still in search of the magic jacket, merely wondering what to do next. I actually wanted to go the zoo, as it was closing later that day I still had enough time, but the idea of getting drenched wasn't very appealing. And then, the Gods were with me, because the last shop I went into had not only the loveliest rain jackets but also the cheapest I had seen until now (20€). Armed now with fitting equipment to face the blowing wind and the incessant pouring, I took the tram (another strike of luck, just the right one stopped at that moment) to the zoo and went down just in front of it.
Earlier I had wanted to take a boat that was promising a cruise on the canals and a stop at the zoo, but unfortunately it was not possible but the guy wanted me to buy him a ticket for the zoo in advance to avoid the waiting queues. I had declined then, not sure of what I would do then and if I would actually find my way to the zoo.
But because of the rain and the late hour (the zoo was closing in 45mn) there was not a soul in sight and no queues whatsoever. I took my ticket and started to stroll into the zoo, holding my camera ready for capturing all the fantastical animals I could glimpse or see.
I must say that I was very much amazed to see that the animals were not behind huge fences but quite free to go anywhere they wanted. And I'm not saying birds or small animals, but really wild animals too. I'm sure if the lions had bothered to go out in the rain they could have jumped the little wall of their park and walked freely among humans. It was especially striking with the monkeys island, right in the middle of the way not too far from the entrance, they were pretty much hiding from the rain but I wonder if they would have come near me if the weather had been good. There was a lot of things to see at the zoo, and it was a pity I couldn't stay longer, but I had to shorten my visit because my trousers were starting to be completely soaked (as well as feet, shoes and rain jacket and hat) and I wondered if my camera would bear receiving so much water any longer too.
So I went out of the mostly deserted zoo (rainy days have some advantages) and went back to the hotel where I changed into my pyjamas, turned the heaters and tried to dry my clothes as much as I could. It was 6.30pm. I thought maybe they would be dry enough to go out later and have dinner with my "friend" but she only turned up 2 hours later and didn't seem to be in a better mood. So I gave up the idea of eating and watched TV a bit, then I plugged earplugs (they gave me at the reception) into my ears and slept with earplugs for the first time in my life. They worked pretty well, I could still hear her but not as loud and it was un-noisy enough to get me asleep.
The next day, I got up at 7am and started to prepare myself, went down to have breakfast (they were expensive, around 18€ so I only had 2 during the stay, she had none because she thought it was too expensive) I was starving and I must say that the price was justified when you see all you could have. But then if you're not a big eater in the morning, I understand that it's silly to spend that much for a tea or a coffee and a croissant per say.
We left for the Station, took a train to the airport and did the luggage check in, then she went to the gate while I ran around to find a post office to post late cards, and then joined her at the gate. Actually, because of the storm the previous day, the plane was already full and we didn't have a seat in it, so we had to wait until everyone got into the plane to see if they were free seats to take that plane. She was not happy because she had to be back in the evening and was starting to panic at the thought of not being able to come back early enough. I told her that if I had a seat, I would give it to her so that she could go back and I would take the next one or ... the next one.
And that just what happened, they called my name to give me a seat, so I gave it to her and she left on time (about midday).
I ended up in a group of 10 persons and we were directed to the KLM waiting place until they figure out what to do with us. And we waited; I think maybe a good hour. An old lady was sitting beside me and we started chatting since she knew some English, she was Dutch and going to see her children and grandchildren who lived in Lausanne. Dutch people are really so open, there was another lady waiting with us and I could see she wanted to participate but I guess she didn't spoke English, so sometimes the lady that talked to me would talk to her in Dutch too. It helped spend the time and we were the two first lucky ones to receive our definite ticket plus all sorts of bonuses from KLM as apologies for the disturbance. They gave us a voucher of 10€ to go eat something in the airport (I had the croquettes!) and a telephone card with a 5mn international call, another voucher of 50€ to use on the next KLM ticket you buy, and cherry on the cake, 250€ in cash you could take right away at the ATM machine. That was worth the wait! :D I'm not at all familiar with aircrafts procedures and that kind of stuff but if you think they had to do that for each of us 10 persons, that's a lot of money going out for them!
The flight was great, I was seated on the exit door seat (aisle side this time) and I realised that there's a lot of people not very confident with the idea of flying. I still told the steward it was my first flight alone, I wasn't too scared but still a bit anguished, and a guy in the front row (looking a bit like Sidney Lumet) told me "Don't panic until they panic" in a very lovely and deep voice. Ah ah. But that was fine, the plane actually looked newer than the one we had on the way in, and it was actually very sunny and the weather was splendid. The sight on the Mont Blanc was breathtaking when we arrived in Geneva, I'm glad i could see that even though I couldn't take any photo then.
And voila, after taking the usual tram and bus, I was home for 6pm and happy to be. :D
And can you believe it, I sent her an email to tell her I was home safe and she didn't even bothered to answer! And she wiped out all the photos she did with my other camera I had lent her!
I honestly didn't think she was so rancorous and mean. So I suppose it's the end of our friendship (if ever it was ever real).
Ah I forgot to say, I started uploading the pictures on my Flickr gallery.http://www.flickr.com/photos/39664578@N00/sets/72157627214820342/