So this is a summary of the last ten days of my life. I’ll probably forget some stuff although I took some notes to remember what we did. Hopefully I survive writing this and you survive reading it.
We left pretty early in the morning for the airport. We took the metro because anyone with a brain knows to avoid the Taxi’s here. We were on the tram on the way to the airport when we realized from the fifty signs and the announcement every 2 minutes that we were supposed to have bought a special ticket for the airport. It was 8 euros in comparison to the .70 we usually pay. Well we were a couple stops away and none of us have yet to see anyone check the metro tickets so we decided to test our luck and see if they would check. They didn’t. J
The airport was absolute chaos. It took us a few minutes to figure out where we were supposed to check in. It’s not as clear as it is as home where you check in at a ticket desk designated by the company you bought your ticket from. Instead they have a reader board that tells you which counter to go to, they’re numbered.
Once in line it was about ten minutes before they announced our flight was delayed because Italy was on strike. We knew they’d be striking that day but we were hoping to take off before they started. Fortunately the flight was only delayed about 2 hours.
When we got to the gate, we found Molly’s friend from high school. She had just finished studying in Florence, Italy and was in Greece for a few days and happens to be on the same flight. Molly and she talked for about 4 hour about who was pregnant, married, or crazy from high school. I literally don’t even know what’s going on with some of my best friends from high school. From the sounds of it we went to very different highschools.
The flight finally took off and the landing was one of the worst I’ve experienced but that’s what you get with a really cheap flight.
Once in Rome we caught a train to the city center and walked to our hostel. Our hostel was kind of in a shady neighborhood by the train station with a lot of the other hostels. The main attraction seemed to be the bar which we soon figured out was where most of the kids at the hostel spent all of their time. Sad! We grabbed our beds, of course not on the same bunk, and left to explore.
We seemed to run into everything immediately. First we ran into the Colloseum. Unfortuantely it was closed because of the stroke. Lame sauce! We took a bunch of pictures anyways and just walked around. We walked through a lot of the main squares including the museum area.
We stopped for dinner at a touristy Italian place. We split a risotto dish that was AMAZING and a pizza. It was really good though a little pricy which is the name of the game in Rome.
After dinner we walked around and ended up at the top of a lot of steps. There was a church, flowers, and a ton of people. It was the Spanish steps hahaha. I can’t say I even knew they were in Rome which is embarrassing but there we were.
We then stopped by the Trevvi Fountain which we’d seen earlier but we wanted to see it in the dark.
After a bit we headed back to the hostel. We slept fine until about 4am. That was when the unspeakable happened. The guy sharing my bunk brought a girl back with him and decided we all wanted a free show. It was absolutely disgusting to a point that I can’t describe. My soul is scarred by this experience. After a few minutes, which seemed like hours to me, I had to ask them to leave. And not to nicely either because WTF it’s called human decency. Anyways, that first night set the tone for our hostel experience in Rome and we avoided it like the plague and slept terribly the rest of the nights there.
We woke up early and started walking for the Vatican. We stopped into a few little places to get coffee but they don’t do coffee on the go so we ended up empty handed. When we finally reached the Vatican we were tired and starving.
A tour guide company attacked up immediately which was fine because we had already decided we wanted to do a tour group. They can get you in fast and show you the main attractions since there is no way I’d know where to go.
The tour group was of course a bunch of English speakers although quite a few people knew English as their second language. I thought it was pretty cool they knew English well enough to take the tour in English. We hit up one of the courtyard that was newly opened, the post office, and a lot of the interior rooms. My favorite room by far was the hall with the maps and tons of paintings on the ceiling that lead to the Sistine chapel. I liked it better than anything including the Sistine chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
We then went to the Sistine chapel where we were told we would have 15 minutes. Five minutes later Molly overheard our tour guide counting people and leaving the chapel. We’d been left and the door to the basilica is for tour groups only, meaning you need to be with your tour group. We were freaking out a little looking around confused. Last minute we decided to join a random group walking through the door that belonged to a language I could not identify. We made it past the experience and bolted to find our group. Our tour guide looked at us funny and then asked if she had counted us earlier. We told her no and that we’d had to sneak in. She told us we were very lucky. All I could think was ‘it’s your damn fault we had to sneak in anyways’.
We were left to explore the Basilica by ourselves who was nice although I didn’t know what a lot of the stuff was. I did recognize some stuff from Angels and Demons. Got to love Hollywood.
After that we went to lunch and then walked to the large park in the city of Rome. We picked a spot, laid down, and fell asleep for a couple hours. When we woke up we walked around a little. We found a pond where you could canoe and just explored. It was beautiful.
Then we decided to have dinner and split a pizza. The restaurant we went to though was less than enthusiastic about the idea and the waiter told us we needed to order more. He told us, “this is not McDonalds girls” we up and left and guess freaking what?! We went to McDonalds so take that greedy asshole Italian restaurant.
We went back to the hostel pretty defeated and both called our parents in tears. It was a hard day and probably just because we were so damn tired and walking a lot. The people in Italy just didn’t seem friendly.
We slept better that night which gave us some renewed hope and it was our last day in Rome so we were determined for success.
We grabbed breakfast at the grocery store. Yoghurt and croissants, nice and cheap the way we like it. We then walked to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was pretty cool and it was FREE. That’s right, a word that I wasn’t sure existed in Italian, Free. We walked around looking at the paintings and such. It was really pretty but of course the attraction is the hole in the ceiling that I can’t remember the name of right now, embarrassing. The sun was coming down in a direct beam of light. It was pretty amazing.
After the Pantheon we headed to the Coloseum. The line wasn’t too bad and we got in after about 20 minutes. We walked around and took a lot of pictures that look exactly the same. We tried to figure out the construction and purposes of specific features based on Gladiator.
We grabbed some sandwiches and sat around. Sometimes it’s hard to remember you’re supposed to enjoy traveling. We walked to the Trevvia Fountain and grabed some gelato. It was absolutely delicious and we just sat looking at the fountain and all the people. I think this is when we threw coins in but maybe it was the time before. Then we started walking towards the park.
As we were getting close to the Spanish steps we heard beautiful opera singing. I was a little confused if it was a recording or real though there was a huge crowd. When we got closer we saw a woman was singing live just in a jacket and jeans and they seemed to be setting up for an event. We grabbed a seat on the stairs only a few steps up and listened. She sang for a couple minutes and a couple others did and then they left. Through the chains of people and languages we found out they were doing a free concert that was starting in a half hour and that had just been the sound check. We of course decided to stay. Sure enough a half hour we were sitting on the stairs with hundreds of other people, political delegates sat next to the performance area, cameras were set up, an announcer in a suit was standing with a mike and in came the singers dressed up and a military band. It was absolutely amazing. They then sang the national anthem while the band played along. What a way to hear their national anthem. Then the 2 women singers and the two male singers took turns singing the most famous pieces, sometimes as duets, sometimes all together.
There Molly and I were on our last night in Rome, sitting on the Spanish steps, listening to the most famous opera pieces sung by amazing Italian opera singers.
We got up early and practically ran out of the Hostel. I can’t explain the hate I have for that place. We got to the train station, grabbed some food, and hopped on the train to Siena.
In Siena we had to grab a taxi into town. We were supposed to meet up with our friend Anna who we were staying with but somehow it didn’t happen so we sat down at the bar we were going to meet at and had lunch.
Once we had finished lunch we decided to walk to Anna’s address although we realized we didn’t have her apartment number to buzz. So after trying every cell phone we had we found a pay phone. That pay phone was crazy tricky. We must have tried every combination of putting money in and dialing numbers and such possible. We finally got a hold of Anna and she let us into her apartment.
We walked around for a bit with Anna before her next class just looking. Siena was absolutely beautiful, a medieval town. We dropped Anna off at class and walked around a bit more. We stopped at the big church in town. We stopped in a couple of tourist stores and then ended up in the large brick square at the center of town. I grabbed some gelato and we sat down. And of course we fell asleep for about an hour or so. Well needed.
We grabbed Anna for class and headed back to the apartment for a bit. We checked a lot of stuff online and then headed out for dinner. We went to a tavern that had traditional food. Most of us got the vegetable bread stew. It was delicious. We also had a bottle of the house wine. It was a lot of fun to be with some other Americans studying abroad. We heard a lot about their experiences and compared what we’d noticed about other cultures. It was a lot of fun.
After dinner we walked around the little carnival happening in the fortress. The bumper cars were the main attraction and besides that it was a ghost town. It was nothing compared to Carnivals at home. We walked around the top of the fortress and headed home. Showered off and headed to bed.
We got up relatively early to catch our train but we got some coffee and a pastry first. It was absolutely delicious and crazy cheap. Thank god for the Italian addiction with coffee.
We got to the train station and went to the ticket booth for them to print out or tickets. The guy behind the counter looked them over and handed them to us. We caught our first train which was just small, a commuter train. Once we got to the main station we grabbed our train to Venice. When we got on, someone else was in our seat. We were really confused. We eventually found the conductor. He immediately knew what was wrong; our tickets were for the day before. In the chaos of booking everything we’d booked the train for the wrong day. Not only did we have to buy a new ticket but we were on the train without a ticket which is a 50 euro fee so we paid 90 euro each for our dumb mistake. We can’t help but keep asking in our heads, why had the guy behind the counter not said anything when he printed them? He could have saved us 50 euro.
Once in Venice we started to head for the main square. It was a bit of a walk and we were following signs the whole time because we didn’t have a map. Only after about an hour of walking with our backpacks and finally catching a water taxi did I find out that wasn’t what the hostel had told us to do but what Anna and Molly had decided was a good Idea. If you can’t tell, yes I’m a bit bitter. Our water taxi actually passed the train station where we came in on our way to the hostel.
The hostel was nice though it was almost like an army barrack. It was also a little out of the way but the people were nice and we were in an all girl dorm. I was happy.
We headed back onto the water taxi and got off near the main square. We started to walk around and eventually stopped at a café with cheap pasta. I’m pretty sure it was microwave pasta and that was why it was cheap but whatever. After we ate we walked around a bit more and found a couple masks we liked. Mine is white and red with gold details and some musical notes on it. I love it, although I don’t know why I always end up with stuff in the same colors as my high school colors. Oh well!!
We then found some gelato and sat down by the water just watching the boats go up and down. It was a really pretty place but it almost seemed like part of the Epcot center or something, like it was set up for tourists and no one actually lived there.
We found a place set back a bit from the main canal and got some dinner. We both had pizza. It was pretty good and then we called it a night. We headed back to the hostel and hung out for a bit. We showered and then go into bed for our 4 hours of sleep.
We woke up at 3:30am to check out and catch a boat taxi. Some of the other guests at the hostel were still awake and one girl in the bathroom was really confused why we were getting up while she was getting ready for bed.
We got to the airport and it was absolutely tiny. There was almost no one there and it looked as though it had just opened. We had to wait a half hour or so before the check in desk and baggage check were open and then we went through ‘security’. Once through Molly passed out on a chair and I waited for the coffee shop to open. I got a cappuccino and a chocolate tart. It was delicious. Then I sat and tried drawing a staircase in my notebook. I tried 3 or 4 times before it came out relatively close. The perspective was just really strange.
The flight was a couple of hours and I slept most of it.
We landed in Brussels and had to take the tram to the hostel. Once we were at the tram station though we realized the tram they told us to take only runs in the evenings so then we had to take a couple metros. Once we’d gotten there it took us a couple minutes to get a bearing because we weren’t at the stop where the tram stopped. We eventually found it though and of course the check in desk was closed so we just dropped off our stuff. They gave us a map for ‘young people’ and it became our Bible to Brussels. We found the main square which was a bunch of old, ornately decorated buildings. They were really cool and the square was huge.
We then went and found a place on the map that was supposed to have good waffles. We sat down and ordered waffles and coffee. It was really good. At this point in the trip we were starting to take our time while eating because it was really the only down time we had in our schedule with how much walking and stuff we were doing.
Then we walked into the mall area with the H&M. They had 5 euro bathing suit tops so I bought a couple. I also bought some new jeans that fit and look good on me. I was honestly a little shocked when I tried them on and saw my actually shape through my clothing for the first time in forever!
We headed back to the hostel to check in. There was a little confusion because one of the beds they’d assigned us had somebody’s stuff on it which I don’t think would have been a big deal anywhere else but it was nice for someone to actually care in those hostels. We finally figured it out and made our beds, stashed our stuff and headed out for dinner.
We had decided we wanted to see a movie at the theater. We’d figured out which ones were in English and bought a ticket to see ‘Water for Elephants’. We asked for suggestions for quick food places and they told us about a healthy café a couple doors down. We got sandwiches and a drink and a little desert for 7 euro. Pretty good deal! We ate up and got to the theater a half hour early.
The theater was a bit weird because they didn’t show any preview stuff. I guess that’s an American thing? Everyone around us was speaking French which was expected and it was fun to listen to them. The movie was absolutely amazing and my opinion of Robert Pattinson is once again positive. Twilight is just an awkward role I guess. But anyways, I highly recommend the movie, but I’d read the book first.
After the movie we headed back, showered, and passed out. It was some of the best sleep we’d gotten the whole trip.
We slept in a bit the next morning and got up slowly. It was really nice. We went downstairs and printed off our train tickets and then headed out for breakfast.
We went to the same healthy café down by the movie theater and got coffee and a croissant.
We took the metro to the Atomium which is this oddly shaped building, in the shape of a nuclear atom, that was built for the world fair there. It’s pretty much just an attraction now and it sits in a park on the outskirts of the city. You can pay to go into it but there was no way we were paying for that. We took some pictures, ran into the park for a bit and then hopped back onto the metro.
We headed to the arc of Triumph which was in the business area of town in a really nice park. We took a bunch of photos and sat around for a bit and then headed to a smoothie place fore lunch.
The smoothie place was pretty much the equivalent of Jamba juice but with food. I had a Mediterranean rice dish that was really good and a smooth called ‘think pink’. We were a little out of place among all the business suits but it was a nice clean place.
After lunch we jumped back onto the metro to the museum district. After a bit of walking around and contemplating we decided to go to the Coudenbourg museum. The museum was the archaeological ruins of the old palace that had been built over and a small museum with a collection of artifacts they’d found on site. There was literally no one there with us so it was very quiet. It was a little spooky but overall really cool. In a sense it’s exactly the kind of project I’d want to work on in the future.
After the museum we walked down to one of the cathedrals. It was a little strange because they had art featured in the church. I’m not sure if it was still used religiously.
We walked through the main square again and to the famous peeing statues. It was SO small like maybe a foot tall. I was shocked. I knew it was supposed to be small but I was thinking like 3 feet. Hahaha. We got some waffles around the corner and went and sat in the square.
We decided to grab dinner at the place we’d had coffee and waffles at the day before. We had the same waiter as the day before and I’m pretty sure we were just the dumb Americans to him, especially since we couldn’t read anything on the menu. After talking to him we ordered chicken and French fries with a salad and we ordered some of their famous sour beer, Gueuze. Apparently a lot of foreigners hate it saying it tastes like throwing normal beer back up. Obviously these comments made us a little nervous. The first sip was pretty tentative but OMG those people with those nasty comments were dead wrong. It was by far one of the best, if not the best beer I’ve ever had! So yummy.
Our dinner was really good too; we ended up having half a chicken each that was roasted and a yummy salad and fries. I felt like a fatty after the meal but it was SO good.
After dinner we headed back to the hostel and relaxed for a couple hours and then went to bed.
We all woke up to a rock and roll song from the Spaniards sleeping in the room with us. Somehow they managed to wake up the entire room except themselves. It was annoying to say the least. Luckily Molly and I had to get up anyways.
We packed up our stuff and checked out heading for the train station which would be ‘obvious’ when we ran into it. Well they were full of shit on that one and we walked right by it and didn’t realize it until after. We were also told we could catch out train from any of the stations in Brussels, that was bullshit too and we had to take the metro to the central station missing the first train to Amsterdam. Luckily our ticket wasn’t time specific so we waited an hour until the next one.
The train to Amsterdam was about 2 and a half hour. I slept for some of it but the views were pretty so I tried to stay awake for some of it.
We went to the information center to figure out the tram situation and ended up buying a 72 hour pass for the trams. We caught the number 9 to our hostel which was outside the city center and checked in to our hostel. I think it was a really a hotel but it was cheap, we had our own room, but it was a bit of a dump. We dropped our stuff and left.
We grabbed some food and then headed for the Anne Frank Museum. The line wasn’t too long of a wait and we were left to tour through at our own pace with a bunch of other people. I’d read the diary in high school so it was all a bit strange. We saw where the business was run; we saw the secret bookshelf that led to the annex where they stayed. We saw their rooms, where they stayed, the windows blacked out from the outside world. It was small, depressing. The furniture was gone but Anne’s post cards and pictures she’d used to decorate the room remained on the walls. It was depressing. They had little videos talking to people who knew Anne including her father, Otto, the only one in the family to survive. They had pictures of the rooms furnished and anne’s journal in a display case. They also had a section dedicated to Margot, Anne’s sister. It was a interesting, eye opening, strange, irreplaceable experience.
After the museum we stopped at a tavern and got some pancakes, a must try. They reminded me of the thin pancakes my mom makes. We also tried some of the local beer. It was ok. They seemed to have a lot of foods from other cultures but nothing particularly amazing of their own.
We headed downtown and walked around in the red light district. It was a little early so there weren’t a ton of people there but it was still really strange. The girls wore little to nothing, attempted to entice the men in, and everyone walked by just staring at them. I could never choose that life, but maybe if you were brought up in a society where it was ok? I honestly just don’t get it.
We hopped the tram and headed back.
We woke up and grabbed a tram to Dam Square grabbing some cheap coffee and food. We went back to the info center to ask them about going to the tulip fields. After waiting about an hour for our number to be called we found out the fields are almost at an end and a lot of the flowers are dead or drooping. We kind of suspected but I had really wanted to go. We decided to go to Haarlem instead which is a small town outside of Amsterdam. We bought the tickets and headed out for our last day in Amsterdam.
We headed for the Van Gogh museum but got pretty lost on the way. We were waiting for tram 16 and one pulled up but we hadn’t seen the number. The old lady next to us told us it was 16 so we hopped on. After about twenty minutes and completely exiting the vicinity of Amsterdam that a tourist sees we realized we were on tram 9. Not sure if the old lady lied or was just plain wrong, but I’d like to think she was just mistaken. We rode it to the end of the line, got off, and caught it headed back. We had to make two connections to get to the museum center. Crazy!
We waited in line for like ten minutes to get in and had to go through security which was anything but tight. They had a couple floor of Van Goghs work from throughout his life. It was absolutely amazing. I took my time which left molly waiting for me for about 20 minutes at the end of some of the rooms. I really love museums so I was really excited although there were some really pushy people there. The thing that annoyed me most was those with the audio sets that would then stand in front of the single plaque with the information on it. They wouldn’t even be reading the plaque because they had an audio set, they were just conveniently blocking it for those of us who chose not to spend extra on an audio set. Some of the people also bolted through the museum, almost as if they were only there to say they’d been there. Anyways, I really enjoyed it and I even found a couple paintings of his that I really like and had never seen before.
They also had a couple floors of artists from the same time period who had either influenced or been friends with Van Gogh. There were some pretty cool pieces in those sections too.
Lastly they had a Picasso exhibit. He isn’t exactly my favorite so I wasn’t too thrilled but we walked through. We left just as the museum was closing, perfect.
After the museum we headed for the Hard Rock Café. I know it’s totally cheesy but Molly had never been and we were missing American Cuisine. We ended up sitting in the bar area and our waiter was from Prague and now lives in Amsterdam. He was telling us about where he’d been and it sounds like he’s lived all over the place. We ordered a beer that is an Amsterdam beer but it pretty much tasted like a sweeter version of Corona. That was a little weird. I ordered pulled pork with baked beans and coleslaw. It was so good. I was seriously missing bbq sauce. We ended up staying for quite a while and drinking another beer watching all the American music videos they had on. A lot of them were from the 80’s and 90’s.
We got a recommendation for a ‘Coffee shop’ and yes it’s exactly what you think, It was Amsterdam, of course we were going to get high. Unfortunately molly didn’t have her ID to prove she was 18 so we had to grab the tram to the hotel, grab her Id and head back. By the time we got back, the Coffee shop was pretty busy. We bought a brownie and coffee. After about twenty minutes a couple guys asked if we wanted to smoke with them so we went and sat with them.
We all ordered drinks because the waitress told us we couldn’t stay if we didn’t and we smoked and talked. Two of them were brothers and all three were from Chicago. 2 had just graduated college and had last minute decided to all come to Amsterdam for the week. The two brothers were Lithuanian and the other Romanian and they all spoke the language because their parents had insisted on speaking it at home. I thought that was pretty cool but I’m not sure any of them really understood what a gift it was that their parents had given them.
After a while we headed out and though they wanted to go clubbing, I wanted to go to the red light district one last time since it was later at night. We grabbed the tram and headed over.
The red light district was a lot busier than it had been the time before. There were a lot more girls out and tons of drunk and happy guys walking around. After a stroll up and down Molly and I decided to call it a night. I’m sure the guys were disappointed since they hadn’t even wanted to go to the red light district but whatever.
We headed back to the hotel, showered in the only shower in the whole place and went to bed.
We woke up the next morning, packed up our stuff and checked out. We caught the tram to the train station and from the train station we grabbed a train and then a bus to Haarlem.
Haarlem was anything but bustling because it was Sunday and we ended up in a café most of the day. We had some coffee, played some cards, wrote up our bucket lists, had lunch and finally left to walk around. We walked around the neighborhood and the canals, we walked into a couple stores and after I grabbed a pastry we headed back to the train station.
From there we grabbed a bus to the airport. The airport was the biggest I’ve seen since New York and there were lots of stores. We had to wait for a bit before we were allowed to check in so we got some food and sat around. We finally checked in and then sat by the gate playing “cash cab” on molly’s phone.
Finally the plane was ready to go and we grabbed our seats. There were like 40 people on the plane, sad. They served us dinner which was a surprise and I got a glass of wine with mine for no extra cost. I was pretty excited! Hahaha. Then they finally turned the lights down and we passed out.
When we arrived at the airport we grabbed a taxi since it was the only thing running at 2am. Our driver didn’t speak English and was apparently not from Athens because omg he had no idea where we were going. We told him several streets by us including a couple major roads and even asked him to drop us off at a main square and he had no clue. He ended up stopping and asking one of the kiosk owners and another taxi cab driver. I don’t know if he was trying to buy himself time or what, but the flat rate from the airport at 2am is 50 euro anyways and that was where our total was at so whatever the deal, we didn’t lose money over it.
We walked into our room nicely made up and cleaned by Maria from the Athens centre and went to sleep. So Happy to be back!