Thursday, December 6, 2012

Amsterdam and Stockholm - Overview

My wife and I recently went overseas to Amsterdam and Stockholm.  She had been before when she was in college, but I had never been, so when the opportunity came up (she was being sent for work; I could come along by paying my airfare, food, and anything else), it was a no-brainer.  Before going, a few of my closest friends recommended that I take note of everything that happened each day, so I could share with them everything we did but also to serve as a good exercise for recalling all the minutia of the day.  This is a summary of all those thoughts and memories.

As I look back at the previous week, I'm struck by how much I loved Amsterdam.  Everywhere we looked while wandering around downtown, architecture seemed to be from that 1600s period of prosperity for the Dutch.  Stockholm, in contrast, seemed to either have a mix of that era along with some really old parts of town, but also some very modern areas that seemed like Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  And because of the latter, I came away from the trip enjoying The Netherlands more than Sweden (I shy away from modern commercial shopping areas). That sounds like a quick and somewhat silly perception of everything, and it is since we had such a narrow experience of everything (only three days in each city, only during the winter, only focused on the downtown core, etcetera), but the Dutch seemed much more my type of people than the Swedes.  They were laid back, they didn't take themselves too seriously, they didn't seem too concerned with wealth or high/expensive fashion, so on and so forth.  But again, this isn't a solid-stance judgement call, just a gut reaction.  What do I know in my limited experience with both cultures.

So, I figured I'd account for the first few hours after landing here, in this intro, and then get to series of separate posts for each day of the trip.

- - -

We've Landed...

First off, Coach - remember the crazy landing at Chicago Midway, when we violently skirted side to side and everyone around us began throwing up?  Well, that is no longer the worst landing I've ever experienced.  This one takes the cake, and I should continue to go on about our first couple hours and the array of shit that went wrong.  Well, first, here's one thing that was right.  We arrived at Schiphol Airport and K-Sweet's coffee habit brought us immediately to the Starbucks in the lower level of the airport.  What did I see five minutes after landing?  A Chicken Little doppleganger:

This Hollander looked like Kev, but his mannerisms were more in line with his brother.  I texted Kev right away; he was amused.

But then everything else that went wrong right away:

1.  Kelly and I were both sick, and like a couple of old farts, our ears wouldn't pop both during the plane ride and after landing.  The faces we were making on the plane as we tried to get this to happen must have been quite the sight to other passengers.
2.  Our credit cards wouldn't work to purchase any train fare in Amsterdam, and we were told to get on the wrong platform, heading the wrong way.
3.  All of the time spent on the phone with Verizon to get our new smartphones set for the trip was for no good reason at all.  We arrived and nothing worked, which meant all kinds of annoying phone calls with them again, before we could do anything.
4.  We broke one part of our electrical adapter (US to Europe) right away, and it fried K-Sweet's hair dryer in the process.
5.  Everywhere we look, it costs the equivalent of 75 cents to use the bathroom here.  Weird. 

So, enough of the bitching. After that first couple hours of adjustment, things became very cool very quickly. Here are hyperlinks to the posts that I made about each day.  I'm unsure if the anecdotes will strike laughter to anyone outside of my circle of immediate friends, but whatevs.  Gotta do a travelogue, right?

Day One (this was a wash - no post)

Day Two: Amsterdam

Day Three: Amsterdam

Day Four (travel day, no post)

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