I'm baaaaack! That's right baby. You can't keep me off this blog for long. And every time Havachat (Jess) pries the laptop from my hands, I'll be back like a Rocky Balboa sequel - climbing the steps, pounding the beef carcasses and screaming "Yo Adriiiiaaaaann. I did it".
After reluctantly bidding farewell to Brugge, we made our way to WHAM BAM! AMSTERDAM. (What? None of you have heard that song before?? Van Halen??? Anybody???? Sigh, why do I even bother?). When I say "made our way", I really do mean that it would have been quicker to have made up our own path to Amsterdam (any path, heading in any direction) than to have taken the godforsaken "round the world" bus we happened to book. I'm serious. It would've been quicker to fly back to Perth, swim to Hawaii and then canoe our way to the canals of Amsterdam.
After arriving in Amsterdam almost 2 hours later than expected we were pleasantly surprised to find that our accommodation (an apartment booked on the wonderful AirBnB website) was spectacularly comfortable. For the first time in the whole trip, we had room. Actually, make that roomS. Three of them. And our very own washer and dryer. Jess was so excited at the prospect of clean clothes that she practically marinated all our clothes in the laundry detergent that was supplied in the apartment. Even as I type this blog entry, some 8 days after our stay in Amsterdam, my armpit hairs still smell of laundry detergent. And with my shaved head and month-old beard, I'm like a walking version of the teddy bear from the Snuggle laundry soap ads (remember him? http://www.theshelbyreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Snuggle.jpg I gotta say, my mum NEVER looked that happy when she did the washing!).
Our first full day in Amsterdam was spent walking around the city and trying not to end up with a bicycle stuck up our rear end. It was like the Tour de France except with stoned Hipsters and cardigans - as opposed to blood-doping freaks in lycra. If I had a dollar for every time we had to lunge out of the way of a bike, I wouldn't have to sell my kidneys on the black market to fund the rest of this trip. Bike hazards aside, we still managed to make our way through the main city centre and then on to the Jordaan district - an upscale part of town which is home to many cool restaurants (including a Cheese Museum) and art galleries (BORING! Did I mention the Cheese Museum?).
From there we made our way to the infamous Red Light District just to see if it was as crazy as everybody says it is. And yep, it is. Apart from the constant aroma of the "wacky tobaccy" seeping from every bar and shop window, you can't help but be confronted by the sights of the Red Light District. I mean I've heard of mannequins in shop windows to advertise a product but actual people? It's all a little strange for me. Stranger still, were the choices of some of the customers. Ah well, whatever floats your boat guess?
Later in the evening we attending the Rollende Keukens (Rolling Kitchens) event - a gathering of dozens of different foodtrucks catering for all types of cuisines. Jess was in heaven. After weeks of hit and miss food in France, she had led her people from the wilderness of duck confit and escargo, across the desert, to the parting of the Red Sea to find the promised land of whatever the hell your heart desired. Needless to say, we ended the night in a severe state of food coma.
The next day we made our way out to the city of Haarlem - a mini and less chaotic version of Amsterdam - to visit my first cousin, Luke who lived there with his Dutch partner, Mijke. Our catch-up was delayed by Luke's early morning doctor's appointment, which then turned into a later doctor's appointment. Not to worry - there was a comic book festival on in the city square to keep me occupied. I managed to pick up a comic that recounted the battle of Arnhem in WWII (nerd alert!) and had it autographed by the author/illustrator who was at the festival.
As for my cousin? Well his later doctor's appointment then turned into an emergency surgery! Don't worry, he's fine. He just got a little too excited at the prospect of seeing me again. And we did manage to visit him in hospital before he went under the knife and then have dinner with Mijke. Happy to report that Luke is as good as new now and we have another excuse (in addition to the next comic festival) to return to Haarlem.
Next stop: Stockholm, Sweden.