So after our very short plane trip to Marseille from Amsterdam, we were greeted by our long-lost cousin Sophia. We had to wait for our luggage, which we never had to do while in Europe because it was too expensive and stupid for just a weekend trip. However, Ry and I split the bag and we knew that we were going to want to bring things home from Barcelona and France. Soph was outside waiting for us and she once we caught eyes she said saw all the families hugging their loved ones thinking “where’s mine?!?” We made it, and glad to give her a little bit of home!
We had a trip to make from the Airport to Soph’s place so we caught up, heard about her amazing time she had been having and listened to her speak fluent French to everyone. Ry and I just sat there with our southern accent mouths shut. We made it to Soph’s dorm which was absolutely adorable. You could look out her window and see the beautiful Southern France sky and the Clonque which was literally a minute away. She introduced us to her friend in the dorm and then we started our mission to get nothing other than the essentials: food and alcohol.
It was a Sunday, and the dawn of Sophie’s 21st—being said the Gray’s and Europe had different agendas. We obviously wanted to celebrate her birthday in the way it should be celebrated (imagination inserted here) and Europe is completely closed on Sundays. Sophie took a chance in taking us to one of her favorite places that served french fries in the sandwiches (count me in) with the risk of it being closed. However it was open…and it was delicious. We sat, caught up some more and stomped away pigeons for some time and moved on to the next mission being alcohol.
We went to the bus stop were trash was everywhere. I asked Soph if the town was dirty, but she told us that there were wild boars and they tear up the stuff every night and walk away. So ultimately if I learned anything in France, its that my soul animal is a wild boar. We could tell that Sophie was extremely nervous and had little hope that something was going to be open. However, once the bus doors opened, the Grays sniffed their way into an open gas station filled with the essentials. Gray 21st Gods, we thank you.
We headed back to her dorm and started getting ready..aka finding a wine opener. Once found, we went into the kitchen area, which was like their social common area. After a few, Ry and I decided to play a game and we started the mayhem of what is known as Beer Hockey—ZAMBONI. For those who do not know what beer hockey is…I apologize. Figure it out.
It started off just Soph, Ry, Soph’s friend Cat, and I…but as the game went on and more “clinks” happened the hockey rink got bigger. So big that we had to move out in the hallways with three tables. So big that I couldn’t pronounce half of the people’s name. So big that we had to send a Facebook message out to the entire dorm for more alcohol.
So big that we almost forgot to countdown to Sophie’s birthday…thankfully we didn’t. Also Ry and one of Soph’s friends (Amed) did an Indian Birthday toss, that I just realized I had on my phone. THANKFUL. The way this video explains the night is perfect. Note: Amed is in PJs and Ry gives up after four tosses. Happy Birthday Soph.
We surprised Soph with some American things she missed: Ranch and Peanut Butter..and got her a Brandy book bag to finish up her travels around Europe. We were there when she opened her best friends present that had been with her the ENTIRE time (I could never wait that long). She struggled figuring out what it was in the wrapping, but when Ry picked it up, she immediately said “a wallet”. Low and behold, Corey got Soph the Hobo wallet she had been asking. It was a great night that I think we will all remember. Ry and I curled up in Soph’s twin (if that) sized bed slept the night away with our little Soph curled on the floor. Day one/night one done with the triple threat.
The next day we woke up and started making our way to the Clonque. We all had our hiking gear for what I thought was going to be an uphill climb (shame on me). It was actually a down hill climb to get to the Mediterranean Sea, which took about an hour and half. The view… unbelievable.
The route was filled with children running around, elderly walking with legit walking sticks, and dogs roaming around free of leash. We stopped and did the touristy things of course, but the main hold up was me trying to stir up some bravery to walk down a mountain with loose rocks and slim walk ways. For some reason, my confidence in doing stupid things is dwindling…and I don’t like it.
We made it to the bottom of the mountain were we sat, chatted, watched rock climbers, etc. etc. I wanted to get in the water, but the wind was so bad that day that it would of been stupid. SEE two years ago, I would of been in that sea, naked. Maturity hurts.
We started our way back up the mountain, were my real “maturity” aka my old body got the best of me. Again I was the hold up, with back breaks and pouting. But, we made it and we were happy to get back to Sophie’s to eat something and get ready for dinner in the port city!
We got fancied up and took Sophie out to a nice restaurant for her birthday. We obviously didn’t know where we were going, but Ry and I trusted Sophie to take us to a place with banging food. We had to get on a train to the city and while walking down to the station two boys screamed “nice ass”. Feeling flattered, I turned around only to be greeted by two 13 year old boys. Why God? So ultimately us turning around, gave them the go to keep screaming nice ass..that was until Sophie flicked them off leading them to run off to tell their mother. We made it to our stop and waked up the stairs only to be greeted by a beautiful sunset over the water. The city had such an open feeling to it and was absolutely stunning.
We made our way to an intersection of four restaurants that offered basically the same thing—5 course meals and wine. We made Sophie pick one and made our way in, only to sit for 2 seconds before ordering a bottle. I decided to try the Marseilles “special” known as rock fish soup as one of my courses. It was nothing CRAZY special, but still good. We ate, drank, acted mature and paid our bills so we could go get cra.
We walked to Soph’s favorite bar, St. Patty’s (go Soph) where we had some beers and talked about our plans for the next week in Barcelona. Soph went to the bathroom and came back with a 4’2 friend she met. I could tell Sophie was not thrilled with her. Found out it was because once Soph spoke French to her she stated “she knew she wasn’t French”. Rude. However, she wanted us to come outside and meet her “American” friend. Reluctantly walked outside only to be greeted by an American boy—insert barf here. Chip tooth, polo shirt, rude, all knowing, etc. etc. etc. We dealt with it for a while and then left in a hurry.
We went to a dance club where some of Soph’s friends were, danced to a couple of beats with our black-light Heineken and made our way to the train stop. We had to get up in the morning to catch our flight to Barcelona, and wanted to get there early enough to ensure we would be on time.
We woke up the next morning (on time) thinking it was going to be a great travel day, but it turned out to be one of the most “danger zoned” traveling days we had in Europe. We made it to the airport on time, got through the check-in line, only with one hiccup of not having my ticket (heart attack) and made our way to the security line. I watched the time dwinndle away as the line moved no where. We had more an hour when we got into the line, but we got down to 25 minutes and we had moved no where. Finally a security guard (in French) told the passengers who were going to Barcelona to go to another line. Thankfully we had a French speaking Gray who shoved us in the right direction. However, this line was moving even slower thanks to the ONE line and ONE security guard. Once we finally got to the front, we noticed we had 5 minutes before take off. That’s when we decided to send Sophie to run to the gate and use her French speaking skills to hold the plane…obviously we knew it wasn’t going to work, but we were hopeful. Soph got through the line, sans shoes, and we sent her off with a “speak like a French run like a Nigerian”. Again hopeful, but not banking on it. Ry and I were next in line, made it through until Ry’s bag came through. Obviously the French do not know what a flask is, because however many times we said it and in whatever accent they weren’t getting it. They finally let us go and we sprinted to the gate where Soph was standing, and the doors to the plane…open. Gray Gods…we thank you again.
So, I may have gone a little “overboard” with the Instagram while over in Europe—do I care? Absolutely not. Its been a total of two weeks since Ry and I landed back in America…and we are now both back to missing Europe, missing each other and missing our friends and family over the pond! BUT happy to be home and to grace our presence with stories, memories and empty bank accounts.
I am going to do a blog post for each destination, because there is no way I could type (or anyone would read) our entire Europe trip in one blog. So here we go with day one of the Grays take Europe part dos.
Ryan and I flew out of different airports to meet in Phili to fly over the pond. My friend Meg dropped me off with the 50 pound check-bag and 35 pound carry-on because that’s just how I do. I successfully passed the scale test, security, and made my way to my plane only to be stopped by a Facetime from Ryan. Two hours away seeing each other, and she still needed to see the face. However, after two minutes of screaming children on her end I had to end the conversation pretty quick.
We made it Phili and planned to meet at the most reasonable place ever, the gat—BAR. I had this AWESOME/HILARIOUS idea that I knew would grab some attention and ultimately remind Ryan why I am her favorite person ever.
I am not sure if I wrote about this in my Oktoberfest blog, but here is a reminder. Our last night at Oktoberfest, Ry and I had about 10 euros to our name. This had to include, dinner, breakfast and snacks along the way because we were large and in charge. While walking back to the train station, I made a pit stop to grab a unnecessary souvenir without Ryan’s permission. It was basically the best purchase I made in Germany—an x-small shirt that states “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to Oktoberfest” . So even though Ryan and I were out ALL of our money—I got a pretty awesome shirt.
So back to the story—I decided to wear the hot pink metallic shirt in the Phili airport to get a good laugh. I waited at the bar for a good 30 minutes, complete with stares and laughs, until Ryan came.
ANOTHER SIDE STORY: The Gray cousins went to Mardi Gras to destruct another location a couple of years ago where Ryan and I bought these AWESOME shirts that say “I got Bourboned face on Shit street”. Thought it would be a great idea to wear those to the airport the next day, until our flight got cancelled and we were in the Atlanta airport for 12 hours. The day included covering ourselves with everything in Ryan’s carry-on because 1. it was 20 degrees in the airport 2. parents were not appreciative (and obviously lacked humor) of our AWESOME shirts.
Back to Phili—I am waiting in the bar, down two Stellas, not feeling ashamed of my shirt anymore, when in walks Ryan….with the Mardi Gras shirt on. MY JOKE WAS STOLEN. We were applauded for our efforts, but judged by our choices. Another day in the Gray family.
We sat at the bar—drank beers until I felt like I could pass out—and boarded our plane, disgracefully. Judged by every person we hit with our carry-ons.
The flight was the normal thing. Ryan fell asleep. I stayed up the entire time (no stranger drugs this time). We did get free wine for the entire ride (which STILL didn’t put me to sleep) because I was the first one to say “please” to the attendant handing out dinners. Thanks Michelle for being a stickler with my on-point manners. So while Ryan fell asleep on my shoulder, I successfully felt all effects of alcohol—the tipsy, the drunk, the sleepy, the dizzy, the hangover. Lesson learned, even drinking will not help me fall asleep on planes. Also learned that Thor is perhaps the WORST movie of all times.
We landed in the Dam only to be greeted by the reminder that sweatpants are frowned upon in the Dutch culture. Or at least that is what the grandma in heeled boots and leather jacket thought. We walked out of the sliding doors (sans Miss America wave, danggit) and saw the beautiful Saskia and a sign that read “Bad Girls”. Obviously we arrived. We found ourselves back in our second home as we walked through Schipol. Made our way back to Sask’s house where of course she made breakfast for us and made our way into the city! Ryan and I didn’t want to wait another minute and we were going to pick up Karri from the train station!
We were welcomed by the craziness of Leidseplein and by the VERY blonde Kaari. We walked the streets of our past home, dodged bikers, jumped out of the way of trams and made it to one of our favorite spots, Het Molenpod. Fries, frit saus and Strongbow. We were back home.
After I took a quick nap on the table, we headed back to home to start getting ready for the night. We brought Sask and Karri some gifts from America that included: Wolfpack gear, American hats, candy, and the NC license plate (that we had as kids to put on our bikes) that had their “American” names: Sydney and Katie. It works
We played American drinking games (made fun of Kaari of course), listened to a memorable playlists (thanks to Ryan) and dressed in our best CoCo attire. I am still not sure how to clearly define CoCos. Its a place were judgement is little, jager is 9 shots for 9 euros, and friends go to the kitchen to make out with bartenders…pointing no fingers.
Not only was it a CoCo’s night—but a moonlight party, which included face and body paint that glowed in the dark—count Grays IN.
We danced the night away—made the memories that are usually made in CoCos, ate late night pizza, complained about our taxi cab driver, and Ry and I had a (first of many) pointless fight over covers.You could almost predict how the night was going to turn out…
The next morning Ryan and I woke up and asked what time it was. We planned to get up every day in Europe and just GO because we knew we were going to be tired everyday and we didnt want to waste the day away. Well consider this day, almost wasted. We learned that we slept in till 1:00, which has not happened in YEARS.
We quickly got ready, wore what we were going to wear out (non CoCo attire) and headed into the city. It was just Ry and I, and we just wanted to walk around and reminisce about the good times. We stopped at a restaurant, shared a plate of pasta, some glasses of wine and headed back to Amstelveen, to my FAVORITE part of the trip…seeing my minions.
I will admit that I was extremely nervous. Nervous that the kids wouldn’t remember me, nervous that Marion and Dimitri would feel awkward, just nervous all around. When Ry and I walked up C. Van Montpensierlaan, I saw Boris and Noortje frolicking through the canal, and throwing SOMETHING at the birds. Things seemed to changed very little. I heard Dimitri say “kijk” (look) and once they saw me I heard Noortje say “Erin”? Literally warmed my heart. They came up gave Ry and I a hug and proceeded to be freaked out thinking I was coming back to lock them in their rooms and yell at them in English…ohhh good times. Dimitri was already out and Marion came out to give us Dutch kisses (which Ry and I have mastered) and spoke about our lives. Dimitri said how adult looking we looked—which Ry corrected him stating we were not obese anymore.
We went inside where we learned that Dimitri’s plan to get rid of the cats had not only became harder, but tripled. The poor man. We also learned that I was ultimately the best Au Pair ever, and that Europeans/South Americans etc. don’t know what Au Pairing is. The Geense family could not hold onto an Au Pair that would actually do something so they settled for a nanny who takes care of the kids after school. Sad to say, it made me feel good to make them realize how much I actually did for them. BUT I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.
We sat and drank (lots) of wine while the kids ran around the the kitchen and tore up the place per usual. The kids were stand off-ish at first but ultimately warmed up to us, played “high/low” spoke some English and climbed all over us. Boris of course drew Ry some heart felt picture, while I got a picture of a rocket. I’ll take it.
By far, that was my favorite part of our first weekend in Amsterdam. I felt like I never left the family and that I will always be able to call their house, home.
That night, we went out to Mexican, where Ry and I were about an hour late thanks to the free wine. The Mexican place was the same restaurant that Ry and I (legit) stumbled upon late night. Still as delicious as ever. We met our Dutch friend Didi there and caught up with her and her weekly travels. After Mexican we sat outside Hoopman’s and people watched for a good hour or so. The patio is right in the middle of Leidseplein, so the watching is always on point.
We didn’t have a crazy night because Ry and I had to wake up the next morning and make our way to the airport to start our next journey of takeover, France. Like I said in my previous post, our cousin Sophie had been studying abroad for months now, and we planned to meet her in her home and travel with her for the duration of our trip.
We made it to the bus stop with Kaari and Saskia, said our (un-tearful) goodbyes because we thought Kaari was going to surprise us the following weekend. Sadly, that did not happen and I STILL cannot believe that Kaari did not shed a tear. We made it to the airport, made our plane, and successfully made it to France along with our first (of TOO many) cheese sandwich in our stomachs.
Hilarious to think Holland had enough of us, we’re striking again! Its been a long time coming, but Ryan and I have scrapped up the pennies and nickels from our money-making income to treat Europe with another go of a Gray takeover. Yes, I did have to get a credit card, yes Ry and I have a google doc of everything we need to bring and yes we are going back THIS WEEK.
Its a daily struggle for the both us of us not to wake up in a twin size bed, look out the window to our personal canal and bike to each other within 2 minutes, so we decided to bite the bullet and figure out when we could make our way back to Europe. We both wanted to see my family and see how the minions are doing, but also NEEDED to see Kaari and Saskia as soon as possible. The daily whatsapp conversations and Skype dates just do not cut it. Its crazy how to think how close we all became in such short months, but its something I am truly thankful for everyday. Those girls mean so much to both of us, and it literally brings tears to my eyes to think I am going to be hugging them this week!
We decided to plan our 10 day trip in accordance to one of the Gray’s biggest celebration. A 21st birthday. Our cousin, Sophie, has been studying abroad in Marseille, France this semester, and we decided to bring the party to her, and ultimately stay in her dorm room with the FIIIONNEEE gentlemen she decided to snap on a daily basis. A tough decision to make, but Ryan and I are flexible with our agendas. Also, her view ain’t too shabby.
We will land in Amsterdam after our GLORIOUS flight over the pond (sans stranger’s drugs—if you have no clue what I am talking about, look back at my first posting) and land in our home away from home. I can already smell the mistakes and memories. We will stay in the Dam for a weekend, then fly to France to start the ruckus of a 21st. From France we will pick up a third Gray (the destruction is real) and head to Barcelona. When Ry and I were planning where to go, we decided we wanted to go somewhere warm (we were planning during the polar vortex, in our winter coats inside our house, because we’re that cheap) and somewhere neither of us have been. Barcelona it is! After Spain we will go back to the Dam and celebrate what I am predicting to be one of my biggest hangover events; King’s Day. I like to think of this day to be somewhat like the best holiday in the world, July 4th, just Holland style. This is the first time EVER that Holland has had a King, so I am guessing it will be a pretty big day. I missed Queen’s Day when I was over there, so I am MORE than pumped to be a part of it.
I truly don’t know what I am most excited about. Seeing Sophie, Saskia and Kaari are definitely top of my list. Being back in Amsterdam is also there. Seeing my minions and Marion and Dimitri is up there as well. Being back on bikes, drinking Heineken, watching Ry fall on her bike, seeing people in windows, seeing all of our friends form Amsterdam, traveling to new places, I AM JUST SO EXCITED! And the fact that I get to do it all over with my best friend is literally the noodle to my bong.
The fact that I am typing on this blog again makes my fingers and heart so happy. Three more days and Ry and I will be already worrying about how fast the trip is going to go by! But till then PROST and Hail Marys my people!
Time literally flies. I cannot believe that in about a month I will be heading home to North Carolina. Fall has arrived and it is COLD. But Amsterdam is literally one of the prettiest places I have ever seen in the fall!
I am trying to spend the last days here in Europe the best I can. I ended up taking my last trip to Geneva by complete luck. Ryan and I were trying to go to Geneva since I have been here because one of our family friends lives there, but it was way out of our price range. But of course, once Ryan left, it was one of the cheapest flights out of Amsterdam, so I was able to go with our friend Kate.
Ryan left awhile ago and its been tough without her, but thankfully I have all the other girls and Skype. And I have truly fallen in love with my family. They have become such a blessing in my life and have taught me so much in my stay here. They always are looking out for me and making me feel as part as the family. I spent the last days with Ryan doing what we usually do. Sitting, talking, laughing and fighting over the blankets at night. I was there while her house was being packed up, and slept over on her last night in Amsterdam, on a mattress, on the floor.
It was obviously worth it. We actually took Ryan to the airport and said bye to her there because my family knew that I wanted to spend as much time as I could with her. And because Boris was in love with her and daily called her “sweeter than a dolphin”.
Looking back on the first couple of days with the kids and comparing it to how we are now is a complete 360. I can understand where they were coming from in hating a girl who just showed up at your house, didn’t speak your language and started bossing them around, but it has changed so much. Getting hugs from them everytime I pick them up from school, holding their hands while we walk, having FULL conversations with them and understanding each other are the few of many things that warm my heart. The kids I have started to do things together that remind me so much of my childhood. After school everyday we go to a canal and feed ducks their leftover bread from lunch. Reminds me of when my grandma JoJo would take me out to eat at this place in Greensboro and then go to the lake infront of the place and feed the ducks. I have also gotten Noortje addicted to The Emotions “Best of my Love” and it reminds me of my house on a summer afternoon with DB’s pandora playing and my mom in the kitchen. We sing and dance and play around in the kitchen like when my cousins and I were young with our aunts and mothers. It’s weird how the tables have turned, but reminded at how blessed of a childhood (and life!) I had. Making these memories with Boris and Noortje just remind me how lucky I am. We were talking about my flight the other night at dinner, and Noortje turned to her mom and told her “I think I’m going to cry when Erin leaves.” They have become my family over here, and I have a gut feeling I will cry when I leave as well.
Before Ryan left, we went with Dimitri, Boris and Noortje to do the most touristy thing we could do in Amsterdam. Go see the windmills. It was in an older portion of Holland and was completely in its historic state. The mills were in a town that people actually still lived in.
The first Albert Hein (the grocery store here) was still there and tons of little shops. I loved it because it had so much history in it, but yet you looked across the street and someone was tending to their garden. The windmills were cool, but nothing to amazing about them. They do what you think they would do, turn in the wind.
I have been trying to “Americanize” Noortje and Boris daily. From saying y’all and cheering on the Wolfpack to celebrating all the celebrations we can. I actually bought a pumpkin for them to decorate for Halloween. They only painted it because I didn’t trust them with a knife, but they loved it. We cleaned it out, change that, Noortje and I cleaned it out because Boris was grossed out by the pumpkin snot (there is always one kid) and made roasted pumpkin seeds. I drilled holes in the pumpkin and later that night we lit it up. They were so excited and we lit the pumpkin everynight until the pumpkin was more mush than a structure.
Speaking of Halloween, its is nothing that I thought it was going to be over here. NO ONE celebrates it. The kids have this day on November 11th called St. Martin’s in which they make these lanterns out of plastic bottles and go around the neighborhood singing songs and collecting candies. I didn’t ask much about it because I was upset every time I opened the door and there wasn’t a princess or a pumpkin there. Instead just plain Dutch children singing me a song I didn’t know. Bummer. I still kinda have a grudge over Halloween. Even when we went out in the city, not EVERYONE was dressed up. This was extremely awkward when getting on the bus as disney princesses and no one was dressed up. However, we found a place that was strictly celebrating Halloween and we had a great night.
This brings me up to my last travel in Europe to Geneva. Like I said Ryan and I were dying to go to visit Deniz but it was soooo expensive. Deniz was once an exchange student of our cousin Katie, and was now living there. Kate and I decided that we were going to go on one more trip before I left and told each other that we weren’t going to do the multiple modes of transportation. Just a flight there and a flight back. We logged onto the airport site and typed in Amsterdam to “anywhere”, and Geneva was the cheapest. So we booked. We were going to go from Friday night to Monday morning and enjoy a romantic getaway.
Switzerland is beyond words. Geneva is beyond words. Its is surrounded by the Lake Geneva and its background is the Swiss Alps. You walk out the door and you are literally in awe of the view. The first night we got there we met up with Deniz and her husband AK, sat in their house and just caught up. This included watching their wedding video in Turkey. Another place to put on my “to-go” list. The next day Deniz took us around the town of Geneva which is surprisingly small. It was sectioned off into two parts; the Old Town and New Geneva. The old town was gorgeous. All old building with so much history. The government takes such good care of their buildings and make it a priority of to keep their history preserved. You could tell how much work they put in because the buildings looked like new, but were years olds. Our first stop was breakfast where we enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee and chocolate croissants. Beyond words. We took two to go, they were so good. We walked around Old Town took pictures of the buildings and stopped at the Old Cathedral.
It was huge and reminded me somewhat of Notre Dame. We walked up both of the towers and got to see the panoramic view of Geneva, which again was beautiful.
The walk up the towers, was not so pretty, but we somehow survived and got to take stupid pictures such as this, which was rewarding.
From the Old Town we walked around the new (and more expensive) Geneva. We stopped for hotdogs on the street (not American, but close enough) and made our way to the bus station so Kate and I could catch a train to Chillion Castle.
The train ride was worth our ticket. We got to to pass the Lake and see amazing views of the Alps. The castle we visited was the biggest in all of Switzerland and was built literally on top of rocks in the Lake.
It took us forever to get through the entire Castle, so we pranced around, put on our best “Lord’s” accent and made complete fools of ourselves. We finally got to the top of the castle, also known as the keep and for one more time, were in awe of the view.
The night we went to a French Steakhouse where all they asked you was how you liked your steak and what you wanted to drink. No menus, nothing. The steak came with this buttery herby garlic sauce, fries and a salad. The steak was actually cut into two portions so that you got one portion at a time. It was unreal and delicious. After we got three different deserts all consisting of Swiss chocolate. This chocolate is all that it is cracked out to be, and I will never be able to enjoy a regular chocolate bar again.
The next day we went to France. Sounds crazy but Geneva is literally a step away from it. Its almost like going from State to State. Deniz took us to this Medieval town. It was a little village composed of all Medieval houses, but were used as little shops.
Sadly, it was out of season so we couldn’t see all the shops but we got to see the little town and location which awesome. It was on the lake, of course, and neighbooring a castle that some man just bought. I would love to be that man’s kid and have a rowdy game of hide and sneak in the house.
We ate the known for fish in the village, which can only be found in the Lake. Again delicious, and again finished off with more desserts consisiting of Swiss chocholate.
We made our way back to Geneva, picked up AK and they took us to the top of Geneva. We could see the entire city and the sky line here and see where the Jet d’Eau WOULD be going off, but because Kate and I have the worst luck ever, it was never on. Not once.
From there we went to our final dinner, Fondue. We got to experience the best food here. The Fondue was thick Swiss cheese and was delicious. I don’t know what was better, the cheese or the chocolate (which of course we got after).
The next day we had to make our 6:50 AM flight, which we did, somewhat. We made it on time, at our gate, but didn’t pay the best attention to see that our gate had changed. We sat at our first gate and kept looking at the screen to see if we were okay. The destination to Amsterdam never changed…but the airlines did. We failed to notice that. Therefore, once we got up and walked to board our flight at the A10 gate we couldn’t get on our plane because it wasn’t ours. The guy who was boarding was certain that our plane was at gate A2 so we started our sprint down to the gate. We got to the gate in less than a minute only to find that there were no plans flying out of that gate and learned that our plane was at A11. We sprinted back to where we originally were, but the gate was closed and we were screwed. Thankfully we had each other, another flight and made it back to Amsterdam. Just 10 hours later than we thought we would be.
So the countdown still ticks and I am almost home. This week is Thanksgiving and I can’t torture myself with making a meal by myself on Thursday. Plus DB’s fried turkey can’t be replicated. However, just because I am not making dinner on Thursday does not mean I will not be celebrating in full form and in full menu. Sunday, the girls and I have decided to have an all out Thanksgiving meal complete with Turkey, pecan pie, sweet potatoes etc. Its not home, but its exciting.
The kids have been getting extremely excited about Sinterklaas coming. If you don’t know who is, he is basically the Dutch Santa. He comes over on a boat from Spain every November 17th and starts the celebration. Him and his “elves”, also known as Black Peters, prance through the city throwing candy and what not at children. I wasn’t able to see him go through town because I was in Geneva. Its pretty cool how the country has it set up though. He comes through a different port each year, and rides a horse through the city. Very traditional and awesome for the kids to see the actual arrival of Sinterklaas. The kids can put their shoes out at night to see if he comes by and puts things in, but the big “Christmas” is on December 5th. Marion says they celebrate this as Dutch, but she also enjoys the Christmas celebration and decorating and what not. Good news for me, because my mother has already sent over pictures of my house being decorated. Torture to say the least. The kids have put out their shoes a couple of nights and are so excited the next morning to see little candies inside. One night “Sinterklaas” put a note in their shoes saying that the Black Peters accidently started throwing his money out instead of candies and that he needed help in finding his money. They were told to check their parents wallets and if the money had this little sticker on them it was his and to please put it in their shoes to return to him. Go figure Marion and Dimitri stole Sinterklaas’s money. Its such a cute little celebration and the kids get so excited every morning to see their shoes. Its different than America, but I am really enjoying learning something new AGAIN. Its always something different each day, but I love it. Everyday truly opens my eyes to something new, and how American tradition and ways aren’t the ONLY ways to do things.
I cannot wait to get home to see you all! The countdown is literally dwindling away!! Everyone have an awesome Thanksgiving and truly be thankful for what we all have. I know I am extremely blessed to have the best family, best friends, my health, their health, God’s miracles and the people who look after my family and I day after day! Hug and kiss your loved ones, and if you see any of mine…give them a hug for me! LOVE YOU ALL!
So I left my last blog with the cliffhanger of Oktoberfest. Well shockingly we all made it home safely, alive and full of proud American (Estonian, Australian) dignity. Like I said in previous posts, traveling from country to country in Europe is so cheap. Because of our travel agents, Kaari and Saskia, we were able to get to and from Germany for around 100 euros. However, with the cheap prices, comes a hectic schedule of traveling and many changes of transportation. To get to Germany we actually took a tram, a bus, a train, another bus, a flight, and then got picked up from the airport for another hour ride to where we were staying. It was a long day but we survived. Even though the beginning of our trip began with Saskia ripping a hole in the back of my leggings. Thankfully she is a design student here in Amsterdam and could fix them.
We decided we wanted to go to Oktoberfest months ago and started looking up ways to get there and places to say. When I say months ago, I mean when I first was here. Like five months ago. Hotels and hostels were already sold out. We literally had to look into our last option, camping. In tents. With no bathrooms. However, there was a bar at the campsite and 5,000 other campers. We said we could manage and decided to reserve a tent. However, we were lucky enough that Ryan knew of someone who knew of someone who said we could stay with him. Being that we never met him, had no clue what he looked like and if he was a safe kid or not, we decided to stay with him. It was in his families house and about an hour train ride away from the festival. But most importantly we had a roof over our heads, beds and a shower.
Thomas, the one we were staying with, was actually the one to pick us up from the airport. We could tell by his face that he was not ready for the craziness we were about to bring. And I think he was embarrassed by our Oktoberfest green hats. We made it about halfway through the ride home and asked to stop for “food”. Aka a case of beer. Ryan got carded. You have to be 16 to drink in Germany. Never gets old. We were allowed to drink in the van which was pretty cool, but even cooler that we go to drink our beer while flying down the Autoban. Bucket list, check.
We made it to Thomas’s house and found out that we would have an entire floor to ourselves and our own bathroom. We got ready for the night and went out in the town we were staying, Engelstraat. We decided to stash some beers in our purses for the trip over and for outside the bar. I offered Thomas a beer outside the bar and he said he didn’t like beer. Our friendship almost ended there. The downtown reminded me a little bit of Dublin. Very quaint with stone pathways. The first bar we went to was more of a chill place were bouncers would go around and check young people’s ids. Sadly Ryan didn’t get checked. We were very cheap at this bar and only bought one beer. After that beer was done, we just replaced it with one of our own. Resourceful. We were on a budget. After all the beer was gone, Thomas decided to take us to a club. Like a full force club. It was dark, smoky, loud, full of wild dancing tricks, and blaring jams such as “Fresh Prince of Bellair” and “Country Grammer”. We fell in love. We stayed there the entire night then made our way back home. Kate, Ryan and I were sharing one massive bed and once we all hit the bed, we looked at each other because we just laid into what had to be a piece of heaven.
The next day was our first day at the festival. We were awoken by a feast of bread, pretzels, eggs, meat, cheese, juices and coffee made by Thomas’s mom. The first thing we all wanted to do was say thanks so much and have a chat with her, but before we even got “thank” out, Thomas told us not to even try because she knew no English. I think she got the picture of what we were trying to say though, plus Kate hugged her so she knew we were at the least appreciative. We got ready, put our hats on and walked outside to rain. We had our jackets and some of us had umbrellas. Thomas said he hadn’t been to Oktoberfest in seven years, but we somehow coaxed him into going. Thank God, because we would of been so lost without him. On the train, we noticed that the sky had open up, and rain was coming down and coming down hard. Thankfully Ryan, Kate and I had our umbrellas, but Saskia and Kaari were out of luck. However, since Thomas’s mom packed him a bookbag (I am not lying) he has extras. Once we got to the train station, it felt like Oktoberfest. We were surrounded by people wearing the German Oktoberfest outfits, a band playing some tune that reminded me of Busch Gardens, and beer…everywhere. Thomas told us we had a way to walk so we all made the executive decision to get beers for the walk.
We made it to the festival and it was a mix between a state fair, Busch Gardens, and a community of AA escapees. It was awesome. We walked around stared at everything, took all the “tents” in and decided to park somewhere to get the well-known liter beers. The tents are not tents whatsoever. They are like miniature buldings with huge tall ceilings and two floors. However the middle of the top story is cut out so they can see what is going on in the pit, or the place where the band is and where the lucky tables sit.
There are a ton of tables, hundreds maybe even a thousand. To get a table you have to reserve, and they are expensive. Being so we were stuck outside, in the rain, next to these guys.
We enjoyed their company. Plus they had a squeegee that they let us use to wipe down our table. And also, rain or shine, Oktoberfest goes on.
The outside of the tent was packed with tables just like the inside. Once you sat at your table, you were basically stuck there. Which was fine, because we learned that once the weather gets okay, it gets crazy. Packed. We only sat in the wet for about an hour, and then the madness begun. The whole day was spent at the tent, making friends and drinking. We had an issue at the beginning of the night, were one of us didn’t feel so well (names not needed) and spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom. We all decided that if two of us were going to leave we all had to leave. While we were walking out of the festival, the person who was not feeling too hot miracously had a resurrection and was fine to go for the rest of the night. We all laughed it off, walked back to the tent where Thomas was (after stopping so Saskia, Kaari and I could ride this ride, vomitless) and somehow made it to inside the tent.
Thomas kept telling us to just make friends, which is ultimately what we did. We weren’t able to go on the first floor into the pit, but it was cool enough. Inside the tent was unreal. Loud, music blasting, people dancing and singing on top of tables and just having a good time. It was so much fun.
We made it through the night, stole two glasses for Ryan and I, made it last train and back to our beds. We learned however, that Thomas’s mom was sleeping on the couch because Ryan, Kate and I were sleeping in her bed. We cared, for about a minute, but that bed was too comfy to pass up. Plus if we wanted to tell her she should sleep in it, we couldn’t.
The next day we had to pack up everything because from the festival we were leaving straight from the train station to make our ways back to Amsterdam. Also Thomas wasn’t going with us, so it was the first day on our own. He probably decided not to take a second day with us because we were obnoxious, loud and Kate wanted too many group hugs that ended up as Thomas and Kate hugs. There were lockers in the train station, and a lot of them, but there were more people. We started searching every locker area, but every one was taken. We decided that the day was just going to blow because we would have our backpacks with us all day. We started walking out when all of the sudden a locker was just open. Of course it was the smallest one, but somehow we got all five of our bags into it, twice. Because I forgot my hat in it once we locked it and obviously I needed it. It was such a prettier day on the second day, and EVERYONE was out to celebrate. We were at the festival the same time as the day before but there were at least five times more people.
You could barely move, and even more, get a table. We bounced from tent to tent trying to find a table, but ultimately lost. Until, we paid twenty euros for one. Best money we spent. The day went the same as the previous, met new friends, drank, but sadly I didn’t have my camera and couldn’t document our times. We played German drinking games, one of which consisted of holding up a full liter beer with one hand.
I won. And am proud of it. Thankfully had my girls there cheering me on to beat the German boys. I felt so American. The end of the night was approching and with all of our courage built up, we decided it was time to get to the pit. We waited, flirted, chatted, and somehow, someway, made it to the pit. Literally inches away from the band, singing and dancing with strangers that paid WAY too much for a table that we got to enjoy fo’ free.
We left the party, headed to the station, bought a shirt that said “Good girls go to Heaven, bad girls go to Oktoberfest”, got some pizza and boarded the train. We were traveling by train the entire way back to Amsterdam, but had to switch over a couple of times. The second train was thankfully a night train so you could extend your chair out to basically a bed. We all were so comfortable in our seats in our own cabin, when all of a sudden girls said that we were in their spots. Sadly we were, so three of us had to move. We told each other to meet in the halls at a certain time to get off and get to our next train. We had to make sure that we were getting into Amsterdam at a certain time because some of us had to work. Myself included. We woke up, met up with each other, and started to wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. We finally asked why we weren’t at the station yet and a worker said that there were some problems and that we were going to be late. Since we had four minutes to connect to our next train, that was awful news. Long story short, the day that we planned to be eight hours of traveling was around thirteen. Missed trains, waiting in stations and being hungover was overall, no fun.
So we are all back now and back to working and what not. The days are dwindling down to when Ryan goes back. I am not too sad now, but I know when it happens I will be. Thankfully the other girls are not going anywhere. Same has been going on with the family. The other night it was just the kids and I. Noortje has had a loose tooth for a while now, but won’t let anyone look at it. Just like any other six year old would do. We were eating dinner and all of a sudden she starts screaming “my tooth!! my tooth!!” I looked down to a mouthful of blood, and thought I was about to vom. But then realized she was more scared than I was. I took her to the bathroom, cleaned her up and got her excited about losing her tooth.
It was a big deal for the both of us, because we have come so far in our relationship. I mean to be quite honest, having a girl come into your house, boss you around and not speak your language kind of sounds like it would be no fun. But we have grown to understand each other, have fun and ultimately trust each other. Its good to know we have finally got to this stage, because I never thought I was going to get here with these two. But I am a happy Au Pair with my little stinkers.
So the days are passing a lot faster than I thought they would. I can’t believe that I have been over here for about five months and that I only have three left. Not a lot has changed with the my schedule and life. I stay home on the weekdays, clean the house, do the groceries, take care of the kids, cook the meals and do other mommy things. I really am starting to enjoy the kids company more though. The cutest thing happened the other night that made me realize how much I am really starting to love this family. Noortje has been feeling sick lately and we just realized that she has not one ear infection, but two. So the nights and her sleeping abilities are not ideal. I am on the same floor as the kids so I can hear basically everything they do at night. I heard Noortje shuffling around and could hear her squeal, “momma, pappa”, but they didn’t hear her being they were upstairs and it was just a mur-mur from her. I decided to get up and see what I could do but when I opened my door she was already standing there, pitiful, and asks me to come sit with her in her room. So we walked back to her room, holding hands and I sat with her until she fell back asleep. Ah. Just warms my heart. I also taught them how to love the Pack. They wear their tattoos and scream GO PACK on game days! Talk about warming my heart.
Other than the kids starting to like me there have been more occurences over here in Holland. Kip (Yip) and I have become very close friends, except when he gets on the counter or steals meat from me while I am cooking dinner. Which has happened, twice. He’s a fun cat though and a great hunter. So far Kip has caught a total of six mice. The first one he caught was surprising and a little unbelievable being that the kids were the ones claiming he caught one. The kids and I were downstairs when they ran into the kitchen to tell me that the cat had a mouse. I obviously didn’t believe them because the majority of their stories are lies. I heard Boris giggling way to much though, and knew that if he got a hold of the mouse the probability of it ending up in my purse or bed or something of mine was likely. I went out to where the kids were and there was the cat pawing at a real, and still somewhat living mouse. I screamed, the kids died laughing and Demitri came down and got rid of the mouse. Just to let you know, Purk (the original cat) is 20 years old, and has YET to catch a mouse. Another reason the two cats don’t get along. Yip is a show off and Purk is lazy. Anyways, mouses have become a regular apperances around the house, thanks to Yip and his giving heart, but thankfully, the majority or them end up at Marion’s side of the bed.
Along with things being found in our house we had an issue of losing something very special and important to us recently, Boris. How the system of picking up the children from school works is complicated. Because a new school for all Dutch children is being built the students are seperated within different buildings. So the kids are in the same “school” but not in the same buildings. And because of the system being so put together, Noortje and Boris are not in the same buildings, which makes it EXTREMELY difficult for pick up, being that they both get out at 3 and are about a five minute bike ride from each other. However, I have a system down. I get Noortje and then pick up Boris because one of his other classmate’s mother has the same issue as I do and the two boys can play together while their nanny and mom pick up at the other building. So anyways, Noortje and Boris both were having kids over to play. Boris’s friend was going to go to his house first so that I didn’t have to bike four children. Noortje, her friend and I made it to Boris’s school, went to his classroom and found no Boris. The teacher, who is an old short Dutch lady who knows slim to no English, started to panic thinking that I had already came and got him. I started to think maybe he went with his friend back to the friend’s house and I just misunderstood Marion about the playdate arrangement. I called Demitri and asked him about the situation, but by the tone of his voice, that wasn’t the arrangment. The teacher called the mother of Boris’s friend and found out that Boris was not at the house. So Boris was not at school, not at home, not at the friend’s house, and basically lost. We searched the school, because knowing Boris he was just being his uncontrolable self and just hiding, but he was no were to be found. Demitri came to the school and I took the girls back to our house to get away from the craziness. On my way home I called Ryan to see if she could get on her bike and just start looking for him. We literally had no clue where he was and who he was with. At home, I just waited and didn’t call Marion or Demitri because I knew that they were worried enough. About an hour and a half had passed and I saw Demitri’s car pull up with a chocolate covered face Boris in the backseat. Wherever he was, he had a good time. What had happened was that Boris followed his classmates onto a day-care bus. And of course only on this day, a kid named “Yoris” was supposed to be on the bus, but had left school early for some reason. So when Yoris’s name was called, Boris raised his hand. From there he played with all his friends, ate chocolate and got to meet police officers who finally found him after what felt like hours of searching.
Speaking of getting lost, Ryan and I got the most lost I have ever been in my entire life. I once walked from the beach condo to the Lee’s cottage once, which is about a 10 minute drive so about a three hour walk, but the way Ryan and I got lost was about 50 times worse than that walk. We were going to Sask’s house warming party and thought that our phones would be able to direct us there. Our phones are usually on point, but do not help when going through the woods and bike paths. Thankfully 90% of the trip was in the woods, on bike paths. We were fine with it at the beginning because we were in such a pretty part of the woods. We took pictures, took in the scenery, but the joy only lasted for about 20 minutes.
It was a blessing that only Ryan was with me, because I HATE getting lost. I get so worked up, hot and pissed. She is one of the few who know how to approach/handle me at these times. We were lost for 3 hours, we passed the same spot in a road about ten times, and we were hungover. If hell was on earth… However, we were about to go home and start over, when all of a sudden we saw these bikers turn on a hidden path we had not seen yet. The path we OBVIOUSLY needed. We made it to Sask’s house, had such a good time, met some new people, taught Europeans how to play Circle of Death, listened to Kaari sing and play the guitar and ended the night with a twenty-year old girl sleepover. It started out as a horrible day, but ended out to be a perfect one.
Even though we get lost far to much, Ryan and I have been exploring Amsterdam and trying to find new places and what not. Every corner you pass there seems to be something new that we have never seen before. The other weekend Kate and I actually went to a rooftop bar that gave you a skyline view of the entire city. It was an awesome view, but the beer prices were a little unreal. Ryan and I tried another “rooftop” bar, which had potentinal but was a failure. It claimed to be rooftop, and even though it was on the top floor of a tall building, having the entire bar closed in kinda defeated the purpose. It was still a cool concept. It was called “Canvas”, and every night they have some unknown artist to come in and paint on a canvas. Hipster. And the beer was super cheap. Ideal. However, the music is what drug us out of there. Ryan and I are able to deal with bad music choices, but the music was something I have never heard/never want to hear again in my life. It literally was the reason we left two euro beers. Not without stealing a glass or three of course.
I also went to my first market with Kaari the other day. There is a market every Friday here in Amstelveen, but the markets in the city are unreal and huge. It has everything you can imagine from clothes to bikes to art to scissors, everything. We spent a good two hours just going through stuff, found some awesome deals and planned our next trip to the big market. This big market only comes once a month and is supposdely a day event. We will have to bike into the city and catch a ferry to some town, but Ryan and Kaari said everything is there and everything is cheap. Its like a maximized yard sale.
Sask’s birthday was this week so we went out for drinks and dinner one night, gave her all of our gifts and had a firework of a dessert. I knew I was going to have a good time when I came over here, but I never knew how lucky I was going to be in meeting friends like Kaari, Sask and Kate. They really are a great group of girls and this friendship that we have kindled will for sure last a lifetime.
Sask’s birthday does not end this week however, and we are celebrating it (tiara and all) in a huge way at OKTOBERFEST!!! We leave this Friday for the main event and words cannot describe how excited I am for it. We were going to be camping out at the event (yikes) but through connections and abilities we were able to snag some spots at a locals house. Many stories I am sure coming yall’s way from the weekend! Prost to everyone!!!
Bet y’all didn’t see this blog coming so fast! Sadly Marion isn’t pregnant and we aren’t adopting a child, but Marion did come home with a new cat the other day. It was a surprise for all the children (myself included) and we were all so excited. Minus Demitri who composes missions in his head to kill Purk already. His mission has become a little more challenging considering he has two to tango with now. Anyways. The new cat’s name is Yip. Even though I call him Kip to piss off Boris and Noortje. Its a sibiling thing. Ryan was over when Yip came and of course when Marion took him out of the tote, he went straight for Ryan. Some weird six sense thing she has. The cat is sweet though. I am not a cat person, but do love animals, so I manage. The other thing about Kip is that he is ginormous. Like if your laying down and he jumps on your stomach, you blackout for a second ginormous. So the majority of this fat cat’s time is spent on my bedroom floor.
Purk and Yip absolutely hate each other, and I enjoy refereing the cat fights. However today, the fight did not turn out the way I would of pleased. I was cleaning up the house, thinking the cat door was locked because Yip isn’t use to the house yet and would probably run away. Well it wasn’t. I found this out by Yip fat ars being on top of the fence, which was now leaning because of the weight put upon it, and Purk staring him down. Eff was the only thing I could think. I went outside, punted Purk inside and calmly called Yip to come inside as well. He gave me the look of “really b*%#h” and jumped on the only side of the fence. After an hour of following the cat around the neighboorhood, I called the animal whisper. She surpringly had something to do this week (her boys are in town this week) and couldn’t help me. Her advice: “pick him up”. So I walked back to the house instead. I called Demitri to let him know that his mission was halfway completed, and he answered with a somber “he will come back, happened last night, dammit.” And he did. That little….
Another update is that Noortje is a little swimmer. Both Boris and Noortje started lessons this year. Boris got kicked out, surprisingly. But Noortje has done really well! She tells her parents that she wants to be a champion swimmer like Erin. I’m not a champion, but I let her believe it. Doesn’t hurt the self-esteem either. The other day, I was in the shower and Noortje came storming in with her suit still on, and showed me a little award she recieved and was screaming “my kikker diploma, i’m a champion”. I didn’t know what I was more shocked by. The fact that we were close enough she could barge in on me without knocking, or the fact that a frog is a “kicker” in Dutch. Weird. That day was filled with many phone calls to grandparents to explain the whole ordeal of her award and tons of pictures. She was so proud of herself and even slept with the award that night. Her next step is for her “flipper” diploma, once she learns how to dive.
So everything is going well here. I am so lucky that I have a family like the one I have here. We are so open with each other and comfortable around each other. Even enough to barge in on each other in the showers. I can handle it. This weekend I plan to prance around in my cowboy boots and NC State jersey due to the fact that its the kickoff game for the Pack. I am really bummed that I will not be able to watch it in person (espeically because so many of my friends are making their way down to Atlanta ), but I will do my best to represent the Wolfpack Nation and stay up till 1:30 AM my time in order to watch the game! Wish me luck!!
My last couple of weeks here have been unbelievable. The Olympics (aka my favorite time of the year 1. because they are awesome and 2. because they lead up to shark week) started, and I had a close friend who was actually participating in them. Having Lauren go to the Olympics was something that I knew would happen eventually, but the fact that she was out of the water the majority of the year and still made the team was unreal. I messaged her and Mere daily to see what new things she was getting and who she had met. I also watched daily as her twitter and instagram followers increased by the hundreds. Ridiculous.
We started the Olympics over at Kaari’s house by watching the opening ceremony and stuffing our faces. Way too typical. We tried to see if we could name someone we “knew” from each country and failed somewhere within the A’s. Ryan even stated “I know someone who is Armenian”, which Kaari sweetly answered with “no you don’t, you’re thinking of the Kardashians”. What is our world coming to? We watched all 92307548923 countries walk in just so I could try to see Lauren. I vote that we permantly change our name to plain AMERICA, so we don’t have to wait 2 hours to watch our country walk in. Just a suggestion. Once American started to walk in a told everyone to shut up (as if I could hear her voice or something) and my eyes were glued to the TV. Then all of sudden peeking over the right corner of the screen was Lauren. I screamed like a little girl, maybe some tears were shed, and realized that I HAD to go see the Perdues while they were over in London. It was a once in a lifetime chance. I hadn’t seen anyone from America, minus the Shalleys, in so long and I knew seeing them would really be special. Kaari then started to look up ways for me to get to London (travel advisor, unpaid) and found a cheap ticket to London. That’s what so awesome here in Europe. I can go from country to country cheaper than a tank of gas in American sometimes. It comes in handy at times like these. I texted Meredith to tell her my ticket had been purchased and I could feel the tears forming in my eyes. I am blessed to have such an awesome friend like her and was so excited that I was going to be able to see her and her family (minus P-Chick).
I asked my host family if it was alright that I left for London on a Thursday. They of course were so excited for me to see the Perdues so they had no problem with it. I left Amsterdam around 10:30 and got to London by train, bus, ferry and horse back by 8 in the morning on Friday. The transportation was not first class but it was manageable. That was until the men infront of me decided to lean their chairs all the way back basically laying on me. Rudeness to the extreme. I may or may not of slammed my arms, knees, legs or whatever body part I could move against the back of their chairs multiple times. It seemed like I had the right to do so. Mere had told me where they were staying, and had kindly invited me to stay with them, so I made my way to her metro stop. Or in London terms, the tube. I made it to the stop and met Mere.
Words cannot describe how so excited I was to see her and know that I was able to hang out with her and her family for a good weekend. Lauren was being held in captivity with her gold medal so I wasnt able to see her till later in the day. Meredith took me to go see the tower castle and bridge with Olympic rings and waited for her parents and Lauren to meet us. We all got lunch at this adorable pub, Dr. Phil leading the way and holding a fast pace obviously. From there we said bye to Lauren, and Mere and I went to heaven in the form of a store. Harrods. I had a stomach ache walking through some of the stores. I mean all of the stores. However, Meredith spotted a little outfit for her dog Lucy and needed some approval on her purchase. The pirate dog outfit what purchased. Sadly no Jack sizes.
The next day we went meandered around London and got Lauren’s stuff out of the village because she was staying over in the flat. Dr. Phil had left earlier that morning and took the medal back with him. He got stopped by security because the amount of metal within it could be highly explosive with certain liquids. I wish I could of seen how impatient he was while security went through all of his bags. But thankfully, the medal made it back to America. We went shopping throughout London, met some of Lauren’s teammates and tried to get her ring tattoo which was sadly unsuccessful. Honestly my favorite part of the trip was going back to the flat with Lauren and Meredith to start getting ready. We laughed and joked and smiled more than I have in a long time and it’s those times that I know I will cherish in my heart forever. . It was perfect. We got ready and headed to a pub where the flat owner was patiently waiting to meet Lauren. We sat with him and his friends for a good while, had a champagne toast to our gold medalist, drank a view more and headed out for the night.
Well, almost headed out for the night. Until Lauren’s manager called her to inform her she left her passport at the check-in at the village and it would be awfully challenging to get to Paris the next day without it. Long story short, we got a cab, got the passport and had a good night. We went to a place called ChinaWhite were the drinks were more expensive then the cab ride over. Thankfully we met up with old friends, Dr. Jeff and Sid Cassidy from NC State who were more than happy to help us with the dilemma. The night ended with a bus ride home? Thank God Meredith has directional sense like no other and we made it safely back to the flat. The next morning I had to say good bye to the Perdue girls as they headed off to Paris. I walked around for a few hours and finally headed to the train station to go back to Amsterdam. I slept the entire way back which was awesome and no one was in front of me this time meaning no rude players could lean their chairs back. Thankfully.
After I got home from London, I had two days by myself in the house. My family left the Friday I was in London to go on their family vacation in Italy for about two weeks. Even though I didn’t have them to hang out with, I of course had Ryan. Ryan had told me earlier in the week that she found out that she was moving back home a lot earlier than we expected. She will be leaving the first of October rather than the 20th of December with me. I felt upset and mad at the same time but seeing how upset she was and torn up about the whole situation I decided to try and help her out rather than add fuel to the fire. On the lighter note, because her family is moving so quickly back to the states Ryan has had to do slim to nothing for the past month, and will have to do slim to nothing for the next month. Due to her kids already starting school in America, they aren’t in Holland and the mom is obviously with the children. Therefore, it is the dad and Ryan in the house. AKA Ryan does nothing. Which is awesome for me because we are on the same schedule, because she doesn’t have one.
In the next couple of days my mom, DB and Em were coming to visit! I was so excited to see them, but told myself that I would not do the embarrassing cry that Ryan did when she saw her family. Fail to the max. I couldn’t help it when I saw my mom or when Em grabbed me and hugged me so hard I couldn’t breathe. Tears were shed but only happy tears. As y’all might remember my first four days here were spent in my bed. If you fall asleep before nighttime on the day of your landing in a new country, its game over. So the game plan for the first day was to try and get the family to stay up till nighttime. We decided to show them around Amstelveen, go to the grocery store, show them Ryan’s house and do little things are the town. We cooked dinner that night, Em fell in love with Purk the cat, and mom found a complete hatred for him because he slept on her suitcase. We all went to bed pretty early that night because we had a huge day in front of us tomorrow. My bed is only a twin size bed, but being that Emily and I don’t sleep apart when we are together, I dragged Boris’s bed in my room and Em slept on his farm-themed bed. She loved it. I loved it.
The next day we BIKED to the market in Amstelveen. It is only a 8 minute bike ride, if that, but the fact that I got to see Michelle on a bike was awesome. Sadly she was kinda good at it, so I have no good stories.
The market comes to the town every Friday and its huge, filled with so many different stands of fish, meat, clothes, purses, cookies, jewelry etc. etc. etc. but most importantly to Momma, CHEESE. We spent a good three hours within the market, one of those being at cheese stands, and got all the supplies needed for dinner. We then biked back to the house, grabbed something quick to eat, and went to the bus stop to go into the city.
We went through the entire city making stops at cheese shops (of course), the flower market, Van Gough museum (Em’s fav), the Iamsterdam sign, shops, and so on. They took in the city, the row houses, the canals like I did the first time I saw it. Well maybe not the first time I saw it because I was so grumpy, but the first time I APPRECIATED it. We ended our tour with a canal cruise. This was pretty cool because I had not been on the water yet. It was cool to see the city through a whole different view and you could see the entire structure of the row houses along with the city. Also being on water is one of my favorite things, along with my entire family. After the cruise we made our way back home and started cooking dinner. Kate, Kaari, Sask and Ryan were all coming over for dinner to meet my family. We had a good time, talked about our families enjoyed bottles(sssssss) of wine and debated on going out or not. I told Em I would do whatever she wanted to do, but was secretly in my head praying that she was too tired, because I was too tired. She was tired at the beginning of the night, but some how rallied. Damn to be 17 again. We ended up going out into the city our normal way, biking. However, Em’s knees couldn’t handle the biking so Kaari and I both dinged her into the city. It was my first time dinging someone for a long period of time and honestly, I don’t like it. It’s hard. We made it into the city, had one beer and left. Kidding. We made it into the city, Emily figured out why we love it so much, and left around 4:30. Thankfully Emily and I got home around 5, and only had to wake up at 6:30. We went to bed, Em slept on her bagel I made her, and we got a good 45 minutes of sleep.
The next GLORIOUS morning, we packed up our bags (somehow) and made our way to Paris! We were only going to be in Paris for two days and three nights, and had absolutely nothing planned. It was somewhat nice because the days in Amsterdam I had structured hour by hour. Am I Michelle’s daughter or what? Our days in Paris were spent eating a lot of food, smelling a lot of scents, visiting the “got to see places” (the Lourve= Em’s fav) and laughing at Emily’s stupid comments such as “Is that the real Mona Lisa”. The Lourve was a really cool place and I loved the architecture there, but hated the glass pyramid. It was a little too much art for Emily and I, and sometimes Momma, so the majority of our time was spent trying to find AC vents and taking inappropriate pictures.
My favorite, and I think the entire family’s favorite, was Notre Dame. We saw the outside of the cathedral, thought that was going to be the end of it, but Momma decided she wanted to go in. Em and I looked at the line to see it appeared to be a 2 hour wait, but mom insisted that we had to see it and the line was moving fast. Thankfully she was right. We got into the Cathedral within 10 minutes and it was worth every moment of waiting. Words cannot describe how beautiful it was. Everything had so much detail and was so beautiful. It was literally unreal.
We ended our trip in Paris with watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in French. It was pretty awful to listen to, and even more awful when we noticed that Elton John wasn’t going to perform. I think we all still have a little anger in this. We left Paris in a run to make it to our train and spent the next two hours laughing with each other about things that I can’t even remember what they were. I always have the best times with my mom and my sister and the memories that I created with them, and DB, throughout this trip will be irreplaceable.
We got home to the house a little later that night, noticed Ryan had gotten into the cheese momma wanted for dinner, and called it a early night. The next day I took them into the city again were we saw the Red Light District (another one of Em’s favs) and went into the Anne Frank House. We piddled throughout the city, went home and made our way back out again to the best resturarunt in the world, “I have no idea how to spell/say it”. But its the restuarant we went to for Ryan’s birthday. We ate awesome food, Em questioned everything on her plate (minus desert) and spent hours chatting away. That night I helped everyone pack up their things (along with some of Ryan’s and my stuff) and started growing the pit in my stomach. The next day Ryan drove us to the airport and we said our goodbyes. Everyone did an okay job at holding their tears in. I hugged Em at least 5 times and my mom about 6 and they were off to the motherland. I made it all the way home until I started balling crying in Boris’s farm-themed bed that was still right next to mine.
It was such a good experience to have some of my family come and visit me. I don’t know if it was more of a good thing or more of a bad thing however because I miss them, and everyone else at home, so much more now! However, I am still loving it in Amsterdam and when my family came back from Italy, Boris and Noortje came up and hugged me and said how much they missed me. It helped out a lot.
So now I am back on schedule with the kids and the family and things are feeling back to normal. The other girls and I actually made our ways to the “beach” here in Holland. We actually didn’t go to the shore, but rather to this man-made lake type of deal. It was sunny, it had sand and water, so I was more than happy.
I told myself I am going to write in this thing more often because these hour long posts are a little unreal. I will work on it! Hope you are all doing well, enjoying your first few days of classes, enjoying work, and enjoying not being an aupair working in Amsterdam. Haha SUCKERS
Okay so maybe Ireland isn’t necessarily ”home”, but considering how amazing it felt being there and the fact I cried when my plane touched down in the country, it felt like home. This was my first time traveling out of Holland, and I did it alone. We are so limited in funds and try to spend the least amount of money when traveling therefore, it isn’t as easy as getting on a plane and landing in Dublin. Because Kaari is an expert at finding the best deals (Ryan and I wouldn’t be going ANYWHERE if it wasn’t for her) we are able to get to Ireland at a ridiculous cheap rate. The way I got to Ireland was by a bus to central station in Amsterdam, a hour ride bus ride to Eindohoven airport and a flight into Dublin. The flight I took was the cheapest of cheap flights, so I was worried about the size of the plane because I hate flying. Also I was worried about my luggage because we all decided to do carry-ons and carry-ons here are weighed. It is something like 18 pounds the bag can weigh, and my carry-ons are usually around 42. There is only one bag allowed as well. You can’t have a purse or a pillow or a camera case. Just one bag. Also the bag must fit into an iron basket thing to prove that the dimensions are the correct demissions required by the airline. However, there is a “known” European bag that all airport know as a sufficient carry-on and are usually bypassed when asked to be weighed or to be placed in the iron basket thing. Thankfully Marion had this bag and let me use it.
Getting to the airport though was the first on my to-do list. I had to catch the bus at central at 12:45 and the bus to central is about a 40 minute ride. I did my usual morning routine of picking up the house, going for my run, showering and what not and decided to re-check my ticket to see if I was on pace to get to my bus on time. Looked at my ticket and my heart sunk seeing that my bus for the airport left at 12:15. I ran to the bus stop, which is thankfully is feet away from my house, got on the bus and started to panic. I guess the bus driver could tell I was freaking a little and asked where I was headed to. Once I told him where I was going and at what time I needed to be there (which was about 10 minutes away, and we had at least 20 minutes more of bus riding) I saw his eyes say “lady is crazy”. However, it must of been the twinkle in my eye or the tear running down from it, that made the bus driver skip about four stops to get me to my next bus on time. It did frustrate some people, but nevertheless I got there on time. There are good people still in the world.
Once I got to my next bus, I noticed I was the only one on it. A huge bus that was all to myself. After an awkward five minutes of driving the lady driver asked if she could put some music on. I said yes of course, and Fleetwood Mac started blaring out of the speakers. I moved up a couple of seats. I finally got to the airport where I met my worst enemy thus far in Europe. The baggage scale. My bag was over by about 8 kilos so I had to take out a couple of jackets, scarves and whatever else I could pile on myself to allow my baggage to weigh the allowed amount. Once the weight of my bag was okay, I could go through security and put everything back in my bag. I find it stupid, but whatever, I got on the plane with all of my belongings. On the plane I sat beside this sweet Irish couple who were returning home, and graciously bought me a welcome gift of two glasses of wine. This, I believe, is where my love of Ireland began.
I landed in Ireland and went off to try to meet Ryan and Kaari. I knew how to get to my bus stop, but once getting off the bus stop I didn’t know where my hotel was or if I was even close to it. Therefore, I proclaimed myself lost. Once, I got off the bus I decided to grab a sandwich from a store where I heard my name being called from Kaari and Ryan. Somehow Kaari’s mom eyes saw me on the bus and chased it down to where I was. And of course, Ryan saw that there was a subway near, and found me at the register. I can’t resist. We went to the hotel which was a little nook in the wall of buildings. It was nothing luxurious, but it had a door, lock, two beds, bathroom and complimentary shampoo. Pretty nice for us poor aupairs. Before we made it into our room, I was already dying laughing. The door knob to our room hit us right about in the mid-thigh. Leprechauns do exists, at least in Ireland.
Our first night was started with a couple of drinks in the room and heading out to the “temple” portion of Dublin. We were greeted into the temple part of Dublin to live music in the streets and my heart stopped when I heard a familiar tune from one of my favorite movies Titanic. We stopped and watched the street band perform until the song was over and moved along. From there we made our way from bar to bar and ended up at the legendary Temple Bar. Ryan and I both squealed of excitement once we saw that they had the King of Beers on tap. However, we were only able to enjoy one Bud each due to its price, but the one beer was well worth it.
The next day we meandered around the town of Dublin. We first stopped in the restaurant/pub that was connected to our hotel. The pub was such a cool looking place that reminded me of the bar from “PS I love you”. Not because of it being based out of Ireland but because of the home-feeling it had and the coziness feeling of home.
The food was amazing, but the staff was even better. Everyone in Ireland is so nice and treated you like family. They are always up for a conversation, make you laugh and of course are always down for a cold beer. We decided that we would only eat at this place, and before we went out at night we would go down the pub to have a beer and see our new friends. That day, we saw the majority of the town and all of the important buildings along with the well-known array of Dublin Doors. We stopped in a huge park called Marion Square to see that street performers were performing in what seemed to be some sort of carnival. We stopped and watch some performances such as a guy who juggled swords on a roller thing and a guy who played the piano with bouncy balls. https://vimeo.com/46584464 (I’m really good at holding a camera) I also got my face painted because for some reason I cannot pass up a face paint. After the park we finished our self-tour of Dublin with St. Patrick’s cathedral. The Catholic Churches here are all so big and detailed and gorgeous. We stood staring at the Church for a good amount of time and decided it was time to celebrate our Irish heritage with a cold one.
We headed to a pub where live music was being played, of course. Everywhere you go in Ireland some music is being played. It was awesome. The cool thing about the pub we went to was that the older musicians have never met each other before. They just came to the pub, and started playing with each other.
Ireland is such a cool place. Once we left the pub we shopped a little for ourselves and for our families. I knew that I was going to drop some money because I wanted so many things and because I knew that everything I saw I would want to get for someone in my huge Irish Catholic family. Well I wasn’t wrong. And because of my extreme shopping I got a free CD. Which I just noticed I have yet to listen to, but is entitled, Irish Pub Tunes. Consider me in. We headed for home, got dinner at our hotel pub, got ready for the night and went back down to the pub for more live music. Live music is awesome all together, but the music that Irish bands played was right up my alley. Lots of rock and classic songs that everyone had no shame in singing along to. That night we bounced from bar to bar but ended up again at Temple Bar. I am not sure how it happened, but Ryan and I ended up meeting our long lost cousin there. She is not a true cousin, but we claim her to be. Again, another sweet to the core girl who gave us her number, told us places to go and wanted to stay in contact even after we left the country. She even offered a place for Ryan and I to stay the next time we come to Ireland. We won’t forget that.
The beautiful sound of a five am alarm clock woke us up the next day. It was tough getting up, but knowing where we were going got us out of bed. Kaari bought tickets for us to go on a bus tour all around Ireland. Again, Ryan and I would go no where without this girl. We traveled over 500 kilometers and saw the majority of the country. The tour guide was such an intelligent man full of knowledge of his country. He knew everything, everyone, dates, numbers and was absolutely entertaining. We would travel from place to place and get off the bus to take pictures. We saw castles, countrysides, old cottages, abandoned forts and other important artifacts. However, the prettiest thing we saw, and by far my favorite place in the world now, were the Cliffs of Moher. Once traveled up the narrow country side roads, you could start to see peeks of the Atlantic Ocean. During the ride once I started to see these glimpses of the ocean the Titanic theme song started playing through my head, because I am in love with the movie Titanic and because that is how pretty the view was. It needed its own soundtrack. Once we got to the Cliffs, we started our climb to the top. It was such a pretty journey up the cliff that you didn’t even mind the walk. Plus the harp playing of some lady made it more enjoyable. Once to the top we took pictures, and gazed out into pure amazement. We started our way down one side and started up the other. We did the same things on the other side, but noticed that people were climbing over certain part of the barrier in order to get to the cliff without any protection from falling over. Coincidental a memorial for “all the brothers and sisters who lost their lives on cliffs” was right before this opening of the fence. So of course, Ryan, Kaari and I went to unprotected portion of the cliffs to get better pictures. I felt safe at my distance away from the edge, but had to leave once I saw a girl walking in wedges, a little kid trip, and when a guy wearing a slippery windbreaker had half of his body hanging over the edge. I was not going to see someone fall off and ruin my perfect interpretation and picture of this place. We ended the 13 hour tour with a dinner at our pub and our last night in the town filled with live music and happy faces. The next morning was another early morning but we got home safely and to our beds.
Ireland is one of the best places on earth and by far one of my favorite places by far. I hope to go back someday and hopefully be able to stay for a longer time in order to really take in all of its beauty. It was a great first trip to take and I cannot wait for my next trip, which will be to London to see my Perdue family!! Being able to give them each a big hug and see a piece of home is something that is needed tremendously. As if the week couldn’t get any better, DB, Momma and Emily are coming into town as well! I have so many exciting things planned for them and the thought of actually seeing them so soon makes me smile so big. I miss my family so much and can feel tears forming by just thinking about their arrival! Many more memories to make with the people I love!