Next stop/ prochain arrêt/ volgende halte/ nächster Halt Amsterdam and Brussels!
Brussels has 3 official languages; French, Dutch and German. At the main station we needed some directions so I went into the closest magazine store at the central train station and asked the lady if she spoke English. I naively thought she would, but alas I was out of luck there. Surprisingly though, we were able to have a conversation in Spanish. Who would have thought.
They speak different languages in different parts of Belgium, but most people know at least two plus English and maybe Spanish. It just blows my mind that people naturally grow up being exposed to and learning so many different languages that it is very rare for someone not to be multilingual. Especially when in New Zealand many people only speak English, and apparently, not very well.
I thought that only having a few hours in Brussels was not going to be enough time to see and do everything and feel the city. Maybe it was because I could feel myself getting the early signs of a massive fever, or the dismal weather, but 1 day in Brussels was more than enough for me.
The waffels = delicious.
The chocolate = even better.
The delirium beer bar = we needed more.
Other than that, I can’t say t much about the city. We were very unprepared and didn’t really plan on how to spend our time wisely which was certainly a mistake given the short time period. But I am usually very content with wandering around to get a feel of the city, but not this time. I’m sure if I maybe had a local to show me around I could definitely get more from the “capital of the European Union.”
Friday night we took a train from Brussels to the Hague! Three countries all in one day, talk about time efficient traveling. Nearly a two hour rather inexpensive train ride with the conductor reciting his speech in 4 different languages at each stop, we were greeted by a very kind friend of a friend who had agreed to host 5 wide eyed excited exchange students for the weekend. THANK YOU!
Hostels are great but there is just something about walking into the front door of a real homely home in the quaint little streets of the Hague. He took us out for Japanese dinner and I was one of the only ones that could actually handle the spice. The others without such a pallet for spice were drowning the poor noodles in soy sauce until they were swimming. He even gave us transport cards to use on the trams and busses. This made life so much easier!
After a slightly restless sleep and a fever well above what it should have been I was ready to take on Amsterdam!
I loved Amsterdam. I would go back there in a heart beat. The ladies on their bicycles wizzing past and looking oh so chic. Strolling along the long canals along side tall colourful houses and rocky little house boats.
We did several touristy things there and it was great.
1. The Heineken Museum: I really appreciated that the brand has been kept in the family for so many generations. Two beers and an extra beer for tasting were included in the museum ticket. It was actually a very interesting and interactive museum which was a nice change.
2. Anne Frank House: Very very long lines, and we all know why. A historic monument in the middle of the city is definitely worth a visit. Maybe get there as soon as it opens to avoid wasting time in line for an hour or so.
3. Canal cruise: Our little group had the boat to ourselves but it was a rather big boat for very few people. I was a fun and different way to see a lot of the city at once, but I think I would have liked a smaller boat where the driver.guide could have been more interactive instead of just listening to headphones.
4. The Iamsterdam sign: Classic, but you have to be pretty pushy to get a good photo, and you most likely will have some stranger posing next to you for a different camera.
5. Red Light District: We kind of just stumbled into this part on the last night and you’ve got to go. It is just ridiculous! Mostly tourists in the area but I don’t think I’ll see a scene like what I saw there again. Some creepy guys were hanging around and making stupid comments so I was glad to be there in a group and with a guy.
6. And of course, a “cafe”: Mellow yellow was our first one we tried, sharing a space cake that was ridiculously strong and delicious at the same time, and also some unground buds of weed. There was an actual menu with different types and everything! Having no idea what to get we randomly picked one, went into the smoky dungeons only soon to realise none of us knew what the hell we were doing. We got there in the end 😉
The general feel of Amsterdam was definitely my cup of tea, Brussles not so much.
All in all though, a amazing trip with wonderful company!