Reading Week Road-trip

This is a post that I have been looking forward to writing for a while but between travelling, school and family visiting I’ve put it off until I could really take my time writing it (yes, that means it’s going to be long). I finally get to write about visiting one of my favourite places in the world with one of my favourite people in the world! In October, Xavier (my wonderful boyfriend, for anyone who doesn’t already know) came over to visit me on his University reading week and after spending a few days in Rotterdam, we set out on a road trip to France. I never thought that I would have someone that would want to come back to Normandy with me, let alone be more excited about it than I was. After a very, very long planning process, we managed to make an itinerary which squeezed in as many possible historical sites as we could in out short time on the French coast before heading off to be tourists in Paris. Xavier arrived just in time to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving, in the Netherlands of course. It was great timing because it meant he could bring over pumpkin purée for me which was something that was getting me some very strange looks whenever I asked for it in the Dutch grocery stores. My roommates and I planned a big Canadian Thanksgiving dinner for all of our exchange friends in the Cube which was quite an experience and it meant that Xavier was able to meet all of my exchange friends.

The next day, we went to pick up our rental car and start our trip. We got on the road at the nice early hour of 3pm, after buying the most important road trip snack, donuts of course. We were almost out of Rotterdam when, confession time, I realized I had forgotten my passport. After being so concerned that we had everything else, it completely slipped my mind. Not my most ‘Wanderful Student’ moment but hey, it happens to everyone. I know that Europe has open borders so they don’t check it when you cross the border into another country like they do between Canada and the US, but I thought that it really wasn’t a good idea to risk travelling without it. So, of course, we headed back to the Cube to pick it up and then, finally, we were on the road to our first destination: Dunkirk.

Xavier and I had originally planned on being on the road much earlier in the day so were going to stop in Dunkirk for lunch, before continuing onto our Airb Bnb in Dieppe. But we ended up doing dinner in Dunkirk instead. We arrived just in time to get the last of the daylight, as well as a stunning sunset over the beach. It was so surreal to be standing on what is now a beautiful public beach full of tourists and locals, with hardly any trace, apart from part of the docks, that the war effected them at all. I got to introduce him to his first French food by ordering moules frites for dinner, and they were fantastic as always. After enjoying a very peaceful walk on the beach, we got back into the car and drove to Dieppe. It ended up being a much later night than I expected and we arrived at our Air Bnb shortly after midnight, but our host was more than accommodating and left the door unlocked for us, with the keys inside the house. It was the cutest little farm house apartment that was attached to her main house. It would have been really nice to have been able to enjoy the cottage a little more but we were so exhausted by the time we got there that we fell asleep before we even had a chance to properly look around. 

It was an early morning the next day as we wanted to make the most of the day in Dieppe before leaving for Bayeux. We drove down to the coast from our little cottage, and parked up before walking down the pier to take in the sights. There’s a reason to Normandy coast is one of my favourite places in the world, it’s truly stunning. The coast is dotted with little towns and the cliffs and beaches are even more stunning. We didn’t really know what we wanted to do in Dieppe apart from see the beach where the Canadians landed during the Battle of Dieppe and visit the museums that was established in the town to commemorate this. Once we got out onto the beach we realized that there was actually a castle, so we walked through the town, towards the museum, and up to the castle. Of course, just our luck, the museum was closed so we kept walking up to the castle and stumbled across a beautiful memorial garden to the Canadians who lost their lives in Dieppe. One of the intriguing things about the Norman coast is that you can drive (or walk) around for hours and stumble across any number of monuments, or cemeteries which don’t even appear on the ‘tourist’ maps. Each of them tells a unique story and while they are quite harrowing, I like to think that by paying my respects at each and everyone of them that I am helping to keep that history alive. the garden had been done beautifully and had quite a few wreaths laid out as well. It was right at the base of Dieppe Castle, over looking the beach where the soldiers landed. We had to climb up quite a steep path to get to the castle, only to find that it had been turned into an art museum (thankfully our student cards got us in for free). While neither of us are particularly artsy people, we walked around anyway to see the features of the old castle and, though I hate to admit it, quite enjoyed the artwork inside it. We really enjoyed our time in Dieppe but all in all, there wasn’t a whole lot to do once you walked along the beaches and did the castle. It was the perfect place to stop on the way to somewhere else, but I didn’t think it warranted longer than a day.

Château de Dieppe – Dieppe

We had a few more hours to drive to Bayeux after we left, and we made it quite late in the evening (yet again). We checked into the most stunning apartment in the old town, where you could see the bells and the church steeple rising up above the neighbouring houses. We were using Bayeux as our ‘home base’ for two days to drive out to all the landing beaches. We were determined to do all five (Utah, Omaha, Juno, Sword and Gold) as well as Point du Hoc and Pegasus Bridge. Admittedly it was quite an ambitious itinerary for the amount of time we had there, but somehow we made it work and visited everywhere we wanted to visit PLUS Beny-Sur-Mer the Juno Beach (Canadian) War Cemetery. As I mentioned before, I have already written about Normandy so I won’t go into too much detail about each of the beaches because if I did, this post would really never end. It was really nice to be able to take someone else who has such a passion for history to all these places and to share the beauty of the region, and not just the history of conflict. 

This time, we did a few things that I didn’t do during my last trip. Mainly swimming in the English Channel and horseback riding on Sword Beach. We really lucked out with the weather and even though it was October, it was very warm and sunny the whole time (global warming for you I guess), so of course we went swimming…in our clothes. We were on our final beach before setting off to Paris and had talked about swimming but left out bathing suits in the car, but that wasn’t going to stop us. Yes, the water was freezing, if you’re wondering but we didn’t care. Our riding was equally as amazing. I found a place which would take us down for a ride on one of the beaches but it worked out so much better than I ever could have imagines. After running disastrously late, we arrived at the the riding stable to find that we actually needed to go to their beach front location, something they had neglected to tell us. Luckily, they held the ride for us until we got there. We parked, mounted up and within 5 minutes had set off on the ride with a group of other tourists. Generally on hacks with multiple riding abilities, you go at the pace of the least experienced rider but since they knew the two of us were quite experienced, they broke us off from the rest of the group to go for a gallop. So yeah, we got to go galloping on Sword Beach. I never thought that would be something I could say I did! 

Our drive to Paris was pretty painless (I say ‘our’ but I did none of the driving, oops!) as we managed to avoid the craziness of downtown Paris. In all fairness, the outskirts of the city are bad enough to drive but we arrived quite late so we missed rush hour and the roads weren’t very busy. We checked into another apartment between downtown Paris and Disneyland. It was the perfect location because we actually had somewhere to park the car, we were right by the RER station and it was only 30 minutes on the RER (train) to get into the centre of Paris. Now, this might be an unpopular opinion but I am not a massive fan of Paris. I have nothing against Paris specifically but I really just don’t like cities. I also feel like once you’ve done all the touristy stuff the novelty wears off a little bit and there are SO many tourists and the city is always packed. I do, however, always love an opportunity to work on my French and I mean come on, it’s Paris with my boyfriend, I really can’t complain about that.

We had very ambitious plans for our first day but we were so exhausted from how much we did in Normandy that we ended up just relaxing and watching movies for the first half of the day. When we finally made it out of the house, we wanted to do the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumph. The Arc the Triumph was stunning and even though I’d visited Paris twice before that, I had never been up it. It’s really cool because all the streets just spread out like a sun with the Arc at the very centre. Once we did that we hopped on the metro to the Eiffel Tower and arrived just after sunset. We, quite contently, waited in line for a good thirty minutes before we realized that they won’t actually let you take the stairs after sunset, DUH! I feel like part of the experience is actually climbing it so we decided to come back the next day and walk up it. Instead, we found a carousel right under the Eiffel Tower which was just too cute not to go on. Overall we didn’t do much tourism on our first day but just walking around and seeing the city was nice enough, and we headed back to the apartment. 

Day Two in Paris, we did a MUCH better job of being tourists. We started off with the Eiffel Tower: attempt two. We still didn’t make it up (don’t worry there is a happy ending) because we booked into a wine tasting and it would’ve been too much of a rush to try and walk up the Tower and then rush all the way across the city to the wine tasting. Instead, we went to Notre Dame Cathedral and walked to the wine tasting from there. The wine tasting was very close to the Louvre because it was actually where the wine used to be kept for the Royal Palace, when the Louvre was the Palace. They used to role the barrels of wine through the tunnels and into the Palace hundreds of years ago. The whole experience was just really pleasant. The guide took us through a few different tastings and explained how the different wine regions in France work. At the end of the tour you had the option to buy some of the wines that you tasted so we bought the most beautiful bottle of red wine (thanks Mum!). After the tasting, we went to the Louvre and, just our luck, it had literally just closed. Instead, we went up to Sacré Coeur with our wine to watch the sunset over the city. It really is beautiful up there and there is always live music and just a buzz of young people hanging around. There was one busker who was singing at the bottom of the steps who let Xav get up and sing which was AMAZING and just a once in a life time thing to say you’ve done.

On our next day in Paris we went to Versailles, I finally made it! It really was absolutely stunning. Luckily we booked our tickets ahead of time which meant we could skip the line to get into the palace quickly. It really is the most beautiful palace I’ve ever seen. The tour of the palace takes just as long as they say (an hour and a half) partially because of the tourists but mainly because of the sheer size of the palace. Every part of it was so eccentrically lavish and really was what you would picture a King living in. The gardens are just stunning and they had the ‘musical fountain shows’ while we were there as well which was lovely (but they don’t let you sit on the grass by the fountains to watch?). We ran out of time to go to the house of Marie Antoinette which on on the very opposite side of the garden from the palace. Though this wasn’t for lack of trying. We decided to jog there, got halfway and realized we just wouldn’t make it before we had to leave, so we decided to stop, get an ice-cream and walk back to the car. We both would have loved to spend more time in Versailles but we had to drive back to our apartment to get ready for our evening at Moulin Rouge.

The Hall of Mirrors – Palais de Versailles

Moulin Rouge wasn’t cheap, but honestly we both LOVED it. It was one of those experiences where I’m going to look back 50 years from now and still be telling people about it. The show was absolutely fantastic and it really was magical. It had it all, dancing, singing, ponies and my personal favourite; a woman swimming in a tank of real snakes. Apart from the show, the entire atmosphere was just buzzing. When you arrive, you’re shown to your seats which are these classy little individual tables where they serve you your champagne. Since there was only two of us, we had to share the table with another couple but we were so enthralled with the show that none of us minded. Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures of the night since we couldn’t take pictures during the show. I can truly only speak highly of the show. Sure, it might be touristy and some might think it’s tacky but I genuinely enjoyed that night so much and it was well worth the money in my view.

Moulin Rouge – Paris

On our last day in Paris, we FINALLY made it up the Eiffel Tower. It was the first time that we were able to walk up to the top and had time to do it properly and it was amazing. I’ve done the Eiffel Tower before but it was so nice to watch someone else experience it for the first time. Then we had probably the quickest trip to the Louvre in history. Neither of us are particularly arty people and while we can both appreciate nice artwork, we had to make a decision on if it was worth it to push through all the tourists at the Louvre to see some of the most famous works. We decided that Xav probably wouldn’t be back in Paris for a while so we should do it while we could. We were in, out and had seen the Mona Lisa in 20 minutes. I have to say, we were quite impressed with ourselves. We saw a few other pieces and left feeling quite happy that we’d seen all we needed to see. One of the reasons for the rush was that we had to drive to Luxembourg to get to another Airbnb that night, and we didn’t want to be leaving too late.

We checked into probably the coolest apartment I have ever seen, just outside Luxembourg City and just had a relaxing night it, cooked for ourselves and then slept in the next day. One of the reasons that we went to Luxembourg was that it split up drive back to Rotterdam nicely. On our way home the next day, we stopped into the city which was lovely. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, well we really didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t that. It was pretty tiny, especially compared to where we had been before. But it was really nice and there were a few older parts of the city that we really enjoyed. We grabbed coffees and just walked around for a while before heading back to the car and back to Rotterdam.

We had such a wonderful time on our road trip and saw some really incredible places. France is such an easy place to drive around and we were so thankful that we had a car for while we were down in Normandy. It’s one of those places where you really do need a car to get everywhere you want to go. This was definitely one of those trips I’m going to be looking back on for the rest of my life.

A Week in Croatia

I am incredibly excited to write this blog post because I think Croatia has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I travelled to Croatia with my friend Bay at the end of August for 7 days and we had the most amazing time together. Just for some background, Bay and I took an outdoor education class together and are both very adventurous and you know, if we can live in a snow shelter for a night in Northern Canada, we can definitely get through a trip to Croatia together.

Since Bay was visiting her Dutch family before our trip, she stayed over at my cube the night before our flight left. We had a lovely 5:30am start time the next day and despite our train to Amsterdam being cancelled, we made it to the airport. We flew with EastJet who have really good deals on flights throughout Europe. The flight was short and we both managed to sleep the entire time. The minute we landed and the plane doors opened, we could feel the humidity. We flew into Dubrovnik airport which was just outside the city, but a few different companies run coach busses into the downtown area. We were dropped off at the main bus depot and took a taxi to our hostel. I honestly cannot recommend our hostel, Villa Divine, enough. The staff were so sweet and the rooms were stunning, plus they did free drinks every night which is always appreciated. We stayed outside of the old town, which is what we wanted since the hostels in the actual old town cost WAY too much and anything much closer than where we stayed was just as expensive as the old town. The location was great because there was a direct bus route which took us down to the old town whenever we wanted to go, though we never did find the correct bus stop, instead, we walked to the second stop on the route.

Our first day, we went to the old town to see what there was to see and what types of tours we wanted to do while we were in Dubrovnik. If we had more time there I would have loved to visit the National Parks because they have the most fantastic lakes, but it was too far from where we were so we decided to settle on doing tours in Dubrovnik and Split. The old town was everything I could have hoped for and more. There were old cobblestone streets, churches and marble buildings and columns which, if you tried to block out the hordes of tourists, made you feel like you had stepped back in time. Fun fact, quite a few scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in old town Dubrovnik which is one of the reasons why it is so popular with tourists now. Luckily the receptionist at our hostel warned us not to eat on the main streets of the town because the restaurants there would be so much more expensive than eating on the side streets. Personally, I think that the restaurants and little shops on the side streets were much nicer and they were FAR less crowded than the main strip. After walking around the entire town, we decided that we would book a kayaking trip for the following day. Then we left to go back to our hostel so that we could go for a sunset swim at one of the beaches near the hostel.

The next day we were up bright and early to start our kayaking trip at 9am. We cut it VERY close because the bus took much longer to get there than we thought, but we managed to get there in time anyway. Bay and I got a two-person kayak and distributed our things between our waterproof barrels before setting off to the first stop of the tour, a little enclave in the cliffs. It was absolutely stunning and since our tour was the earliest group to leave, we were the only ones there for at least 30 minutes before other groups started to arrive. They supplied us with snacks, water and snorkels but, since I have an abnormally small head for an adult (seriously, I wear a child’s XS helmet for go-karting), the snorkel didn’t fit my head properly. We ended up seeing that there was a place that we could go cliff jumping which was something we both REALLY wanted to do. We had seen people cliff jumping in the old town the day before and thought, if we found a smaller jump, that we both really wanted to say that we went cliff jumping in Croatia. Anyway, this was the perfect opportunity so we both climbed on up and WOW was it ever high when I got up there. After a very long internal pep talk, I finally jumped and let’s just say it could have looked much nicer. Despite the bruise on the backs on my legs from where I smacked into the water, I can say that I went cliff jumping in Croatia and it was so worth it. The rest of the kayaking tour was amazing as well. We were supposed to paddle all the way around the island called Lokum, which is said to be haunted. Our guide told us the local legend that if you go ashore and fall asleep, you will die. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see all the way around the island because the current was too strong for most of the group to paddle all the way around. Instead, we went around the water just outside of the city and the walls, which was still very beautiful. After the tour was done, we had lunch in the old town before heading outside the walls to swim and tan overlooking the water. That evening we decided to have a night out in the old town and went to a really fun club with a couple of the people who were staying at the same hostel. I think the best part of the night out was being able to walk around the old town without there being any tourists there. I mean it was almost completely deserted by the time we left and there were lights which illuminated all the buildings.

In the morning we were up bright and early, yet again, to make our way to Split. We decided that we were going to take the ferry but once we arrived we found that all the tickets were sold, so bus it was. The reason we were hesitant to take the bus was that you have to cross over the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina before crossing back over into Croatia, so if there is a delay at the passport check you can get stuck there for hours. Luckily, we were through very quickly and made it to Split at the perfect time to check into our Airbnb. Bay and I were both absolutely exhausted from all the early mornings and the heat so we decided to have a relaxing afternoon in at the apartment, before going to buy groceries and explore the waterfront of Split at sunset. We went to Diocletian’s Palace which was lit up with lights, full of live music and bustling with tourists. It was absolutely incredible to see something so old still so full of life. We walked around for a little while before heading back to the Airbnb, having decided on the plan for our next two days in Split.

We decided we wanted our first full day in Split to be a beach day. Bay and I went down to the beach and rented chairs and lockers so that we could leave all of our stuff somewhere safe while we went swimming or went and got food. It was really nice to have one day where we could just relax, and not rush around trying to see everything. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and, since we rented chairs away from the main beach, we were able to get away from all the noise. We stayed on the beach all day before leaving to try and find a better place to watch the sunset from. We didn’t find one, so we just sat on the side of a pier drinking Croatian beer (since it’s totally legal to drink in public there).

On the 31st of September, Bay and I had booked a boat cruise around a few of the islands off the coast of Split. It was absolutely stunning. The water was perfectly clear and was the most fantastic shade of blue. There were quite a few different stops on the tour and it also included a complimentary ‘traditional’ lunch on one of the islands and free drinks on the boat. It was quite a lot of money, but in my opinion was worth it. It was tough to decide which boat tour to do since they all seemed to do the same route and were all roughly the same price, but we were happy with the one we chose. The main reason we chose our boat was that they had an inflatable water slide!! It was massive and unrolled from the top of the second deck on one of our longer stops between islands. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea what islands we visited but they were very tiny and quaint. It was a really nice way to spend the day, with more than enough time for swimming in the beautiful water.

On our last full day in Split, we had both seen everything that we wanted to see except for Marjan Hill. We had a relaxing start to the morning and then just walked around the downtown and Diocletian’s Palace again. A few hours before sunset we decided that we would walk up to the top of Marjan Hill with our books and sit there until the sunset. Our plan was great BUT then it started to cloud over and look like rain. The hike up to the top of the hill was really easy, mainly paved the entire way to make it easier for tourists to get up. We had the most fantastic view looking out over all of the city and it was so nice to sit up there with our books, the breeze blowing. After the weather started to change, we walked back down halfway to where there was a nice little cafe which still overlooked the cafe. We sat there until the sunset and even though we didn’t get to watch the actual sunset, it was so beautiful to watch the darkness fall on the city and all the red-roofed buildings start to light up. I think it was the perfect way to end the trip and Bay and I ended up spending quite a few hours sitting at this little cafe before heading back to our apartment to pack for our journey back to Amsterdam the next day.

View of Split from the top of Marjan Hill

We took another bus to the airport the following day, heading back to Amsterdam with EasyJet. I really, really enjoyed my time in Croatia and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Dubrovnik’s old town is a must see place but it is EXTREMELY touristy. I mean seriously, when Bay and I were there you could hardly stick your elbows out there were so many tourists there. I would say it is still worth it, but it isn’t a place to stay for a prolonged period of time. All the Croatian locals I met were so sweet and helpful, giving us a lot of tips about where to go and, more importantly, where not to go. I think that Croatia is the perfect place to go for a more adventurous trip because you have the option to do things like kayaking day trips and there is a lot of hiking as well. I will absolutely be returning to Croatia at some point in my life because I really want to see Zagreb and the Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is a country that is full of history, beautiful nature and it makes for such a great experience.

Two Days in Amsterdam

Yeah, so I am procrastinating again. Isn’t it just so much easier to get blogging done when you have a million other deadlines looming over your head? I should be practising my French presentation or reviewing for my Zombie Apocalypse midterm (yes, that is a real University course). But, I’m not going to study I am going to write about my second favourite country on our trip at Christmas; Amsterdam!

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, if people made it that far, I am going to be attending Erasmus University Rotterdam in September for a full year exchange. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time I visited Amsterdam so it’s just as well that I thought the Netherlands was absolutely fantastic. I really can’t put my finger on it, maybe it was that by the time we reached Amsterdam Reilly and I had caught up on our sleep or maybe we were just wiser to the way of travelling on our own, but it felt very comfortable and relaxing being there.

Instead of taking the plane and dealing with all the hustle and bustle of yet another airport, we decided to take the train from Gard de Nord in Paris to Amsterdam Centraal. I have to admit, even though it took much longer than taking the plane, it was so relaxing and nice to have the three hours to switch off. This was the only train that we booked for this trip because, believe it or not, for all our other destinations it was much cheaper to fly. We arrived after dark on the evening of the 8th, so we really just hung out at our hostel and went out for dinner. We stayed in the Shelter City Christian Hostel for a very reasonable price, which included breakfast.

Our first full day there we booked a free walking tour. Most major European cities have a variety of free walking tours to chose from, which is a great way to get an overview of the city and find out what sights are worth going back to see. We chose to go with FreeDam Tours and I cannot rave about them enough! If anyone is going to Amsterdam soon and wants to get a tour of the city, this tour company is the way to go. You meet them outside of the Old Church for a three-hour walking tour which takes you through the history of Amsterdam, the Red-Light District, drug use in Amsterdam and the Second World War. Our guide was incredible and engaging and knew so much about every single topic. The only downside was that Reilly and I absolutely froze since Amsterdam was a good 10 degrees colder than Paris. I have included the link to the FreeDam website in case anyone is interested.

After the tour was done, we went for lunch and made our way towards the Iamsterdam sign which seems to appear in just about every Instagram post about Amsterdam. Much to our delight, there was an outdoor skating rink which had been set up for tourists so of course, we had to skate. We ended up skating for four hours taking it upon ourselves, as Canadians, to try and help those tourists who had clearly never stepped foot on ice before. Needless to say, after four hours of skating, and not having skated for quite some time myself, we were exhausted and headed back to a restaurant near our hostel. It was this cute little Italian restaurant. No, it wasn’t as good as the real deal in Italy but we couldn’t get enough of Italian food by this point in the trip. While it was a lovely restaurant, Reilly is extremely allergic to cats. Why does this matter you say, they wouldn’t have a cat in a restaurant…well they did! So we didn’t spend as much time in there as other restaurants throughout the trip.

On our final full day in Amsterdam we had a decision to make; did we want to go to the art museums? I feel like going to the art museums in Amsterdam is an obligatory part of being a tourist but neither Rielly nor I really wanted to go, so we didn’t. Instead, we went to the Anne Frank house. We had booked our tickets in advance online so that we made sure we were going in at a time that worked best for us, and it was just as well that we did. They were redoing the tourist area outside of the Frank house, so their entire system was down and you couldn’t purchase tickets in person even if you wanted to. I am very happy that we went to the house because I think it is a very important part of history, but emotionally, it was pretty tough. Everything inside the house is how it was left after the Nazi’s took the Frank family away, including the drawings and pictures that were on the wall. If we hadn’t gone during renovations, we would have been able to see the diary of Anne Frank as well but they had it put away in safe keeping until the renovations were complete. I will admit, I cried and not over something that most people would cry over. One of the pictures that was still on the wall was of the French coast by the English Channel. Now for my non-History buff readers that is where the allied forces invaded Occupied France during D-Day. So this piece of paper made me sob because the father had been tracking the movement of the allied troops as they made their way through Europe. But they didn’t make it to Amsterdam in time to save the Frank family, which really got to me. The way the Anne Frank Museum is laid out is very tactful and respectful. They have kept everything the way it was left by the Nazi’s, at the request of Otto Frank, Anne’s father. Every guest must use an audio headset for the guided tour which allows the museum itself to remain in total silence while the guests can learn all the information about the house and the people who once lived there.

After leaving the museum, we went and shopped in the gift store for the Van Gogh Museum, so at least we could pretend that we went to one of the art museums. We then arrived at the Heineken Museum, which we were a little hesitant about paying for but we did not regret for a minute. Not only was free beer included in the price of admission, but they also had games and other activities that you could do, including tacky tourist photos, YAY! I will try and phrase this tactfully for my family members who read my blog; we left the Heineken museum after rapidly consuming our free beers and headed to our next cultured and high-class stop; McDonalds Amsterdam. I know it sounds really weird but I love going to McDonalds in other countries. I think its so interesting to see what ethnic food is put on the menu in other countries like, for example, McDonalds in Italy has McSpaghetti! After that pit stop we walked back to our hostel in the pouring rain, but in all fairness, the weather had been almost perfect up to this point in the trip.

We took a quick nap and then headed to the Red-Light District. This is obviously one of the top tourist places to visit in Amsterdam and our tour guide with FreeDam Tours gave us a rundown on what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour as a tourist. I mean, it’s a really cool area. If you don’t know what the Red-Light District is, just google it. I think that the Netherlands is just a great place in terms of letting people go about their business and not caring what they do. It is the same way with their Coffee Shops. Coffee Shops are where you can go and smoke Marijuana in a public place, with friends, on your own, literally however you want, because it is allowed in Amsterdam. Just to clarify, it isn’t actually legal but it has been decriminalized. Amsterdam is just a great carefree place to go which is SO different from North America.

I feel like in terms of things to see, there wasn’t much more to do unless you went to the art museums. If I was to go back to Amsterdam, I would want to stay for a month or so and really immerse myself in the culture. On January 11th we flew home after the most incredible two weeks in Europe.  We flew with WowAir which was quite good for a discount airline. The seats are somewhat cramped and they don’t offer free meals on board, but it is more than doable. The Amsterdam airport is lovely, very modern and a lot of fresh and healthy food for sale so we were able to grab some yummy food to take on the plane with us. We had another brief layover in Iceland and landed on the evening of the 11th back in Canada.

P.S. You guys NEED to try Stroopwafels. They are the most delicious and sugary Dutch treat which I just feel the need to share with the world.