Are you guys still here? I am.
Happy New Year!!! Hope everyone’s year is off to a great start.
First post of the year is a recap of the last half of my last trip in 2016 which took me to Johannesburg / Cape Town a quick stop in Brussels and the final days rounding up the trip in Amsterdam.
I was pretty excited to start a new adventure in Europe after all the drama and stress of leaving South Africa. We flew in to Brussels, took the train into the city and spent a couple of hours wandering the streets, eating Belgian Waffles, Belgian Fries and exploring some of the Christmas markets, then we took a 2 hour train to Amsterdam where we spent the next 2 and a half days.
In all honestly had zero expectations of Amsterdam I just thought it would be a fun city but I certainly did not expect to fall in love with the city. The first full day we met up with a high school friend of mine, Funmi, who currently lives in Amsterdam. Funmi was such an amazing host, she recommended places to eat, things to do, and in addition played mini tour guide. I got the 48 hour IAmsterdam pass which gave access to all the trains and buses, a free canal tour, a map, access to a lot of museums, discounts on shopping and eating.
Our first stop was the Anne Frank House, it was a very emotional and overwhelming experience but one we all appreciated, there were no pictures allowed so unfortunately no photo evidence of the house, but it was definitely worth the visit. After that we wandered about the shopping area which was all lit up for the holidays, grabbed dinner and ended the night with a canal cruise ( free in my case courtesy of the 48 hours pass). The city hosts a lights festival which was cool and we got to see some of the exhibits during the canal cruise. At the end of the night, we took a slight detour to the red light district, eyes wide open in shock and disbelief and promptly left.
I spent the next day touring museums and I was like a kid in a candy store. Fun fact about me I love museums, and thanks to my city pass I got to visit 4 museums: Van Gohg Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam Museum, and the Foam – Fotografiemuseum. I am not an artist by any means and I sometimes struggle to understand the message being conveyed in art pieces, so at first I was underwhelmed with the Van Gohg museum but the more I walked through the more I started to understand the fascination. Van Gohg’s life, style, and works are absolutely stunning. Stedelijk Museum is the modern and contemporary art museum and it was interesting to say the least. A lot of moving exhibits, creative art pieces, work spaces, and much to my delight I was able to identify a few Van Gohg pieces.
The Amsterdam museum walks you through the history of the city, and was quite extensive. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through this although I didn’t see everything I wanted because this museum is huge, and I was short on time. My final stop was the Foam museum and although it was interesting a bunch of the exhibits were closed so I felt a bit shortchanged. Luckily I only spent about and hour or so here before they closed but this is one of the museums that is open later.
I met up again with Fumi for my last night in town and we walked around the city some more, went in search of more lights exhibits, (we did not find any of the ones she wanted to show me because they did not start for another week) and caught up on the last 10 years since we last saw each other.
There is something about the vibe of Amsterdam that appealed to me on every level (except for the extremely steep staircases). I loved the energy of the city, everyone on their bikes, taking the train, Christmas lights, market square, museums, and even though it was cold, I somehow fell in love with this cute artsy city. I cannot wait to come back to Amsterdam and if you have not visited yet you should definitely add it to your list.
Leaving Amsterdam came with its own set of drama, I got to the airport and thanks to visa issues I was unable to check in to my first flight to London which was to connect to Norway and from then on to the US. The check-in agents told me my best chance was to book a new flight with a different airline (mind you they are telling me this 2 hours to my flight time).
At this point its about an hour and a half to my original flight, I run to the ticketing counter only to be told the cheapest same day ticket to the US was going to cost me $1,200 … say what? After a slight moment of panic, I put my thinking hat on, and went to google flights, there was a same day ticket on WOW Air that would bypass all my visa issues.
While standing in check-in line, I booked the tickets ( and paid for 2 checked in bags), got to check in and off course the system couldn’t find my ticket. The gate agent and i rush over to another help desk to try to contact the airline in Iceland. At this point it is 45 minutes to flight time, i have dodgy wifi so I’m struggling to get any information, ticket agent is unable to get anyone on the phone in Iceland and I am just there strangely enough very calm. I figured worst case i would be stuck an extra day in Amsterdam, no complaints from me here, and i would miss my connecting pre-booked flight from Boston to Houston.
The agent, bless her heart, is still on the phone, i try to check in online but at this point its too close to boarding so i can’t. The agent eventually tried to check if the ticket has come up in the system, sure enough it had, so she got her manager to reopen the boarding gate. We run back to the check in counter where i drop off my bags and then spend the next 15 minutes sprinting through security to what I am convinced was the furthest gate in the entire airport. I board the flight off course everyone was waiting for me, breathe a sigh of relief and just hope for the best (the gate agent told me my bags would not make the flight)
A quick word here since my bags were not going to make the flight, they would be put on the next flight out, which would not arrive in Boston till the next night. My Southwest flight home, to Houston, was to leave Boston at 6am which meant my bags would arrive in Boston a day late and no one would have any clue what to do with them or how to get them to Houston.
Back to the story, I am sitting on the plane waiting for take off, when it appears a passenger is sick and has to get off the plane. The door of the plane somehow breaks in the the processing of getting the passenger off the plane. We sat on the plane for about 30 minutes while they tried to fix it. Everyone had to get off the plane and after a 2 hour wait, 15 passengers booked on the next day flight, and everyone certain they had missed their various connecting flights out of Iceland, we eventually head out.
PS: They were unable to fix the door and ended up removing the emergency slide on the broken door to shut it. As a result they emptied the first 10 rows empty so in case on an emergency there would be less passengers to redirect through the functioning emergency exits. As fate would have it the plane from Amsterdam was the same one going to Boston so I made my connecting flight.
Have you visited any places you fell in love with or didn’t like as much ?
Next post will be super interesting, I will be sharing for the first time how much my trip actually cost.