Red Lights in Amsterdam

Netherlands 1 Comment »

After finding a sweet deal due to off season prices, we checked into a hotel in the center of Amsterdam. We ate stir fry and then popped in and out of “coffee shops” (marijuana bars) and “café’s” (pubs). The smell of weed hangs pours from “coffee shops”. The clang of glasses filled with dark Dutch and German beer sounds from the doors of “café’s”. Even in the frigid winter air, there is a steady stream of locals on bicycles.

I walked into a couple of tourist shops selling neck ties and wooden clogs, hoping to find some last minute Christmas gifts, but was quickly bewildered by the monotony of junk and gave up. Then for the first time, I ventured into the red light district.

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Close Calls: Part 3 of 3

Netherlands 3 Comments »

Feeling a tad handy after skimming the repair manual that day, I dipped down to take a look at the underside for signs of leakage. My eyes widened when I saw a puddle about two feet wide and a steady drip coming from the undercarriage.

Hmm, that doesn’t seem right, I thought. I checked the other side and found another puddle, then sat in the van and thought for awhile.

I left the van at the pump and walked to the side of the gas station where I relieved myself into the brickwall and darkness. I tried to imagine how much gas might make up those puddles by watching how much of a puddle I was making.

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Close Calls: Part 2 of 3

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When I woke the van was an oven. I was soaked in sweat. The pulled curtains kept some light out, but didn’t help to maintain a livable temperature, so I flung them open and laid back down to enjoy the rush of cool air.

While sorting through my luggage I sensed something and looked out through the side windows. Directly across the narrow sidewalk was a giant window giving a view straight into someone’s living room where there was a couch with a man sitting on it. He was staring straight at me. I looked back to my things. While moving a stack of books, I glanced over to find him still staring.

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Close Calls: Part 1 of 3

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Going home was just what I needed. After two weeks of visiting family and friends and hitting up all my favorite spots, I’m feeling totally recharged and ready for another half year of world wandering.

My last night out at home was spent in a time warp in Boston. I went with some friends to see an old band reunited and playing for a crowd full of late twenty-something’s hanging onto their youth. The interior of the rented out church was a humid hell of 130 degrees, but the sweat soaked sing-along’s made it a good time. At around 11pm, my best friend Eric and I headed back to Rhode Island.

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Bikes in Amsterdam

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Someone Knew

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The slightly older, but strong and able looking man in front of me was struggling a bit to get his suitcase into the train car. He kept looking back at me as I followed him. It was not a can you help me sort of look, more of an are you really going this way too look. Maybe this was a first class car, I guessed. Maybe he was wondering why a scrub of a man was following him into first class. Curious with what his looks might turn into, I kept following him.

When we got into the cabin, it was obvious I’d guessed right. The place was completely empty except for him, his wife and me. I went to take a seat.

“Eerste klasse,” he said, inspecting me head to toe.

“Huh?” I replied helplessly.

“Eerste klasse,” he said again, now waving his finger as if he were stirring soup in the air.

“Oh, first class?” I said with a tone that spoke, ‘Silly me, I wouldn’t know first class if I tripped and landed in it!’

“Ja” he replied with a simple nod.

“Wow. Expensive huh?” I asked while rubbing my thumb against my index and middle finger and looking around in a faux awe of what royal train travel was like.

“So where do I go?” I go on innocently.

“Second class. That way,” he said pointing and comfortable.

Shuffling out the door with an intentional clumsiness and look of tire, I left the man and his wife to enjoy their status alone.

At least someone knew he was riding first class.

Casandra on the Edge

Netherlands 3 Comments »

I saw my first van the day after arriving in Amsterdam. It fit what I had in mind, ran great and I got an honest vibe from the owner, so I bought it.

She’s a 1985 VW Bus camper with about 100,000 miles and a 1.9 engine in the trunk. On the inside is a bench seat that folds into a double bed, dual burner propane stove, sink, refrigerator, stereo, electrical outlets and plenty of storage. I’m not usually the type of person to refer to cars and boats as males or females, but the model of this name is ‘Casandra’, so she’s a she.

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Amsterdam

Netherlands 4 Comments »

I realized pretty much any Volkswagen Bus for sale right now is located in either Germany or the Netherlands, so I made a move up this way. The first thing I did was a book an appointment to see a van that looked decent online, then I booked a flight for about $200, which is pretty pricey, but the best I could find last minute. Next I started searching online for a place to stay in Amsterdam, one of the busiest backpacker cities in the world, during the height of the backpacker season and the World Cup.

Oops.

Obviously nothing was available. I found one hostel at $60/night for a DORM bed! Plus they required I book five full nights and pay the $300 total up front.

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