Hello from The Netherlands!

Yo.

Sup?

That’s the standard start to many of my IM conversations so I thought I’d grace you with it as well. Ugh – some much to share… this might be a long one. I’m so sorry. We’ll see how it goes, I’m kinda tired so bed wouldn’t be a bad thing, maybe that will help keep it short. Regardless, you’ve been forewarned.

Ok so I left you in Budapest… the following day was a pretty lazy day, it was a little crappy out, rainy etc, and I was quite enjoying having a hotel room all to myself. I did walk around a bit, found a gyro place to grab lunch, and then got myself as nicely dressed up as I possibly could (I did have a dress shirt with me… and… well jeans), and went to the Opera. I got tickets to see Don Giovanni at the opera house just up the road, literally a 6 minute walk away from me (the Erkel Theatre I believe).

Beautiful theatre, dropped off my coat at the coat drop place and found my seat. 5 rows from the stage, dead centre. Can’t ask for better seats really.

I read up on Don Giovanni before attending, since I knew that the subtitles would all be in Hungarian, so I had a good idea of the general story line. What I’ll say about the experience is this – and let me just say that I don’t believe I’ve been to the Opera before… maybe once… but not that I can remember. It was very well done. It was actually a dress rehearsal, but you wouldn’t have known – no stops, no notes, etc.

It was a fun thing to see, but I had a hard time following along. Even having read the story line, there’s so much dialogue that while I got the big picture, I missed out on a lot. Obviously you could understand the tone and all that good stuff. So I’ll say that I would be interested in seeing another one at some point, but with English subtitles for sure.

Hey – for $2.50, I really can’t complain. It was a nice night out.

Anyway it was a fun night, finished that up and grabbed a bit of food around the corner before returning to the hotel for the night.

At about that time I decided to look at my ticket for my flight tomorrow, having it in my head for some reason that it was around 12pm, so I’d leave at 9am… yeah no, it left at 10am. Oops. My bad.

So of course you’d think that I’d go to sleep early, wakeup refreshed and good to go. That would be such a logical thing to do… so I didn’t. I stayed up late playing trains with Shauna, watching TV on my laptop and sort of packing. Oops (again).

Finally went to bed somewhere around 2am, got up at 6:30am, showered, did some computering, threw the rest of my stuff in the bag – managed to forget the shower scrunchie washer thing (I should really learn what these are called. Is it a loofa?) – I think I’ve now lost four of them, and arrived just in time for my shuttle at 7:25am. 40 minute shuttle to the airport, caught up on emails along the way.

Flight was nice, pretty short – an hour and fifteen minutes I think. I actually managed to sort-of curl up on the seat and sort-of sleep a bit, so that was kind of nice. We were a little late taking off, something about some luggage being on the plane that isn’t supposed to be on the plane… comforting, right? But yeah so that delayed us by 20 mins or so.

Landed in Amsterdam, which turned out to be a pretty nice airport. It’s got a sort of mall connected to it, free wifi for 30 mins (crappy wifi but whatever…), generally nice spot. Really cool “panoramic” sky deck sort of thing where you can go up on top of the roof of the airport and see the runway, a lot of the gates, the airplanes, etc, so I was super impressed by that.

Got an “ok” Burger King lunch (I know…) before spending some time sorting out the Amsterdam/Netherlands transit system. I was forewarned on a website that the transit system was a little complex… but basically they’ve switched entirely to chip cards, which cost 7.50 euro, though you can get one off ticket sort of things, sort of, as day passes and things, but that got a little confusing. So I bought an “anonymous” card, loaded up some cash on there and I was able to use that for the bus and the train to get to The Hague.

So I took the bus out into Amsterdam for a bit, found a phone shop for a SIM card (always one of my first priorities :p) and wander around for a bit before returning to the airport to catch the train to The Hague!

Caught an Intercity express which only had a couple of stops, so it wound up being 30 mins which was great. I should mention that I’m going to The Hague to meet up with Laura, my cousin who has very generously offered me a place to stay at her and her boyfriends house. They both work with the International Criminal Court, which is pretty cool – and makes for very interesting dinner chat!! It’s actually a lot of fun, as I’m traveling around and even at home I don’t get much of a chance to talk to people in depth about international news stories that I enjoy following (CNN is the first thing I look at most mornings lol), but they’re both quite up to speed on things, and of course have their own interesting stories to add to the mix, so it’s a perfect environment for me! šŸ˜‰

Took a taxi to their place, which is this beautiful house that was converted from being a mechanics garage / apartment above it to a full “house” sort of thing with the garage now being turned into a kitchen, living room and small upstairs TV area, and a really nice upstairs with two bedrooms and all that great stuff. In addition to it being this really cool house, it actually has a community farm, paid for by the government (they have amazing social programs here), which houses sheep, chickens, roosters, etc, etc, etc and is available freely for members of the community, families etc to come and visit! I was quite impressed! Looking out my window I see this awesome farm! How cool is that? šŸ˜›

Anyway arrived and got the grand tour, went for a walk to the super market just (literally) around the corner to pickup a few things for dinner (yum), and then we went out to borrow an extra bike for me to use while here from a friend of theirs. I learned that biking is a really easy way to get around The Hague – they have amazing bike lanes, bike lights etc and it’s really respected by the pedestrians and vehicles so is a very easy and safe way to travel around.

Plus it’s a beautiful city – and a really neat place to see by way of bike!

So we picked up the bike and took a quick tour through the city on the way back – beautiful at night. Actually it was a really nice night as well, which was nice. Saw Parliament and a few of the key spots around before heading back for the night, hanging out for a bit with TV news before turning in for the night.

Today I got up around 9:30am and after breakfast and Laura baking a cake, we set out on our bikes, braving the rather annoying but not down pouring rain to run some errands and go see a movie. A few shops and an amazing pizza at a great little Italian place later, we arrived at the theatre to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty.

I’m assuming you’ve heard of the movie, if not… there’s always Google. Interesting movie, it starts specifically saying that it’s based on real events, so you immediately take it as factual. I won’t dive into the plot in case you haven’t seen it, but I can understand where the controversy comes from with the interrogation scenes. We did some research (google) after the movie to try to understand what parts were real and what were fiction and it was interesting to see, and interesting to try to grasp the real story.

It is a really interesting movie anyway, worth seeing. It certainly was a bit disturbing to see, there’s violence and some big bangs and jolts, but it’s worth seeing. Especially in this setting, being a few km’s away from the ICC šŸ˜‰

After that we grabbed a hot chocolate/beer around the corner (where we did our googling) before heading to the supermarket for dinner stuff, and then back to the house. And that was pretty much the day – great way to spend a crappy day lol. It was terrific, loving the city, loving biking around, really enjoying hanging out with Laura. My last little relax stop before home šŸ™‚

So that’s what happened over the last few days… and now… I’m going to bed.

Whatever you’re up to… try to make it interesting šŸ˜‰ Have a good night! Or day! Or… whatever. šŸ™‚