My host in Málaga asked for permission to have a friend over last night! In her own home! She really wanted me to meet him, she said, and she also wanted to put together a special dinner for my final night in Spain. Um, WOW. Her friend, D, is Chilean, but has lived all over the world, including in Bulgaria! They insisted on making food while I drank beer and then we sat and noshed “family style.” There was guacamole made from avocados from my host’s family’s farm (with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar!), cheeses, sesame crackers, store-bought fries with a yummy yoghurt sauce, and homemade falafel (so good!). And did I mention beer?
We gabbed and laughed in a way that made me realise how much I need to make friends who only speak Spanish to force me to converse more. I had a blast trying to explain the finer points of taxation as a sole proprietor in Canada with my limited vocabulary. It’s not like I had to learn that in school! D and I also had a “Bulgarian vocabulary-off,” trying to see who remembered the most of that language. Interestingly enough, he’s the first person I’ve met who raved about Varna, a city I was well convinced not to visit (I went to Veliko Tarnovo instead).
Our meal didn’t end that late, but by the time I’d wound down enough to sleep it was almost midnight, quite a bit later than I wanted to go to bed since I wanted to be gone by about eight. I woke up at 7:45 and packed as my host got ready for work, then headed out around 8:15. She’d advised me to take a train rather than the bus to the airport, which was almost half the cost! I stopped at the Deutsche Bank on the way since there are no Global ATM Alliance banks in the Netherlands.
I got to the train station around 8:30 and a train came at 8:50. It was then a very quick (about 15-minute) ride to the airport. My flight was at 11:25. The plan was to get through security and then have breakfast. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
Security was backed up and slow. I listened to all the instructions (given in both English and Spanish) and followed them to the letter, including removing my boots. An agent approved my trays to be sent through the scanner and told me to go through the metal detector. I didn’t beep. So all clear, right?
No. That I don’t know what to call her agent who had approved my trays sneered at me and said I had to go back and put my electronic devices into separate trays and go through the process again. I went to grab my purse and she snapped that those things had been cleared and to leave them. I went back around the scanner and had to get back in line to send my electronics through. I was there a solid ten minutes with poor visibility on my belongings on the other side, which included my purse that had my passport, cash, and cards. Well, it happened — someone got interested in my bag. I yelled to the person to leave it alone and the same *** agent told me to stop making a scene!
I finally was able to push my trays through the scanner and was sent back through the metal detector. Just as I came out the other side, I saw my trays move back out in the wrong direction. And, sure enough, someone was eyeing them. I was just about to call out when the trays were pushed through the scanner at last… and then I couldn’t get to them for another minute because the line was so backed up. Talk about stressful! This was my worst airport security experience so far, but the nightmare my neighbour went through at the airport in Regina last week definitely put things into perspective. I was just glad to get through without losing anything!
I found a café after and got a very good Americano and a pain aux raisins, something I haven’t had since London. It was really good and reasonably priced by airport standards. At another café, I picked up a very expensive bottle of water and a decently priced ham and cheese sandwich for the plane (which ended up being a good call since EasyJet’s offerings were uninspiring). I then had about 45 minutes left to wait to board and I was able to get jump the queue for that since I’d paid for priority boarding in order to get both my bags on board as carry-on. I was pleased that there was no one in the middle seat for my row, but less pleased that an American business man decided that meant he had two seats and started crowding me with his stuff. I let him know that wasn’t okay, then promptly went to sleep!
So the flight passed very quickly. There was nothing to see since we were flying over dense clouds. We landed at Schiphol Airport 10 minutes early, but the captain made a sarcastic comment about how far the landing strips are from the terminal and that having to drive all that distance would eat up our advance. We finally made it and deplaned. I got my first taste of the cooler Amsterdam weather and it wasn’t as bracing as I expected.
I didn’t have to go through customs and had nothing to declare, so I was able to go straight to the train station. I like traveling within the the EU! 🙂
My host had given me very clear instructions on how to get to her home and I’d done my homework as far as paying for public transportation. I doubted I’d be able to recoup the non-refundable 7.50 euro cost for the OV-chipkaart (similar to the Oyster in London), so I bought a single to Amsterdam Centraal, which had a surcharge of 1 euro, and I was amused that the only way to pay was with a card and there was an additional surcharge to pay with a card.
Like with Oyster, I had to tap in before going to the platform and then would have to tap out, even with a paper ticket. I did that and then found the platform I needed. I barely had any wait before an Amsterdam Centraal bound direct train pulled up. It was then a very quick ride to the station. The scenery was nothing special, just rather bleak. Things got more interesting as we pulled into Amsterdam and I saw an iconic canal with houses lining it.
At the train station, I had to go to street level and catch a tram. I wasn’t sure where to get a ticket, so I went to an information desk. The agent there was odd, but spoke English and answered my questions. He sent me in the right direction knowing that I could pay the driver 2.90 euros cash.
The tram I needed was waiting out front! I still took the time to snap a few pictures of my first real glimpse of Amsterdam.
The tram driver was very pleasant about my not having change and got me sorted. I found a seat and was relieved to see that not only are all the stops announced, you can see the next several ones coming up. So I knew when it was time to make my way to a door and to request my stop. Slight hiccup at the stop, the doors didn’t open. A nice guy called to the driver to wait and showed me that I was supposed to press a button. Live and learn! 🙂
My host’s directions from the tram stop were fantastic. and I got to the house without any trouble (it was just a couple of blocks). She’d warned me she probably wouldn’t be home and would leave me a key, which was exactly where it was supposed to be. It was a bit odd to let myself in and make myself at home, but I did since I’d been sent the wifi password ahead of time. 🙂 I also introduced myself to my new charges. One is very friendly, the other will need some time to get used to me.
It was perhaps an hour before my host showed up. She is an American from New Orleans and “totally chill,” as she puts it. I felt very comfortable with her. She explained a few things to me and then introduced me to her fiancé when he came home. He’s Dutch, but speaks good English.
They suggested we go out for dinner to a nearby Greek café and that sounded good to me! It was a short, but cold and drizzly, walk there.
The place was tiny and felt more like being in someone’s dining room. The owner is Greek (of course), speaks perfect English, and is very friendly. She made me feel right at home. My hosts are vegans and the café has vegan options, but there’s also meat. The meatball special sounded good to me and I made sure that wouldn’t cause offence before ordering it. It wound up being a wonderful choice, coming with a tzatziki sauce, a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, and roasted seasoned potatoes, just the way I like them, plus a very dense whole grain bread. It was just like eating home cooking. For dessert, we tried these crumbly honey-soaked cookies coated in crushed walnuts. I also ordered a saffron/lemon grass/mint tea that came with a sliver of walnut cake that I actually preferred to the cookie as it was moister. Prices felt very reasonable (my main was 8.50 euros), but I found out as I was about to pay that I was being treated!
We took a slight detour on the way back so I could get breakfast stuff for tomorrow, just bananas, raisin bread, and a hunk of cheese. All I can say about the price of cheese here is that I’m now convinced that Canadians are the only cheese-eating people of the Earth who get ripped off… The price of my purchases wouldn’t have even covered the cheese in Canada. So I’m encouraged that I won’t go broke eating here as long as I cook for myself as much as possible.
So I’m in Amsterdam! The next two weeks are going to absolutely fly by. There are only two things on my list, but I’m sure there’s more to do. I’m investigating a museum pass since I think that work will be light and I might have enough free time to visit enough museums for the pass to pay for itself. The house I’m in is very comfortable and my location is just off of downtown and walking distance to just about anything I’d want to see, hence why I decided to skip the public transportation pass. Can’t wait to start exploring!