I am currently running on zero sleep and no coffee, so sorry if this post is a bit off, but I really wanted to write down everything before I forget!
On Friday a group of us took a bus to Dublin airport (3-4 hours away) and then got on a plane to Brussels, Belgium (1 hour 20 minutes) on RyanAir. It was my first RyanAir flight and I understand why they are so cheap. The seat backs were a neon yellow, there was limited leg room and no free drinks.
Something people don’t realize about traveling in Europe is that it takes longer than you think to get from place to place. Once we landed we had to take a bus to the Brussels central station and then a taxi to our hostel. That is 4 different modes of transportation just to get to another country. (Spoiler alert: this seems to be a running pattern)
Anyways enough about my complaints and onto what made all of this worth the trip. We started the night in Brussels. Our hostel had a bar at the lobby with some Belgian beers on sale. I tried my first Hoegaarden here (the raspberry one because I am a bit basic) and it was AMAZING! The beer there is cheaper than water bottles and it all tastes so good.
We arrived really late so we ended up going to bed early after the bar. This was my first hostel experience. We were in 6 person co-ed rooms and the hostel messed up big time. They separated us 5 girls into 2 and 3. Also the hostel did not give us room keys, we had to go down and ask them to open the door each time. One of the beds in my room was too close for comfort to one of an already sleeping, snoring, mostly naked man. I went to go stay in the boys hostel for the night just to make sure no girl had to sleep next to anyone creepy. (By this I mean we were strictly on top bunks of the bunk beds)
The next morning we ventured into Brussels. We walked to the city center filled with gorgeous gold buildings and cobble stone streets. We stopped for some coffee at a place where the workers barely knew English. (It was finally time to put that French minor to good use) Then we went to get some authentic Belgian waffles! I got mine with belgian chocolate sauce and ice cream. (A nutritious start to the day) It was AMAZING!
Then we headed onwards to see the Manneken Pis (or that statue of a peeing boy). The boy is always dressed up for an occasion. When we went he happened to be dressed for Carnival, wearing a cape and mask. When we went back on Monday he was dressed as a cowboy. (No idea on the cowboy celebration)
Then we got some street waffles! They were only 1 euro for the waffle (of course the toppings really added to your price). Again these waffles were to die for. (Again, I am a very healthy eater). Then we walked to the Grand Palace and the surrounding park. The buildings were gorgeous!
Soon it was time to grab the bus to Amsterdam for the night. We had to walk for 30 minutes back to the hostel and then 30 more minutes to the bus station to grab our bus. (What did I say about traveling taking extremely long?) Once at the bus station we waited a bit and I was sad to realize that all the bathrooms cost 50 cents (I have a human right to pee I thought, but whatever). The bus was also a bit of a disappointment. It was about 3 hours long and the promised free wifi did not work at all.
We finally stopped in Amsterdam, of course way off from the city center. I was quite proud of us girls for looking at the Amsterdam metro map and figuring our how to get to our hostel. The metro was normal from the outside, but some the trains were quite crazy and filled with cartoons. We arrived at our hostel which was centrally located right on a beautiful canal. This time we were in a 20 person co-ed room filled with bunk beds. At least this time we all stayed together in a corner of the room and locked up our bags during the day in provided lockers.
The next morning we woke up and went straight to the Anne Frank’s house. Sadly there are no photos allowed inside so it will be hard to share the experience. The tour was actually quite short and the house is missing much of the furniture. Although blank, it was powerful. It was incredible to see the annex and step around in it as you read the quotes from Anne Frank’s diary around the room. This house served as a bright reminder of the struggles she and her family went through. Anne always wanted to be a famous writer and change the world. Little did she know that her writings and world views would inspire so many people.
Then we went for a stroll on the canals down to a local cafe. I decided to be risky and order something that was in Dutch with no explanation of what was inside. What appeared on my plate looked like an oversized mozzarella stick on white bread served with pickles. The dish was called Kroketten and consisted of creamy potato and minced chicken in a fried roll. (YUM!) We also order an appetizer of gouda and spicy mustard. Let’s just say that did not last long either!
After we headed to the Amsterdam Cheese Museum (best day ever)! The top floor is filled with Dutch cheese and free samples of any cheese you like. I happily skipped through, toothpick in hand. At the bottom floor there was some history on the making of cheese, specifically Dutch cheeses. Also there is a photo op with dress up clothes.
Then we headed towards the famous museum and I Amsterdam sign. On the way we explored the shops. As many people know, pot is legal there. They sell it in “coffee shops,” which are almost on every block. (Coffee shops sometimes don’t even sell coffee here) Coming from a country that jails people for even the possession of the drug, it was crazy to watch as anyone over 18 could buy drugs and smoke them on the streets. It is just part of the culture here. People will go into the coffee shops, get some stuff to smoke and eat and stay for hours talking and laughing.
After some souvenir shops we finally reached the sign. It was a free for all as tourist from all over climbed the various letters and posed for their perfect photo. (It was some hardcore parkour) Luckily we were able to get a group photo with the GoPro so we could fit in most of the letters.
Next we headed back to get changed and go to a pub crawl on the Red Light District. (The pub crawl gave me a free T-shirt, so basically my night was already made) We went into various bars and took in the insane night life scene. The streets actually have red lights and the whole section gives off a red tint. Prostitutes are standing in lingerie looking out onto the streets as if they were barbie dolls on display. (Still not sure how I feel about the whole situation)
Then after some 4am cheeseburgers we went to bed for 2 short hours and woke up promptly for the bus back to Brussels. The bus this time took 5 hours because we did not realize paying less for a bus, meant more stops and even less reliable wifi. We drealy walked 30 minutes back to the city center and straight away got some more street waffles. (This time I got Nutella) Then we sat down and order food from a local restaurant. The people spoke no English (again, French minor status came into play). I got a brie sandwich that pretty good.
Now we were off for a full day of travels. We walked 30 minutes to the bus station. We then took an hour bus ride (again no wifi) to the airport terminal. Then we waited four hours in the terminal and finally boarded our plane around 8:00 at night. Then once we landed it was about 11:00pm, but the bus to Limerick did not arrive until 12:30am. So we waited and waited. The bus back to Limerick took four hours, and in case you are not following the pattern, it had no wifi. I cuddled up against my backpack and listening to music. The bus let us off on campus around 4:30am. I waited for the hot water to come on as I unpacked and did not even shower till 5am. Just to make matters worse I had a 9am class and when i got there, the teacher never showed.
Do not let my complaints fool you though, all of it was worth it for the beautiful sights and of course the food!
This weekend I am heading to Dublin, so more info to come as the week goes on!