a trip to Amsterdam
Just as Spain was celebrating its national day, Constitution Day, Anna and I took a trip to Holland to visit her family over the Bank holiday weekend. This would be my second time to visit Amsterdam but my first time to really look at their transport system.
My trip took me from one airport to another with several stops along the way. By car, boat, bus, train and tram and in a way, we even went out of our way to go out of this world.
After arriving in Schiphol Airport with its pedal powered tables for people to charge their phones, we were collected by her brother and driven to his house just as some well armed men with machine guns were checking a bag for explosives or calmly defusing a bomb.
The next morning Anna and I took a bus to a train station and headed to Amsterdam where we had planned a day of sight seeing.
Anna's sister-in-law gave us some travel cards that took us by bus, tram and train but what impressed me the most was the speed in which people were commuting by bicycle.
People wizzed by left and right and it was hard to keep track of everyone and we even came off the tracks on our first train ride.
On the bus to the train station, I noticed a lot of people flying by on bikes, they seemed to be faster than I am used to, bikes zipped by at the train station too, maybe 100 people and no one wearing a helmet, bikes everywhere and everyone wearing dark clothing too but all moving quickly through traffic.
The train arrived and we went upstairs in what looked like 1st class, quiet and relaxed and we were asked to leave the library as we were in fact in the quiet section of the train and I then noticed SILENCE written on the windows.
We went downstairs to similar comfortable chairs before a conductor politely pointed out our tickets were 2nd class and we moved yet again.
After a few horrible months on Spanish trains with no standing room available on most metros and trains, I couldn't believe we had room to move and then two cleaners quickly wizzed by cleaning counter tops and glass doors as they passed.
We were due to arrive at 10.47 in Amsterdam Centraal but there was a delay on the track which a Dutch law lecturer politely explained to us. There was a problem on the track.
I'm not sure what the population of Amsterdam is but I can imagine such delays play havoc with timetables even at quiet times and I mean for the train behind us and on the other side of the track too.
An America asked a woman for a translation but she mustn't have been able to hear him and another man interrupted to explain what was happening but offered some context, "this is the 5th time this year that a retarted truck driver has crashed into the low bridge and no one has fixed this problem with trucks hitting the fucking bridge" he said. We returned to Haarlem by 11.15 and it would be another hour before we reached Amsterdam.
We took a canal boat to see some of the sights and sheltered from the rain. It was impossible to access Anne Frank's house which was a pity as Anna would have loved to have seen it. We got soaked walking around the canals and streets of Amsterdam and when we stopped for a coffee near the centre, a brownie blew my mind and things gradually got a little hazy from there. We boarded a tour bus and by the time we finished our tour the brownie I had taken, had taken full effect. Whhhaaaaaat?
Without Anna I would have been lost.
My Navigator: Anna with a map on a canal boat.
Getting home by bus and train was a little harder as I struggled through my stoned state.
Even the next morning as we went to explore the canals and countryside of Leiden, I was still a little buzzed and my reactions slow.
I am all for the legalisation of cannabis for many reasons but I'll have to eat my words here and wonder how safe it is to have a society baked on brownies.
All you need under the tree.
IS that ISS? Yes it is ISS
Anna and I decided we needed some Space
Still a little spaced out, we took a trip to the International Space Station and the Moon, sorry I mean we went to a space museum.
Stepping inside a replica of the ISS, we even saw the type of toilets used in space. I shit you not and we got to see Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon.
From the moon base and space station exhibits, we boarded yet another train but this time it was a bus called the Space Train which took us to E.S.A.'s Top Secret Test Centre. Sssssssssh.
No time to get paranoid, photography was prohibited and I decided to fully respect security's wishes inside the Test Centre.
BUZZED: I got to see a mock-up of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon.
ROOM WITH A VIEW: I can see my house from here.
FLYING HIGH: One final transport home, buses, trains, planes, boats, space stations and canal boats.