Amazing Amsterdam

Wednesday, August 19

I successfully navigated myself back to the airport and got on the flight (very late) to Amsterdam. I also successfully got myself from the airport, on a train and walked to my hostel. My hostel in Amsterdam is called The Bulldog, but as I was walking I saw….3 Bulldog facilities. The first one was the Bulldog Coffee Shop, which notoriously is the first coffee shop in Amsterdam, which you can smoke in. Second one was a cafe that serves food, where you can also smoke in. The last one was my hostel, and a bar on the bottom, which you can drink and smoke in.

When I got into my room I met some cool Brit girls who were super enthusiastic to be there. I ended up going to the coffeeshop down the street to you know, have some coffee and stuff and then walked around. I was wondering WHY THERE WAS SO MANY PEOPLE WALKING THE STREETS. It felt like Disneyland, where you couldn’t walk anywhere without being in a hoard of people. I found out that it was SAIL and Canal Festival. I guess Sail happens once every 5 years and is the biggest Maritime Festival in the world. Old sail boats from all over the world come to Amsterdam to show off their antique-style ships, fleet boats (with sailors), and other ships come into port where the sailors off-boat for a few days in Amsterdam, no wonder it’s crazy as hell. I ended up getting some Dutch fries and sat on the pier just watching all of these massive ships go by. The Dutch also seem like a huge boating community, because so many families were out on the water, eating, drinking, and just having a good time.

After a little me-time, I went back to the hostel where I met more girls. One girl, Elle, is from England and she was solo traveling for the first time. I could tell she was a bit nervous to be by herself but she was very sweet and polite. Two other girls from America (New York) were also in the hostel, and they invited us to explore with them. So we got a few drinks and other smokable stuff and just explored the town. I forgot to mention that our hostel is right in the middle of the Red Light District, which is amazing. We walked around this area amazed at the prostitutes. Amsterdam must be the Mecca, Holy Land, for the prostitutes. They have no shame because they worked hard (with all of their plastic surgery and all) to get a coveted spot in the Red Light District. I mean no shame, there’s just families with kids and old people walking around and they’re standing their banging on windows and looking…slutty. After that I went to bed.

Thursday, August 20

I woke up early today because I had booked a 10am canal tour. I got some free breakfast downstairs before heading out. I found this boat tour on TripAdvisor, it was rated #1. However, the tickets were twice as expensive because of the Sail event going on. I booked it because, hey, when am I going to be in Amsterdam next? There was an older couple and two guys from Montreal on the boat (and the tour guide). We went through the Canals and we asked him a lot of questions since he is Dutch and our tour guide. The main part of the tour was going through the Sail festival and seeing all of the big cool boats. it was like a big party on the water. We also saw that they were having a Canal Festival with floating stages and seating areas. It was pretty cool. The only thing that the tour lacked was a tour guide that actually wanted to tell us interesting stuff, not just answer our questions. He sometimes would not even answer my questions…and I’m a very curious person. But it was very relaxing and pretty nonetheless.

For lunch I ate this delicious sandwich from this cute cafe. I went back to my hostel to chill and then my godsister/cousin, Rachel hit me up because she lives in Amsterdam and was back in town! She met up with me at my hostel and we got some coffee and sat by the canal and just talked. That was the first time we’ve really seen each other in about 5 years. And, now that we’re older we can talk and relate at a different level. It was really good seeing her and catching up and just talking to someone so close. It was so easy and fluid, I just love those type of days and conversations. We ended up talking for about 4 hours haha. I went back to my hostel and me and Elle decided to go out. We got some coffee, walked around, ate some fries, looked at prostitutes, and got more coffee.

Amsterdam is absolutely beautiful and has been by far my favorite place. It’s truly unique and unlike any other place in the world. It has a unique character to it that is genuine and historical. I can see why so many foreign people want to move there, it is a GREAT place that I hope to visit sometime soon.

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Bangin Berlin

Tuesday, August 18

After an interesting night in a 10-bed mixed dorm, I woke up pretty early to get my day started. I wanted to take a free tour called the “Alternative London” tour. They advertise it for free because they know a lot of backpackers are on limited budgets and the tour guide only gets paid what we give him in tips.

With that said, I believe free tours are THE BEST! This means that the tour guide is driven to give a tour based off of his passion for the city and what he wants people to know, not off the conventional informational tour, where the tour guide recites a script of very mainstream sights. This tour was definitely different and so amazing. The tour guide was awesome and started explaining the street art of Berlin. There are TONS of street art here, mostly because it was a way to rebel against the government and unite in a way that explained their political views and backgrounds. I can completely understand why this place is so important in European history, and why the people here are amazing. Our tour guide brought us to strange areas that you wouldn’t think had a lot of history (mainly because Berlin is a pretty poor city and their buildings and areas aren’t always nice), but ended up having some crazy back story that always had a main theme. The point was that the people of Berlin are a very political, left-winged, creative, and boisterous community of people who found their voice through art and music. We ended up at this Jamaican bar, since he said it was his favorite place ever. I just admired his passion and the knowledge he had of Berlin. I ended up giving him a 20euro tip, because that’s how much I thought it was worth and he deserved it!

At this Jamaican bar or YAAM (Young African Art Market), is a beach bar on the river bank of the Spree. They’ve imported sand to have a nice beach bar with basketball, table tennis, football, dancing, art, concerts (Ty Dolla $ was going to perform there this weekend), and food! I decided to stick around for a while and had a drink and decided to get some jerk chicken–my favorite. As I went to sit down, a young African man who is one of the many Africans that hang out there decided to eat next to me. He was very nice and we started to have a great conversation. His name was Omar he’s from Gambia and he came to Berlin to have a better life. He said that he loves it here and that it’s where all of his dreams come true. He was very friendly and I can see why the tour guide loves this place: the people are so friendly, it has a great vibe, and you can just sit there for hours and not realize that you’re spending time there.

After an hour or two, I finally left to see a part of Berlin wall still up. The tour guide had explained a lot about the divide the wall had on the city, and I wanted to see it for myself. This part of the wall had of course graffiti all over it. It was a very bland wall (other than the beautiful art spray painted on to it). After checking that out, I hung out, walked to the Holocaust Memorial, and went to bed early. In the morning I had to get onto a flight going to Amsterdam!

"Little Lucy" is this character modeled after a communist era cartoon character, who didn't do anything exciting but walked around with her pal cat. There are dozens of Little Lucy's all over the city where she's doing something evil to her poor cat.

“Little Lucy” is this character modeled after a communist era cartoon character, who didn’t do anything exciting but walked around with her pal cat. There are dozens of Little Lucy’s all over the city where she’s doing something evil to her poor cat.

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"Nothing Lasts Forever", this area is known for one of the biggest underground punk venues. Gentrification is now threatening this area's culture.

“Nothing Lasts Forever”, this area is known for one of the biggest underground punk venues. Gentrification is now threatening this area’s culture.

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The Bethanien was built in the 17th century as a children's hospital. They were going to destroy it but artists decided to move it and made it a free gallery for artists.

The Bethanien was built in the 17th century as a children’s hospital. They were going to destroy it but artists decided to move it and made it a free gallery for artists.

This Tree House was built by a Turkish man who, during the communist era, lived in a plot that was neither communist nor capitalist. People saw this abandoned area and dumped a ton of trash. This Turkish man cleaned up this area, created a garden, and used all of the trash to build himself a tree house. Government offered him over a million euro for his plot of land, he said no. This tree house stands for standing up to the government and not giving into money. Btw, we saw him, he's 90 yrs old and sits in front of it every day.

This Tree House was built by a Turkish man who, during the communist era, lived in a plot that was neither communist nor capitalist. People saw this abandoned area and dumped a ton of trash. This Turkish man cleaned up this area, created a garden, and used all of the trash to build himself a tree house. Government offered him over a million euro for his plot of land, he said no. This tree house stands for standing up to the government and not giving into money. Btw, we saw him, he’s 90 yrs old and sits in front of it every day.

Where the Berlin Wall once stood.

Where the Berlin Wall once stood.

"Fuck off Media Spree", the area to the left of this building is considered the Media Spree because when the city started to become economically lucrative, big companies such as Sony, Mercedes, and other big businesses bought up land by the Spree (the river) and started to put up their fancy buildings and ugly corporations. This pays homage to the fuckery that is corporations, and basically the attitude of all of Berlin.

“Fuck off Media Spree”, the area to the left of this building is considered the Media Spree because when the city started to become economically lucrative, big companies such as Sony, Mercedes, and other big businesses bought up land by the Spree (the river) and started to put up their fancy buildings and ugly corporations. This pays homage to the fuckery that is corporations, and basically the attitude of all of Berlin.

Entrance to the YAAM

Entrance to the YAAM

My AMAZING jerk chicken omg

My AMAZING jerk chicken omg

East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall

East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

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Paris and Berlin

These past couple of days I have been solo traveling around Europe. Since it’s my first time in Europe, I have to see the most popular destinations. I want to get out of my comfort zone and do things that are memorable and expose myself to different cultures and ways of life.

Sunday, August 16

Today was my first full day in Paris. Despite my awful AirBnb, which I’m requesting a refund because that place was a piece of shit, I got up pretty early to explore this infamous city. My first stop was the catacombs, something I really wanted to see. But, when I got there I noticed that the line was a tad long, and when I say a tad, I mean wrapped around the whole block and back up. Because only had a day here. I decided it wasn’t worth it, since the line was going to take a good few hours. I headed to the Notre Dame, another place on my itinerary. I looked at the building, it was so cool and reminded me of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Gargoyles, you know classic cartoon/movies I used to watch as a child, naturally. After spending sometime in that area, going on Love Lock Bridge and seeing the book sellers by the canal, I decided to take a Big Bus tour, since Paris is really only good for sightseeing and museum hopping.

The Big Bus tour was ok. I mean they drive you around to all the important places in Paris, which is better than walking on foot to all of those places. Nothing was really interesting other than learning about the history of the buildings and of France. After spending two hours on the bus I finally got off at the Louvre. It was crowded (like every place in Paris that day). I wanted to see the Mona Lisa, she was cool. The building itself had some great architecture and design inside. I found Napoleon’s Apartment to be quite interesting, but for some reason I was not feeling Paris. The people are unfriendly, there’s nothing quite interesting other than the art, and it’s incredibly crowded.

After the Louvre I went to this plaza where a cluster of violinists were playing some great music of popular classics. I decided to eat at a café overlooking this plaza, which was quite relaxing and nice. After that I walked along the Tuileries Garden before I finally decided to go in (which was only about 7-8pm). I guess I’d had enough of the overrated city.

Monday, August 17

My flight to Berlin was at 1pm, so I left the awful apartment quite early. It is very true what people say about the French, to put it in light terms, there assholes LOL. I knocked out on the plane because I guess that’s a normal thing for me now. When I got to Berlin I of course had to buy a Bratwurst first thing out of the airport. I then took a train to Alexanderplatz, a central station in Berlin. I met a really nice guy from Saudi Arabia p, studying chemistry in Germany. He could speak 4 languages (Arabic, German, English, and Spanish), which definitely put me to shame. I only know one language, which is also the problem I’m America, so embarrassing. Most of the people I meet can speak like 3-4 languages. Anyways I finally made it to my hostel, which by the way has a bar in its reception area and a pretty big one at that.

I had a tour at the Riechstag building at 745, their most famous building. Here I toured the dome, a really big glass dome that sits on the very top of the building and overlooks most of Berlin. There was an audio guide that narrated the political history of this building and the surrounding areas. After this short tour I took a walk around and saw Bradenburg Gate. By this time I was exhausted and went back to the hostel to get an actual decent night of sleep.

I’m going to stop right here, since this is probably a really boring post to write and since I don’t have any pictures to illustrate it’s probably an even more boring post to read, sorry yall I’ll add what I did today (Tuesday) on another post, since this was actually a really great day in an awesome city.

Paris

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A really cute farmers market that was right outside my apartment.

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Berlin

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Reichstag Building

My Trip to DOOBLIN (Weekend….??) PT 1

I don’t know which weekend it is anymore, I’m only counting the weekends I have left for my program, which are two. Thank you to all who’ve read my blog and hopefully liked my random thoughts and sometimes tangents of weird things I find interesting and also my strong opinions. I hope there are a lot of you (but it might just be my parents) and I hope this blog has provided some interest.

Friday, July 31

Today, I lost my phone. A sad, sad day. I was traveling for work and I guess it fell out of my pocket in the bus. This sucks because I almost always look back on my seat to see if I’ve forgotten anything and I never keep my phone in my back pocket, but I didn’t do both of those things and low and behold my phone is lost. The sucky part about it is that I was not in a very nice neighborhood so the chances of a good samaritan giving it to the bus driver was zero to nilche. Also, today I was traveling to Dublin, and I wouldn’t be here for the weekend, so I was SOH.

My work was nice and they let me leave early to prepare for my flight. I took a train, then a bus, to Luton Airport. It was my first time doing all of this by myself, but I got the hang of it. My flight was only 55 minutes (if that). I took a public bus to my hostel, where I checked in. It was a nice hostel, very young and trendy, definitely for the young traveler like myself. I went into my mixed dorm room and realized I would be sharing a room with a guy who wasn’t there. For safe measure, I took the closest bed to the door on the top bunk, this was my first time at a hostel afterall. Then I tried to go to sleep but realized that the guy had come back and turned the fucking light on and left it on all night. I was trying to sleep early since I had to wake up at 6am to make it to a tour bus.

Saturday, August 1

Since I had lost my phone, I have to find new ways of living life (literally) like my alarm clock. I put it on my iPad, thinking that my iPad was going to wake me up…well it didn’t. Luckily, the dude I was sharing the dorm with left the lights on all night, so my body I guess woke me up at the time I was supposed to. I got ready, realized that the place I had to meet the bus was 15 minute walk (I left the hostel 8 minutes before I had to be there) so I hauled ass to the meeting spot where I was supposed to take my tour. We were going to the Cliffs of Moher, and I guess I got there late and the bus with all the normal people left. I was stuck with the bus load of Spanish High School students. This didn’t prove to be annoying until later on but I’ll get to that. There was another solo girl who ended up sitting next to me from Canada. She has lived in Dublin for 3 months for work.

Now, the bus driver was great. He was a local Irish man from Cork (the second biggest town with only like 500k?) His interests were history (YESSS), music, anything Irish, he was very proud of his culture and I was extremely excited to learn (cos I’m a Geek who loves culture, history, and learning – and I actually appreciate culture and the “old fashion way” but maybe it’s because I’m so curious). As we got into the bus he was talking about things and asking people to respond, but since these were students who were too cool for school, no one wanted to participate. He said maybe he can talk later since maybe people are sleepy.

I slept cos I only got maybe 3 hours of sleep the night before. I awoke to him saying that we were at our next stop, a place called Barack Obama Plaza. Literally in the middle of nowhere, is this Barack Obama gas station pit stop. I guess Barack Obama visited this place since his mom is some Irish. They dedicated this place in his name and they even have an exhibit upstairs (which I’m really bummed I didn’t check out but I didn’t even know until I got back on the bus). I got coffee and breakfast and then we headed on our way. Our nice guide started to talk about Irish history (YESSSS). He was so freaking knowledgable, I was impressed. He seriously knew everything about Ireland, his country, and all the small details. Basically anything you needed to know about Ireland, he knew it. However, while i was trying to listen and while he was talking, some rude young girls who were too cool to listen were talking really loudly about some random shit (I’m not sure since they’re Spanish and I was listening to the guide. I kept glaring at them but they were in their own world. Other people around them were also glaring at them. Finally at one point, when I had it, I looked at them and said “Can you please be quiet” and they stopped talking. He started from the really early settlers, to the Kells (people who settled here), to them being bullied by the Brits.

As he spoke he would point out some cool things out on the road, like the different cows, the horses, the sheep, the stone fences, the types of stone, the types of castles, the types of abbeys and churches, and towns. It was amazing, I loved every part of the trip. Our next stop was Limerick (like the poem), where he was trying to find a stone that some important Irish people signed with the Brits to keep peace. I thought they carved it in the stone but no, they signed it on a piece of paper that was on top of a stone (DUHHHHH?).

Our next stop was finally the Cliffs of Moher, we were to spend an hour and a half here. When we got here the cliffs were AMAZING. They were beautiful, and I  can’t really use words to describe this breathtaking view. I was very speechless. I guess people have fallen off the cliffs because they tried to get to close or they were very close to the edge and lost their footing (there was significant wind as well) but there weren’t any precautions to keep you from falling so you had to be really careful. They had an awesome visitor’s center that is made inside the cliff. This is probably best since a big building would have ruined the beauty of the landscape.

After the Cliffs of Moher, we went to this small town for some lunch. It was a local town that the guide knew very well. He recommended this pub and I was totally smitten with this culture, so I went and checked it out. I first got a pint of Smithwicks, and I finally found a pint of AMBER ALE! It was the best pint I have gotten since my time here abroad, and the best part was that the waitress lady spilled the little bit I had left so she gave me another half pint for free. I also ordered Irish Stew, which was AHHHMAZING. If you don’t know me I’m obsessed with gravy, meat, and mashed potatoes, and that’s what it was. The guide was eating next to us and he ordered the same thing as I did, he literally licked his bowl clean.

On the road again, we stopped at this area that the guide called Lunar Landscape. It’s actually called the Burren, but since it looks like you’re standing on the moon, they call it a lunar landscape. The guide also mentioned that the British rulers moved all of the Irish to this area of the land, since you couldn’t really grow any crops, have any cattle, and it was the worst place in Ireland to live. This place was pretty cool and it made for some awesome pictures.

Our guide also took us to another small town, the only interesting thing about that was this little shop I went into had a fairy exhibit on the upper floor. This felt extremely Gaelic to me for some reason. We also stopped at an old Abbey.

After the tour was done, the group with the students thought that they were going to be dropped back off where they came (some 45 minutes away from Dublin) since they got picked up. But, the bus driver had been with us for over 12 hours and I’m sure his shift was ending. It also said that pick-ups and drop-off were not included in the tour. This man had just driven us around all day and they were extremely angry. The students were also angry in that they had to pay for a train ticket home. Who ever organized the tour for them didn’t get the full information and that wasn’t the driver’s fault. In the end, he kindly dropped them off at the train station so they didn’t have to walk from the drop-off point. None of the students gave him tips, not even the teachers. I was very angry by this since I thought he was amazing and he put so much effort into making our trip awesome. By the end I gave him 10 euro tip (that’s all I can afford) because I felt so bad for him and I wanted to show him that I appreciated all of his effort and his stories and knowledge.

I walked back to my hostel where I met 3 other people who were in my room. Two of them were from the states and one was from Sweden. By the time I got back to the hostel, it was already 9 almost 10pm. I went to get some food and had a chat with some of the kids in the lounge. They were all very cool and in the same boat I was–they were traveling abroad for a long time hopping from place to place. I guess it’s very common, especially in Europe. There was a girl from England, a guy from England, a girl from Australia, and 3 guys from the States, one was even from San Jose and went to Cal. They invited me out but by the time they got going it was almost 1am and I was POOPED from my day trip, so I had to pass. I went to sleep and literally passed out.

Barack Obama Plaza

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The Barack Obama Plaza, guys

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It just literally looks like this

The City of Limerick

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The city of Limerick

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How picture-esque is this place? Straight out of a movie

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Castle + Swan = SWAN PRINCESS

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The stone that they used to sign the treaty (but didn’t actually sign on it)

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Random Scenic Views while Driving

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Refurbished Castle bought by the O’Brien’s. There are hundreds of castles like these and most of them are ruins unless they’ve been bought and restored like this one.

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What once was a castle

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These stone fences were common, they use the stones from the burren

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MOOOOOo!

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So lush and green

THE CLIFFS OF MOHER EVERYBODY

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Inside the mountain in the Visitor’s center

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The Burren

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Little Random Local City (with a hidden Fairy Exhibit in a small shop)

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