Day Fourteen: Don’t Take Picture at the Red Light District [July 17th, 2018]

Our last day [disembarkment day doesn’t count, right?] on the Pacific Princess Baltic Cruise was today. We spent the day in Amsterdam [which I think is technically in Holland, but they consider the whole area the Netherlands, but I’m pretty sure the Netherlands is like several countries in the Baltic, but then again I got a D in geography, so maybe I’m not the best person to talk about geographical locations with, and I only got a D because I showed up in class every day. And this is why I was an English major].

Our morning was different. Around six am or so, the captain came on the speakers [that’s two days in a row that he has interrupted my beauty sleep] to announce that the lock that we were in was malfunctioning [and random… every single time I hear the word “lock” on this cruise and it refers to water, I get Synchronicity II by the The Police in my head. My dad would be proud] it wasn’t closing and it was stuck, so thanks to that and traffic, our course to Amsterdam was delayed by about thirty minutes or so.

Background information time. [Again, I get all my information from the Port Guides on the Pacific Princess and/or the internet, so if I do get anything wrong about your country, feel free to politely correct me]. Amsterdam was a small fishing village in the late 12th century. Historical assertion implies that Amsterdam was a thing [technically a place] that was established as early as the late 10th century, but they did not get any rights as a city until the year 1306.

Amsterdam is located in the province of North Holland and is linked to the North Sea by the North Sea Canal [which is where I assume we had the lock malfunction]. The population is approximately 820,654 and the official language is Dutch, though every single person I spoke to could speak some English. Dutch people are apparently the tallest people in the world. The currency is the Euro.

Amsterdam citizens love bicycles. I think I saw more bicycles than cars on the streets of Amsterdam. The city has more than a million bikes, which is more bikes than citizens! There’s also this insane parking garage that we passed on our tour that was three stories high and looked like a city garage… only instead of car parking, it was bicycle parking. And apparently when the citizens of Amsterdam get sick of their bicycles, they just dump them in the canal, and the canal gets dredged every year and they pull out all the recycled bikes… Maybe I should hang out around Amsterdam during dredging season and try to score myself a new bike.

More than a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level. In addition to that, fifty percent of the land lies less than a meter above seal level. Our tour guide told us that a lot of the land that makes up Amsterdam is artificial, and it used to be just water. The Netherlands are also very flat. The Vaalserberg is the highest point in the Netherlands and it’s only 322.7 meters [aprox 1058 feet] high and that’s located in the south-easternmost edge of the country in the province of Limburg.

The average low winter temperature in Amsterdam is about 33 to 43 degrees and the average summer temperatures can reach up to about 67 degrees… So winter is similar to where I live in Texas, but summer is much cooler, and doesn’t get hot as hell like it does in Texas.

There’s tons to do in Amsterdam. For one thing, pot is legal, not that I did any of that, but I went into a souvenir shop to by postcards and magnets for my friends and my fridge, and they were selling cannabis lollipops at the counter. There’s also the Red Light District, where there are prostitutes, sex shops, strip clubs, and adult theaters. I didn’t go to the Red Light District, at all, but it’s there. I heard if you try to take a picture of the girls in the Red Light District, somebody actually comes out and either takes your camera, breaks your camera, or makes you delete your photos, usually the pimp of the girls, if you get caught. But again, I did not visit this area, so I can’t confirm or deny these rumors, and even if I did visit it, I wouldn’t take pictures of something like that.

For those of you looking for a tamer time. There is a hop on and hop off bus that goes to different locations throughout the city. I did not get a brochure from the bus this time, but I did see them throughout the city. And there are so many museums and historical places to visit. There’s the Van Gogh Museum, which I’m very sad we didn’t get to visit, I love Van Gogh [and the episode of Doctor Who called Vincent and The Doctor from season 5 with Matt Smith as the doctor, is absolutely amazing, and everybody needs to see that episode even if you’ve never watched/liked Doctor Who or didn’t like Matt Smith as the Doctor, though Matt Smith did grow on me by his last season… Though Chris Eccleston is still my favorite doctor and Donna is my favorite companion]. There’s the Rembrandt House Museum, and also the Anne Frank House, though to be honest, I’ve heard that the Anne Frank House is not for claustrophobic people, so I don’t think that would be my thing.

There’s also things that aren’t museums. Holland is known for it’s flowers, especially tulips, though tulip season is actually spring, not summer, so we didn’t see the tulips, but there’s a block long flower market called Bloemenmarket. There’s Oude Kerk, the oldest church in Amsterdam that dates back to the 14th century. The Royal Palace dominates Dam Square, and is also a beautiful building. There are canal cruises through the canals of Amsterdam. We didn’t take a canal cruise, but our tablemates did at dinner, and they enjoyed it.

So what did we do? We got a private tour. Our tour guide’s name was Trudi. We took two very strange stops to start our tour. First we went to the Amsterdam Hard Rock Cafe because my mother’s brother from another mother collects Hard Rock Cafe shirts from around the world, and did not have an Amsterdam shirt. Then we went to Starbucks, where I got an Amsterdam mug [and a caramel frap, which tasted the same in Amsterdam that it did in Helsinki and as it does in Texas] to feed my addiction, and I got Gerhard a Netherlands mug, so when he has like six mugs from different Starbucks’ around the world and writes me an email asking me for a the five different Texas ones… it’ll be my fault. [and now he’ll never forget me either because I got him sadly addicted to collecting Starbucks mugs… sorry Gerhard, if you wind up reading this someday!]

After those two very important stops, we actually did a tour. We mainly drove around Amsterdam. We saw all the main sights by car, though I think I may have gotten whiplash from whipping my camera around out the windows at all the different places we drove by. If Justin thinks New Jersey roads/highways are confusing, he really should check out the crazy Amsterdam roads, those things twisted and turned and curved in the strangest directions. We didn’t get to go to places like the Van Gogh museum [though we drove past it] because my mom has knee troubles and couldn’t walk the museums, and even despite that, museums aren’t meant for limited time. They’re places to explore slowly. They’ll just be added onto the list of things I need to do when BFFL Hillary and I do our Baltic Tour in five or so years. We were only in Amsterdam from 11:45ish to 4:30ish, and that wasn’t nearly enough time to check out the city.

I actually wish we did an overnight in Amsterdam [maybe I could’ve checked out that Red Light District if we did… kidding… maybe…] instead of St. Petersburg or Stockholm. I would say out of all the cities we visited…. Helsinki was my favorite [I’m prejudiced, I like their rock music], followed by Amsterdam [which is only second because Helsinki/Finland has HIM and the 69 Eyes while the Netherlands just has Delain], and then Tallinn. I didn’t see any of Copenhagen except the hospitals, so that’s not even on the list. I did enjoy Stockholm, though I don’t think an overnight there was necessary. St Petersburg was a place that I was glad to visit because Russia has such a large part in my own history, as well as American History, but one day there was plenty for me. I enjoyed Latvia, especially the old city, and I think we spent the perfect amount of time there.

Anyhow, like I said, we drove by all the big landmarks of the city, and I attempted to take pictures from open windows in a moving car [we’ll see how they come out], and then we wound up going to a little area called Zaanse Schans, which is an area called Zaandam, and is an open-air museums that has a collection of historical windmills. And there’s a chocolate factory in Zaandam and the entire town smells like chocolate. It’s like Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is where Hershey Park and the Hershey Factory is. Zaanse Schans reminds me a lot of Williamsburg, Virginia, which is where we went on my 8th grade trip. It has a huge collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. There are people, who dress in regional costumes, and workshops that show how cheese and chocolate are made. The cheese place had free samples. I tried goat cheese with garlic and herbs, which was pretty good, and cow cheese, which tasted like if swiss cheese and cheddar cheese had a baby. It also has people, who demonstrate how to make handicrafts like the wooden clogs, barrel marking, and pewter casting. There was also a farm with goats, sheep, cows, and pigs. The mills that are there include a mustard mill, a saw mill,  a dye mill, and an oil mil. There’s also a windmill cruise that can be done, but we didn’t do that, I mostly just walked around and took pictures. It was a really nice place. I could tell it was a total tourist trap, but it has free entry [though the bathroom costed a Euro], and it was a really beautiful place.

On the way back to Amsterdam [since we had a boat to catch], there was some sort of car accident on the highway [it was just like Texas!], so we took some weird detour back to the city. On the way back to the port, we drove by the smallest house in Amsterdam, which is 6 feet 8 inches wide, and 15 feet and 5 inches deep, and we also drove by Anne Frank’s House, which had a really long line, but I mean I can’t imagine you could fit a lot of people in a museum/historical sight since it was meant to be obscured and a place for Jews to hide during the Holocaust. I’m also happy to say that The Fault in Our Stars by John Green did not ruin Amsterdam for me even though the novel was awful. [All John Green books are the same… The only one I can sort of stomach is Looking for Alaska].

Here are pictures from around Amsterdam:

When we got back to port, we bought some souvenirs for people. I got Justin some pot-leaf slippers because I think he’ll find it funny, as well as a cheese-slicer since he’s serious about his cheese [when we went to Wisconsin, I think he bought like 200 dollars worth of cheese that we had to drive back to Texas]. Mom got dad the same slippers [though I don’t think he’ll find them as humorous as Justin will], cheese slicers for my grandmas, shoes for her teddy bear, and some keychains for Gerhard. We had to get our passports stamped as we left Amsterdam [I think it’s because of Brexit… We were leaving the European Union, and entering England tomorrow, and thanks to Brexit, isn’t the United Kingdom and Wales and some other countries considered to be a completely different country now?]. I didn’t mind since my passport is sad since I haven’t traveled as much as my parents have, so now I have another stamp in it, and the Amsterdam passport people were much nicer than the Russian ones.

However I realized I left my favorite 69 Eyes hoodie in the car while we were approaching the ship, and I was really upset. It wasn’t like I could go back and get it. I either ordered that hoodie from overseas or got it at the concert I saw them at in 2007, I don’t remember, but it’s one of my favorite hoodies. Luckily, the driver noticed the hoodie in the backseat, and turned it into Hugo, who turned it into the front desk, and I got my hoodie back. Yay.

Boob Warning:

Once the tragedy of my 69 Eyes Hoodie was resolved,  I went down to the Medical Center for my final bandage changing. I won’t say much. My wounds have no green gunk, so they’re not infected anymore, the holes are closing slowly but surely, and I do have drainage but it’s more like the red and yellow stuff, which is basically normal, yet still disgusting drainage, so I’m on the road to recovery, I’m basically where I was before I flew to England… Just bigger gashes? Hopefully flying home won’t affect me in any sort of way, but I see my regular doctor on Friday, so that’s all good. I gave Bee a list of books that I really liked and thought she would like [we seemed to have similar tastes in books when we talked about them during my bandage changes], and then I thanked all the ladies in the medical center for taking care of me. They were all really nice.

End Boob Talk:

When I got back to the room, I packed my suitcases… aka stuffed everything into the suitcases [though I made sure my Starbucks mugs were padded by clothes] and didn’t give a shit about organization as long as the suitcases closed, which they did. Everything is getting thrown in the laundry when I get home anyways. I’m very much a last-minute packer. The sucky part is that they take our suitcases down when we’re in dinner, which I understand, it’s the easiest way to organize things especially since everyone’s flight leaves at different times and are going to different terminals, but that means I’m stuck with the clothes that I wore to dinner, the clothes I sleep in, and the clothes for tomorrow, and have no place to put them. I’m currently stuffing them in a Starbucks bag and may or may not be stuffing them in my suitcase when I get to the airport or taking them as carry-on luggage [they’d totally fit into an overhead compartment, and all I have is my backpack and camera, which fit together under the seat].

Then was the last supper. I always get melancholy at the last supper. My last supper wasn’t very exciting. I had a tomato/mozzarella salad and some salmon. But it’s sad saying goodbye to the dining room staff, I feel like you get closer to them than anyone else on the cruise because they literally see you every single day. I’ll miss Marius, Noel, and Gerhard. I’ll miss our tablemates. I didn’t really get close to the Scottish couple, but they were nice enough, even if they were a little uppity. But I feel like we really developed a friendship with Tom and Mike [who asked for my blog URL, so if you guys read this, you’re awesome!], but I also feel like we’ll probably stay in touch somehow. Either they’ll Facebook my mom and I’ll find them that way, or maybe they’ll Facebook me, and hopefully we’ll stay friends.

The Baked Alaska parade happened after dinner was served. I did not take any videos or photos of it because I can’t imagine the junior waiters [I mean maybe some of them do, but I can’t imagine the majority of them do] really enjoy parading around the dining room while holding fake baked Alaskas while people wave their napkins at them, and probably find it demoralizing and humiliating, so I won’t add to those feelings. The Baked Alaska itself was delicious.  It is my favorite desert on the ship. I ate mine and then finished my moms… It’s like toasted marshmallow sandwiches with ice cream in the middle and it is amazing. I wish I could learn how to bake a Baked Alaska, but with my luck, I’d probably burn my kitchen down.

After dinner I went down to passenger services, who have been amazing the entire cruise. Every single port day, I asked them to print the Port Guides for me [since my mom took the originals, I think she collects them] so I could use them to write my blogs [I swear my blog has become notorious on this cruise, maybe I’ll actually get real comments that aren’t from spambots now!] and they always did it for me. They also gave me an extra copy of the Cruise Log [which I’ll reference in tomorrow’s entry]. I also got my ruby pin. I am now a ruby member of the Captain’s Circle, which means absolutely nothing except when I go on my next cruise, I’ll have a red card instead of a gold one, but I suppose it is the first “pin” milestone.  Then I went up to the suite, opened my balcony, and took my last sunset picture on the cruise.

Tomorrow I fly back to Texas. I’m actually nervous about flying back. I was okay flying from Texas to England because it was a familiar airport. Heathrow is huge and completely alien to me, and I’m leaving the ship at a different time from my mom and in a completely different terminal from my mom. I have no idea how to check my luggage [or how much it’s going to cost to check my luggage and/or if my credit cards works overseas] or even print my boarding pass since I couldn’t do it the night before since I’m flying transatlantic according to my mom. I’ve also never flown British Airways before, but I do hope the economy is more comfortable than it was flying here on United [I also really don’t like United planes, I find them to be the most  uncomfortable out of all the other big name airline people I’ve flown], there’s some sort of USB plug [so I can play Fire Emblem Awakening for 10 hours straight since I just can’t sleep on planes no matter how much I try], and they serve high tea [though that’s probably just for first or business class]. I’m sure once I get my luggage checked and once I get my boarding pass printed, and get through security and all that [I’ve heard security is sort of a bitch at Heathrow], I’ll be fine, I can walk and find my gate.  I just have anxiety because this is sort of an unknown for me [I’ve never flown back into my country by myself from another country] and unknown make me panic… at least I’m flying from a country that speaks English though.

When I wake up, I may try to grab a quick breakfast from the buffet since I probably won’t be eating until I get on the plane [and it’d be nice if there was a Starbucks in the terminal because I don’t have an England mug], and I need to pack all my electronics [unfortunately I was unable to charge my iPod because it only uses a USB and I literally just forgot about it and I have nothing to charge it with that is not a USB though my 3ds and kindle should have decent battery life] My group leaves the boat at 7:30 am, and it’s about a two hour ride from Dover to Heathrow. My flight leaves from Heathrow at 2:15, and is supposed to land in Texas at 6:30 or so. It’s a good 9 to 10 hour long flight that I won’t sleep on, though at least it lands in the evening, so I can go to bed shortly after I land.

I’m excited to see Justin, and the kitties. I won’t be excited for Texas summer heat [we only have three temperatures in Texas… Hot, Hotter, and Hell, and the summer is HELL]. The cruise was awesome despite my medical emergencies and adventures. It was so awesome to see the Baltic, and I got to visit so many countries that I always wanted to visit, as well as countries I never ever thought of visiting [like Estonia and Latvia]. It also kept my mind off Espurr for two weeks. [I still miss her a lot]. I met some really cool people [Mike and Tom and Gerard, who was nice enough to take me to get my Helsinki mug, which was the most important mug I had to get thanks to my Finlandian Music Obsession, and is just a really nice guy. If you read this, thanks for everything, and all the best in college next year!]. I don’t know when I’ll get to cruise again [I suggested to my mom that taking me to the British Isles or Norway next summer would be awesome, that doesn’t mean it’ll happen or I expect it to happen, but you never know], but I’m sure there will be a next time.

I hope everyone enjoyed my travel blog [and the massive amounts of sarcasm that seep through my pores when I write sometimes] and thanks for reading it. I’ll post a final post-trip entry tomorrow when I get back to Texas! Wish me luck at Heathrow [though by the time this actually gets published, I’ll have hopefully made it home, and it may also be a week or so after the actual trip itself ends since I want to resize and edit my photos so they can go with the entries about the places they were taken].

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