Friday, May 29, 2015

I forgot Amsterdam & Brussels...whoopsie!! BEST. BEER. EVER.

So right before I left to head back to the states, we had a 4 day weekend so we road tripped to Amsterdam for two days and Brussels for one day. This trip was a bit interesting--we ended up staying in our first hostel! Due to the Airbnb guy we had rented through being a total waste of space (he NEVER showed up at the location to let us in, etc., and I had booked for 2 days there!!) we found ourselves homeless in Den Haag (40 minutes south of Amsterdam.)

Initially we just got out of the car to stretch and walk around in hope that the guy we rented from was just late, but that so didn't end up being the case! We found the beach area and definitely sat down for a beer, which is absolutely amazing there!! (Wait til I get going on Brussels, even better beer!) But we eventually wanted to see if the guy was at the place yet. Plus we needed to change outta our comfies and put some jeans on to head to dinner. So the guy we rented from is a no show. I started looking up hotels in the area off my phone and found a hostel that was two blocks away. After changing in the car (yea, that was fun lol) we reloaded the backpacks and headed towards the hostel.

Gotta admit, I was totally playing that girl that was totally up for the adventure but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I had some anxiety about staying in a hostel. Anyone see the movie?? Anyone?? Yikes. But honestly, this hostel is two blocks from the beach and it had a bar. 2 of my favorite things! We ended up getting a room all to ourselves on the top floor. We did check the 24 bunk room though! Interesting...but no thanks. Not there quite yet! So we checked in, and headed to dinner. But first we swung through the bar/patio area to get our 2 free beers! It was pretty cool actually! There was a fest going on with bands playing throughout the night, so we saddled up, drank our beer and headed up to check out Den Haag!!

Den Haag (The Haag) is the seat of government in the Netherlands, and the capital city of the province of South Holland. Apparently a lot of the Dutch Royal family lives there. It has the coolest "wide" beaches. Granted we went in April, it wasn't the warmest but any time I can be around a beach, it always puts me in a better mood! Their restaurant set up is awesome, a ton of cool looking beach bars, all with an outdoor patio setup. I can only imagine how fun it would be to live here and be able to access these restaurants during the summer! Just awesome! We had a great time walking their beach boardwalk and scoping out our future retirement home location and who had the best set up. I will go back there when it's warmer out for sure!

After we were done cruising around the beach, we walked back to our hostel and the party was still hoppin'! Totally jumped in and made friends with the bartenders! They loved us-we loved them, always a good combo. We had a blast at our first hostel stay-highly recommend trying it at least once! **Side note--always pack a towel when traveling by car. If you need to stay in a hostel, you need to bring your own towel. (Yup, that means we didn't shower the next day. Just trying to fit in like a European...I mean...)

Amsterdam was a cool city! We did the free Sandeman's walking tour, which was about 3 hours or so. It was overcast but still was a good day. Our tour guide was awesome, she was super friends, funny and knew a ton about the area. We made it to all the traditional Amsterdam stops but with fun people and a great guide-and it's free!! You just tip what you feel is appropriate at the end. The end of our tour took us to the Anne Frank museum and house. The line was RIDIC to get in, but you can buy them on line before you go. Highly recommend doing that if that is something you'd really like to see.

I'm sure you're all still thinking about one of two things...smokin' the reefer and the red light district. We saw, smelled and walked through both! And they didn't disappoint! The minute we got off the train (oh yea, we trained it from Den Haag to the center of Amsterdam) you could smell. It's EVERYWHERE! I'm not kidding. So here's the run down on how it works there....because it is actually ILLEGAL in some aspects!
he Netherlands has a special tolerance policy on soft drugs, but if we look at the laws:
- Possession of drugs is punishable, again, with a maximum of 5 grams of cannabis (weed, marijuana or hash) the police will seize the drugs, but you can give them up and you will not be prosecuted.
- If you have more soft drugs than the quantity for personal use (5 gram) you will be fined and risk a prison sentence
- Minors are not allowed to have any drugs, the tolerance policy does not apply to them, so you must be 18 or over to buy drugs
- Growing weed at home is illegal, however 5 plants or less you can give them up and you will generally not be prosecuted
- Hard drugs are not allowed
- Import and export of drugs is illegal
- You cannot smoke in public, and use of soft drugs like smoking weed is not allowed either you can do that in Amsterdam coffee shops.

Coffee shops are not to be confused with cafes. Totally different. But walk into a coffee shop and it's game on. There is a menu and the measure of strength of what you're buying. I got a contact high just walking into one of the shops. Super cool to see but I stayed away from it during my trip (I know...I'm lame. But I'd be the only one doing it and that's not cool. For obvious reason, my husband had to decline from partaking.)

The Red Light District was nuts! It felt like we walked into Vegas in Amsterdam. People were everywhere there, walking through the neighborhood...and on Easter weekend. Kind of an oxymoron, right? But it was crazy to see all the different "varieties" of ladies at the windows and I'm still not sure on the "going rate." Holy insane. Just a total eye opener and made me feel like a total and legit prude. It's also legit profession there! Like the ladies can all belong to the Chamber of Commerce for example. Don't even think of taking a picture, they will get extremely pissed off, it's not allowed. They'll shut their curtains and we heard that some will come out of their doors and come after you if you really piss them off.

Easter Sunday was spent in Brussels, we drove down the morning of after spending the night in an actual hotel. (Even got to watch the Badgers win the game to make it to the Championship game!!) We Airbnb'd it in Brussels and it was an awesome place! A super well done, new bed & breakfast just blocks form the center of the city.  Such a great experience! We had SUCH a better experience with Airbnb in Brussels than we did in Amsterdam. They totally went and redeemed themselves with the awesome studio Bed and Breakfast we stayed at. Super well done and made great breakfast in t he morning with traditional Belgium noms.Highly recommend it ( It had just opened and it was wonderful! The hosts name is Laurent, cool guy who gave us ideas of where to go for dinner and what to make sure to see off the beaten path. Those are the best! I'm finding more and more that the real gems are when you really go off the beaten bath and honestly, just get lost in whatever new city your in. For the most part, the cities we've visited do not have areas where we "shouldn't" go. So we don't typically have to worry about that, but we make sure to fin out if there are. Or we'll already know about it!

Brussels has awesome food and beer. Can't say it enough! We tried the frites, beer and waffles, along with a traditional dinner that night. I also thought it was cool that there were so many people touristing around like we were on Easter Sunday! We weren't alone, which was fun!

Made the pit stop at Delirium Brewery and it was amazing. Such great beer! Also found my new favorite beer, Triple Karmelite! I know it's back in the states but there's something about trying it from the immediate source! Don't forget to check out the Jeanneke Pis statue that is right out the door to the Delirium Cafe! It has a gate protecting it but it has to do several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-Over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle. (Thank you Wikipedia for the info!)

So that was Brussels!! I personally loved it, one of my favorite spots so far. I'd like to have more time to drive up to Bruges! Heard great things about it. We're actually headed up to Brussels at the end of June for a music festival--Rock Werchter 2015. It's a camping trip.....god help me! But I'm looking forward to it! It'll definitely be an experience!

Next up...the 1 year anniversary trip! BARCELONA!! Lots of great stuff to report on. Stay tuned, that one will be up soon!! #ciao #notfromaroundhere

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