Pasko's Note: 1/2002
Jan-2002 My X->X girlfriend Gia's handwriting was pretty much indistinguishable from mine to a level that was downright scary. After re-reading her writing style in general, I'm more or less afraid that we've shared the same brain for some time.....As a note, I'd like my brain back....
Holland adventures, as told by Georgia Porras
I had 9pm flight to Paris after torturous six-hour lay-over in Atlanta and a fruitless attempt for an earlier standby. I decided in the final hours to hit the airport bar to help increase changes of in-flight sleep with a pre-board buzz. I had a really bad glass of red wine and struck conversation with a nineteen year-old college student that was waiting for the same flight.
He wore a blinding Kermit green shirt, designer jeans and silver hoops. He explained to me, as he played with what looked to be a very expensive hand-held video camera, that after this trip he would be quitting film school and moving out to L.A. to make it. He wanted things to be difficult because you know everything had come so easy. He leaned forward to whisper to me as if in high confidentiality,
"You know this trip I'm taking to Europe, well I didn't pay a dime. My parents paid for the whole thing."
"No kidding," I said. The wine had kicked in.
I found Air France very efficient. They gave us blankets, pillows, sleeping masks, ear plugs, moist towelettes, and airline magazines with actual nude pics. Our seats had little video touch screens in back to watch movies, news and play games with an accompanying TV controller that popped out of the side of your seat in case lifting your arms was too difficult. They fed us twice and gave you all the free wine you could throw back. How could anyone sleep with all this shit to play with?
In Paris we were swept off
the plane and through an obstacle course of stairs, hallways, and trolleys
to our connections. By the time I reached the hotel in Amsterdam I was
seriously dragging ass and covered in two layers of travel funk.
WEEKEND IN AMSTERDAM
Later that night we would take the train to central station in search of food. Joe dragged me half-conscious around the square till we settled in an Italian Restaurant. The food wasn't bad but our waitress instructed us upon holding hands that there was, "No sex here." Damn! Foiled again.
I must have lasted about another half an hour till we headed for the train and subsequently to a taxi. After I slouched into a lifeless lump in the back seat, the cabby says to Joe, "So you took her to the coffee house, yes?"
"Actually, that's just jet lag." And yet who would think that sexual energy could canal through such a profoundly haggard state. Total brain-steam mobility? Quite impressive honey.
The beds in Holland aren't excessively plush or large, yet they are amazingly comfortable. Also, a Dutch hotel's idea of a double bed is two slim twins put together, which is hardly a factor accept they tend to divide during aerobic activities.
The Barton hotel's breakfast was surprisingly decent-not to mention the limitless coffee. However, you find that water is a valuable commodity despite all the canals. That day we did the downtown tourist thing-museums, random picture taking, etc.
The Rijk Museum is itself impressive as a piece of architecture. Inside it's hard to gage exactly how much you've seen without a map. We perused through a maze of pottery, paintings, and furniture before calling it quits due to low blood sugar after about an hour and a half. I can't imagine we made it through more than 1/3 of the museum. It's definitely worth checking out if you have the time.
We ate Italian again (why not) then headed to the Van Gogh Museum, which was considerably smaller and more crowded. Impressionism is my favorite period (that is in my admittedly limited art ed.) so I enjoyed it. A few of Van Gogh's more famous works are kept there like the Sunflowers, but Starry Night must have been stolen by some other country at some point back.
The weather that Saturday was great, sunny 70's-no rain. The city streets get packed and the noise and movement of continuous people flow can produce stimulus over-load after a couple hours. We took a break and sat outside a café. The chocolate covered Belgian waffles and coffee kicked ass-especially Joe's, whose stomach would later be doing the hula all the way back. Speaking of which, bathrooms are sparse around the city. The only reliable place is Central Station, where you have to pay about a 25 cents to get in, and where we found out security sometimes has to retrieve those who have passed out in the stalls.
We also took a brief tour of the notorious red-light district. I was impressed with the caliber of prostitutes. Most girls had nice bodies and relatively youthful faces. Gotta wonder if they're willing to screw for money why they just don't move to Boca and go pro.
The right footwear is definitely
a consideration during a full day in the city, especially when you don't
know your way around. We had to hop a bus due to train repairs on the way
home and got let off a few miles from the hotel. This gave Joe the opportunity
to whip out some new toys and try to guide us back electronically. I'm
usually game for a brisk stroll through a foreign country in an undetermined
direction, but seeing that my ankle had given out only 300 times that day
on the cobble stones it was a bit of an awkward trek. Discomfort aside,
we eventually made it and I suppose it was worth seeing the gleam of techy
euphoria in Joe's eyes having successfully used his GPS.
THREE DAYS IN Maastricht
The train system of Holland is efficient, if its says 12:00 BE READY. We had a three-hour train ride to Maastricht in the south. Lucky for us the train was not crowded, therefore it was not smoky and the chances of us crushing some unlucky passenger with Joe's mammoth suitcase were slimmer. Maneuvering the luggage on an off the train took considerable skill, and aside from the occasional churning of Joe's stomach acid during connections the trip went smoothly.
The Mabi hotel in Maastricht was very nice-Hollywood theme, great bathroom (the shower actually had its own stall). The night we arrived there was a carnival in the main square. We sat outside a restaurant at the corner of the square and were waited on by a very nice-VERY TALL girl Joe referred to as Hedi.
For the next few days I got to play the woman of leisure wandering the maze of streets, shops and sites while Joe attended the SANE Conference. I was easily occupied by the fact that within fifteen minutes of walking I was completely turned about. Even with a map, remembering street names like Hakinflakivstregenberg (if you can even find the sign) was a logistical nightmare. I relied mostly on memorizing landmarks and following a hunch. Needless to say it took about an extra two hours to make it back to the hotel which was usually half a mile away.
The clothing stores have the same tacky shit you can get in the states at about the same outrageous prices. Ditto for most retail items. The bakeries I hit for breakfast had excellent pastries and vendors/sales people were polite and spoke at least enough English to make purchases painless. Joe went into weight-lifting withdrawal about a day in and sniffed out a couple gyms.
I managed to make it to two museums while in town. The Bothem? Museum is Maastricht's the large art museum. The current theme of the museum should have be "Prepare to be thoroughly disturbed." The contemporary wing included a room that housed a video display with multiple TV's looping a shot of someone stabbing meat with a scene from the Exorcist where the possessed girl rams a cross into her crotch. Down stairs spades of Medieval age drawings where displayed, mostly documenting the disembowelment of various saints. Cheery huh?
I also made it to Maastricht's smaller History museum. It was filled with fossils and taxidermy. It might have been more interesting for me if I spoke Dutch since none of the push-button displays were in English. I did come across a room with a large collection of pickled dead stuff. There was really big brain in one jar-I guess that was kind of neat.
While I was wandering the streets by day I looked for restaurant prospects for dinner. Establishments are a lot more creative with there actual serving hours (that is "open" does not necessarily imply "serving food"). In general we tried to avoid places where thirty people were sitting without food or one poor waitress was working the entire crowd. Another good tip is to ask if they have a menu translated in English, otherwise you stand a high risk of eating cow brains thinking you had ordered chicken. I found a nice Chinese place one night. The owner was very friendly and when he figured out I was from Florida on his second guest (first was Texas) he seemed so pleased he offered to keep the place open until I came back later for dinner despite the time.
Joe's 29th B-day was that Wednesday. I took him to an Argentinean steak house called Gauchos. Honestly, I think I had the best filet of my life there and some notably good house Cabernet. The service was great and I learned that the staff actually worked on salary there. When I was adamant about tipping something, the waitress asked me puzzled if in America servers did not get salary? That seemed somewhat laughable.
After dinner we hit a couple of pubs, including an "Easy Going" coffeehouse. I continued on my tour of scotches while Joe surveyed international beer ranging from the lighter brew to stuff with the consistency of pudding.
We ended the night a club called
"Live Music" (Let there be no confusion.) It was basically an old church
that has been converted into techo hell or possibly heaven if you will.
There was a DJ booth at the front of the place with ah-La Las Vegas blinking
cross and a big screen hanging down from the ceiling with 3-D cartoons
playing. We danced for a little bit and I had to wonder where all this
would fall in the scope of Catholic no-no's.
BACK TO AMSTERDAM
On Thursday morning we packed-up and grabbed breakfast before catching the train back to the city. I actually dosed off a bit on this trip seeing we had direct tickets. Scratch off another lesson learned upon our arrival at the Central Station. Joe figured we could just book a hotel for that night at the Tourist Bureau. This sounded like a reasonable plan, however the city was packed that night with conferences whatever. Demand for rooms was high, availability was low and the line outside the Tourist Bureau wrapped around the corner with annoyingly indecisive travelers.
I (literally) sat on suitcases waiting for Joe for a good hour and a half. I kept looking in to check his on his level of anxiety. I gave him credit, he managed to we get a nice room downtown without a causality. From there we smartly opted for a cab, which proved to be a memorable experience.
Our cabby who was driving a beat-up non-luxury model (most cabs were Mercedes), this should have been a tip. I learned from my first ride in from the airport to try not to pay too close attention to the kamikaze driving style of cabs for sanity's sake, but I could tell by the lack of color in Joe's face that things were getting dicey.
Suddenly there was a loud thud from the back corner of the car opposite of me. I thought another car had clipped us from behind, but Joe had seen the whole thing. Our driver had cut off a moped, which had smacked into the back end of the cab knocking out a tire and sending the rider flying over the vehicle onto the payment. Ouch!
The driver jumped out and accessed the damage to the cab and the moped rider (in that order I believe). The rider limped to his feet suffering an indeterminable leg injury. The cabby suggested we walk the rest of the way since our hotel was only down the block. We complied and offered our condolences on the situation to which he shrugged and replied coolly in a Dutch accent, "Shit Happens."
Our hotel, The Upton, was located in the heart of the city. It had an extreme vertical design with a treacherously narrow winding staircase. The pleasant fellow at the front desk insisted on carrying up Joe's suitcase up to our room. After he turned a third his shade of red on the way up, I thought we had been back in Amsterdam only two hours and were already working on killing our second innocent local. Those were frightening odds even for people from South Florida.
Our room was surprisingly big despite the squeeze up the stairs. I changed quick and we headed out to get dinner at an Indonesian place just a few doors down which wasn't bad. Then we took another walking tour, ran into an Internet cafe and random pub, and turned in early.
At just about dawn (or it seemed that way) it was time to lug everything back down the stairs and take a cab back to the airport. At the airport I checked in with a friendly chick at the Air France counter with no wait while Joe headed to the endless drones of travel hell that this particular morning was Delta.
Bonus points for me as I came to the rescue with coffee and donuts in hand. I hung out and waited for him to slowly work his way through the line for his now delayed flight. There seemed to be a large number of unforeseen security checks with accompanying lines on what I had thought would be a short distance to my gate. I ended up jogging in subtle panic in the final stretch.
I had a three-hour layover in Paris on the way back, which for the most part was uneventful except a brief encounter with two toddlers. As we boarded for Atlanta my radar picked up on a clueless American mom with traveling two small children (a girl maybe three and boy maybe two). The mom was one of those disillusioned parents that think they can navigate their children through a busy international airport by voice command. The boy with pee pee in hand wandered from mom chanting he had to go to the bathroom, and I made a mental note to steer clear.
We were put in a transport ship of sorts to be brought out to the plane. Fifty-some people poured in and filled the seats. I saw the mother come in instructing her kids to sit down without of course offering actual physical guidance. The kids headed directly for me in what seemed like slow motion. The little boy climbed into the chair next to me and then proceeded to perch in my lap still holding "himself" with one tiny hand. At this point I was so tired I felt defenseless to resist the onslaught as his older sister attempted to join him.
There was a unanimous look of sympathy for me in the crowd as I contemplated the actual discomfort level of traveling the next ten hours soaked with urine should things progress. The mother finally called out weakly, "Leave that poor lady alone." The children then retreated.
The man at customs in Atlanta told me welcome back cheerfully as he handed back my passport. For me it was about 2:00AM so I could hardly grunt back in response. As I wandered dazed through the Atlanta airport, I noted how loud and fat everyone seemed.
On the flight to Tallahassee
my eyes were so tired and dry I had to pluck out my contacts at my window
seat. I literally walked blindly through the airport to find Joe (the bastard
had a direct flight.) Twenty minutes later I was asleep as soon as I hit
Let's just say it was a good time, if not due to the fact that nothing really "bad" happened. While walking out on my last day at work I could here my co-workers starting a pool on the survival of our relationship through the trip. Since on the morning after our return we were back into our old routine of getting breakfast and heading to the beach (this all entailed still talking to each other), I guess you could say we had made it.
And hey that's a good thing ; )
Things we learned:
Eat at just about any type of restaurant but Dutch (Italian, Indonesian, etc.)
Unless you can breathe smoke comfortably eat outside
Bottled water is called "Spa" and comes with or with out gas
The coffee is nuclear and comes in shots
Fries w/ mayo (despite the artery blockage) isn't bad
Diet Coke is called Coke Light and is flatter, sweeter, and lukewarm
Love the Croissants! With the
chocolate even better.
ATM's will exchange currency (good thing!)
No one takes Diners back home-everyone takes it in Holland-go figure
Calling card good idea
The restrooms are called the WC or Toilet-don't even bother with bathroom
Strategize drinking with bathroom availability, and have change ready
The big square thing behind the toilet is the flusher
Shower does not imply "Stall" just faucet and drain
Hotels in Europe are not made
for fat people
Pack light in highly maneuverable luggage
Leave all electronic devices that plug into a regular outlet at home-(ex. hair dryer)
Pack granola bars
Pack extra undies
Pack extra lubricant
Bring raincoat/umbrella always
*Watching a big man carry heavy
luggage does it for me on some basic level
Cars are small
When in doubt take a taxi
All taxi's are Mercedes-if its not Luxury class avoid it!
You have to take the first taxi in line, except if it's not a Mercedes (see above)
WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
Always book ahead of time
You can by all the same stuff in the sex shops back home except maybe the "dog lovers" model
Dutch people do not consider it impolite to stare
There are better looking people outside the city
The Dutch are not big on weight lifting
Brittney Spears has taken over the planet
The first bank was invented thanks to the success of the Roman brothel
Ancient Egyptian woman used cow dung for birth control
Everyone likes the "red shirt"
If you play techo they will come!
Strawberries/champagne and broken glass
Trips "almost" around the World, umm....
Contagious English Accents
Living Egyptian statues in trouble w/ the law
The random smell of ass in the hallway
A New Yorker in Maastricht
Writing B-day cards on the toilet
Prime time porn
This is about the only
thing that anyone's ever written for me that I've enjoyed enough to
put on my website. It took a lot of effort on my part to screw this
relationship up. More about that later. Hope you enjoyed this as much
as I did.