Monday, May 14, 2012

Adventures In Wonderland (a.k.a Amsterdam)

Amsterdam is fun, Amsterdam is good. Not everybody goes there, but everybody should. It was inspiring. It was beautiful. It was a really far out happin' place, man.
How do I even begin to describe Amsterdam? I could answer this question by quoting Mean Girls, beginning with the fact that Amsterdam is flawless. There is nothing that a person could desire in life that is not found in this fantastical land. I have been anticipating writing this blog post for several days now, and I'm so excited to tell you all about my trip. Hold on, ladies and gentlemen... Its going to be a bumpy ride!
On Wednesday morning, I arrived at the Eindhoven airport, which is approximately two hours away from the city of Amsterdam. The reason why I didn't fly directly into Amsterdam was because it was more expensive, and so from the airport, I took a bus which allowed me to enjoy a journey where I was able to pass through Holland's countryside. Eindhoven was great because it allowed me to enjoy the beautiful views of tulip gardens, windmills and farmer's. Not only did I get to see a part of Holland that many people ignore when visiting the country, but it was also cheaper. I arrived in the actual city at 10 am, and words can not properly describe what I felt upon stepping off the bus and into the city of Dixie bikes and canals. My friend Shayna who visited Amsterdam in April of 2011 
Giant wooden shoe on the street:
a famous symbol of Holland.
described Holland as, "The land of tulips, tall people, and all things legal. You can get away with just about anything, except maybe for murder."
Amsterdam was a breath of fresh air (literally). I was immediately mesmerized by it, and I was like a kid in a candy store. Its kind of hard to describe, but if you believe in past lives, something inside of me kind of clicked. I knew my way around immediately, and it was almost as though I'd been there before. What did I want to do first? The question gave me a rush of excitement that I could not handle. I decided to go to my hostel first called The White Tulip, located in the Damrak area where I checked in and locked my bag in the storage. Then I introduced myself to my roommates, grabbed my purse, my map, and headed out into the unknown.
The first place I wanted to visit was The Anne Frank house, something that has been on my bucket list since I ever even knew what a bucket list was. I met up there with a friend from back
Sanne and I.
home named Sanne (pronounced like Sun-ah). I first met Sanne when I had a severe case of the Ugly Duckling syndrome. Seriously - I was more awkward and out of place than Ke$ha in church. Sanne is actually a friend of my sister's, and despite my crooked smile and rag doll haircut, she took a special liking to me. I've always loved Sanne.
Her mother is originally from Holland, and her family moved there when Sanne was in the fifth grade, so she speaks fluent Dutch. It was so awesome walking into this little restaurant for lunch and listening to her order in Dutch. Seeing her was one of the highlights of my trip, and now that I'm older, I tend to get on well with people years older than myself who happen to be friends of my sister's. I listened to her stories about how and why she wanted to come back to
Gouda cheese, anyone?
Holland, and you could tell just how happy she is that she did it by the look on her face when she talks about it. She lights up completely, and it's as though she's right where she belongs. She talked about how people need to start living in the moment and do what they say they want to, instead of sitting back and allowing regret to get the best of you when you're sitting in a rocking chair and blind in one eye while thinking, "Man, I really wish I didn't let my fear get the best of me..." I'm with you, Sanne.
During my entire vacation, I almost felt like a local, because I definitely blended well. Dutch people are tall and blonde, so I was able to weave through the streets without sticking out like a sore thumb as I do in Italy where the women are naturally tan with dark hair and eyes. It was awesome. While being here, I realized that I do not have enough orange clothes in my closet. Normally, orange doesn't work for me (I'm a summer), but orange is the colour of Holland because it's the Queen's favourite colour.
Every April 30th, the entire country celebrates her birthday (Queen's Day) and dresses up in orange. Knowing this, I knew it would be foolish for me to leave the country without sporting something
Typical Dutch homes. They decorate their front
windows so beautifully that it's difficult to tell the
difference between a house and a shop when walking by.

orange. I eventually found an awesome hoodie bearing what looks like the Heineken beer label with some flattering comments about Amsterdam in the middle and... Well... I don't mean to brag, but... Even though orange is normally not my colour, this sweater somehow does wonders on me. Not only do I look good, but I also feel energized and happy just wearing it. Bonus points when I drink a glass of orange juice or nibble on a carrot while donning it, just because.
There are so many incredible things that happened on this journey of mine, some of which I don't remember entirely. Because I am worried about the raw details of this trip coming back to haunt me and bite me in the ass come election time where I will eventually run for Prime Minister of Canada, I have to be cautious about some of what I post on here. Use your imaginations, people (and be sure to vote MichElle Pressé-Tatum: Improving 
Our Country, One Step At A Time).
One fun thing I decided to do was to visit the Sex Museum: The Temple of Venus. If you are a member of my family, please click the "close" button at this moment and replace that with "National Museum of All Good Things." Just friends and strangers reading now? Ok. Good. I can very confidently say that the Sex Museum was unlike anything I have ever seen in my entire life. It is a two minute walk from the Central Station and located on Damrak Street (the most popular street in Amsterdam), just minutes away from my hostel. The cost is a mere 4 Euro's, and the minimum age is 16 (although no one was carded). In each of the rooms, different muffled noises from the speakers are played in the background. In the Marquis de Sade room, the sounds on the speaker play a woman's moaning and occasional scream. Each room had photographs, history, and facts about sex. There was even porn playing on a flat screen TV in one room, and rooms dedicated to specific culture's and their own evolution on the topic of white hot passion. Although I was trying very hard to be as mature as possible whilst inside the museum, I couldn't help but giggle at the elderly couples walking through, which gave me a bit of hope for my own 
future and what life will come to once I'm married and 99 years old. It was a very educational moment in my life.
Since we're on the subject of sex, I think it's an appropriate time to discuss the famous Red Light District. It was here that I became more culture shocked than ever before in my entire life. Chris Madronich (my friend from home who I met up with in London) flew into Amsterdam the day before me, and so him, Sanne and I met up for a walk around the cities most infamous neighbourhood. We were walking through a side street by our hostel when I
Shocking, probably to any culture.
turned my head to the left and... OMG! A woman was in the window. Like... For sale. Black bra, thong, belly ring, tanned skin, bleach blonde hair, and gesturing and beckoning to the passerbys, hoping to look some old married man who wasn't getting any action at home in the eyes to make 50 Euros in 15 minutes. The women standing in the windows were wearing their finest lingerie or swimsuits while dolled up with over processed hair and heavy makeup. But it's not just the "fantasy" women who await their paychecks in the windows. Women of all shapes and kinds are available, because some men have fetishes and preferences. Some men would rather have sex with a woman who has cellulite or is pregnant (yep, there was definitely a pregnant woman in a window not far from my hostel) than a size two, six foot tall exotic vixen.
It is strictly forbidden to take photographs in this area of the city, and if you attempt to even pull 
your camera out, chances are a pimp will come running out of nowhere to chase you and throw your camera in the canal. I'm not kidding. So, although I did not want to risk having my camera being damaged or the chance of being chased by a pimp, I did see the district with my own eyes and pulled a picture off of Google so you can see what I mean. Chris came back to my hostel at the end of the day, and we had a long discussion about prostitution and argued about the business.
One thing that really stuck out to me about the Red Light District was a bag of M&M's on one of the prostitutes bedside tables. They have their own rooms and shut the curtains after negotiating with their customers about what they want done and how much they've agreed to pay for it. Anyway, the M&M's. As silly as it sounds, I got really depressed about it. Obviously prostitutes are humans too, and therefore need to eat (it's not like I imagined them all hanging out in a pasture like a group of cows eating grass or anything, but still). I just thought it was so sad that a woman would sell her body for money, and then use it to buy something so innocent. She'd probably just gone up to the 
Rocking my orange sweater and enjoying my dessert!
cashier in the store like any other normal person while the cashier had no idea. I don't know. It just made me sad, I guess.
Amsterdam is a city that is full of winding canals and beautiful scenery with the most intricate architecture I have ever seen in my entire life. It's the most liberating place I have ever set foot on, and of course, there is a large part of this culture that cannot be ignored - drugs. Many tourists flock to Amsterdam in order to smoke weed freely and slowly get stoned and more. In the infamous coffee shops and even tourist stores, you can be offered drugs that are laid out in front of the customers. Laminated sheets
of paper describe what the drugs are and what they will do to your vision, your brain, and so on.
On my last day in the city, Chris and the other boys who stayed in his hostel all wanted to visit the zoo, and so I tagged along with them. It wasn't different from any other zoo, but it was a great day and a nice way to spend my last moments in the city. It also happened to be one of the guys' birthday, so we went out to a nice Italian restaurant on the Damrak for dinner. I got a plate of gnocchi and ordered a vanilla sundae with chocolate fudge running down it's side like a skier on the Swiss Alps with whipped cream and slices of pear on top for dessert. It was the perfect meal to end my vacation. Other things happened during my time in Amsterdam that, as I mentioned before, are too inappropriate for me to document for the entire world to see, including a story involving a stripper and a banana. But let's not open that can of worms. That's all I can tell you about my time in wonderland, and I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my four day getaway.

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