June 30, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Europe

Wow – what a week. I don’t know where to start….you might want to get comfortable. So, a couple of highlights before we headed off to Amsterdam. The long weekend started with Spain winning the Euro Cup semifinal!! You can imagine the excitement around here. Then on Friday, we went to a huge concert just outside of Madrid to see Jack Johnson (among others)! Jack on a massive stage with thousands of screaming Spaniards seemed a little bit out of place, but as usual, he was fantastic in concert.

Early Saturday morning we hopped on a plane to Amsterdam (isn’t that fantastic – I can actually “hop” on planes to visit places in Europe! I still can’t get over it). The plan was to stay at Jacob’s friend Troy’s place (Troy is originally from Chicago), see Amsterdam (it was my first time) and go to a pub crawl that Troy had planned for Saturday night. When we got to Amsterdam we discovered that Troy’s apartment was your typical darling Amsterdam home on a very central charming street. I fell in love with the city right away – with its small tree-lined streets, beautiful buildings with window boxes full of flowers, canals, and of course all of the bikes! All of the streets have a special path (and we’re not talking about a bike-lane here) just for the bikes – it’s crazy!

Right after arriving and getting settled in, we decided to venture out into the city. We had planned on renting bikes, but the weather seemed unpredictable, so we opted to walk instead. It’s a relatively small city, so we were able to take in a good portion of the city in just a couple of hours. We ended our walk in Rembrandt Plaat where we actually met up with my friend Marianne, an old colleague from VeriSign, who was coincidentally visiting Amsterdam at the exact same time. It was so refreshing to see a familiar face!

That night we headed out for Troy’s pub crawl. It involved getting dressed up in silly costumes and then going to four different pubs and finally ending in a disco. It was a super friendly international crowd – people from England, the States, Russia, Spain, France and The Netherlands of course. It was a great time!

The next morning, after a small breakfast just outside of the city center, we headed out on Troy’s boat for a tour of the canals. It was absolutely amazing to ride through the canals and see the city from such a unique and special perspective. Nothing like boating slowly through the red light district! We were so lucky to have such a privileged opportunity, not to mention such a great host.

The takeaways from the trip? First and foremost were the flowers, specifically the peonies. I have never seen such beautiful flowers in my life – I could live there for the flowers alone. I am pretty sure I was close to tears (of joy of course!) when we walked through the flower market. Also very fascinating to me was how well the Dutch people spoke English. It’s incredibly bizarre – they speak English with a near perfect American accent, and EVERYONE speaks English!!! Jacob made a good point – most of the bigger countries here (France, Spain, Italy, Germany, etc) all watch US television shows and films with a localized voiceover, however smaller countries (such The Netherlands and Portugal) must watch in English and therefore have much, much better English and American accents. Anyway, it was quite strange, almost unsettling. What was funny though is that everyone there actually mistook me for being Dutch (finally, I don’t stand out like a sore thumb!!!) and would initially speak to me in Dutch. After nearly three months in Spain, I felt quite flattered to be treated as a native :). Too bad I can’t speak a word of Dutch (and don’t plan to any time soon – what a language!!). Oh and yes, the most striking takeaway – the Dutch are friggin blond giants!! At 6’4”, Jacob was average in height at best, and I was sadly shorter than average. Who knew!?!

Last night was the Euro Cup final between Spain and Germany, and much to our disappointment the game was to be played during the exact time of our flight. We arrived in Madrid with just five minutes left in the game. Jacob’s mom put the phone by the TV so that he could listen in, and I instant messaged with Ben…before we knew it though everyone in baggage claim erupted in cheers – people singing “Viva España” and “Campeones!!”. Spain won 1-0! It was a long night of fireworks and horn honking. A very proud day for Spain to be sure.

So folks, I will be returning to the US this Wednesday for a month and a half. I can’t wait to get back and recharge a little bit. The food, the weather, the people, the English language, organization and efficiency(!!!) – I’ve missed it all so much! I’ve missed everyone and hope that we all get a chance to visit before I head back to Spain. See you soon!