Thursday, 2 August 2007

Amsterdam musings and the coolest aquarium ever

The aquarium at Blijdorp (the Rotterdam Zoo) where Suzanne practiced her fishy noises

11 years ago: imagine a 21 year old woman in Amsterdam after backpacking through Europe for 6 weeks alone (but don't tell my mother), having broken up with dorky college boyfriend, carrying a backpack containing 3 tshirts, a pair of running shoes, a pair of jeans, a skirt, a college sweatshirt, pair of tevas, a jar of peanut butter and some extra film. Every night being woken up by parties in the youth hostel.

last weekend: imagine a 32 year old woman in Amsterdam, driving up from France with her French husband and child, meeting her parents for their annual visit. Every night being woken up by a partying 14 month old who'd rather practice standing on top of you than sleep in a strange bed.

The first scenario may seem a lot more fun but since Amsterdam was the end of that epic trip, I didn't appreciate itmuch. It was raining, I was alone, out of money and just wanted to eat something other than apples and peanut butter.

There are still as many backpackers in Amsterdam which gave me a chance to reflect. For instance, it was so much easier to backpack back then. We didn't have ipods or digital cameras to worry about getting stolen or lost. We just lugged around tons of film.

And we didn't have sore feet either since we were wearing tevas instead of flipflops.

We didn't have to deal with worried parents since we didn't have cell phones or internet connections. All we had was the ATT long distance access code and a scratchy connection on the pay phone. Then again, we has scary run-ins with freaky people on night trains and slept with our passports and money in our underwear.

And being with my French husband reinforced what I've learned working with the Dutch over the past 4 years - the Dutch way is much closer to the American way than to the French way. this explains why the Dutch pushiness and straight forwardness and their wonderful lack of all that blah blah that goes on in French stores and social settings seriously disturbs Jerome but puts me at ease. In many ways, I feel more comfortable in the Netherlands than I do in France.

So, what have I learned in the past 11 years since I ended my 6 week tour of Europe?
  • I could have gotten myself killed but I didn't.
  • Top bunks on night trains are a bad idea because the train could get rerouted due to storms and you could be stuck there for 18 hours.
  • Avoid weird Italian men at youth hostels.
  • Peanut butter is nasty when you have it every day.
  • Flipflops are only useful for taking showers in nasty hostel showers
  • The man with the hauntingly beautiful voice who sang "Annie's Song" under a passage in the rain in 1996 still sings the same song in the same passage but his voice is hauntingly unbeautiful now.
  • Amsterdam with a baby and parents in tow is not much of a vacation
BUT when you don't have the baby in tow you don't get to go to the extremely cool Rotterdam Zoo (which kicks the Bronx Zoo's butt if memory serves me right) and without the parents, you don't buy as much beautiful Dutch cheese at The Kaaskammer.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Nice post about the difference in perspective now when visiting the same place! I hope to someday revisit the European cities I saw as a 21-year-old backpacker, but this time with my hubby and child.

By the way, I know what you mean about watching out for Italian men in youth hostels!

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