I had a 9am-ish Eurostar train to catch to Brussels. Seeing how I was way too early for my train to London, I didn't want to make the same mistake and just sit at St. Pancras terminal waiting. And waiting. So I decided to leave my hotel at 7:30am, thinking that at most (and that this would be a serious overestimate) I would be at the station by 8am. An hour early. I still thought I was leaving too early, but better safe than sorry, right?
I did get to the Eurostar terminal by 8am, but this was unlike any other train station I had been in. First there was the line to get into the platform-area. Then the airport-style security line. Then the immigration line (I now have a France stamp in my book; not that I have ever set foot on French soil). Then the line to get to/on the train. I literally boarded with 3minutes to spare. 3minutes! Such anxiety. It also blew my get-breakfast-at-the-terminal plan. But I was on the train and on my way to Brussels.
In Belgium, 2hours later, I knew I would only have 10minutes to catch the local train to Amsterdam (they run every hour). Once I managed to identify the correct platform I booked it to the elevator, but there were 3buttons, with no markings. Which to push!? That may sound stupid, but I wasn't the only one stumped. I turned around and started to lug my bag up 2flights of stairs to the platform just to see the conductor close the doors and the train to depart. Sadface. Some guy came up to me and asked, in broken English, when the next train was. I did my best to explain it to him and then I lugged my bag back down the steps to wait for an hour.
My sitting and waiting in the near-empty terminal didn't last long. I decided to find an ATM for some €. I found one, though the only language options were French, German, and Dutch. I took a shot at German and was successful... though I was slightly worried that I had agreed to pay some exorbitant fee (I did not).
I still had a lot of time so I decided to wander the entire station... and boy. Remember that near-empty thing I was talking about? All lies. I guess that was just the international arrival section, because on the other side there were swarms of people. Whoa.
I managed to get on the next train to Amsterdam - this time with the aide of an escalator. This train, however, was no Eurostar. There weren't convenient luggage areas at the ends of the cars, but instead overhead racks. There were quite a few of us staring at them and our large bags in utter confusion. Luckily, some nice guys were willing to throw our stuff up there. This trip was an event. First, 2children got on, their mother didn't, and then the train started pulling away. Chaos. Luckily, the engineer stopped the train and the children were eventually found. So we were behind schedule. Later the train just randomly stopped due to some "technical difficulties." Great. Now even more behind. At this point someone sat next to me. It was the broken-English guy from earlier. Can we say stalker? He kept interrupting my reading to have a conversation about living in DC. Based on what he was saying I think he was lying and has never lived in DC. Awkward turtle.
Once in Amsterdam I walked maybe 10minutes to my room, which is just that in a building with 3flats:
The real treat is how you get into my room, which was kind of fantastic, and required to me to sit on some really steep steps:
I met with Missy and Franklin in Dam Square, which was literally steps from my front door. We had dinner and then went on an evening canal cruise throughout the city:
On the cruise I learned that the boats can make crazy-tight turns, Amsterdam also has leaning buildings, and that there are 2milliion bicycles in a city of 1million residents. In fact, there are so many bikes, that they require their own, dedicated parking garage. Way to be green, Amsterdam.
Just as an aside, walking in Amsterdam was crazy. After 11days in the UK I had pretty well adapted to the whole left-side driving thing. Though it was initially very awkward and unsettling, by the end of my stay I knew which way to look when crossing the street. In Amsterdam, however, this new skill was not to my benefit and I was doubting my street-crossing abilities. Add to that that the streets, sideways, bike lanes, and tram areas all LOOK THE SAME, and you had one confused American.
All June 12 photos (thanks again to Franklin!):
Up next: History and beer.