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Weekend 1: Brussels & Amsterdam May 30, 2013

Posted by kmneuberger in Travel Log.
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The first big weekend! We had a three day weekend so we decided to fit in two cities during one weekend.  This proved to be a bit tricky but we still made it happen.  The group for this trip included myself, Katie Pokrant, Palavi Vaidya, Gloria Lozano, Jesscia Helms, and Andree Curran.  We decided to book an apartment for our time in Amsterdam before we left for France.  Though this provided us with a wonderful place to stay it meant that we had to get to Amsterdam.  With our Eurail (train) passes we can get to most places for free by just hopping on the train; although, some of the trains require a reservation.  Unfortunately there were no reservations available for us to get from Brussels to Amsterdam!  Thankfully, with lots of searching, we found a MegaBus type service that could take us to our destination. 

     The first stop of the weekend was Brussels, Belgium.  We stopped to get some delicious kababs (the fast food of Europe) for dinner before heading to the train station.  On the platform we ran into a few other GTLers; soon enough the train came and we were off on our first of many adventures!  When we were one stop away from getting off the train something strange happened; a GTL student in another group almost had his backpack stolen.  Now we were told, many times, before this trip that pickpocketing and stealing was very prevalent in Brussels but I had no idea how close I would be to it.   So, once we arrive at this stop a group of men got off at the back of the train car and then walked along the side of the car banging on the window, so as to distract the people on the train.  While this was happening a man walked down the center isle and tried to grab a GTL student’s backpack while he was distracted.  It was a close call but luckily nothing was actually taken.  After that we were hyper-aware of everything and everyone around us.  This was especially important because we arrived rather late at night.  Our train was meant to arrive at 10:50, but it was running late and we did not arrive at the Central station until 11:30.  We were supposed to check into our hostel, but I had emailed them before our trip and they agreed to stay open later.  We got off the train making sure to look around as we walked through a not very safe part of town.  We then had to take the Metro on one line 6 stops and then another line for 2 stops.  We arrived in an even scarier looking area; thankfully our hostel was only 20m from the train station and we walked there very quickly.  I overheard the previous person checking in and noticed that the man checking people in spoke Spanish! This was wonderful because Gloria is fluent in Spanish; she spoke with them and was able to get all of us in one 6 person room.  Once we were settled into our rooms it was a unanimous decision to stay in for the night and not venture out into the city.  The next morning we had a free breakfast at the hostel and were ready to go for the day!

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Here is a picture of the group at the hostel (minus Palavi, the photographer).

     We took the Metro into the city center and started searching for real Belgian waffles and the Mannequin Piss.  We continued walking, stopping at a souvenir shop along the way. After asking a few locals we found our way to a Belgian waffle shop.  I had a Belgian waffle with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce; it was by far the best waffle I have ever had! We then walked right around the corner and saw the main attraction in Brussels, the Mannequin Piss.  This little statue is one of the main tourists attractions in the city, even though he is so small!

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     After and very successful and filling morning we walked into the center square.  The buildings there are over 400 years old! It was so amazing to see such wonderful architecture, and this was only our first city!  We then decided to visit the famous Delirium Cafe for some authentic Belgian beer.  I also found ΑΦ♥ written on the table at Delirium, that was exciting for all the APhis to see!

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     Once we had finished at Delirium it was about time to leave Brussels.  We started walking towards the bus station; we had to wait a little while before the bus came which made us a little anxious.  We needed to be sure check into our apartment in Amsterdam by a certain time.  We loaded the bus and headed out for a three hour bus ride, arriving around 7pm.  When we arrived we had to take a the metro a few stops to Amsterdam Central Station, from here we had walking instructions to our apartment.  This gave us an awesome opportunity to walk right through the city center and preview all the things we would be seeing in the next few days. 

     We got settled into our apartment, which was central to just about everything, and then left to find dinner.  It was getting close to 10 pm and all we had eaten that day was a light breakfast and a Belgian waffle!  After walking around we found a small felafel place; it was a tasty dinner, especially since everyone was so hungry.  We then went over to a local bar to have a Heineken, as it is produced in Amsterdam. After a long day of traveling we decided to go to bed to be ready for another full day of exploring our new city.

     The next morning we decided to walk over to the famous Van Gogh museum.  After quite a long wait we finally got inside, greeted with hundreds of Van Gogh’s works as well as some paintings by his mentors and colleagues.  The group was mostly quiet during our walk through the three floors of the museum, captivated by the the vast array of paintings.  It was so interesting to see the the influences of other painters in Van Gough’s work as well as the transition of mood and style throughout his life.  This was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  After this we had a short walk over to the famous I Amsterdam sign.

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This was one of my personal favorites at the museum.

   We then had a quick lunch of kebabs and took a canal tour of the city.  This was such a fun way to see parts of the city we had not yet seen and learn some interesting facts.  One of the most interesting facts was that around 150 bikes and 1 car a week fall into the canals!

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     The next morning we had to be up early to grab souvenirs and then hop on a train.  We had over nine hours before we were back in our home city of Metz with a lot of train changes.  Luckily we made all of our connections and arrived safely back in our dorms, ready to decompress and prepare for class the next morning.

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