After nearly two hours of researching the most affordable way to travel from Germany to London, I finally hopped on a westbound train from Wesel to Amsterdam with plans of spending 7 hours in the city of canals and greenery before departing via ferry to Harwich, England.
I stepped out of the station in Amsterdam expecting to fall into asthmatic convulsions from the medicinal smoke cloud I’ve always imagined envelopes the city. It was a pleasant surprise to find there were no 8-foot tall women parading around in fishnets and pasties, nor did anyone approach me with bags of smoking grass within five seconds of my arrival. It is actually not the city of glazed eyes and bad habits we’ve all been taught through the deceptive world of cinema. Amsterdam is absolutely nothing less than lovely.
I decided to sling my slr around my neck and board the long cruiseboat for a canal tour. Sometimes I have to fight my urge to pretend I’m a local in these places and strap on my tourist boots to actually experience the amazing cities I’m in. The photo below is a two second glance of the canals; the one point where the arches align for a brief moment, forming an amazing telescope view down the channels of green water.
Heike, my incredible host in Wesel, prepared me with a picnic of treats for my journey west with grapes, prosciutto and mixed cheeses. Being the day before my birthday, I did allow myself a lunchtime glass of wine and something special from an Amsterdam style coffee shop. I then found the most incredible ledge on the canals and proceeded to feast like Bacchus. I suppose my genuine contentment with my afternoon snack was apparent, because I soon noticed a boat below of tourists snapping pictures of me, like I was the single creature on their expedition to epitomize the Amsterdam lifestyle. Naturally, I ate it up and waved like pageant queen.
When I decided to take a ferry from Hoek Van Holland to Harwich, I assumed I was signing up for a commute a bit less enjoyable than the pricier train ride. Considering the price of the ferry was literally less than half the cost of the train, I naturally prepared myself to sleep on a cot supported by slinkies and snooze with a plastic lined bag by my face throughout the 8 hour journey.
This was not the case.
After 2 hours waiting in the lovely fisherman’s town of Hoek Van Holland, I boarded the backpacker’s Titanic. With an outside cabin complete with a giant window, I flopped on my double bed, twirled around in the private bathroom, and gobbled down the peppermints nestled under an elegant swan-shaped origami towel.
There was a gorgeous sundeck…
Three full bars and a small casino. I made a plethora of friends in the lounge and found myself announcing to the crew that I was only hours away from celebrating my birthday. Soon the barkeep, a cheerful chap by the name of Frank, offered me a glass of Rose on the house for reaching my midtwenties. After chatting a while, Frank put the bottle in a bucket of ice and slid it over to me with a wink. In the most stereotypical British accent he said, “Have the bottle darling. It’s your birthday afterall.” The night progressed with belly laughs and accent-inflicted language barriers. The boat was nearly all travelers from northern England and Scottland, with accents stronger than a south Georgian with two cheeks full of tobacco. I pretended to understand their jokes, and we shared rounds of high fives and glass-clinking for hours well into the night. The adventure ended with a beautiful choir of Englishmen singing “Happy Birthday Kissy” and a few short hours of sleep.
It was certainly a birthday to remember. I thought for a moment I had booked my own private birthday yacht filled with British gentlemen showering me with flattery and unending cheek kisses. What more could a girl ask for on her 24th year of life?