Spontaneity on a Sunday

My day started around 10 o’clock on this Lazy Sunday.

I crawled into my little sister’s bed because we always take turns doing that when we’re home. Waking up generally sucks, but doing it with another person helps take the edge off. This is how I feel about most “adult things” – yeah, I did just say that waking up before 10 am is an adult thing, because it is. Thank god there were donuts to make it even easier.

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Shoutout Brooklyn Bakery Co

Another thing my sister Britt & I like to do is leave the house as much as we can. In fact, I think that’s how we got into hiking in the first place. Where else can you go for free when you have nothing planned ahead of time? Today we decided to go to the Riverbound Farm Sanctuary located in one of the corners of Cheshire, CT. It rained for the past few days, so we figured the water would be more wild than usual. And it’s one of the least intensive walks in town – we’re a little tired, okay?

Here are some pictures of the place that I’ve posted over the years:

 

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As you can see, I’ve been here many times. You see that white house in the back of the outdoor classroom? Unbeknownst to me, it’s been a Quinnipiac Valley Audubon Society building all along. When we pulled up to the sanctuary today, there was a giant white sign saying “OPEN”. Apparently, today is Open Day.

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Sitting at a table were two members, maybe even leads, of the Society. They welcomed us, encouraged us to sign the guest book, and asked if we came here often. I explained how it’s one of our regular spots but the Audubon had always been a mystery. I proceeded to comment on the bridge that fell last year, the remodeled butterfly garden and the purple wildflowers that came and went. I felt like I had to prove how much I really like this place to these folks – they are the ones who take care of it, after all. We especially bonded over the mystery person who leaves walking sticks for others to enjoy.

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I learned that the man is the person who rotates the signs in the trailhead that tell you the wildlife you should look out for depending on which month it is. The woman was well-versed in the speaker events that happen each month, as well as the bird-watching groups that operate in the spring. I was intrigued over everything they were saying, but in the back of my mind I knew I wouldn’t be around to enjoy what they will soon be offering. I’m about to move in like, a week…I think. Maybe Monday, maybe Tuesday, definitely soon.

After a little more talking, Britt and I began to explore the displays.

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Which one’s your favorite?

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There’s so much more that I didn’t capture, and I hope all of you who are local to the area take a chance to visit the trails or headquarters so you can soak in the information, nature, or participate in the events to come. This place being open was a pleasant surprise, and it ended up making for a lovely experience before a peaceful stroll in the woods.

I hope you all have a happy and pleasant Father’s Day! I’m about to go stuff my face with my family.

✌🏼

Additional note: PLEASE pick up after yourselves, people. At my favorite bench I found a t-shirt, a giant Arby’s cup, wrappers, and multiple types of broken cups (glass, ceramic, etc.). Quit the shit, and don’t litter.

Not Exactly How I Pictured It

I’d like to start this post by saying that I am not as mad or complainy as the rest of my words may suggest. I was tired, aggravated, and trying to channel my inner gonzo after reading Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”. Trust me, I understand every hiccup is part of the adventure 😁 Now I hope you enjoy this mess from the comfort of your own, fully-functioning home.

Feb 9th – 7 pm

“Ehh…we have a slight problem.”

I stood there rubbing my eyes with my fists because I woke up sixty seconds earlier from a sleep coma caused by the purest form of laziness. I had my hood pulled over my bed head and an annoyed look on my face. Staring back at me was the guy in charge of management who was wearing a blue vest – the same one who checked us into our disaster of an Airbnb just 6 days prior. What could be so big of a problem that we needed to be disturbed at 19:00?

“Yes?” I croaked.

“Your keetchen water has been leaking into the apartment downstairs and we have to move you tonight. I am so veddy sorry”

My puffy eyes glared back at him. “Like, right now? Is that what yesterday’s obnoxious 8 am construction was for?”

“Ehh yes I am so sorry about this. Eet is a problem that is out of our control.”

Shannon caught wind of the conversation and leaped from her comfy setup of being buried under her laptop and Giants blanket.

“Wai-hey-hey-t. We have to pack up all of our shit and get out of here right now. To where, exactly?” I think she thought it was a joke at first.

“We can go with your theengs or we can check it out first, huh?” he proposed. Our current place was barely functional, let alone comfortable, so we weren’t opposed to an upgrade if we were in store for one.

I locked the dead bolts behind me. I didn’t bother throwing on a jacket because the house of condominiums was only so big, so I figured we weren’t going very far. Of course I was wrong. Number one rule of travel is don’t expect ANYTHING, unless you’re at a 3-star hotel or more. Because when you’re paying only 20-something Euro a night to stay in the “up-and-coming” neighborhood of Rome, you have very little to fight back with when shit doesn’t go your way.

We followed Blue Vest who took us out the gate of our building and down the dimly lit, siren-echoing street. He said the place was not much further and an upgrade in his opinion. Smaller but nicer, apparently.

We turned the corner and headed up a hill, every step further from the tram station that was our portal to the Rome that we came here to experience. Behind another gate was the door to our new place.

“You have a terrace and a garden,” he said with pep in his voice. It’s February. When the sun doesn’t shine, it’s freakin’ cold. I could care less about dead plants outside my bedroom. Shannon was a few glasses of wine deep so she was buying everything he said. I wasn’t. I couldn’t. Something about the 8 am construction we weren’t warned about made me question the management here.

With a key and a strong push, Blue Vest popped the door open to a loft that was definitely rented out to couples. How do I know that? 1. It was tiny as shit and 2. There was only one bed! Oh yeah, did I mention our first place was a 2-bedroom with only one clean queen-sized bed? It was assumed we were sharing a room even though our Airbnb request blatantly said BEST FRIENDS. Here we were again with one bed and a saggy couch covered in horses with a view of Marilyn Monroe posing on another couch. Awesome.

We looked at it and left – there’s not much to see in a loft. We walked back, now cold AF, and faced the fact that our next twenty minutes would comprise of us shoving all of our belongings and then some into our suitcases to haul them back to the loft we walked from.

“Does it have a washer?” Shannon asked. Cleaning your clothes is a major concern when you only have three outfits to rotate between. Plus our last place had one.

“Ehh no but I can wash your clothes for you.” I’m sorry but the image of Blue Vest handling my Victoria’s Secret panties was not something I felt comfortable with. I’d rather have a garbage bag full of my dirty shit to take to Florence with me than risk having my clean stuff handled by this guy who was breaking this terrible news to us. No grazie.

Regardless of the washer we weren’t going to have, we packed our shit. Another man joined Blue Vest to help us with our things and they reassured us it was okay because they had a car for us to transport us and our things. That changes everything!

“Eets only for two nights until this problem ees fixed,” said Blue Vest. I cringed at the thought of moving again.

When we got back to the loft, they unloaded our things from the car, filled the toilet bowl with water, and began to dust. This place hadn’t been used in a long while and you definitely could tell.

“What’s the WiFi password?” Shannon asked because that is our literal lifeline to the rest of the world. It’s how I’m sharing this story with you now. Without it I am completely isolated aside from the person who’s been by my side for the past month, who is practically an extension of me.

The two men exchanged some words in Italian. Blue Vest made a phone call to find the answer. He said he would go back to the management office to get the keys to the place next door to find out. While he did this, Shannon and I sat on the couch refreshing our WiFi waiting for something to show up. Nothing did. There is no WiFi here…great.

When he got back, we discovered it worked out on the terrace. It’s currently 50-degrees Fahrenheit outside. I’m pretty fucking pissed at this point. We got the password and he left before we could bitch any more (I don’t blame him).

“Byeeee ladies!”

So, I’m writing this from the saggy horse couch while Shannon sits on her laptop at the rickety table on our 10×10 patio. The door is open and she’s drunk and singing “Rock the Casbah” while she makes the best of a bad situation. To follow suit and flip my mind from being stuck on negative, I walked to the kitchen sink to pour myself a glass of water and take a calm-the-fuck-down sip. To my surprise, there was water all over the ground trickling into the cracks of the tiles. I don’t think we had even used the sink yet but the cabinet below it was leaking everywhere. Oh, and we have no paper towels. Shannon is sending Blue Vest a video of the proof while I’m sit here steaming mad, not sure what to do about the current situation.

A hotel sounds extremely sexy right now. I’d go almost anywhere in the city – at any cost – so I didn’t have to be here anymore. But, my best friend is drunk and laughing it off, and finding another place would require me to join her on the freezing terrace to hook up to the WiFi. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I can guarantee you I’m not dealing with this shit at the moment. Blue Vest is on his way back so let’s see what he proposes to be done.

*A whole bunch of bullshit later* – Feb 10 – 10:17 pm

We were told we had to stay in this new place for ten more days which is not fucking happening so we found a new place we’re moving into tomorrow. We were invited out on this Friday night by Blue Vest (out of pity I’m sure) but can’t take him up on it because we have no hot water in the shower and I went on a run today for the first time in months!!!!! Oy.

We’re able to check into our new apartmentat 1 pm, but first, we have to go back to the management office to collect the money we paid for the tourist tax. Whether or not we get the rest of our money we paid for the nights we won’t stay here is TBD – we have yet to hear back from the guy who owns the property via Airbnb. Blue Vest told us he’s in the hospital for a heart problem…yikes. Not good news when three of your properties are experiencing major issues. Luckily my friend Chris got me the email of one of Airbnb’s executives – shoutout to you, Chris – so we will get our money back eventually…somehow.

To fill you in on what we’ve been doing outside of our apartment…

That post and video are still coming soon. Shitty WiFi means problems uploading pictures and videos, so we’ll have those for you when we can work out of an Airbnb that sticks to its promises (knock on wood). Until then, I hope you enjoyed the rant I recorded on Shan’s iPad from the comfort of our second place in Rome. Time to hit send from the terrace – ciao!

✌🏼

Bustling Through Brussels

 

 

Day 1 Continued

Alright, so Manneken Pis was underwhelming and we hit up La Grand Place within the same first hour. Several waffle places nearby lured us in.

Les gaufres de Liège sont les meilleures

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We effed up and didn’t get whipped cream on our waffle (still good though).

Our waffle was delicious. We haven’t had Nutella in our apartment in A’dam for the longest week ever because we’re trying to be somewhat healthy and penny-pinching, so this was a gorgeous thing that happened. We cherished every bite that was eaten with tiny forks while listening to people speaking French all around us. La perfection.

I noticed there were a LOT of people with waffles – not just tourists. Not only on the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue de Chêne (where Manneken Pis is located), but everywhere else throughout the city. Brussels flexes their best features proudly.

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Next Stop, Chocolate

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Can’t stop eating chocolate rn.

We stopped in to get some chocolate right by the waffle places because the shops were literally everywhere and I felt like I had no self-control. I don’t regret it one bit. We ended up stopping in Planète Chocolat where the woman who sold us our goodies didn’t speak any English. All the more authentic, right? We walked around munching on it while wandering aimlessly and loving it.

Funny thing about this picture of chocolate here…there was a disco ball right by a nearby memorial. Similar to Amsterdam’s Light Festival, Brussels had its own art on display to the public.

The disco ball was positioned right next to the lookout that has an elevator branching off of it so you can take to get down further into the city. I’ve never seen one before and had no idea it was a thing that cities did.

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Beer…Duh

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Shannon and I ended up wandering without WiFi into Delirium, which is apparently a hotspot in Brussels. We enjoyed a nice sampling and a horn while we were at it.

Afternoon drinks turned into dinner at some place with weird meats and cheese. I took a gross video of the bouncy bologna but I’ll do you a favor and keep to myself.

Later at night we found ourselves at Le Coq where we met people from the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. I kept wondering what they thought meeting Americans was like.

Our friend from the Netherlands told us we were lucky to have found the one Dutch guy in there because the French were more likely to keep their comments to ourselves. He was open, nice and very honest with us. I appreciate all of those features in a person – especially a stranger. He also introduced me to the Belgian beer Chimay Blue that ended up getting me fairly drunk and very emotional about ordering pizza.

Day 2

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The next day was weird because we woke up in our Airbnb that was kind of an uncomfortable place to be. Like I mentioned in my last post, there were weird cats…so weird that in the morning, one of them pushed so hard on the door what he/she opened it. Keep in mind that I normally love cats, but these freaked me out. I had never stayed in an Airbnb private room before – I’ve usually had a respectful amount of place to myself. I really like that amount of space and would not want to do a sketchy private room again. Lesson learned.

We fixed our weird wake-up an awesome brunch. Peep my pic that’s getting lyke sew many notes on our tumblr taken @ Peck 47.

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Cute AF

Idk why but Shannon really wanted a milkshake, so we went on a mission to find one. She found this place called Jat’ Café that was near the Royal Palace, another tourist checklist item, and we walked across the city.

Jat’ Café

This café has great taste in music and this incredible thing called sweet coffee. I’ll let the portrait mode to the talking.

We sat and soaked in Brussels on a Friday afternoon with the rest of the day ahead of us.

The Royal Palace

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The Royal Palace is the official home of the King and the Queen of the Belgians.

We admired the enormousness of this building for a while and watched some of the guards stomping back and forth before heading off to the park across the street.

Side Note

SO many army men were walking throughout the streets. They carried huge rifles, and they were there because of the terrorist attacks that happened not too long ago. Just thought I’d share that observation.

The Rest is History

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Shanneken Pis!

The rest of Day 2 was spent killing time before the bus because we didn’t feel like spending money on a museum while we’ve got Netherlands museum passes for another week, though I was curious about the Musical Instruments Museum and Comics Art Museum. Who knows, maybe we’ll go back for longer in the future while we’ve still got time in Europe.

Fun fact: Brussels is the comic strip capital of Europe. There are large comics painted all over the city.

All in all, we had an excellent time in Brussels. The weather was kind, the food was to die for, and French confused me the entire time. By Friday night I was more than ready for my home away from home in Amsterdam.

sloppy-waffleSpecial shoutout to The Sloppy Waffle of Newington, CT for killing the Liège waffle game back home. I’m grateful to have had Belgium waffles back home and was pleasantly surprised to find I haven’t been missing out on the real deal.

From a Temple to the Moon

Peep the video, then read the post…or do it the other way around. Whatever.

He Hua Temple – Fo Guang Shan

We found ourselves in a place we didn’t expect to find in Amsterdam.

Located in Chinatown, the He Hua Temple is a hidden gem among the skinny streets that pretty much all look the same.

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Established in 2000

We only went in for about ten minutes – ten peaceful minutes. The incense relaxed our minds as we soaked up information like the reasons why this temple was built in the Netherlands:

  • To spread the Buddhist concepts, also by means of cultural exchanges and activities;
  • To help to develop talents, skills and good qualities of people by means of good education;
  • To stimulate positive developments in society by means of charity projects;
  • To purify heart and soul of all people by giving them the opportunity of learning to practice Buddhism.
Cited from http://ibps.nl/he-hua-temple/

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Amsterdam Noord

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To get to Amsterdam Noord (North), one must take a free ferry by Central Station to cross the itty-bit of water that rests between the two land masses. Why is there no bridge? According to Anthony Bourdain’s tour guide in the Amsterdam episode of The Layover, he thinks “they” used to ship the crazy people and criminals over there hundreds of years ago. I guess they didn’t want them coming back…who knows. I admit the change in transportation was quite refreshing and welcomed by our aching feet.

By now I’ve read many blogs and tourist sites – only some of which mention Amsterdam Noord. Though we’ve only experienced two of its main attractions, I already recommend taking a day trip to see what it has to offer.

A’DAM Lookout

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In order to get to the top of the Lookout, the price of regular admission is‎ €12.50. I promise it’s well worth it if you like a gorgeous view. Included in your ticket is a free photo, like this one:

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The building features a sky deck, Europe’s tallest swing on the sky deck, and an indoor lookout spot which doubles as a bar. Oh yeah, there’s a Gibson throne, too 🎸👑

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Here’s some pics from the sky deck:

More shots from the indoors where it was warm:

Nestled on the opposite side of the bar were TVs and headphones full of info about Amsterdam. Here’s what I found to be the coolest tidbits:

Fun facts about Amsterdam & The Netherlands

  • There are more bikes than people.
  • 10,000 bikes are fished out of the canals a year.
  • As one of the most diverse cities in the world, it’s home to over 175 nationalities.
  • Holland was the first nation to legalize gay marriage, abortion, and euthanasia.

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Perhaps the most incredible part of the city is the way the sun sets over it.

Eye Film Museum

When the sky grew dark, we headed over to the A’DAM Lookout’s next-door neighbor, the Eye Film Museum. There was no exhibition at the time, but we were able to experience the bottom level for a few hours where we indulged ourselves with some fun facts about – you guessed it – film!

Flipbook

You can make your own if you want to pay like €6 for it – we didn’t.

Artifacts

The artifacts on display represent the evolution of film – from stereoscopy to a zoetrope to a Mitchell to an iPhone 3 (which was the first smartphone to be able to record a quality video) and all that’s in-between.

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Fun fact: George Lucas used a Mitchell VistaVision High Speed #1 to film Star Wars.

360°

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This is blurry but whatevs.

I was really hoping to see some 360 videos in here, but instead found a bunch of clips from monumental films that showcased the development of genres and styles of different cultures. Still cool.

Speaking of 360, I will have a VR video for you folks soon 😉

Private, Comfy Pods

There are little nooks where you can sit down and watch some of the most famous Dutch films of all time, which range from 10 minutes to an hour in length. We chose Zoo by Bert Haanstra (1962) – a silent film that still managed to make us giggle through a subtle string of events.

The Green Screen

Last but not least, there was a green screen that we had waaay too much fun with. See for yourself!

We used the green screen until the museum closed at 7 pm because that’s how much fun we were having.

After heading home, we slumped in our seats and didn’t move for seven hours. There’s no better way to end an adventurous day than brain-dumping it into a blog post until 3 am!

✌🏼


Are there any views that leave you in awe? Movies that move you more than others? Comment below to share them with us! We’re always looking for recommendations 🙂

We Had a Supperb Weekend

Peep the video, then read the post…or do it the other way around. Whatever.

We’re covering more and more of the city each day.

It’s been a few days since we’ve done these things so I promise to be better about keeping up with this blog. These pictures below will do a lot of the talking for me, so feel free to skip the sap, scroll through them, and then head onto the next post.

The Rijksmuseum

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Look at this thing! This giant wonderland was founded in 1800 and is rich with art and history – because the two go hand in hand (duh). I was in awe with the size of the museum and its collection, and here I’ll share with you some pieces that caught my eye.

A Few of My Favorijks Things

The main attraction:
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The Night Watch, Rembrandt, 1642

Three fun facts about The Night Watch:

  • The artist – Rembrandt – is a famous Dutch artist and this is his most popular painting.
  • The figures in Rembrandt Square were created in memory of his 400th birthday.
  • It’s the centerpiece of the Rijksmuseum.
The biggest painting in the museum:
Ironically, I don’t know how to get this video to shrink.
Jan Willem Pieneman, The Battle of Waterloo, 1824
A pretty outdoorsy landscape:
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Italian Landscape with Umbrella Pines, Henrik Voogd, 1807
Ugh…I found Herbert (our mouse, who we saw yesterday):
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Mouse with a Candle Stump and a Nut, Joris Hoefnagel, 1594
And here’s the most beautiful thing I saw in the entire museum…my reflection: 😉
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Selfie in a Mirror, Shannon McCormick, 2017

I’m extremely glad we checked this place out first. Through the magnificent storytelling of visuals and guides, I’m beginning to further understand this place we chose to venture off to and the history that made it what it is today.

After seeing the attempts to capture Holland’s beautiful violet skies, it was cool to get a glimpse of the magic that night:
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Every canal is picture-worthy.

Right behind the Rijksmuseum is the ever-so-famous I amsterdam sign. Would we have really gone to Amsterdam if we didn’t take this tourist pic?

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The Irish girl who took this could’ve zoomed in a bit.

Dinner in Style

To round out our productive day, Shan and experienced a lovely, chic wine-and-dine thanks to one of our dearest friends, Frank (@frankroche, not the kitty Frank 🐱) – it’s called Supperclub, where we ate and partied (and looked good) in bed.

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When we first got there, the hostess covered our phone cameras with stickers and warned us not to use our phones at all. There were even characters crawling around with flashlights making sure we were following the rule. Funny enough, we met some really cool people on both sides of our setup and enjoyed the company around us. Europeans are so interesting, hah. We lived large with the cuisine and cocktails, and we enjoyed entertainment that was meticulously bursting with unsaid messages. Our dinner turned into dancing and the night disappeared before we knew it. Thank you Frank!

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Needless to say we spent the next day recovering – until Monday when we went back to the Museum Quarter for more.

Stay tuned to see which museums we hit up next!

✌🏼


Any suggestions on what Shan and I should do next? We’re interested in your recommendations! While you’re at it, feel free to share some of your own experiences by leaving a comment. 🙂  Subscribe to get notified the next time a post is published!

$100,000 Goes to Whoever Wants to Take Half of My Luggage Off My Hands

I’m sitting on our grey L-shaped couch of the AirBnB slobbering up one of the 100 Grand candy bars that managed to make it all the way to Amsterdam with us…the rest of the snacks didn’t have a chance. THANK GOD this chocolate is with me right now because if I didn’t have these…so help me God.

I need a minute to indulge as I recuperate from the past eyebrow-twitch-worthy 24 hours we endured from the moment we left the United States. I have not slept, I’ve eaten garbage that’s tasted like garbage, and I need a shower and a nap.

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It all started when we checked our bags in at Newark, NJ around 2:30 pm. I was the lucky gal to discover the hidden fees of this stupid little airline called WOW (I’m sure it’s because of all the fun surprise charges!) and paid $120 for how freakin’ heavy my bag was. I’ll admit I overpacked…but should I pay $20/kg for this horrible mistake I’m still dealing with? I don’t think so…because wait until you hear what else these kilograms made me deal with.

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The first flight was cool – we boarded at 6 pm and sat next to a cop from Brooklyn and another cop and a pilot. We had great conversations, exchanged weird stories you’d only tell someone you’d never see again, and landed in Iceland in time to transfer to our flight to Amsterdam. I watched a Bob Marley documentary and I didn’t sleep a wink.

The flight to Amsterdam consisted of a crying baby and someone listening to Beyoncé too loudly. I didn’t sleep on that flight either, and we flew into the sunrise of 5-degree weather of the Netherlands sleepy and unprepared for what was next.

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When we landed, we talked with the woman next to us who was in the middle of an extravagant holiday. The guy across the aisle made conversation with her, and so we met Aidan.

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I’m pretty sure Aidan is synonym for Angel because this guy was sent from above. He’s from Washington, D.C., and he got us from the airport to the Central Station to the metro to Rembrandtplein, which is right near our temporary home. I know I summarized all of those things into one sentence, but that would’ve taken us ALL fucking DAY if it weren’t for this guy. Aidan, if you ever read this…good karma is going to bring you some reallllly good shit.

“You guys don’t travel often, do you?” – Aidan

He chose to spend his day helping the two clueless tourists who brought one 50 lb luggage too many – each – and patiently waited for our huffing-puffing selves to make it across the platforms and the escalators and everywhere else we traveled this morning. AND he offered to help us find bartending jobs at one of his regular spots! We friended him on Facebook and plan to meet up with him later on tonight when we look and feel like normal human beings.

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Is this real life?

When we found our apartment, a nice young man helped us carry our 50 lb bags up two steep-ass flights of stairs. Generous me only had like €2 in my pocket after spending the €20 from Steph’s cute card on transportation, so I gave the poor guy a $10 bill that is absolutely useless to him. If you thought Shan and I would be smart enough to have gone to the ATM or converted some currency before this point, guess again!!!

I think the way today unfolded is one of those circumstances people allude to when they say “you’ll figure it out” without actually knowing how. Shannon and I didn’t know how we were going to figure it out, and we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time with a generous stranger and an easygoing kid. I wonder how many times that’s going to work until our luck runs out, but add that to the list of things we’ll “figure out“.

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To the friends and family reading this rant – I hope the worst of it is over. Typing this now already makes it into a funny story, so at least something good came out of it.

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Next Steps?

Our objectives are to:

  1. Find a place for February.
  2. Get a job. (Maybe that will be solved tonight when we meet back up with Angel? I mean Aidan 😉)
  3. Ship some of these kilos home or straight up get rid of them – because I am NOT going through the same sweaty struggle it took to get where I am right now. My arms are currently jello.

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Until then, ✌🏼