The Dutch Coast, dinner in Amsterdam, and 45-degree #WORLDVIEWS

Hello internet!  It's about quarter to 7 in the morning here, and I'm bringing you my first travel blog post from Rotterdam!  I just woke up from a solid 11.5h sleep - #amsterdamned - and I've never felt better.  Well, actually I could.  My hostel doesn't have laundry and I brought one pair of pants on this trip because everything after Holland is humid, summer subtropical.  Also the wifi is slow so I'm typing this out in Write2, hoping not to forget anything.  And I need to buy new headphones tomorrow, so I actually have to listen to the music that's playing in the room and overhear other people's conversations.. usually in Dutch.  How AWFUL! But that's it.  :) Now let me tell you about all the good/crazy/lovely things I've seen.

I kicked off my trip slowly, and spent my first two nights in Noordwijkerhout on the Dutch coast.  Bollenstreek, known in English as the 'tulip and bulb region' is a pretty magical place.  You're at a protected, natural crossroads of forest, sand dunes, and beach, and the best part (though I didn't realize it at the time) was the absence of tourists.  This is also the part of Holland that's famous for having tulip fields as far as the eye can see.  Unfortunately I missed the spring bloom - these fields do exist but they currently aren't bursting with bright colours - but the flower fanatic in me can't be mad.  My hostel was a 20 minute walk to a private beach, where I wandered my first morning there at sunrise.  Pretty remarkable.  I think the most amazing thing about this place was how I didn't know how close I was to the beach when I was.  When you're in the woods all you hear is birds, and so once you come up that sandy hill the ocean kind of hits you out of nowhere, and it's grand in ways I can't describe.  I definitely live in the wrong kind of place because I'm pretty sure the ocean makes me feel the ways people tell me about the mountains.  I'm still finding sand all over the place, and I'm not complaining. :)

I attempted bike riding and more hiking the next day, only to go the wrong way and get blisters.  Typical Mary.  I haven't been sleeping well up until last night, so I was up early on my second day planning out the rest of my time in Holland.  Dead-set to spend two nights in Rotterdam, my plans changed unexpectedly when I found out Kaasmarkt - the Dutch cheese market - in Alkmaar happens on Friday mornings.  I wasn't going to miss a cheese market.  In fact, I was planning a day trip to Gouda on my last day, but it turns out where I was really supposed to go was up north.  I was a lot closer to Alkmaar from Noordwijk, so I cancelled my first night in Rotterdam and stayed in Haarlem instead - a little city further up the coast from Noordwijk.  What a treat.  It has all the iconic European charm that the tourists go looking for, without all the tourists.  (I'm going to make the "without tourists" comment as much as I can because I realize how lucky I am to have steered past the traps and crowds.)  I took a stroll through the Grote Markt and ordered two coffees - European espresso sizing still hasn't calmed my habit - and marvelled at the architecture and pristine parks.  Holland, on the whole, is more magical than I ever expected.  But being as I was now so close to my favourite city, the reason I picked this country as an intro to this big trip in the first place, I had to go to Amsterdam.  Well, not had.  This was as urgent as a traveler's needs can be without being an emergency.  On Thursday night, I went to Amsterdam for a bowl of pho because the weather changes and my lack of sleep were not going to make me catch a cold.  And Amsterdam makes me feel some kinda way.  Not all the ways.  Just the good kind.  Thursdays are my favourite day of the week, and I can't think of anything that's ever topped this Thursday.

I did eventually find my bowl of pho.  And I may or may not have met a really dope local that I smoked two joints and watched the sunset with over the canal.  But who knows?  Pics or it didn't happen, and I have none.  Oh, besides these.  I've been trying to get a proper "wisteria invasion" shot since I saw Mel Had Tea post similar photos from London and I go rotten bananas for drapey flowers.  I also posted the second shot on my Instagram account before I edited and rotated it.  But if you've ever been to Amsterdam, you know that the buildings lean, so if your angle's off it will always be forgiven in light of the city's nature. :)

As I mentioned earlier, no sleep. I came back to Haarlem around 11:30 and I eventually went down at 1am.  Only to wake up at 3:30 on the dot because my circadian rhythm is still between time zones.  Brutal.  My hostel reception desk didn't open until quarter after 8 and breakfast wasn't served until 7:30, so I had a lot of time to kill.  I don't remember what I did, exactly.  There was a lot of laying down and trying to sleep, but ultimately it didn't happen.  But at around 6:30 I met some of the other early risers and shared stories.  And then breakfast happened and I went on with my day.  On a nap.  This wouldn't really mean anything unless you were in for the day I had set up for myself two early mornings earlier: travel to Alkmaar by 9am, go back to Haarlem to pick up my luggage, travel south to Rotterdam, pickup a welcome pass, and sightsee until I pass out.  I did do all those things, just on a somewhat truncated scale.  Because of the no-access-to-a-shower-towel fiasco that morning, I left the hostel around 9:30 and caught the last hour of Kaasmarkt when I eventually got there.  That took longer than I expected, but I do come from a place with poorly developed transit and so 45 minutes where I'm from likely won't take you out of your quadrant.  45 minutes one way on a train in Holland takes you very, very far.  Alkmaar is a neat little gem up north.  Besides being dubbed the "Wisconsin of Holland" for its cheese market history, like all the other Dutch cities, it's small but well-developed and populous.  They even have a mini-Red Light District!  I know this because I accidentally wandered down it.  Whoops.  Probably pretty common on Friday afternoons.  Right?  I had a cone of fries covered in Dutch mayo and curry ketchup for lunch, and then I sleepily wandered back to Haarlem to pick up my things.  None of this would have been possible without the five double espressos I had throughout the day.  Shout out to unlimited coffee and tea - I got you.

 How does a short person get a view like this?  From inside the Kaasmuseum, obvi :)

How does a short person get a view like this?  From inside the Kaasmuseum, obvi :)

I got to Rotterdam yesterday at around 4pm.  The kubuswoning, or famous yellow 'cube houses' are a must-see here and my hostel happens to be situated inside of one.  That made my sleepy sightseeing last night really easy!  I've never been inside any structure quite like this one.  It seems like a really complicated design but it's very structurally sound.  Also, it offers so many different views of the freeway, promenade, and the harbour as well as views of the building itself.  I walked around a little and then came back at had breakfast, and then I passed out hard at around 7:30pm.  Still stuck to my itinerary, to a T.  I have the rest of the day today in Rotterdam, and then it's back to the original city of sin to do all the things I didn't do.  I can promise you no photos whatsoever.  Again. ;)

The rest of breakfast and this lovely day are waiting so away I go!  And thanks to everyone who's been following my snaps :) until next time!