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The Group

Day 00: July 26th-27th 1999 (USA to Haarlem, Netherlands).

I began this day expecting a very long one, and it did not disappoint.  Because the time zones are so far apart, I would have to stay up 30 hours to get to bed at a reasonable time so that my body wouldnít be completely screwed up.

I completed packing at 8:30am, and in doing so decided to leave behind a quarter of the stuff I had planned on bringing because my bags were too heavy.  I have never traveled this lightly before, even for a three-day trip, let alone a 23 day one!  Even so, my bags were much heavier than the 20-ish pound rule that Rick Steves recommended.  Letís hope my prodigious physical shape will compensate.  That was a joke, by the way.

The flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was uneventful, except for the fact that it was amazingly only 9 hours long.  As a last taste of luxury I flew Business Class, a fringe benefit of having accumulated so many frequent flier miles from my Far East business travels.  I still didnít get any sleep on the plane.  At 8:30am Amsterdam time when I arrived at Schiphol Airport, I was immediately concerned that I would get lost, the place was so huge.  However, finding the train to Amsterdam Central Station turned out to be very easy.  A helpful woman behind the ticket counter explained that I would have to switch trains to get to Haarlem.  She corrected my pronunciation of Haarlem (growl during the ďaarĒ).  I noticed lots of people with backpacks on like me, so I did not feel terribly out of place.  I withdrew some money from one of the many ATMs, very colorful money indeed (guilders).  When I boarded the train I mistakenly got on a smoking car and when sitting down a woman pointed out that I had spilled an ashtray onto my shoes.  The train stations have huge trussed canopies, reminding me of hangars and old movies.

Walking from the train station in Haarlem to the hotel was otherworldly with my heavy pack on my back.  I felt like a backpacking hiker somehow caught in the midst of ultra-quaint urban sprawl.  It was colder than predicted, 70 degrees but with a constant chilly breeze.  I left my big pack at the Amadeus Hotel, and a nice woman assured me that my room would be ready by 1pm (1300 Europe-time).  Thatís 4am Portland-time, by the way.

Now that I was lighter, I walked around the neighborhood.  The church in Haarlemís main square overwhelms everything around it; itís so big.  Inside is the oddest looking pipe organ I have ever seen.

 

Everywhere outside were cafes and shops.  I walked around for 3 hours, and then checked in at the hotel.  Upon entering my room I immediately dropped onto the bed and took an hour nap (I had been awake for 21 hours straight at that point.).  I loved the ceiling fan in my room.  After the nap, lacking much physical energy, I read the tour guide and planned my next day.  I left the hotel, looking for dinner, and walked around for hours, intimidated by the non-English menus.  In the end I ate at McDonalds, because their menu was in English and I was tired.  Letís call it the last non-backdoor thing I do for the rest of the trip.  At least there were two pigeons walking around inside the store, with kids feeding them.  Thatís something you wouldnít see in the states.

I got back to the hotel at 7pm.  I decided 28 hours was good enough, and crashed.  I slept like the dead and woke at 6am, with the sounds of pigeons on the fire escape cooing me awake.

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Last updated 11/12/2005 .  Email me at bob@besttravelbarcelona.com.

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