My little brother is currently studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam. So, like any close-knit family, we are visiting him as a mini family vacation, sans two family members. Really, it’s just my mom, sister, and I on a semi-girl’s European getaway. I was stressing out, almost to the point of pulling my hair out, about packing my suitcase. On Thursday, we flew with standby business class tickets on Brussels Airlines. Business Class is their First Class designation so it was incredibly comfortably extravagant seating. With the press of a button, you can find yourself lying flat in a bed, wearing a complementary eye mask, and stretching your legs out so far that you almost forget you’re flying through the air. My mom works for Brussels Airlines and one of the perks is discounted tickets for flights, but Business Class is only 30 seats and there are always employees flying for business purposes – they get priority when boarding. Luckily, there were just enough seats for the three of us to fly the 6 hours in luxury rather than squishy, smelly Economy.
Because we flew with standby, we were trying not to check any of our bags. Unfortunately, my brother made some requests for items from home and he needs the second largest suitcase for when he moves back home in June. My mom and I packed our clothes in small carry-on size suitcases, while my sister was stuck as the sacrificial lamb – her items are packed into the, checked, larger bag. Normally, this is fine, but flying standby sometimes means that your checked bag gets on the flight, and you do not. Thankfully, we fit on the flight, so we didn’t need to worry. Phew!
Once I was situated in my seat, I checked out the fancy in-flight entertainment setup. There were several newer movies available that I had been dying to watch: Robin Hood, Can You Ever Forgive Me, Oceans 8, etc. I chose to start watching Robin Hood because, let’s face it – I am a sucker for a sexy Robin of Loxley, and…also…Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey is my not-so-guilty pleasure. Christian Grey is absolutely my type, but, I digress). As I start up the film, we start taxiing the plane for takeoff and I am settled in for the next two hours. In the meantime, I have been handed a hot face cloth, peanuts and a beverage, a cheese plate, beef with asparagus tips accompanied by a delicious green spread, and an apple crumble. With my belly full and my brain completely wrapped up in Robin of Loxley, I don’t even notice that we are only two hours into the flight. I finish my first film and queue up a second. This time I select A Star is Born, the 2018 version with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. This is my absolute favorite film, even though I completely mocked all the hype around it, when it originally premiered. Now that I have watched it seven thousand times (approximately) I can say that I understand all of the hype. I have many more thoughts to share about the film, but those are for another post! Let me know in the comments, if you would be interested in hearing my views on the film!
I turned the movie off halfway through because I felt I should try to sleep, since the entire next day would be the remainder of our journey to Amsterdam from Brussels. The rest of the plane was dark and folks were attempting to sleep. I maneuver my belongings so that I can extend my bed to a flatter position than normal and try to tune out the sound of the engines and the vents in the cabin, but it was so loud that I ended up only really sleeping for an hour before the physical noises and the noises in my mind kept me from resting. Cooper is at home with my father as his keeper for the week. Since his adoption, I have not been away from him for more than a couple of days at most so I am incredibly worried that he is going to think I left him. Is this how a new parent feels the first time leaving her child behind? Cooper is basically my child and I have left him with someone who is essentially a stranger to him. I just hope he doesn’t get too upset and puke on the rug. That would be really annoying.
Aside from my cat-mom anxieties, I have been having bad days in my “sobriety” journey. The end of this relationship has felt like trying to get clean after years of abusing the same drugs so I think this can count as a sobriety journey. In the aftermath, it feels like it was an addiction and I am constantly jonesing for him so he must be my drug. I am 86 days into my journey towards bravery and 50 days into no-contact with the ex after that little mishap in New Haven. Lately, I find myself thinking about him more, but most especially while on the flight to Amsterdam. Last year, when I knew my brother had applied to study there, my now-ex and I had discussed going there together as a romantic week away. It’s just hard to keep moving through life, when this person is no longer around and everything around you reminds you of them. It’s my own fault – I believed it would happen and so in the end the disappointment I feel is a hell of my own making.
All of these anxieties, and the extreme cabin pressure, left me with an excruciating headache for the last two hours of the flight. We could not have landed quickly enough, but at least they served breakfast so I could distract my brain with food – a classic tactic. They served a lovely fruit platter, with a roll, chocolate croissants, tea/coffee, and orange juice. I washed down an Aspirin with the orange juice and used the tea to soothe my brain, but it wasn’t that hot so it only half helped the situation. We landed, I was handed my complimentary bag of Neuhaus chocolates, and we headed for customs.
The train ride to Amsterdam was convenient and quick! The train we needed left right from the lower level of Brussels Airport so we didn’t need to switch to the other train station. The ride was only two hours and we got to see some of the beautiful Belgian countryside! There were so many horses running around and enjoying the gorgeous, infrequent, sunshine. Upon arrival in Centraal Station in Amsterdam, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel – Park Hotel over near Vondelpark. Since our room wasn’t quite ready, we deposited our bags with the front desk and headed out to start our day. We ate lunch at this cute Irish Pub across the street and then walked towards the Rijks Museum, featuring a fabulous Rembrandt exhibit. We walked through the entire space and saw art, relics, and other old things you would find in a museum…oh, and the works of Rembrandt. Can you tell how much I LOVE museums?Ha! Well, all of this took a few hours and most museums close around 5pm in Europe so we ventured back to the hotel and to our rooms before dinner.
We were exhausted, after having not really slept on the plane and then wandering all day, so we relaxed for a little bit, before dinnertime. I ended up falling asleep and so I let my family head to dinner without me.
Saturday – We completed the Rick Steves walking tour, as led by his Amsterdam guide book. It took us about 6 hours because we would stray from the path, we obviously stopped for lunch, and we poked our heads into a couple of churches and bookstores along the way. We did the tour in the reverse, so using the audio tour that’s available would not have helped us, but we still saw all of the sights he planned out. After another long day, and the tour ending by the train station, we rode the tram back to Leidsplein Square and walked back towards our hotel for a rest before dinner. We ate near the Red Light District – sex and weed shops (excuse me…”museums”) surrounded us. In case no one else knew this, prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, but sex trafficking is not (and for good reasons!) I thought this was a cool fact because in America, that is something you would DEFINITELY be thrown in jail for. We ate at this Argentinian Steakhouse chain, Gaucho’s. It was amazing! Best Fillet Mignon I have eaten in a long time. It was cooked to perfection and I paired it with a Bearnaise Sauce that was to die for. So creamy! Yummmm! A Bearnaise Sauce is butter and egg yolks blended with white wine vinegar and other herbs.
I can’t wait to share more about my trip and some photos later on. Unfortunately, all the photos are on my camera so I have to upload them later this week.