we decided not to go to Amersfoort yesterda. By the time we’d gotten up and breakfasted it was rather late to do that, and still go to Amsterdam to meet up with the friends, so we decided to take it easy instead. We caught the local bus to Leiden (chatting with an old lady at the bus stop who first spoke to me in dutch, and when i apologised in English for not speaking Dutch she said, all cheerily, “that’s okay, i lived for 27 years in Scotland!” and we chatted away for a while!), pausing at various stalls and shops in the market in Leiden (Michiel bought me a very nice faux diamond ring), and admiring a stall with lots of indonesian foods – yum! – before we stopped to have a greek snack – Giros Pita, which is a pitta bread filled with tzaztaki (or however that’s spelled), lamb meat, onions and salad… it was gorgeous, but i couldn’t finish mine, they’re surprisingly filling, but Michiel was in absolute nirvana, he’d waited a long time for those!

We invested in some fisherman’s friend after that (the tzaztaki was rather garlicky!) and caught the train to Amsterdam, where, after a bit of phone hacking (Michiel had borrowed his dad’s mobile to call our (English) friend, who was in Amsterdam on holiday, to make arrangements to meet up – only to find his dad’s mobile was blocked to international calls.. argh), we managed to reach P (our friend) and arranged to meet at the National Monument outside the Dam. We duly met up about half an hour later, went to a nearby bar, where i ordered a black russian. For those who don’t know, a black russian is tia maria, vodka and coke – normally you get a lil bit of tia maria, a lil bit of vodka, and a whopping great bit of coke, right? my glass arrived, 2/3rds full of tia maria and vodka… and a coke bottle next to it. errrrrrrrr…. these guys are trying to get me drunk!!! I ended up borrowing another glass from the bar, and splitting the booze between 2 cokes, but boy, that bar doesn’t believe in half measures!! We stayed there for a while, drinking and chatting, mostly about IT geekery and slackware… Amsterdam being Amsterdam P was rolling a joint, and being curious (aka nosey) i watched him. i noticed he took weed from two different bags, and i asked why – seems that weed can have different effects, and in order to get a nice feeling you have to combine the different types of weed properly. Now that, i didn’t know. I thought weed was just weed, you know? The bar was a great one – it was decorated by souveniers from all over the world; licence plates from all over, football scarves (Dad: they had birmingham city, but not villa or the baggies.. such a travesty!), and various types of foreign money over the bar, from american dollars, canadian dollars, to scottish pounds and indonesian notes.. quite wonderful. I could’ve stayed for ages just looking around the bar itself. However, it was not to be – P got a call from another mutual friend, T, who we’d arranged to meet, and we set off back to the Dam to hook up with him.

We were sat outside a little cafe when T showed up, drinking coffee (they had the most gorgeous smelling orchid arrangements on the tables there), but we soon finished those.. P and T wanted to find a coffee bar: for the uninitiated, you cannot smoke tobacco inside bars in Amsterdam any more, like the UK, the Netherlands is officially smoke free. If you want to buy weed you have to buy it at licenced places: coffeeshops. You can still smoke pure weed in these coffeeshops, but you’re no longer officially allowed to smoke tobacco there. Anyway, we found one of these coffeeshops in the red light district (or if it wasn’t in it, it was very close to it), and P and T led us in. I’d never been into one before: on our last visit to Amsterdam, neither of us were terribly interested n going into one – for Michiel, he’d grown up with this so there wasn’t the excitement about it that many people have, and for me, well, i’m just not interested in that stuff either (i don’t even like getting drunk). This particular one was very dark, the walls were painted black, with .. well.. graffiti would be the best way to describe it! Thousands of people must have written upon the walls and ceilings with everything available – pens, pencils, spray cans, you name it.. just, everywhere you looked, was the scrawl of graffiti. It was quite cool in a way, and certainly the intense smoky atmosphere, darkness and closeness made it feel very womblike, something that was helped by the loud music and strong beat. we ordered drinks (to smoke there, you have to buy a drink, even if you have the weed already) and found a seat – i fell into mine, and damn near struggled to get out again, it was that comfy and soft!! At first i was rather tense, looking around, i suppose my mom would’ve described it as a den of iniquity, people nearby were smoking through a wierd looking contraption – which on researching on wikipedia turns out to be a bong – and there was this very relaxed atmopshere, so i soon relaxed with them and sipped on my drink, a lemon and ginger tea.

After P and T had drunk their drinks and had a cigarette, we all left to find a bar that served alcohol, but after one more drink, Michiel and i decided to call it a night, and parted company with P and T. We went back to Amsterdam station, got a kroket (croquette, it might be called in the UK) and fries (with the mayo, naturellement!) and legged it to the train, and sat happily eating on the train as we sped back to Leiden. We changed there to get back to Alphen aan den Rijn, where Michiel’s mum kindly picked us up from the station.

Today we relaxed some, had a leisurely breakfast before heading into Alphen aan den Rijn for the afternoon to do some shopping. Mostly presents for people but we did get some Olibollen (which we’re having with coffee tomorrow morning), and an icecream – i had stroopwaffel and chocolate flavour… very very yum! Michiel’s Mum treated us to a teapot – i’ve always loved the teapot she has, which is a vacum flask as well, so it keeps the tea warm, and holds a large amount of water (a full kettle’s worth) – and a box of various fruit teas to go with it. We also went to Aldi, which is a different Aldi to the one in the UK, we got some nasi goreng packs there, packs of mainly spices which i can do what we call “lazy nasi goreng”, and its a good meal, with some fried eggs ontop and sambal mixed in (and one Michiel loves). you get 6 packs of spices in a box, for 99cents, which is a very good deal, so it works out to around 12p per meal, if not less (for the spices part i mean). After that we drove home, then we walked up to the local supermarket to pick up some things – Calve mayo (the famous mayo to have with fries!), kejap manis, which is indonesian sweet soy sauce, stroop, which is dutch pancake syrup, a sort of spaghetti carbonara mix, which again Michiel loves – i think we got about 8 packs of that, some chocolate sprinkle breakfast stuff for sez… oh various things. Oh, and vocking wurst! Its pronounced ‘vocking vost’ (i kid you not), which had me in absolute fits of giggles the other night when they were telling me about it. Its a sausage, liverwurst, i suppose a little bit like pate, you can cut it into slices and eat it as it is, or spread it on bread. Its gorgeous, but the name.. oh dear. Apparently Michiel’s mum lived near the family home as a little girl, and all of Michiel’s family is crazy about the stuff (good thing i like it too then, really, hmm?).

we’ve had fun packing tonight, trying to get everything into the suitcases, under the prescribed weight, and without risking breaking anything, but hopefully we’ve managed it.. Michiel is very good at packing, in these circumstances i just put everything on the bed and leave him to it. Tomorrow we’re flying out at around 4pm, and will probably get home around 7pm.. we’ll be unpacking, sorting things out – and i have around 500 photos to sort out – this is going to be fun!! still, hopefully then i can write down anything that i’ve missed, and then its a case of getting back to normal.

I’m going to miss the Netherlands. Its a wonderful country, i really do recommend it to anyone who wants to visit, especially if you get away from Amsterdam (i mean, its okay to visit, but unless you like the stuff its famous for, i’d go elsewhere) and spend time with the dutch people. I can’t wait to come back, but i think it may be a while before we do, sadly..

anyway. see you all back in the UK!