Spain Portugal, Day 1

Well, hello readers! Readers who may be wondering...where have you been? And why haven't you written anything about your trip?

I'll be honest...Spain was exhausting. Most nights I just wanted to sit on the rooftop terrace with my friends and drink wine and eat cheese. And really? Who WOULDN'T want to do that? I decided early on that I would just wait until I returned home to write about my adventures, and hopefully would not have forgotten everything that happened.

Here goes.

(Attention to my brothers who may choose to read this account with their children: there are some mentions of the more, ahem, "unsavory" aspects of Amsterdam below. Proceed with caution.)

Day 1: A Travel Day
We departed the Twin Cities on Tuesday, October 4. I spent the morning at a conference (which by the way, led to some stellar Spain recommendations). David met me at the bus stop around noon. It was hot in the Twin the 80s and I was attired more for the anticipated cool weather in Amsterdam the next morning. Needless to say, it was a warm bus and train ride to the airport.

David and I had decided to get to the airport early so we could go to Surdyk's flights and have lunch and wine. We each ordered the "Taste of Spain" flight and then settled in for some cribbage before Alan & Erin and Kym & Kyle arrived. I was totally kicking his butt, but we stopped playing when our friends showed up.

I think every trip should start out this way. Wine, cards, food, friends.

With friends this pretty, who wouldn't want to hang with them at the airport?

Our flight left at 3:15 p.m. Minnesota time. It was about an 8 hour flight and we were scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam at 6 a.m. My plan was to try and sleep all the way to Amsterdam. This did not happen. I did get to watch the movie "Bridesmaids" which just seemed to drag on forever. I also tried to watch Jane Eyre, but I found the Japanese subtitles distracting and quickly shut that off. Sleep continued to elude me. Sigh.

Since it was an overnight flight, we quickly find ourselves on...

Day 2: Amsterdam and then to Lisbon!
We arrived at Amsterdam's Schiphol (pronounced like "ski pole") airport at about 6 a.m. I was so excited to be in the land of my people, and quickly disappointed when I discovered how awful their airport is. We were directed to little kiosks to check in for our noon-ish flight to Lisbon. When those did not work, we waited in a long line with a bunch of disgruntled Americans. We were repeatedly told to use the kiosks. The nice women from the airline seemed a bit weary to be telling us this, until we triumphantly showed them our little cards that the kiosk had printed out telling us to go wait in line. Take that, Dutch ladies!

The one shining moment was when the woman who helped us noted to me, "You have a Dutch name" to which I proudly stated, "Yes, I know. I am so excited to be here". She then sent me to another line.

Despite this, I felt that my decision to not change my name when I got married had been vindicated. I had been recognized by my people!

Eventually, we got our boarding passes, being informed that we would not be able to sit together on the flight to Lisbon, and we made our way to the train station to head into Amsterdam for a few hours. Our carry-on luggage safely stored in an easy to find locker (HA!), we were ready to go.

David and Kyle enjoy the ambiance of the Dutch train

I must say, there isn't much to do in Amsterdam at 8 a.m., which is what time is was by then. I don't think the McDonald's was even open. We did have coffee and pastries and then wandered quite aimlessly.

David and I and one of the ubiquitous canals

We saw canals. And lots and lots of bikes. Most people ride bikes in Amsterdam.

A parking ramp for bikes

No walk signal! It's a bike signal!

I should say, there is something do in in Amsterdam if you wander the red light district, and we did see some nice looking young women in windows that would have been willing to help us find something to do. Yes, even at 8 a.m. It was a little awkward passing them by...sort of like a train wreck. You don't want to stare, don't see women in windows here in the U.S.

Red lights! For real!

A canal. I felt this picture really, really needed the caption to avoid any confusion.

Eventually we headed back to the airport and began what was surely the most frustrating airport experience I've ever had. We went through security and then discovered we could not get to our locker. We actually had to go OUT through passport control, get our passports stamped again ("where do you plan to go in the Netherlands?" "um...we're just trying to get to our stuff"), get our stuff from our lockers, and then go through passport control AGAIN (hence I have three stamps from the Netherlands in my passport) and then through security again, which was a nightmare.

Despite there being about 5 or 6 lines for passport control, there were only 2 lines for security. A surly gentleman from Australia or England or someplace created a bit of a ruckus and then a few more lines were opened. He was later frisked. Despite this, I stood in one spot not moving for a good 15 minutes. Then, it took them about 10 minutes to finally inspect Erin's bag after they pulled it off the conveyor. I believe there was a time when it just sat neglected on the floor.

Those Dutch may be all forward thinking when it comes to pot and prostitution, but when it comes to running an airport...well, there is some work to be done.

At last, we made it to our gate. And I don't remember much of that. By this point, I was just so tired, I wanted to get on the plane and take a nap. Which I did.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of Day 2...our arrival in Lisbon, a city that is much hillier than I was led to believe by my guidebook.


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