Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Amsterdam-France - day 1

16-17 Sep 2014

Every year, Viv goes on work to Amsterdam. This year, we decided that after he wrapped up his work, we would have a family holiday in Amsterdam and some parts of France. Of course, this meant that I'd have to fly all the way from Singapore to Amsterdam with Xena, without Viv, which was very daunting. I am still not sure how I even agreed to it.

So he went off first, while I tried to get ahead on my projects by a month. It was crazy, but with a lot of babysitting help from the sis-in-law, I did it. And then Xena fell sick. Other than the usual runny nose, cough and low blood oxygen levels, this time she had fever and rashes too. She started getting better, and then the haze hit Singapore again. On one hand, it would be good to get out of the island, but on the other hand, the haze was delaying her recovery process. To be honest, till the very last minute, I really wasn't sure the trip would happen. In fact, on the morning of the flight, a friend messaged to ask me when we were flying off, and I responded, "11:55 pm. If at all we go."

But go we did. Thankfully. I had Xena take a later nap; 4 pm instead of 2 pm, so she wouldn't be too sleepy and cranky during the check-in and immigration processes. It worked well for me and she was chirpy as a bird.

Xena waiting outside the gate, eating some candy that the immigration guy gave her

After a while, she insisted she was cold and that she wanted to wear my jacket, not hers! Ok, fine!

I thought she'd fall asleep as soon as the plane took off because it was midnight. But she was up till 2 am! I wasn't sure what to do with her, but the TV (thank you, Singapore Airlines!) helped to keep her in her seat. She doesn't watch TV at home so it was a novelty for her. I didn't give her the headphones though, so I'm not sure she knew what was going on, but she recognised Elmo and Mickey and that was enough for her.

At 2 am, she finally slumped against my shoulder and went to sleep. I lay her down in her seat, with her head on my lap and she slept comfortably. I stayed awake so I could monitor her breathing and oxygen levels, and watched movies to pass the time. The flight was about 13 hours long, and I'd hoped that she'd sleep for at at least 10 of those. But she only slept 6 hours and then woke up, fresh as a daisy, eager to have a conversation with sleepy fellow passengers. A lady asked her name and she responded with a random, "You can call me Annie Apple." For the uninitiated, Annie Apple is a character in the Letterland song, which her teachers use at school to teach the alphabet. Every time the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking..." she'd respond with a "AGAINNNN???" sending everyone around her into peals of laughter.

She didn't eat much in the flight, so she got a bit irritable towards the last two hours of the flight, but somehow I managed it without losing my cool. In the hope that in a few hours I'd toss her towards her daddy and go off on my own for some hash brownies. Okay, I'm kidding. About the hash brownies part, not the 'toss her towards her daddy' part. I did intend to do the latter. And I did.

Soon, we were out ofthe airport and on the way to our apartment, which we had booked on airbnb.com. Our hostess was overseas, but her friend received us and showed us around the apartment. It was a nice cosy place, and there was even a cat called Tiger! Xena was fascinated by it. Our hostess' son was supposed to drop by every evening to feed the cat.

Tiger naps on a chair.

I was exhausted, and so was Xena so we took a 3-hour nap before heading out for lunch. I'd taken a jacket along, thinking that it would be cold, but it was very warm. Not wanting to carry any dead weight around, Viv went to keep my jacket back in the apartment. No wonder he was dressed in just a T-shirt and pants, while I was regretting wearing a full-sleeved top.  

We had lunch at Peper Wortel, where,  to our utter surprise, Xena ate some tortellini! 

Witness the miracle!

We walked a loooong way to Prinsengracht, the outermost of the three main canals that run through Amsterdam. On the way, we encountered what tripadvisor.com had warned me of - cyclists. Fast and furious cyclists. Millions of them that appear out of nowhere and go zooming along the sidewalks with nary a care for petrified pedestrians. I honestly think there were more cyclists than motorists. And they were very fast and sudden. Viv had to keep reminding me to look out for them. 

What really amazed me was that among all these cyclists, not once did I see one that looked like he/she was doing it for exercise. They were all dressed nicely, and they were all going somewhere. I saw some very nicely dressed up people in really nice un-bikey outfits too. It was amazing. Of course, some were typing on their phones and taking selfies while cycling, which was really scary.

I even spotted a policewoman on a bicycle, fining a scooter rider for using the zebra crossing. Speaking of zebra crossings, there are separate lights for the zebra crossing on each side of the road divider so one needs to wait midway, and watch for the cyclists. Sometimes I felt like I was missing out on the pretty sights because I was busy trying not to go under a bicycle!  

We walked along the Prinsengracht canal, enjoying the pretty sights. We stopped by a souvenir shop for a drink as the walk had made us thirsty. Xena wanted a lollipop, so we got her one. I expressed my shock at the price of the lollipop - 1 Euro! Then Viv explained it, "Souvenir shop. Run by an Indian. In a touristy area in Amsterdam. What do you expect?" 

We knew we would have to do a lot of walking in Amsterdam and we didn't want to take a stroller along for Xena. So I borrowed a baby carrier from a friend. After about 10 minutes of sitting in it, Xena refused and wriggled out. Well, one of the upsides of her hatred for food is that she only weighs about 10 kg so it was not too hard for us to carry her around. Viv did most of the carrying, and I helped out once in a while.

A pic with her poppy at Prinsengracht

Bikes... canals... tourists... classic Amsterdam!

Just when you thought bicycles were the only things you needed to watch out for, a tram would appear out of nowhere! "Watch out!" was Viv's most repeated statement throughout our Amsterdam stay. 

I believe this castle-like building is a restaurant!

Next, we walked to Dam Square, the historical centre of Amsterdam, housing the royal palace and the Nieuwe Kerk church. We didn't see a lot of the pigeons Dam Square is famous for, but we did see lots of police vans and policemen. They looked ready to spring in action, though we couldn't tell what for exactly.   

Dam Square

A few pigeons marking their attendance

Next, we took a walk to Amsterdam's famous red light district. I'd read that it's safe to go there just as a tourist, and taking babies and children was quite common. I did want to go there during the day and just look around out of curiosity. I did not desire to go there at night when the action begins. 

Though we did spot some extremely skimpily dressed ladies in the windows, thankfully Xena was distracted. Otherwise, we'd have to answer a thousand times to "Why was the aunty in the window not wearing anything?" We even heard some men trying to 'bargain' with one of the ladies. One of them actually said, "I should be the one getting paid!" 

We stopped at a cafe and bought a brownie (regular, not hash). From there, we walked to the Waterloopein flea market, a large outdoor bazaar full of second-hand clothes and other knick-knacks. 

Near the Waterloopein flea market

Though the walk was a very long one, it was punctuated with beautiful sights like this. 

Out last stop for the day was Vondelpark - a huge and beautiful public park that gets 10 million visitors a year. 

Ducks swimming in a lake at Vondelpark

We bought some gelato ice-cream from a vendor. Viv tried hard to convince Xena to take a bite, but she was persistent. Which 3-year-old hates ice-cream???!!!

We had walked a total of about 10 km, and were very very tired. Xena and I were jet-lagged too so we decided to call it an early day. Viv packed some Mexican dinner for us with some fruit beer he wanted me to try. I'm a beer-hater so I was surprised that he got it for me but I tried it anyway. The fruit beer was yikes but the quesadillas were nice. 

We fell asleep by 9 pm, feeling tired but happy that the vacation was actually happening. 

Click here for Amsterdam-France - Day 2!



Post a Comment

<< Home