Erika took us for a stroll around her neighbourhood and we stopped for breakfast at a little cafe/bakery. They had fantastic coffee and made us pretty pictures in the foam. We walked through a huge park that had a couple ‘football’ fields in it. It was full of these huge amazing trees. I found it kind of strange because when you see trees that big and old in Canada, you know they planned the area around existing trees. These trees were evenly spaced around the outside of the park.
We walked through a flower market down a cobblestoned street. It was hilarious, every booth you walked by the people selling flowers would yell prices at you (`Ten for a Fiver, `Just a few Quid mum`), and gradually get lower as you walked down the street. It was very, very crowded, but we took refuge in a couple cool shops selling handmade coffee cups with figures popping out of the sides, and a pretty vintage teapot shop with a little coffee shop in the back. We made our way back to Erika’s house and packed up the rest of our stuff.
Around 4, Erika walked us to our bus stop and we were on our way to Vlissingen. We couldn’t fly to Amsterdam because our luggage would have cost us the bank to fly over there. So we found some tickets over to the Hook of Holland on a night ferry. We caught the 5:00 train to Harwich International, but we had to switch trains once before we got there.
I’m not sure if I have mentioned this yet but England is the least wheelchair accessible place I’ve ever been. There are no elevators anywhere! And the trains always have a six inch gap from the platform and then are another six inches higher than the platform. It’s terrible when you’re dragging a suitcase that weighs 70ish pounds. (Took all the heavy stuff out of my backpack, and put it in my suitcase because we weren’t flying ;).
When we switched trains we were looking around the platform for where the next one was supposed to be, and we saw it across, on the other side of the tracks. We had to drag our suitcases down two flights of stairs, and then back up to get to the other side. I’m not sure how many more flights of stairs my suitcase can take. (Okay, not my suitcase, sorry Dad.)
Anyways, we got to Harwich at around 8 pm. Turns out we looked at our tickets wrong, and our ferry didn’t leave until quarter to 12. So we waited. They were showing antiques road show on the TV in the lobby of the station. They have way cooler antiques here. They boarded us around 9:45.We found our ‘super economy’ room, which consisted of two tiny bunk beds and a bathroom. Liseanne called bottoms; the higher bunk had a rail about two inches high to keep you from rolling off. We couldn’t figure out how to get up onto the top bunk, there was no ladder..but there was a small platform that pulled out from under the bottom bunk. It still would have been a 4 foot jump to get to the top. We started thinking maybe these Dutch sailor people were just really really tall, when we finally spotted the ladder hooked on the back of the bathroom door. We felt a little dumb. (Are they trying to make life confusing? Why not just leave it hooked to the bed?)
We strolled around the boat for a couple hours, ate and went to bed. I woke up around 6 because the boat was trembling kinda hard. We freshened up in the little bathroom and grabbed a bite to eat before we docked. Again, we had to take two trains to get from the Hook to Vlissingen. Only one of the stations had an elevator.
We almost got stopped at Immigrations. HZ had told us not to apply for visas, and just to come and they would help us make all the arrangements we needed to make. What they didn’t tell us is the immigration guys probably wouldn’t let us through when we tell them we’re staying for more than three months, and we don’t have a visa. Luckily I had a copy of the email from HZ telling us they would set up our appointment. We got a stern warning and a deportation threat from the officer before he let us through.
We took a cab from the station in Vlissingen to our apartment, because it would have been a very long, and very confusing walk. Our apartment was less clean than we would have liked (It was so disgusting). We carefully placed our bags on the barren carpet, locked up, and headed straight to school. We found the international group, they gave us a brief run through of what our week would look like and a schedule.
It was around 2 when we made it back home and decided to get some groceries. We ended up in a hardware store at first, but finally found somewhere to get groceries. A Dutch lady got stuck between two doors, and then told me what I think was probably joke in Dutch. Unsure, I laughed along with her.The grocery store was a nightmare. We sat in front of the ‘spreads’ for a good twenty minutes before guessing at a bar, hoping it was butter. At one point we asked where we might find a milk substitute like rice milk, and got a vague hand gesture towards the milk section. We finally escaped with enough food to keep us alive for a few days and enough cleaning supplies to kill every germ in our apartment.
We scrubbed for a few hours and got ready for dinner with the international group.We met at 7:30 and walked downtown to the restaurant. We met two Belgium girls at dinner, who offered to take us to their home town, because it is better than the Netherlands (apparently). They swore they have better fries and better beer. One of them asked me half way through dinner if I knew Bob from Canada. I laughed and continued to eat. It turns out she was serious, had never heard that joke before, and there was another group of Canadian students.
A bunch of us went back to Bobs place after dinner and sat in a room filled with people who chain smoke and had a couple drinks. It might have taken a couple years off my life, and my eyeballs have never been that dry. Liseanne and I ended up back at home at about 2 am reeking of smoke and puffy eyed. I got to sleep around 3:30 after rearranging my room. (They had my bed right next to the electric heater on the wall. Totally a bad idea, right dad?)