Ferries, Trams and Megabusmobiles?

IMG_0263Me and Katelyn on the ferry over to mainland Europe. (If we look especially tired it is because this was taken at 4am!)

This week is currently “reading week” at Uni. A time for students to catch up on their work or read additional material, but most of us study abroad students used this rare occasion of ample free time to travel (work hard, play hard right?) In case you didn’t notice the countdown on my side bar, I went to Amsterdam with four of my abroad friends here, hence my long absence from blogging (I didn’t want to carry my computer around with me, the more compact my luggage was, the better!) And let me tell you, we certainly came back with some fun, interesting, and crazy stories to share. We had a few meetings as a group beforehand to discuss what we wanted to do while we were there and what mode of transportation would be the most budget friendly. We came to the conclusion that although taking a bus from London to Amsterdam was quite a long journey, it would save us a bit of money that we could put towards future travels or touristy things while we were exploring the Netherlands. Plus, having the experience of going on a ferry ride across the Channel seemed like an added bonus. We also found a hostel that came highly recommended on Hostelworld.com that was quite affordable too! After all of our plans were set, it was just a matter of counting down the days till Sunday when we were able to board the bus over to Europe.

Over the weekend, Alex and Emily took a trip to Wales so they decided to meet up with the rest of us later. Meanwhile back in London, Katelyn, Christian and I decided to meet up a couple of hours early to give ourselves enough time to make the trek over to Victoria Station to catch our 9:30 bus to Amsterdam. And with that, the Sunday fun-day  fiasco all began . . .

Since it was cheaper to take a bus all the way to the station without having to transfer, we opted to take the double-decker over the tube. We also made sure to allow ourselves a good chunk of time in case anything went wrong. Possibly the best decision we all made that day because the whole evening became the definition of Murphy’s Law! In London, you have to hail a bus kind of like you would a taxi. We arrived with time to spare at the bus stop. After a short while, our bus started approaching and Katelyn and Christian both made an obvious effort to flag the bus down, but instead of it stopping like they normally do, it drove right by!!! At first I thought it might have been because it was already full, but upon a second glance I noticed that wasn’t the case at all. Okay so we missed our bus no big deal, we’ll just try to wait for the next one . . . The problem was, there was no “next one.” Okay so we’ll take the tube into Central London and just pay a little extra. The problem was, the train we needed to take at the station wasn’t running, but we only found this out after we had tapped in so we lost a couple of pounds on a train we never took. I mean there are worse things that could happen right? Right. Trying to stay positive, we rushed back across the street to the bus stop and figured we had enough time to make it to the station a half hour early to check in. We boarded a bus that, according to our google map directions, seemed to take us in the direction we needed to go. It got us to Central London where we then needed to transfer to another bus, but in the heat of the moment we accidentally boarded a bus going in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, we had no idea that we had yet again fallen into the trap of going the wrong way and only made this realization when we were several stops down the route. Quickly, we got off of that bus to regroup and figure out what our next move would be. It was pouring down rain outside which just added to the series of unfortunate events that we had encountered this evening. At this point, all we could do was laugh at all of the wrong turns we had taken! Despite the fact that I was a bit nervous we wouldn’t make our bus to Amsterdam and have to pay for another ticket, I couldn’t contain my laughter at the absurdity of our situation. Stressful times like these call for a little bit of humor to lighten the mood! The only bus stop near by was for the route that we had just gotten off of and there were no cabs in sight, leaving us with very few options for getting to the station. It all became a waiting game while we crossed our fingers that the bus would get to the stop early enough to drop us off at the station in the nick of time. However, looking at the bus schedule, it didn’t seem very promising . . .  until I saw a cab drive by. But of course with our luck this evening, it was filled with people (insert the Debbie Downer noise here.) I had a shred of hope that another cab might come to our rescue, but at this point we had all accepted the fact that we were probably going to have to get a new ticket for the next bus out of London. Finally, our wishes were answered when an empty cab drove down the road we were on and without a second thought, we quickly crammed ourselves in and split the fare to the station. There was a grand sigh of relief when we made it to the station on time and got settled into our seats on the Megabus. The heavy rain coupled with the navy sky made for a very pleasant bus ride in my books. Once we reached the port of Dover, we were stuck waiting on the bus for three hours because the first ferry that was supposed to take the vehicles decided to leave, but it was okay because it gave us a bit of time to get some snacks at the convenient store. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the bus driver, I mean I know it’s his job, but it would get exhausting catering to the needs of frustrated passengers.

During the ferry ride we had to get off of the bus and hang out on the upper level of the ferry. It was really eerie and peaceful to be surrounded by water and the dark night sky with very few lights to be seen. The only thing missing was the penny whistle solo from “My Heart Will Go On.”IMG_0258Here is a view from the back end of the ferry from the deck outside.

Although our journey on the bus was delayed due to the ferry and driver changes, it was definitely worth it because I was able to save some money and sleep a bit more! Upon arrival to Amsterdam, the bus dropped us off in a parking lot about ten minutes away from Central Station, so we decided to take the nearest tram into town. Luckily, I had some spare Euros on hand to pay for the tram tickets because in the madness of everything else, we had forgotten to get some cash out of the ATM. OOPS! It was a bit difficult to find our way to the hostel at first because all of the signs were in Dutch and we were unfamiliar with the transportation, but people were extremely helpful at pointing us in the right direction! Although ironically, the man working at the information booth in the station always told us to ask someone else to answer our questions, which was a bit funny to me. It was such a relief to finally make it to our hostel, set our bags down, and relax! The employees there were very friendly and accommodating and let all five of us stay in the same room. It was also a great value for the price and the amenities were fantastic. Any of my friends on this trip will tell you that all I could talk about for days was how amazing the shower was ha ha!IMG_0367This is a wall in the lobby of the hostel that I thought was cute! (Don’t mind the falling “M” it wouldn’t stick back on the wall, but I think it adds a bit of character)

After settling in for a little while, we decided to head over to the Anne Frank House. We weren’t sure if we would be able to get into the museum because we hadn’t bought tickets in advance and the woman at the hostel said there is usually an hour-long wait to get in. However, luck must have been on our side when we got there because we were able to get tickets right away!IMG_0448Here is a photo of my ticket!

Visiting the Anne Frank House was on the top of my list for things to do while in Amsterdam, and let me say that it was an experience I will remember forever! I feel like this museum represents such an important time in world history and I would highly recommend anyone visiting the Netherlands in the future to pay it a visit. We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the house in an effort to preserve artifacts from the time, but honestly pictures wouldn’t do the experience justice because I think it is something you have to witness in person to get the full effect. I definitely learned a lot more about the people in hiding, as well as the people who worked in the building with the annex that Anne Frank stayed in before being discovered. One thing to note is that the house is no longer furnished or staged in the way that it would have been during the time the Frank family lived there because Otto Frank wanted to maintain the integrity of the place after WWII was over. However, there were still pictures that Anne had glued onto her bedroom wall. It was very interesting to see what interested and inspired her. This was the point during the house tour that put things in to perspective for me and made me imagine myself residing in the annex during this time period.  It made me think about what the quality of life would have been like for the families in hiding there. I don’t know if I would’ve had the stamina or patience to be so quiet and not get to really see the light of day. It makes me so frustrated that people’s hatred can severely impact the lives of the innocent. There was a portion of the museum with a brief interview with Otto Frank talking about discovering the contents of his daughter’s diary which was incredibly moving. He noted that he had known about her diary before it was published, but had promised her to never read what was inside as it was her personal documentation of her life experiences. After he came back to the annex and discovered that he was the only survivor from his family, he decided to eventually read what his daughter had written leading to his changed perceptions of Anne. One of the conclusions I found very interesting was when he stated,

Most parents don’t know really about their children . . .

~Otto Frank

Although I’m not going to go into a ton of detail about what the museum contained because I think it will ruin the experience for those who haven’t visited before, I do think this interview is worth watching. Here is a link for those of you interested.

Despite the rain, my first day in Amsterdam was really nice and I had a wonderful experience getting to visit the Anne Frank House. I will be posting the rest of my Amsterdam Adventures in the next few days so keep your eyes peeled! I promise the next ones will be more photo heavy!!!

Until next time,

Lainey xoxo