I’ve found my calling as a tourguide!

Last Friday I was busy bouncing around with excitement. Some of my gig friends from the UK were coming out to visit and also to go to a couple of the Within Temptation theatre shows and somehow the mass facebook chats had made me feel as if I was going on holiday. Of course, Friday is also the day of my stupidly late class but somehow I managed to get out of class a bit early and somehow, with a fair bit of running involved, I managed to get on an early train. Because of this, I arrived at Schiphol just as their plane was landing which was a good thing considering they were up a strange end of the airport and it took me a fair while to find where they’d be arriving. That said, I’m a bit of a Schiphol pro now !! Waiting for them to come through the doors I did consider making a name sign simply because I’ve never had one before but y’know… didn’t happen.

And then the group of five arrived. Kim and her mother Sarah, met on various occasions at a few shows, Marc and his mother Sandra, met once at a Within Temptation acoustic show in London, and Gemma who I had never met.

We then had the utter joy of the admin tasks. Buying five anonymous OV cards, charging them and counting out the Euros wrong was embarrassing enough, I tell you. Seriously Euros still feel like Monopoly money and large numbers… yuck! Oh and then the good old trains were all moved around, delayed and cancelled. It’s a bit frightening when you feel responsible for a group, especially when you struggle to get them all to fit on one train!

Late at night – perhaps the only time you can get a photo without
hundreds of other tourists being in shot!

That said, we managed to get into town safely and, once checked into the hotel, we went for a little stroll into town. Our search for food led us to Rembrantplein (it seemed the most promising direction to head in) and it was worthwhile. For all that area may be a complete overpriced tourist trap, it is beautiful at night, and during the day, and I love it. A drink back at the hotel and everything seemed to be getting off to a great start.

Saturday

The annoying amount of work meant that I decided to stay home during the day while the group explored. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped because I was still reading on the train that evening but I needed that time, and more!

Anyway, that evening was the first of the two Within Temptation dates and so all of us, sans Gemma, made our way to Almere. Walking through the closed shopping centre, totally deserted but yet a complete mass of neon lighting, Kim happened to remark on how it would make a perfect setting for a zombie film. With not another soul around, just rubbish blowing in the wind, it was hard to contradict her. Seriously, if my old urban studies teacher ever needed more proof that modern media uses zombies to represent consumerist culture…

We made it through zombie-land and found the theatre itself. After a preshow drink, we went into the hall only to discover that we were in the fourth row – why no-one had realised this from the tickets I do not know! I’m usually loathe to sit so close to the stage because you usually end up looking up and getting neck ache but, at this venue, we were at perfect eye height and it was wonderful. It made for an intimate show which was totally different to the show in Amsterdam a few days later.

When I eventually arrived back home I was bouncing off the ceiling. The show itself was something quite unlike anything I’d ever seen and I really needed some time to come down. Admittedly, phoning my mother and keeping her up until the early hours probably wasn’t the fairest way to do this but I think she enjoyed my ranting to start with, at least πŸ˜‰

Sunday

Second home in Amsterdam

It was no real surprise that, come Sunday morning, everyone was pretty much dead. My delightful body decided to wake me up at six a.m. and refuse to believe that I really could sleep until nine and even then would not have enough sleep! It meant that, by the time I got the message from the others that they were pretty much all feeling crappy and could we meet later I was way too awake to go back to sleep. Worryingly, I can’t remember what I did with that morning which should have been so productive. I ate toast, at least.

When we did meet, everyone feeling a little more alive than earlier, at least. we made our way to the Hard Rock Cafe. This was somewhere that Kim had been on her previous trip and somewhere that I had never been, basically. Having been unable to eat properly for the past week now (yay for health crap!) I stayed away from the rather exciting looking cocktails and the large very meat based dishes and had a strawberry lemonade and a caesar salad. I’m not complaining, to be honest, although my order did seem overly sensible, it was delicious.

After that, we made our way to the Anne Frank House. This was something that the group really had wanted to do and something that had never really attracted me so much. Her story is wonderful in its human poignancy, as are those untold or unshared stories of those whose humanity has been reduced to just names in registers. The people who helped hide her and others – amazing people who risked consequences upon themselves for doing the right thing which is something, sadly, I don’t think many people would feel able to do. The only reason I’d not been so interested in the museum itself is that I had heard it was rather a let down. I found quite the opposite. It had been set up in a way that wasn’t tacky, didn’t glorify anyone, and allowed people to elegantly follow the story of those people involved. It allowed you to ‘touch’ the human beings involved in one event, to feel some connection to them, and then to expand it out, if not to every person then to some. Personally, I’m so pleased that I did visit and would now recommend it wholeheartedly.

After what was rather an emotional stop for all of us (I know I cried a bit going round), it was time to replenish with some cakes. I took the group to one of my favourite grab-a-cake shops and we grabbed cake πŸ˜‰

Well, you have to be a stereotypical tourist too, right?

After that we went for a quick stroll around the red light district because they had been told by so many people to behave and ‘not’ go there that it simply had to be done. I guess I don’t need to describe this bit – women and the odd man in windows etc etc etc. It’s also the best place for overheard conversations as slightly inebriated tourists speaking loudly about sex related things makes for an entertaining time. I’ll leave that bit completely to your imagination!

Monday

Somehow, although I didn’t realise it at the time, we managed to explore until super late again which meant getting up on Monday was even more painful, made worse by the fact I had three classes, all of which I was rather ill prepared for. That meant that, not only did I somehow have to get ready for the evening over the morning and the lunch period but I needed to juggle my final class prep work too. Somehow I managed and, at around six in the evening I was running for my tram in a veritable gale ending up with complete earache… but also getting there in time πŸ˜‰

The Amsterdam show was held in the CarrΓ©, a theatre that I had heard about but never visited. Seriously, it was so stunning. We were on the balcony this time, except for Gemma who was down in the stalls. We had a great time waving at her and having other people wave back… like those guys who returned my flirty wave interpreting it as aimed at them… oops. The show was exquisite and the setting really did do it a lot of favours… it was a bit wow!

After the show itself, the group, quite naturally, decided to gravitate towards the stage door in order to attempt to meet the band. I waited for Leonoor and Dania who had very kindly agreed to meet me after the show so I didn’t have to make my way back late at night alone. However, a few minutes after their arrival we checked train times only to find that all the late trains had been cancelled and we were basically stranded by the delightful Amsterdam public transport system. We decided that there was no rush if we couldn’t get home anyway. Dania and Leonoor being the complete heroes that they are waited with us until after 1 a.m. and put up with the usual pain of numb toes just to allow me to hang and meet some of the band. For all I detest the way in which fans gravitate on lead members of bands, Sharon in particular was so very lovely, and spent a lot of time making everyone feel special despite her PA rushing her, that I can’t help but feel her status is well earned.

Waiting for the band in the cold. Worth it? Oh yes!

We eventually made our way back to the hotel although, as the bar was closed, I still owe my personal bodyguards a drink for their services. We also managed to get a taxi from the hotel which got us home in record time and for a lot less than I had thought so I can’t complain at all there. It was such an amazing night and it ended so easily.

Tuesday

I had managed to switch to an earlier science class on the Tuesday so that I could spend a little more time with the group and see them safely to the airport. It seemed like a really good idea at the time but it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. Getting up at 6a.m. and staying awake through two hours lecture on the origins of the universe… well, it wasn’t easy! That said, it was 100% worth it!

Magnums are not the most elegant things to eat πŸ˜‰

In town we first gravitated towards de Bijenkorf as Gemma wanted a frozen yoghurt and I just so happened to know a that they sold some good stuff. The rest of us gravitated towards the make your own magnum area. Not only are custom magnums tasty but they are also surprisingly fun and creative to design, bringing out the inner child in everyone.

After that it was back to the Hard Rock cafe for a farewell drink… or two… or three… or, in Gemma’s case, four. Oh, wow, what a laugh! We were such a rowdy group but it was such fun. Something that I haven’t managed to get across in this post is the amity. For a group that knew each other on a surface level to start with, we had spent a great deal of time with each other and had really gelled. Messing around on this final day seemed to sum up the trip in many ways, with all of us being totally relaxed and open. Okay, I’ll admit it, I was a bit concerned about them missing their flight but other than that… πŸ˜‰

This image seems to sum up the craziness that was this final trip to Hard Rock ❀

And then it was goodbye. It had only been a few days but they had been so special, so much fun, that parting was really difficult. I know it’s only a temporary thing… there’s no doubt that true friendships have been forged, but all the same…

Life is slowly returning to normal but I can’t help but flick through the photos and remember the happenings of the last week as I look forward to, and start to plan, the Next Time.

Photos will be uploaded to my facebook as soon as I can fight my way through them all. Oh and I’m planning to do a separate write up of the shows (hence their absence in this post) so keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested in that πŸ˜€

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