Christmas in Amsterdam

So I actually did a trip before this one – went to Mexico mid-month to see my cousin get married – but I guess I didn’t feel like blogging about it. Maybe I will later. We’ll see.

The pilot husband had a 51 hour layover in Amsterdam on Christmas so ever since we’ve known, we’ve tossed around the idea of me going with. I went back and forth on it. I was pretty exhausted coming home from Mexico and the flights – especially coming home – looked iffy. The original thought was to fly with him to Portland, then to Amsterdam, then to New York City (27 hour layover there post-AMS), and then home. However, all the flights back to DEN out of NYC (both JFK and LGA) looked terrible. So then we thought, what if I left AMS on my own and then found my way back? That looked better. Flights looked decent both to MSP and DTW and, more importantly, back home. We decided on MSP.

Still, it took until the morning we were going to leave from DEN to go to PDX via LAX that we made the decision. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever packed for a trip.

Sunday, December 22

The one thing we did to make this work was NOT take the first flight out of DEN on Monday morning. Which yeah, technically breaks all of our non-rev rules, but meh. Our flight to LAX was a bit delayed leaving DEN, but we were able to make it on okay.

That’s where the first bit of trouble started.

Due to … something in LA, we got slowed up a lot going in. B was freaking out as he had a deadhead to PDX to catch. A flight that in theory we should have been able to make just fine, but combined with the delay and the slow plane? Yeah, it took off about five minutes after we landed. Thankfully, he got himself sorted out to make the next PDX flight and I got rolled over. We took the extra time in LAX to go walk out to find B’s car (make sure it still worked) and then walked to the In-N-Out close to the airport for some food.

We made the PDX flight okay, got in late … crashed out.

Monday, December 23

We had a few hours before we needed to get to the airport, so we had breakfast, got in a workout, got coffee (and a doughnut at some shop he likes (not VooDoo)). Got to PDX and I was thankfully able to get DeltaOne to AMS (ohhh podlife).

IMG_9567
But not before I went up to the flight deck to say hi to (read: annoy) the husband.

Flight was mostly uneventful – read some, started to get caught up on Star Wars (watched ep VII), slept not as much as I should have.

And, as I do, I took pictures of the food.

delta1_appetizers_ams
Starters: “Harissa Shrimp with apple, celery and arugula slaw” (not terrible), “Baby Gem Lettuce with croutons, shaved manchego cheese, smoked roasted tomatoes and Caesar dressing” (not bad), and “Porcini Mushroom Soup” (tasty).

delta1_dinner_ams
We had quite a few options for dinner – a braised beef short rib, soy glazed Chilean sea bass, and ricotta ravioli … and what I chose: “Roasted Herb Chicken Breast with red wine reduction, cheesy truffle polenta, garlic broccolini and blistered tomatoes” (actually pretty good).

delta1_ice_cream_ams
I didn’t do the pear and caramel mousse tart or the fruit and cheese, but I obviously just had to do the sundae. It’s the best part of podlife (imho)! I did learn on this trip that you don’t want the bowl to be full of ice cream because if it is (like on my way back as you’ll see a bit later), the ice cream to sauce ratio gets screwed up for the worse.

I also tried both the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon on the plane. I think the cab was a bit better. I also learned that yes, the travel bloggers are correct in that hooch doesn’t help you sleep on planes … so I did not drink on the way back.

Tuesday, December 24

(Starting the next day here due to time zone wonkiness)

The arrival breakfast has gotten a bit better, but still not great.

delta1_breakfast_ams
You could also get a granola and yogurt whatever, but I’m so picky with yogurt. So, what I got: “French Onion Quiche with Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon” (… meh). Definitely better than the frittata going to Italy. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Got off the plane (without forgetting anything!) and followed the other non-revs (relatives of the flight attendants) through the airport and customs to where the bus to the hotel was.

12-24ams
And I got this photo.

Took the van to the hotel, got checked in (eventually … after like 2934723047 other crews), and passed out for a few hours. We woke up and then got on the hotel-provided cruiser bikes to venture out a bit. B took me to Winkel 43 for their apple pie which is apparently super famous.

12-24ams2
View from outside.

winkels_ham_cheese_toasty
Ham and cheese toasty just for a bit of protein.

winkels_pie_coffee
Pie and coffee. It was super delicious.

We took the cruiser bikes back to the hotel and then got a few things done before heading back out to dinner at a place nearby, the Number One Cafe (Eetcafe?).

B had some schnitzel, while I had a mixed grill of chicken.

number_one_cafe_salad
Salad.

number_one_cafe_chicken
Dinner. It wasn’t bad. As B (and a few of the flight attendants agreed upon) said, the food in Amsterdam is good; it’s not great. I would have to concur with that given my limited experience.

Wednesday, December 25

Christmas is weird on the road away from home. Kind of like another day but also not. We woke up, grabbed breakfast from downstairs, and then went for a run to explore.

IMG_9600
Canals.

IMG_9601
B’s usual cafe, closed that day.

12-25ams2
Just up the street apparently was part of the Red Light District.

12-25ams3
Square.

MKJH8211
Us.

ESQA5611
Random arcade (taken with our new GoPro!).

12-25ams5
Aaaaalll the bikes.

IMG_9610
Rainbow (and it might be a double?).

LXYJ5117
This was on the walk back to the hotel.

After the run, we did a few things and then headed back out on cruiser bikes to explore the city some more. Our goal was to find the one last remaining Christmas market (that had an ice rink near it) and check it out. Unfortunately … it was pretty terrible. I did manage to eat more poffertjes though … for the second year in a row at a Christmas market.

IMG_9615
So tasty.

IMG_9617
Selfie on the ferry that we had to take back and forth across the river (large canal?) from our side of Amsterdam to where the main downtown was.

We ate some lunch and relaxed a bit more before heading back out for the last time, but this time on feet.

12-25ams6
Of course we brought the dinosaurs.

IMG_9629
Holiday lights. On this same street, we bought an ornament and also visited the Venus Sex Museum. Because why not.

12-25ams7
Canals at night.

Since we didn’t see anything that caught our eye for dinner while wandering around, we just ended up eating at the hotel restaurant. I had schnitzel (which was good) and B had the daily special which was some beef something. Oh and we had more pie because Christmas.

Thursday, December 26

I had trouble sleeping this entire trip, and that meant I was up at 3:45a AMS time and couldn’t go back to sleep. Which meant I was completely fine for making my 7:25 bus back to the airport. B couldn’t go, but he bartered me a ride on the bus for me talking about IRONMAN to one of the captains. Sure I will take that trade. (And I would have gotten on anyway; the trade was just funny.)

Got to the airport plenty early and in time to clear customs, security, get my non-rev status changed, and get some food. And also a doughnut in what I believe is my 8th country.

IMG_9645
From the airport Starbucks. Not the best, but definitely not the worst foreign doughnut I’ve had.

Waiting for a seat internationally is a bit weird, but I was (thankfully) able to get a seat (and a pod!).

I was a lot smarter with my time management on this flight. I read, but not a whole bunch early. I got my movie started well before my meal (Star Wars episode VIII), and then I was able to sort of nap for about two hours. It was interrupted sleep as I kept waking up due to overheating, but hey. For someone who doesn’t really sleep on airplanes, I’ll take it.

delta1_appetizers_msp
The starters: “Crusted Beef Filet with smoked pepper aioli and pickled cauliflower” (only ate the beef; totally mediocre), “Roasted Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Salad with Romaine lettuce, toasted pumpkin seeds served with dill honey mustard dressing” (… not that great. picked at it), and “Thai Coconut Soup” which I did not try.

delta1_dinner_msp
Again, quite a few options, with a grilled beef tenderloin, roasted salmon, and a fresh mozzarella and spinach panciotti, but I chose the “Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Thigh served over tagliatelle pasta with onions, bacon, mushrooms, chanterelles and garlic in a honey balsamic jus” (which was quite good).

delta1_ice_cream_msp
Chose not to try the chocolate truffon after seeing it (and poo on the cheese course), but obviously more ice cream. But see how much it fills the bowl here? Keeps the topping ratio off.

delta1_lunch_msp
I woke up just before the arrival meal. We had two options, a smoked paprika chicken over salad or what I got, a “Wagyu Pastrami Sandwich with Emmenthal cheese, caramelized onion, arugula and truffle mayonnaise” (too greasy and hard to eat … even with a knife and fork. other than that not bad).

I landed in MSP, cleared customs and security … and then proceeded to watch people get bought off the flight I was hoping to take. I waited until B landed back in NYC before figuring out my next step, as all the subsequent MSP-DEN flights looked terrible. We tossed around the idea of trying another flight … but rolled the dice and rented a car. So, I got in a car by 4:30p MSP time … drove to Lincoln, Neb., where I got about 4.5 hours of sleep … and then rolled into DIA around 10:30a on the 27th. And found out that if I had waited for the 8:30p flight … I would have somehow magically made it home. Live and learn, I guess.

T and B Do Belfast

Randomly, four years ago, Hockey East and the ECAC decided to get together and play a hockey tournament every Thanksgiving up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Apparently this is because Belfast and Boston are sister cities (that a whole bunch of BU alums attended because, well, BU runs the world) and BU alums are the head of the Belfast Giants hockey club and they decided to make this a thing at some meeting between the two cities. The tournament became the Friendship Four and BU was finally announced as part of it last year. So, for a full year, we’d been hoping to pull off this trip to Belfast to go because see hockey in (Northern) Ireland? Sign us up!

To make this happen, a lot of things had to fall into place. Finances (did it as on the cheap as possible), the time off (for B), the flights to look okay (because we weren’t going to buy tickets) … and thankfully, everything came together. Mostly. I’ll get there.

Wednesday, November 21:

Our first day was a travel day. We took the first flight out of DEN to JFK because it looked the best … and because not taking the first flight whenever possible breaks non-revving rules. As a result … it meant we got to sit in the Sky Club at JFK for a very, very long time. Which we did, after we got lunch.

11-21travel
We changed spots like three times.

The flight to DUB looked good. No fancy business class pods, but we thought we were going to get a row to ourselves (two of a three row). Unfortunately, some guy joined us (we think he was a row off, but we couldn’t say anything). This made for a slightly more uncomfortable flight … especially when it came to sleeping (or trying to. Especially since the dude in the middle in front of us moved to the aisle in front of me and reclined his seat and moved around a lot making it HARD to sleep. That, and the turbulence from hell that almost made me vomit.).

Still, fairly uneventful flight. No movies watched, partially because there was nothing that struck my fancy and partially because I did want to try to sleep some.

IMG_6461
But we got there, and that was all that mattered!

Thursday, November 22:

We landed in Dublin, cleared customs, and then bought tickets for a bus up to Belfast. I wandered around to maybe get a snack, but nothing caught my eye.

IMG_6465
Except this. This did. None of the donuts did, though. Unfortunately.

I ended up nodding off again on the two hour ride … waking up about a half-hour outside of Belfast and extremely nauseous. How I didn’t actually throw up on that ride I don’t know. I had bile come up two or three times. It was not pleasant. But, we made it, and that’s all that matters. We walked the mile or so to our hotel (Hilton Belfast), checked in … and died. Unintentionally, but a nap definitely happened.

Once we woke up, we decided we needed to go out and get some food. We had heard of a Christmas market at City Hall, so we headed over there.

IMG_6469
Belfast City Hall.

IMG_6476
Cool looking ride that I may have gone on had I not had the close puke call earlier …

IMG_6478
Dutch pancakes being made.

IMG_6480
Dutch pancakes. So good. A bit of a different Thanksgiving dinner, but it worked.

Friday, November 23:

We woke up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel, and then ventured out for the morning. Our destination was the Titanic Museum, as we wanted to get there as close to open as possible. We did stop for a cappuccino first, though.

On our walk, we stopped by the Big Fish (Salmon of Knowledge). I had heard about the Salmon of Knowledge thanks to a Maeve Binchy book I had read ages ago, so when I saw the statue on Google Maps, I knew I had to check it out.

IMG_6493

IMG_6496
Kind of in love.

From there, it was a short walk across the bridge (in the rain) to the Titanic Museum.

11-23belfast4
B successfully sent a message via Morse code!

IMG_6508
Sure, why not?

IMG_6546
On the deck of the ship. Kinda.

11-23belfast7
Lunch the day of the sinking.

IMG_6553
The Nomadic (last White Star Line ship remaining) and I forget what’s in front it. But it’s where they used to dry dock ships. I think.

11-23belfast12
Husband looked like the sculptures outside so I made him pose.

Afterward, we stopped by the SSE Arena to get tickets for the games (the whole reason we made the trip …) and then grabbed some lunch back near the hotel. I think we ended up napping for a tiny bit (oh, jet lag …) before heading back out to the arena. We skipped the first game (Yale and Union), though.

IMG_6564
Arena.

IMG_6566
The bar inside the entertainment complex next door, Rockies, still had a goalie stick out for Humboldt.

Our friend (and huge BU fan) Cindy, whom I’ve known since college, got us into a pregame alumni reception inside the arena, where we got to hang out and eat some snacks.

IMG_6567
And I continued my trend of mascot selfies. Thanks, Rhett!

11-23belfast13

IMG_6577
Hockey!

BU won their first game, which was awesome. The atmosphere in SSE Arena was actually pretty good. If they don’t sell all the tickets, they give some away to youth groups and the like so we had a giant group of rowdy middle school-aged kids in the front of our section. Holy crap those kids were insane. It was almost more fun watching them than the hockey.

We got out and walked back toward our hotel while waiting to hear about meeting up with other friends there. We grabbed a quick bite at the hotel bar (since we really didn’t eat dinner …) before walking to the Duke of York to say hi to friends. We didn’t stay out too terribly late, but it was fun hanging out in the very, very crowded pub.

Saturday, November 24:

IMG_6589
From breakfast at the hotel.

The one thing I really regret not doing on this trip was heading up to Giant’s Causeway. We didn’t want to rent a car, and all the day tours were full day affairs. Since we had the hockey game … we didn’t want to chance the timing. So instead, we stayed inside the city. Our first stop was to (*sigh*) Starbucks for some coffee … but mainly to get a Northern Ireland coffee mug. We then headed to St. George’s Market – a combination farmer’s market/food hall/Christmas market. We really probably should have gotten some veggies or something there, but oh well.

IMG_6590

From there, we walked to the Belfast peace wall. We had seen a lot of other friends go there earlier in the week and wanted to check it out.

11-24belfast
On the way, in West Belfast.

11-24belfast3

11-24belfast4

11-24belfast5

Sobering yet completely awesome. Also of note: the UK was trying to figure out their Brexit deal and one of the main points of worry was open borders in Ireland since ain’t no one wants to go back to the Troubles.

We headed off back to the Christmas market so B could get some of the Bailey’s hot chocolate everyone had been raving about.

IMG_6606

We didn’t stay long beyond that, though – too many people and my social anxiety kicked in big time. So, instead of finding lunch there, we found a small cafe within a bookstore for a couple of sandwiches. After lunch, more touristy wandering.

IMG_6613

IMG_6618
This awesome alley is right across from the Duke of York (you can see it behind me).

11-24belfast8
Same street.

Before the game, we walked back over to the Titanic Museum to get an ornament (had been mulling it over and decided to buy it). Good thing, too, since the museum looks awesome at night.

IMG_6625

IMG_6632
Also got a shot of the famous Harland and Wolff (shipbuilding) cranes.

Then it was off to the pregame reception once again.

IMG_6633
L to R: Me, Rhett, Cindy.

11-24belfast15
We needed a picture of us!

Unfortunately, BU did not win the Belpot, as they fell to Union that night. Boooooo.

Sunday, November 25:

We didn’t have too early of a wake up Sunday morning, but we did get moving relatively early, since our main goal for the day was to get back down to Dublin.

11-25belfast
Dinosaurs looking out the window one last time.

IMG_6642
Walking to the bus stop.

I took Dramamine for the return trip – just in case – which was probably good. I did end up nodding off again though, which was nice. We got to the airport and then caught a shuttle bus to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express right near Dublin Airport. Since we were (hopefully) leaving the next day, we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, besides seriously repack (kind of half-assed it in Belfast). As a result, dinner was also simple at one of the restaurants at the Crowne Plaza next door.

Monday, November 26:

We woke up with enough time to get checked out and grab some breakfast at the hotel before going to the airport. We hit the airport, checked in … and learned we wouldn’t get boarding passes unless they thought we had a chance of making the flight. As a result, we had a few hours to kill before we needed to be back by the counter. Time to play the waiting game. As we checked in with a higher priority, we were able to go past security … but the odds of us getting on did not look to be in our favor.

We went through security and customs as quickly as we could (you clear U.S. Customs in Dublin which is kind of cool … also thank you Global Entry you were worth every penny) and got to the gate to wait … and wait … and learn we were screwed. Dangit. We got escorted back out … got our passports stamped as we “re-entered” Ireland … and then sat for a bit figuring out our next move. We got some food for lunch at the airport, considered going into town … but decided “screw it,” rebooked the Holiday Inn Express, and went back over to the hotel.

We did, however, venture out for a very nice walk at the park across the street.

IMG_6658

IMG_6677
It had been raining that morning … so this rainbow (it was a full arc, too) was nice to see.

11-26dublin3
We’re mature.

11-26dublin7

It was a beautiful way to spend some time. I think we both needed a bit of time with some fresh air in nature.

We hit up an Italian place about a block down for dinner and then back to bed … but not before I contacted my parents to have them please go over to our house and brine the turkey sitting in my fridge so we could cook it on Wednesday to have our very delayed Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 27:

Second verse, same as the first … except this time when we checked in, they let us go right through (plane was open enough). The security line was much shorter earlier in the morning which was nice. As we didn’t have a gate that early, we were told to just hang out in the departure lounge (or really just around all the Duty Free shops). B bought some whisky. I almost bought a gorgeous cashmere scarf … but couldn’t justify the money on something I’m not sure I’d use all that much. I did, however, find a pair of dachshund socks for his mom. We also got some coffee at a cafe. When the board told us to go through customs, we dutifully followed and then sat at our gate. Or what we thought was our gate (it changed).

In the gate area, we saw a few of the BU fans Cindy introduced us to that also worked for the same airline. I guess they tried the Sunday flight, didn’t get on … and didn’t even try for Monday. They got on too … and ended up sitting behind us.

IMG_6742
We’re going hoooooome!!

Going back was nice as we got #podlife (as I like to call it). My video screen was being stupid so I didn’t watch a movie, but I did read quite a bit.

IMG_6745
T Schmeg the emotional support dinosaur (kidlet babysitter) hung out like this the entire flight.

We got into JFK and then sat in the club for a while until our Denver flight … which we also happily made and I’m pretty sure I slept some on it, too.

It may have been 26 hours later than planned, but we made it home.

Not the longest or best (Northern) Ireland trip, but it was a lot of fun being able to see my hockey team in another country.