And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY - but not on the Mother Country! That's right, this morning Sammy boarded a plane, and after a scant 40 minutes in the air (head up, come down - NEVER level out), I was on the ground in...wait for it...wait for it...AMSTERDAM, BABY!!!!
Customs was super easy (literally - I was the ONLY person in line), and 10 minutes later I was on a train to Centraal Station. I arrived at the Banks Mansion (can't WAIT to attach the pics - can't do it now with the work PC), which is a CUTE hotel right on the Heren Gracht canal (what can I say - mom rolls big). I dropped my luggage, picked up a map, and then rolled out to the featured stop of the day - the Heineken Brewery, grapping a goat's cheese, celery, and tomato panini en route.
Simply put - WOW. This was an AWESOME tour. Other than the Coors Brewery (which is FREE and gives you 3 pints plus a driving tour of Golden), this is probably THE BEST Brewery tour that I've ever been a part of. Full marks to those boys - their marketing prowess is clearly impressive.
I'll get pics up for this as well, but the bar at the end was REALLY cool. And honestly, I must confess that, prior to this, I regarded Heineken as a skunky beer that should only be consumed as a last option. However, having sampled it here, ice cold and fresh, I am now a convert, as it was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud here. It's one of the few beers where you can truly taste the barley up front and the hops in the back.
The other interesting thing about the tour - EVERYTHING WAS COMPLETELY IN ENGLISH AND ONLY WRITTEN IN ENGLISH. Presentations, descriptions, videos - EVERYTHING was in English. Wow - I'm really, REALLY glad I was born learning that as a first language.
Best part - I even caught a glimpse of the future of the TBC (that would be the Taylor Brewing Company) - check out the "Master Brewer" in action.
After the Brewery tour (technically dubbed "The Heineken Experience"), I rolled back to the hotel, had a Beck's (yes - that's right - they have an OPEN BAR that is FREE TO ALL GUESTS - you better BELIEVE I'm gettin' my money's worth - or mom's at least - out of these cats), and then wandered the city for a bit, checking out the canals and side streets whilst steering clear of all coffee shops. I was here in 2007, and I remember passing about 10,000 "coffee shops" but never really smelling the "famous flower" of Amsterdam. This time, however, WOW - the smell was over-powering every time I walked past one. If I'd set food inside any of them, I'd have had a contact buzz for the next six weeks.
My wanderings landed me in the Red Light District eventually. WOW. I still shudder as I think about it. Again, JT and I walked through it in 2007, and it really wasn't that bad. Yesterday, however, it was almost frightening (and at a minimum unsettling). Let's just say I'll never go back down there...EVER.
I spent the rest of the afternoon hitting pubs and drinking Heineken on draft, confirming Hitman's theory that, in the Dam at least, Heineken is guuuuuuuuuuuuuud. I stopped drinking around 7 PM, however, so that I wouldn't be asleep when mum arrived.
Mom got an earlier train, and she rolled over to the hotel at 8:30 (I'd just finished the novel "The Assassin" - okay, but not as good as "Gates of Fire," which was WICKED AWESOME). Dinner that night was fajitas at an Argentine joint called "3 Amigos," and it was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud (peppy cheekies). After that, we retired back to the hotel, where I raided the open bar until midnight before hitting the sack. After all, I gotta work tomorrow!
Last thing - check out the newest pic of little Sam - the next Natalie Coughlin!!!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and (somewhere near the Ring of Kerry) Jenny