On Europespedition I: Neds wiv de leds (III)

  • This report is a part of the following series: Europespedition I: Neds wiv de Leds.
  • This piece was written over a year ago. It may no longer accurately reflect my views now, or may be factually outdated.
  • This piece was originally written for my old site, Oh What? Oh Jeez! As such, it may not have transferred over properly and some images and links might be broken (and, to a lesser extent, my writing from years ago is about 80% run-on sentences).

It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are… than to breathe in the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.

Henry David Thoreau

Part Two

Day 8

I’d been staying up until 4am and waking up at 8am each day, but I wasn’t yet reaping what I’d sowed nor even having much of a hangover the next morning. I’d managed not to annoy the Australian woman again and I think I’ve redeemed myself in her eyes as she’s been saying saying hi and smiling at me every time I see her. Once the others were awake, the four of us went to the beach with Aussie John and Penthouse Kris and chilled out listening to John’s tunes on a speaker right by my ear—whenever I closed my eyes I was enveloped in the music and the rest of my body floated a thousand miles away. It turned out the John was a Biggie man but Kris a Tupac, just going to show that travel truly does bring disparate groups together. We messed around in the ocean for a bit, jumping over waves, dried off and went back to the hostel. Aussie John stayed behind and we figured he’d come back when he’s ready. Back at the hostel we slipped back into our sofa base alongside Summer and Friendzone. We gave the people who hooked up last night the piss-taking they deserved and went out for Huss’ first experience of chips with mayo.

Aussie John had been gone for hours and Penthouse Kris said he was sleeping when he left. An ambulance was parked outside the hostel for a few hours and we all got a bit worried for John. We went out for another crate and came back to immediately hear a high-pitched giggle, signalling that Aussie John was around. We found him in the smoking room (natch), burnt to a cinder. We were glad he’s not dead, but left him when the staff went out to the beach and told us to tag along. There we met Tommo, a Dutch regular who somebody gave a guitar with which he provided the soundtrack to the gathering: Tenacious D, Team America: World Police, a jazzy acoustic rendition of a System of a Down song, a cover of Wonderwall in an exaggerated British accent and a rather dubious song of his own making about AIDs.

We go back to the hostel after a while and a 22 Jump Street drinking game kicks off. Wheenie and I decide it’ll be a good idea to get a pitcher each and drink from them like giant glasses, but the film is a shitty camrip with unintelligible audio so I bail to go to the smoking room with Aussie John for a bit. The others come in and we all go up to Penthouse Kris’ penthouse with Aussie John and an exuberant Canadian woman the others met the night before and who has dived over a sofa onto me six times by the end of the night—I assume I looked so at one with the sofa that she didn’t see me. The others get the munchies for kebab and we go off again. Outside I meet Francisco again, along with two of his Argentinian buddies: Juan, whose name I pronounce more and more exaggerated each time; and the other guy. Francisco has apparently told his friends about the night before and I’ve got some infamy in their group. We have a laugh and discuss how Brits and Argies are meant to hate each other, but the four I’ve met have been a hot girl and three cool guys, so they’re okay in my book. The others have their food and we all walk back to the hostel. The Argies disappear and we all go back up to the penthouse where everyone crashes on the double bed and watches South Park whilst I stand out on the balcony staring up at the starry night sky and moving my head to get everything but it out of sight.

It’s that time of night again, so the others go to bed and I make my way to the smoking room. I sit next to an obscenely adorable Swedish girl and we talk for a while before she leaves and Max, a dreadlocked (not in the over-managed, perfect sausages king of way, but in the I forgot I have hair for a few years and this happened kind of way) regular we saw on the beach earlier comes up. We talk about dreads and he says how his lot were having a laugh at us for giving Tommo too much attention; a sure sign that we were new here. He points out an Irish girl who’s been getting guys to buy her drinks all night and says he can recognise the ones that abuse the ability thanks to working at the hostel for a while. He sics me on her and I go over to annoy her because I have nothing better to do. It’s a success, and after a perhaps inadvisable comment about Ireland being like a naffer England she bails and I go back to Max. We talk a bit more and I go to bed.

Day 9

Now the previous eight days caught up and I spent the morning feeling like warmed-up piss. The only things I trusted myself to keep down are five cups of coffee and a plate of pancakes the Parisian girl left out (or crêpes, as she excitedly corrected me). Slowly, the other three came and joined me on the sofa, similarly destroyed, and we all sat in silence alongside the Parisian girl who had just worked an all-nighter and was now napping intermittently. We checked out and get on the shuttle where I was drafted into holding the broken speaker cord together at such an angle that we get both audio channels, which requires near-surgical precision. The journey was soundtracked by the likes of Alanis Morissette and ZZ Top coming in and out of mono for 50mins and when we got off the shuttle, Scrot and Huss said that the other passengers were from Oakham, about 20mins drive from where we live. Small world, but people from Oakham are all privately educated tosspots, so it was good they were staying at the Downtown whilst we went on to the Uptown.

Our room was up four flights of stairs and after we’d set up we went out to the Vondelpark to try and find the I Amsterdam sign. We wandered for a while and stopped in a few shaded places for a lounge, discussing the old standby of things that are and aren’t okay to shag. Between the hangover and the heat, I got cranky with Huss and the sign and felt a bit bad after; if it was the other two it’d be fine because they’re cunts too, but Huss is the nice one. Eventually we gave up on the sign, went back to the hostel and chilled until the evening.

We go downtown for the Red Light District Pub Crawl, but misinterpret the 8–9:30pm times on the leaflet as being how long the Pub Crawl is and not the period in which people can sign up so have to spend an hour and half in the first bar, where pints are €7 and the free vodka shots are watered down to the point of non-existence. We watch with fascination as every girl ends up surrounded by around four guys in a heartbeat like the weeping angels from Doctor Who, except for one group of about eight who laugh at every one who tries until eventually they are left alone. One guy talks to us and I get paranoid that he’s trying to pull us, but he gets sent off to a different pub crawl group. Finally, the crawl starts and at the first bar we meet a couple English people: one’s already plastered and asks us what our favourite football team is, to which I blag Peterborough United (these colours never run); and one’s from Essex and says he doesn’t drink but does weed instead, making his presence on the pub crawl odd. He also insists on rolling his €3 weed with a filter; I don’t say anything and we leave to go back to Ziggy’s for cheaper pints. The San Diegans were meant to show up because Trejo left his $150 sunglasses but they never do, which is a bit disappointing but Scrot’s happy with his new fancy sunglasses and I’m soon distracted with the help of the free vodka shots at the next bar.

At the next bar, Huss meets two Mexican girls and falls in love with the hotter one. It’s strange to see but hilarious and I try to wingman him for a few seconds before losing track of what I’m doing and doing the exact opposite. I need more money so Scrot and I go find an ATM, finally seeing the Blue Light District on the way, and when I get there it gives me €20 in one note rather than two tens and I pick a fight with it; Scrot has to pull me away. We go back to the bar and meet Somerset Wellies (after where she’s from and the nickname of someone she reminded me of) and a perfectly trashy Irish girl. I’ve given myself up to the spirit of the night entirely and end up with my arm around her without being aware of ever putting it there. The music is pounding so we have to put our faces against each other to hear anything; she says her name is Sinéad and that night her accent is the most fantastic thing I’ve ever heard. It’s unintelligible but beautiful with a singsong lilt that speaks to me, man. I ask her questions just to hear her say things and slowly add names to hers until I’m calling her Sinéad Ó Raghailligh O’Dobsky O’Leary Ó Seachnasaigh McPatrick Guinness-Guinness. Huss and Scrot say they’re going to look for Wheenie who has gone venturing off on his own, I stay with the Irish songbird who keeps buying me pints. We move on to the next bar and I split off to go to the toilet.

There’s jostling and I suddenly find myself out on the street. The bouncer won’t let me back in so I sit by the canal and try to figure out how I ended up outside. Somerset Wellies and her friends come up and decide I’m off my rocker and need help getting home. That’s perhaps not far off, since I come to the conclusion the other three must be gone forever because I haven’t seen them for an hour, and Wheenie is the only one who knows how to get back. The girls are staying in an apartment near Vondelpark and offer to help me get there, from where I assume I’ll be able to find the hostel. It’s a half hour journey normally, but it takes us about an hour so I have plenty of time to talk to Wellies and her friends. Apparently my kicking out was the result of a heady mix of vague bathroom door gender signs and a sink that I thought looked remarkably urinal-like. One of their friends walked in and caught me and I remembered I had thought it odd that a girl walked into the men’s bathroom and kept gasping.

At one point I get a hankering for a hookering and try making my way back to the Red Light District with no money; the girls stop me and tell me I’m in no state to do any of that and we eventually end up at the hostel. I say goodbye and go inside, making my way to the smoking room. Inside I meet a Swedish girl and we share her favourite bong and talk for hours about the rise of right-wing political parties in Europe and modern feminism. Eventually I make my way out front to stare up at the sky with my 2 l bottle of water I don’t remember acquiring and the other three turn up, not best pleased after spending four hours looking for me. I apologise and offer them some water from my now-empty bottle but for some reason they’re not interested. I hear the guy from Essex who doesn’t know how to use weed got noshed off by a hooker for €50. We go up to our hostel beds. Tomorrow night will be spent in my own, and I’m not as excited by that fact as the others seem to be.

Homeward Bound

In the morning, I found out about the TransAsia and Air Algérie crashes. I now know not to look at the news if you have a flight later. We went out to Vondelpark for about an hour and then to the I Amsterdam sign, which we found out was actually on the Museumplein. Huss visited the Rijksmuseum whilst we went back to the hostel to unwind in the bar all day, eventually rejoined by Huss. We discussed other travel ideas, like a country-wide game of hide-and-seek, a Europespedition outside of Europe and how this trip would have been had we had some other friends (about Lakpo we decide it would have been louder but entertaining). We got an articulated bus to Schiphol and got on the plane, same seating arrangement as before but Wheenie insisted on the window seat and this was only his second flight so we assented. Two English guys sat next to me and we talked. They’d been in Amsterdam for five days and said that was a bit much. I said nine days was too few for us, but Wheenie had said nine was excessive earlier that day which left me worrying about whether the others had enjoyed the trip as much as me, as I felt somewhat responsible since I planned it. I figured they did (with the exception of last night maybe) and relaxed a bit. The other three gave me brutal stink eye, however, when the seatbelt signs went off and the two guys next to me moved next to their friend in front who had two empty seats next him, leaving me lounging across all three and peering out the window at the sunset like some sort of decadent Roman patrician.

We were picked up by Huss’ mum and driven home, where I returned to find the eFukt shirt I ordered before leaving laying on my bed; the feeling was akin to someone returning home from war to find their wife with their newborn child. I looked at my RSS feed and there were over 1000 items on it so I marked them all as read and stayed up until 2am writing this before going to bed.

The Day After

I awoke to the sound of Dad playing Rainbow, filling the house with the sound of Eyes of the World. I had had a dream about the plane crashing into the ocean and rescuing everyone which ended with kissing the Parisian girl who worked at the hostel and finding out she was having trouble with her fiancée. I didn’t think too hard about what it meant, but I realised I hadn’t dreamt all trip. I’m sure there’s something cringeworthy in there about how I didn’t dream on the trip because the trip was like a dream, but I’ll leave that to the She-Lawrences of the world to analyse. For my part, I took the hint from the dream and watched Fearless again and spent the entire day writing this, not yet ready for the trip to end so I had to surround myself with the recalled sights and sounds of it for as long as possible.

Aftermath

I’d grown so used to being cynical as a defence mechanism and expecting nothing to live up to my expectations that for something to do so so entirely and then some is a strange and wonderful experience. I met more amazing people in nine days than I have in eighteen years at home, from those who still have names like Emma, Aussie John, the San Diegans, Swedish Chris and Penthouse Kris, to those who never got them but were no less memorable, like the Katheryn Winnick-looking Argie, the Swedish feminist and the American Jesus. My writing of this has been punctuated with getting up to wander around the house to nowhere in particular and then back. It’s wanderlust, pure and simple; in other tabs I have open about eight sites for various travelling services, from BlaBlaCar to WWOOF; the world has never seemed so huge and yet so small – Erica posts a status on Facebook about her trip and says anyone in San Diego is welcome to stay any time. I file it away as something to keep in mind, and the West Coast seems about as good a destination to dream about as any other. In her travel diary was a, by her own admission cliché-sounding, phrase that I feel might be onto something: You meet everyone twice. At least I hope so.

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