Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Canal Cruise, Anne Frank House (almost), & Pancakes

We've done some fun things the past week or so!  The only downside is that we've all been pretty sick for the past week.  We're hoping we get better soon so we can have the energy to leave the house a bit more.  We still planned some fun things for Saturday to do around here and had a great time.

We went on a Canal Cruise and loved it.  This is definitely a tourist must when you visit Amsterdam.  Most people go on a big, covered boat with lots of people.  We opted for a smaller boat and were glad we did.  The weather cooperated beautifully and so did Andy.  (Thanks to Baby Einstein, which saved our life once again.)  We were on the boat for about 75 min. with 6 other people and went around the western canals of Amsterdam, through the Jordaan.  The pictures aren't the best because Cam was holding Andy, and I was holding the laptop for Andy.  But it was stunning!

An old warehouse.

There are 2500 houseboats on the canals.  This one is just a home for cats! Crazy. 
Andy stuffing his face with raisins.

Our plan for the afternoon was to go to the Anne Frank house and then go to the famous pancake house that's nearby.  After standing in a barely moving line at the Anne Frank house for 30 min., we decided we'd come back another time and headed to get pancakes.  Despite having the rudest waitress alive, we loved it. The pancakes were incredible!  Expensive, but incredible.  

Andy and I shared a chocolate, banana, & whipped cream pancake.  Andy let me take a bite  occasionally.
Cam had an apple and bacon pancake.  I guess that's traditional here?  I wasn't gutsy enough to order it, but once I tried Cam's I wished I would have.
We actually had a lot of good food during the weekend.  Friday we went to this takeout Chinese place and ate it in Rembrandtplein.  It was really good food.  The best part was this incredible classical guitarist that was playing while we ate.  And then it got even better when an old man started dancing all crazy to the music.  Just by himself.  It was so entertaining. I was so bummed I didn't have my camera.  On the subject of food, we had a couple from church over for dinner Sunday.  It was so fun to get to know them! And very refreshing to be around fellow expats.  I was so excited to have people over.  I haven't really talked to anyone but Cameron for a month.  Cameron's great and all, but it was nice to have some variety. :) And one last food mention: look at this delicious sandwich I had for lunch on Saturday. 
Mozzarella, Pesto, Tomato, & Rocket.
Andy and I made another visit to the Vondelpark last week.  This time we played in the playground area for a while.  It's really intended for older kids, but Andy still had a lot of fun running around.  He's such a funny kid.  He walks up to every little kid and just starts yelling at them.  Not like angry yelling, just talking excitedly and loudly.  And they're all terrified of him.  Ha! He had a good time though.  Up until it was time to leave.  By the looks of this next picture, you wouldn't guess he'd just thrown a full-blown limp body, shrieking tantrum for a solid ten minutes.  Is it possible for the terrible twos to begin at 15 months?  It was embarrassing, to say the least.  Especially around all these perfectly behaved european children.  We'll see when I get up the courage to go again.  

Beautiful park.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How to get to our front door:

I know I've complained about how ridiculous it is to get to our apartment here; the time has come to post proof.  

You start at this door.  This is the door from ground level.  We share this entrance with about 8 other apartments.

This is what it looks like to the left of the door...

...and to the right. Pretty cool little street.

You open that door, and find this: a little hallway where everyone stores their bikes.  And where we store our stroller (illegally) by the fire escape. 

At the end of that hallway, you go through this door.

And then you proceed to go up five flights of stairs, also known as the bain of my existence. 

Oh, and do you see that little cubby under the stairs?  That's where I used to store my stroller until I got smart and decided to store it illegally. (Just try to imagine pulling a stroller in and out while standing on stairs, holding a large child.)

So you keep going, and going, and going. 

And then right about here, you want to die because you're carrying a 30 lb. child, a diaper bag, and a bag of groceries.  

And then right as you decide you're never leaving the house again, you finally get to this door at the top.

And then you get to this cool little terrace.  Follow the path for a bit.

Then go up a few more stairs and then down a few more.

And then you get to our house! (Kind of.  We're on the top two floors.) As a side-note, I would like to point out that we were shown a picture similar to this when we chose our housing.  Doesn't it look like it's a ground level house?!  Let's just say I'm more than slightly irritated that we were given no warning about what kind of journey precedes getting to this point.  Oh well.  At least it's amazing on the inside, right?

Almost there!  You go through this front door (after unlocking the main lock plus the two deadbolts our paranoid downstairs neighbor insists on using), and then head up one more flight of stairs.

You made it! I feel pretty proud of myself every time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Huddersfield & Rotherham

The three of us just took a weekend trip to visit two of my mission areas.  It was so wonderful to be able to show Cameron how beautiful England is, and to introduce him to some people who captured my heart while I served there.  England will always be so special to me.  Not only did I serve in the Leeds Mission, but I also did a study abroad in London for a semester.  How lucky am I?! As soon as we landed in Manchester, I turned to Cameron and confessed that I just feel so at home in England. 

We flew out pretty late Friday night--about 10 PM.  Not exactly ideal when you have a child that's used to going to bed at 8.  However, Andy was actually really good on the flight.  It was only an hour, which felt like a millisecond compared to our eternal flight from the US.  And we were lucky enough to have the one empty seat in the plane by us, so Andy got his own seat.  The most exciting part of the night was when we picked up the rental car.  Cameron must think I'm a terrible driver, because he insisted the he would be the one to drive us around all weekend, even though I'm the one with 18 months experience driving on the "wrong" side of the road.  As soon as he got in the car, I think he regretted that decision.  I don't think I've ever seen him more panicked?  Ha ha ha...the best part is that he ran over a sign on his way out of the car rental parking lot.  (We saw the same sign as we returned the car a few days later; it was all mangled.  I couldn't stop laughing.  I so wish I would have gotten a picture of it.)  We stayed at a little local bed and breakfast since we got in so late.  We didn't really get to bed until about 1 AM=a really rough night for Andy, who was also suffering from a cold.  After the rough beginning to our trip, I was worried Saturday would be a bust, but we had a great time!

After having a full english breakfast (Cameron's first!), we left our hotel for Huddersfield.  The drive over was spectacular.  I think one of our favorite parts of the weekend was driving around the countryside.  It is stunning.  In Huddersfield, we visited Kelly, a recent convert I spent a lot of time with.  When we saw each other we both started crying; we have such a connection and have missed each other so much.  We met her new husband, Andy destroyed their new house and enjoyed their dog India, and then we headed to Almondbury so I could show Cam where I lived.  We drove around the village and then headed up to Castle Hill for the spectacular views.  After all that, we drove to the town centre to walk around and grab some lunch.  I did a lot of street contacting in that town centre, so it was fun to go back.  Cam got to try his first ever authentic fish 'n chips, which he loved! We also stopped by Tesco to pick up some chocolate so Cam could decide if he's a Cadbury or a Galaxy fan.  I'm ashamed to admit he likes Cadbury better.  A house divided, I guess.

English Breakfast.  Yum!
A picture with sweet Kelly. 
And one with Andy, too.
Castle Hill 
View from Castle Hill.  Isn't it incredible?

Cam with his fish 'n chips!
In Huddersfield Town Centre.  So many hours spent here street contacting!
We headed to Rotherham in the early afternoon.  Also a stunning drive.  Our first stop was meeting Maddie in town centre to chat for a few.  It was so good to see her.  She went out on exchanges with us all the time, so we got really close.  I will always love her sharp wit and kind heart.  After that, we headed to Conisbrough for a quick visit with Keith and Penny. We met up the the Gunns (Graham, Christine, David, Sarah) and the Taylors (Debbie, Daniel) for a carvery meal--again, Cam's first!  It was so good to see them all!  Unfortunately Andy chose this as his melt-down time for the day, but I think we all still had a good time.  We spent the night at David and Sarah's, who were wonderful hosts.  In the morning, I took Cam and Andy to visit where I used to live in Wath.  We went to church, and were lucky enough to be there for Branch Conference!  All the meetings were great, and it was wonderful to see so many people.  Sarah made us a delicious sunday dinner before we headed out.  Our last stop was a visit with Nig, one of my most favorite investigators from my entire mission.  (Am I allowed to have a favorite?)  He was even funnier than I remembered, and we enjoyed every second catching up with him.  After that, we headed back to Manchester and flew home.  Before we went, we wondered if the trip would even be worth it--spending so much money to only be there two days.  It ended up being such a special experience; it was worth every penny.  

Rotherham Town Centre 
A chat with Miss Maddie.  Love her so much.
At the carvery with the gang!
David & Sarah's cute place.
A close-up of Sarah and David.  They're technology missionaries right now!
Val & George.  George was baptized when I was in the area and Val shortly after I left.  They're both endowed now!  So exciting!
A picture of Cam driving on the left side of the road.   He grew to love the roundabouts, but was pretty relieved to turn that rental car back in.  
Nig and I together.  So good to see him!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Zoo, Vondelpark, & other fun stuff

We've had a really great week around here!  Last week, Andy and I had a little outing to the Nine Streets, a more boutique-like shopping area.  It's beautiful.  Here's sweet Andy on our walk:

We had a lot of fun on Saturday.  It was so fun to have Cam around to play with us!  In true Messick form, we went to the zoo.  It's right downtown, so we expected it to be small, but it was amazing! It was really big.  They had a lot of animals that we don't usually have in our American zoos.  And all the animals were closer with not as much blocking us from getting close to them.  Andy didn't seem to enjoy it as much as we'd hoped, but Cam and I still loved it.  Our favorites: the giant anteater, lemur land, all the crazy insects, the giant crocodiles, and the red pandas.  

Looking at the sea lions.
Giant anteater.  So weird. 
Proof I was there.
I can't handle how cute he is.
On our way back from the zoo, we stopped by the famous fry place on our street to try their frites and mayo.  (Fries and mayo.)  I was pretty sure it would be disgusting.  I'm not a huge fry person and don't like mayo.  But, I am a believer now! This place was incredible!

Later that afternoon, we headed to our local park, the Vondelpark.  It was beautiful.  The weather all weekend was incredible--like shorts and t-shirt incredible.  That is rare here! We (along with the rest of Amsterdam) decided to take advantage of the incredible weather by chilling at the park.  It was packed!  People everywhere sitting on blankets with picnics. We brought a ball for Andy, and he had a blast running around.  

Cam also bought his bike on Saturday.  It's a used bike.  (Clearly.)  Everyone rides bikes here, which is so cool.  He rides to work now, which is great.  We're going to get another bike for me soon.  This nice guy from our ward is letting us borrow one while we're here.  We'll put a seat on it for Andy.  It'll be nice for me to finally ride a bike here! Anyway, here's Cam riding his bike to work on Monday.

We loved our ward on Sunday.  We met a lot more great people! A really nice guy, Alan, invited us over for dinner that night.  He's American and even made us brownies! He lives right on the canal--it was beautiful.  We had so much fun getting to know him.

A couple days ago, Andy and I headed back to the Vondelpark.  I think we'll go walking there a few times a week.  They even have a little playground I found.  Andy loves all the dogs everywhere.  Isn't it beautiful?

Cam had a fun work get-together last night.  Cam is replacing a really sweet French girl, Amandine, while she goes on maternity leave.  Last night was her "going away" party.  She had some people over for drinks and appetizers.  It was fun for me to finally meet her and the other people Cam has been working with.  We definitely were the weird ones though! We already feel a little out of place at work gatherings, even in the US.  We're just not used to non-Mormon etiquette!  Like how everyone brings a gift to the host/hostess--we were clueless about that at the last party we went to in the summer.  Well this time, the usual discomfort was coupled with the fact that we don't drink, we don't understand the customs/etiquette here, and we're the only ones who have a child....and, let's just say, we felt a little awkward at times. :)  But it was still really fun to get together and meet people.  We get lonely! (Hint, hint: visitors welcome.)  

We're having a great time here, trying to fill in as much as we can.  This weekend: England!