Mermaids, Castles, & Dam Good Coffee.

Coffee is always a struggle when traveling. This is what the bus people in England think an appropriate morning cup of joe should be… Notice how it barely fits within my hand… Notice how Selena is making a weird face to denote our displeasure and dissatisfaction…

Cup of dashed dreams

Our bus ride out of England left us hoping that we might find a more satisfactory coffee experience elsewhere in Europe…

Onward to the Netherlands!!!

But first, breakfast in Belgium… We had taken a night bus to Amsterdam, and it let us out for some breakfast at this little cafe. I should have gotten Belgian waffles, I don’t know what I was even thinking getting a smoothie….

Belgium Smoothie
Belgium Smoothie

But it was sooooo good.

Our friend Alina (who looks a little like Taylor Swift) met us at the Amsterdam train station.

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It was so good seeing her because we hadn’t seen her since her high school days when she came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student. Way back then, they were in my small group at church. I think at the time they mostly thought I was weird cause I was all serious about everything and I didn’t really know anything about regular life stuff like celebrities and movies or whatever since I was home schooled. Not that I’ve really changed that much… Ha! It’s kinda funny cause five years used to be some kind of big age gap. Then you hit twenty something and you are all just friends…

It was fun catching up, and we were lucky she knows all kinds of languages so she could talk to people and figure out stuff. I love smart people!!! She’s gonna be a doctor or something, so, yeah…

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We didn’t really have a purpose for being in Amsterdam other than to simply explore and experience the history and culture it offers. And I don’t mean weed, although they offer it in abundance on pretty much every corner it seems like… Drugs are a pretty big deal here apparently…

We wandered a bit, exploring the streets, keeping an eye out for a coffee shop.

I get excited about little things like brick walkways lined with bicycles, bridges crossing canals, and tall windowed buildings. It’s so unlike our Californian hills and sprawled out cities where we’ve built everything big and the art & design often take a back seat to things like function and expense.

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I love when people pay attention to design and beauty, something Europe does brilliantly.

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Thank God Amsterdam finally came through for me. I was doing an inward happy dance at seeing this sign from across the square….

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Everyone needs some Dam Good Coffee in their lives. It’s what takes your day from “good”, to “great”.

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For some reason, people sometimes think I should be in charge of figuring out things like, where we should sleep once we arrive in a new city. Like Amsterdam…

It’s not that I can’t figure it out, it’s just that I’m not one of these kinds of people that spends hours researching and trying to find things etc, etc, etc… So basically what I’m saying is that we didn’t exactly have a plan as to where we were gonna stay, we kinda just figured we would see a hostel and be like, “You guys have space here?” and then be like, “Ok, we want a room.”

We were wandering around with our luggage for a little while, but we ended up finding a place that was a good price for us, somewhere around 25 bucks for the night. It was pretty close to the train station so we were like, “Heck yeah, let’s stay here!” (Also we were so ready to dump our stuff and be luggage free…)

It was Alina’s first Hostel experience. Selena and I were pro’s of course because we had just stayed two nights at a Hostel in Paris so… We pretty much had it all figured out.

Honestly though, I don’t know what we were expecting… I mean, the guy showed us pics of the room and it looked spacious and nice…

But, well… It was a little tight for the three of us…

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The narrow, winding hallway smelled like Marijuana and some other kind of crap, but, as long as we held our breath until we got to our room, we were fine…

Our leopard-print sheets were… Interesting.

We decided it was probly best to sleep on TOP of them rather than INSIDE… You know… Sanitation reasons… Since we were too broke for fancy hotels, we were just like, “Whatever, we are in Amsterdam!”

It wasn’t until we went wandering about looking for food, that we realized our little Hostel was kinda… In the red light district. (2nd time this has happened to me while traveling)

It was really quite disturbing. I’m not sure how people just go around like everything is well and fine with all that happening in their city like no big deal… Even more weird was seeing all the people who were there for that purpose… It was all rather unsettling. Like, I wanted to do something about it but it’s not like they have laws against trafficking and prostitution there, and there’s no way to know which girls are there voluntarily and which girls have been trafficked… It’s hard to walk past and leave a huge problem like that sitting unresolved behind me.

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We eventually found a fun place to eat. I was all about the food options… Indian, Greek, other stuff… It’s so hard to choose!

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Garlic Fries
Garlic Fries

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Seriously, I don’t know how people even know what to get at these places… Everything looks amazing.

The rest of my family hit town the next day, which was perfect cause that meant we could crash in their hotel room and ditch our hostel.

Also, this building says mom.

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They don’t have large hotel rooms here like we have in America. Which meant I had to sleep on two chairs and a suitcase and wear all kinds of layers to keep warm. #Goodtimes

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We had a nice view though…

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I mean seriously, how adorable are these buildings?

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We walked through Anne Frank’s house. The line was long & cold and I had never learned about Anne Frank so Alina and Selena had to tell me why I was standing in the cold waiting for so long to look inside her house. She ended up being a pretty interesting person.

Later, once the fam got into town, we went to see Corey Ten Boom’s house. Corey Ten Boom had lived above a clock shop in a little town called Harlem which was about a 30 minute train ride away. I had read her biography as a kid and was inspired by her bravery, hiding Jews during WW2 and barely surviving a concentration camp.

My dad had first decided to follow Jesus after hearing her speak at a big event in L.A. back when he was in college. So, going to her house and seeing everything in person was… Kinda amazing and surreal.

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Looking at her parlor windows from the street below.
Looking at her parlor windows from the street below.

It was cool to see everything exactly as described in her book.

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This is the little entry way to the hiding place where they conceal various Jews until arrangements could be made for safe transfer out of the city. This small opening in the bottom of Corey’s closet led to a very tiny little room where up to six people could tightly fit.

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The night the Ten Boom family was betrayed, six refugees were hidden in this room, and stuck here for three days before good cops were able to take watch of the house and transfer them to another “safe” house. By then the whole Ten Boom family had been taken to the concentration camps, where most of them died.

It’s crazy to be in places that were devastated by severe injustice. It’s difficult to wrap my brain around it all. And yet similar atrocities are being committed even now, in other countries, while governments sit by and allow it.

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Walking through the city of Harlem was seriously so fun. It quickly became my favorite city in all of Europe because of how small and quaint it is, with narrow streets which only bicycles and pedestrians pass through… It was really like stepping back in time.

The little cheese and bakery shops were like something out of a story book. Or so it seemed to me. I loved how close everything felt, like everyone was family and could just walk outside and hang out with friends they see everyday and visit little shops and whatnot.

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I do hope to visit this wonderful city again someday. What a delightful place to simply wander around and explore. Some of the people here even speak English!

Next we flew over to Denmark.

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We had found tickets home from Copenhagen for only $300 bucks, so we figured we might as well spend some time exploring there and see what there is to see.

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It’s a pretty fun little city.

We didn’t really know what to do here, but Selena, or Daniel, looked up what stuff people are supposed to go look at when they come to this place, and apparently there’s a really cool mermaid that’s a pretty big deal, and people are supposed to make sure they hike over and look at it when they come to this town…

So of course, we hiked to go find the cool mermaid the internet told us we had to see.

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We had to walk through an old fashioned military compound to get to the mermaid. It was kinda like a treasure hunt!

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We passed rivers and crossed through tunnels…

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And windmills….

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And ice cream places that pretended to serve Ben and Jerry’s but it wasn’t really Ben and Jerry’s it was just a cardboard cup of disappointment and broken dreams…

IMG_1273Don’t be fooled, there was no peace or love in this ice cream stand…

Also it was like 10 degrees so I don’t really know why that chick is thinking about buying ice cream here…

What she should have done is gone to this incredible bakery, where pieces of heaven are dished out in various forms of chocolate, pudding, and flaky goodness….

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The Danes have really taken it upon themselves to explore that verse in the Bible where it says to “Taste and see that the Lord is good”.

Praise Jesus. Selah.

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We eventually found the mermaid.

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No, I’m not joking… That’s really what we hiked 5 million miles to see.

Naked fish-people are like, really cool over here in this part of the world… At least that’s what everyone with the selfie sticks seemed to think anyways….

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Thank God I don’t speak Danish… I would have probly offended lots of people… PTL

The rest of the fam had skipped our mermaid adventure and gone to find a castle instead. So we decided to join the castle party and see what cool stuff was over there.

Walking through Copenhagen is really pretty fun. I love all the little things that make this place unique.

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I mean, nut stands..? Like, seriously, they just set up a booth and sell every kind of nut like no big deal…

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The only deal with being here is that you never really know how much anything costs cause their prices are all crazy and they have their own special money and basically they just like to confuse people who don’t live in Denmark..

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Also, this sign…

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Idk.. There was really quite a lot of randomness here…

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Eventually we did find the castle…

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THEY called it a castle.

I would have probly just called it a large brick building.

Is there a rule book for castle qualifications? Maybe I should start one… I feel like there should be some kind of voting committee where people can decide what qualifies as a castle. So as not to confuse people who assume all castles are awesome…

It cost money to go in so we just wandered around the gardens while Daniel bothered the guards.

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There were some nice views here.

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Copenhagen was a nice place.

I didn’t find any art to bring home, so I just got some little wooden shoes on a magnet and also some cute cider bottles to use as vases in my tree-house.

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Farewell Copenhagen, until we meet again!

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(That is, IF we meet again… Because honestly, your castle and mermaid weren’t that impressive…)

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