First trip to the Netherlands

Ok, so my husband, Luis, has been going thru an interview process with Booking.com for a couple of rounds of recruiting and technical interviews for some weeks. For some of you that might not be familiarized with Booking.com, it is a travel fare aggregator website and travel metasearch engine for lodging reservations (sort of like Expedia or Travelocity). It’s been an exciting but tough experience. Tough because of the time zones difference. We live in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Central America in CST – Central Standard Time, and Amsterdam, where the recruiting process was taking place is in CEST – Central European Summer Time, basically, we are eight hours behind, so Luis’s interviews took place around 3:00am. He usually gets up an hour before the call to make his set up and review before the interview. When he was done with the interview he would go and wake me up to let me know how it went 🙂 chat a little and then sleep some more before our 5:20am daily alarm. We live a pretty busy life, both, each with its routine, leaving just a couple of hours to chill at home, catch up and sharing on our days. I usually get home around 7:00pm, since I work an hour away from home, I carpool with some friends from work that live nearby. They drop me at my parent’s house, which is great, I get the opportunity to at least say hi to my family every day. Most of the time I get super tired and just want to get to my place and make myself comfortable.

After the last interview, Luis received and email, followed by a phone call with great news!! He was selected to go to the final interview phase, in Booking.com’s headquarters offices in Amsterdam!! I was already on my way to work, so I was like super excited, but at the time trying to look calm, cause it’s something I still didn’t felt like sharing with anybody. In 2015, Luis had applied and as well, got to this final phase and went to Amsterdam, but at that time, the door didn’t open. So in this occasion, we agreed that if he was going to the face-to-face interview, I was going to join him. If at the end the answer for the job was negative… at least, I am checking off Amsterdam from my bucket list. Anyways, we are planning a mini Euro trip for 2018, and… if the answer was positive, well… who would tell?! I was going to be visiting for the first time, the place that later I was gonna call home! So it was going to be a good experience anyways.

So we started to look for tickets in tentative dates, but prices were super high. Then came the concern if, after all, it was going to be a good idea or not. Spoke with my supervisor at work to check on the approval for a one week vacation, which was, not to say complicated to get but I know it was a rough time at the office, many changes were taking place. So I agreed to take my laptop and check my emails once a day in case I need to address critical matters.

And… We purchased my ticket! Matching Luis’ tkt was super expensive, so we had to split on the way back to Honduras, but it didn’t matter to me, I was really excited about the trip.

Time to travel! Usually we only travel with carryon bags, but this time I wanted to carry a backpack because in our return flights we will have to spend a lot of hours in airports, so we might want to go out. Danna, a friend of ours, lend us a pair and we packed over the weekend, to fly out on Monday 06/26/2017.

Flights to the Netherlands were fine, we flew out of the local airport in San Pedro Sula to Atlanta and then to Amsterdam. We arrived at Schiphol Airport at 10:45am, went thru immigration and customs, which was a smooth process, then purchased a train tkt to Amsterdam Centraal Station and from there we walked to the hotel, it was around noon. I was so tired of carrying my backpack, it felt heavier every additional block we had to walk. It was not that far, but I was drained… once in the hotel, we were able to check-in and leave the bags with the concierge, but it was too early so we were not able to access to the room. So we relaxed in the lobby for a while and planned our next stop, since we had to wait till 3:00pm.

And we couldn’t have picked better!! We decided to go to the Heineken Experience!! It seemed like a good idea to have a couple of beers so we can relax from the stress of travel. It was a 15 minute walk and I am already enjoying the view 😍😃 everything is so beautiful! Splendor of the summer days full of flowers and color! Bikes, kids, people walking their pets and enjoying the sun while they ready a book or have lunch in the benches on the side of the canals. And went thru the tour and had the beers 🍻 it was indeed a super fun experience! Great way to start my Amsterdam Experience!! On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by Chipsy King 🍟 we hadn’t had lunch yet and it was about 2:30pm already, plus the beers 😝 don’t know if the fries were good or we were hungry, but it was yummy!

Back to the hotel. I couldn’t see the time to make myself comfortable, take a shower, change my clothes from the trip!! So we rested for a while in the hotel and then went back out! This time heading towards the iconic IAMSTERDAM sign. Below some pics of our first visit.

I’ve been for a couple of hours around the center of Amsterdam, its really impressive 😍 this place is stunning. One of the details that called my attention immediately is diversity! You are walking thru the public areas and you will listen to a variety of languages and find yourself in the middle of people of so many nationalities and cultures it amazes you, not only tourists, but also the locals.

img_0132-1 Later in day one, we went to The Red light District, this iconic neighbourhood that practically made Amsterdam, Amsterdam. When you come from a conservative culture, it can be shocking walking thru these streets, the red and blue light windows with the ladies, the coffeeshops and specially, seeing how normal it is for its open-minded inhabitants to transit here, you will see people of all ages around. It’s pretty cool. So we stopped by a bar and had a couple of beers while making the recap of the day. Heading back to the hotel at around 3:00am, we are not to much of a party couple, but this place is a different thing, we really enjoyed it!

img_6419Day two. Today, am going out by myself. Luis is staying in the hotel getting ready for tomorrow’s interviews, so I decided to go back to my fave place so far, Museum plein, which is a big park surrounded by numerous museums, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Moco Museum, Diamond Museum, to mention some of the many, plus the IAMSTERDAM sign. I’ve been here for a day and I’m in love with every street, canal, flora, ambiance, bike culture and art, that is everywhere!! Simply charming.

Since I’m by myself today, with no specific plan or route, just hoping, I stopped anywhere that called my attention, art galleries, souvenir shops, cheese shops (you can try their varieties), gardens, markets, etc.

Went to Van Gogh Museum, beautiful pieces of art, really enjoyed my time there. It was kinda crowded, so you have to move smart to the make the most out of your time to read and appreciate what you love the must. It took me approximately 1.5 hrs. Though, I would recommend to rent the audio device, which I didn’t, but once there, I think it would have been useful. Next time I go, definitely renting one. When i got out of there, started walking towards Amsterdam Zuid (south) to check a seasonal street expo of metallic/wood architectural designs, watched some of them and kept on walking and walking. Got to a more residential area and all of a sudden, a delightful smell came to my nose, turned back and it was a little plant of lavander 💜 this brought to my mind a saying “We live our lives so fast we don’t even take time to smell the flowers” so i smiled, slowed down and kept on going, passed by a school and its so pleasing to see kids getting out of classes running to their bikes and playing with their friends. I knew I have gotten far from the hotel, but for some reason, I didn’t feel lost, eventually got to Volderlpark! This park is huge and with a lot of beautiful spots to rest, statutes and fountains, people biking, jogging, playing, a must visit!

On my way back, walked through the Bloemenmarkt, in here you will find flowers plus souvenirs, its small but nice to see. Got to the Hotel to Luis, rested, to go out later for dinner and some well deserved Heineken 🍻. Checked my Fitbit (fitness tracker device) and I had walked 33,000 steps!!! I was amazed! In a regular week day back at home I do approx. 3,000 steps 🙈 my office life is very sedentary…

Day three. So… today is Luis’ interview at booking.com. I should get up and do something today, but I feel drained from yesterday 😋😅 so I’m staying in the hotel sleeping 😴 I went down to have breakfast, which I have to mention is my favorite meal of the day, so i really love going to hotels were they have the full breakfast bar 😍 ranging everything from cereals, fruits and breads, to omelettes, cheeses and salmon, yum! After that went back to bed, check the social media, and then slept again. Luis was back from his first part of the interview, six rounds, at 1:30pm, leaving just one additional to the ones planned, at 3:00pm. And to close the night, we had some drinks in a very peculiar bar, The XtraCold Icebar, is an all-ice venue at 14-degrees Fahrenheit (-10 °C), walls, ceiling, furniture and even the cups are made of ice. You have to reserve the entry because it is a small place and they provide you with a coat and mittens while you in and with your entry ticket, three drinks are also included.

Day four. Yesterday, after Luis got back from that last interview, he received a call from The recruiters in the hotel to check if he could pass by today at 9am to the booking offices. So we woke up today, Luis headed to booking.com offices, we both felt a lil nervous about it, kinda positive, but at the same time, we felt it was early to have an answer, since the last time, the answer was received until the next week. So we really didn’t knew what to expect of this additional meeting. I stayed in the hotel putting our stuff together because we had to leave the hotel that same day.

Not after long, Luis was back, but not with a very promising expression… he threw a paper in the bed and said “I cant believe they make you go back to them for this” 😔… but I jumped to check the paper and guess what?? The job offer!! 😃 OMG, what can i tell… we were jumping around in happiness! At the same time, a lot of things crossing our minds on this tremendous change ahead. So for today we had reserved the day to visit the Johan Cruyff Arena, aka, Amsterdam Arena home of the football club Ajax, took the tour and had the chance to check the field, however, it was getting prepared to receive a concert of the Dutch Toppers (local pop group), so it was in the beginning of the transformation from field to stage. Did you know that when they make these swaps between venues, € 250,000.0 is needed to be recovered with grass? In the past a lot more money was spent in these over the year, so now they organize all concerts in the down football season. Here the link to the time lapsed video of the Amsterdam Arena transformation, a good vid to watch to all of us who enjoy a good match or a good concert! https://youtu.be/h5NI_255ZNw. At night we went to the Madame Tussauds wax museum! Super cool, leaving you some, pics of us being famous for some hours! I will also recommend to purchase tickets in advance, you can get better deals.

Today we are leaving, unfortunately, we had to split in our way back home, so i am heading Atlanta and Luis is going thru New Jearsey to Atlanta and meeting there for the San Pedro Sula flight. When I arrived at ATL, I took the MARTA train to the Georgia Aquarium and Coca Cola World. The MARTA is in the domestic flights terminal and once you get to the stop its a ten minute walking distance. When i got to the place I decided to enter only to the Aquarium, because i was carrying my backpack and they have a very convenient luggage storage! Plus, the Coke World had a 45 min waiting line, so… next. The Aquarium is a very nice place. One of the must impressive attractions is an enormous tunnel tank that holds dozens of species of fish, including whale sharks, beluga whale, sea turtle, otters, sting rays and the dolphin show was pretty cool too. I spent the night in the ATL airport and the next morning flew back to Honduras.

Now lets see what’s up with relocation process! Lots to do back home, closing periods ahead to give space to new beginnings!

Leaving you some pics below of the city.

5 thoughts on “First trip to the Netherlands

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