Wednesday, October 08, 2008

london > amsterdam

By Pauly

I saw Brandon Schaefer on my last day of work in London. A welcomed surprise. We had not seen each other since this summer in Las Vegas. Brandon had been in Germany visiting his brother and partying it up at Oktoberfest. He told me that he was staying in Europe for another month and playing in the Hungarian Open... the same tournament that I'm scheduled to cover at the end of the month in Budapest.

Everyone in the media room that I talked to in London extolled the awesomeness of Budapest, but very few (if any) had actually been there. Ah, but Brandon had been there before and knew several parts of Pest. We made plans to meet up and get snookered in various bars in and around the Hungarian city.

My assignment finally ended on Sunday night. The EPT London at the Vic casino was a rough gig in many ways that it useless to bitch and moan about now since it's over. I felt a greater sense of accomplishment upon completion due to the added level of difficulty. I had a final beer with Benjo at the bar before I made my quiet exit out of the casino.

I took a night bus back to Soho and sat on the top of the double decker. Almost empty. Only me and a drunk passed out in the corner. The iPod blasted Phish. Lost in the moment. Oxford Circus and all of the shops whizzed by.

When I returned to the flat, my old roomie Gloria has been long gone and moved out. Nicky finished up the last of packing her stuff. She had been in Europe for over a month already with completed assignments in Barcelona and London. She was finally ready for a proper holiday.

Woke up early on Monday morning and wrote for a bit before I ran downstairs to grab food as I dodged all of obstacles on Charring Cross Road. The heavy pedestrian traffic. An Army of vehicular traffic. Look left or die. Monday morning in London. Nothing quite like the bustle. Cabs darted by. Double deckers raced by. The vibration of the low rumble of the tube below. Maybe New York City and Tokyo can compare to the sheer numbers of the collective influx of people peppering the streets. Schools and schools of people. Walking. Going. Somewhere. Work. Meetings. School. And then there were the tourists. Hordes of them. With maps and guidebooks and digital cameras.

I bought somosas and chocolate croissants at Sainsbury's for our last London breakfast. We snagged a cab to Paddington Station and then hopped on the Heathrow Express. The train is much cheaper than taking a cab all the way to the airport.

Nicky and I were booked on different flights to Amsterdam. I was on British Airways and Nicky on BMI which took off forty minutes earlier. Terminal 5 is exclusively for BA and they had tons of shit for me to do to kill time. I converted the last of my Sterling to Euros. I read a few magazines at the rack then bought a guidebook... TimeOut Budapest. I ate a chicken club sandwich at Pret and read about 45 pages of the guidebook... a dozen or so of which were a crash course on Hungarian history.

Nicky's flight was slightly delayed... but so was mine. It didn't matter because we arranged a meeting place in Schipol Airport. My BA flight was only half full, yet Nicky's was full. BA served me a chicken/chili wrap and tea. The flight was around 45 minutes and I read a complimentary copy of the Telegraph and a crappy inflight magazine that had an interesting article on Generation X.

Nicky arrived earlier and purchased train tickets to Centraal Station. I picked up my luggage and met her at 4pm exactly. It would turn 4:20 on the train as we raced into Amsterdam. I called the Lithuanian chick who rented me the apartment. Since I knew where it was, we agreed to meet at 5pm.

We had sometime to kill and were starving. We opted for everyone's favorite delicacy... fries with mayo. A German family of six were next to us drinking Fanta and eating their fries with ketchup and mayo.

The apartment process took less than two minutes since it was the same woman and same orange apartment that I rented before I flew to London. I handed over the balance in cash. She gave me the keys and left.

Nicky's first impression? "Wow, the apartment is really orange."

We headed to Barney's to pick up the best shit in Amsterdam. At that point, it was officially time for me to unplug...

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