Dream trip Day 36 Excursion Tales from the Irishman- Amsterdam

This is not my experience, story but from a guy from Limerick, Ireland I met in an Irish pub in Madrid. I enjoyed his stories so much I thought you’d like them too. I had no idea that I would visit his hometown of Limerick later on during my trip.

I sat with an Irishman who told me great stories from his life once I told him I was traveling long term. He had done the same thing back in the 70s. He had just received a nice job teaching at a Uni in London, which meant good pay and job security for life, unless he killed someone, he said with a laugh. ‘I was all set.’

Came time to vote on a yearly pension increase and discussion fell into a long argument when it should have been a quick aye vote. In the midst of this argument the Irishman realized that what they were voting on and arguing wouldn’t effect them for nearly 30 years.

‘Then it hit me, I’m going to be here, at this same desk with these same arseholes arguing over a 2% pension decrease and lord knows what else…for 30 years! This was a Monday, by Thursday I was on a ferry to Amsterdam with a roll to sleep on and a bit of money in my pocket. I realized those guys were insane. Plus I’d never been anywhere, I had no real life experiences.’

At this time Amsterdam had just made it legal to sleep in a park overnight, you only had to keep it clean and break camp in the morning. You couldn’t lay about all day in the park. He arrives to Amsterdam, finds a park and carves out a space come nightfall. It felt good to sleep under the stars, free from everything.

He wakes up next morning, a guy next to him is smoking, but ‘it ain’t tobacco, lad, nay stronger stuff.’ The guy looks at the Irishman and passes the joint his way, so he takes it, having never seen marijuana before in person until this moment. He takes a drag and sees a cop walking their way. His hair was like a mushroom and stuck out on all sides from his helmet. ‘I was properly fooked. He had me, joint in hand, my first one at that. In a foreign land, just as I was beginning my adventure, it was over!’

Without a word the cop extends his hand to the Irishman and so he passes the joint. The cop takes a drag, eyes light up, then takes another, slowly exhaling.

‘This is actually good weed but you need to be careful, there are bad people about,’ the cop says. He then proceeds to pass the joint back and breaks down Amsterdam, the safe spaces, the dangerous places, where to buy things legally, etc.

‘You two do need to move along soon, but you’re welcome to come back again at nightfall. Have a good day and enjoy our city!’ The cop said as he walked off.

‘I have no doubt he was pleasantly stoned at that point! A cop too, on duty, I’d never dreamed of an encounter like that in Ireland or London. They likely throttle you for good measure, bruise you a bit so you wouldn’t do it again. I then realized I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. It was a sign. I stayed on the road for 6 months after that, nary a problem.’

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Dream Trip Day 36   Real Madrid FC stadium, futbol, Irishman in Irish pub

Start the day waiting on the shower.

Jeremy saw the other roommate and said she was redhead from Ireland. She just said hello, was traveling with another girl, not sure if friend or GF.

We figure out the route to Real Madrid FC arena as it’s a bit far with a couple of metro changes.

Pretty long line to enter, but it moves quickly.

We have over an hour before next tour so walk over to small cafe for beer and snack.

Madrid isn’t near water so you miss cool breezes on a hot afternoon.

We watch angry driver honking at most other cars, can’t seem to find a parking spot so he double parks, virtually blocking the small road and calmly walks inside for a coffee and croissant, eaten standing up.

Despite traffic having to drive around his car he doesn’t seem to rush as he sips his coffee a bit, then on his way.

We return to stadium and wait for the tour, much larger group and we are only English speakers.

Guide tries to say everything in Spanish then English but slowly gives up and it’s mostly all Spanish as they are asking a lot of questions

They have so many trophies! Your team gets a trophy for winning a certain set of other trophies, like every title in Spain you get Spanish national trophy if done the same year.

As Madrid is the Capital city, it’s home to the king and thus Real or Royal FC of Spain.

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We end tour after watching many highlights of the team scoring and winning, so much that you too become a fan of the team.

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There was a opera concert later in the week so scaffolding ruined a lot of the views of the pitch. No discounts on tickets. Dang that’s wrong.

Metro back to Sol but we get confused and exit instead of changing trains. Luckily metro police understands and let us back in to hop next train.

We had scoped out an Irish pub and head in to catch a couple matches.

Outside are several very loud drunk Swiss guys who are from a French-speaking part of the country.  Luckily France won, game is over so they leave.

Si strikes up a conversation with English guy and his wife, who is from Japan.

We talk and watch the match, telling stories about our trips, jokes about English team not playing well and laughing a lot.

Soon an older chap walks in, makes comments to English guy too. He is Irish.

He sits next to me and we talk, he tells me many stories about his life.

He notices I order a different beer each round, ‘so you like tasting beers, yeah?’

Pulls out a pen, grabs a coaster and draws me a map to a place he has been going to in Amsterdam since the 70s.

Suddenly he stops, ‘well you could google it I suppose but I’ve drawn this much, may as well finish. Plus a map to a bar written on a coaster is a hell of a story.’

He flew down as they just begun flying to Madrid from his local airport and at a very low introductory cost. Said it would be more fun than hanging out for a long weekend at home.

He soon left after regaling me with amazing stories and told me how proud he was of me for taking my long trip. ‘Stay on the road long as you can! Travel, make and tell stories. That’s why we are here, lad.’

This pub had an intimidating selection of US beers, mainly pales and IPAs.

Owner is a huge hop head and is trying to convert locals but since they are imported beer they cost a lot more and local beers are very cheap. A very hard sell.

He stocks what he likes to drink he said with a wink. His selection is better than some US bars I’ve been to.

We end the night hanging with the owner for one more round but he said he would usually close by that time as we were the only ones there, he pours us a shot of Jack. Salud!

A couple of guys wander in but he waves them out, salado, closed amigos.

We finish and wave goodbye with many thank yous, gracias as we exit.

This place is maybe a block from our apt luckily.

Beer: Raging Bitch IPA on draught !
Song: Miles Davis   Saeta

 

European Vacation II Day 11 Amsterdam to Paris, France

One last morning routine before we checked out. We tramed to the main rail station where we procured tickets to Paris by way of Brussels. We sat down and began our journey. Trees, windmills and animals were our view in between cities. Even tiny towns had a train stop, everywhere was connected by train. We had a quick train hop in Brussels. Everyone else took naps; I stared at the scenery and I too was fast asleep. We pulled in the Paris train station in the early evening. Our place was near Arc de Triumph so we walked around it once to check it out before popping into our hotel. We had a lovely view with large windows that opened outwards to a courtyard below.

We obtained directions for night spot and found a French sports bar. Across the street was shawarma and strip club, this sounded like the area to be. They had shot specials and cheap Bud just like the US, but futbol, cricket, rugby were on the telly tonight. We posted up at a standing table and people watched for awhile. We were weary however and there weren’t too many people out.

We hit up the schwarma spot on the walk home. There always seems to be 2 spots across the street from each other. If one is busy just go to the one across the street. Schwarma is like the burrito of the EU. Thinly sliced lamb or chicken are cut from a standing leg onto a piece of pita style bread with lettuce, lots of onions, tomatoes and tziki sauce. Cures what ales you and portable.

European Vacation II Day 10 Amsterdam

We awoke and I was sad to realize I had a great morning routine: free breakfast sammich, juice, nice walk to kaffee shop for a spliff and kaffee. I could do that every morning for a long time yup. We again walked all over the eastern half of the city. We walked right by a Hard Rock Café, so I had to pop in and get a pin for my brother’s collection.

Our Go Amsterdam pass included any form of transportation so why not just take a water taxi? We explained to the driver we just wanted to ride around and to be dropped off at the same place he picked us up. He smiled and told us no problem. One of the coolest things you can do in Amsterdam too! Just passing under the many bridges is so fun, there isn’t a better way to see this wonderful city than by her canals. We waved to our captain as we hopped out right back to the HRC.

We walked around a park and decided to go out for a nice, sit down dinner with beverages in Rembrandt’s Square. We found a long table next to a couple and sat down. We made some small talk about the weather and what things we did for work. This couple was in the middle of a month long vacation in the city. They stayed in a different place in each part of the city so they could see everything without having to walk or tram too far. He revealed he was a lumber CEO in Canada. We asked all about how it worked and he said everyone in the lumber mill voted to be closed for a month so he agreed. Paid everyone for a month long vacation, wow!

I noticed the man pulled out a joint. We continued to talk about work life balance, cool things to do in each of our home cities as well as Amsterdam. Beer after beer, passing around joints all evening. It was a wonderful night and great cap to our stay in Amsterdam.

European Vacation II Day 9 Amsterdam

I awoke, showered and met the fellows for a free breakfast. Overseas they have a lot of cold lunch meats, cheeses, fruits, and granola for first meal. There wasn’t  omelet station or trays of bacon; everything was lighter fare so I generally made a cold sammitch. After breakfast I again ventured out for daily spliffs. This time I saved the map on my phone and noticed what an idiot I was to miss this place. It was literally 3 blocks down the street from our hotel, and then turn right. The sign out front read: Kaffe Shoppe, the Dutch spelling. Opening the door reveled a narrow hallway that lead to a lady behind a glass counter, very much like a bank. To the right, behind more glass was a few tables you can hang out at, smoke, drink, read the paper, that sort of thing.

After purchasing a coupled prerolls, I asked if I could sit in the café for a moment and was buzzed in. I sat down at a communal table and lit up. A table over was a big man with crazy, white hair slowly crushing up hash. He nodded at me as I smoked and I smiled and waved.

“Where are you from, France, you are tourist?” he asked.

No I am from the US, but I love it here. This city is great,” I replied.

“Come, sit, let’s talk and smoke,” he said.

I sat at his table and watched him break up hash and tobacco. He told me all about Dutch history, especially the Navy. New York City harbor looks very familiar to him, take a walk on Amsterdams’ harbor. The Dutch found most of the world’s of trade routes. He recommended I go see the Dutch history museum down the road. I mentioned I liked beer and wanted to see a local brewery, not Heineken. He laughed and agreed the city was angry with them. Whoever bought Heineken closed production in Amsterdam and moved it outside the city for the 1st time since the beer was brewed in 1873. Generations of families had worked at this brewery, their jobs, gone He gave me directions to a windmill brewery close by. The whole time we were swapping his hash and tobacco spliff. He drank coffee; a lot of coffee, guy must have had two cups in the 30 minutes we were talking. This was in addition to however many he had before I arrived. The Flying Dutchmen I named him! 

I met the gang back at the hotel and we agreed to hop trams, boats and walk around the city. We found the art museums, Van Gogh and Rembrandt were from there, so was Anne Frank house but I didn’t think that seeing her museum would be a lot of fun. Carlos and Bay checked out the Van Gogh museum whilst I sat outside and smoked a spliff. There was a lone guitarist out front, playing classical style guitar. I must have hung out for over half an hour listening to this guy play, the sounds bouncing off the buildings creating a symphony. It was glorious and better experience to me than checking out some paintings.

I told the fellows about the windmill brewery option as it was sort of on the way to our hotel, the east side of town anyway. A short tram and walk and we were there, I am still shocked at how easily we walked up to it given the state I was in when I received the directions. We got some pints and sat down out front. The weather was amazing, not too hot, not too cold. We lingered for a few pints sitting outside near water.

Around dusk we headed back to the hotel where we found out that other friends had an overnight layover in the city. We gave them directions to our hotel and they met us. We tramed up to the red light district where they secured a room to stash their luggage. Their flight was super early, 6 am or something like that so they wanted to be near a rail stop to the airport but still be able to walk around and see the city for a few hours with us. 

A fine night ensued. We had a nice dinner as well as investigating some rock bars in the District. 

European Vacation II Day 8 Berlin to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Our flight left at 7 am so we were up by 5. A short cab ride took us to a surprisingly small airport. We navigated the maze like areas of security. I noticed they had an orange and strawberry juice option at a coffee shop and it was the best thing I’ve drank on this trip. They had a machine out front and there was guy chucking oranges and strawberries into it, which filled plastic bottles with their juices. I savored this beverage as long as I could during the flight.

We took brief naps during the hour flight. Groggy we boarded the train and I forgot which stop to get out at. All I remembered was Centraal but there are several. I picked the one in the next town south so we had to get out and buy another ticket back. It was about an hour detour but we saw a lot more of the Netherlands.

When we did arrive to Centraal Amsterdam, I recognized it and knew where to go. We still had over two hours before checking so I suggested we pop into a coffee shop. I figured they would partake as it was legal but only I went in while they waited. I had to consume on the premise he said, even though I bought two spliffs. I drank a tea and smoked half of one whilst Marley played on the speakers. On my way out I got directions for a public wash.

We took in the sites as we walked down the street and over canals. I am still amazed we found it, we had to make several turns. We put all of our dirty clothes, basically everything we weren’t wearing to create a load and then had to wait while it went through its cycles. This time they did join me in a coffee shop as it was closest, best option, Plus we could still see our clothes. I seem to recall it rained on us while we washed so it was the best thing we could do at that moment.

I watched as tables of guys methodically created spliffs that they called ‘an Amsterdam in other countries. They took a cigarette and slowly rolled it under their fingers until all the tobacco was on the table. They took hash or grass and mixed it in with the tobacco. They used the empty cigarette and moved the mixture inside, and twisted the tip. Some tore the filter off, some left it on but that is how I saw it done this day,

I told my friends we should get a Go Amsterdam pass after laundry. This card gave you discounts on meals and shopping, plus you can get tram passes for as many days as you want. They gave away city maps here too, always good to have. It is right by the main train station so it’s easy to find and should be the first stop in the city, before a coffee shop anyway.

We followed the Amstel River south and found our hotel right in view of it, perfect spot! I took a shower and while everyone else was cleaning up, I hunted for the closest coffee shop. I had solid directions or so I thought and wound up getting lost. So lost I remembered where I was and stopped into the hotel Thom and I stayed at the last time. No one saw me as I walked straight to the restroom. Back again, out of site. I found the hotel’s WIFI. Since I had been there before I was able to log in as a guest. I soon located another place to get spliffs. Look for the Green Cross, there you’ll find what you seek.  I then walked through the park next to the hotel and reminisced about the great experience I had there a couple of years previously.

I got back to the hotel and we talked about what we wanted to do that evening. The Red Light district was the winner so we tramed up. We walked through the streets, down narrow alleys where girls knocked on their glass doors to their 1 bed room to get your attention. Women of all shapes, sizes, races, quite literally any woman that may interest a man is an option for the right price. I’d heard that the experience wasn’t worth it or I should say the ladies tried to make it more difficult. The story I have heard is that they place an egg timer on a desk so the whole time you hear this tick tick. Clothes stay on but do come off if the price is right. It seemed like quite an ordeal to try, plus there is a strange vibe I picked up every time we were in the area.

We found a smoky bar who didn’t mind if I smoked a spliff too. A few beers, half a spliff and lots of people watching. The bar turned on a baseball game, west coast too, so the time difference meant we could see a live baseball game in the middle of night. Baseball in Amsterdam, most excellent!

A long walk back to our hotel just following the river was the end of our night. The District closed around midnight. I am still not sure why the tram couldn’t run this late, too seeing as how there were lots of tourists who could’ve used the help getting back to their part of town. Its about the only thing they didn’t do perfectly here it seemed. 

European Vacation trip I Day 8 Antwerp to Amsterdam

I woke up fairly early the next morning round 9. That time frame is my sweet spot for sure. I really would like to have a job that starts at 10 because you can go out the night before if you like or do things prior, should you want to wake up at 8. I bade farewell to the room and walked in search of a church I had passed the day before. I figured there would be something to do there, maybe catch some Catholics on the way to mass. I once again stumbled into something very cool.

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I arrived in the courtyard, which was easy to find due to the church bells that filled the air. I sat in the courtyard and listened for quite a while, five minutes or more, the bells ringing the whole time. I saw a crowd of people around the entrance of the church, but I also saw tents. People and tents = outdoor market! Brilliant location, too, right in front of the biggest church in the city so they maximized their exposure. It took me about an hour to navigate the whole market, it was shoulder to shoulder, one foot in front of the other slow walking packed. I saw people hawking knives, pots, pans, most anything, speaking in Dutch I guessed. Though we are separated by thousands of miles, selling stuff is essentially the same. There were demonstrations of how to use the newest gadget, just as I’ve seen done many times over here. No one has perfected how to chop vegetables without specialized tools it seems.

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I walked along the river and watched a tugboat as it slowly passed by.

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It was a very cool morning and I was glad to have a long sleeved shirt. I walked along the river on a road and found a food stand. They served only two things: Belgium waffles and cheese fries! Talk about selection, at least I could say that I’ve had a true Belgium waffle in its namesake country so I went for it. The cheese fries used a white cheese and a healthy glob of mayo, both of which were just dumped on top of the fries. It looked fairly messy.

The waffle had two options: full or half room which meant they squirted whipped cream into most or all of the waffle crevices. It was further topped with powdered sugar because clearly, it wasn’t sweet enough already.

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It sure tasted good as I sat and watched a carousel go round and round. I think the morning made up for the bad night I had but not for the day that lay ahead. I made the fateful decision to take the long way to the train station to avoid the pile up for the outdoor market since I knew the general direction it was in, east. Boy I was wrong.

I followed the river towards a church. The light poles around this area were crucifixes, with the light on the top of the cross, illuminating a crucified Christ.

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That’s exactly what I would want to see late at night.  It felt very Exorcist like. I rounded a corner to check out a cool building. It was very square, bricks and glass. This turn to check it out nearly cost me a whole lot.

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I continued walking east/south with the idea that eventually I’d be on the road to the train station. I walked for a long time so I ducked into a market for some water. I made a point to check out these small markets that seemed to be everywhere. They were just big enough for the basics, but nowhere near the Wal-Mart or Target sized stores over here. It’s like a couple 7-11’s under the same roof, but you had real, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. I selected what I thought was water but actually was a no calorie, lemon/lime flavored water with CO2! It was like drinking Sprite, but no sugar which is totally the way to go.

As I walked I noticed there weren’t many people out. A bit longer and I started to see women in veils and men with long beards. I had walked right into a Muslim neighborhood. People looked at me, but no one said or did anything. I wasn’t really scared, more on guard just because I was a minority, a visitor to their neighborhood. I smiled at everyone which is the best and only option I had. I kept walking towards what I hoped was the station or at least a part of town I recognized. Why did I start hearing the sounds of cars speeding? A few more blocks and I found out: I’d walked myself right outside the damn city! I was parallel to the highway now, what happened?

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At this point, I freaked out! I mean I was by the damn highway, no telling which way to go. It was too far to back track so I had to think. My phone has a compass so I tried to figure out west. I sat down on a bench to calm down for a moment. Then, faintly, I heard something familiar. Yes, that sounded like drums, perhaps even a guitar, too. It’s coming from a westerly direction so maybe this is the way to go. I had no other choice than to follow my ear or hope for a cab. A few blocks later things look vaguely familiar.

I tell you it was a scene out of a movie as the trees parted to reveal a hotel, then a long van with a live band playing inside! Not only that, but there were tents, beers and brauts! In mere minutes I went from terror to elation. I was not only safe, I was soonndrinking Jeffe, a Belgium beer, watching a band play 60’s rock tunes! They had a long truck that had an opening on one side and they were set up inside. These guys probably drove around cities from parking lot to parking lot to play. A small crowd showed up and I watched a couple of girls dancing and just having an absolute ball in a hotel parking lot. Amazing, saved by rock n roll again!

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I finished my Jeffe, which not a beer I enjoy, but tasted very good this day, and headed up the road to the train station. I was finally, truly on my way to Amsterdam. I wanted to get to one place and just stay and hang out there. No more long walks, computer cafes and feeling lost. I had such a big smile on my face when I saw the train station. I saw some side doors so I figured I’d go in and see if I could get information about the next train to Amsterdam. Turns out I finally made the right decision as I was literally right in front of a large sign with train times as well as the escalators down to the right tracks. Adding to my luck was the fact that the next train was moments away, so if I hadn’t turned when I did, I would have missed the train. I just walked down and got to the platform to wait maybe 5 minutes before the train pulled up. I sat down and began to smile, a small chuckle. I had done it, really made it to where I wanted to go. I had traveled by train from Madrid to Amsterdam by myself! It began to rain and I didn’t care, I was in a warm train looking out for windmills. I was going to have a good time for the next few days, guaranteed, in Amsterdam!

I had hoped to see windmills, guy in wooden shoes and other stereotypes on my trip, but I didn’t see one. It didn’t matter once the train stopped and I stepped out into the air, into the city of Amsterdam! Why yes as a matter of fact I did smell herb shortly outside the station. I didn’t see a coffee shop though. I had other things to do first such as find a city map and my hotel. Then I could hit the coffee shops. I had mapped the hotel previously and I knew it was by the zoo. That was south-east so I whipped my phone’s compass and headed that way. It wasn’t too far and I could follow the signs for the zoo.

Amsterdam is such a lovely city because it’s on the water. There are bridges everywhere. Not many cars, but a lot of bikes and pedestrians. I felt at home right away. I had walked a bit when I came to some shops. I didn’t pack much so I needed socks. Think about how much room a week’s worth of socks takes up especially dirty, smelly socks. They are pretty cheap too so why not just buy some when you arrive? Get out and buy new socks, enjoy that new sock feeling on vacation. Socks are cheap, maybe 1$ a pair, so a 5$ investment will be totally worth it. Don’t pack socks, buy them when you arrive at your destination on your next vacation.

After procuring clean socks I was very near my hotel. I really loved walking over bridges and looking down at the water. I crossed over such a bridge and got the feeling that I was leaving one part of Amsterdam for another. Perhaps this was the central/eastern point. the directions from the station to the hotel were very easy and I was on major roads the whole time. Shortly after crossing the bridge I faintly heard reggae music. Since this was right by my hotel, a coffee shop would be a choice find indeed. A lone man in dreads was inside smoking so I knew I’d be back.

It was only a couple blocks before I arrived at my hotel. I had to explain that I was a day early for check in, but fortunately they weren’t fully booked. I located my room and laid down. I was here, really in Amsterdam. How did I celebrate, by taking a nap! Why I laid down I don’t know, but I do know that I slept a couple of hours. I woke up, realizing I was missing the city, specifically that coffee shop. I walked as smoothly and as fast as I could. The clouds were dark, too, rain was coming soon. I arrived just as the thunder rolled. I walked up to the counter and checked the menu. One could buy just about every strand of grass available in all weights, but they seemed to direct you to the hand rolls. I asked him what he might recommend and he just smiled and told me I was in charge; whatever I wanted would be good. I selected hash/white widow option. He said that was fine, but he did say, ‘no tobacco?’ As I found out, spiffs were rolled the Amsterdam way: hash or grass with tobacco. It cost about 5€ a spliff, very reasonable.

I selected a table by the window. There were only three men inside listening to reggae. One was just rolling spliffs. I lit up and waved my spliff at them hello style. It was my first legal joint! I stared outside at the rain. People were running from it and I laughed. I was at the place I wanted to be during a rainstorm. I decided to keep smoking until the rain stopped. What I soon realized was the grass was a lot better in Amsterdam and smoking a whole spliff by myself wasn’t a good idea. I lit up a smoke since it was still raining. I was baked, totally and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. I still have half a spliff left for later. I remembered there was a Chineese place right by the hotel so that would make a nice dinner.

I strolled taking in the fresh rain and smells. It was a gorgeous place to be that is for sure. The Chineese meal wasn’t anything special though I’m fairly certain the lady didn’t speak English. Lots of my encounters involved pointing and nodding.

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I was more concerned that I was coming off as being too high. I got a beer and dug in. It continued to rain off and on during the meal. I sat outside the restaurant and thought about lighting up right there. I elected to not be annoying tourist, smoking right by an entrance, besides it was 9-10pm on a Sunday. I figured I could walk and smoke and not bother anyone.  I did have a moment where I realized that I had walked much further from my hotel than I wanted. It was sprinkling so I didn’t want to get caught in the rain. I was soon back in my bed as the rain softly pelted my window. Sleep came fast.